New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

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Photos by MJ Klein & Hui-chen

Part of the 2010 USA Trip Series

Dear Readers, we took a fantastic trip up to the top of Mount Washington on the Cog Railway.  We have over 100 photos to show you in this article, so get ready to go along with us as we head up the mountain!

New England: Back to New Hampshire

Not far up Route 302 from the Mount Washington hotel is the road that leads to the Cog Railway.  I won’t bore you with too many historical facts about it.  You may click on the link and read about it on Wikipedia if you like.  If you’re in the Mt. Washington area, it’s worth the trip up to the top of the mountain via “the cog.”

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

As we drive down the road to get to the cog, we get our first glimpse of Marshfield Station.  The trains depart for Mt. Washington from this station.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

We purchased our tickets on their website and getting them from the ticket window was totally painless.  This is the first train that we saw getting ready to depart the station.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

We bought tickets for the “steamer” an old genuine coal-burning steam train.  It departs from platform “A” (visible in this photograph at the large “A” sign).  As you can see there is only one person standing at the A platform so we were early enough to get a front seat in the passenger car.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is another train being staged for a trip up to the top.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is a photo of “Peppersass” the first engine used on the cog railway.  We’ll show you the details of the sign so you can read them, later on in this article.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is the other side of Peppersass.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This water tower is used to fill the boiler of the steam trains.  Notice the date: 1866.  The cog is a real piece of history.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is a train coming back down from the mountain.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is a closeup shot of the cog system that enables the trains to climb up the steep tracks.  We’ll have a few more photos and some explanation of the cog system later on in the article.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is one of the railway’s new biodiesel engines.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

By now, a considerable crowd has gathered and is waiting in line for the old steamer.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

And here it comes!  I like this purple color a lot!

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

In a few moments, the conductor says “All Aboard!” and we begin boarding the train.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This family was first in line, and then we’re next!

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

We got seats right up front so we can get the best possible photos for you, our loyal Readers!

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

It only takes a few minutes for everyone to get seated and fire up the steamer!  Soon, we’re on our way!

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Almost right away we have to climb a grade.

Oh, before I forget – we used our GPS during this trip and we geotagged all the photos.  By clicking on any photo you can go to the Flickr site and get the location information for the photo.  Those coordinates may be used in Google Earth or Google Maps and other applications to see exactly where we were at any given point in time when the photograph was taken.  Pretty cool, huh?

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Just sit back and enjoy the leisurely ride!  It sure looks like a long way to the top but the ride was very pleasant.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Notice the black hat in the right bottom corner:

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Both Brakemen ride in the front and inspect the tracks as we go along.  In this photo the center cog rail is very discernible.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

We have been going up a mild grade when we come to a crest.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

On the other side of the crest is a water tank.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

The steamer requires a certain amount of water in the boiler to make it to the top of the mountain.  The required amount of water is more than the boiler tank holds, so the boiler must be filled again on the way up.  This is a spring-fed water tank.  Notice the switching mechanism that allows one train to fill while another train passes.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

The elevation of this water tank is 3,800 feet, or 1,158 meters high.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

It only takes a few minutes to fill the boiler and get it started up again.  Soon we’re on our way again.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This shot shows the cog rail in the center of the track.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Further up the line, the tracks merge again at another switch.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

From here, a large portion of the rail line is visible, winding it’s way up the mountain like a giant snake.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Notice this optical illusion.  The grade is so steep that level objects such as this building, appear to be leaning forward.  This building is exactly level.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

What a beautiful day for a train ride!

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Notice how the trees appear to be tilted too.  This illusion is quite common in mountainous regions.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Now the terrain becomes more interesting as the trees get smaller and smaller.  We can see longer distances up the line.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is the famous Half-Way House, which marks the 1/2 way point up to the summit of Mt. Washington.  Just like the previous building, the Half-Way House is exactly level.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This rock is what people call “the other Old Man of the Mountain.”  The original Old Man suffered a catastrophic collapse on May 3, 2003.  This is a small rock outcropping with a reflective backdrop behind it for easier viewing.  When you ride the cog, the brakemen will announce when the train is approaching so you can get your camera ready.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

As we were boarding, we heard the brakemen discussing the difference between sitting on the left side of the train (where we were) and the right side.  Apparently there is a 4,000 foot dropoff on the left side.  Notice in the photos that the track seems to be positioned to the right of center.  This is because the passenger car overhangs the tracks on both sides, and our seats are actually off to the left side.  In certain areas of the line where the track trestle is tall, our seats seemed to be hanging in free space.  I’m sure this seemed unnerving to some passengers, but we thought it was cool!

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is one of those areas.  Notice that dead center of the photograph is the ground, far below the track.  We experienced the sensation of floating above the ground several times during the trip.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

All along the track are pieces of lumber left over from repairs to the trestle.  It makes sense but I didn’t really think about it until I saw it all along the length of the line.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New Hampshire is known as “The Granite State” for good reason!  Now that we’re above the tree line we can really see the mountain topography.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

We’re on the last leg of our ascent to the summit.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is our first glimpse of the summit.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is the only switch on the line that isn’t automated, so the brakemen must manually check to make sure it’s in the correct position.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Soon we’re back on our way.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

The main summit building comes into view.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

On a clear day like today, the other peaks in the Presidential Range are clearly visible.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Each cross member in the trestle is numbered.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

When people hear the steamer coming, they always gather by the tracks for a look.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This guy works for the railway I think.  Notice the smoke in the air.  This is coming from our coal-burning steam engine.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

The white marker is a memorial to Lizzie Bourne who died right at that spot while trying to hike up Mt. Washington.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Over the years, the mountain has claimed a number of lives.  There are several markers, remarkably near the summit, where people perished only a short distance from inhabited buildings.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Now, we’re going up the last little bit to the summit.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

People are gathering to take a look at the steamer.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

One of the brakemen jumped off the train to go get the steps for passengers to disembark.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Once on top, we disembark and take a look around.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This being the tallest mountain in the entire region, and I being a geek, naturally I took some photos of radio antennas.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Here it is – the officially surveyed summit of Mt. Washington.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is the geodesic marker for the summit point.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

The above 2 photos are control points for the summit marker.  I know, these are very geeky photos!  I was a field engineer for decades and used GPS and topographic maps frequently.  I’m very familiar with these type of control markers.  So these are the kinds of photos that a former field engineer takes when visiting places!

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

At the summit is the Tip-Top House, the first hotel at the summit.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

I took photos of the signs so I wouldn’t have to type it all!

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

These are bunks in the Tip-Top House.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

And this is the main dining room.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

The exit sign wasn’t here back then, but everything else appears to be genuine.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

The kitchen.  Lots of cast iron in this kitchen!

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is called the “Yankee Building” but I’m not sure what it’s for.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

There is an amateur radio repeater here too on 146.655.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

The day we went up happened to be one of the best days ever!

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This building is for the stage line – which is a group of vans these days.  If you don’t want to take the cog or drive up, you can ride in a van to the summit.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is our steamer train taking a break at the summit.  We only had something like 35 minutes of time at the summit.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Notice how the boiler is tilted to compensate for the grade.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is a shot of the cog mechanism on the engine.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

And this is a closeup of the actual cog gear that engages the track (on the coal car).

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This engine’s name is Waumbek.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

The summit of Mt. Washington is a state park.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

They say on a clear day you can see 5 states from Mt. Washington.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

I’ve been to the summit when it was totally socked in with clouds, so today was really a spectacular day to enjoy those magnificent views!

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is a shot inside the main building.  You’ll have to visit yourself to see any more!

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Information about the state park.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

A last look around….

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Soon it will be time to descend down the mountain….

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

We got in line for the decent.  This time we sat in the middle of the passenger car.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

The inside of the car features this lovely wood construction.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Once everyone is loaded, we’re off!

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

You can see Waumbek spitting some water, as the engineer smiles at the brakemen in the passenger car.  He has a great job, don’t you think?

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Inside, the brakemen carefully manage the brakes as we head down the mountain.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

I managed to get a shot of Marshfield Station from the passenger car.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

On the way down we passed another train going up.  Everyone was waving and taking photos of each other.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is a shot of the Mt. Washington Hotel, way off in the distance.  All too soon, we were back at Marshfield station, where we took a few more shots before leaving.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is an example of the cog system used on the Mt. Washington Railway.  The small gears engage the large gears,

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

which are on a shaft with the main cog gear that engages the track.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

This is the story of Peppersass, the first engine on the railway.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

A few minutes after we arrived back at the station, Waumbek went to have the coal car refilled.

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

New England: Mount Washington Cog Railway

It was the end of a perfect trip up the mountain….

New England: Mount Washington Hotel

We went back to our hotel before going shopping.  This is my favorite shot of the Mt. Washington Hotel.

New England: Shopping for Coach

Previously I mentioned that we found a Coach outlet nearby.  This is what we bought from the outlet.  We sure do enjoy shopping when we travel!

Thank you so much for reading!  We welcome your comments, recommendations and retweets below.  Just under the article is the Share This! service that is so convenient for sharing the article on social media and email, etc.

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23 comments

  1. Pingback: MJ Klein
  2. WOW… nice pics along the cog railway. I’ve been to the top of Mt Washington a few times… but I’ve never taken the cog railway up… always driven up the auto road. Looks like you had some GREAT weather for your trip to the summit.

    Last time I went to the top of Mt Washington was back in the early 90’s. It was like 85F (about 29c) in the Boston area… 72F (about 22c) at the base of the mountain… and 50F (about 10c) at the summit (along with 30 to 40mph or about 48 to 64kmh winds). It was cloudy with off and on rain showers. Operated some VHF (6m and 2m) FM and SSB up there. Had some nice 2m SSB contacts… 6m was dead (no one on). Talked back to the Boston area with an HT 🙂

    Seeing those pics makes me want to go back up there.
    mike01905´s last post ..2010 Topsfield Fair

    1. thanks Mike. you should go back up there. it’s a very cool place but it’s getting too cold to go up there this year. i remember working the repeater up there years ago. fun! take care.

      1. Yeah… its getting a bit cold up there now. Sunday afternoon I looked at their observatory’s website to see how the weather was…. and at the time it was like 28F/-2c with 45mph/72kmh winds (as of Monday morning at 8:20am EST/8:20pm in Taiwan its 17F/-8c, 51mph/81kmh winds, -7F/-22c windchill at the top of the mountain and snow/ice is on the windows so you can’t see what their webcams see).

        I’ve been hearing on the news that with the last rain storm that came thru the Boston area.. has left the mountains “snow capped”. So the auto road to the top should be closed for the winter and I have no idea when they stop running the cog rail up there.
        mike01905´s last post ..2010 Topsfield Fair

          1. One of the local TV stations encourages people to send in pictures and during the weather they’ll show one of the pictures and call it their “pic of the day” (I submitted a pic once and had it used).

            The “pic of the day” today was sent in by someone from North Conway, NH. It was the Mt Washington Cog Rail. They said it was taken on Monday (Oct 18th) and they said the cog rail had to turn around at spot called “Jacob’s Ladder” as there were 2 foot (about 61cm) snow drifts. It was 18F/-8c there that day

            So it looks like the cog rail is still running to the top of the mountain… but it looks like snow will affect its operation.
            mike01905´s last post ..2010 Topsfield Fair

  3. Your pictures are terrific. Made me feel like I had taken the trip up the mountain. I copied some of them since the weather was so bad the day we were there and we missed out on the trip.

    I had to laugh at all of the purses. I love Stone Mountain leather purses from Georgia. I do not have that many, but when you are so far away, you HAVE to stock up.

    1. thanks Carolyn. we wanted to give our readers a good idea what it would be like to go on the cog for a ride. hopefully people will read this article and want to ride it themselves. i didn’t mention in the article that some of those purses were for HC’s sisters and some friends, so not all of them were for her! lol take care Carolyn.

  4. Great pictures as usual. Enjoyed your commentary. Makes me want to go there too. Your purchases at the Coach Outlet reminds me of my last trip to the U.S. We bought Christmas presents for our extended Taiwan family.

    1. thanks Tom, we’re glad you enjoyed the photos and commentary. i always try to keep the commentary on the light side! we hope you get an opportunity to ride the cog because it’s an unforgettable experience. take care.

  5. Great photos MJ. During one of my stays at Mt. Washington Hotel, I took the cogway up. True the sights are amazing, but for my not liking sitting in one spot for a while, the 90 minute ride seriously tried my patience.

    Glad you enjoyed the scenery and could share, as mom says, our time the summit was clouded over.

    Michael
    Michael Cannon´s last post ..Road biking Gurgaon’s PedalYatri Manger trail

    1. hey Michael, how are things in India? you are missed here in Taiwan! thanks – we didn’t mind the ride up because we were occupied with the photos but i do understand what you mean. it’s slow going up the mountain. i only regret that we didn’t have much time at the summit. thanks Michael and take care!

  6. Great photos!! Nice commentary to go along with them. I have lived in NH almost my entire life and never been up there, but now I want to go! lol Maybe next summer I might have to plan a trip! Thanks for bringing us along as usual!

    Danielle

    1. thanks Danielle. this is exactly why we do the photo essays, so people will get to see what it’s like to go along with us 🙂 it was our pleasure. you really should plan a trip up the cog for next summer! your kids would love it! take care.

  7. Looks like a place I would enjoy to visit! Great pictures and an interesting read. I appreciate the tech and engineering stuff, as well as the view.

    Digression: For me as a European it’s a bit odd when you say something from 1866 is “a real piece of history”. I’ve got 900 year old church ruins just 10 minutes walk from my home. It’s been a ruin for over 400 years. And there are 2500 year old rock carvings a few km from here.

    Then again, some Egyptian or Chinese might show up here to point out just how little time a millennium or two is. Cheers! 🙂

    1. hi Gunnstein. i’m sure you would have liked taking the old steamer up the mountain too. good point about the time line of history. it’s all relative! the history of the US didn’t begin until Europeans decided to go there and set up shop. 1866 is pretty old for US history but it’s nothing compared to other parts of the world, as you point out. it would be very cool to have those ruins so close to home! i would enjoy exploring them. thanks for your comments and take care.

  8. Bonjour MJK. I was looking for you and found this page, I noticed that you were not too far (relatively speaking of course) from here at this point and time 🙂 HOW ARE YOU ? I hope to hear from you soon. Ciao 4 now,

    Sandra (montreal bound) !

  9. Mj what an excellent day, that would be a great way to spend time. The photos are excellent as always, you capture how beautiful this place is.

    The feeling of hanging or floating on nothing would have been a buzz.

    Reading about Lizzie Bourne and how she died so young was sad, especially knowing they were so close to safety.

    Thanks for sharing MJ as always you have taught me something else about this wonderful world I didn’t know about.
    Brunty´s last post ..Khao Yai National Park Thailand

    1. hi Brunty. yes we did have a perfect day for this trip to the summit. i’m sure you would have enjoyed riding the old steamer and sitting on the outside overhanging the rail! yes it is sad about Lizzie Borne, but Mt. Washington has a long list of victims that have succumbed to it in the course of hiking to the summit. one just has to keep in mind that it’s a dangerous place and to take the appropriate cautions. thanks Brunty.

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