Manitou Springs, Colorado

The Mount Manitou Scenic Incline Railway

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The former right-of-way of the Mount Manitou Scenic Incline Railway is clearly visible as it climbs the side of Rocky Mountain. Photo by Mike Palmer, May 2009.

The Mount Manitou Scenic Incline Railway was first built in 1907 to assist in the construction of a hydroelectric plant and its infrastructure near the top of Rocky Mountain. Not originally intended to be a tourist attraction, it nevertheless had potential for scenic views from atop its peak, and thus was renamed to Mount Manitou Scenic Incline Railway. It continued operating as a scenic railway, taking visitors to the top of Rocky Mountain (the actual name of the mountain on which the line ran, Mount Manitou, is over a mile away), at a height of 8,600 feet, until a rock slide shut down the operation in 1990.

Today, its former right-of-way is still clearly visible. In order to stabilize the mountain and prevent significant erosion, the original wooden ties were left in the ground, and they still remain to this day. At the top, the concrete platform on which the passenger station was built also remains. Also visible is the steep 68% grade in the middle section of the line. Others report that a boiler from one of the original steam engines used to power trains on the line (via tow cable) still lies at the top of the mountain. The route is a popular destination for joggers and climbers; however, the land on which the route lies is private property and those doing so are considered trespassing.

The Mount Manitou Incline Power House: One of the pictures shows the interior of the Mount Manitou Incline power house. In the center of the picture is the unique "Double Bull Wheel". The rear wheel is attached via a 8" driveshaft to the gear reduction box. Between the gearbox and the drive motor, a large looping hose that connects both calipers of the disc brake system that was used is visible. The drive motor is a 100HP 440v AC motor similar to those used in elevators. To the left of the picture is the original electric motor that was used from the early 1900s until it was replaced in 1976. In the background is the operators control panel. The telephone you see was connected to the lower station and was were the engineer received the "All Clear" to start the train. The engineer could not see either car, once the top car broke over the 68% grade. It's not easy to make out, but to the left of the window, is a large gauge that ran from the floor to the ceiling. It was geared to the cable and displayed two red needles that let the engineer know the position of each car during the run.

Bob Driver describes his experiences: In extreme fog, I used a stop watch to time the run in order to know when the cars should be slowing down to enter the station. 14:37 mins/secs from the start, the train would hit an automatic switch and go into "creep mode" and start slowing down in order to enter the station. Many a foggy day, I could not see the incoming car until it reached the end of the loading platform.

In 1977-78 I worked on the Mt. Manitou Incline during my summer breaks from UCCS. The summer of 1978, I actually lived on top of the mountain in a cabin provided by the Incline. I was the Operating Engineer. The Incline went through its final refurbishment starting in spring of 1976 when the original "Drive System" was replaced by a modern ski lift type drive. In the spring of 1978 the cars were replaced with their final version. Contrary to what has been posted on other internet sites, the original 1906 cars (undercarriages) were still operating in 1978. The pictures you see of the various versions of the cars were all "rebuilt" versions on the original 1906 chassis.

In 1978, the original 1906 cars were replaced by all aluminum cars built by the Herron-Wright Company of Denver. Herron-Wright specialized in ski lifts. The picture is of the #1 car being replaced after 72 years in service. The man in the suit that can be seen leaning against "Old #1" is Thayer Tutt. Thayer Tutt was the President of both the Mount Manitou Incline and the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. I believe he was also CEO of Holly Sugar at the time.

Mr. Tutt gave me this picture himself. As the Operating Engineer, I was in the power house at the control panel on top of the mountain at the time this picture was taken. The group of men you see at the end of the flat bed trailer was the installation crew from Herron-Wright. After #1 was attached to the main haul cable, a second truck arrived with the #2 car. I ran Old #2 down the mountain on its final trip and it was replaced in the same manner and they both passed into history.

During those two summers, I was a 24 year-old college student making $2.65 per hour. Not much money, but I can honestly say, that was the most fun job I've ever had in my life. The "Incline" was a major tourist attraction at the time and I met 1,000s of people during those two summers from all over the world.

Bob Driver
Douglasville, GA
10/8/2010

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This is a great article and i've never seen a picture like the on you have. Good work!

Christian Bentley
Kirkwood, DE
4/19/2011

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I worked at the incline 2 summers, 1973 & 1974 as conductor and relief ticket sales. Working there at the time with me were Paul Lewis, Steve Cisco, Dean Van Gundy (engineer), Pauline Mack (Upper Concession), Rosey and Margaret Olsen (Lower Concession), Jeff, Wayne Olsen (engineers), Richard Tijerina, and others I'm sorry I've overlooked. Janice and her parents took photos from the same position as antique photos. Many, many memories. It's sad the trams are no longer running.

L D Yetter
Denver, CO
7/7/2014

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