Between Aspen and Glenwood Springs, starting in the 1890s, the railroads ran a most unusual train. The “Laundry Train” was run over the Denver & Rio Grande and the Colorado Midland and usually carried about 250 persons.

The passengers enjoyed an opportunity to roll on the grass and bask under the shade of green trees after having a swim in the Glenwood hot springs pool. A picture of the patrons of the “Laundry Trains” might not be this accurate!

In Aspen, the miners were quite an interesting bunch.As the story goes, there were few married men in the camp, and the miners were lacking in certain sanitary abilities. The railroad companies helped save the day.

Everybody in the mining camp was pleased with the laundry trains, and the number of passengers increased each week. The trip was made in time to give the people from Aspen two hours at the hot springs before the Leadville train left. This was just enough time for enterprising people to wash and dry the laundry the miners brought with them. And the miners’ trip to the springs was a great way to wash the “crud” off. Surely certain refreshments were consumed, too.

Fare was minimal, as the purpose of the trip was pretty well understood. The trains, however, were segregated into some cars for the miners and their laundry and others for “regular” passengers and families. The miners could not mix with the regular folk — that is, until they had bathed. Upon arrival at Glenwood, there were drop off points where laundry could be left. The walk was several blocks to the pools, along city streets lined with homes. A sign might mark a likely spot to get that laundry done.

The trains ran normally on Saturday and Sunday, mainly in the summer, but after a while they were year-round.

I have not found anything like this for Cripple Creek. The two railroads were rivals, but this project was civilized. One would go on Saturday, the other on Sunday.

E.M. “Mel” McFarland is an artist, historian and railroad enthusiast. He is a Pikes Peak region native and has written a handful of books and guides highlighting the area’s rich history. Contact Mel at mcmidland@yahoo.com.

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