Summit County history: Elephants on Boreas Pass? |

Summit County history: Elephants on Boreas Pass?

Mary Ellen GillilandSummit County, CO Colorado

W. H. Iliffs big 7:40 Mine operated at Farnham and shipped ore by rail car from there, as did the Warriors Mark. Legend says the 7:40 was first named the 7:30 Mine for the time that miners started work. Because employees were habitually late, the mine name slipped by 10 minutes. Boreas bragged about having the nations highest U.S. post office. The only U.S. post office to straddle the Continental Divide was established here in 1896. The station included a five-room, one and one-half story section house (restored and still standing); a storage cabin (still standing); an 1884 stone engine house with turntable (in ruins beside the road) which also housed a rail company office and two-room telegraph office; a 9,156-gallon above-ground water tank; a huge coal bin; a 600-foot long snowshed; and lots of snow fence (ruins visible). Ancient god of the north wind, Boreas, kept things lively at the summit, where blasts could pile up huge drifts as soon as workers finished shoveling track. When the Leslie rotary snowplow came into use, four engines pushed the hefty plow up Boreas Pass. Often summit snow was so deep that when the plow roared over the top, the force of snow thrown to the sides blew open the depot door and filled the room with snow, surprising waiting passengers and the rail agent. Though he was continually surprised by this event, the Boreas rail agent was no dummy. When snows reached rooftop level, the agent dug tunnels to the various buildings nearby. After that, let it snow! No more shoveling was necessary. Things didnt settle down in summer. Storytellers say that when the P. T. Barnum circus came to Breckenridge, the heavily-laden circus train failed to make it up to the pass. With the lions roaring from hunger and schedules unmet, officials unloaded the trains bulkiest passengers to assist. And so, the circus elephants pushed the train to the Boreas summit.

Summit Countys 44 miles of paved bikeways travel the former routes of two 1880s narrow gauge railways. They were the Denver, South Park & Pacific and the Denver & Rio Grande Western. Locals, unimpressed with the glory of mountain railroading, dubbed the D.S.P. & P.R.R. Damn Slow Pulling & Pretty Rough Riding and the D. & R.G.W. Dangerous and Rapidly Growing Worse. Bikers can choose from three historic rides along the bike network. Starting at Friscos Ten Mile bikeway parking near Interstate 70, you can travel south through the Ten Mile Canyon to Copper Mountain and Vail Pass; northeast to Dillon then east to Keystone Resort; or south to Breckenridge. Frisco to Copper Mountain: (6 miles one way) This path follows the grade of the D.S.P. narrow gauge. Its competitor, the D. & R.G., once built its track side by side with the D.S.P., but I 70 now obliterates the D. & R.G. grade. Nomadic Ute tribes once camped at the Ten Mile Canyons mouth. Just inside the canyon, note the skeleton of the Excelsior Mines once-busy ore stamp mill across I 70 at right. As you ride from here, the mines will lie on the bikeway at your left. Notice just after you start the Juno Mine, discovered by Friscos first resident, Henry Recen.Later at 0.5 miles, the King Solomons massive gray tailings dump reaches to the bikepath. Friscos most talented promoter, Col. James H. Myers, launched the King Solomon and with it reversed Friscos fading silver fortunes. The big mine has a tunnel that goes more than one mile into Mt. Victoria. Next lies the Kitty Innes, discovered by Henry Learned, the Indian scout who named Frisco. At 1.5 miles, youll pass the Mary Verna, where a big power house rose alongside the rail track. Curtin, a townsite at 2 miles, was once a railroad commune. Overgrown foundations at the right of the bike path mark the site. They supported the communitys coal-fired compressor, which powered mining machinery for the Mary Verna and North American Mines nearby. A log railroad building, one and one-half stories high, anchored the town. Nearby, the Wib Giberson family once occupied a cabin before they homesteaded their historic Frisco ranch. A boardinghouse and log homes housed rail and mine workers. Named for railway section man, Bill Curtin the town served both the Denver, South Park & Pacific (later renamed the Colorado & Southern) and the Denver & Rio Grande narrow gauge lines.

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