Any frequent driver of Colorado Highway 93 has probably seen the hulking rust tower west of Coal Creek Canyon. I'd seen it for years myself, but never gave it too much thought. More recently I had heard fellow explorers talk about it, but nothing of substance ever came up.
By good fortune and the adventurous spirit, however, I ended up visiting the tower. I was in the area for a craigslist deal. After the deal finished, I saw a nearby sign that I had to photograph. I'm big on signs.
Naturally, the sign visit turned into an exploration of the building and interview with the locals.
Richard here had some sort of convoluted legal drama involving the Ground Exploration property, Xcel Energy and an inability to purchase the land at a reasonable rate. A broken water main was involved too. I took notes before moving down the road to investigate a solar project I had spotted.
After looking at the solar, I saw that the rusty tower was close and decided to try and get to it. A few minutes of adventurous driving later, I came to its base and made contact with some local engineers. The tower itself is entirely unused, but next to it is a natural gas processing startup that is doing some sort of secret groundbreaking work. Such mystery.
I talked to them for a bit before giving them my card and securing permission to explore the tower.
After assessing the situation, I immediately informed my partners in crime of the sweet new location and secured a date to bring them.
We had a good time, but it was rather windy. This can be quite alarming when you are standing on a metal truss 50 meters tall. Still, we stuck around long enough to check out the excellent supply of gauges and signs.
So, what the hell is it? After talking to the engineers nearby and doing some research, it seems the tower was the housing for the prototype Coal Air Hydrohoist. The theory was that they would use giant air blowers to lift coal out of mines in place of elevators. I guess it didn't work.
Luckily, the building still stands solid, providing great views for those with permission to hang around it. There are some neat things nearby as well.