Copyright © 1998 Henrietta W. Hay
From Space in the Cherrelyn Horsecar to Space
May 11, 1992 (reprinted May 1, 1998)
The old Cherrelyn horsecar has been restored and given a place of honor
in my home town of Englewood. I am a few years too young to have seen
it in action but I grew up hearing lots of stories about it.
Surface transportation in cities developed slowly. Before buses there
was the streetcar. And before the streetcar there was the horsecar.
The horses that pulled the cars were not selected for speed, but for
stamina, and travelers had a very leisurely ride. By 1894 horsecar
tracks in Denver ran along south Broadway to Hampden in Englewood, and
there they stopped.
But there were a lot of houses being built in the Cherrelyn area, which
was a mile south of the end of the line and uphill all the way. Some
ingenious soul had a bright idea and built a very special horsecar. It
could seat 12 passengers and a horse. Well no, the horse had to stand
up. They built a special platform for it on the end of the car.
Meanwhile they laid another mile of track, and had the Cherrelyn Rapid
Transit System. The horse pulled the car up the hill, climbed aboard
and rode back down to wait for the next trip. Unlike the San Francisco
cable cars, this car didn't have to be turned around. They just had
to move the horse. The fare was a nickel. The car ran until 1910 when
electric street cars replaced it. I'm not sure what happened to the
Most of the history of transportation in the world has taken place in
the 20th century. More advances have been made in the past 90 years
than in all previous recorded history. It is a little scary - no it's
very scary - to realize that we have gone from a horsecar to space
travel in just a little more than my lifetime. It is probably as hard
for the astronaut to imagine riding in the Cherrelyn horsecar as it
would be for a passenger in that car to imagine walking on the moon.
On a somewhat lesser scale than space travel, but still in the realm of
the amazing, there is Glenwood Canyon. I drove through the canyon
recently while all these transportation thoughts were kicking around in
my mind. My friend the philosopher has finally gotten me hooked on
science fiction, and those soaring, swooping ribbons of concrete almost
made me think I had squeezed through a wormhole onto a far distant
It was not like that when I first saw it. Back in the twenties we used
to make the trip between Denver and Glenwood Springs quite regularly. My
parents loved the vapor caves and the pool and the Colorado Hotel as
much as people do today. Getting there, however, was more of an
adventure. The river was the same, the mountains were the same, but the
road was not. Two lanes meant just that -- two lanes. I'm not even
sure the road was graveled, but I suspect that somebody is going to tell
me. It didn't matter much anyway, since none of the cars traveling it
was in that much of a hurry. That suited my flatlander mother just
fine, although if you did fall off the road, you didn't have very far to
fall. The journey from Denver to Glenwood Springs was a full day's trip
in the old Hudson.
When I first heard of the plan to put a four-lane highway through the
canyon I was horrified. How could anyone possibly consider spoiling one
of the beauty spots of Colorado? But they didn't spoil it. The
engineers and architects and contractors created a remarkable highway
which actually blends with the canyon walls. The canyon has certainly
been changed, but it is still beautiful.
The trip from Denver to Glenwood Springs now takes three hours or less,
instead of a full day. The route of the old Cherrelyn horsecar can be
covered in a minute or so in an automobile. I'm not always sure what
we're going to do when we get to where we're going in such a hurry, but
it does make things interesting. I wonder what transportation miracles
will take place in my kids' lifetimes.