We were driving up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Snowbird and we had forgotten just how steep that climb can be. This reminded us of a comment that Summit County Council member Roger Armstrong made during a meeting, upon his return from a Mountain Accord trip to Switzerland. He had commented that the pitch in the Cottonwood Canyon was likely too steep for light rail. Therefore COG Rack trains would be needed.
We didn’t understand the significance of that comment until we were speaking with a neighbor. He confirmed that COG Rack trains were probably the only thing that would work due to the grade. He also asked the question whether we knew how slow they were?
So we decided to Find out. It appears that the maximum speed of a COG Rack train is 15 miles per hour, or they run the risk of “dislodging from the rack.” The COG Rack train servicing Pikes Peak goes 9 MPH. While we would guess the Pikes Peak Route is steeper, we can’t imagine the train going much faster than 10 MPH. That would be about a 2/3 slower than we drove the canyon today. That also means a ride from the bottom of the canyon to Brighton would take an hour, without any stops. Likewise going all the way to pcmr would tack on at least another 15 to 20 minutes, making that a long, slow ride
We were also wondering how their avalanche control would fit into a world with a train. Many times the canyon is closed because they have to move the snow off the road, after they’ve done control work. How does that work getting snow off the Rack Rail?
While there are likely benefits to a train up the canyon and many times cars aren’t going fast up the canyon, reality probably isn’t quite what we pictured. We envisioned the light rail train, flying up the mountain… much like we see it going out to the airport.
If built, this railway will likely be much different than that.