COBWEB CORNERS: The Ghost Town building
By Mel McFarland
So after talking about the Van Briggle building (last week), what was the Ghost Town building? When the Colorado Midland was in full operation a hundred years ago, it had several buildings even larger than the roundhouse, with shops for a variety of services. Over 300 people in Colorado City worked in the shops.
The machine shop, where Ghost Town is, was mainly for locomotives. There was a track from the roundhouse through the machine shop. If you look, you can still see the big doors. All the engines eventually went to this building to be dismantled and rebuilt. An overhead hoist helped lift the heavy parts, and there were heavy lathes and machines to make parts if needed. In another big building, the engine's boiler would be removed for inspection and repair. In yet another building the cab could be refinished. There were shops for wheels, brakes, and other repairs. The Midland even had its own foundry to make many of the parts it needed, using patterns made in another shop. The Old Colorado City History Center over on 24th Street still has some of these patterns.
An engine rebuild was a regular thing, happening every couple of years. Regular maintenance was done in the roundhouse, but some jobs were way too big for that crew. Over the years, the Midland had some pretty serious wrecks where engines were virtually rebuilt from the ground up. The bones of the locomotive might be scattered all over the various shops, but in another shop it would come back together.
When the Midland Terminal took over in the 1920s, it did not need all the shops, and most were torn down. Many of the functions were moved into the machine shop. Interestingly, some things from this shop were moved to the roundhouse. In the 1940s, a big coal strike was expected and the machine shop was even filled with extra coal.
It was lucky to survive the 1953 fire that destroyed the office building, right on the north end of it. Ghost Town was established in the machine-shop building soon after that. If you go there, look up into the ceiling. You can still see reminders of when it was full of machines to work on trains.