Steamers made Estes Park progress possible
By Rob Carrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Legend has it that F.O. Stanley first drove his Model B Runabout Stanley Steamer some 65 miles from Denver to Estes Park in late June, 1903.
"If he was to come to Estes Park, he wanted to do so quite literally, under his own power," wrote historian James Pickering, in his book "Mr. Stanley of Estes Park."
"In addition, having his own automobile at hand seemed a particularly good way of getting out and about, meeting people and taking in the scenery."
Pickering noted that F.O. Stanley had faith in his small machine because it "was high-slung enough to ride above the deeply rutted, boulder strewn road, and powerful enough to climb the steepest grade with comparative ease." He arrived in record time. Though Stanley's automobile was not the first in Estes Park, as has sometimes been suggested, his entrance was by far the most dramatic and longest remembered, says Pickering.
F.O. Stanley arrival was just in time to help plan the town's development, and start nurturing his vision for what would become a gem of tourism in the town today, the Stanley Hotel.
His first trip was, of course up the old wagon road from Lyons to Estes Park, and in the next few years he spent a pile of money improving that route, but that did not stop F.O. Stanley from considering other paths. He spent additional money developing access in Little Thompson Canyon and North St. Vrain, and evaluated going down Big Thompson canyon.
David Osborn and his three sons — Will, Otto, and Estes —pioneered automobile transportation in the region when they formed and began to operate the Loveland - Estes Park Transportation company in the summer of 1907. They first used a trio of five-passenger Stanley Model F 20-h.p. touring cars and charged $3.50 per passenger for one way, or $6 roundtrip.
"That Summer, to the surprise of everyone, it was Loveland — not Lyons or Longmont, let alone Boulder or Denver — who first put into operation an automobile stage line to Estes Park making use of Stanley Steamers. Ironically its owner was not F.O. Stanley.
"The Osborn enterprise, headquartered with garage and offices at 432 Cleveland Avenue in Loveland, was helped immeasurably by an announcement as early as March that its major competition, George and Ben Johnson's horse stage line, would not operate in the coming season," Pickering wrote.
By the time the Osborn's eventually sold the business years later, in the spring of 1916, they were transporting 100 passengers a day and operating a fleet of 18 Stanley Steamers.
Freelan Stanley did not seemed to be bothered that by the competition had beat him to the punch on provide good roads to reach the growing town of Estes Park. Instead, by 1907, he had set out on his own to build what would become the Stanley Hotel.
"Twin brothers Francis and Freelan Stanley had built the legendary Stanley Steamer automobile.
They built their first steam-powered car in 1897 and sold more than 200 by 1899, making them the most successful U.S. automaker at the time," according to Tony Borroz, of "Wired."
"They sold the design to Locomobile in 1899 and, three years later, founded the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. The earliest models had wood bodies on steel frames with a kerosene (later, gasoline) boiler mounted under the seat. The boiler provided steam that ran a steam engine, somewhat like a mini-locomotive on tires," Borroz wrote.
"The cars were quick. A Stanley Rocket driven by Fred Marriott achieved 127.7 mph in 1906 to set the land speed record for a steam-powered car. Before speed, the brothers were into photography. Francis Stanley invented a photographic dry-plate process in 1883, and the brothers founded Stanley Dry Plate to manufacture them."
1. Panorama view taken from Colorado State Capitol Building, Denver, Colorado. Signs read: "Denver Omnibus & Metropole," "Studebaker Automobiles, Flanders 20" "Moon Motor Cars, Rauch & Lang Electrics, Matheson Motor Cars, Vreeland Bros. Auto Co.," "Stanley Motor Carriage Co., Stanley Steamer, Goodrich Tires," "Orpheum Modern Vaudville," "Hotel Broadway," "The Monroe," "Tremont Groceries," "Coca-Cola," "Brown & Beck Motorcycles - Bicycles," "Knight-Campbell Music Co.," "Capitol Store," "Michelin," "The Scholtz Drug Company." Billboard advertises: "Denver Music Festival, Auditorium April 27, 28, 29, Theodore Thomas Orchestra, Frederick A. Stock." Horse-drawn wagons and carriages park along streets and alleys. The Front Range with snow covered peaks is in the distance.
2. Using the same engine that set the land speed record at 127 MPH in 1906, a 1909 Stanley Model Z. nine passenger, 30 HP Mountain Wagon was developed in 1908 for hauling passengers from Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins; up to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Because of its hill climbing ability, several transportation companies in the Rocky Mountain area quickly came into being while using the new Model Z Stanley Mountain Wagon. By 1912, the Stanley Mountain Wagon had become a 12 Passenger Mt. Wagon. The last year for the Mt. Wagon being built was 1917.
3. A Stanley Steamer chugs along the rugged road near Sheep's Head Rock in Big Thompson Canyon, between Estes Park and Loveland, Colorado.Photographer: Louis Charles McClure/Courtesy Library of Congress.
4. Forks Hotel (near present-day Drake) on the Loveland-Estes Park Auto Road.
5. Steamer making its way up Big Thompson Canyon.