The Colorado Midland Railway

The Colorado Midland Railway ran from Colorado Springs to Grand Junction, CO via the Rocky Mountains. (Right of way). Between Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs, the road used tracks that were jointly operated by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. With its picturesque route through the challenging terrain of the Rocky Mountains, the Midland played a significant role in the transportation history of Colorado. Proposed in 1883, the railway became operational in 1887, connecting Colorado Springs to Grand Junction via the Rocky Mountains. 

The construction and operation of the Colorado Midland Railway were formidable tasks due to the difficult trajectory through the mountains. The route, while scenic, presented challenges, especially in the winter when snow persisted until June, rendering operations nearly impossible. Nevertheless, the railway achieved the milestone of becoming the first standard-gauge line in the state to cross the Continental Divide.

Colorado Midland Railway near Cameron Cove, CO. Denver Public Library.

As it wound through the rugged landscapes, the railway encountered high trestles, steep grades, and challenging curves, contributing to its reputation as one of the most difficult and expensive railroads to operate. The railway not only conquered geographical obstacles but also played a crucial role in connecting communities and facilitating economic growth in Colorado. The scenery along the route, including notable points like Cameron Cove, captured the imagination of passengers, offering a unique blend of adventure and natural beauty. 

This captivating of from Cameron Cove, Colorado, housed in the Denver Public Library, provides a visual testament to the formidable challenges faced by the Colorado Midland Railway, showcasing the railway's high trestle and the breathtaking mountainous terrain that characterized its scenic and arduous route.

Despite the operational difficulties, the Colorado Midland Railway left an indelible mark on the history of rail transportation in the American West, embodying the spirit of exploration and expansion during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Map of the Colorado Midland Railway

Through its relatively short life, it would run as an independent line, but also under the flag of the Santa Fe, (1890-1897) and Rio Grande Railroad. (1900-1917).

Photo: A.W Dennis. High trestle on the Colorado Midland Railway, Leadville National Forest.

The railroad had an interesting demise as a result of World War I and the subsequent government intervention. After a second bankruptcy in 1917, it was placed in the hands of a receiver, namely Albert Carlton, who also owned the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District Railway. This allowed him to divert traffic onto the CM, and thus what was a failing venture had turned into a profitable operation in an extremely short period of time, only for nationalization of the US Railroad network to commence at the end of the year to aid in the war effort.

The Colorado Midland was the shorter of the two routes across the state, with the other being the Tennessee Pass line, and thus this was the primary line chosen by the government to run freight trains through, despite the fact that it was poorly maintained and lacked the adequate infrastructure, crew and yards to keep up with the incredible increase in traffic. Upon this realization, the feds reversed their earlier choice and began using the Tennessee Pass as the primary line through Colorado, leaving the CM bankrupt once again.

Just over a year after a huge reversal of fortunes for the line, it found itself out of service in August, 1918. Spending the next two years looking for a buyer, it ultimately was abandoned and scrapped by 1922.

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