COBWEB CORNERS: The modern cog road

By Mel McFarland

       In 1925 Spencer Penrose approached the owners of the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway about buying the line. He already owned the Mount Manitou Incline, as well as the highway from Cascade to the Summit. The M&PP was having problems as the Simmons family aged. Zalmon, founder of the railroad company, had died just before World War I and his son was increasingly occupied with other business.
       The sale was arranged, and many of the operations were shifted to the Midland Terminal Railway, which was owned in part by Penrose. The first change was to consolidate the Manitou shop force with the MT's. All major work would be done in Colorado City's big shops. The tiny shops at Manitou would only be used for light repairs.
       Other changes were considered. A study suggested rebuilding the connection to the Midland, either at the Iron Springs station or at Tunnel 2, at the end of Englemann Trestle. The goal was to get the equipment down to the Midland's Colorado City shops. There was even talk of connecting the cog to the streetcar line and opening a new station at the loop station or using the Midland station in Manitou.
       A new vehicle was started at the Midland Terminal which would replace the steam engines. A small bus-like car was designed by the shops. It had a gasoline engine which powered the cog wheel and the railroad wheels, unlike the cog's steam engines. It could run on the Midland Terminal, the street car track or the cog railway. It was taken to Manitou and started making trips up the mountain. It suffered a few early problems with speed and power, but these were eventually sorted out. It made trips with small loads of passengers, when there were not enough to go in a bigger car. Most of the steam guys hated it, but a regular driver was found. It also had a door problem. It sat lower than the railway's coaches, and it required bending down just to get in. The seats changed when the train reached the top.
       In the 1930s the cog's business grew, even though the economy was bad. Special fares attracted many of the visitors. Over the years the fare had been a fairly standard $5 a trip, but in the rough times it was often as low as $1. The work of designing equipment to replace the steam locomotives started just before World War II, but it was almost 20 more years before the last steamer was retired.