Cog railway open, expecting a bad summer

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway carried tourists to the top of “America’s Mountain” for the first time Thursday since the Waldo Canyon fire broke out Saturday afternoon.

“Our phone has been ringing off the hook since we made the announcement this morning,” said Dave Donatto, traffic manager for the cog. “The reaction has been really positive.”

He said the cog had reservations for 450 train passengers going into the day and another 430 passengers who showed up without reservations brought the day’s total to 880 passengers. That was a pretty good turn-out, Donatto said.

He said he suspected there were a lot of vacationers who have been stuck in their hotel rooms the last few days. Pikes Peak is one of the biggest area attractions, he said. And the cog is the only way up since the road is closed.

The train and Pikes Peak also offer good views of the fire. One TV station has put up a time-lapse series of fire photos from a camera atop the peak that shows the end of the cog tracks, which Donatto said he thinks has given the cog some extra publicity.

“A lot of people just want some normalcy back,” he said. “A lot of people are evacuated or have lost their homes. They’re anxious. I think they just want some normalcy.”

While turn-out was good, Donatto said it was down by more than 50 percent.

“Normally around this time, we would expect maybe 2,000,” he said. “We don’t expect that again for the rest of the summer. We figure business is going to be way down.”

Donatto said he would be surprised if the cog reached normal capacity more than a couple times during the rest of the summer.

He didn’t know if there would be any layoffs, but he didn’t think there would be. He said natural attrition would probably take care of any extra staff.