Road Remains

                                          golden-belt-route

 

Golden Belt Route

The Golden Belt Route was the shortest route to the Rocky Mountain goldfields from St Louis, MO.  After the Kansas Pacific RR completed their rails to Denver in the fall of 1870, they heartily promoted the route.  Beside the railroad tracks, the wagon ruts grew as travelers followed beside the rails and the railroad was hauling freight and passengers west.  For travelers in the 1870’s it was an express route west.

A variety of little towns had been built by the railroad to serve their trains and hopes that people would settle the area becoming customers.   With the arrival of the automobile, the wagon road next to the rails became a highway.  The Golden Belt Route became US Highway 40 as it crossed Kansas into Colorado.  Then the government rerouted US 40 and in some places little towns were left high and dry as the highway was over there someplace.   No longer did the traveler pass through the little villages the railroad had built along their route to the gold fields.

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With the highway realignment, the towns began to fade and soon were ghost towns.  There is a small section of this route that is pretty much like it was in the 1870’s.  When the highway was changed, the ranchers and locals continued to use the old highway as did the railroad, keeping the old route intact.  Civilization has not changed the area much.

There is open range and cattle stroll down the country road that winds its way cross country next to the railroad tracks.  Few of the old concrete bridges from the 1900’s are still used, a few have been removed and replaced by culverts.  For the most part it is where the wagons of the early 1800 have rolled followed by the new fangled horseless carriages.  Bouncing along this bumpy country road is like stepping back in time.   Here one can imagine the wagons rolling along, listen to the whistle of the train as it passes, buffalo on the ridge, the prairie is the same as it was over a century ago.

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This old portion of the Golden Belt Route begins where the town of Clifford once was and ends at Aroya an empty ghost town.  The dirt road passes through three town, two stage stations and lots of Indian folklore.  Here I can wander along, quietly, listening to the song birds of the plains, watch the eagles, falcons or hawks circle overhead.  The deer stand in the gully warily eyeing the interloper and on the ridge is the antelope sentential, watching.

In the spring of 1870, the Indians launched a series of coordinated attacks on the railroad workers and stage stations.  Numerous workers were killed and wounded fleeing back to the army post at Kit Carson seeking safety.  These attacks brought General Custer out to patrol the rail line and prevent further attacks by the Indians.  There were no mare attacks for the Indians had fled north and would meet up with Custer on another day.

So when I bounce along the dirt road I have all this to ponder and my mind goes back to the 1870’s when all this was happening.  I can look at the land and wonder is that where the Indians hid for their attack.  Where were the railroad workers?  What would it of been like working on the western frontier?  The mind is a fertile place to conjure up stories about what was happening 150 years ago.

I drive past where the stage stations had been, now it is barren vacant land sitting in silence.  The little creek flows under the bridge as I cross over headed for the next town.  One family still lives there calling it home, they are third generation ranchers in the area.  Birds sit on the fence line watching the approaching pick-up.  The railroad tracks are silent ribbons of steel awaiting the next train.  It is a quiet adventure as I bounce along the road, cattle ahead lounging on the roadway.  As I approach they get up and move out of the way.

The occasional rancher rolls down the road to check on his cattle, the letter carrier pauses by the country mailbox and a railroad pick up parks on the road making notes of the rails.  Otherwise it is a moment in time that passes back to centuries before.

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First Harvey Houses

Fred Harvey

Harvey Houses

 

Fred Harvey worked for the railroad in the 1860’s, traveling to various places, where work took him.  For Fred the food service in most eateries back then was less than adequate.  When he would return to his office there were complaints of being on the road and having bad food.  So Fred took it upon himself to change that, with a partner.  Two restaurants were opened at main railroad stops out west.  The very first Harvey Restaurants were built in hotels at Wallace Kansas and Hugo Colorado on the Kansas Pacific Railroad, 1872.

A Harvey House and the Harvey Girls tend to be synonymous with the Santa Fe Railroad.   After the early success with other restaurants along various rail lines, The Santa Fe RR offered a contract to Harvey to build restaurants along their rail line.   By this time the partnership had broken up and Fred Harvey was no long employed by a railroad.  He was now opening a chain of restaurants across the country that would bear his name.

The restaurants were situated in Hotels and soon these would be replaced by new hotels and some bore his name.  The Harvey houses dotted the southwest at other places besides the railroad.  Some were at other railroads and a few were in National Parks.  Today a few of the old Harvey Houses still stand and some are museums or refurbished into new uses.

The first two restaurants of Fred Harvey met their demise when railroading policy changed.  Crew change points were shifted and much of the railroad business the first hotels and restaurants relied on was gone.  Wallace had been a town of over 4000 souls, with changes on the Smoky Hill Trail and the railroad, the workers of Wallace moved on to the next railhead and soon it was a shell of what had been.  Today Wallace has a population of less than 100 souls and the Wallace hotel is long gone.  The Kansas Pacific office building still stands; otherwise it is ghosts that wander through the now empty town.

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The nearby museum of Ft Wallace has new display in a back warehouse that has recreated the town of Wallace using store fronts.  The Wallace Hotel that housed the first Fred Harvey in Kansas is one of the fronts that has been built.  It is like walking down the streets of the old railroad town with all the different stores and shops from that era.

Hugo does not a display of any kind for where the first Harvey House was.  Roughly where the hotel had been, there is now an old empty gas station and the sign for Hugo.  Short distance east is where the Roundhouse had been, now a swimming pool occupies the land.  The depot is next block over and preserved as a community center.  The street one block north of this is lined with small old homes where the early rail workers and others lived.  Most of the homes on the north side date 1870-74 and that era.  The other side is the newer homes built where the railroad had their buildings.  Hugo has an original roundhouse on the SW side of town that is being restored and maybe there they will do something with the Hugo Harvey House.

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Both little towns were connected by the railroad and then by the first Harvey house.  Both sit astride the Smoky Hill Trail and had stage stops.  Today the railroad still sends the occasional train down the rails.  No longer is it the whistle echoing across the high plains with a cloud of smoke overhead.  The air horns of the diesel have replaced the whistle of the steam engines but the lore still whispers across the land.

 

Ark Valley RR

Cornelia Colorado

A wide spot along the rails and a huge warehouse is the extent of the little village of Cornelia.

When sugar beets dominated farming in the Arkansas Valley, the farmers built a railroad on the north side the river to serve the sugar beet farmers.  The east end of the rails were Holly Colorado and the west end was at Swink.

As the railroad prospered, other businesses were served and small towns popped next to the rails.  Most were not much more then a store and the rail terminal.  A few grew into little town with all the amenities of a prosperous country town.

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Cornelia was one of the stops along the rails and like the sugar towns is faded into memory banks in the 60’s when federal sugar tariffs changed.  One of the little towns on the rail line was Hasty, the gateway to the John martin reservoir and Hasty Lake.  Here one can see the old rail bed next to the highway.  To the north along county roads there are other little burgs that have reminders of other days.

Cornelia is to the west and is on one of those county roads going to over there.  There is a huge warehouse still standing and a processing shed and a couple of homes.  It appears a farmer now operates, the old community remains.

The Environment and wind power

600 Megawatt Power Plant

 

Xcel Energy Company of Denver, Colorado, has proposed building a 600 Megawatt power plant across the Eastern Colorado Central Plains.  It would stretch from near Deertrail, Colorado, south across the Palmer Divide to Rush Creek, then Southeast along Rush Creek to almost Hasewell, Colorado.  The proposed electrical plant would cover 40,000 acres.  This wind powered electrical plant would involve 400 wind turbines at an estimated cost of over One Billion Dollars.  Xcel is expecting to receive 700 million dollars from the Federal Government to build the project or three fourths of the money to build would come from taxpayers.

For comparison, the Cherokee generating station north of Denver, produces 580 Megawatts of electricity and covers roughly 1000 acres.  The customers for Xcel are close by not requiring long distance transmission lines.  The Power Plant in Brush, Colorado has an output of 505 Megawatts, about 20% smaller.  It covers about 1000 acres which includes a cooling pond of 140 acres.  The Department of Wildlife uses this cooling pond to raise fish for stocking of fisheries around the state of Colorado.  The Valmont station, near Boulder, Colorado is situated along the banks of Boulder Creek, creating a very picturesque and scenic setting.  The plant is smaller, generating 227 Megawatts of electrical power.  Valmont Lake on the edge of the plant is for cooling, yet it supports a large variety of wildlife and fish.

Lots of this will change as the coal fired plants are being replaced Natural Gas fired power production generators.  Here are three plants that have a combined capacity of 1312 Megawatts of production and would cover about 3000 acres of ground and be of benefit to wildlife and have a recreational value to the people of Colorado.  So gas/coal fired plants produce 1 Megawatt of electricity per 2 acres of ground.  Whereas the Rush Creek wind powered plant will produce 1.5 Megawatts of electrify per 1000 acres.

The other thing is the power consumed transporting the watts across transmission lines.  The power plants located near the cities along Colorado Front Range, do not lose as much electricity transporting the watts to the consumer.  Whereas the Wind power plants on the Eastern Plains require long journeys to get the watts to the Front Range consumer.  Boulder, Colorado has passed a resolution wanting renewable/clean energy.  So much of the Rush Creek power would be earmarked for Boulder, a journey of 100 to 150 miles to get to Boulder.  Approximately 10% of the energy produced would not arrive in Boulder for it would be consumed in transporting the power to the Front Range.  One of the biggest problems with electricity is its transportation costs and how much is lost on moving and or converting the power grid.

One of the unexplored assumptions in wind generated electricity is that it is considered clean, but is it really clean energy.  Consider all the holes in the ground that have to be dug to produce the materials to build a wind turbine with tower.  How much iron ore has to be dug, and then refined into to iron pigs.  Lots of iron is imported because of local environmental regulations that stopped lots of steel mills from production.  Then there is all the energy need to process the iron into steel.  Then there are the mines to produce the ore to strengthen the steel.  The Copper pits need to get ore to produce copper wire and then the mines for the rare earth minerals used to regulate the turbines and electrical flow.  Next is all the petroleum products used on the production of all the raw materials.  Then the petroleum byproducts in the plastics for wrappings and insulation not to mention the lightweight carbon fiber used on coverings.

By the time all the labor, technology and money has been invested in a wind turbine, its expected life is but 15 years.  After the wind turbine dies, where does it go?  In some instances, the motionless windmill sits on the plains as a monument to ______________ .

Another thing that does not have much discussion is the pay back for investment.  Generally something with a short life span, 15 years, a 1-3 year payback is sought.  From various comments, the payback of a wind turbine does not begin until after the tenth year, so only the last five years is it a net producer, a very poor return on investment.

With wind farms, various environmental impact reports have been dismissed.  Environmental Impact Reports were a tool used by environmental groups over the years to block, stop or eliminate projects they did not like.  Yet they have the illusion the wind power is clean and will not damage the environment, so the reports for large projects like this, they have put in the round file of 13 coffins.

It is a consensus that wind turbines are killers of big birds and many smaller species.  There is the story of the bird watchers out in the field studying birds.  They spotted a bird they thought was extinct; everybody got excited and stared taking pictures.  The bird took wing and flew away from the birders, right into the propeller of a wind turbine.  Feathers, blood and guts went flying across the field.

At one time the American Symbol, the Bald Eagle was considered an endangered bird species.  The eagle was given special protection laws, in the attempt to keep people from harming the endangered species.  That changed when the wind turbines blades were shown to be great killers of the American Bald Eagle.  The protection laws for the great birds were waived/ignored where there were wind farms.  Where the wind farms were located it was now okay to kill the great birds without consequences.

The Rush Creek project stretches across some sensitive wildlife habitat, for a large variety of birds.  Besides being home to Bald Eagles, the massive Golden Eagle calls the area home.  There is a variety of other raptors in the area.  A tremendous assortment of hawks, falcons, owls, and waterfowl, live in the boundaries of the proposed project.  During migration, huge flocks of birds can be seen floating across the horizon.   Sand hill cranes, stop in the fields to glean the seeds left behind as do the geese and ducks.  The prairie ponds make nice habitat for the migrating birds.  Then there are the mid size birds, like the Mountain Plover, that some of the communities have bird festivals for.  All these birds would be under threat of mutilation by the spinning blades of the wind turbines.  And this killing would probably bring in more buzzards/vultures looking for a meal, resulting in more sliced up bird.

All the laws that have been passed in the past to protect wildlife become void when there is a wind farm.

The Rush Creek Power Plant track will also cross some very sensitive areas of Archeology and environmental.  So many people along the Front Range see nothing in Eastern Colorado.  They see it as a devoid, barren land of no value.  Yet the power lines and wind mill sites will be built crossing ancient Indian villages, hunting grounds and burial sites.  It will also be crossing Creeks that are loaded with small springs that feed small ponds and creeks.  Activity around these areas can change the water flow of the springs and creeks and in worse case, destroy them.  Many an early pioneer built his home near these areas for a supply of water.  The rancher knew of them to provide water for his cattle and cattle trails followed along these creeks to where the springs were.  Water on the prairie is the life blood of the people that call it their home.

Then there are the Indian sites along the land.  Tepee rings dot the land where the Indians used to live, fire rings are found nearby and a variety of ancient tools can be found in the area, arrowheads, scrapers, spear points, grinders and the occasional burial site.  Right over the top of these ancient sites the Power Plant will be built.  Again it appears that laws will be ignored, The Antiquity Act, to get the wind farm built.

When the windfarm is built, there is road construction to access all the wind mills and carry the wiring that connects them into the power grid.  Then there are the tremendous holes in the ground that have to be dug and filled with concrete as an anchor base.  In a land where water is in short supply, water used in concrete puts lots of pressure on local water.  When the farm is completed, land has been tied up that is no longer productive land to the farmer or rancher.  When the life of the wind turbines expire what happens to them.   In instances of older wind generators wearing out and no longer useful, the operators have abandoned them and the windmills sit as a monument to something.  All the concrete anchor pads, which are equal to a 5-6 story building in size, are there in the ground.

For when a farmer or rancher loses productive land, they lose a part of their income.  Dirt can not be rolled out on the Sixteenth Mall and then graze cattle.  Yet the pundits say that lost income is replaced by the rental income of the windmill.  Is the trading of tax dollars a replacement for lost income?  A reduced Ag income means the taxes paid by the Ag industry have been lost.  So when land is taken out of production, taxes are also lost.  Then when the windmills are abandoned, what does it take to restore the land to productivity?  Will the operators be forced to reclaim the land like the coal miners are forced?

The economics of this project is also questionable.  The Federal government will give Xcel Energy 700 million dollars to build the power plant.  That means that every citizen in the United States will give Xcel Energy two dollars out of their pocket.  In return what will these coerced citizens get from Xcel Energy?  The power generated from this farm will only go to a small portion of people on the Front Range.  The expensive impact of the project will reach into everybody’s pocket book.

Wind generated electricity is more expensive than the other methods, coal, nuclear and gas.  So on the backside a wind powered electrical plant will take more money out the pocket of people.  Electricity is one of the keystones that drives the economy.   It powers the motors in the production lines of the factories, the machines for tooling, the electronic machines of communication and the illumination of business buildings.  Without electrify, we would still be using candles to light the way.

Wind generated electricity is roughly 25% more expensive then the conventional means of producing it.  That means, durable goods production pricing will go up, communication costs will go up, the cost of operating an office will go up, stores will have to pay more on their energy bill and across the board the price of everything increases.  With all these price increases, does the environment improve?  There has not been a consensus answer to that.

The economics of wind generated power raises so many questions and creates rubs that make sparks fly.  With the government subsidy, the price of wind generated power is more expensive then coal, nuclear or gas.  There are the maintenance expenses of the towers.  The land holders get lease payments plus there are the access roads to the turbines to gain access for repairs.  Again it is government subsidies that support these expenses.  After the life of the wind turbine expires, what happens to them?   In locations, the wind farm was left standing.  Silent giant windmills on the horizon, a monument to something.

The land holder that leases some of his land to the operator likes it because they feel they are receiving increased revenue.  With government subsidies, it amounts to sending a 10 dollar bill to Washington DC and getting 50 cents back for their lease payment.  Every taxpayer in the county sends a couple of pennies to the land owner and what do they get back…… ?  I get an increase in my electric bill because the supplier raised their rate.  Of of the rate increase of a quarter, 20 cents go to the distributor and supplier and a nickel goes to the leaseholder of the wind turbine.  Again what does the land owner return to me for giving him a nickel?

When a person looks at government subsidies, it can be seen that it creates lots of animosities for subsides favor a few that the many have to pay for and get nothing in return.  Yet it is something the government has been doing for decades and it has resulted in some scandalous deals over the years.

So when a person looks at the Rush Creek wind farm, who benefits, where do the benefits go?  Who is damaged, why are they damaged?  Is there an upside to the project?  How much damage will there be in the construction of the project.

One of the cleanest power plants for electricity is nuclear.  Because of the Atomic bomb, there has been lots of fear and scare tactics used against nuclear power plants.  Duke Energy, has an interest in some of the wind turbines around Burlington, Colorado.  Duke Energy is one of the biggest utility companies in the SE US, producing electricity for the Carolinas, Georgia, parts of Florida and surrounding areas.  They also operate Nuclear power plants, producing over 3000 Megawatts on plant sites of about 3000 acres, a ratio of one Megawatt per acre.  Compared to 1.5 Megawatts per 1000 acres on a wind farm.

Even Xcel Energies largest power plant at Pueblo produces Megawatts at a good ratio of Fourteenhunded Megawatts on roughly 1400 acres of land.  On their web page, Xcel states they have 99% reduction of pollutants.  Comanche is a coal fired power plant and a 99% reduction is excellent.  The maintenance costs on a plant like Comanche are nominal compared to the expenses of repairing wind turbines.

Nuclear far out shines the other methods of producing electricity on a cost benefit ratio.  The waste byproduct has become neutral over the years.  The nuclear waste dumps around the country are closely monitored and in the older storage sites, radiation has dropped to the levels as background radiation we receive daily. If a person wants renewable energy, nuclear would fit the bill.

Today, the use of natural gas is leading the way for electric production.  Listening to the people that work in the gas fields, many are saying that the gas is almost replaced as fast as it is extracted from the ground, making it a renewable fuel source.  In the ever expanding world of technology, wind generated electricity is falling way behind in delivering a reliable and affordable product.

Wind turbines, tie up vast amounts of land, wasting numerous acres but most of all it is not reliable.  For the wind does not blow 24 7 365 days on the Prairie.  And when the wind does set down, nothing is produced by the windmills, they silently sit there being non productive.  Then when the wind does decide to roar, it is to strong of wind for the windmill and it has to be shut down, again being non productive.

In today’s market, the natural gas fired power plants are the best value and gas is a renewable energy source that is virtually non pollutant.

Aroya, CO

Aroya Cemetery

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Aroya sits down in the trees and beyond are some of the ranch buildings.

            Aroya is a small town that faded out of existence few decades ago.  A few years ago it had a population boom.  A family hauled a trailer out to a vacant lot and set up.  Somebody else hauled another trailer out and joined and just in a short time the population doubled.  The boom did not last long, today the trailers sit abandoned on the north end of town.  The ghosts of the other building still there no longer have company except for the occasional tourist that visits. 

            The cemetery I never really got clear directions on where it was and it was not visible from any of the roads.  I finally found some people in Kit Carson, CO that told me how to get to it.  Park on the roadside they said and walk up the hill across the rancher’s pasture.  On the top of the hill you’ll see it.  Well I parked my car along the road and began hoofing across the pasture.  It was with care as I placed my steps for I did not want to make friends with the cacti that dotted the grassland. 

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            Sure enough, up on the hilltop was the small cemetery.  The rancher had put a fence around it because the cattle were knocking over the headstones.  There is no caretaker so the little patch of land was overgrown with weeds and the north fence was buried in tumble weeds.  This time of year, snakes are not a major concern, otherwise make steps very carefully. 

            The ranch that owns the cemetery placed a monument at the cemeteries edge, listing all the people that are buried in the plot.  Well the ones that they knew of.  The JOD ranch, that owns the surrounding land, is one of the oldest continuing ranches in the state and still calls Aroya their home although I believe their mail comes from Wild Horse. 

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Most of the graves there are unmarked and only the smaller stones are still standing.  But it opened more questions.  For the date on the graveyard is 1907.  Aroya was established as a railroad stop in 1870.  That leaves a number of years vacant.  My guess is, the hill had been used as a burial grounds but not much record was kept.  The other thing is, Aroya has been part of three different counties, causing record keeping problems.  Back then, there was also the tendency to just go dig a hole in the prairie, say a few words and place a small cross of sorts and life went on. 

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In the background can be seen the old schoolhouse. 

Being along a stage route, The Smoky Hill Trail, there were numerous Indian attacks in the area.  Also being a railroad town, there would have been the occasional wild times on the frontier.  So scattered here and there are probably a variety of grave sites. 

 

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Kirkuk, Colo

 

 

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      Kirkuk, CO sits just west of the Kansas border in central eastern Colorado.  Not much left of it.  It appears it had been a farm house that held the postal contract for a time.  There are few trees n shrubs there and steel grain bin.

Nearby is the Smoky Hill schoolhouse which still stands.  T was hit by a tornado number of years ago.  The concrete shell is still there and the boarding/ rooming house.  With the changes in transportation, the kids were bused to a nearby town for school after the tornado mutilated their school

A side bar on the area.  The North Fork of the Smoky Hill River runs through the area.  Well its not much of a river any more with all the farming.  In the mid 1600’s lots of travelers on the Smoky Hill trail would divert at the fork and go north.  In the 1850’s the nort fork was carrying more water, so people thought it was an advantage to follow.

Not so, when they got up on the flats in Colorado, the river dried up.  There were no landmarks and most of the travelers had no idea how to find water on the flat prairie.  Many would go wandering looking and end going in circles, back where they started.  A few would back track and rejoin the Trail.  A few would wander finding the wagon trail to the north and the springs on the Republican river and by then many were rather thirsty.

Then there were those in such a hury to get to the goldfields they would travel during the prairie snowstorms.  In circles they would go, sometimes ending up further east then when they started.  Supplies were low and frozen travelers they would be.

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Today the Kirkuk area is home to some of the most prosperous farms in the country.  And when the land dries out, the dust will still flaot in the air but no longer like the dust bowl days.

Kar Valley

Karval Colorado

 

            Karval is one of those towns that refuses to die.  It is probably tougher then Tombstone ever thought of being.  Sitting on a pretty dry plateau, close to no highways, the little prairie toughen clings to life.  They keep their school open and there is a post office.  The last business, a restaurant, closed a few years ago. 

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            Today the old highway, called main street is full of empty store fronts and for the most part, empty.  On Sunday it gets busy with the church goers coming into town.  This time of year there is as bit more then usual activity.  For the locals are preparing for the Bird festival they host. 

            The Rocky Mountain Plover a is a pretty rare bird and Karval is in its migration path.  Tours are scheduled to take the bird watchers out in the pastures, on private land and search for the elusive little plover.  This is a time the bird lovers can access habitat that is usually off limits. 

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            Karval is pioneer community settled by Norwegians in early 1900.  They migrated from the Kar Valley region of Norway and used this name to for their new town, Kar Val…. Karval.  Like many homestead town, Karval flourished in the early 1900’s.

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  There were shops, stores, garages, gas stations …. Etc.  Today it is the tumble weeds that frequent the road and keep the traffic signs busy directing the flow of tumbling weeds.   

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            Located due south of Hugo or due north of La Junta, just off of road 109, Karval sits on a flat area making for good farm land, just not lots of moisture.  There are bovine out in the grasses to greet people and there are the prairie watchers sitting along side the road observing the traffic pass by.  The variety of birds, float overhand and the buzzard hangs out on the fence waiting for its meat.  Because it is so out of the way, few people will travel to visit, the deckling little town.