Manitou Historic Cog Rail Car Gets the Official Boot From Woodland Station

WP Council Approves Relocation Plan to Centennial Trailhead

Trevor Phipps

Moving day has finally arrived for a used Manitou Springs Cog Railway Car that served as a mini-tourist attraction at Woodland Station for five-plus years.

With a pending development, the car “needs to go,” according to developers and elected leaders. Still, the issue has stirred mixed opinions and generated a lively discussion at a recent council meeting.

In 2018, Woodland Park’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) made the decision to acquire a used Manitou Springs Cog Railway Car and locate it at the Woodland Station property in downtown Woodland Park. The intent of the DDA was to use the empty property and attract people to the car as a mini-tourist attraction downtown, so they could take pictures and experience historic events inside the car.

But after the DDA sold the property to make way for the new Tava House development, the new property owners have decided the cog car has to go. And after researching the viability of several possible new sites for the cog car, the city decided earlier this month to provide a piece of property for free to move the car to the Centennial Trailhead, located just east of Hwy. 67 and north of Highway 24. In a recent meeting, they formalized the process by approving a resolution.

Historic Car In Limbo

Ever since the Woodland Station property was sold to the developers of the proposed Tava House development, the future of the cog car has been in limbo. The developer has said that the cog car has to be moved because it is located in the exact spot where they plan to build their new restaurant and culinary school.

But ever since the sale was finalized, a number of residents have spoken out against the forced exit of the cog car. At issue is the fact that former resident Duane Carter paid to have the cog car moved to the DDA property and group decided to name it “Myrna” as a memorial to his late wife. A petition circulating online has more than 600 signatures from people wishing the cog car would remain in its current location.

The late Duane Carter’s son, Doug Carter and his family, have opposed the forced move, saying that the family was promised by the previous DDA board that the cog car would stay at Woodland Station. In addition, Duane Carter paid more than $15,000 to have the cog car relocated there.

The family was further disappointed when the city signed a resolution to move the cog car to the Centennial Trailhead.

“We were shocked by the limited public notice and absence of the promised community engagement process,” Doug Carter said. “Promises made to my dad by the city council and DDA were ignored.”

Moving Time Looming

However, despite the pleas of residents and even with the Carter family itself urging the developers to find a way to keep the cog car on the Woodland Station property, the project developers told council that the car has to move soon. In fact, the “need to move now” verdict had city officials scrambling. They realized that they may not have the time they need to prep the spot at Woodland Station where the car is located.

During a recent meeting, Woodland Park City Manager Aaron Vassalotti gave a report on the cog car situation. He confirmed that property sale of the Woodland Station property did not include the cog car.

But as part of the purchase agreement, the developers agreed to pay the cost to move the cog car, which is now owned by the Ute Pass Historical Society (UPHS).

At the council meeting, UPHS President Donna Finicle  stated that the organization supported moving the cog car to the Centennial Trailhead, located off Hwy. 67,  if it had to be moved. “We have talked extensively about it and our position is our first choice is that we think the cog car needs to stay where it is just because of the accessibility and visibility of it to the public,” Finicle said. “It has been there a while now and there has been a quite a lot of people going by there. Should it have to be moved, then we are absolutely in agreement that the best place for it would be the Centennial Trailhead.

Councilmember Robert Zuluaga asked the city staff what the city would have to do in order to prepare for the cog car’s new site. “There would be an engineering effort that would have to go into that,” said City Engineer Ben Schmitt. “There would have to be drainage improvements, sidewalk improvements and parking lot improvements. And this was an unbudgeted expense that we would have to start now to try to get it ready in time for the cog car’s move.”

Schmitt said that they have not started the process yet. The city needs to figure out exactly what needs to be done and then get bids from contractors.

Zuluaga then raised concerns about the timeline of the process. He then asked Derek Waggoner who represents the development group when they were planning on breaking ground on the Tava House development.

“We are looking at starting grading ideally in April,” Waggoner said. When asked if the cog car needed to be moved as soon as grading for the project started, Waggoner replied, “Yes that is our front door.”

Zuluaga then asked if the developer could move it to a temporary location until the site was ready and then move it again. But Waggoner said that they will only pay to move it once since the cost will exceed $10,000.

The council then voted unanimously to pass a resolution approving the cog railway move. The city staff promised to start the process of preparing the site and figuring out how much it will cost the city. “I just suggest that we just make it happen,” said Mayor Pro Tem Kellie Case.

But Mayor Hilary LaBarre did say that if the city didn’t have the site ready when the developer wanted to move the cog car, then it would be up to the developer to pick a spot where it could be moved to. Zuluaga suggested that maybe the same contractor who completes the grading at the Woodland Station property could also help prepare the site for the cog car to make the process faster.