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Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway

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Subject: Pikes Peak, Manitou Springs, Colorado, The Broadmoor, Baldwin Locomotive Works, Pikes Peak steam loco.jpg
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Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway

Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway
Cog Train at the 14,110 feet (4,301 m) summit of Pikes Peak.
Reporting mark MPP
Locale El Paso County, Colorado, USA
Dates of operation 1889–
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification none
Length 8.9 mi (14.3 km)
Headquarters Manitou Springs, Colorado
Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway
Line length 8.9 mi (14.3 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification none
Rack system Abt rack system

The Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway (also known as the Pikes Peak Cog Railway) is an Abt rack system cog railway with 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge track in Colorado, USA, climbing the well-known mountain Pikes Peak. The base station is in Manitou Springs, Colorado near Colorado Springs.

The railway is the highest in North America by a considerable margin. It was built and is operated solely for the tourist trade.


  • History 1
    • Manitou Incline 1.1
  • Today 2
    • Gallery of old engines 2.1
    • Gallery of the line 2.2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The railway was started by Zalmon G. Simmons, inventor and founder of the Simmons Beautyrest Mattress Company. The company was founded in 1889 and limited service to the Halfway House Hotel was started in 1890. The summit was reached the following year.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway locomotive and car, circa 1900

A number of steam locomotives were built for the line by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, all rack-only locomotives with steeply inclined boilers to keep them level on the average 16% grades. Operating steam locomotives on such a line was back-breaking work and expensive, so when more modern forms of traction became available, the railway was eager to modernize.

A gasoline-powered railcar was constructed in 1938, believed to be the first rack railcar in the world. It was designed to be a cheaper alternative to the steam locomotives enabling economic service during quieter times of the year. Proving a huge success, the railway soon bought more internal combustion engined trains. This car is still in operation on the mountain, though it is a different color from original.

The next were five 'streamlined' diesel locomotives from General Electric, which were equipped with matching passenger cars, acquired from 1939 onward.[1] These slowly supplanted the steam locomotives, though some steam operations persisted until the 1960s as backup power and to operate the snow-clearing train (where their greater weight meant they were less likely to derail). A number of the steam locomotives are now on static display, in Manitou and elsewhere, and the Railway still has an operational steam locomotive (#4) and an original coach. The steam locomotive was put out of service for many years before being retrieved from a museum and brought back to service in 1980.

In 1964 the railway needed more equipment, but General Electric was not interested in the business. The railway went abroad, to Switzerland, home of most of the world's cog railways. In 1964, the Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works in Winterthur provided two bright red railcars (railcars contain a seating compartment as well as engineer stand, eliminating the need for a separate pushing locomotive), very similar to equipment used on many Swiss railways. Units 14 and 15 were delivered and began service in 1964. Two more (Units 16 and 17) were provided in 1968 when the first two proved their worth. As of 2012 all four original Swiss trains are still in operation at the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. All M&PPRy railcars are now powered by biodiesel.

As tourism increased in the 1970s the railway needed more capacity. In 1976 M&PPRy took delivery of two larger two-car articulated railcars from the Swiss Locomotive Works of Winterthur, designated Train 18 and Train 19. Passing sidings were built in several places at about the same time, allowing trains to pass at various points on the mountainside. Trains could previously pass only at the Mountain View siding, permitting only three trains a day up the mountain. Eight trains per day became possible with the new equipment and sidings (two more larger railcars were delivered from SLM; Unit 24 in 1984 and the last, Unit 25, in 1989).

Rolling stock on the M&PPRy consists of four 214-passenger articulated Swiss-built railcars, four 78-passenger Swiss-built railcars, three GE built locomotives (one of which has been modified to carry the section crew), one snowplow (#22 - built upon the frame of a GE locomotive), one 23-passenger diesel railcar (#7), one steam locomotive (#4 - built by Baldwin), a Winter-Weiss "streamliner" coach, and an original Wasson wooden coach (#104). Only the Swiss-built railcars carry regular passengers. The steam locomotive and passenger coaches are used on rare special occasions.

Manitou Incline

Night-time panorama of Colorado Springs as viewed from the Manitou Incline.

More commonly called simply the Manitou Incline, the Mount Manitou Scenic Incline Railway—actually a funicular up the side of a peak called Rocky Mountain located adjacent to Mount Manitou—was operated by the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway until the Incline was closed by a rockslide in 1990. This line's lower terminus was adjacent to the Cog Railway base station in Manitou Springs. The Manitou Incline averaged almost a 40% grade—gaining 2,011 feet (613 m) in elevation over a length of approximately 1 mile (1.6 km)-with the maximum grade being 68%.

The Manitou Incline was initially built in 1907 for use in construction of city water lines and a hydroelectric plant. When the construction was finished, the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway took over the cable car as a tourist operation.

From 1990 forward, the defunct Incline had been controversial because, although legally off-limits to the public, its roadbed was heavily used for recreation and exercise by people ignoring the trespassing signs. It became legal to use the Incline on February 1, 2013.[2] Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation manages the Incline trail through an intergovernmental agreement.[3]


Railway parked on the summit. It is snow-covered for most part of the year. This picture was taken in May.

As of 2006 the railway owns enough equipment (railcars and snow plows) to run six to eight trains per day from mid-May through mid-September. During "off-peak" months (mid-September through mid-December and mid-March through mid-May), anywhere from one to five trains are run per day, with additional trains added if there is sufficient demand.

The railway was generally closed from mid-December through mid-March unless the snow plows were able to clear the line; however, in 2006, the railway began year-round service. Winter service varies according to demand (in January, for example, trains run once a day on weekends and holidays).

Gallery of old engines

Gallery of the line

See also


  1. ^ "Famous Cog Railway Goes Streamline" Popular Science, November 1939
  2. ^ Manitou Incline Opens Friday,, Jan 31, 2013
  3. ^ Manitou Incline Site Development and Management Plan,, Feb 4, 2011

External links

  • Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway home page
  • Information on the Manitou Incline trail
  • The Pikes Peak Web site

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