Deserted Land: Rails to Trails


Go back in time.  People in America are moving westward to explore and settle and find their fortunes.  They use trains to navigate across country.  It is the middle 1800s to the mid 1900s.  There are few roads across America and fewer cars, and passenger travel was still a viable option.  Then the world changed.  The Freight lines replaced the passenger lines, and trucks became the cheaper way to transport goods. 

The tracks lay in ruins on Rock Island Trail in the late afternoon. There are a few tracks left on this trail through Colorado Springs.  Mostly walkers and bikers use it now, but there was evidence of horses on the non-paved portion.  The magnificence of the rail line towers over smaller trails. I could imagine hearing the whistles and the clickity clack of the trains passing out of town frequently.

The view to the North of large rock formations and the Foothills. The view South to a few spread out settlements.  Western sights were the towering Rockies, and East, the great plains awaited the traveler for hours. 

The highways are deserted; no travelers are on the roads.
The treaty is broken, its witnesses
 are despised, no one is respected.
The land dries up and wastes away.
 Isaiah 33:8-9a NIV

 One hundred years later, those travelers are honored on the Rock Island Trail with artist’s benches in Colorado Springs on the America the Beautiful Millennium Legacy Trail.  “Travelers westward needed the qualities imprinted on these flagstones to carry them through.  They showed courage, imagination, hope and daring.”

The Rock Island trail runs from Powers Road west to downtown through the east side of the Springs.  Parking for trail access can be found on street at Jefferson Park or Wasson Park near Circle Drive or at the north end of Victor Place off Powers. From the Powers trailhead, there is a short section of gravel trail before the concrete starts. (Source:  Rails to Trails Conservancy and All Trails Colorado)  

More History: There is a Rock Island Trail connecting 200 miles of Missouri trails and also many miles in Illinois.  The Rock Island line started in Rock Island, Illinois in 1854 and stretched through Illinois, across Missouri, passing northern plains of Kansas (were there still roaming buffalo?), through to Denver with smaller branches heading through Colorado Springs to Santa Rosa, New Mexico.  

The Rock Island Rail ran extensive passenger services.  As the sign said on the trail, a round-trip ticket from Colorado Springs to Chicago cost $37.10 and the trip took 26 hours in 1893. (Equals around $1,000 in 2020) The final train battled three days of snowdrifts to arrive in Denver on March 31, 1980. (Source: Wikipedia)  One hundred plus years of history, and I walked that trail today and thought about time. 

Have you hiked old train tracks?  When were you last on a train? Have you traveled in Europe on trains? What do you love about train travel? What do you dislike? 

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