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The Central City Submarine








The first working submarine is believed to have been created in the 1770s, but no one else can lay claim to the first mountain sub.


More than a thousand miles away from any ocean, and 9,000 feet up in elevation, sits a century-old submarine. But how did it get to Central City? A lot of its milestones are recorded in the town at the Gilpin History Museum - but none more interesting as a submarine.


The Central City submarine - as it's known - was created by Rufus T. Owen (or Owens). He was a skilled engineer who designed Central City and Black Hawk's early water systems and several mine buildings throughout the county. When Owen built the submarine he was very serious about it; it was not a joke to him.


As silly as some people think it looks, Owen's design was actually not bad when compared to other subs of the era. He and a few of his friends brought the sub up to Missouri Lake in 1898. They filled it with three tons of rocks to use as ballast.

Like many people in Central City, Owen gambled. Unfortunately, his bet didn't pay off. The sub sat at the bottom of the lake for several decades, until one January day in 1944 when it was brought back up. It was been underwater for almost 46 years at that point, leading a lot of people to joke that it was the longest crash dive in history.


No one really knows why Owen created the submarine. However, around the time he built the ship, the U.S. Navy was holding a submarine design competition which may have sparked his interest.  Or, he simply might have wanted to see if he could design a sub. Contrary to popular theories, Owen remained in Central City for several years after building the sub before moving to Pueblo, where he died in 1919. 


The Mountain Submarine is on display at the Gilpin History Museum in Central City.






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