BLACK HAWK HISTORY – RAILROAD TRESTLES
To reach Black Hawk, the railroad constructed the open framework of diagonal braces or trestles to span the the region’s gulches. The steep slopes required the train to reverse direction on switched, zig-zag tracks. Edward Berthoud, who had surveyed the original line up Clear Creek Canyon, planned the new Colorado Central Railroad Spur Extension from Black Hawk to Central City route in May, 1877. Though little more than a mile up Gregory Gulch along the city streets, the reduced grade necessary for the train required that Berthoud plan a route that included two switchbacks-one at either end of Black Hawk-on a spur that eventually measured 4-1/2 miles. After making the switchback at the north end of town, the road came back along the eastern flank at Bates Hill, and crossed Gregory Street at a post right next to-practically on top of-the new City Hall property. In fact, work on the track was going on at the same time as the City Hall construction, and just a month after the dedication, the Register reported on January 7, 1878 that the “northerly pier of the iron bridge of the C.C.R.R. across Gregory and Selak streets will be completed tomorrow.”
With the obstacle of Gregory and Selak Streets surmounted, work continued on the remainder of the spur. Two other trestles were needed, at Running Gulch on the south end of Black Hawk, and across Packard Gulch in Mountain City. Work continued into Central City-at a cost for the segment of about $25,000 a mile-and reached the town on the fourth anniversary of the great fire, May 21, 1878.
SPANNING THE TERRAIN
A trestle over 200 feet long and 20 feet in the air spanned the street…The 150 foot bridge that formed the greater part of this span was fabricated in Chicago and shipped to Black Hawk: it arrived in late
January, as the Register breathlessly reported [January 7, 1878]: “The bridge is here, and is being removed from the depot to the place of erection…three spans, the northerly and middle spans being each 65 feet in length, and the southerly span 45 feet. The bridge proper cost $4,500; the bridge and masonry work about $6,000…the bridge will be ready for the passage of trains in about ten days.”