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COBWEB CORNERS: The Red Rock Canyon train

By Mel McFarland

        I wrote the first part of this tale in 2005, about a year after I started doing this column!
       Recently, I found mention of a miniature Red Rock steam train in a 1925 newspaper story, and I've learned a few other details about Manitou trains.
       My 2005 column talked about the rumor that the little engine was at the bottom of the lake near the quarry. By 2007, I'd learned there'd once been a miniature train in Red Rock Canyon and I wondered if there was a connection.
       This new discovery fills out the story.
       In 1925, James Wood and Linden Hezeler (also known as "the boys") moved their little train from Red Rock Canyon to the spot where the Manitou post office now stands. It was called the Manitou Short Line. The train had been built by the boys, with a wood-burning steam locomotive. The passenger car had actually been fabricated from a steam-powered automobile, formerly used by the quarry company in the canyon.
       The train rumbled along at first on wooden tracks, but as funds came in these were replaced by lightweight steel rails. It could carry 10 adults or up to 15 children and consisted of an engine, tender and passenger car. A second passenger car was under construction.
       For a small charge, the passengers got three loops around the track. The first year there were several protests from other tourist operations in town. Not that they were also running trains, but they thought these “boys” were taking away their customers. In the end, it was found that they were not violating any rules.
       I'm not sure if this relates, but a few years later there was another miniature train running down in the area of Memorial Park. I have seen pictures of this one, and a different, larger steam locomotivewas being used. This operation moved too, as I have seen pictures of it farther east in the late 1930s.
       There was another miniature train up in Ute Pass. It operated at Cascade in the 1960s and '70s. This one had no connection with the earlier ones. The owner even called his line the Midland Terminal. He later moved it to Woodland Park, where it was in two or three locations. The locomotive was built near Wichita, Kansas, by a company that also built steam automobiles for a while. The operator of the railroad tried to find another spot for his train, but never did. His equipment was sold and is probably running somewhere.
       In 2002 the company built a steam car that resembled the 1902 automobile that drove to the top of Pikes Peak. The modern trip took a lot less effort and work. I remember seeing them, and chatting with them at the summit.

(Posted 11/15/14; Opinion: Cobweb Corners)

       Editor's note: Local historian Mel McFarland has been writing his Cobweb Corners column in the Westside Pioneer since early 2004. To see past columns, go to the Pioneer's Archives. Either look for desired articles under the Cobweb Corners category for any year, or search by keywords in the Find box.

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