The First Great Transportation Route Linking East and West Colorado
In 1883, investors created the Colorado Midland Railroad and built track from Colorado Springs to Buena Vista. In 1885 the CMR began tunneling under Hagerman pass, on to Aspen Junction and then to Aspen and Grand Junction. This was the first great transportation route linking east and west Colorado. The railroad was constructed to serve the growing mining industry by shipping ore, coal, equipment, supplies and men far better than horse-drawn wagons and enabled farmers and ranchers to efficiently ship agricultural products.
The triangle of land you are facing was the original Wye, the nexus of Aspen Junction’s lifeblood and prosperity. Illustrated best by the photo, a Wye is a triangular junction of three tracks where trains could be turned around. Here CMR trains could be turned, fueled and repaired before continuing up the Frying Pan, under Hagerman Pass (named for the President of the railroad) and on to Leadville, or down the Roaring Fork to Glenwood Springs, or up the Roaring Fork to Aspen.
By 1919 the Colorado Midland ceased operations
The boom times of Aspen Junction/Basalt started in 1886, but by 1893 the silver market had crashed, mining essentially ceased, the trains were used less frequently, and by 1919 the Colorado Midland ceased operations.
In 1921 the railroad tracks were removed from the Wye and all the way up the Frying Pan River. The current Frying Pan Road was built on the railroad right of way, creating automobile access to Leadville. The glorious and exciting times of the Railroad were over and Basalt entered the quiet years.