Timeline: Incline History Winds Through a Century

A steady stream of hikers climb the Incline as the sun rises over Colorado Springs Tuesday morning Aug. 12, 2008. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The popular Manitou Incline trail has a long and storied history. Here’s a look at the changes over more than 100 years.

  • 1906: Colorado Springs builds a train to haul pipes up the side of Mount Manitou to the Ruxton Hydroelectric Plant.
  • 1908: A local entrepreneur buys the land for a tourist train, with cars hauled by a cable.
  • May 9, 1912: The train opens, but the public is skeptical of its safety. After the fare is reduced from $1 to 50 cents, people begin riding it. The ride takes 16 minutes.
  • 1914: The summit station burns and quickly is rebuilt.
  • 1923: Spencer Penrose buys the Incline to make it part of his tourist attraction empire.
  • 1958: The summit station is rebuilt.
  • January 1990: Citing declining ridership and rising costs, owners Oklahoma Publishing Co. and El Pomar Foundation close the train. Its last year saw 45,000 riders.
  • April 1990: A rockslide causes $100,000 in damage to the tracks, ending hopes for it to be reopened, despite the fact 35,000 people sign a petition for the train to return.
  • December 1993: Members of the AdAmAn Club train for their annual New Year’s Eve hike up Pikes Peak by hiking the Incline.
  • 1997: The Incline Club, formed by legendary trail runner Matt Carpenter, begins working out on the Incline on Thursday afternoons, helping to spread its popularity.
  • 1999: The Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, owner of a third of the tracks, puts up the first signs prohibiting trespassing. The signs quickly are torn down.
  • 2000: Cog Railway managers put up more signs and a rope to try to restrict access, to no avail. The Incline Club puts a halt to its organized workouts on the trail.
  • 2004: A small band of runners quietly begin talks with the Cog, U.S. Forest Service and local officials in an attempt to legitimize the trail.
  • 2006: “Best Loop Hikes: Colorado” becomes the first guidebook to include a description and directions to the still-illegal trail.
  • 2008: A deal is announced for the Cog Railway to get a long-term easementlike agreement to use a small parking lot at the upper end of Ruxton Avenue owned by Colorado Springs Utilities. In exchange, Colorado Springs would get an easement for a trail along the Incline. No money would change hands.
  • March 2009: The Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs city councils approve working together on a management plan for the Incline, though little progress is made as local officials wrestle with a budget crisis and other distractions.
  • December 2009: Great Outdoors Colorado announces a $70,500 grant to the city of Colorado Springs, coupled with a $25,000 donation from philanthropist Lyda Hill’s foundation, to come up with a management plan for the Incline.
  • June 2010: A host of public meetings are held to draw up a management plan for the Incline.
  • October 2010: A draft management plan is released, detailing how the Incline, once legally opened, will be managed.
  • March 2011: The Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs city councils approve the plan.
  • June 2011: The U.S. Forest Service informs local officials there is no federal railway abandonment document showing the Manitou Incline and Scenic Railway, owned by the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, legally abandoned the Incline right-of-way, putting a halt to the process.
  • August 2011: An Incline Friends group forms, a cadre of volunteers to help oversee and maintain the Incline.
  • February 2012: Both cities approve an inter-governmental agreement for managing the trail, with 13 conditions that must be met before it can be legally opened.
  • Jan. 8, 2013: The Colorado Springs City Council approves legally opening the trail.
  • Jan. 10, 2013: President Barack Obama signs into a law a bill to resolve the railway abandonment issue.
  • Jan. 29, 2013: The Manitou Springs City Council, satisfied the 13 conditions have been met, approves legal opening.
  • Feb. 1, 2013, 7:05 a.m.: It officially becomes legal to hike the Incline.
  • Aug. 18, 2014: The Incline is closed for $1.5 million in repairs, including replacement of ties and stabilization of the steep hillside.
  • Dec. 5, 2014: The Incline reopens.
  • Dec. 21, 2015: Joseph Gray, 19-time U.S. National Mountain Running team member, breaks Manitou Incline fastest known time, summiting in 17 minutes, 45 seconds.
  • Aug. 22-Dec. 2, 2016: Manitou Incline closes for a second round of repairs. The $1 million dollar project will repair and replace retaining walls, clean up debris, continue drainage improvements, stabilize existing railroad ties, and stabilize the parallel slopes.
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