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.

First proposed in 1883, trains began to run in 1887, and the entire line would be completed the following year. 

It was once of the most difficult & expensive railroads to run, given the trajectory, although it was a very scenic journey. At some points through the route, winter snows did not typically melt until June, and operations were nearly impossible during the winter. 

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

It was also the first standard-gauge line in the state to cross the Continental Divide.

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.

Thanks as always for reading!


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