• Cog History

    Cog History

    Journey Back in Time

A mule along the Cog Railway in Manitou Springd

It all started with a mule

It was the late 1880s when a tourist named Zalmon Simmons, inventor and founder of the Simmons Beautyrest Mattress Company, visited the Pikes Peak Region. Wanting to check up on one of his inventions, an insulator for the telegraph wires that ran to the Army Signal Station on the Summit, he reached the top of Pikes Peak the only way back in those days: an arduous, two-day trip on a mule.

Mr. Simmons was in awe of the scenery but determined that the views should be experienced in a more civilized and comfortable manner, and aren’t we all grateful for that? Word has it he was relaxing in one of Manitou Springs’ mineral baths after his return, when the owner of his hotel mentioned the idea of a railway to the top, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Early Days

In 1889, the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway Company was founded and track construction began right away. This was the Age of Steam, and in 1890, three locomotives from Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania were delivered. Service was limited in the early days to the Halfway House Hotel. A total of six locomotives were in use during the steam era, and while they are not in use at the moment, locomotive #2 can be seen on display in downtown Manitou Springs, #4 at the Grand Canyon Railway, and #5 at The Broadmoor Hotel.

First Summit

A church choir from Denver boarded the first passenger train the afternoon of June 30, 1891, and made it to the summit of Pikes Peak by train. This was actually the second attempt, a previously scheduled group of dignitaries had to turn back earlier in the day because of a rock slide at around 12,000 feet.

A New Era

Spencer Penrose, owner of the Broadmoor Hotel, acquired the railway in 1925 to add to the Broadmoor family, and in the late 1930s, gasoline and diesel powered locomotives were introduced. Wanting to carry fewer passengers during the slow parts of the season, there was an effort to build a compact, self-contained railcar up for the job, culminating in rail car No. 7: a gas-powered, 23-passenger unit, which made its first run on June 16, 1938, and is believed to be the first rack rail car ever built in the world. Within a year No. 8, possibly the world’s first diesel-electric cog locomotive, was delivered from the General Electric Company. Goodbye time-consuming water stops and the back-breaking shoveling of coal. Along with “Streamliner” coaches, locomotive Nos. 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 formed the backbone of the railway fleet from 1940 to 1965.

A historic photo of the Cog Railway

Modern Age

In the early 1960s, tourism began to increase in Colorado and the railway needed more equipment. The General Electric Company was not interested in the project, so railcars were requested from the Swiss Locomotive Works in Winterthur, Switzerland. The self-contained diesel-electric Nos. 14 and 15 trains were put into service in 1964. Nos. 16 and 17, two more nearly identical units, were ordered soon after.

In the mid-1960s, a young Swiss engineer by the name of Martin Frick was hired from Swiss Locomotive Works. Over the next 30 years, Mr. Frick brought the Railway into the modern age and we’ll always be deeply indebted to Mr. Frick for his years of dedication and hard work.

More People, Bigger Trains

As tourism continued to grow into the 1970s, railway officials returned to Swiss Locomotive Works in 1974 looking for a train that could carry more than 200 people, and the diesel-hydraulic articulated railcars Nos. 18 and 19 were added. These cars resemble the smaller single units but are joined by a “bellows” in the middle. These first two modern railcars were put into service for the 1976 season with Nos. 24 and 25 being added in 1984 and 1989, respectively. New sidings were also installed to allow trains to run up to eight times per day and pass along the line.

The End of the Line

After 126 years of operation, the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway decided not to reopen for the spring 2018 season, following a major infrastructure and equipment evaluation.

Back on Track

We have seen many modern developments over the years, most recently, taking three years to rebuild and bring the Cog Railway into the 21st century by rebuilding the journey from the track up for the most modern, up-to-date experience. We’re upgrading to state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure: three new trains from Stadler in Switzerland, a new Strub single rail cog system, upgraded depot and gift shop and a new Pikes Peak Visitor Center at the top. And, of course, an exciting new adventure.