Travel west of the Mississippi River and step into a time of tremendous innovation, adventure, and enthusiasm. Never before, or since, has the United States had the opportunities presented by the acquisition of such a huge amount of land as that of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The rush to “go west young man” was a rush to new frontiers, which inevitably brought new industry. This year’s SIA Annual Conference theme is “Industry on the Frontier.”
Held in downtown Colorado Springs, the 2010 conference will bring a new perspective on many fronts. We will learn about the men and women who left their imprint everywhere through their cities, bridges, railroads, mines, and mills monuments of sweat and steel in the shadow of the immense beauty of the Rocky Mountain Range, the longest chain of mountains in the world. Take a tour of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway and stand on the Continental Divide to witness the watershed between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Visit historic Pueblo, “Pittsburgh of the West,” which was once considered so industrially important that it was designated to be the capital of the Colorado Territory. Take a tour of Colorado Fuel & Iron, now Rocky Mountain Steel Mill, and the Bessemer Steelworks Museum of Industry and Culture and get a firsthand look at how this important mill shaped the southern portion of the state before it was a state. Oil was being extracted and sold from large coal reserves as early as 1872, and CF&I was important to the history of mining, labor, steel production, railroads, and the development of Pueblo and Colorado.
West of Pueblo, the Arkansas River cuts a 1,200-ft.-deep canyon through solid granite. No sooner had silver been discovered in the upper reaches of the river in 1877, than the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe RR and the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad began fighting over the right to lay tracks through the gorge, which was too narrow for two sets of rails. The race to get to Leadville, where a profusion of mines were springing up, led to the “Royal Gorge Railroad War.” It ended in 1879 when the federal government ordered the D&RG to build the line and lease it for shared use.
In 1929, the Royal Gorge Bridge was built as a tourist attraction. Its pedestrian walkway is 1,053 ft. above the river, making it the highest suspension bridge over water in the world (a rank it held until Nov. 15, 2009, when it was superceded by the Si Du River Bridge in China. The Royal Gorge Bridge is reached by an Otis-built incline railway, the steepest in the U.S. which climbs up 1,550 ft. at a 45-degree angle with a 100 percent grade.
Soar into a more modern mode with visits to the Air Force Academy, Peterson Air and Space Museum, and the Olympic Training Complex. Go back in time when you visit historic Cripple Creek and tour the Molly Kathleen Mine.
Cowboys, dinner in a railroad depot, and outstanding presentations to increase your knowledge and pique your interest in learning more, will all be found in Colorado Springs, June 3-6, 2010. We hope to see you there.