MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. — 42 days after the first rails were installed near the summit of Pikes Peak, more than a fourth of the rails for the mountain’s cog railway is on the ground.
This marks two miles of the eight-mile route as the crew, which started at the summit, slowly works back towards treeline.
“It took our crew a little bit of time to get a rhythm and figure out the process of how they really wanted to do this, but once they did, we really started moving,” said Assistant General Manager of the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, Ted Johnston.
With a full staff, they’re able to work in groups: one lays the foundations, another addresses the rails and the ties, the next lay the center cog rail, and the last group follows behind to put on the finishing touches.
On their best day so far, they laid down over 700 feet of track.
“We get a report at the end of the day of how many feet they got, and it seems like it’s getting better and better every day, and that’s great,” Johnston said.
Johnston expects the pace to pick up once the crew gets below treeline, where the winds are less fierce, and crew members are less exposed to severe weather. It also means less travel time up the trackbed.
Construction has reached the first sighting, one of three points where trains can pass each other as they head up and down the mountain. It’s just a hair above 12,100 feet and Windy Point. After the switches are installed at this point, the toughest stretch of the project begins, according to Johnston.
It’s a sustained 25 percent grade in a narrow path.
“What we call the big hill,” Johnston said. “There’s not a lot of passing points; it’s going to be a very linear operation; things are just going to have to fall in order.”
Johnston says, the construction crews have had shorter steep slopes closer to the summit and are prepared for what’s coming.
Part of the improvements to the track is steel ties, rather than the old wood ones. Johnston says it’s become the cog standard.
“This has only been done once 128 years ago, and we hope we don’t have to do it for another 128 years,” he said.
Johnston expects the rail work to be done by December, on schedule to open the Cog in May after the train cars are refurbished and tested.