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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
This is another train being staged for a trip up to the top.
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.
This is the other side of Peppersass.
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.
This is a train coming back down from the mountain.
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.
This is one of the railway’s new biodiesel engines.
By now, a considerable crowd has gathered and is waiting in line for the old steamer.
And here it comes! I like this purple color a lot!
In a few moments, the conductor says “All Aboard!” and we begin boarding the train.
This family was first in line, and then we’re next!
We got seats right up front so we can get the best possible photos for you, our loyal Readers!
It only takes a few minutes for everyone to get seated and fire up the steamer! Soon, we’re on our way!
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?
Just sit back and enjoy the leisurely ride! It sure looks like a long way to the top but the ride was very pleasant.
Notice the black hat in the right bottom corner:
Both Brakemen ride in the front and inspect the tracks as we go along. In this photo the center cog rail is very discernible.
We have been going up a mild grade when we come to a crest.
On the other side of the crest is a water tank.
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.
The elevation of this water tank is 3,800 feet, or 1,158 meters high.
It only takes a few minutes to fill the boiler and get it started up again. Soon we’re on our way again.
This shot shows the cog rail in the center of the track.
Further up the line, the tracks merge again at another switch.
From here, a large portion of the rail line is visible, winding it’s way up the mountain like a giant snake.
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.
What a beautiful day for a train ride!
Notice how the trees appear to be tilted too. This illusion is quite common in mountainous regions.
Now the terrain becomes more interesting as the trees get smaller and smaller. We can see longer distances up the line.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
We’re on the last leg of our ascent to the summit.
This is our first glimpse of the summit.
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.
Soon we’re back on our way.
The main summit building comes into view.
On a clear day like today, the other peaks in the Presidential Range are clearly visible.
Each cross member in the trestle is numbered.
When people hear the steamer coming, they always gather by the tracks for a look.
This guy works for the railway I think. Notice the smoke in the air. This is coming from our coal-burning steam engine.
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.
Now, we’re going up the last little bit to the summit.
People are gathering to take a look at the steamer.
One of the brakemen jumped off the train to go get the steps for passengers to disembark.
Once on top, we disembark and take a look around.
This being the tallest mountain in the entire region, and I being a geek, naturally I took some photos of radio antennas.
Here it is – the officially surveyed summit of Mt. Washington.
This is the geodesic marker for the summit point.
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!
At the summit is the Tip-Top House, the first hotel at the summit.
I took photos of the signs so I wouldn’t have to type it all!
These are bunks in the Tip-Top House.
And this is the main dining room.
The exit sign wasn’t here back then, but everything else appears to be genuine.
The kitchen. Lots of cast iron in this kitchen!
This is called the “Yankee Building” but I’m not sure what it’s for.
There is an amateur radio repeater here too on 146.655.
The day we went up happened to be one of the best days ever!
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.
This is our steamer train taking a break at the summit. We only had something like 35 minutes of time at the summit.
Notice how the boiler is tilted to compensate for the grade.
This is a shot of the cog mechanism on the engine.
And this is a closeup of the actual cog gear that engages the track (on the coal car).
This engine’s name is Waumbek.
The summit of Mt. Washington is a state park.
They say on a clear day you can see 5 states from Mt. Washington.
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!
This is a shot inside the main building. You’ll have to visit yourself to see any more!
Information about the state park.
A last look around….
Soon it will be time to descend down the mountain….
We got in line for the decent. This time we sat in the middle of the passenger car.
The inside of the car features this lovely wood construction.
Once everyone is loaded, we’re off!
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?
Inside, the brakemen carefully manage the brakes as we head down the mountain.
I managed to get a shot of Marshfield Station from the passenger car.
On the way down we passed another train going up. Everyone was waving and taking photos of each other.
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.
This is an example of the cog system used on the Mt. Washington Railway. The small gears engage the large gears,
which are on a shaft with the main cog gear that engages the track.
This is the story of Peppersass, the first engine on the railway.
A few minutes after we arrived back at the station, Waumbek went to have the coal car refilled.
It was the end of a perfect trip up the mountain….
We went back to our hotel before going shopping. This is my favorite shot of the Mt. Washington Hotel.
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!
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