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COBWEB CORNERS: Changes in early cog railway plans

By Mel McFarland

Oct. 13, 2017
       I enjoy reading the old papers. I enjoy them even more when I read about ideas that did not work out the way they were planned.
       This is from an an article that came out in 1889 when the Pike's Peak Cog Wheel route was being built:
       "Despite the disadvantages the contractors have had to labor under occasionally, B. Lautry and Co. did the grading, employed 1,000 men for this work alone. The road bed is 15 feet wide, and the rails will be of steel, standard gauge.
       “The Baldwin Company has a contract for the engine to be used on the Cog Wheel line. The engines will have three cogs, running into the rack rail in the center of the track. The principle of the rack rail will be running in the center of the track. Four cars will form a train, the Pullman Company having the building of these under contract. They will be observation cars.”
       Well, that was not really what the engines would turn out to be. The company had been looking at a cog engine that was built for down in South America. In fact, there is a picture that turns up now and then of one of these locomotives lettered for the Manitou and Pikes Peak. Never happened. The locos built for here were quite unique, with two (not three) cog gears gripping the center rail, and in the first 10 years of the line they would be rebuilt to look totally different.
       A year later, in 1890, crews were working with the intent of finishing the line by the middle of June. “The yard of the Colorado Midland's Iron Springs depot presents a novel sight,” a news article at that time reported. “The first Pike's Peak engine has been dismounted from its railroad shipping car and stands on its own
This photo, likely taken in the early 1900s, appears on Page 39 of the 1983 book, "Pikes Peak Trolleys: A History of the Colorado Springs Streetcar System," by Morris Cafky and John A. Haney, with the following cutline: "Looking downgrade, Ruxton Avenue. With the motorman, no doubt, winding up the handbrake as tightly as possible to keep his car under control, a Manitou Railway & Casino eight-bench car drifts downgrade at the Iron Springs Pavilion." The streetcar carried passengers and equipment between downtown Manitou and the cog station.
Horace Poley Photo, E.J. Haley Collection; from "Pikes Peak Trolleys"
wheels at the foot of the grade, in position for movement up Ruxton to the railway. The rails, bridge-iron, wheel barrows and tools for construction have been unloaded and stacked up all around the station. An army of one hundred and fifty men are today at work building the track on the new road. Some of these are working on the grade of the spur track being laid from the Midland road to the terminus of the cog railway, about a quarter mile away, some transporting tools by trains of mules where needed and others bending rails for the curves.”
       This must have been a really interesting sight. But it would be yet another year before the road was ready to go to the summit of the mountain.
       The Colorado Midland's station at Iron Springs is long gone. The old Midland bridge over Ruxton was removed in the 1960s, but the stone abutment on the west end of it still stands. There is no sign of where the builders put the spur from the Midland that went up to meet the cog track, but it probably was where Ruxton splits in two on its uphill side, near the Iron Springs Chateau.
       From 1895 until about 1930, a streetcar line up Ruxton Avenue, the Manitou Railway & Casino Company, brought passengers to the cog railway station and also hauled up much of the cog's new equipment. Today that equipment comes in or goes out on flatbed trucks!

(Opinion: Cobweb Corners)

       Editor's note: Local historian Mel McFarland has been writing his Cobweb Corners column in the Westside Pioneer since 2004. To see past columns, go to the Pioneer's Archives. Either look for desired articles under the Cobweb Corners category for any year, or search by keywords in the Find box.

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