The Mount Manitou Incline in 1910 saw a plan that was quite familiar.
Two local entrepreneurs hoped to take advantage of the tourist interests in the two other railway attractions in west Manitou. One was local curio-shop owner, J.H. Griffith, and the other was regular visitor, B.M. Starks, general manager of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.
In 1911 a L&N survey crew arrived to locate the line. It would run south from Ruxton Avenue, up, over a tunnel on the Colorado Midland to the top of Red Mountain. Several construction companies looked at the project, known as the Red Mountain Incline, and made bids for its work.
When the cost was presented, Starks backed out. Additional local investors, many from Manitou, took up the slack. The plan saw some revisions, and permission was received to cross Midland property. The construction started in 1912. It included a spindly trestle over a dip in the hillside. The construction resulted in a small gravesite being moved, however, the event caused by not selecting a secure spot has resulted in an annual event in Manitou Springs that is significant. The grave was Emma Crawford’s, a woman of local legend who succumbed to tuberculosis, and during a rainy season, her remains slipped down the mountain. Her bones were found by children playing on the slope.
The line had a rough few years of operation. The investors found the ride rough, too! The line had an excellent view of Ute Pass, but it could not compete with the Mount Manitou Incline. Unable to keep paying passengers, it closed until 1919 when a new company took it over. It never attracted enough passengers, and the bridge became more precarious. It closed for good in 1925 and a scraper even refused to bid on the skeleton. It was dismantled in 1927. Parts, like the summit foundation, can still be seen. Occasionally rusty metal from it finds its way to the surface after a good rain.
Collectors scrambled after the few advertising brochures that were produced. A station on Ruxton was removed in the 1920s, but an advertisement painted on a rock survived long after the line vanished.
Crawford, on the other hand, is well remembered, she had lived in Manitou with a sister in the 1880s. Emma Crawford died quite young, was said to have desired to marry Mr. Hildebrand, one of the construction engineers of the cog railway. She had walked the mountains and requested to be laid to rest on top of Red Mountain. Emma, or what could be found of her bones, was later reburied in Crystal Valley Cemetery in Manitou in an unmarked grave. An official gravesite was granted to her in 2004. Her memory is perpetuated in the annual Emma Crawford Coffin Races in Manitou Springs.
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 email@example.com.