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Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway 7/16/2016

by Chris Guenzler

We arrived at the Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway headquarted in the old Rock Island roundhouse in Colorado Springs and we parked. It was Robin and Elizabeth's first time to this unique museum.

Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway

The Colorado Springs and Interurban Railway (CS & IRR, CS&IR) was an electric trolley system in the Colorado Springs, Colorado that operated from 1902 to 1932. The company was formed when Winfield Scott Stratton purchased Colorado Springs Rapid Transit Railway in 1901 and consolidated it in 1902 with the Colorado Springs & Suburban Railway Company. It operated in Colorado Springs, its suburbs, and Manitou Springs. One of the street cars from Stratton's first order is listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.


The Colorado Springs and Manitou Street Railway began horsecar trolley service in 1887. It ran between the Colorado Springs business district and Colorado College. The following year the route extended north and west with a total of ten horse-drawn trolleys. The Colorado Springs Rapid Transit Railway, chartered in 1890, bought the system and established the first electric trolley line to Manitou Springs in October 1890, as they transitioned from horse-drawn to electric trolleys. In 1898, trolleys ran west to Colorado City, east to Knob Hill, to Cheyenne Park, and connected with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Passenger Depot. With the additional destinations, there were 44 electric trolleys in 1900.

Interurban Railway Company

The Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway Company was created after Winfield Scott Stratton bought the Colorado Springs Rapid Transit Railway in 1901 and consolidated it with the Colorado Springs & Suburban Railway Company in September 1902. Service ran to a trolley park beyond Boulevard Park in 1903. The north/south main line provided service from a loop at the town of Roswell.

Colorado Springs and Interurban Railway ridership peaked in 1911 and within three years it began to suffer financially as automobile ownership increased. By 1916, its offices were located at 530 South Tejon. At that time there were separate cars that ran from the Main Post Office and Federal Courthouse to the Printer's Home. The east/west mainline extended from Manitou's Iron Springs neighborhood eastward through Garden of the Gods Balanced Rock Station in 1916. In 1916, the system had a power house building at 205 Rio Grande West. It served Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City, Manitou Springs, Ivywild, and Roswell over 38 mile of track with 56 motor cars and 13 trail cars in 1917.

Over the years, service ran east to the North Colorado Springs suburb and southward from the ATSF/Rock Island railroad bridge through the city to the Ivywild and Broadmoor suburbs, where the Cheyenne Mountain Country Club was along the Cheyenne Canon street car line and the terminus[d] It also ran to Broadmoor Park and adjacent to Stratton Park at the entrances to the North and South Cheyenne Canyons. A north/south branch line on Spruce and Walnut streets extended from Yampa street southward to Huerfano Street.

Buses began replacing the system's railcars in 1931 and the last electric tram ran on April 30, 1932. In the mid 1930s, the Works Progress Administration removed most of the street car rails. The Colorado Springs & Interurban power house site at the northwest corner of South Sierra Madro and Las Animas streets remains an electrical power station (now of Colorado Springs Utilities).

Historic property

Winfield Scott Stratton ordered streetcars for the Colorado Springs & Suburban Railway in 1901. It was the first set of cars purchased by Stratton and they were outfitted with safety features, like the retractable Narragansett steps, retractable windows that could be adjusted in transit, and had separate non-smoking and smoking sections. It was a step in the transition from wood to steel framed cars and used the Brill convertible design. Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway (CS&IR) Streetcar No. 48, the only remaining streetcar from that order, is listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.

The Pikes Peak Historical Foundation

The Pikes Peak Historical Foundation (PPHSRF) formed in 1983, with publication of Pikes Peak Trolleys by Morris Cafky and John H. Haney to preserve the history of the street railways in the Colorado Springs area. In 1990, Mr. Rex Dodson donated Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway (CSIR) No..59, our first streetcar. In 1994, we moved into the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific roundhouse built in 1888. When Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) PCC cars became available plus Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Clark B3 trucks to convert the Pennsylvania gauge cars to standard gauge our mission expanded to build a streetcar line from downtown Colorado Springs to Manitou Springs. The voters approved a charter to build the line and funds were raised for a feasibility study.

We leased former Ft Collins Municipal Railways (FtCMR) No. 22 and former Los Angeles Railways No. 3101 from the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club adding to our fleet. IBEW Local No. 113 and the Electrical Contractors Association donated $50,000 for restoration of the Birney. Negotiations with the City resulted in the new Colorado Avenue bridge being built to accommodate up to a 100,000 pound rail vehicles with lamp posts capable of supporting a catenary. The Manitou line reached the actual engineering work.

Everything had moved forward until a combination of items halted the effort. The proposed line on Colorado Avenue went under I-25. When rebuilding I-25 in the area commenced Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) understandably did not want a 600 volt trolley wire in their construction site. Underground power and communication vaults were also in the way of one of the tracks. Then came a push for us to replace the old sewer line under Colorado Avenue. Potential donors were not going to contribute to that work.

Looking for alternatives a transit engineering firm offered pro bono to help us construct a demonstration line along I-25. That effort halted when the Union Pacific announced that not even the Regional Transportation District (RTD) in the Denver area would be permitted to build near the railroad right-of-way in the future. Our current site surrounded by railroad right-of-way precluded being able to build out to the city streets.

Meanwhile acceptance of streetcars returning to U.S. cities increased. A number of lines proved the benefits to restoring the economic viability of areas. In 2007, the business community expressed interest in a line in downtown Colorado Springs. A group formed in Colorado Springs.

With the local city bus transit system and the business community to commission a feasibility study for a, line in the downtown area. Using a combination of grants and contributions the study recommended such a like of about two miles length in 2010.

Our participation remained on the sidelines due to fear from some that our active participation would jeopardize getting Federal funding. The Feasibility Study recommended building a two mile line in downtown. The funds they hoped for the Environmental Impact Study, Alternatives Analysis, and other studies required by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) did not happen. Even had those studies occurred the FTA for such projects required a 50% matching funds, not likely in Colorado Springs given other more urgent needs.

Meanwhile we managed to get Colorado Avenue and Nevada Avenue bridges rebuilt to accommodate rail vehicles, acquired over $4M worth of assets in the form of parts and restorable streetcars, and continued lur restoration efforts on two cars. Work continued on restoring the Birney, CSIR No. 135/FtCMR No. 22, now on the National Historic Register as the last Birney car to operate in revenue service in North America. Restoration started on CSIR No. 59, our Laclede built for Colorado Springs. We managed to acquire CSIR No. 48, the oldest Colorado Springs car and originally a Brill No. 1 convertible, perhaps the only one left.

Our efforts for the streetcar line center moved to acquiring a property giving us access to the city streets without crossing any active rail line. Encountering various roadblocks the effort moved from one property to another. Typical for such projects. Two years were spent on a former rail yard when the railroad decided to retain the property. We switched to another property and that effort seems to be moving forward. Having been advised any Federal funding would raise costs by approximately 600% and the local economy our effort will be driven by private funding.

We now have the Colorado Avenue bridge and the North Nevada Avenue bridge over the former Rock Island track able to handle rail vehicles. Our assets exceed $.2M in value in the form of restorable streetcars, streetcar parts, and over two (2) track miles of 90 lb rail for our yards. Our staff includes people with experience in transit and rail operations, engineering, and business. A long hard effort may appears closer than ever to achieving restoration of street rail service to Colorado Springs using heritage and historic equipment.

The Fleet CSIR No. 135/FtCMR No. 22 The Birney

Of over 6,000 Birney cars built, fewer than 100 are known to survive, less than thirty with their original mechanical equipment, electric equipment, and seats. FtCMR No. 22 came to us essential complete except for damaged wood like the floor and roof. Since the last CSIR Birney was number 134 in accordance with standard railroad practice when acquiring equipment from another line we renumbered the car as CSIR No. 135. It's Fort Collins history should not be forgotten though as the then small college town was the last to operate streetcars in Colorado and the last Birney cars in North America. CSIR No. 135 is the last streetcar to operate in revenue service in Colorado and the last Birney car to operate in North America when it came in from its last run 1045 PM June 30, 1955. Charlie O'Laughlin was the operator. CSIR No. 135/FtCMR No. 22 is now on the National Historic Register.

LARy No. 3101 PCC

LaRY (Los Angeles Railways) No. 3101, our only narrow gauge streetcar with original trucks, operated in LA from 1943 until 1963. Built in 1943, the car is one of only three surviving passenger rail vehicles from that year. During World War II the War Production Board (WPB) ordered passenger rail equipment could only be built for the military. The City of Los Angeles received an exemption due to a need to transport people to support the war effort.

The car reportedly operated on a very short track in Cripple Creek Colorado for maybe a month. Although not exactly revenue operation that makes it the first PCC to operate in this state.

Allegheny Port Authority No. 4002 Interurban Car

Originally built by St. Louis Car Company as Pittsburgh No. 1702, a PCC. In the late 1980s the car received extensive rebuilding.

Although it retained the original Westinghouse controls and body bolsters the car received a new operators control panel, air conditioning, and essentially a new body.

Currently the car rests on shop trucks, a pair of wide gauge Clark B2's minus their electrical components. We have one spare pair of CTA B3 trucks to assign to the car but need the funds to rebuild those trucks, acquire a trolley base with pole, windows, air conditioning (necessitated by no operable windows), and some minor items to return the car to fully operational status.

Dr. Stephen Kuznetsov, who designed traction motors for Westinghouse, purchased the car when it left service. In 2014, he very generously donated this car to us in 2014. One of our Board members donated the shipping costs.

Denver Tramway Corporation Electric Trolley Bus No. 519

Built by the J.G. Brill Company in 1940 as a 44-seat rubber-tired trolley coach with Westinghouse controls. The coach operated from 1940 until 1955. James Kunkle restored the coach. The roof and some seat cushions require repair due to animal damage while the car was in storage in Denver.

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) PCC

1. SEPTA No. 2043
2. SEPTA No. 2097
3. SEPTA No. 2102
4. SEPTA No. 2107
5. SEPTA No. 2109
6. SEPTA No. 2114
7. SEPTA No. 2129
8. SEPTA No. 2131
9. SEPTA No. 2722

Built by St. Louis Car Company in 1947, these cars operated with Clark B2 trucks in Pennsylvania broad gauge. At the same time they became available we were able to acquire St. Louis Car Company built B3 trucks from Chicago. Built for the "L" line in Chicago they are some of the heaviest duty PCC trucks ever made. Unless some other organization offers to purchase the surplus SEPTA trucks when the rebuilding occurs, they will be stripped of all usable parts and then scrapped.

SEPTA No. 2129, renumbered as CSIR No. 2129, operates on 500 ft of track on the Chicago type trucks. SEPTA No. 2722 was originally built as a two man car then converted into single man operation.

Our Visit

We started looking around.

Pittsburgh PCC 1702 built St. Louis Car Company.

Rio Grande Caboose 01501.

Southern Pacific passenger car.

Local buses.

SP Baggage Car 6777 or Rock Island 4363.

SEPTA PCC 2129, an ex. 1947 Philadelphia Transportation Company PCC car.

Rio Grande box car.

Los Angeles Railway PCC car 3101, one of only two War Babies still in existence.

The collection behind the fence.

I went inside the building and discovered these wonderful models of trolleys.

1901 Laclede 59, which is the only 1901 double truck Laclede in existence.

Colorado Springs & Interurban 135.

Fort Collins Birney Car 22.

The Rock Island roundhouse in Colorado Springs.

A Burlington Northern boxcar.

SEPTA PCC Car 2722.

SEPTA PCC Car 2107.

SEPTA PCC Car 2109.

Colorado Springs bus 519.

SEPTA PCC Car 2093.

Colorado Springs bus 553.

Trolley bodies.

SEPTA PCC Car 2097.

SEPTA PCC Car 2102.

A BN box car.

SEPTA PCC Car 2114.

D&RG car 470 tourist sleeper built by Pullman Palace Car Company in October 1889. It is being restored here by the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

Northbound BNSF coal train.

Flatcar of unknown origin.

Colorado Springs Interurban Railroad complex. We drove to Walsenburg and went to the A&W and I had a root beer. Then we drove to the train station.

D&RGW caboose 01441.

The Walsenburg D&RGW station. We drove next to La Veta. Here we got a surprise!

San Luis & Rio Grande freight train was idling here.

SL&RG GP-40PH2 4136.

SL&RG GP-40PH2 4141.

SL&RG GP-40PH2 4142. We then drove to the station.

D&RGW La Veta station.

The water tower here. From here we headed back towards US 180 but made a stop.

The dike on Spanish Peak.

The other peak of Spanish Peak.

A view looking at the La Veta valley with interesting geology. From here we drove to Blanca for some Ghost Railroading!

What is left of the San Luis Southern Railroad.

The remains of Plymouth ML8, ex. Utah Power and Light, bought in 1977.

San Luis Southern D-500.

Views of the old San Luis Southern. We gassed up the car and drove to Alamosa.

Rio Grande Scenic view in Alamosa.

A Rio Grande Scenic passenger train in Alamosa. I had KFC for dinner and then we checked into the Rodeway Inn. I did my laundry and wrote the story before calling it a night.