COBWEB CORNERS: Women on Midland train engines
By Mel McFarland
Not many women 75 years old saw the Rockies from an engine cab. Just such a trip, however, was taken by Miss Elizabeth O. Healy of London, world traveler. Miss Healy had circled the globe six times, but when she was in the uptown office of the Colorado Midland railroad and found that she had been routed so as to miss the Rockies, she became slightly upset. However, Mr. S.N. Drew, the Midland's ticket agent came to her rescue! Seeing a bit of publicity in hand, he was kind enough to point out a little side trip and as a result, she was given a ride in a special engine over the Colorado Midland from Hell Gate to Buena Vista.
Hell Gate is a high cliff on the railroad just west of the Continental Divide, and the trip to Buena Vista included going through Leadville. She had seen the Alps and the mountains of Spain, but she did say that for rugged grandeur, the Rockies of Colorado are indeed the most superb she had ever seen. She saw Colorado from the best possible viewpoint.
"You see," she was quoted afterward, "Looking at the mountains from a moving engine is really the most thrilling thing I have ever experienced. To feel yourself rushing down a steep grade toward a sharp curve, with seemingly the end of track in view, and nowhere to go except some several thousand feet out or down into space, is a bit wild to a novice, to say the least. Sometimes when the engine gathers speed on a bit of sloping track, the cab will rock and one gets the idea that she is going to roll over the precipitous bank at the side to the depths below, where a mountain stream seems to be tearing a jagged way through reddish rock cliffs."
This is the third story of women on Colorado Midland engines I have found from a hundred years ago. One rode in the cab from Colorado City to Leadville, almost like Miss Healy did. Another actually went up Ute Pass standing just ahead of the boiler on the pilot of the engine! This happened at night, and must have been quite dramatic! We can imagine what this might have resulted in, had it been done in daylight, and seen by those nearby!