COBWEB CORNERS: A visit from a Vanderbilt

By Mel McFarland

       I get asked about famous people who have been on the train up Pike's Peak. When I mention this one, I often get blank stares back. Cornelius Vanderbilt was a visitor to Colorado Springs in October 1901. His father was New York City's most famous railroad financier, and his by-then-deceased grandfather (also named Cornelius) had been one of the richest men in the country.
       The younger Vanderbilt was with a group of officials from the Rock Island railroad who had traveled on an inspection trip from Chicago. The annual tour had attracted other notables over the years, but not normally the likes of Vanderbilt. There were rumors that he was interested in buying the railroad. His participation in the tour attracted the attention of the media.
       The chairman of the Rock Island was Ransom R. Cable, who visited Manitou quite regularly. The railroad had reached Colorado Springs in the 1890s, but it was his son that brought him to the area quite often. His son, H.S. Cable, was president of the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway and had been for 10 years.
       In the past I have described special trains, but this one, of seven cars, included two Pullman sleeping cars and five private cars. It was parked at the railroad's hotel, the Grier House, on a special track, just north of the Denver and Rio Grande station. The next morning a special car took the group to Manitou Iron Springs station on the Colorado Midland for a ride on the Manitou and Pike's Peak. The group received a tour of the facilities, but Vanderbilt was most interested in the workings of the little locomotives. With his interest in things mechanical, he was invited to ride on the locomotive with the engineer and fireman. Vanderbilt was the inventor of many railroad innovations used by the Baldwin Locomotive works, builders of the M&PP locomotives. It was said he spent most of the trip inspecting the operation of the locomotive, and saw little of the scenery.
       When the group returned to Colorado Springs they attended a fine dinner at the Antlers Hotel. The group then traveled south to visit other Rock Island projects in Oklahoma and New Mexico. Included in the group were several significant Rock Island officials who had stations named for them, such as Roswell Flowers, (Roswell, Colorado), George Brewster, (Brewster, Kansas), and Henry Seibert, (Seibert, Colorado).