All aboard for train talks in Palmer Lake

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In 1908 more people were getting on and off trains in at Palmer Lake than were using the Colorado Springs Airport in 2008.

This is just one of the surprising facts that will be shared with the public when the Palmer Lake Historical Society presents “Railroads of Pikes Peak Region” at 7 p.m. on Oct. 18 at the Palmer Lake Town Hall, 28 Valley Crescent. Mel McFarland, artist, author, historian and dedicated collector of train memorabilia, will present the history of local trains in a slide show of photos from bygone days.

“There were seven different railroads coming through the Pikes Peak region at one point,” McFarland said. “Most of those railways are gone now.”

McFarland has been interested in trains for most of his life. When he was a child he lived near the Midland Railroad yards in the area of Colorado Springs that is now called Old Colorado City. He also lived next to the tracks when his family moved to Maryland.

“I've been surrounded by trains all my life,” he said. The first train items he collected, he said, were the memories of taking the Rock Island across the United States when he was a child.

“My mother constantly reminded me of that trip,” McFarland said. “I loved that trip but she didn't, mainly because of me.”

He started collecting physical items in the 1960s. “For a long time I only collected items from the Midland railroads,” he said. “That was the only railroad I was interested in. My favorite item is a piece of a Colorado Midland caboose. It's about 9-feet by 1 foot and half an inch thick and hangs in my living room. It's the piece that shows where the number of the car was painted.”

His beloved Midland railroads will play only a minor role in his presentation, which will show how early railroads were responsible for phenomenal growth in the area, especially along the Palmer Divide. While towns like Monument and Palmer Lake grew and survived, others like Husted faded into memory along with many of the industries the trains supported such as the timber, potato, and ice industries.

McFarland is an engineer for the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad. He is a former middle school teacher and has written five books about railroads.

This event is free and refreshments will be served after the presentation. For more information about this and other historical society events, visit www.palmerdividehistory.org.

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