Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad

Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad bridge in Phantom Canyon

The Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad (F&CC) was a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroad running northward from junctions with the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad at the mill towns of Florence and later moved to Cañon City, CO, on the banks of the Arkansas River, up steep and narrow Phantom Canyon to the Cripple Creek Mining District, west of Pikes Peak. Started in 1893, it was the first railroad to reach the new, booming mining district from the "outside world"; as a result it earned substantial profits in its first years. The railroad hauled people and goods into the mining district, and ore concentrates from the mines south for milling in Florence or transfer to the D&RG for milling in Pueblo, CO. The F&CC's first main terminal was located in Victor, the "second city" of the district; but its branch lines served many of the largest mines within the area.

"Arrival of the first train at Cripple Creek over the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad, July 1, 1894. Accident to the train on its return trip. The Great railway strikes--the first meat train leaving the Chicago [stoc]k-yards under escort of United States Cavalry, July 10, 1894"

Ultimately, the F&CC began to struggle financially as other competing railroads, built to the 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge, Midland Terminal and Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District Railroads entered the district from Colorado Springs from the north or east. In addition, flash floods washed out significant sections of the F&CC mainline in the narrows of Phantom Canyon several times. By the early 1900s, the railroad was in serious financial trouble and merged with other railroads of the area under the Cripple Creek Central holding company. A final, large flash flood destroyed enough of the F&CC's right-of-way to convince its new owners it was financially unwise to spend money rebuilding it; and the line was abandoned and scrapped. The railroad went out of business in 1915.[1] The F&CC's well-kept motive power, twelve 2-8-0 Consolidation freight engines, six 4-6-0 Ten-Wheelers passenger engines, and one 2-4-4T engine to power commuter trains were quickly sold to other area 3 ft (914 mm) gauge railroads. An F&CC subsidiary, the Golden Circle Railroad, which operated 3 ft (914 mm) commuter routes within the district itself, continued to operate for several more years after its parent's abandonment.

Today the original grade for this route is part of the Gold Belt Byway and is open to traffic for most of the summer months. The graded gravel road is suitable for regular cars.

See also


  1. McClellan, Barbara, ed. (Summer 1971). A Colorado Short Line Railroad: The Florence and Cripple Creek 1894-1915. Journal of the Southwest. pp. 129–142. Retrieved December 4, 2013.

Further reading

McFarland, Edward M (1984). The Cripple Creek Road : a Midland Terminal guide and data book. Boulder, CO: Pruett Publishing Company. ISBN 0-87108-647-6. OCLC 9044886. 

Lewis, Allan C. (2002). Florence & Cripple Creak Railroad : Forty Miles to Fortune. Denver, CO: Sundance Publications, Limited. ISBN 0-913582-72-7. 

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