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The Colorado Midland Railway Company was incorporated in 1883 with a plan to build a standard-gauge railroad from Colorado Springs through Leadville and Aspen and on to Salt Lake City. Train service reached the Arkansas Valley in 1887.
North-west of Leadville, the Midland faced the challenge of crossing the Continental Divide. It proceeded up the Lake Fork, now dammed by Turquoise Reservoir. A series of long switchbacks climbed to the Hagerman Tunnel at 11,500 feet. A massive trestle was also named for James Hagerman, the company’s president.
The Midland struggled financially during its entire existence. The killing blow came during World War I when it was given a government contract for moving military men and supplies. The small railroad could not handle the additional traffic. The US Rail Administration pulled the Midland’s authorization to operate. The Colorado Midland finally made a profit in 1922 when they shut down and sold all assets.
The entire length of the Midland rail bed is visible from the Colorado Springs roundhouse to Aspen and Glenwood Springs. In Buena Vista, the railway was on Midland Hill just above town. County Road 371 is on the old bed and passes through one of the Midland’s many obstacles, a set of four short tunnels.