Showing posts with label Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway. Show all posts

Thursday, November 22, 2012

2012 Christmas Trains

It's Thanksgiving, and the traditional opening of the Christmas season. Since trains and Christmas have a special relationship that's deeply ingrained in American culture, it's only natural that heritage and tourist railroads run special extras during this special time of the year. Demand is often so high that some trains sell out weeks in advance, so book your tickets without delay. Here is a list and a map of the trains that are scheduled to run in 2012:

Alamosa and the San Luis Valley

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad 
ExcursionNorth Pole Express on Friday and Saturday nights until December 22, 2012. Train departs at 6:00 p.m. from the Alamosa depot. Tickets are $15 for coach or upgrade to Club for $15 more per ticket. Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas for a true North Pole Express experience

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad 
Although there were preliminary plans for the railroad to run a Christmas train, the management change late this year has prevented the formation of any concrete plans. As of now, no Christmas trains for the C&TS. Maybe next year?

Canon City

Royal Gorge Route Railroad
ExcursionSanta Express Train departing Canon City every Friday, Saturday & Sunday at 6 pm November 16-30, then every evening at 6 pm December 1 & 2, 6-9, 13-26. There will also be special daily departures at noon on Dec 1 & 2, 8 & 9, 15-24. No trains on Christmas day. Tickets start at $22 per child and $32 per adult with upgrades to dome class and first class available for the 90 minute round trip. Also, the Canon City and Royal Gorge is offering a New Year's Eve Dinner Train.

Colorado Springs

Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway
ExcursionSanta Claus Special
Reservations by phone at (719) 685-5401 with a credit card. Saturdays and Sundays, . Times vary but generally 9:30, 10:30 AM, 1:00 and 2:00 PM. Visit site to check specific dates and times as well as status. Several trains are already sold out. Make sure that your selection says Santa Claus Special, because regular trains will also be running on these days.


Colorado Railroad Museum
EventSanta Claus Special – Steam-Up Event on December 8, 15, 16 & 22, 2012 from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The train runs every 30 minutes between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. with Colorado Railroad Museum’s locomotive and a team of historic passenger cars all decked out for the holidays. The Depot General Store will offer hot chocolate, and you can mail your letter to Santa at the RPO car.


Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Excursion: North Pole Express, see featured video, Friday, Saturday and Sundays at 5:15 and 6:50 PM through December 11, and daily December 13 - 28, 2012. An additional 8:25 PM departure is available Saturdays and then daily December 14 - 23, 2012. No trains run on Christmas Day. Tickets start at $28 per child and $38 per adult.


Georgetown Loop Railroad
ExcursionSanta's North Pole Adventure, Saturdays and Sundays first three weeks of December, then December 17 - 24, 26 - 30, 2012 with departures at 10:00 & 11:15 AM, 12:30, 2:00, & 3:15 PM. Tickets start at $28.50 adults and $18.50 ages 3-15 for a one-hour round-trip train ride with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Enjoy complimentary hot chocolate, cookies, and candy canes, and the kids all take home a jingle bell ornament.
ExcursionHoliday Lights Train 4:30 PM on the same days as Santa's North Pole Adventure as well as Friday evenings. Tickets are $29.50 for adults and $20.50 ages 3-15. Santa and Mrs. Claus do not ride this train
ExcursionFirst Class Holiday Cheer Train First three Fridays & Saturdays in December Tickets are $36.50 per person for 5:45 and 7:00 departures with heavy appetizers and hot drinks.
All departures weather permitting. Complimentary hot chocolate at the Ticket Window

Use the map below for locations and directions

MAP: Colorado's Christmas Trains 2012

View Colorado Railroads Christmas Trains 2012 in a larger map
What is it that attracts us to Christmas trains?

I've asked myself many times why I am a railfan, and my only real conclusion is that people (men in particular) like big, noisy things that go fast. Something about all that mass and energy under control and guided by two lines of steel spiked down to the ground just holds my attention. It's the soot, steam and heat of a steam locomotive that provokes a certain sensory overload for me. The thrumming of a diesel as it works its way up a grade thrills me with a sense of awe and wonder. I even thrill to the sight of a caboose. I get very excited at the thought of riding a train ...any train.

That still doesn't explain why Christmas trains are so popular. Perhaps it's because Christmas was one time that taking a train meant something good, like going "Home For the Holidays." Maybe it's the compound wonder of children for two very exciting things. Could it be something else? Comment in with your thoughts on why folks are attracted to Christmas trains!◊

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Manitou Springs Evacuation Ordered

Guests at the historic Cliff House in Manitou Springs were turned out of their beds in the early hours of the morning to news of evacuation orders. Manitou is the home of the Cog Wheel Route, the Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway, along with many unmarked and marked artifacts of the Rio Grande and the Colorado Midland Railroads as well as it's successor, the Midland Terminal Railway that have survived up to now. Hopefully, the evacuations are just a precaution. The test will come later this morning when the winds pick up. If the worst happens, it wouldn't be a tragedy to lose artifacts or equipment. The real tragedy would be if human lives are lost. People are irreplaceable.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Railroads Celebrate A Colorado Christmas

The Polar Express arrives at Durango's 125 year old station

Colorado has many traditions and celebrations associated with Christmas. Denver's Civic Center, across the park from the state capitol, is lit each Christmas season with an impressive display that brings thousands to the city center on every night it's lit. Christmas stars light several Colorado towns like Castle Rock and Palmer Lake. As I've noted other years, Colorado also has a global role with Christmas as NORAD tracks Santa Claus while he travels around the world each Christmas Eve.

Also as with years before, I have a list of railroads and layouts across Colorado that host special Christmas events. This year I have them grouped by metro area. One final note before the listings: Reservations, where possible, are strongly encouraged as these events have a tendency to sell out at the last minute.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Crash on Pikes Peak Tangles Operations Over Cog Wheel Route Friday

A helicopter crashed on Pikes Peak on early Friday morning, with all four aboard injured but alive. The debris field closed the Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway, also known as the Cog Wheel Route, along with the toll road running from Cascade to the summit. The four passengers were treated and released from the hospital in nearby Colorado Springs. The railway still operated trains on a shortened route and restored service to the summit house today. The toll road is also re-opened.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How Does A Cog Railroad Work?

Visitors looking to do something to do along Colorado's Front Range don't have to look very far to find anything. Yet there is something that is uniquely Colorado right in the middle of the Front Range. Long before there was a state called Colorado, or even a Denver City, people knew of a mountain far into the Kansas Territory called Pike's Peak. The cry of the 1859 Gold Rush was, "Pike's Peak or Bust!"

Today, Pikes Peak presides over the 2nd largest city in the state, Colorado Springs. Like the settlers of 150 years ago, it is the first landmark that people from the east look for in their trek westward across the plains. Early visitors could hike to the top, and later a burro train would carry folks to the top. In 1889, Zalmon Simmons (as in Simmons mattresses) started the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway. Using a Abt rack system to climb the mountain in a fraction of the time and distance it would take a regular adhesion locomotive and cars, the railroad first began carrying passengers to the top in 1891. The cog railway saved so much time it was possible for any tourist to make the excursion to the top a day trip, turning it into the first-rate tourism attraction it is today.

Maintaining and operating a rack system makes for some interesting workings, interesting enough for Trains Magazine to use their fledgling TrainsTube service to show their subscribers and the world how the Cog Wheel Route actually works, starting with a view from between the rails at how the cog mates with the track. The video also shows one of the most curious workings: how the switching works when you have a rack in the middle that must synch up with the teeth that it connects to. It's worth the time to take a look at this Swiss and American technology that continues to prosper on Pikes Peak 120 years later.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Southern Front Range

This is the second in a series of posts about the recreational opportunities in Colorado for railroad enthusiasts. This section will focus on the...

Southern Front Range
The southern Front Range of Colorado extends south of Monument hill and roughly parallels I-25 all the way to Raton Pass. The mountains viewed along this spectacular piece of highway include the Rampart Range,
Pikes Peak -- also known as "America's Mountain" because Katherine Lee Bates wrote America the Beautiful after journeying to the summit -- and the Spanish Peaks, twin mountains rising abruptly from the plains.

Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow-Gauge Railroad - Cross between a mining train and it's "bigger" narrow-gauge cousins that has grown from relative obscurity thanks in large part to the casino gambling district in neighboring Cripple Creek. A grade, re-gauged from 3 feet to 2 feet allows diminutive trains pulled by mostly German engines to roll along a two-mile section of track just outside of Cripple Creek. This railroad could be called "touristy" and even a little "kitschy." Those looking to spend an hour aboard a "colorful" train listenting to a tour guide with a narrative will not be disappointed. Adults are $10.50, children ages 3-12 are $6.00 and seniors (65+) are given a whole dollar discount off the adult fare.
Railroad Adventures visit to this location in 1984.

Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway - Sighted by Zebulon Pike 200 years ago in 1806, Pikes Peak became a landmark for settlers travelling westward across the plains. Less than a century after it's sighting, Spencer Penrose had financed a railway to the top of the mountain that Pike believed to be unclimbable. Because most railroads lose adhesion above grades between 4% and 7%, the railway was built as a cog railway. A third rail was spiked down with stagge
red teeth that would be gripped by a cog wheel mounted on the engine's axle. The result was a railroad that was able to shove a carload of tourists to the top of the 14,110 foot mountain in half the time it took by donkey, the other popular mode of transportation up to the top.

Today, the motive power has switched from oil-fired steam engin
es to Swiss-built rail diesel cars, although steam engine #4 is still fired up for the occasional special. The train is scheduled to run all year long, but trips between November and May could be canceled due to snow or other reasons. The line is kept open using a large plow with a snowblower-type impeller. The experience is much more favorable in the summer. Click here for rates Those making the journey from out of state may wish to take note that the altitude change is significant for a few hours of travel and some have been known to experience altitude sickness. Giving yourself a day in Colorado Springs or Manitou Springs before going up, along with plenty of water and rest, will help fight it off. My own experience with altitude sickness during my first trip as a boy up this route was not a pleasant one. Take your time to make sure you enjoy it.

Off-peak rates are $29 for adults and children ages 3-12 are $16. Peak season rates (July 1 - August 20) are adults at $31 and children at $16.50. Printing an online coupon will reduce your rate nicely. The depot is located in Manitou Springs up Ruxton Ave in Ruxton Canyon.
Railroad Adventures visit to this location in 2003.

Pueblo Railway Museum - Static display museum. Like the Boulder County Railway Historical Society to the north, the Pueblo Railway Foundation has accumulated a decent collection of cars and engines and stored them in a historic railroad location, in this case the Pueblo Depot. The depot itself is largely untouched by time. Combine with this the other historic railway structures, as well as the Riverwalk and a prime location on the UP-BNSF Joint Line, and this a hidden gem for railfans and their families. Best of all, it's free.

Royal Gorge Route Railroad - When the UP bought out the Rio Grande (Southern Pacific), the merger favored the Moffat Tunnel Route over the parallel crossing of the Continental Divide at Tennesee Pass, which was "rail banked" or mothballed. The Rio Grande's hard won route through the Royal Gorge would sit unused by freight traffic after experiencing a boom when the Rio Grande acquired rights from Pueblo to Kansas City. Montana Rail Link was interested in acquiring the route, but the deal never materialized. The owners of the corporation running the trains on the Georgetown Loop Railroad were interested in running trains through the Royal Gorge. It would be the first passenger traffic this stretch of historic rail would see since the Rio Grande discontinued the Scenic Limited (Rio Grande trains 1 and 2) 30 years before.

Building on the Rio Grande's heritage, the Royal Gorge Route has former Canadian F-units painted in a scheme similar to the Rio Grande's although they haven't gotten the color exactly right. Additionally, they have a GP-7 and an SD-9, both painted in the Rio Grande's gold-and-black freight unit scheme, currently sitting in the yard at Canon City (pronounced "Canyon City). Since beginning service, the Royal Gorge Route has slowly grown, adding classes and services like dinner trains and themed excursions. New this year, they've added three full-length dome cars to the roster, purchased from Holland America Lines. Passengers will have the ability to view the suspension bridge 1,000 feet above them while sitting in their seats for the first time in decades.

Trains depart the old Santa Fe depot at Canon City weekends at 12:30 PM for a trip through the Gorge to Parkdale and back, reversing direction but not the train.
It seems the summer schedule, while scaling for demand, is difficult for the rail tourist to reckon without his calendar.

Beginning next weekend (May 21st), they will begin their summer schedule with trains every day at 9:30 am, 12:30, and 3:30. Their dinner train will run at 7:00 PM on Fridays and Saturdays and select Thursdays through the summer (click here for details). The mid-afternoon train at 3:30 PM will drop from the schedule August 20th except on Saturdays through the rest of the summer. Rates are $29.95 for adults and $19.50 for children ages 3 - 12 in coach. Upgrades are done a la carte. It's $10 extra for adults and children to upgrade to first class, and $25 above the coach fare for dome class. Lunch on board the train is roughly $40 above the coach fare and dinner is $79.95 total per person. Cab rides for those 13 and older are $99. It's a great experience for a railfan to ride in the cab with the engineer. They might even let you toot the horn for that price.
Railroad Aventures visit to this location in 2003.

Other posts in this series: