The Reopening of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway
By Hollen Wheeler; courtesy photos
After a three-year hiatus, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway is reopening this month. Known for its majestic views as passengers ascend 8.9 miles to the summit of Pikes Peak, the train cars, track, depot and visitor center have received $100 million worth of modern renovations and an updated name: The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway.
“The railway has been carefully maintained over the years,” stated Krista Heinicke, public relations and communications manager for The Broadmoor. “But after more than a century of use it became clear that significant upgrades and investments were needed to keep the railway running for the next hundred years,” she added.
One of Colorado Springs’ top tourist attractions, the cog railway will provide sightseers the same experience the train has offered for the past 130 years. During the roughly 3-hour round trip, passengers will see Pikes Peak, 2,000-year-old Ponderosa pines, mountain views and creeks, and the chance for sightings of wildlife, marmots and bighorn sheep, to name a few.
The cog railway is the highest rack railway in the world. For those not already familiar, a rack railway is a steep grade railway that requires cog wheels to mesh with the rails for challenging grades and inclines, usually 10% and higher. The cog railway has an average grade of 12% as it climbs the 14,115 feet to the top of Pikes Peak – the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.
The origin of the cog railway dates back to 1891 when Wisconsin entrepreneur Zalmon Simmons took a two-day mule ride to the top of Pikes Peak. Astounded by the beauty of the journey but unhappy with posterior pain, Simmons, of the Beautyrest mattress empire, was inspired to build a train for all to enjoy more comfortably.
In 1925, the Simmons family sold the railway to Spencer Penrose, owner of The Broadmoor. Penrose paid $50,000 for the train and invested another $500,000 in upgrades as well as built an automobile road to the top.
“While The Broadmoor has owned the railway since 1925, it didn’t truly reflect it in the name until now,” stated Sally Spaulding of Percepture, The Broadmoor’s public relations firm. “But we wanted to reflect the ownership because not a lot of folks knew the two were connected, and many feel like The Broadmoor just recently purchased the railway, when in actuality, they’ve owned it for almost 100 years,” she continued.
The train is scheduled to run year-round. (Thankfully, upgrades include better heaters in the trains for winter months.) If purchased in advance, the ticket price for standard admission is $58 for adults and $48 for children, 12 and younger. Guests may select specific seats on the train by upgrading to the reserved admission option: $68 for adults and $58 for children. For COVID-19 parameters, The Broadmoor’s management team will follow the recommendations implemented by both the CDC and El Paso County Health.
Heinicke notes that the 130th anniversary of the cog railway is June 30 and special events to celebrate the milestone will be announced in the coming weeks. “The reopening of The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway has been three years in the making and will not disappoint,” she stated. “We are very excited to get back on track,” she quipped. To purchase tickets, visit www.cograilway.com.