Beulah Valley started gaining attention as a destination in the late 1890’s, the picturesque valley offered mineral springs, hunting, fishing, farming, scenery, and a long list of natural resources. A mere 21 miles away from the fast-growing industrialized city of Pueblo—home of Colorado Fuel & Iron, a major rail and steel center since 1881—the mountains of Beulah were close. With the arrival of the Denver & Rio Grande RR in Pueblo, developers were looking to the future, and the surrounding country for opportunities. Expanding railroads would give Pueblo notoriety as the largest industrial center west of the Mississippi (1880 - 1940). Today, all rails manufactured in the western U.S. originates in Pueblo.
As early as July 1889 cries for a railroad from Pueblo to Beulah were heard all over the state and nation, the result of newspaper articles, that at times read more like press releases. “The Rock Island Proposes to Improve Beulah” read a headline in 1889. In exchange for building a road/rail line the railroad company requested property owners agree to give the railroad company 51 per cent of all the lots in the original town and its additions that remain unsold.” Extensive talks about terrain, routes, right of ways, and financial returns blazed the trail ahead of the iron and steel tracks produced in the Pueblo mill.
The motivation to build a direct line from Pueblo to Beulah was wrapped up in a host of possibilities that surrounded the idea of moving people and freight. A network of trains and depots would delivering goods and people/tourists to the Wet Mountains; returning with the riches of the area—gold silver, copper, ore, marble, lime, timber, etc... The idea seemed simple enough for a hardworking generation eager for progress, and prosperity.
The straight route over the plains to the Beulah Valley was planned by the Pueblo and Southwestern Railway in 1899, engineers and surveyors were not daunted by the terrain. A call was put out to raise $30,000 by the Beulah marble quarry’s David J. Kelly, eager to ship the marble faster to the Denver capitol, and beyond.
“From Pueblo to Beulah with good opportunities for extension beyond that point. The line as projected and for which survey has been made leaves the Rio Grande railroad tracks near Bessemer junction and extends across the level mesa to Fred Smith’s ranch, thence up the canon of the St. Charles river to the quarries and to Beulah.” The article also mentions the project would include ‘conversion of Beulah into a popular summer resort,” with plans to build a large hotel.
Mass meetings were held to garner support, as reported in Silver Cliff in 1889, “The mass meeting in Pueblo was a grand one, and showed the best element of Pueblo and her wealthiest citizens to be not only in harmony with the new rail road movement, but enthusiastic, and determined to build it” Speeches by various leaders ‘reliably and carefully prepared statistics and facts concerning the routes and the resources of this line were given, and the final and decisive decision of the meeting was that the road would be very profitable one and that it can and shall be built. Three railroad companies were represented at the meeting and encouraging degree of interest was displayed by them.”
Reassurances came easily, flexible investors offered either steam or electric rail lines. “There can be no doubt of its being a paying investment both as to passenger and freight earnings. Many believed if gold were found, the Beulah area could be converted into the finest mining camp in the state.” Once again, the hope for the new line in 1898 never came to fruition despite the declaration that “The new line seems to be a certainty for the accomplishments of 1898.”
A year later, the Pueblo to Beulah rail line is under scrutiny again in the frustrated pleadings of a Colorado Daily Chieftain article. “The committee has put in many hours of arduous effort. It has met with hearty response from many directions. But the sum required has not been secured. The time has come when it is fit and proper to ask that the purpose of Pueblo in this matter be made plain, this in Justice to those who have given generously of their energy and to those who have the project in hand that will, with sufficient cooperation of Pueblo, bring the railroad into being. Delays like this are trying to those who have the matter in hand. They are bad for the city. A business decision should be promptly rendered. The state is waiting to see what Pueblo is going to do. Let the answer be prompt that she is going to have the Beulah railroad. Inquiries for Beulah railroad tickets are heard in many places. The Chieftain will be glad to announce convenient locations where the tickets may be secured by large numbers, who will buy them without solicitation from anyone.” The wordy request fell on deaf ears.
In 1902, the plan for the railroad starts to gain some exciting traction with an ordinance granted to the Beulah Electric Railway Co. to operate an electric railway between Pueblo and Beulah. A stipulation was made that construction had to begin within six months in hopes of seeing the project through.
The new Rapid Transit Railway: Pueblo & Beulah Valley was presented, complete with a spectacular 42-page prospectus printed in Cincinnati by new ‘fiscal agent’, George Peck. The elegant brochure is filled with original illustrations, and photographs of businesses, buildings, and scenery of Pueblo and Beulah Valley., as well as information of places to go, and things to do.
The Rapid Transit Railway was backed by none other than James N. Carlile, well-known railroad contractor and owner of the 3-R Ranch (1893 -1907). Deeply respected, Carlile had the distinction of laying down the first mile of track in Colorado. At the time of his death in 1921, he had laid most of the tracks in Colorado. His lengthy and versatile resume included banker, politician, Colorado State Treasurer; and builder of the first wagon road (and toll road) to the top of Pikes Peak. Locally, Carlile had worked with other leaders (i.e., Hon. George Chilcott, Peter K. Dotson, J.A. Thatcher) to sponsor a bond that promoted the extension of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad to Pueblo in the 1870’s. The bond passed, and the tracks were successfully laid to Pueblo.
Calile’s strong record for building rail lines must have had investors already counting their profits. Other citizens were recruited to form a winning team, including H.R. Holbrook, civil engineer, J.J.Burns previous superintendent of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, and W. A. Beaty traffic manager of the Tennessee Central Railroad. Eager to create energy and cashflow for the project, Burns was the man knocking on the doors for financing.
The Pueblo and Beulah Valley Railroad Co. determined they would establish five stations along the line– Pueblo. Minnequa, Burns’ Mill, Carlile, and Beulah—a stone depot planned for each. Samples of marble were sent to Europe to urge more capitalists with interests in the Pueblo & Beulah railroad. George Weekly of Denver Marble & Onyx Works even promised to move his business to Pueblo if the line went through.
However, in 1903 an economic depression hit the area, and the project fizzled once again, only to be resurrected the following year by an eyebrow-raising ‘pay-by-weight’ program. The idea garnered international attention in an article carried in a French magazine, Le Pelerin (The Pilgrim).
“A Colorado Railroad Company in America has made an interesting innovation in passenger transportation on the Pueblo-Beulah Valley line. Perhaps they will not obtain the warm approval of tourists who are accustomed to carrying heavy parcels with them, or who are inconveniently obese. On this line, in effect, they pay according to the weight: each ounce put in the car, ounce of luggage or ounce of flesh and bone, is subject to the same rate.”
By July, 1904 headlines declared that all funds had been raised for the Beulah Rapid Transit Railway. The article implied 300 men would begin work in ‘two weeks’. Railroad fever also had Canon City & Great Western Railway Company planning to construct an operate a steam railroad between Canon City and Beulah.
Still piquing interest in Oct. 1907 the Pueblo/Beulah route had a brief rallying cry from Douthitt Electric Line and J.C. Teller, both intent on freighting lime, marble and timber from the area.
Again, in 1908 Carlile himself, dusted off the idea, The Indicator reporting, “Whether the parties looking into the project comprise a new syndicate, or whether agent's for the Colorado & Southern are making the inquiries is not known, but in either event it would be of great interest to Puebloans to know that activity is being renewed.” But still the railroad did not come.
By this time, the automobile was fast filling the transportation hole the undeveloped railroad left. Despite 30 years of planning, developing, stumping, surveying, and grading, it was finally time to concede that Beulah would not see a railroad. In the end, it was providence that saved Beulah from industrialization. v
The Denver Republic July 14, 1889.
The Colorado Weekly Chieftain, Jan. 13, 1898
Silver Cliff Rustler, October 10, 1889
The Colorado Daily Chieftain, Dec.2, 1899 ‘What is Pueblo to Do?’
Las Animas Leader, Dec. 4, 1903.
The Indicator, Aug. 1, 1908 “ Pueblo and Beulah Railroad Up Again’
Le Pelerin, French magazine, 1904.
Pueblo Lore, 1985 “The Life and Times of James N. Carlile”