Conventional railroads use the friction of wheels upon the rails, called “adhesion”, to provide locomotive power. A cog, or rack, railroad uses a gear, “cog wheel”, meshing into a special rack rail (mounted in the middle between the outer rails) to climb much steeper grades than those possible with a standard adhesion railroad. An adhesion railroad can only climb grades of 4 to 6%, with very short sections of up to 9%. A “rack” railroad can climb grades of up to 48%, depending upon the type of rack system employed. Some Swiss trains use a combination of “rack” and “adhesion”. This enables the trains to reach much higher speeds on the adhesion sections (rack railroads can not go much faster than 25 miles per hour or they run the risk of dislodgement from the rack rail- M & PP Ry.’s top speed is about 9 MPH).
The first cog (or “rack”) railway was built in New Hampshire in 1869, but the Swiss were quick to make use of this technology, and numerous rack railways were built there. Indeed, Switzerland is still the country where most rack railways are located. The Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway is, however, the highest rack railway in the world as well as the highest railway in North America and the Northern Hemisphere. The M&PP;Ry. has a perfect safety record!
The Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway uses the Abt rack system. The maximum grades are 25%, which is about the upper limit for the Abt system. Many rack railroads use the Riggenbach system, also called “ladder rack”. The steepest co
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