COBWEB CORNERS: Excitement on the train from Cripple Creek

By Mel McFarland

       As a train conductor for many years, I had to laugh a bit when I found this story in a February 1902 Cripple Creek newspaper. It's about a Midland train ride one Saturday night from Cripple Creek to Colorado Springs.
       The excitement started just after leaving Cameron, which is only a few miles into the trip. A party of four men in the coach had persisted in smoking, using obscene language and indulging in other disorderly conduct. Before the train reached Cameron, their language and conduct had become so obnoxious that some of the passengers asked them to go to the smoking car. Yes, even 100 years ago, there were rules about smoking on a train.
       Those making the request were cursed and abused for doing so. As the train pulled out of Cameron, Conductor Prosser went to the men and told them that if they wished to smoke or indulge in such language, they would have to retire to the smoking car. Their reply was a volley of curses, and Prosser took one of them by the collar to lead him to the smoker. Another of the party kicked Prosser in the stomach, and the fight began.
       Conductor Prosser and his assistant, Brakeman Hoover used their lanterns over the heads of two of the men with reasonable effect, and in a very short time the entire party was perfectly tame and willing to go wherever the crew directed. The loss to the Midland was two lanterns and a window glass in the coach. Two of the disturbers received cuts about the head and face, but their injuries were not serious.
       I have often wondered if this was a regular problem on the late night trains from the district. I had a brief meeting with this conductor as a little child, after the railroad had closed in the early 1950s. He was the conductor on the last Midland passenger trains in 1949. He lived a few houses away from where I lived. In 1902 he could not yet have been thirty years old. He was of average height, and I would suspect in 1902 was in pretty good shape physically. Those fellows were in for a good fight, and a lantern is a lethal weapon!
       I think the folks in the coach with the broken window probably had a pretty cold trip unless some way was found to cover it. A trip on a February night with the cold night air blowing on you for the two hours it took to get to Colorado Springs certainly was not pleasant.