Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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2016 Worldcon Road Trip Day 10: Pueblo to Golden CO via Pike's Peak

This morning we packed out of the hotel without incident and hit the road for Manitou Springs and the Cog Railway to the top of Pike's Peak.

Cog Railway Depot

Here's where we started our journey.


As the sign shows, it's a lot of climb. The railroad takes eight miles of track to do it in a bit under an hour. There are multiple warnings about the effects of high altitude. The railroad's gift shop sells oxygen inhalers. (We considered buying one but decided to chance it, given that we already live at 4000 feet in Fernley.)

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After we arrived at the depot, I picked up our tickets and we started exploring.

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The train heads up into these mountains.

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Behind me is the railroad's yard.

"Steam" Train

We arrived very early, which means we saw the arrival of this special train. This was intended to be pushed up the mountain by the railway's steam locomotive, but the steamer broke down and a diesel substituted for it. Their excursion went part-way up, then came back down, where the people riding it joined the train for which we were booked.

Cog Train Arrives at Manitou

Around 11:30, one of the railway's Swiss-built cog railway trains arrived at the station. We loaded into the cars, having remembered to bring water and heavier coats.

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At Noon, our train departed and slowly made its way up the mountain. We passed through forest...

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...stunning vistas...

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...and spare, bare areas above the treeline.


The grade on the railway is as much as 25%. That means that in this shot (we were sitting near the trailing end (relative to climbing up the mountain) the other end of the train is about three stories above us. Having booked relatively late, we got the less-desirable downhill-facing seats, meaning that for the entire trip (both ways) we were having to brace ourselves to keep from falling into the laps of the couple seated across from us.

It had been a pleasant summer afternoon down in Manitou Springs, but as we neared the summit we closed the windows to keep the snow from coming in.

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It was snowing when we arrived at Summit Station, and I was glad of my new jacket that we bought a few days ago. Note the end of track. It's a long way down, very fast, if you run off the end of the line.

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travelswithkuma and I posed for a photo Lisa took at the summit station sign before we repaired inside the station for hot drinks and donuts, which were most welcome. I wish I'd remembered to bring my gloves.


We'd climbed sufficiently above the clouds that the view from the top wasn't as good as you might have expected, but that was okay.

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We were up top for only about 30 minutes. I could feel the effects of the altitude, all right, but having been forewarned was able to work around them. Breathe deeply and slowly, keep drinking water, and don't over-exert.


Here's the view down the mountain from above the operator's cab just before departure.

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At the first siding below the summit, we met a uphill train waiting in the siding for us to pass.

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Farther down, gear was stacked for the use of maintenance-of-way workers.

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There are intermediate stations along the line. Sometimes hikers ride one-way (up or down) and walk the other way. At some of the stations, there are water tanks for steam trains.

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Eventually we returned to Manitou Springs, where Lisa took this photo of me next to a full-size mock-up of the gear-and-rack system used by this road.

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She also took photos of the complex track arrangements.

We took a whole lot of photos. Click through any of those above, or see my Pike's Peak Cog Railway album.

We did see wildlife, but it was elusive and camera-shy. On the way up, we saw a bighorn sheep, and Lisa saw a marmot (there are apparently many of them on the mountain). Coming down, we saw a deer. And there were lots of birds, even up on the snowy wastes near the top.

Cog Locomotive Manitou

Driving back through Manitou Springs, Lisa stopped and said I should photograph this steam cog locomotive that once pushed tourists up the mountain 100 years ago. Note how the locomotive is inclined to keep the water in the boiler from sloshing so badly that it exposes the crown sheet (which would cause a boiler explosion).

Before leaving the area, we stopped for an early dinner at a Black Bear Diner in Colorado Springs (starting level 4 in their Passport program of collecting restaurants). Lisa then drove us up to Denver. At times, we could see trains operating on the UP/BNSF "Joint Line" that parallels I-25. We skirted the Denver area on our way to the hotel in Golden, where we were happy to arrive relatively early.

This second day of riding trains was also great fun. I sort of wish we'd had maybe another fifteen or twenty minutes at the top, but given that I could feel the altitude, perhaps it's just as well that we left when we did. And after the oppressive heat driving through Kansas, I was happy to be in the snow at the top of Pike's Peak.

Tomorrow we head west on I-70, bound for Green River UT.
Tags: cog railway, colorado, pike's peak, trains

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