Help Restore an Important Piece of Colorado History!
Among the many historical treasures that CF&I left behind is an old train car dubbed “Mine Rescue Car No. 1.,” a converted luxury car from the 1880s that was used for mine safety training and as a first responder for mining accidents. Today it is an important historical artifact that helps to preserve Colorado history and educate the public. Mine Rescue Car No. 1 is in serious need of repairs, and that is why we’re asking for your help.
The Bessemer Historical Society (d.b.a. Steelworks Center of the West) is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and your donation to this campaign is 100% tax deductible.
A Quick History of Mine Rescue Car No. 1:
The alarming number of deaths in mining disasters in the early 1900s led to the creation of safety stations and railroad cars in the early 20th century. Although the original purpose of such cars was to aid in safety training and education, the rescue efforts that could be performed within the car soon led to the name of a “mine-rescue” car.
This particular mine rescue car was manufactured as a Pullman-type sleeping car in 1882. Soon after its construction, it was purchased by the Department of the Interior and used by the Bureau of Mines as a traveling classroom for teaching mine safety techniques and mine education. In 1923, the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company purchased this unit from the Bureau of Mines and used it for safety training within its mining districts throughout Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. It was used in that capacity until 1941 when it was transformed into a scrapyard office on the grounds of the steel mill in Pueblo, serving as a location for company parties and as a meeting site free from disruptions. The Scrapyard Foreman, John McNally, planted trees and grass around the car, creating what was described as an “oasis” in the middle of a fully operational steel mill. That’s where it stayed until CF&I finally claimed bankruptcy in 1993. It was rescued, restored, and donated to the Bessemer Historical society in 2007 by the Pueblo County Historical Society.
As the only known surviving wooden mine rescue car in the country, it was listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties in 1998. Though CF&I had other units, this is the only one to remain and is the oldest mine rescue car in North America. The public voted Mine Rescue Car No. 1 as one of Colorado’s top 10 most significant artifacts in 2014 by the University of Denver’s Colorado Collections Connection annual campaign, and it is now set to become the centerpiece of the new Steelworks Park now under construction in Pueblo, a park dedicated to preserving Colorado’s unique industrial history.
Unfortunately, the years have not been kind to Mine Rescue Car No. 1. The paint is peeling, glass is beginning to fall from the windows, and the roof leaks. The interior needs to be completely restored and outfitted with climate control, and the exhibit cases that one housed artifacts from our collection also need to be repaired. We estimate that it will need about $20,000 worth of additional repairs to become a functional exhibit space, and every dollar we can raise to reach this goal is greatly appreciated.