COBWEB CORNERS: The runaway freight car

By Mel McFarland

       Last week I wrote about the disaster of the Glass Works fire. Here is a wild story, taken from a Colorado Springs newspaper in 1881, about a loose freight car one quiet winter afternoon that could have caused a disaster of its own.
       Up in Manitou, the Rio Grande station was located where the Villa Motel now sits. At the station, a flat car had been loaded with lumber from the sawmills at Manitou Park. It was to be part of a freight train to Colorado Springs. The train was being moved to collect the car when it started to roll downhill. Somehow its brakes had been released. The freight crew took off in hot pursuit, but by the time they could get the track switches thrown the load of lumber had rounded the curve near Dr. Bell's Briarhurst. It was thought it might jump the track there, but it did not.
       The track between Manitou and Colorado City followed Fountain Creek. The runaway car was probably going as fast as 60 miles an hour when it reached 30th Street, slowing a little on the short uphill between there and 27th.
       In 1881, there were hardly any houses along the tracks or any streets crossing them. A train station was at 25th, which was also about the only street that crossed the tracks in Colorado City. But the car rolled through without incident. It is possible no one even saw it go by! There is no mention in the story of anyone trying to stop it.
       Presumably the agent at Manitou had telegraphed the depot in Colorado City and Colorado Springs, as there was no telephone system then. A train was chasing it from Manitou, but it could only go about 30 mph. By the time the chase train passed Colorado City the car was almost in Colorado Springs.
       The car zipped over Monument Creek and as it curved north to the Colorado Springs station it rolled sideways, dumping the wood across the freight yard's tracks. Fortunately there was nothing in the way or anyone standing around! The wreck caused considerable noise and attracted quite a crowd.
       After a few hours the mess was cleaned up and the wreckage pulled out of the way, and all was back to its normal quiet.