In the late 1880s, Zalmon Simmons visited the Pikes Peak Region to check on one of his inventions. Not only was he the inventor of what we now know as the Simmons Beautyrest Mattress Company, Mr. Simmons invented an insulator for telegraph wires that were being used on the summit of Pikes Peak. After a gruelling two-day trek to the 14,110 foot Peak on a mule, Mr. Simmons was relaxing in a mineral bath in Manitou Springs when someone mentioned how nice it would be if there was a train to the top. The inventor’s brain went into overdrive, and the Pikes Peak Cog Railway was conceived.
Being a man of action, track construction began right away using 150 Italian laborers transporting materials via wheelbarrows and mules. Three steam locomotives were ordered and delivered by 1890. The first passenger train arrived at the summit of Pikes Peak in June 1891. During the era of steam, a total of six engines were ordered. The locomotives were not connected to the coaches, but pushed the train cars up the mountain (pictured on the plaque below), and preceded them on the descent to regulate the speed. It was expensive and inefficient.
In 1925, after losing money for many years, Mr. Simmons sold the Pikes Peak Cog Railway to Spencer Penrose, owner of The Broadmoor Hotel, for $50,000. To this day, The Broadmoor Hotel still owns the Railway. Locomotive #5 is on permanent display at The Broadmoor Hotel. Engine #2 sits on the northeast corner of Manitou Avenue and Deer Path Avenue in Manitou Springs.
End of the Line and Back on Track
In 1938, the first-of-its kind gas-powered, twenty-three-passenger rack-rail car made its maiden run up Pikes Peak. The following year, General Electric delivered the world’s first diesel-electric cog locomotive.
Over the next seventy-eight years, technology would advance and tourism would increase. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway kept pace with the demand, running eight adventures per day up and down the mountain. In 2017, more than 300,000 visitors rode the rails to the top. But with safety concerns over the 126-year-old tracks and the now-dated equipment, The Broadmoor Hotel decided not to reopen for the 2018 season. It was not only a blow to tourism, but had a severe economic impact on the quaint town of Manitou Springs.
Three years and $100 million later, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway is back on track. With new tracks and cars imported from Switzerland, the glorious ride to the summit of America’s Mountain is back in operation. Hundreds of sightseers take the exciting trip to the Peak each week.
Tickets are often sold out weeks-to-months in advance. If you are planning a visit to the Pikes Peak Region, reserve your seats before you get here if at all possible. It’s worth the time and expense for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. It would be a shame to miss it if it could have been prevented.
Cog Railway Tickets
ADVICE FROM A LOCAL: Pay the extra $10 and get a reserved seat – FACING FORWARD. Trust me on this. Just do it! Purchase tickets to the Pikes Peak Cog Railway here. Check out availability on the calendar and get a FORWARD FACING SEAT.
General seating for children 3 – 12 is $48. Reserved seating (get FORWARD FACING) tickets for children 3 – 12 are $58. General seating for adults is $58. Reserved seating (get FORWARD FACING) tickets are $68. Bring extra money for the railway station and the Visitor’s Center at the Peak.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE PIKES PEAK COG RAILWAY, visit their website (Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway). You may also call (719) 685-5401 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many ways to access the railway station. There is a parking lot outside the station off Ruxton Avenue in Manitou. A round-trip on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway lasts approximately three hours (one hour ten minutes up and back, and forty minutes at the new Visitor Center at the top of Pikes Peak). For a $10 charge for 4.5 hours, you can park in the station’s parking lot. Or you can ride the designated City bus from town. There are also free shuttles from parking lots east of downtown Manitou Springs that will take visitors to the railway station.
Be sure to eat before you go, or take a snack. Lines are long and the food mediocre. And the long lines extend to the gift shop as well. There is not anything at the gift shop at the Peak that you can’t purchase at the Railway Depot, so revel in the moment and soak up the nature of being above 14,000 feet. You have forty minutes to savor the scenery, take photos, and experience what you took the trip for. Don’t waste it waiting to buy items that are easily accessible at the Depot. (But there are plenty of restrooms, so those lines shouldn’t be long.)
Before you go, gather all of your patience. And then borrow some from your neighbors. It will be slow. It will be busy. There will be lines. Go with the attitude of an adventure and you’ll be fine.
If at all possible, hydrate yourself well for days beforehand. It is best if you not have alcohol before you leave as it worsens the effects of Altitude Sickness. The summit of Pikes Peak has 41% less oxygen than where you started from. Take water! When you’re above 14,000 feet, you can get dizzy or get a headache. Water and ibuprofen are two of the fastest ways to take care of that.
I’d love to hear about your experience. And if you’re here looking to move, be sure to contact me. I’ve been selling real estate in the Pikes Peak area for decades, and I’d be glad to discuss your particular housing needs with you. ENJOY!