Fountain Valley News - Your Hometown Community Newspaper

The Incline


October 31, 2018

I find it interesting that there are hundreds who walk up the old Mount Manitou Incline track bed, who do not even know that it was a strange railroad. Even before it was open to the public, it was a challenge to go around the No Trespassing signs. Those who worked in the parking lot at the cog railway were often entertained by those who started up the path. The Manitou Fire Department still has to rescue people who really should not try it!

This story is from 1948, some 80 years ago, when the incline was celebrating being there for 40 years! Claude McKesson was the honored guest, but he was also one of the first people up it. It was built to haul pipe for a water line for Colorado Springs. He entertained the officials of the El Pomar Foundation, owners of the incline, with stories of the first day. One "classic" was how no one would ride in the first car up, even though a huge crowd had gathered. Once the officials and a few brave souls made it up, AND down, they started to make the ride. The trip cost $1 on the 4th of July, 1908. The cost of the ride was reduced, and that too made it easier to "take their lives in their hands."

The original, "wooden" cars were made in Denver, using parts from the original "freight" cars, which hauled the pipe up a similar track. The cars were open, and it did not take long to discover they needed a roof, when it rained, and hailed. It was several years later before a canvas top, which could be retracted was put on the cars. Over the years several sets of cars replaced older cars. In the end the last cars were aluminum, and the roof came out when it rained.

The attraction even saw visitors from all over, including a group of state governors who were visiting at a convention. Early on the idea of taking pictures of each car load was started. Just below the top of the line a stand was built, and a photographer would get a picture of the car, just before it got to the top. Each trip had a number, and later the pictures were available at the station at the bottom. Many of these were made into post cards, to be sent home to family. During World War II riders were often soldiers from Camp Carson. After the war riders still thronged to the mountain, some had come to ride to the top of Pikes Peak on the cog railway, but could not get a seat, and went up Mt. Manitou instead. In the 1960's ridership started to decline, and by the 1970's occasionally the railway crew were the only ones on the car. The line was closed mainly from the lack of riders. There was a rainstorm that destroyed the spot where the two cars passed, and that was the real end. It set unused until the track was finally taken out. It was not discovered by the hikers right away, and now! If only they were there to ride those last trains.


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