The Cripple Creek Trip

In 1890, a prospector named Bob Womack discovered gold near Cripple Creek, Colorado, and eventually the Cripple Creek mining district produced more than 650 tons of gold worth close to $20 billion at today’s prices. Located about halfway between the Colorado Midland Railway on the north and the Denver and Rio Grande on the south, the district was served by lines branching from both railroads: the Midland Terminal from the Colorado Midland and the Florence and Cripple Creek from the Rio Grande. However, by 1900 both railroads were controlled by the same company, the Cripple Creek Central Railway, so shipping prices were high.

Click image to download a 3.5-MB PDF of this brochure.

To break the monopoly, local investors built the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railroad, which opened in 1901. Its 46 miles was the shortest of the three routes from the mines to the smelters outside of Colorado Springs, so it called itself the Short Line. While it succeeded in reducing prices, it failed to make money, and by 1915 the Cripple Creek Central had taken it over. Though it was the shortest route, it was not necessarily the easiest, and it was scrapped by 1920.

As this brochure says, the railroad “doesn’t go around the mountains; it boldly assails the mountain back-bone, and force a way over forbidding heights; here carved out of solid rock; there skirting the rims of dizzy abysses; yonder zigzagging to accomplish the ascent of great walls, from mountain top to mountain top” (which is not quite as snappy a slogan as the Rio Grande’s later, “Through the Rockies, not around them.”) In any case, the mountains “assailed” bu the Short Line made for a scenic route, but not an easy one for rail operations.

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