Monday, June 13, 2011

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

I may well have written a post that did not receive a comment. Yet what a stunning photo it is. Did you click on it to see it larger? Better, click here to see the original.

Let me investigate this odd cog railway further.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway is in Colorado, a mid western state in the United States. Hmm, it only has a population of 5 million, so it is not a highly populated state. That may well be to do with its rugged terrain and weather extremes.

Pikes Peak was named after Zebulon Pike, an explorer, later an army general. While in 1806 he tried and failed to scale its heights, in 1820 one Edwin James managed to get to the top. But the first to scale it really were the Ute Indians who set eagle traps in its heights.

By 1858 everyone was at it, including god forbid, a woman. 1873 saw a weather station built at the peak and a toll gate for climbers.

Mr Zalmon Simmons was founder of the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. Simmons should be a familiar name to you, Simmons Mattresses, or Beauty Rest. He was founder of the same. The summit was reached by railway in 1891 and specially designed steam trains made the ascent with the assistance of a rack between the tracks. Mainly for economical reasons, later petrol driven trains were used but the steam trains kept on for times of heavy loading and to clear the track of snow. But then you can't go past diesel for such a type of operation, so diesel rail cars replaced the petrol cars.

Now a variety of railcars operate the the railway, some having been brought over from Switzerland.

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway has a website here.

The earlier photo is dated 1910 and appears to be the petrol driven rail car of sorts.

But have a look at this great piece of film from 1936 showing a steam locomotive battling to clear the snow before the season opens. Have you ever seen a steam engine work so hard? Note the angle of the locomotive, to keep it vaguely level when on inclines.

If I visited Colorado, you can be sure I would take a scenic trip on the train to Pikes Peak.


  1. Hello Andrew:
    We found this post particularly fascinating as in Budapest we still have a cog wheel tram running to the top of the Buda hills. Although popular with tourists it runs daily as a normal tram. The cars came from Switzerland many years ago.

    The film clip was great!

  2. J&L, I think Europe has many interesting train and tram systems. I have heard of a few of them. I might post about the trams in Oporto soon. Switzerland must be the expert country with cog railways. Not hard to guess why.