The Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway has a
terminal and a full maintenance facility in Manitou Springs,
has it that a man by the name of Zalmon Simmons, the owner of
a mattress company in Wisconsin, was in Manitou Springs, and,
after a rather long trip to the top of the mountain, thought a
railroad would be a much better way to travel to see the
spectacular alpine beauty. In 1889, he financed the Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway and
construction was started.
By 1890 the last spike was driven.
During that time, six workers met a tragic end.
From the 1890s to the 1930s, the railway
operated three inclined steam engines from Baldwin Locomotive
Works (of special design to deal with the steep grades).
A total of six steam locomotives ended up being used
before converting to gasoline and diesel powered locomotives.
In 1925, Spencer Penrose, the owner of the Broadmore
Hotel, acquired the railway and made changes to the
requirements of the coaches and railway operations to better
meet the seasonal tourist demands.
The railroad operated with those changes until 1964,
when railcars from the Swiss Locomotive Works provided a self
contained unit that had two Cummings diesel engines (which ran
an electric traction motor for accent).
They also provided the power for lights, heat, and
the 1970s, rail demand had increased, and in 1976 new trains
arrived that could carry more people per single trip.
These new trains were articulated in the center.
New passing sidings were also built, and the railway
increased operations to the present schedule.
The railway is open all year long, and uses a special
rotary snow blower to clear the line in the snow season.
Once on a railcar you will find yourself
looking at the Pike National Forest with a lot of plants and
animal life in full view.
As you will progress up the mountain to the Halfway
House site, called Hell Gate, you enter the altitudes where
few plants grow. As
you continue up, you will see the old road that is no longer
used. The new
road, on the North Side of Pikes Peak, is now used.
As you continue up the incline, you pass the timberline
at around 11,000 feet above sea level.
Oxygen starts becoming thin.
Once you reach Windy Point, you will be above the
timberline -- at 12,130 feet and still going up.
It is a short run through the Saddle and then past
Ghost Corner, and you will enter the summit at 14,110 feet
above sea level. Believe
me you will feel the altitude.
The view is indescribable in all directions.
The inclined trains that operate at Pikes
Peak are different from flat land trains.
Besides using power to the wheels, they also have a
gear on the cars that fits into a rack that is attached to the
ground. The gear
becomes the driving force for motion.
This allows the train to progress up a much steeper
incline without slipping.
For those who worry, there are two gears and two racks.
The trains run slow enough that runaways have never
been a problem.
Once off the train, I started walking
around and searching for the highest rock I could climb up on
to say by golly gosh I made it to the top of Pikes Peak.
I found my rock and climbed on it.
Once I was doing a balancing act on it, I heard a
definite whoosh over my head.
I looked up to see a glider passing overhead, maybe 50
feet above me. He
passed by at an estimated 150 to 200 mph in that thin
atmosphere and continued on over the open spaces between the
I have been told that there is
supplemental oxygen at the Summit for those that are suffering
from altitude sickness. A
good way to get around this is to drink lots and lots of water
the previous day. The
summit house has a full cafeteria, souvenir shops, and plenty
The trip back is a reverse of what you
experienced going up. When
you arrive at the base, you can visit the old steam locomotive
that is on display. I
was told it is used once in awhile for special excursions.
The Steamer Stop Shop at the base has the usual
offering of tourist stuff including patches, pins, some scale
cars, shirts, etc. You
can visit them on line at www.cograilway.com,
or better yet, include it in your Colorado vacation