Neons and Sparks on the Cripple Sreek Line (Midland Terminal Railway),When I arrived in Colorado Springs, I landed comfortably in the arms of the efficient Rock Island Railway. From then on, my troubles were over. Thanks to B. M. Schwartz, district passenger agent for the Rock Island, he fixed me up to ride a new railway, got me a hotel room in Denver, gave me a motor tour of the Garden of the Gods; showed me the fabulous Broadmoor hotel; bought me a cup of coffee in his home; then saw to it that my baggage was checked through to Ottawa. No dry nurse could do more.
Published 7 February 1947
The Arrow HotelI landed in a hotel called the Arrow. It was a walk-up, and a cash-down. A hard boiled, unaccommodating sort of place, it did have a very commodious room and bath. The other bad manners and bad service I could overlook.
I then ambled over to the Rock Island office, where on the youthful shoulders of aggressive Mr. Schwartz, I told my troubles. When I had finished talking, my difficulties were as good as gone. First of all, he fixed it up for me to ride the Midland Terminal Railway, a picturesque hangover from the fabulous silver days of early Colorado. Of this line, more in a minute.
But to entertain me till my M.T.R. train left, he wheeled me out to the Garden of the Gods. While the snow storms played around Pike's Peak above me 14,109 feet about sea level, I admired the gorgeous reds and bizarre shapes of the rocks in this garden. Surely the gods were at their maddest and wildest when they fought over this terrain, and left it what it was. One could write enthusiastically, almost ecstatically, about these strangely eroded forms, the slanting shapes, the off-balance perspective, the keeled-over contours, but let mc rather suggest it here and say that there is a weird dignity about the whole garden, that inspires something akin to awe.
I personally thought the Broadmoor hotel quite a remarkable hostelry. Its magnificent layout. Its roomy comfort, its sophisticated salons, its general aura of munificence, suited me well after a day of bus riding, and a room the night before in a rooming house. It was also a mighty contrast between my own pay-as-you-enter Arrow hotel. I could have stood more of the Broadmoor, although I doubt if my pocket could have stood much more, at the time. I'd like to go there sometime when I was beginning my holidays, not ending them.
The indefatigable Mr. Schwartz who never left my side, then took me to the Midland Terminal Railway. This was to be No. 118 for me. We stumbled through burs, in the dark, to get down to the caboose, but Conductor J. T. O'Connell finally got me there. Now this Midland is an old line, and not one of its engines on the train is younger than 48 years. So they lined up three, 60, 59, and 55, and on a train that was not 30 cars long, as I recall it we had one at the beginning, one in the middle, one in the end. They coupled on. whistled to each other that they were ready, and then we started. The old caboose had electric lights, once we were hooked up. But I forsook the bright lights, and climbed into the cupola.
As I looked out, I would see black cuts, where the train reverberated and echoed. Then I'd glimpse neon signs, and a paved highway, then everything would be shut out. I had the strange feeling of going through city streets one minute, through the wilds of Colorado the next. Actually, I was only going five miles, to Manitou, but the grade was heavy, and I was about half an hour making the run.
Cupola ViewFrom my cupola I could look back and see the ancient mogul - or something like it - working hard. Then up ahead, the hand-fired job glowed as the fireman tried to coax the old power up the hill. Far in front, around the bend the third 48-year-old steamer shot sparks into the heavens. This was railroading. We were on the old Cripple Creek Line, we were using power that dated back into the 19th century, we had four per cent grades, we had everything an old railway fan would love.
So we pounded and twisted our way to Manitou, only a prelude to what lay ahead on its slow but sure way up the high passes into the Rockies. But the ever-obliging Mr. Schwartz and auto were at Manitou to meet me, and while trjey flagged the three engines down to a walk, I hopped off. Then a quick run to the Schwartz living room, for coffee. Then In the morning, I drove under a pink mackerel sky to the station, there to catch the Texas Zephyr.