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Cog Railway closure will have widespread impact

Missing Cog

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The Cog carried 300,000 visitors to the summit last year. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The Cog carried 300,000 visitors to the summit last year.
In an unexpected turn last week, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, which had stopped operating for maintenance over the winter, announced it would not resume operations in the spring, or, perhaps, ever again.

A statement on the Cog’s website said it wouldn’t reopen this year, “or for the foreseeable future.” It went on to say “the railroad has undergone a major evaluation and it has been determined that the infrastructure and equipment has run its course. The railroad is in the process of determining next steps and action plans for the future.”

The cog carried 300,000 visitors to Pikes Peak’s summit last year, reports Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain manager Jack Glavan. He says the new Summit House project, which could start construction this year or next, includes a platform for the Cog on the new Summit House’s lower level, which serves as a way for disabled people to access a part of the peak. Even if the Cog doesn’t resume, “We’re not going to eliminate anything at this time,” Glavan says. “I’m still optimistic they’re going to run. They’re a good partner to us, and I don’t see any reason to change our design at the moment.”

How closing the Cog will impact tourism is unclear, but the closure might affect outdoor recreation on the peak. The Cog is a transportation system, and many Barr Trail hikers use it for the return leg of their hike to the summit, saving their knees from the rigors of a long downhill trek. Those hikers also invariably stop at Barr Camp, the approximate halfway point on the trail. Whether stopping in to take a break, chat with the caretakers or spend the night on the way up or back down, Barr Camp is an essential way point — often life-saving — for people venturing on the trail, and the Cog has been a vital part of the camp’s operations.
According to Barr Camp board member Ann Nichols, the Cog has delivered supplies to the camp — for free — for years. This winter, when the Cog wasn’t running passenger trains, it continued to deliver supplies via the “work train,” Nichols says. Barr Camp’s board of directors and caretakers didn’t know as of March 16 if supply runs would continue. The board, Nichols says, is exploring options of getting supplies to the camp; hiking is the only other way to the camp.

Other groups that utilize the Cog include Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates, which relied on the Cog to deliver people and equipment while they were building the Lake Moraine Trail (formerly the Missing Link trail) last year. According to MWTA president Cory Sutela, the Cog provided a valuable service for free, helping to make the long awaited trail a reality. With a few more months of work to be done on the trail before it’s completed, Sutela says the possibility of not having the Cog available will impact that work, though he’s not sure to what extent. At the least, he anticipates the group might have to rely more on contractors to complete the trail, targeted for later this year.

The Cog also shuttles volunteers and supplies, again for free, to an aid station at Barr Camp during events like the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. It’s not known how the shutdown will impact these two events.

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