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Is Mountain Accord’s Plan for a Train Built for A Different Kind of People?

Sometimes you want something so badly that you ignore reality in order to fool yourself into thinking that it will work.

We’ve learned more about trains in the last few weeks than we ever thought we would (and 6 of my uncles used to drive/ride trains for Union Pacific).

  • We’ve learned that it likely won’t be high speed rail, like Trax, going up Little Cottonwood.
  • We’ve learned that Cog Rack and Pinion rail will likely be necessary to go up a steep hill like the Cottonwoods.
  • We’ve learned that a Cog Rack train travels between 6 and 16 mph. Pikes Peak’s Cog Rack train  averages 9 MPH.
  • We’ve learned that Brighton is almost 1900 feet above PCMR.
  • We’ve learned that a train won’t likely be able to come down the grade between Brighton and PCMR in a straight shot. It will have to switch back and forth.
  • We’ve learned that it will likely take about 2 hours to go between the base of Little Cottonwood and PCMR via the train.

Yeah, we guarantee we knew nothing of that in January. Yet, a conversation we had this weekend With a Friend of the Rag, causes us to ask even more questions.

He asked, “How does snow get removed from the tracks? They must have it figured out because they do it in Europe.” That’s another question we knew nothing about, so we researched it. It appears that a “plow engine” clears the track for Cog Rack trains. Here is Engine No 22 at Pikes Peak.


According to, this engine allows Pike Peak operations to open the mountain after most storms. Of course, they are closed five days a week in the winter.

So, we imagine something similar to this “500 horse-power, 12-cylinder Cummins diesel engine” will be used as part of the Mountain Accord. Our question is, how long will this actually take to plow the track up the Cottonwoods in the Winter? After Avalanche Control and track plowing, will the road open at 11AM on a good snow day? Will the road open before the railway? Will the plow slow travel during the day, if there is significant snow?

The reason we ask is that we’ve heard it can take 2-3 hours to get up some of the slopes in Switzerland via rail. Now we see why. More importantly, would that timing work here?

We’ve travelled Europe and there seem to be an innate patience there, not often duplicated here. Vacations are long and tolerance can be high. People in Switzerland may be willing to get to the mountain a few hours later than your average Utahn… Do fresh tracks exist at Alta at 10 AM?

We wonder if Mountain Accord’s hopes and dreams may be stronger than their logic. The current plans seem to fly in the face of the old “Quickstart” program where you could ski for free on the same day you flew into the SLC airport. In this case, you fly in today and ski a half day tomorrow.

It just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. As they say, “Hope is not a strategy.”


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