The Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway, Colorado Springs, is a railway which climbs the steep slope of a mountain 4302 meters high to the summit. With a sprocket which is mounted by a special path in the middle of the traditional ways, is the highest cog railway in the world and works since 1891.
Train travel, even in the XXI century, they retain a certain “do not know what” and a romantic air of other times. The sense of motion is pleasant, the sound of the buzzer excited and, in some cases, the journey can take a lot of adrenaline if it is the highest cog railway in the world: the Manitou & Pikes Peak. This particular railroad is located in the Pikes Peak, the most visited mountain in North America (and the second most visited in the world after Mount Fuji in Japan), 16 km west of the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado. While you can reach the summit by car or on foot (by the Barr Trail) the most striking is undoubtedly on board this train, a distance of 14 miles, climb up to 4302 meters.
What is a cog railway?
The first trains in the mountains, like those of Switzerland, born with a purely tourist order, or enjoy majestic views from the summits. In contrast, those who crossed the Andes were an essential tool for social and commercial linkages. But whatever their role, everyone had the same problem: to climb steep slopes. This had two options: reduce the slope or using zippers systems to increase the adhesion between the locomotive and the rails. Conventional trains move using the friction of the wheels on the tracks, provided by the force of the locomotive. In contrast, acute climbing rack pending use a toothed wheel that is on a special path (mounted in the middle of the traditional ways). These trains are different from the cable cars because they, rather than a central gear, have a cable.
The trip delay, round trip, just over 3 hours to do 15 miles. The first part of the journey is steep and runs along Ruxton Creek in Englemann Canyon. Here the path follows a slope that falls in the middle of a forest of fir and Ponderosa pine. The routes pass close to huge rocks on either side of the train, thanks to erosion and imagination of the passengers, they become funny faces and figures. A little further on are small Minnehaha Falls.
Photo by Peter Shanks
After a steady rise in the field level is right where there is a rock formation known as the “Gate of Hell.” A few minutes later the train passes through “Deer Park (Deer Park) where you can sometimes see deer grazing. Upon reaching half the way, Mountain View, you can see the summit of Pikes Peak. From there the road turns to be steep and the train climbs again taking backdrop of Moraine Lake and Mount Almagre. What is interesting here is that they look or Britlecone Longaeva Pinus, the oldest living trees on earth. These pines exceed 3 thousand years old and are neither very high nor very wide. Its bark is thin yellow orange and scaly, its wood is hard and resinous (ideal to withstand pests and diseases) and their dark green leaves are very resistant needles. By far, this tree looks dry by his twisted trunk and no leaves. This unattractive appearance is the result of the extreme conditions in which they live and, indeed, the poorer habitat live longer because it has fewer natural enemies that can withstand such an environment.
As the train continues its ascent, the view becomes larger and the vegetation disappears. Here survives the alpine tundra with mosses, herbs and tiny wildflowers. As for wildlife, here bighorn roam and lots of marmots. These cute creatures hibernate in the summer but often sunbathe on the rocks and emit a peculiar whistle when they sense danger. The last few kilometers before reaching are amazing, offering an excellent view. To the east are the Great Plains beyond the border between Colorado and Kansas. The South will see the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (the southernmost string of the Rockies), almost reaching the state of New Mexico and west is the Collegiate Range.
Once on top, the train and going down, you feel the cold even in summer. If the day is clear you can see the skyscrapers of the downtown of the capital of Colorado. You can stay on top than half an hour to tour and take the obligatory photos because if you stay longer many begin to feel the effects of altitude (headaches or nausea). At the top is a tearoom and a souvenir business, in high season, home to about a thousand people a day. Up there one is surprised so widely. Everywhere you look the horizon is endless and the great mountain ranges form a perfect model. At the summit, 4302 meters high, you feel a microscopic dot and realizes from above has come “on board a train”.
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