Colorado railway offering breathtaking views is open after years of renovation

For 130 years, visitors have made the trip to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado on a train that’s one-of-a-kind. Now, after being closed for more than three years and undergoing a $100 million renovation, it’s once again bringing travelers on a breathtaking journey.

Uniquely equipped for its winding trek through the rocky mountains, the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway is one of only two in the United States and handles grades as steep as 25%.

Between glimpses of the natural beauty that inspired the song “America the Beautiful,” the journey can be an hour-long trip to the top.

Manitou and Pike Peak Railway Cog Railroad
Spectacular scenery seen on the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway . Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The panoramic views are breathtaking in every sense. Visitors from around the world travel to see them, including the Campbell family who visited from Memphis, Missouri.

“When you come out West, and you come to Colorado Springs, it was one of the destinations you had to see,” Lance Campbell told CBS News’ Nancy Chen.

The railway is able to climb up more than 14,000 feet up because of a certain third wheel underneath the train hooks into.

“A cog railway is a railway just like any other railway, but we use a center third rail to get all our traction and braking. A typical railway, they get all their traction and braking through the outside rails,” Ted Johnston, assistant general manager of Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, said.

Manitou and Pike Peak Railway Cog Railroad
The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway train heads towards the summit of Pikes Peak. Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The cog railway was a groundbreaking system when it was constructed in 1891, as saloons dominated the local landscape. The nearby Broadmoor hotel owns the railway today.

“We believe that the Broadmoor is kind of the gateway to the American West,” said Jack Damioli, president and CEO at The Broadmoor.

As the years passed, the trains’ technology evolved with 20th-century innovation. But much of the railway’s infrastructure remained in place for more than 125 years. In 2018, it was shut down for renovations totaling more than $100 million.

“We looked at everything when we did this project. The track, the trains, the depot facility that we’re at right now. And we retrofitted some of our older equipment,” Johnston said.

The tracks were replaced for the first time since they were laid down. Three new trains and a snowblower ready to tackle the hardiest of conditions were also recently added.

As train transportation has modernized, cog railways and their parts have become few and far between. Their rarity forced Colorado engineers to look overseas for help in Switzerland’s Stadler Rail, whose trains traverse the alps.

Three years later, the railroad is reopened, all year, in any weather conditions.

“The experience of going to the summit of a 14,000-foot mountain by rail has not changed. Yes, the cars are new. The track is new. But that awe-inspiring experience, it’s all the same,” Johnston said. 

Manitou and Pike Peak Railway Cog Railroad
Conductors David Bolser, left, and Adam Clawson, right, check the time on their pocket watches as they helps get passengers aboard The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway train in May 2021.  Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images