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Manitou Incline - a timeline
"The Incline Smile."
Locals and tourists in the Pikes Peak region have been enjoying it for more than a century. These days, the smile is harder to earn, as hundreds (perhaps thousands?) of hikers and runners climb the 1-mile trail, gaining 2,000 feet of elevation, on the former train tracks.
The train was barely shut down when, in the early 1990s, fitness buffs began using it for training. Though it has long been illegal to use, the Incline has become the most popular trail in the region. This year, after more than a decade of talks, the trail will finally be legally opened. Below is a timeline for the popular attraction.
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. The ride takes 16 minutes.
1914: The summit station burns down and is quickly rebuilt.
1923: Spencer Penrose buys the Incline to made 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.
August 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 runner Matt Carpenter, begins running up the Incline on Thursday afternoons, helping to spread its popularity.
1999: The Cog Railway, owner of a third of the tracks, puts up the first signs prohibiting trespassing, which are quickly torn down.
2000: Cog managers put up more signs and a rope to try to restrict access, to no avail. The Incline Club puts a halt to its runs up the trail.
2004: A small band of runners quietly begins 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 guide book 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 easement-like 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: Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs city councils approved 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: 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.