The New Empire of the Rockies: A History of Northeast Colorado
BLM Cultural Resources Series (Colorado: No. 16)
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The Transportation Frontier in Northeastern Colorado

Northeast Colorado's natural wealth of minerals and land drew thousands into the area between 1858 and 1890. But, the region's riches could not be fully developed until ways to get products to market became available. Cheap, reliable transportation was one of the most crucial factors in northeastern Colorado's development. Conversely, resources awaiting exploitation, and subsequent business from them, provided a reason for investing great sums of time and money to build railroads. As the mining, farming and cattle frontiers spread, so did overland transportation.

Northeast Colorado was not blessed with navigable waterways. The South Platte River was the only stream that was actually used to move goods or people. During the 1840s, fur men from local trading posts attempted to float rafts and flatboats downstream to St. Louis, Missouri. While some pelts were eventually delivered this way, low water and sandbars proved considerable obstacles necessitating portages and on occasion, boats ran aground. By the time gold seekers started arriving, the idea of using the South Platte as an inland waterway was forgotten. Early residents relied on overland travel to get to and from the gold fields. Because of the distance between northeastern Colorado and the East, early Coloradans were quite isolated. This situation remained unchanged for ten years. Costs of bringing goods to and from the gold fields were extremely high. In 1861 freight charges were $15 a hundredweight from New York City to Leavenworth, Kansas while tarriffs to move these same goods to Denver ran up to $100 per 100 pounds. This led to complaints about the high cost of living from early residents. The same matter also spurred local boosters to plead for improved freight and stage service and/or railroads. The cries came to naught because most operators could not cut costs further, and still make a profit. They often could not find drivers willing to risk the trip as natives raided the plains. Attacks on freight wagons and stages were common and transport lines were among favorite targets. During the spring and summer months depredations were particularly heavy and in both 1864 and 1865 the gold fields often found themselves out of contact with the rest of the nation as teamsters refused to cross the plains. The Army also stopped travel through the war zone. Times like these made early residents even more aware of northeastern Colorado's isolation. [2]

Promoters found conveyance one of the most serious problems they faced in their attempts to encourage growth. Booster mentality of the age equated a good transportation network with progress. Early Coloradans saw towns rise or fall depending on whether or not they were well connected to other population centers. This became especially acute as rail lines spread across the prairies of Illinois, Iowa and other states. It was not unusual for whole villages to pick up and move to the railroad if the iron horse bypassed the town's original site. With this psychological dependence upon transportation and commitments to growth for Colorado, it is easy to understand the fixation most of the area's early leaders had with securing a railroad. [3] The one obstacle that faced boosters was something they could do little about. The topography of the Rocky Mountains could not be changed. By 1860 natural travel routes were already established. They were to the north and south of the region. The Central Rockies offered no low elevation passes and because of the closeness of the Continental Divide to the front range; the ascent from plains to the crest of the mountains involved steep grades. While promoters of northeast Colorado devoted much time to encouraging stage companies, freight lines and railroads to build through their region (and directly west into Utah) little came of these efforts. All the boosting simply could not erase the barrier these mountains presented. To counteract this, however, aspiring entrepreneurs did point to the vast amount of business generated by the mines. Those operations needed heavy machinery and other supplies, most of which were brought into northeastern Colorado from the East or Midwest during the 1860s. Minerals and smelters provided a good source of cargo for return trips to the Missouri River, allowing profitable travel in both directions. Gold and silver eventually proved the convincing factor for these who financed transportation companies into northeastern Colorado between 1860 and 1880. [4]

Trails used by the Fifty-niners became the first commercial pathways into the region. The Smoky Hill and South Platte roads quickly developed as heavily used routes for both freighters and stage coaches. This happened for two reasons. First was accustomed usage of the routes. They were well established during earlier migrations and stopovers were already in business. Secondly, these paths followed natural routes, to a great extent, along which water and forage could be found. [5] The mountains of northeastern Colorado interested roadbuilders only after gold discoveries and birth of the mining camps. Rugged terrain in that region presented serious problems to these businessmen. While the plains offered good natural paths, the hills had only a few areas that could be used by wagons without expensive road work. Most roads were built with considerable blasting and rock work. To cover their costs, and to make a profit, early trails were operated as toll roads. Not only was this a way to get them built but it also kept local government from having to generate tax revenues, a near impossibility during the 1860s. Usually, entrepreneurs went to governing bodies and requested charters to build and operate a road and the government would then not allow others to use the same routes. This led to occasional citizen outcrys about rates and poor conditions on the roads, but little came from these protests. The practice of toll road construction continued in northeastern Colorado throughout the late nineteenth century. [6]

Journeys over these pathways was often an adventure for travellers. Most trips were made by wagon or stage coach. The first recorded stage trip into the region was made in 1858 by a Ft. Laramie, Wyoming driver who took newcomers from the Overland Trail southward to the Colorado gold fields that fall. The excitement caused by mineral discoveries led others to think of the possibilities of operating a coach service to Colorado from the Missouri River. Foremost among such companies was the firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell a long-time western transportation company. During the winter of 1858-1859 preparations were made to commence service with the coming of spring. They chartered the Leavenworth and Pike's Peak Express Company (L&PPEC). This line followed a route near the Smoky Hill Trail until it reached northeast Colorado. Once in the region it proceeded west along the Republican River and then overland to the South Platte Trail and on into Denver. [7] The stage line rapidly encountered financial trouble and operating problems. These caused reorganization and the new corporation was called the Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express. The COC&PP used a new route, along the Overland Trail across Nebraska from Nebraska City, the home of Russell, Majors and Waddell's freight operations. Once in northeastern Colorado, this new line followed the South Platte Trail to Latham, a stage stop near present day Greeley. Here coaches either continued south into Denver or moved west to Camp Collins and Virginia Dale before rejoining the Overland Trail in Wyoming. The revised route worked better. However, high costs of outfitting the stages, stations and other facilities along with smaller than expected revenues, forced the company into receivership. Further financial troubles beset Russell, Majors and Waddell and eventually they were forced out of business. Ben Holladay bought the bankrupt operation and operated staging and freighting throughout much of the West in 1860. In 1862 John A. Butterfield purchased Holladay's business and continued to operate it for a few years. By 1870 Butterfield had lost control of his company after Wells, Fargo and Company bought most of its stock. Wells Fargo had a virtual monopoly over long distance stage transportation at that point. [8]

As northeast Colorado filled with settlers, independent operators established passenger and freight services for local markets. Occasionally, they were subsidiaries of toll road companies while at other times individuals simply took advantage of the new roads by working out deals with toll companies or they used public highways. These entrepreneurs first appeared on the scene in 1859 and remained in existence well into the early twentieth century. They carried people to places not served by railroads. Freighters operated in this same manner, working as feeders to rail lines while serving areas bigger transportation systems did not. [9] Travel by stage coach to Colorado in 1860 was primitive even by that era's standards. A trip from the Missouri River to the Rockies lasted ten to twelve days with a few overnight stops during the journey. Passengers were packed into coaches. They faced days of travel with little protection from the elements, other than the roof over their heads. The dry plains turned to dust clouds under horses' hooves, choking voyagers and filtering into even the tightest sealed luggage. The suspension systems of these vehicles were simple leather straps that allowed the coach body some insulation from the axles. Nevertheless, riders received a vicious pounding along the way. Rest and meal stop were the only respites. Food served to travellers at stage stations normally consisted of beans and salt pork or bacon, along with bread and fresh homebaked pies on occasion. More than one diary indicated boredom with such plain fare and relief felt by buffalo roast or antelope steak appearing on the table. For all this, one was charged between $75 and $150 one way. [10] Even with such rates stage companies had trouble making a profit. To lessen deficits, operators sought mail contracts. The U.S. postal service proved the savior of both small and large lines. Competition for mail business was intense and forced operators to make every effort to offer dependable service. This helped the poor traveller. Despite postal contracts most of the companies, especially the long haul outfits, found it difficult to make money. [11]

Stages were only half of the commercial overland transportation system. Freighters made up the other part of this business. Often stage companies also became owners of heavy wagons to haul goods. Teamsters were less romantic than stage drivers but they were truly vital to the survival of northeastern Colorado's early settlements. The first freighters to come into the region were men who contracted their services on a trip basis. After the initial rush and chaos of 1859 passed, the freight business became organized. Individuals still contracted to haul into the mountains, but more often goods were moved by transportation companies. [12] Once this shift took place, freight wagons crossed the plains on regular schedules. Companies announced departure points and dates in many of the Missouri River towns so shippers could warehouse their cargoes. After being readied for the trail, wagons left as a train. These "trains" were led by a wagonmaster, tended by "bull wackers" or "mule skinners" (team drivers), cooks and other personnel. Each of these people had a specific function in the military-like organization of the train. On the plains, such a caravan could cover six to ten miles a day, which meant every trip to the Rockies took more than a month. [13]

Not all freighters operated on such a large scale, especially within this region. Locally they served, as did small stage lines, as feeders to and from major trade centers and then to railroads. Drivers, and their ability in negotiating narrow mountain roads, were critical to development of early mining camps because teamsters were the towns' only connection to the outside world. Also, the mineral industry was dependent upon them to haul in heavy machinery, supplies, and to remove ore and refined minerals. [14] The hazards of trail travel to freighters was as great, if not greater, than that faced by stage passengers. Lack of bridges across creeks, washes and rivers meant that fords had to be found. Shifts in riverbeds and varying water levels made it highly risky for heavily laden vehicles. Pockets of quicksand could swallow a whole team or wagon. Sudden storms often destroyed or damaged valuable cargoes and stampeded the animals. Long distances exhausted both mules and oxen, particularly if adequate forage could not be found or if waterholes went dry. During the early 1860s natives also posed an obstacle to successful journeys. Their raids usually caused a loss of goods and sometimes death to wagon drivers. Such occurences were fairly common on the plains. [15]

American ingenuity was applied to these problems by plains freighters. Some solutions were practical, others were not so usable. Difficulties caused by "animal power" had to be overcome. Some felt that livestock should be replaced by other locomotion. Inventors tried to adapt steam to plains travel by building "prairie tractors". These devices were adaptations of earlier French ideas. The tractors were impractical due to lack of water and fuel on the high plains. Another concept was to use the wind to move wagons. Transplanted New Englanders in eastern Kansas drew on their sailing experience and built a giant experimental "windwagon" designed to glide across the sea of grass. It resembled a sailing ship atop four large wheels. The "windwagon" ran aground on its maiden voyage when unpredictable winds and rough terrain tore it apart. [16]

Not all efforts to conquer the distances of the Great Plains were this unusual. One method that gave every appearance of success was the Pony Express, It was conceived by Russell, Majors and Wadell in 1859 as a speedy mail service from the Midwest to California by way of Colorado. The express used riders who were often young orphans with small physical builds. The service had swift horses, that followed the Overland Trail through Old Julesburg on their way to the Pacific coast. As Colorado settlements grew, mail was also handled to Denver by 1860. Expenses were high and even with rates up to $1.25 a letter to California, the Pony Express was forced to cease operation after only a few years. [17]

Construction of a transcontinental telegraph line was another factor in the early demise of the Pony Express. The wires were in service through Old Julesburg, (along the Overland Trail), by the end of 1861. if a consumer wanted his message delivered as quickly as possible he turned to the telegraph not the Pony Express, even though telegraph rates were higher. Messages for Colorado were forwarded from the telegraph station at Old Julesburg to Denver by stage. Denver's Western Union agent, David H. Moffat, ran a book, stationery and dry goods shop and handled telegrams as just one more service. Moffat, and other prominent Coloradans, considered the "talking wires" a necessity for their city. In 1862 they undertook a campaign to raise funds and build a telegraph from Julesburg to Denver. By 1863 these efforts succeeded and the "Queen City" was able to enjoy instant communications over the wires. [18] From its initial penetration of northeastern Colorado and subsequent connection with Denver, telegraphs spread throughout the region. Central City, Georgetown, Boulder and other mining towns sought these new communications systems. The camps raised money, and in other ways, tried to aid telegraphic expansion. [19] Private funds and local support remained primary methods of financing until the early 1870s. By then railroads entered northeastern Colorado and their need for rapid communication caused railway companies to build their own telegraph systems or to contract with companies like Western Union to provide wire service. Railroad messages occupied the wires little of the time, so to better utilize existing facilities owners, through Western Union or another company, offered public use of their wires. The development and spread of both telegraphs and roads did much to break the isolation experienced by early area residents. [20]

Northeastern Colorado was forced to await until the arrival of the iron horse before the last semblances of this disconnection passed. In the late nineteenth century railroads were the fastest and most dependable ground transportation known to man. Americans, even before the Civil War, sought to take advantage of that speed and span the great distances of the United States. These efforts were bolstered by gold discoveries in California during 1849. Once that Pacific coast territory achieved statehood, in 1850, numerous Congressmen called for construction of a Pacific Railroad to link the nation. In 1853 public pressure led the Federal legislature to order and fund a War Department survey of the West to determine practical routes for such a railway. The explorers by-passed northeastern Colorado, and as sectional tension between North and South grew, the Pacific Railroad dream fell from the public's eye. [21]

The gold rush of 1859 and subsequent rapid settlement of Colorado, gave popularizers of the transcontinental project new material for their campaign. They argued that a railroad from the Missouri River to the Pacific would not only provide new connections but it would also serve American citizens strung across the West in Colorado, Utah, California and Oregon. Such thinking was not lost upon members of the newly formed Republican Party. When that party won the election of 1860 and Abraham Lincoln became President, numerous southern states left the Union. Their secession cleared away much opposition to a Pacific Railroad and in 1862 Congress passed the first law to support such a massive effort by offering land grants using alternating sections. [22]

When Colorado residents heard of the events in Washington they were overjoyed at the possibility that Denver, and the region, might be along the new railroad's route. William N. Byers of the Rocky Mountain News, Governor John Evans, also a Pacific Railroad Commissioner, and other Denver businessmen immediately set about to publicize a Denver route. If such a line was chosen it would most likely bisect northeastern Colorado and help regional growth and development. They hired Francis M. Case, an engineer familiar with the 1853 War Department surveys, to visit the area and survey a rail route via Clear Creek Canyon and the newly discovered Berthoud Pass. Boosters hoped such a project would gather positive data for their cause and this would be used when Union Pacific (the eastern segment of the project) officials began to finalize their route across the Plains. Case's findings were a disappointment for Colorado. He said a railroad over Berthoud Pass was not economically feasible because of 5% to 6% grades, heavy rock work, extensive tunnelling and severe winters. This was a considerable blow to Denver's hopes for the transcontinental. [23]

Little construction was done on the Union Pacific until the Civil War ended. This was due to labor shortages, problems in raising capital and a lack of supplies since most available iron and steel was put into the war effort. In 1865 rails finally were laid westward from Omaha, Nebraska. The next year, as construction crews were busy on the Nebraska plains, final routing determinations were made and Denver was not included on the mainline. However plans did call for the rails to dip into Colorado at its extreme northeastern corner near Old Julesburg. By late 1867 Union Pacific track gangs had passed that place on their way west to meet the Central Pacific in Utah. Colorado had its "first" railroad and was sort of on the transcontinental. [24] The effects of this new transportation link were felt almost immediately. The railroad increased access to the entire region even though it only touched the area's northeasternmost corner. Settlers, cattlemen and business people found it easier to get to Denver; usually by taking the train to Cheyenne, Wyoming and then a stage south. [25]

The second, and more profound, change was the stimulation the new Union Pacific gave to rail projects within northeastern Colorado. Area residents, after losing their bid for inclusion on the transcontinental route, turned their attention to other ideas. First of these was the Kansas Pacific. This road was chartered by Congress to run west from near Kansas City to a point in Kansas directly south of Kearny, Nebraska and then turn northward to join the Union Pacific. Promoters of the company, including such Coloradans as John Evans and Jerome B. Chaffee, lobbied Congress to amend the line's routing, permitting it to extend west to Denver before turning north to join the U.P. In 1866 Washington, D.C. agreed to this modification. During 1869 and 1870 construction moved ahead as surveyors staked a grade along the Smoky Hill River and Big Sandy Creek; route of the Smoky Hill Road. During the summer of 1870 track layers moved closer to Denver. By August the "Queen City" had an outlet to the East. [26]

The Kansas Pacific was not Denver's first railroad. That honor belonged to the Denver Pacific, which reached town during June of 1870. The D.P. was Denver's reply to the Union Pacific and its missing the city. In November, 1867 local boosters decided to build their own railroad from Cheyenne to Denver. Mass meetings and rallies were held, stock was subscribed and the Denver Pacific Railway and Telegraph Company was founded. Bela M. Hughes, John Evans and David H. Moffat were the leaders of this undertaking. They immediately set out to find help and an agreement was made with the Union Pacific that included the U.P. supplying construction materials if Colorado raised the necessary funds. Initially, this pleased both sides, but as 1868 dawned, Denverites became restive when the U.P. failed to live up to its end of the bargain. This was because U.P. officials used every available piece of material in the race with the eastbound Central Pacific to reach Utah. Whatever the reasons, Coloradans perceived the lack of aid as an affront by the U.P. and they turned to the Kansas Pacific for help. The K.P.'s management agreed to assist the D.P. in. exchange for loans and stock in the Denver company. An agreement was reached and the Kansas line made good on its promises. During 1869 and 1870 track crews were busy on the new railroad working south from Cheyenne and north from the "Queen City". In June 1870, rails were in place and on the 23rd day of that month the first train chugged into Denver behind a locomotive named the David H. Moffat. [27]

These events marked the beginning of a railroad era in northeastern Colorado. The business generated by these early companies led others to see the potential of building rail lines into the region. Foremost were General William Jackson Palmer and William A. H. Loveland. Palmer came to Colorado as one of the construction chiefs on the Kansas Pacific. He visited Denver in 1869 and toyed with building his own line south from that city along the front range. The next year he resigned his job with the K.P. to work on this project full-time. Palmer made contact with locals interested in railroading, including Irving Howbert. Howbert was sent south from Denver to buy lands for Palmer's new road while Palmer undertook formal organization of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway. Palmer contacted friends in Pennsylvania and English financiers like William Blackmore and William A. Bell. These men were enthusiastic about the Denver and Rio Grande and by fall of 1870, Palmer had started construction work. His plans called for a line from Denver south to the southern transcontinental (Santa Fe) and then on to Mexico City. Palmer's road was built as a "narrow gauge" line, with only three feet between the rails whereas most other railroads, such as the D.P., were constructed using a "standard gauge" of 4 feet 8-1/2 inches. Palmer chose narrow gauge because he felt it would be adequate for his needs while at the same time being cheaper to build and operate. By the summer of 1871, Palmer's railroad was well on its way to the newly founded town of Colorado Springs, created by the D&RG. These events caused considerable excitement. Denver boosters felt that the narrow gauge would be of untold benefit to their city. in addition, farmers, ranchers and others in northeast Colorado saw new southern markets opened. The D&RG proceeded south into Pueblo before Palmer and his investors found themselves unable to continue construction. Also, competition from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad south of Pueblo and that line's capture of Raton Pass forced the D&RG to drop its plans to reach Old Mexico. Instead, Palmer turned his attention west, into the mountains and to the rich mining camps of the San Juans and Central Rockies. [28]

William A. H. Loveland was also an advocate of railroads into mining areas, especially those of Clear Creek. He, along with Henry Moore Teller of Central City, made plans in 1865 and 1866 to build lines up Clear Creek Canyon to Idaho Springs, Georgetown and Black Hawk, centering their network in Golden. While this idea was attractive, they found few who would support the project. Widening his search for capital, Loveland approached the Union Pacific about aid. The U.P. was interested in serving northeastern Colorado, especially after the deal with the Denver Pacific collapsed. The "transcontinental" offered money and materials for the Clear Creek project, by then called the Colorado Central Railway. The C.C. began its grading in 1866. Soon pressure grew on Loveland to build a branch onto Denver. The U.P. also wanted a line from its mainline at Julesburg southwest to Golden. All this activity made it seem the Colorado Central was about to become the territory's rail leader. After the U.P. finished its mainline to Utah in 1869, money and material became available for the Clear Creek project. By the early 1870s narrow gauge lines to Clear Creek's mining camps were completed and the Julesburg-Golden connection was started. Rails to Julesburg reached Longmont by 1873 and the branchline from Denver to Golden was in place. [29]

Not to be outdone by either Loveland or Palmer, backers of the Denver Pacific, particularly Evans and Moffat, launched their own project to capture mountain trade during the late 1860s. Clear Creek drew their attention but after Loveland surveyed that route, the Denverites began planning to enter Georgetown via a different path. They looked at a route along Bear Creek and up the south side of the foothills into this silver camp. The project became known as the Denver, Georgetown and Utah, later renamed the Denver, Central and Georgetown. Little happened until 1870 as all efforts were used to finish the Denver Pacific. However, once the D.P. was well on its way to completion, Evans began work on the Denver, Central and Georgetown which ran south from Denver to Littleton and then west toward Bear Creek. In the foothills, Morrison was founded and stone quarries were opened once the trains arrived. As the survey engineers moved westward they found that no practical grade could be built to Georgetown. As these discoveries were made, investors had to re-evaluate their plans. The Denver, Central and Georgetown died and was re-organized as the Denver, South Park and Pacific. This new company was to build up South Platte Canyon, over Kenosha Pass, into South Park and on to the San Juans. The new company's charter mentioned plans for a line to the Pacific. coast. The railway eventually reached as far west as Gunnison. The DSP&P kept the line to Morrison as a branch. [30]

Expansion of the DSP&P, CC and D&RG halted in 1874. The Panic of 1873 dried up capital and led to financial difficulties for all of northeast Colorado's new railroads. The first effect was stoppage of construction and equipment purchases. The companies made every effort to minimize expenses so they could repay their debts. Despite cutbacks, railroads found it impossible to avoid bankruptcy or forced reorganization sales. During this period of upheaval Jay Gould, a New York railroad tycoon, entered the Colorado rail scene and bought into the Kansas Pacific, Union Pacific and other major lines. Gould was not interested in the Colorado situation to help, but rather, his was an attempt to gain control of as many western railroads as he could. Eventually he, and later his son, George Jay, controlled most of the region's lines. Gould's struggle to control Colorado traffic led to detrimental effects to Colorado lines as he refused to fund repairs or other improvements. [31]

Financial problems were just one obstacle that faced Palmer, Evans and other rail builders in the West during the later nineteenth century. Lack of adequate capital hampered both operations and expansion. This became particularly acute during periodic depressions like the Panic of 1873. Labor shortages, especially of skilled workers such as locomotive engineers, acted as impediments to the rail industry's growth. However, by the late 1880s as more men made careers with rail transport companies, this situation was alleviated. But in the same industry lack of managerial talent, was a serious problem. This was solved during the 1880s as experts from established eastern roads moved west. Great distances and difficult terrain were two obstacles that man could do little about except to make accommodations such as tunnels. Western railroads were designed to cover long distances but the plains, aside from being endless had almost no population until the late 1880s and early 1890s. Without people, carriers had no business thus making such lines totally dependent on through cargoes for profits. To lessen this some rail companies set up immigration services to entice settlers on to vacant lands along their routes. Natural hazards like weather, buffalo herds, and natives (before 1870) were difficulties pioneer railroads suffered. Native Americans and buffalo were eventually removed from northeast Colorado but severe weather such as blizzards still plague Colorado's railroads. [32]

During the late 1870s, transportation investors entered a new era of optimism about railroads in northeastern Colorado. Those years saw plans for the expansion of the Denver and Rio Grande, the Colorado Central, the Denver, South Park and Pacific, and some new companies. The D&RG built up the Royal Gorge into Leadville and extended its line over Marshall Pass west to Gunnison and then onto Grand Junction. The South Park (DSP&P) built branch lines to several cities, including Leadville and Gunnison. The Colorado Central, by then part of the Union Pacific system, finished its line from near Longmont north to Cheyenne and also between LaSalle and Julesburg, along the South Platte River. It also built the famous Georgetown Loop as tracks were laid west to Graymont. These activities enhanced the region's transportation network and encouraged further economic growth. [33]

Encouraged by traffic possibilities in northeast Colorado, other rail builders began projects during the early 1880s. One was James J. Hagerman. a Milwaukee ironmaster who moved to Colorado Springs for reasons of health. He joined the Colorado Midland, in 1885, after Colorado Springs financiers were unable to raise enough capital to get started. The Midland proposed to build west from Colorado Springs over Ute Pass, across South Park to Leadville and then into Aspen. From here, plans called for a line west to Grand Junction and then on into Utah. While the Midland never got further than Grand Junction, Hagerman found British investors interested in his project. By June 1887, the C.M. was operating trains to Buena Vista, Colorado.

Part of the reason Colorado Springs sought an outlet to the west during the late 1880s was that the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific (CRIP) planned to reach town from the east. The Rock Island, as it was known, built from Kansas City late in the seventies and proceeded westward toward Limon, Colorado during 1880 and 1881. Once there, a line was built northwest toward Denver and another southwest to Colorado Springs reaching both places by 1888. Limon, as junction at the two forks, became a major shop and terminal facility for the road. In addition, three years later, one of the most unique railways in the area, the Pike's Peak Cog Railway, opened to carry tourists imported by the Rocky Island to the mountain's summit. [34]

At the same time another railroad built into northeastern Colorado; the Burlington and Missouri River, also known as the Burlington Route. It entered the state from McCook, Nebraska and followed a line nearly straight west to Fort Morgan, turning southwest to Denver. The Burlington reached the "Queen City" in May, 1882 after crews worked all winter thanks to mild weather. The line was built because its management felt Denver was a valuable market and to break the hold of Gould's Union Pacific on eastbound cargo from Colorado. [35]

Two other companies also recognized the value of Denver's traffic and began construction to tap the area during these boom years. They were the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, (Santa Fe) and the Denver and New Orleans. The Santa Fe built north from Pueblo and then was forced to enter into trackage agreements with the Rio Grande in order to gain access to Colorado's capital. The other project was started by Governor John Evans after he was forced to sell the DSP&P to Jay Gould. Evans conceived a plan to build a line south, (about 15 miles east of the D&RG), to Colorado Springs, then to Trinidad and from some point in southeastern Colorado or northeast New Mexico turn eastward to connect with a company building north from Fort Worth, Texas. Evans named his road the Denver and New Orleans Railway. Eventually connections were made and the Texas heartland was directly available to the Central Rockies. [36]

By the late 1880s Denver was well connected with railroads to three of the four compass points. Missing was a line directly west of the city, over the Continental Divide; an outlet to the Pacific Coast. David H. Moffat became a spokesman for this route by the 1880s. In 1880 he chartered the Denver, Utah and Pacific to construct a line from Denver to Salt Lake City and beyond. His proposal called for a route over Rollins Pass, west of Boulder, and a branch into Boulder's coal fields. Nine and one-half miles of track were laid and some grading and tunneling was done near Rollins Pass. The company soon went out of business but Moffat refused to give up on the idea of a new route. During the late 1880s, as president of the D&RG, he again tried to build only to be thwarted by the Board of Directors. It was not until the early 1900s that this railroad became reality. [37]

While Moffat was busy with his project to put Denver on a new railroad, other entrepreneurs were involved with less dramatic, although equally important projects. One was the Greeley, Salt Lake and Pacific, another narrow gauge, that was built west from Boulder, up Boulder Canyon toward county mining camps. Another local road was the Gilpin Tramway, used to carry ores from mines to smelters and to other connecting railroads for shipment: Because of the confined spaces available between Central City and Black Hawk, the Gilpin Tram was built as a narrow gauge with only two feet between the rails. The Greeley, Salt Lake and Pacific, and other companies set up in that region, were conceived to tap the mineral belt and offer competing routes westward across the Continental Divide. These efforts were only a few of the hundreds of "railroads" that never got beyond the planning stages in northeastern Colorado during the later nineteenth century. The corporations had grandiose visions of rail empires stretching to the Pacific Coast but were unable to find financing to build into the next little town. Despite the many failures, a spirit of optimism followed Colorado railroading during the 1880s. [38] The northeast part of the state added to this rosy feeling because of rapid growth in the area during the 1870s and 1880s. The spread of farming and reaching, the development of mining and smelting and the evolution of the region into the economic and political center of the state all caused railroaders to consider the future assured. State laws that did not heavily tax or regulate the companies, and rules that prevented labor from becoming a potent force enhanced Colorado's attractiveness to financiers. Fears that one company might find a market some other had missed led to much duplicative building and waste. This did not bother investors until late in the 1880s when competition became fierce. To avoid price cutting and losses on operations, railroaders formed pools to divide traffic and set rates. This solution proved only a stop-gap measure. The pools were informal and often one member or another violated the agreement and it fell apart bringing the return of cutthroat competition. Nevertheless, railroads did survive and continued their expansion into the 1890s as the "boom" continued. [39]

That led to many area railroads being heavily in debt by 1893 and dependent on a continually expanding economic base. When the Panic of 1893 began, transportation companies found themselves hard-pressed to meet obligations. Within two years nearly every railroad found itself either in receivership or abandoned. Those that went into court control did not successfully reorganize until 1898 or 1899; ready to face a new century. [40] Despite these difficulties railroads were the backbone of northeast Colorado's transportation system by 1890.

Chapter VII: Notes

1Nell Brown Propst, Forgotten People, A History of The South Platte Trail, (Boulder: Pruett Publishing Co., 1979), pp. 13, 16-17, 98, hereafter cited: Propst, Forgotten.

2Ibid., p. 31, and Harry F. Kelsey, Jr., Frontier Capitalist, The Life of John Evans, (Denver: State Historical Society of Colorado, 1969), pp. 144-147, hereafter cited: Kelsey, Evans, and Carla E. Neuhaus, "Transportation to Colorado, 1858-1869," (M. A. Thesis, University of Colorado, 1928), pp. 42, 58-59, hereafter cited: Neuhaus, "Transportation."

3Robert G. Athearn, Union Pacific Country, (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1971), pp. 44-45, hereafter cited: Athearn, UP; Lyle Dorsett, The Queen City, A History of Denver, (Boulder: Pruett, 1977), pp. 21-23, hereafter cited: Dorsett, Queen, and Richard C. Overton, Gulf to Rockies; The Heritage of the Fort Worth and Denver-Colorado and Southern Railways, 1861-1898, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1953), pp. 41-44, hereafter cited: Overton, Gulf.

4Cornelius W. Hauck, Narrow Gauge to Central and Silver Plume, (Golden: Colorado Railroad Museum, 1972) pp. 8-10, hereafter cited: Hauck, Narrow; Overton, Gulf, pp. 11, 43-44, and Dorsett, Queen, p. 21.

5Margaret Long, The Smoky Hill Trail, (Denver: W. H. Kistler, 1943), pp. 1-3, hereafter cited: Long, Smoky, and Propst, Forgotten, pp. 60-62.

6Nore V. Winter, James S. Kane, Ellen Beasley, Kathy London and Liston E. Leyendecker, "Level I Historic Cultural Resources Survey of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland," (Lakewood, CO.: United States Forest Service, n.d. (n.p., hereafter cited: USFS, "Level I"; Robert G. Athearn, The Coloradans, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1976), pp. 70-71, hereafter cited: Athearn, Coloradans; Overton, Gulf, pp. 14-16; C.C. Skinner interview, Civilian Works Administration Interview, Volume 353, State Historical Society of Colorado, hereafter cited: CWA, CSHS.

7Neuhaus, "Transportation." pp. 39-44; Propst, Forgotten, pp. 33-36, and Long, Smoky, pp. 50-52.

8Propst, Forgotten, pp. 27-38, Long, Smoky, pp. 41-44, and Neuhaus, "Transportation." pp. 39-44.

9Long, Smoky, pp. 40-41; Propst, Forgotten, p. 146; Albert M. Bair interview, vol. 358, CWA, CSHS, and William Alexander Lawson interview, vol. 355, CWA, CSHS.

10Long, Smoky, pp. 40-47, 52; George W. Lechner "Diary", vol. 358, CWA, CSHS, and Hattie L. Hedges Trout interview, vol. 345, CWA, CSHS.

11Long, Smoky, p. 1, and Propst, Forgotten, pp. 36-38.

12 Dorsett, Queen, pp. 34-35, and Neuhaus, "Transportation," pp. 42, 58-65.

13Neuhaus, "Transportation," pp. 4-7, and Tobia Mattox interview, vol. 343, CWA, CSHS.

14Hauck, Narrow, pp. 10-17, and "The City of Golden," vol. 354, CWA, CSHS.

15Jay Monaghan, The Overland Trail, (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1947), p. 247, hereafter cited: Monaghan, Overland; Propst, Forgotten, pp. 30-36, 58, and Mattox, CWA, CSHS.

16Neuhaus, "Transportation," pp. 31-37.

17Ibid., pp. 53-56, and Propst, Forgotten, pp. 29, 35-36 and 39, and "Golden," CWA, CSHS.

18Blanche V. Adams, "Colorado in the Civil War," (M. A. Thesis, University of Colorado, 1930), pp. 114, 128, hereafter cited: Adams, "Civil War." and Propst, Forgotten, p. 42.

19Manasses Litch interview, vol. 341, CWA, CSHS, and Benjamin Wheeler interview, vol. 345, CWA, CSHS.

20Litch, CWA, and see: Thomas J. Noel, "All Hail the Denver Pacific: Denver's First Railroad," The Colorado Magazine 50 (Spring 1973), 91-116, hereafter cited: Noel, "DP."

21Robert W. Riegel, The Story of Western Railroads, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1964), pp. 33-39, hereafter cited: Riegel, Western RR, and Athearn, UP, pp. 18-21.

22Athearn, UP, pp. 18-22, and Reigel, Western RR, pp. 82-94.

23Overton, Gulf, pp. 12, 43-45; Dorsett, Queen, pp. 20-23, and Kelsey, Evans, pp. 169-179.

24Athearn, UP, pp. 52-54, 65, 136, and Mr. and Mrs. H. R. Neuman interview, vol. 351, CWA, CSHS.

25Athearn, UP, pp. 132-134, and A. A. Woodbury interview, vol. 343, CWA, CSHS, and Neuman, CWA, CSHS.

26Athearn, UP, pp. 133-134; Dorsett, Queen, pp. 22-24, and Long, Smoky, p. 40.

27Overton, Gulf, pp. 12-17, and Noel, "DP," pp. 91-115.

28Robert G. Athearn, Rebel of the Rockies, A History of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962), pp. 2-20, 26-27, hereafter cited: Athearn, Rebel; "Colorado Springs Founding," vol 345, CWA, CSHS, and Frank Hamp interview, vol. 345, CWA, CSHS.

29Old Burlington interview, vol. 353, CWA, CSHS; Hauck, Narrow, pp. 10-17, 61, and Athearn, UP, pp. 213-230.

30Charles Pike interview, vol. 354, CWA, CSHS, and Overton, Gulf, pp. 41-47, and see: M.C. Poor, Denver, South Park and Pacific, (Denver: Rocky Mountain Railroad Club, 1976).

31Old Burlington, CWA, CSHS, and Overton, Gulf, p. 16.

32Riegel, Western RR; John G. Abbot interview, vol. 352, CWA, CSHS; A. K. Clarke interview, vol. 351, CWA, CSHS; George A. Colbert interview, vol. 343, CWA, CSHS, and E. L. Ketley interview, vol. 343, CWA, CSHS.

33Winfield Morris interview, vol. 341, CWA, CSHS; S. S. Worley interview, vol. 341, CWA, CSHS; Athearn, UP, p. 224, and Overton, Gulf, p. 17.

34Marshall Sprague, One Hundred Plus, A Centennial Story of Colorado Springs, (Colorado Springs: Colorado Springs Centennial, Inc., 1971), pp. 4-9, and see: Morris Cafky, Colorado Midland, (Denver: Rocky Mountain Railroad Club, 1965).

35C. Overton, Burlington Route: A History of the Burlington Lines, (New York: Knopf, 1965), pp. 163-173, hereafter cited: Overton, Burlington, and Morris, CWA, CSHS.

36Overton, Gulf, pp. 40, 50-56, 83-97, 150 and 166-168.

37Old Burlington, CWA, CSHS; Hauck, Narrow, pp. 36-37, and Athearn, Rebel, pp. 170-175.

38USFS, "Level I," n.p., and Ketley, CWA, CSHS.

39Overton, Gulf, pp. 84-88, 152 and 163.

40Hauck, Narrow, pp. 4, 103; Overton, Gulf, pp. 18-19, and Athearn, Rebel, pp. 181-185.

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Last Updated: 20-Nov-2008