Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Pikes Peak Railway and Improvement Company

 At the beginning of the 1880’s, James Hutchinson Kerr, a professor and Trustee at Colorado College, had the idea to build a railroad to the top of Pikes Peak. In 1883 he formed the Pikes Peak Railway and Improvement Company with himself as President, Major John Hulbert of Manitou Springs as Vice President, and other leading citizens of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs as Officers and Directors.  Kerr wrote a prospectus and enlisted the Wall Street firm of Grant & Ward, in which former President U.S. Grant and his son were major partners, to handle the financing. 
The company purchased a 100 ft. wide right-of-way to build a 30 mile long, narrow gauge railroad to the top of Pikes Peak through Crystal Park.  The right-of-way was engineered and graded nine miles from Manitou Springs before the project was abandoned due to a financial panic which bankrupted Grant & Ward (and President Grant personally) in May, 1884.  Railroad Grade Road and part of the present day Crystal Park Road above the present-day Railroad Grade intersection follow the old right-of-way. 
In 1891, the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway (the “Cog”) was opened, with Major John Hulbert as President, and Kerr’s dream of a railway through Crystal Park was dead.  Had this project been completed, Crystal Park would be a very different place today.

James Hutchinson Kerr

President U.S. Grant

Company Prospectus - pgs. 1 & 2

Company Prospectus - pgs. 3 & 4

Example of Narrow Gauge Engine ca.1885

Letterhead showing Company Officers and Directors.  This was an early form, as the name was later "Railway" instead of "Railroad".

Additional Information

There are still pieces of the old graded right-of-way in existence in Crystal Park (in addition to Railroad Grade Road and some of Crystal Park Road), especially on Sugarloaf Mt.  Below is a photo taken this past summer of a retaining wall built in the early 1880's for the railway (person included for scale).