Colorado Miniature Steam Locomotive Train Rides

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The miniature steam locomotive became the big tourist attraction ride in the early 20th century. Almost all amusement parks had at least one engine.

People were fascinated with Steam Trains and in their time they were the fastest and most popular mode of transportation. What better way to have an outing than to go to an amusement park and ride a miniature steam locomotive. Companies such as Cagney and Armitage-Herschell pioneered the “Park Train” industry. Miniature locomotives started out in seven and nine inch gauges and were modeled after famous full size locomotives. As they became more popular, a larger locomotive was needed to haul a larger amount of people. The early 1900s saw an increase in size to 15 – 22 inch gauges.

Introduction of Miniature Railroads

The St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904 and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 showcased the miniature railroads. They were used to move visitors around the fair. Amusement parks and tourist attractions saw how people flocked to the trains and soon were using them. Colorado had it’s share of miniature railroads, giving the tourists and residents an enjoyable outing.

Broadmoor, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Railroad

The “Broadmoor, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Railroad” was built by Broadmoor founder, Spencer Penrose. It was a miniature version of the Manitou and Pike’s Peak Cog Railway and opened in 1937. The engines for the Pike’s Peak Railway were built by Baldwin Locomotive Works. It was a steam locomotive that had to be extensively modified so that the boiler would always be level. Since it was cog railroad, it required three rails. The center rail had teeth that the “rack and pinion” of the engine would engage. The engine in this system is used to push the passenger cars. The trip to the zoo passed through four tunnels over two miles of track from the Broadmoor Hotel. The steam engine was replaced in 1950 by an aluminum and glass locomotive powered by a V-8 diesel engine. This locomotive was named the “Mountaineer”. The railroad was dismantled in 1974. The Mountaineer is now on display at the entrance of the zoo.

Lakeside Amusement Park

Lakeside Amusement Park is a family-owned park in Lakeside, Colorado. It opened on May 30, 1908 and is one of the oldest amusement parks in the nation, and is still in it’s original location. It is set against the shore of Lake Rhoda and the miniature railway circles the lake on a 22 gauge track. The first two steam locomotives were the “Puffing Billy” and “Whistling Tom” from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The park also has the first miniature gauge diesel locomotive, replicating the famous California Zephyr, manufactured in the 1930s. The steam locomotives are retired.

Tiny Town

In 1915, George Turner began constructing one-sixth sized buildings with a Victorian Style in a town setting for his daughter naming it Tiny Town. In 1920 it opened to the public and it became one of Colorado’s top attractions. By 1939, Tiny Town was world famous and the Tiny Town Railway was in operation. It has now been restored and you can still ride the Railroad through Tiny Town.

Some Other famous Miniature Railroads Include:

  • Denver – Elitch Gardens, Colorado Iron Horse Train ride (closed).
  • Denver – City Park Railroad (closed)
  • Denver – Denver Zoo Pioneer Miniature Railroad (open)
  • Pueblo – Lake Minnequa Train Ride. (closed)
  • Canon City – Buckskin Joe’s Frontier Town and Railway(open)
  • Canon City, Royal Gorge Scenic Railway (open)

Miniature steam locomotives are now fired by natural gas. It is cleaner, safer, environmentally better than coal, and easier to use.

Sources:

  1. Tiny Town from Tragedy to Triumph by Carla Black 1990, Pruett, ISBN 0962386820
  2. Broadmoor Memories- the History of the Broadmoor by Elena Bertozzi, 1993, ISBN 0929521803
  3. Denver’s Elitch Gardens by Leigh Rutledge, 2003, ISBN 1555662854