Story of The Cripple Creek Short Line
Colorado's wonderful railroad and one of the greatest engineering feats in history

THE story of the rise of this, the most remarkable piece of railroad construction in the world, reads like a romance. Indeed, a thrilling tale of its beginnings and completion from the time that the mine owners of Cripple Creek and Colorado Springs first proposed it until the first train of cars wound its way, serpent-like, over the tops of the peaks and across almost fathomless depths into the great gold camp, could be written that would be far more entertaining than any fiction in existence, for truth is stranger and more surprising than allegory or romance… Aside from the commercial benefit that the state and the entire West have enjoyed because of the existence of the Short Line, it at once bounded into fame as the chief scenic attraction of the United States. The knowledge that it was possible to go to the greatest gold camp on earth directly over the wildest part of the mountains, and at that on cars and over a roadbed as good as any anywhere in the East-or anywhere else, for that matter-spread over the nation, indeed, throughout the civilized world… This knowledge brought thousands of tourists to the state, and the experience they enjoyed in taking the trip impressed them so deeply that it furnished the principal topic of conversation for months afterward… Several attempts have been made to describe the trip over the Short Line to Cripple Creek, but it is like painting the sunset—an absurd impossibility. It has to be seen to be appreciated… In constructing this railroad, not only was the ingenuity of the most skillful engineers taxed to its fullest capacity, but indomitable pluck and energy were required to surmount the difficulties encountered… A labyrinth of fathomless chasms and unspeakable canyons were to be spanned, and peaks that pierced the blue dome of heaven scaled, but it was done, and done quickly, for the line was opened for business April 8, 1901, a little more than one year after the beginning. The result is a marvel of railroad building which excites the admiration of the engineering world… While the wonders of its construction, as it pursues its intricate way around and through the towering cliffs and across the alarming abysses, inspires the traveler with awe, the wild and rugged beauty of the scenery, with its kaleidoscopic changes, thrill him with rapture. No other line in the world presents so much grandeur… Preliminary surveys were made in the summer and fall of 1899. January 4, 1900, actual work was begun. March 23, 1901—about a year and three months—the last spike was driven at the Cripple Creek terminus, completing forty-five miles of standard gauge track, a remarkable record. It was the occasion for the most memorable celebration in the history of the gold camp.

Cripple Creek | From Sea to Shining Sea | Contents Page

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