History of the Manitou Springs Cog Railway

Why Is There a Cog Car in Woodland Park?

Trevor Phipps

America’s Mountain (AKA Pikes Peak or Tava) has always been a staple in the Ute Pass region ever since Native Americans used to traverse the lands.

The mountain and the region then gained new fame when explorer Zebulon Pike saw the mountain and coined it “unclimbable.”


Years later, the mountain became a popular spot to climb and experience the exquisite views. Once the area began getting more populated, visitors desired to find an easier way to scale the 14,000+ foot gigantic mountain.


According to the Manitou Springs Cog Railway website, the idea of building a train to the Pikes Peak summit started when tourist Zalmon Simmons visited the region. Simmons traveled to the summit to check on one of his inventions and it took him two days on a mule. He knew there had to be a better way to share the beautiful views with the world.


“Word has it he was relaxing in one of Manitou Springs’ mineral baths after his return, when the owner of his hotel mentioned the idea of a railway to the top, and the rest, as they say, is history,” the cog railway’s website states.


The Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway Company was founded in 1889 and construction began immediately. Three steam-powered locomotives built in Philadelphia got delivered in 1890 and in the train’s service in the early days was limited to the Halfway House Hotel.


In fact, the first time the train would make its trip to the summit was on June 30, 1891 with a Denver church choir on board. “This was actually the second attempt, a previously scheduled group of dignitaries had to turn back earlier in the day because of a rockslide at around 12,000 feet,” the website reports.


By 1925, Spencer Penrose, the owner of the Broadmoor Hotel, purchased the railway to add it to the Broadmoor family. They then introduced gasoline and diesel-powered locomotives to the lineup in the 1930s.


Then during the 1960s, tourism increased and the railway needed more equipment. The General Electric Company was not interested in the project so they requested railcars from the Swiss Locomotive Works in Winterthur, Switzerland.


In the 1970s, tourism and demand to ride to the top of America’s Mountain grew even more. In 1974, the railway reached back out to the Swiss company to acquire diesel-hydraulic articulated railcars that could carry more than 200 people.


But then after 126 years of operation, the cog railway car had to cease operations in the spring of 2018. Serious upgrades were needed.


Then in May 2021, the cog railway opened up with new cog cars. People can still ride to the summit during most of the year.


Woodland Park Gains a Historic Cog Railway Car


When the cog railway had to shut down for maintenance, they got all new cog cars for the trek up the mountain. Therefore, they offered to give away all of the old cog cars to anyone who wanted them, as long as whoever gained the cars paid the cost to move them.


Woodland Park’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) in 2018 heard the news and wanted to jump on the chance to have a piece of history for the Woodland Station property. The DDA then found the late Duane Carter to chip in over $10,000 to have the cog car transported from the cog railway station in Manitou Springs to Woodland Park.


The day the cog car arrived to town, the view of the cog car coming into town drew a decent crowd. The car was placed on the Woodland Station property close to Bert Bergstrom Park.


A grand opening ceremony was held for the car where Carter announced that he wanted to help bring the cog car to town as a memorial for his late wife Myrna. The cog car was then dedicated to Carter’s late wife and given the name “Myrna.”


Currently the cog car has sat on the Woodland Station property since 2018 and many visitors are spotted taking pictures in front of the cog car with a picturesque view of Pikes Peak behind it. However, due to the land recently being sold, the developers of the new Tava House have said that they wish to move the cog car to another location.


The cog car is now owned by the Ute Pass Historical Society (UPHS). According to DDA President Tony Perry, it is now up to UPHS to determine a new home for the cog car. However, the cog car will most likely have to be on city property. As a result, local officials have pinpointed a couple of possible locations.  They plan to reach out to the community to get feedback as to where the cog car should be relocated.