The following is part of KRCC's 'Peak Past' essay series.
Some roads are too good to go away. Or maybe they’re too tough to die. Like the Midland.
The Colorado Midland Railway was born in 1883. If you’ve ever headed west on U.S. Highway 24, you’ve followed the same route as the first standard gauge railroad built over the Continental Divide. The Midland ran from Colorado Springs out to Leadville, on to Grand Junction. The full line was up by 1890.
Colorado being Colorado, the Midland was a rough rail line. Consider the rise just west of Colorado Springs, all those curves and climbs. And after, it still had three summits to go!
It ceased operations in 1918, but like a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, the Midland is still with us. It looks different, but its new forms are even more impressive.
At the intersection of 21st Street and Highway 24 in Colorado Springs, you can’t miss the Ghost Town Museum. It was originally built in 1899 by the Midland Railroad for train maintenance.
Highway 24 itself was made on top of the old Midland line, all the way out to Buena Vista.
There’s tunnels too. Starting in Manitou Springs, on the south side of Highway 24, you’ll find five tunnels the Midland blasted to make the line, one so long and so dark you need a flashlight to make it through.
But by far my favorite stretch is the Midland Trail that connects Manitou Springs to Colorado Springs. It’s a rail trail, and it’s a beauty, part of the more than 2,200 American rail lines that have been converted to trails.
The Midland’s no longer in service, but the Midland’s path is still serving us every day.
Good things don’t die, they just change.
Thanks for listening to this mountainside chat—be good, be well, and no matter what, climb on.
Peak Past (formerly Peak Perspectives) is a weekly segment written and voiced by Matt Cavanaugh, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and a resident of Manitou Springs where he lives with his wife and two young children. Through his writing, Cavanuagh explores life in the Pikes Peak region, including the gradients and subtleties of our lives in the shadow of America's Mountain.
You can find more work by Cavanaugh here.
KRCC's Abigail Beckman manages the "Peak Past" series. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of KRCC or Colorado Public Radio.
Peak Past is sponsored by Pueblo Recycle Works and Gold Hill Mesa.