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After 132 years, the Cog Railway is still bringing passengers to the top of Pikes Peak

The Cog Railway climbing to the top of Pikes Peak.
Ben Armendariz
Rocky Mountain Community Radio
The Cog Railway climbing to the top of Pikes Peak.

Pikes Peak, also known as America's Mountain, is an iconic American landmark.

The 14,115-foot mountain has an incredible history, going back to Katharine Lee Bates, who was inspired to write America the Beautiful after her visit.

The Cog Railway is the world's highest cog railway and carries passengers to the summit of Pikes Peak year-round using three trains that carry up to 263 passengers per trip, and four rail cars that carry up to 214 passengers.

Ben Armendariz spoke with Brian State, a conductor on the railway.

Brian State: I'm a conductor here at the Cog Railway in Manitou Springs, Colorado.

Ben Armendariz: So what do you do here, what does your day-to-day look like?

Brian State: So it's my job to make sure that we get up and down and following the guidelines to riding the trip up to Pikes Peak. But at the same time, I'm going to give them a history of the Cog Railway as well, just kind of make light of things and show them landmarks, and just kind of fill them in about the land and everything else about the history of the Cog Railway.

Ben Armendariz: Can you think of or give me one of the coolest things that comes to mind right away when you think of like the illustrious history of the Cog Railway here?

Brian State: Well, I'll tell you what, it was quite the visionary of the gentleman, Zalmon Simmons, who was the original owner and founder of the Cog Railway, to invest $1. 5 million into bringing passengers up to the top of Pikes Peak, just for the sole purpose of getting to the peak so they could reach the summit.

This is what happened in 1891 when the first passenger train summited the top of Pikes Peak.

Just that vision that they did was quite the vision.

It must have been a super popular mountain that everybody wanted to hike up and get to the top of that. They said, 'Hey, we can make a buck if we could just bring passengers up on on a train?'

But it's great. I mean, the history of the Cog Railway is just fascinating, I'm here from Colorado Springs, so I'm a native around these lands, so I could introduce everybody to my Pike National Forest, which is my backyard, which I get to do. So I love it, I'm just having a blast doing it.

Ben Armendariz: If you could think of or say your favorite part of this job, what do you think it would be?

Brian State: Interacting with the people. I think my favorite part of the whole experience is actually going through the train at the very end and doing the question and answering just because you get to meet all kinds of people from all over the world. And they're just intriguing, people are intriguing.

Ben Armendariz: What do you think maybe might have been the coolest thing you've seen going up and down in the four weeks you've been doing it?

Brian State: The coolest thing, I've seen the golden eagle twice since I've been doing it for four weeks, I think that's been the coolest thing. Besides some of the flyovers, where I'll have some of the fighter jets from the Air Force bases around here.

Those are pretty cool because you can see them at eye level.

I'm trying to catch one on my phone right now. As a picture of that, that'd be pretty cool, but the golden eagle by far is the most majestic animal and impressive thing I've seen up here.

This story was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.

Ben Armendariz is studying journalism at CU Boulder.