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Railroads America - Up Pike's Peak

( Originally Published 1927 )

Captain Zebulon Montgomery Pike, commanding a party of soldiers, guides and Indians who were exploring the Rocky Mountains in 1807, recorded in his journal on November fifteenth that "at two o'clock in the afternoon I thought I could distinguish a mountain to our right, which appeared like a small blue cloud.... In half an hour they appeared in full view before us. When our small party arrived on the hill they with one accord gave three cheers to the Mexican mountains."

The explorers remained in sight of that mountain peak that was like "a small blue cloud" for many days. Pike climbed some of the mountains, but not that particular peak, which was snow-clad, bare of vegetation, and twice as high as those he ascended. He stated it as his opinion that "no human being could have ascended to its pinnacle."

This mountain—named Pike's Peak in honor of its discoverer—towers up in the Rockies, not far from the present city of Colorado Springs, to a height of 14,147 feet above sea-level, and commands a view of 100 miles over a rugged country that contains many lakes and the headwaters of four great rivers, the Platte, Arkansas, Rio Grande, and Colorado. Rich deposits of gold were found in the neighbor-hood of its base in 1858 and attracted many miners. The peak long resisted the efforts of climbers; but railroad surveyors and engineers have fought their way up the mountain and have built a track to the top.

The Pike's Peak Railway, which was opened in 1890, is the longest cog-wheel road yet constructed. It starts at Manitou Station, on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad; Manitou is 6000 feet above the sea; from there the road rises some 8,000 feet to the summit by a track a little less than nine miles long, with an average gradient of 19 feet in 100. The road-bed is solid, and from fifteen to twenty feet wide. At spaces of 200 feet the rails are anchored to substantial masonry in order to prevent any slipping. Each locomotive has three cog and pinion appliances, which can be used together or independently; in each cog there is a double pinion brake and either one of these can stop the locomotive in ten inches, up or down the incline, and when travelling at the maxi-mum speed allowed on the road. The passenger car, which is always placed on the down-hill end of the engine, is supplied with separate brakes.

From this railroad one has a superb view of the Garden of the Gods and the great plains to the east, and to the west a panorama of the soaring snow-capped mountains that make up the Continental Divide. The train runs along steep precipices and finishes with a straight climb on a gradient of 25 feet in 100 to the topmost point of Pike's Peak.

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