This week in Aspen history |

This week in Aspen history

One b/w photograph of a rotary plow used on Hagerman Pass by the Colorado Midland Railroad, circa 1900.
Courtesy Aspen Historical Society

“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899. “Friday morning’s Midland train from Denver, west bound, with Conductor McPherson in charge, was blocked by an immense slide above Busk Friday night and before the hopelessness of the situation ahead became apparent the line down to Arkansas Junction became blocked, the snowfall being computed- not in inches or even feet, but in yards. The train at last reports was still hung upon the mountain side with its passengers. One hundred and seventy-five men were immediately put at work to dig out the covered tracks and yesterday an additional hundred were set to bucking the snow. Of course, the line between Leadville and Basalt is abandoned entirely, but through passenger traffic is taken care of over the Rio Grande tracks, while Aspen travel is accommodated by the stub, which goes to New Castle, instead of Basalt as formerly, to make connections. It takes about ten cars of coal daily to supply all the needs of Aspen and most of that amount is hauled by the Midland. As yet the coal traffic is not interfered with. Thus far the Rio Grande has kept its trains running practically on time, but it is only by straining every nerve and using every facility at command that the road has been kept open over Tennessee Pass. All the available snow fighting equipment of the road is mustered at that point and unless the heavy blizzard which prevailed all day yesterday on the range proved too much for them, the road will probably escape without a blockade. However, the wind-driven snow was so fine and penetrating yesterday that it was impossible for the Midland men at Busk to withstand it for more than an hour at a time. Indications last night were that the storm had broken and the barometer indicates fair weather. With a let-up in the snowfall for a few days railroad traffic will again be going forward without interruption.”

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