Springs Cog Railway|
1891, the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway (the world's highest cog railroad,
the highest Colorado railroad AND highest train in the United States)
has taken passengers to the 14,110 foot summit of Pikes Peak.
Just 70 miles from downtown Denver and 6 miles from downtown Colorado
Springs, this classic Colorado train trip is open from mid-April through
Pikes Peak Cog Railway is 8.9 miles long. The round trip lasts 3 hours
and 10 minutes. The first third of our trip is along Ruxton Creek in Englemann
Canyon. Here, the steep track follows a cascading stream through dense
stands of Englemann spruce, Colorado blue spruce, as well as Ponderosa
pine trees. Conductors like to point out the various "faces" and shapes
which, with a bit of imagination, can be seen in the giant boulders. Right
near the Minnehaha switch (where the descending trains pass the ascending
train on many trips) is Minnehaha Falls.
The middle third of the trip is on a gentler grade. Right below the old
settlement of Ruxton Park, the train passes through what is known as "Hell
Gate", a natural gateway in the mountains. Soon, the train passes near
Deer Park, where passengers sometimes catch a glimpse of mule deer grazing.
Then the train passes over the Four Mile Switch and gets the first glimpse
of Pikes Peak! Another siding comes up, Mountain View, which is the half-way
point on the journey.
At about the 5 mile point, the grade steepens again where the railway
begins climbing in earnest. Many of the trees in this area are bristlecone
pine, some of the oldest living things on earth! It is estimated that
some trees on Pikes Peak are over 2000 years old.
Once the train climbs above timberline, the views become more expansive.
Timberline is the point in elevation where trees stop growing because
they cannot get enough moisture. This lack of moisture is due to the presence
of permafrost, a permanent layer of frost just below the surface of the
ground. What does grow is Alpine tundra, a mixture of mosses, grasses
and wildflowers, has adapted to the extremely short growing season. Here
passengers frequently see Bighorn sheep and yellow-bellied marmots.
The last 3 miles are all above timberline. To the east the Great Plains
stretch out beyond the border of Colorado and Kansas. To the south, the
Sangre de Christo (Blood of Christ) Range stretches south to New Mexico.
On the western horizon, just slightly to the southwest, lies the Collegiate
Range. To the southwest, at the base of Pikes Peak, sit the old mining
towns of Cripple Creek and Victor. Once upon the summit, if the weather
is clear, you can see the skyscrapers of downtown Denver.
Upon reaching the summit, you are provided with 40 minutes of breathtaking
views atop Pikes Peak. This time limit is for your benefit, as most people
tend to feel the effects of high altitude (slight nausea, headache) after
this amount of time. The railway recommends that you budget your time
accordingly. In the high season, the summit house serves thousands of
people daily. The staff of ARAMARK (the concessionaire of the Summit House,
which is owned by the City of Colorado Springs) does an admirable job
with a facility that was built in the 1950's and was never intended to
serve the numbers it does today. Consequently, long lines are quite common
especially in the food service area. The lines are generally longest at
food service right after the train arrives. You can bring food and beverages
aboard the train (either your own or those purchased from the Cog Railway
Cafe), but due to the limited seating, you cannot bring outside food or
beverages into the Summit House.
MANITOU & PIKES PEAK RAILWAY
515 RUXTON AVE. / PO BOX 351
MANITOU SPRINGS, CO 80829
719 685 5401
FAX- 719 685 9033 -FAX