COBWEB CORNERS: The two ‘Short Lines’
By Mel McFarland
I have gone on and on about the Midlands, and occasionally the Rio Grande, but I also get asked, “Was there a railroad here called the Short Line?”
Well, yes, two of them, but that does not tell the full answer.
The first two railroads to reach Cripple Creek were the Florence and Cripple Creek, built up Phantom Canyon, and the Midland Terminal, from Divide to Cripple Creek. The Midland Terminal was called the Cripple Creek Short Line because it was shorter from Colorado Springs to the mining camp.
Then there was the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway, which opened in 1902. The name was a mouthful, so it was called the Short Line. It used the Santa Fe station in Colorado Springs and came around the south end of town near Lowell School and west through the present power plant. The rail way's freight yards were right there. The tracks continued from that point to where the Humane Society now sits, then over Eighth Street on a bridge and past the Portland Mill (current home of the Norris-Penrose Center), which was owned by the original builders of the Short Line. The railroad followed the ridge west to where 26th Street comes up to the top of the hill. The Short Line had a branch down to the mills in Colorado City, and the Golden Cycle Mill. From what's now the nature center, the route went up the hill to Cripple Creek.
In 1912 the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway was taken over by the other Cripple Creek railroads, and the "Short Line" replaced the longer name.
In 1920 the railroad closed and was put up for sale. A coal dealer in Colorado Springs bought it. He converted it to a road, calling it the Corley Mountain Highway, but most still knew it as the Short Line road. It saved almost 15 miles of the drive to Cripple Creek. In the 1940s, after much negotiating, the road was taken over by the Forest Service as part of Pike National Forest. That is when it became the Gold Camp Road. But it can't be called the "short line" anymore. Since a tunnel collapse in 1988, it no longer goes all the way through.