The Cog Railway, the highest in the world, was started in 1889 by Zalmon G. Simmons, the inventor of the Simmons Beautyrest mattress. A New Yorker, he came to Colorado to examine telegraph insulators that he invented to carry telegraph wires to the Army Signal Station on top of Pikes Peak. When it took two miserable days to scale the mountain by mule, Simmons decided to finance construction of the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway, which opened in 1891. After losing money for a number of years, Simmons sold it in 1925 to Spencer Penrose, owner of the Broadmoor Hotel, for a reported $50,000.
The first locomotives were steam powered and pushed the passenger care up the mountain. The boilers on the locomotives were tilted forward to be level while going up the 16% grade of the mountain. In 1938, a gasoline powered train car, produced by General Electric replaced the coal powered steam engines for the next 20 years.
In 1964, representatives from the Broadmoor went to Switzerland and contracted with the Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works to provide two self-contained diesel-electric train cars which were instant successes. The railway also hired a young Swiss engineer, Martin Frick, from Swiss Locomotive Works. Over the next 30 years, Frick modernized and expanded shop facilities, oversaw installation of new and modern switches throughout the yard and along the line, and even designed and built a snowplow with shop personnel. A master craftsman, he is fondly remembered.
In 1974 with a request for a train to carry over 200 people at a time, two “articulated” railcars were sent from Switzerland. These cars resemble the smaller single cars but are joined by “bellows” in the middle, which allow for sharper curves on the tracks. Newer switches and “passing tracks” allowed more trains to run each day and more people to enjoy the trip to the top of Pikes Peak. Growth and modernization has continued until the railroad was closed in 2018 for a complete renovation of the entire program, including: new tracks, ties, switch and passing tracks, and equipment that is updated within the depot and support facilities. The highly anticipated grand reopening of the railway is appropriately planned for this year, 2021, the sesquicentennial year of Colorado Springs.
Generously Submitted by John Orsborn, CSPM Volunteer Educator