With the new year’s winter coming on, I thought this April 1927 story of opening the railroad up Pikes Peak would be interesting.

I started working on the railway just before it started running year-round. At that time, it was typical to try to start going to the summit in May. But if the weather was good, the railway always wanted to start earlier. In very dry years, they might get up in March or April, but if you have been in the area long, you know we can get big snowstorms then, too. This was probably one of those years.

Two men, James Amess and Axel Simonson, were snowbound on the summit of Pikes Peak. A storm had blown in. With few provisions, and little coal, they had to wait a long and chilly time for the cog railroad to plow out the road.

Fred Morath, who was then president of the AdAmAn Club, said that if necessary, the club could organize an expedition and make the climb to take them food. For a while it was possible to communicate with the men by telephone, but when the wires were broken by the weight of heavy snow there was no way to communicate with them.

Amess was manager of the summit house for Stewart Brothers, which operated it for the railway, and Simonson was an employee. The two went up on the first cog train after the road had been opened by plowing through the drifts that had accumulated there over the winter. They were left there to get ready for business. Then came the snowstorm that blocked the road. There was reported to be two feet of snow on the peak, and winds blew it into big drifts.

No attempt was made to reopen the line and rescue the men until the weather settled down. If more snow came, the situation would be made much worse. The AdAmAn Club did not make a trip to rescue the men, but finally the cog railroad was able to get a train up to the summit. Amess and Axel Simonson were found cold, but not starving. A few emergency accommodations were always left in the building, and they were nearly finished with those. A few pieces of furniture had been sacrificed for heat, and they were very happy to hear that train arrive.

There were two summit houses back then. The other serving the highway. It was still closed. The official opening of the railroad and the highway waited another month that year.

Hopefully, we escape big storms again this year, but, as is said, “we always need the moisture.”

E.M. “Mel” McFarland is an artist, historian and railroad enthusiast. He is a Pikes Peak region native and has written a handful of books and guides highlighting the area’s rich history. Contact Mel at mcmidland@yahoo.com.

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