First look at the new Pikes Peak Cog Railway

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MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. — A 130-year tradition on Pikes Peak is set to return as the Broadmoor Manitou Pikes Peak Cog Railway will open to the public on Thursday.

The Cog has been closed for three and a half years after critical repairs were needed to keep the line functional. Assistant General Manager Ted Johnston said in the beginning, it wasn’t clear the railway would ever climb America’s Mountain again.

“We’ve made a lot of upgrades around this place,” he said.

The cost of the repairs was around $100 million, paid for by the Broadmoor’s parent company, The Anschutz Corporation.

A year ago, the construction team laid the first tracks for the Cog, starting at the top of the 14,115-foot mountain. It took until the winter to descend the rail bed more than 7,000 feet to the rail depot along Ruxton Creek in Manitou Springs.

The rails replaced the lines first laid in 1891.

On top of the rails are the iconic red trains: some new, some refurbished.

“The trains, in my opinion, have never run better,” said Ron Wilson.

Wilson is a conductor, engineer, and just about everything for the Cog. He’s been on the train for seven years. He spent cold days laying under the refurbished trains, wiring in safety computers.

The trains that weren’t upgraded were imported from Switzerland, where most of the world’s cog rails are located.

“It’s exciting to see all the work we’ve put on these trains coming to fruition. ” Wilson said.

The seats were ripped out of the old train, along with the intercom system and the floors. New engines (four per train) were installed, as well as new transmissions.

The trains have eight computers on board, with some dedicated to monitoring every inch of the 180,000-pound behemoths. If the train exceeds the 8.5-mile-per-hour descent speed, the system will stop the train dead in its tracks.

Other than a few in the rail bed, you might say no stone was unturned for the refurbishment of the world’s highest-elevation cog railway.

The rail is 60 pounds per yard, upgraded from 45 per yard. The cog rail in the center of the track, which bears the entire force of the train’s climb, was upgraded to a more long-lasting design as well.

There are a few dozen cog railways in the world, including one other one in the United States. The cog at Mt. Washington in New Hampshire summits at a lower elevation than the Pikes Peak Cog’s depot in Manitou Springs.

Wilson, like all conductors, makes sure the hour-long climb above the clouds, and above treeline, is an engaging one.

“There’s so many fun things to point out. It’s such a unique situation to be able to climb a mountain like this by rail,” Wilson said. “To get [passengers] up here to see what it’s like on top of the mountain, it’s just all kinds of fun.”

Sunday was a test ride of sorts. Broadmoor employees and their families rode up to give crews their first run-through with people. Wilson was stoked to see the first marmot of the season.

Thursday, the Cog opens to the public. The grand opening is planned for late June, ideally coinciding with the completion of the Pikes Peak Summit Complex.

“It’s just a big crescendo really coming together for Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, the whole Pikes Peak region,” said Johnston.


Previous Cog Railway coverage

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