Incorporated in 1883, the Colorado Midland Railway was run by James J. Hagerman, a wealthy mining investor who moved to Colorado Springs in 1884 from Milwaukee to recover from tuberculosis. Hagerman owned silver mines in Aspen and coal deposits near Glenwood Springs. He steered the company to connect Colorado Springs to these mines.
The railroad based its roundhouse and repair yards in Colorado City at what today is Highway 24 and 21st Streets and built their line west up Ute Pass. The company’s massive investment revived the moribund Colorado City. The goal was to first connect to Leadville then cross the continental divide to Aspen.
The Midland reached Leadville on August 31, 1887, then went west through the 2100’ long Hagerman tunnel, 547’ beneath Hagerman Pass, after which the line continued along the Frying Pan River. The 2.9 mile-long Busk-Ivanhoe Tunnel was built in December, 1893, to supersede the Hagerman Tunnel and reduce the long climb over the Continental Divide. The line reached Aspen in February, 1888.
By 1890 the Midland was competitive, with two daily passenger trains from Colorado Springs. The railroad made money on freight, particularly coal and coke from New Castle and Cardiff. Coal was delivered to consumers in Aspen, Leadville, Colorado Springs, Denver, and Pueblo, and coke was sent to smelters in Leadville & other smaller locations. The company also moved much timber, but relied principally on livestock, with loading points peaking during autumn at Rifle and Hartsel, and sheep from Utah brought for summer grazing near Aspen and Hagerman Pass.
The Colorado Midland also prospered from tourism out of Colorado Springs, with regular service into the mountains for picnics and wildflower collecting. Midland tracks extended east to connect with the AT&SF passenger terminal on Pikes Peak Avenue in 1887. The Colorado Midland dissolved May 21, 1922 and rails were torn up for reuse along most of its route, but service continued with an offshoot company, the Midland Terminal Railway.
Incorporated in 1892, this line began as a 31-mile spur connecting Colorado Springs to the gold mining camp at Cripple Creek through Divide. The Midland Terminal continued service between Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek until 1949. Highway 24—“the Midland Expressway”—was built in the late 1950s and now runs along the old train route. The roundhouse remains, retrofitted into restaurants and shops, and the Hagerman building still stands on Tejon Street.
Generously Submitted by Dr. John Harner, Professor of Geography & Environmental Studies, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs