Historic Train Wrecks in the Ute Pass Region

Famous and Tragic Crashes Relived; Accidents Became Quite Common

Trevor Phipps


During the month of October, two southern Colorado train derailments made recent headlines.

Whereas news of recent derailments seem to be occurring across the country a lot lately, many wrecks occurred during America’s early years when the railways were the prime means of cross-country travel.


One train travelling from California and headed to Fort Carson carrying heavy-duty military vehicles on October 9 veered from its tracks spilling the equipment onto fields near the tracks just south of downtown Colorado Springs.

And then on October 15, a coal train derailed causing a bridge running over Interstate 25 on the north side of Pueblo to collapse, causing the death of a trucker from California hauling freight on the interstate at the wrong place and wrong time.


But the recent occurrences of train incidents seem minor compared to the tragedies that took place on the region’s railroads in the late 19th and early 20tg centuries.

Although trains seemed to be a safer way of travel compared to walking or taking a stagecoach, many fatal incidents occurred across the country, especially on trains winding their way through the steep Rocky Mountains.


For example, when the first Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad train ran to Cripple Creek in 1894, the return train traveling back south to Florence on July 2 experienced a wreck. The train’s rear coach left the tracks causing all of the cars except the engine to go flying down a gulch. Fortunately, only one out of the train’s 60 passengers died.


And then on a Short line Railroad train running from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek on the route that is now Gold Camp Road, another train crashed off of the mountain killing two people. A brake failure caused the crash, and there would have been more fatalities had it not been for a handful of brave heroes that saved several lives.


However, what many don’t know about are the multiple wrecks that happened to trains traveling in between Cripple Creek and Colorado Springs. In fact, the winding Ute Pass running between Manitou Springs and Cascade also had at least two wrecks that made newspaper headlines.


Historic Wreck in Bust


According to an article published in the Ute Pass Historical Society in their September 2018 newsletter, a train wrecked just west of Cascade in Culver’s Siding. This is the current site of Bust, Colorado. The newsletter cites a 1902 Denver Post article, with the publication reporting that the crash  killed one and injured 50 out of the 400 passengers riding the train at the time.


The Colorado Midland Excursion Train No. 8 was headed back to Colorado Springs after a day trip in Cripple Creek. The train was heading down the mountain and picking up quite a bite of speed.


The rails broke, sending the train’s 10 cars derailing off into an embankment. The engine made it past a curve, but the baggage car and second coach took the brunt of the force, leading to the death of passenger Francis English.


In the end, it was determined that the wreck was caused by excessive speed and a poorly maintained track. According to an article published in 1903 by the Salida Record, over a year after the wreck some of the injured passengers received an $18,000 settlement from the railroad company.


Early Train Crash in Cascade


Even though it made headlines, the deadly wreck in 1902 was not the first time the curves and steep grade of the Ute Pass caused a train tragedy. According to an article published in Leadville’s The Herald Democrat Newspaper in 1891, a train hauling ore and bullion from Leadville crashed near one of the tunnels just east of Cascade just after midnight on July 15, 1891.


Just before 1 a.m., the train’s brakes failed shortly after leaving the station in Cascade, right after it went through tunnel No. 7. The train left the tracks after hitting the 16 percent curve on the 3 percent grade.


Ten of the train’s cars piled on top of each other, while three more went flying over the embankment. The train’s engineer, Morris Moore, was pulled from the wreckage, but he had already suffered fatal injuries. Moore passed away at 6 a.m. that morning.


The train’s fireman was also counted as a fatality. The fireman’s body was never found but he was believed to be at the bottom of the train’s wreckage. The train’s brakeman and conductor escaped the crash unscathed.


Even though the railroads no longer run through the Ute Pass, the stretch of Hwy. 24 between Manitou Springs and Woodland Park now proves to be a hotspot for car accidents, especially in the wintertime.