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7th Street Shops – A History of the Colorado & Southern Ry’s Maintenance & Repair Facilities
On a blustery and overcast day in January 1899 the new Colorado & Southern Railway Company took over the Union Pacific Denver & Gulf as well as the Denver Leadville & Gunnison. These roads were drawn together under the C&S as one system solely owned by the Colorado based company which was immediately touted as “the Colorado Road”. At the time the UPD&G as well as the DL&G leased the repair facilities at 40th and Williams Street owned by the Union Pacific. The C&S quickly renewed this lease on 27 April 1899 and again in July that year for a period of 10 year. The cost to the railroad was 21,000.00 a year. Details of the lease let the C&S use the facility exclusively and all UP work was moved to the new and redundant facilities at Cheyenne WY. The C&S was allowed to modify the shops to suit it’s needs at its own expense and the UP was obligated to assist the new company in seeking out out tax breaks as the C&S was obliged to pay all taxes for the property.

Originally the Denver & New Orleans had built a small facility at a location between the South Plate and Cherry Creek west of Wazee Street. To the north was 14th Street and to the south was the gas works and storage tanks of the Denver Gas Company.. This location was low land, swampy, and the location of an old ox-bow in the river’s course and was prone to flooding especially in the spring. When the D&NO (then as the Denver Texas & Gulf) became a part of the UPD&G in 1890 the facilities for the road were abandoned in favor of using the UP’s new 40th Street shops. The D&NO facilities included a roundhouse and machine shop which was boarded up and eventually razed. The UP moved the turntable to Sidney, Nebraska, the water tank went to Forbes Junction Colorado, the blacksmith shop was moved to 40th Street to become carman’s shop, the oil house went to the coach yard behind the Denver Union Station as a boiler house and store facility and the track scales went to Golden. The carpentry shop was cut in two. Half of this building was used as the West Denver depot on the narrow gauge South Park. The other half was taken to the Pueblo roundhouse and became the blacksmith shop. This 35 acre tract of land was passed on to the C&S in 1899 and the railroad began building a freight yard on the southern portion of the property; it was ideally situated between the lines leading south and southwest out of the city and those heading north and northwest. It was also just a few blocks west of Denver Union Station and the railroad’s coach yard. Portions of the tract were leased by the UPD&G to individuals and businesses and as time went something of a who shantytown grew up on the site. Initially the C&S continued the leases.

In 1897 and 1898, even before the Colorado Roads incorporated there were rumors the UP was going to close the 40th Street facilities after it had moved this work to Cheyenne. If this was true the C&S lease changed those plans. Apparently feeling secure in this position the railroad proceeded to improve some of its freight yard facilities as the system as a whole was somewhat disjointed and scattered in west and north Denver.

But all of this changed on November 29, 1899, when the UP had requested that the C&S vacate the 40th Street shops. The Denver Times announced the deadline for the move as July 1900 but in actuality the UP gave the C&S a generous 13 months to move out. Thus the railroad was thrown into a scramble to erect its own facilities. The location of these facilities was to be the low land tract of land that was once the old D&NO’s facilities. Notice was given to the leases of the property and with some litigation cleared of business and residential obstruction.

This turn of events was taken in stride and in actuality an advantageous event for the new road. President Frank Trumble summed it up succinctly in the 1899 – 1900 Annual Report: “The Company has had no general shops of its own, but thought it was wise to continue the arrangement previously made by the Receiver for use of the Denver shops of the Union Pacific Railroad Company. Under the terms of the lease either company could cancel the same by giving nine months’ notice. On December 26th, 1899, the Union Pacific Company having arranged a lease to The Pullman Company of the plant referred to, served notice upon this Company to vacate not later than January 1st, 1901. The erection of complete new general shops by this Company was thus made imperative, and construction was commenced in the spring of 1900. It is expected that the new plant will be ready for occupation by November 15th, 1900, and as it will be admirably located upon ground previously owned by the Company adjacent to the Denver freight yards, and not far from the freight station, Union Depot, and transfers to connecting lines, considerable economies in repairs and other operations are confidently expected. The amount appropriated by the Board of Directors for this work is $350,000.00, and while the necessity for this construction came at an inopportune time, so far as prices of material and machinery were concerned, yet it is a matter for congratulation that The Pullman Company is to inaugurate extensive work in Denver, and the return on this Company’s new investment should prove very satisfactory on account of the saving in rental, as well as on account of the economy of modern machinery and favorably located buildings and tracks.”

Reproduced here are several articles and documents that describe the construction and elements of the C&S 7th Street Shop. We are grateful to Hol Wagner, Jr for his generous sharing of his research on the matter. We also thank Robert Shoppe, Rick Steele and Doug Heitkamp for their contributions.

29 January 1900 Denver Times:

Plant Will Be Located West of Cherry Creek, Along the Banks of the Platte River.
The Colorado & Southern Railway company has decided to build the new shops on the forty-acre tract in West Denver, known as the Seventh street yards. President Trumbull made the announcement this forenoon and Chief Engineer Cowan at once proceeded to shape matters for immediate construction.

Not until this morning was it fully understood just what advantage this shop building will be to Denver. It means the employment of 200 men until the shops are completed and the employment of 400 men steadily after the buildings are occupied. The amount of money expended in the construction will not be less than half a million of dollars. The amount set aside for the shops is $450,000, and the yard improvements will cost an additional sum of $50,000.

The shops will require 3,000,000 brick, it is estimated, and twenty brick masons will be employed for four months, and twenty-five stone masons will be required from four to five months. In addition to this, there will be a corresponding number of helpers. There will also be employment for painters, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, machinists, teamsters and trackmen. Mr. Cowan estimates that it will take thirty trackmen with steady employment for seven months to put in the trackage as planned in the accompanying sketch.

The shops are to be the finest in the United States. The chief engineer, the master mechanic, the superintendent of motive power and the general superintendent all have visited the best and most modern shops in the country and the plans for the Denver shops may be styled the essence of the best things that are in operation in the best equipped shops in the land.

Details of the Buildings.
The machine shop is the one that most interests and that will be a model in every department, containing over $100,000 worth of machinery. It will be 125x370 feet on the ground, including boiler shop and blacksmith shop, under the same roof, but separated by partitions. The superstructure will be of brick and steel and the main part of the building will be forty feet in height. The shop will be equipped with a fifty-ton traveling derrick operating the entire length of the machine shop and the boiler shop; there will be also fifty air hoists with a capacity of handling from one to seven tons each, and there will be lathes varying from twelve to eighty-four inches, of latest model.


The round house will be built on a larger scale than at first thought and will have thirty-five stalls. The building will be constructed of brick with stone trimmings. It will be equipped with hot air and ventilated according to modern ideas. The turntable in connection with the round house will be seventy feet in diameter, with a capacity of 120 ton engines. The coal chutes will be on the same scale and will be provided with twenty-four pockets.

The car shop and the paint shop are large buildings, the car shop being two-story and 120x168 feet on the ground, of brick and steel construction. The paint shop will be 48x210 feet of brick and structural steel also, both being fitted up to date.

Adjoining the car shops there will be a sawmill 74x240 feet, one story, of brick, which will also be supplied with the latest improved appliances.

The engine house, Mr. Cowan says, will be 60x60 feet, with three 200 horse power boilers, 500 horse power engine and two dynamos, one of 350 horse power capacity and the other 150 horse power, also dynamos to generate power for the operations of the plant, including light, and driving the fans for heating the buildings. The Sturdevant system of heating will be installed. There will be a lavatory connected with this building, as well as drying kilns and other smaller affairs.

The office and store buildings will be on one foundation 48x150 feet, the office portion being two stories and the store department one story, and the entire structure of brick, with necessary platforms and coverings for storage purposes.

The plant will be provided with two cinder pits, one narrow gauge and the other standard gauge, 110 feet long. The transfer table pit will be 70x410 feet and provided with an electric transfer table. A fire-proof oil house 24x36 feet will be provided with ten tanks.

The plant will require six miles of track, mostly three rail, and the yard will be the most perfect in the city. Independent transfer tracks will be lined in for the Globe and Argo smelters so that train-loads for those points can be made up by themselves at Seventh street.

The chief engineer states that the entire plant will be supplied with modern sanitary sewer and water systems, as well as be protected by fire hydrants throughout the entire buildings and yard.

The ground is quite low where the shops are to be built, and Mr. Cowan has already taken steps to set the steam shovel at work in the cut at Sullivan and filling will be commenced right away. The filling will be five feet and he estimated that 125,000 yards of earth will be required to bring the surface up to the required level. Then the entire surface will be spread with eight inches of disintegrated granite from the South Platte canon, which will probably require about 1,000 carloads.

Electricity Cuts a Figure.
Especial attention will be given the electrical department. In preparing the plans General Irving Hale and other up-to-date electricians have been called into consultation, and that will be the principal power in use in the shops. The lighting system will also be one of deep study and the plant will shed light not only in the shops but throughout the yards, making the latter as light as day on the darkest night.

While the company will employ a large force of men at once in preparing the yards for the buildings, contractors will have plans and specifications to figure on. It is proposed to let the contracts about the middle of March and have the shops ready for occupancy during the month of October.

This movement by the Colorado & Southern is considered one of the biggest things that has happened in Denver for many years. It will be a big advantage on account of the vast amount of work that will be done at the plant. The machine shop will not only be provided with machinery to do repairing, but will be supplied with the necessary equipments to get out new work. It is the intention of the Colorado & Southern to build its own cars for the coal and freight business and plan to keep all of the men employed in the shops at continuous work.

Denver Times:
February 2 — “It is quite probable that a neat settlement will follow the location of the new shops in West Denver. It is reported at Colorado & Southern headquarters that a company is planning to put up a number of small houses on the slope of the North side of the Platte for the use of the workmen. The Colorado & Southern officials will, however, keep watch of the movements and see that the city regulations are complied with, and the cottages are comfortable and supplied with the proper sanitary features.”

February 5 — “Two gangs of laborers were put at work in the bottoms by the Colorado & Southern Railway company this morning under the direction of W.A. Irwin, assistant engineer. One of the gangs went along the river, cutting down the old cottonwood trees and clearing the land of brush, and about fifty men were started on laying the permanent tracks for the shop yards. The railroad bridge across Cherry creek is being raised to a level with the new grade. All of the occupants of the land are preparing to move off their buildings; there is no talk of eviction, as has been suggested by someone, as none of the occupants have been paying rent for the past three months, the leases having all expired.”

February 7 — “Chief Engineer Cowan of the Colorado & Southern sent out notices to several bridge firms today for proposals for furnishing the roofs and structural iron for the new shops. The bids are to be submitted by the 18th instant.”

February 22 — “Chief Engineer Cowan of the Colorado & Southern opened bids yesterday received from contractors desiring to supply the structural iron to be used in the construction of the new shops. There were eight bids and the contract was awarded to the Wagner Bridge company of Milwaukee, Wis. The bid was $28,762. The material is to be delivered by July 1. The other bidders were: The Pittsburg Bridge company, $28,919; Gillette & Herzog of Minneapolis, $29,394; Wisconsin Bridge company of Milwaukee, $30,012; Kenwood Bridge company, Chicago, $30,308; Bullen Bridge company of Pueblo, $30,612; Dauphin Bridge company of Pittsburg, $35,950; Wrought Iron Bridge company of Canton, Ohio, $34,922 . . .
“The steam shovel is being manned by a large force of men at Sullivan today and about six trainloads of dirt will be hauled each day to fill the yards for the new shops at Seventh street.”

March 15 — “The differences between the terra cotta manufacturers and the Colorado & Southern in regard to the occupation of the bottoms on Seventh street will probably be well aired in Judge Palmer’s court tomorrow. The terra cotta people were notified several months ago to vacate the ground, which they occupied by lease, and which the railroad officials claimed had expired. The terra cotta people secured an injunction and the railroad company will tomorrow apply for a dissolvement of the injunction and will file suit for damages in addition, and immediate possession of the ground.” The matter was apparently settled quite quickly in the railroad’s favor, as no more is heard of it.

April 3 — “Building inspector Roberts compiled a quarterly report yesterday for the buildings started during the first quarter of 1900, and, as compared with the first quarter of 1899 in Denver building circles there is an increase of over 50 per cent. The building permits for March amount to $334,215 but the Colorado & Southern has asked permission to withdraw its permit, as the plans will have to be materially changed since the consolidation of the Colorado Midland and will necessitate shops almost twice as large as was at first contemplated.
“The permit of the railway company was for buildings costing $135,000, and the withdrawal of this permit brings the total for March down to $200,215 . . “ and “A.L. Humphrey, master mechanic and superintendent of motive power of the Colorado Midland railway, was in the city yesterday at Midland headquarters. It is understood that Mr. Humphrey has been called into consultation in regard to the Colorado & Southern machine shops just starting in the Seventh street yard. Mr. Humphrey is looked upon as one, if not the very best railroad machinists in Colorado, and has had considerable experience in the construction of shops, and it was suggested to the Colorado & Southern officials that he might make recommendations for conveniences about the shops that would be valuable to have. Mr. Humphrey has been with the Colorado Midland company for twelve years, and passed through the shop construction period a short time ago at Colorado City. [The Midland shops had partially burned in early 1899 and had been completely reconstructed, opening in September 1899.] Mr. Humphrey is expected to come to Denver next month to remain permanently.”

4 November 1900, Denver Times:
Magnificent New Plant of the Colorado & Southern.

Employment Will Be Given Five Hundred Men and the Monthly Wage Roll Will Go to Big Figures.
On a plat of ground comprising thirty-seven acres, in the Platte bottoms, a wonderful transformation has been wrought within a few months. Lying between Wewatta street and the Platte river and Third and Fourth streets, elliptical shaped, are the shop yards and new shops of the Colorado & Southern railroad, which will be ready for occupancy by November 20, which virtually marks the final separation of all things held in common between the Union Pacific and the Colorado & Southern before the latter company became one of the giant railway systems of the West.

Where in 1890, 200 squatter families had their homes, and which by action of the turbulent waters of the river afterward became an unsightly swamp, 100,000 yards of earth have been deposited, making the topography level with the grade of the yard tracks, and handsome buildings are rapidly nearing completion which will constitute one of the model railway machine shops of the country, where 500 men will find employment.

To give an idea of the order and form of the various buildings we will commence with the coal chute at the south end of the yard and take the reader through the buildings in their regular order.

The Various Buildings.
The coal chute is of large capacity, having twenty-four pockets, and the most approved order of dumps for depositing the contents of the pockets in the locomotive tender. At the end of the chute are two 16x24 water tanks, so that water and fuel may be taken at the same time. These are located near Fifth street.

Next is the pumphouse, 32x65 feet, which will pump water for use of the shops and to supply engines, the plant being entirely independent of the city water supply. Two artesian wells, each about 700 feet in depth, will be used for water for the boilers of all locomotives, as well as the power plant of the shops. The artesian wells have a capacity of 150,000 gallons and the surface wells will be used to furnish water for washing purposes.

Big Roundhouse.
The roundhouse has thirty-five stalls and is 80x770 feet in size. As in all the other buildings, the foundation rests on the original river gravel and its walls rest on more than a mile of stone foundation walls seven feet high. Improved wooden smoke jacks are provided for each stall and also both artesian and surface water connections. In front of the half-circle of stalls is the sixty-four-foot girder turntable for 150-ton engines, which may be operated at the option of the company by either hand or electric power. So perfectly balanced is this monster creation of iron and steel that one man can easily turn it when the largest locomotive stands upon it.

At the rear of the roundhouse, beside the river and fronting on Seventh street, is that important adjunct of a great machine shops, the oilhouse, 28x36 feet in size, with basement and one floor; it is of capacity for holding a large stock of oils. Eight 3,500-gallon oil tanks occupy the basement and their contents are emptied into smaller receptacles as needed by means of pumps operated from the floor above.

The Office Building.
Immediately across the street from the last described building is the office building, a large, commodious structure with rooms for the master mechanic, chief clerk, general clerks, draughtsmen and storekeeper. Every room in this building has the best possible light from high windows and is a model of architectural design and arrangement for the purposes to which it will be devoted.

Adjoining the office building, from which it is only separated by a dead wall is the store building, from which will be supplied to the entire Colorado & Southern system everything needed in operation and maintenance from a bag of waste to a handcar; 82x101 feet in size, with a basement under the entire building, it has an immense area of floor space, to which is added that of a platform extending along and beyond the building proper, 350 feet in length and forty-eight feet wide.

Huge Machine Shop.
The machine shop building, the natural center about which all the activity of this busy scene will radiate, is 125x323 feet in its ground plan, covered by the largest structural iron roof west of the Missouri river. At one end is the boiler shop, 56x126 feet, and at the other end is the blacksmith shop, occupying a subdivision the same size. Eleven stalls for the repair of engines occupy the central portion of the shop on the side of the building next the track entrances. The other side of the building is occupied by the most modern machinery designed for the class of work to be done. Overhead a traveling crane is supported which will move by electric power and is capable of carrying 150 tons’ weight. In the toolroom and lavatories the same plan is carried out in the various buildings. These are connected with the shops with entries between them, where each workman registers as he comes in or goes out. The machine shop toolroom is 25x42 feet and the lavatory 24x25, with twelve closets and twenty-four continuous wash basins.

Great Power Plant.
The power plant is placed in an ell of the machine shop building, 60x80 feet in size, and is equipped as follows: One 125-horse power engine belted to an 80-kilowat dynamo for lighting and heating the plants and operating the transfer table; one 150-horse power engine, which furnishes power for the machine shop main shaft; one 250-horse power engine, belted to two 85-kilowat dynamos, furnishing power for the car shop and sawmill. All these engines are of the E.P. Allis Corliss type. The blower system of heating is used whereby the air is carried from outside through 10,000 feet of coils to all the buildings, changing the air in ventilation of the machine shop every thirty minutes and the sawmill every fifteen minutes.

Next to the machine shop is the transfer table between the machine and car shops, operated by trolley, and which will carry 150 tons, used to transfer engines or cars from one track to another.

In the Car Shop.
The car shop is 110x180 feet, with eight repair tracks, and is provided with traveling air hoists the entire length of the building on each side. The second floor is occupied by the cabinet, upholstery and tin shops and a storage room.

Adjoining the car shop, between it and the machine shop, is the boiler room, 60x80 feet, with four 150-horse power boilers. It is also adjoining the sawmill, which adjoins the end of the car shop and is 80x244 feet, so arranged that the material coming in from the yard is delivered finished as desired to cars for distribution in the shop.

The last building, nearest Fourteenth street, is the paint shop, 48x101 feet. It is able to take care of six cars at one time. Beside the paint shop and extending almost to Fourteenth street is the material yard, where is deposited lumber, heavy steel, iron and all heavy material which need not be housed.

In all the buildings the material used in construction is Golden pressed brick and the best of everything, of which nearly 1,000 cars have been used up to date. All main floors are cement on a concrete bed and the construction is of the most enduring character.

Also reproduced here is an article from the June 1900 the Railroad Gazette.

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Below is a portion of the 1918 Valuation Map showing The 7th Street Shop Facilities

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In the summer of 1900 the C&S began its campaign to rebuild its narrow gauge fleet of locomotives. The first of these were some of the Cooke Moguls. Engines 4, 6 and 10 were rebuilt that year at the UP shops at 40th Street. By the following March C&S number 9 was the first engine known to have been rebuilt at the new shops. In 1902 the railroad used the new car facilities to rebuild the surviving DSP&P Tiffany Reefers. The 7th Street Shops continued to serve the railroad for decades. Eventually the facilities were knocked down and today the site is occupied by 6 Flags Elitches Amusement Park. Towering over the site from across the river and across Interstate 25 is the stadium Invesco Field. To the northeast is the Denver Aquarium and to the southeast is the Pepsi Center.
  Rebuilt Cooke Mogul No. 4  40th Street Yards Summer 1900

Much of the information here was shared with 7th Street Shops from like minded historians.  We are very grateful to Hol Wagner Jr. for his generosity in sharing notes and text from his research on The C&S - The First 10 Years. We also want to express gratitude toward Rick Steele, Doug Heitkamp and Robert Schoppe  for information they shared.

Finally we wish to express gratitude to many authors, institutions and publications that make available books and other material for research purposes.

  Rebuilt Cooke Mogul No. 8  7th Street Yards Summer 1901.  Note that No. 9 and No. 8 were the very first locomotives to display the
Columbine Herald.


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