GOING UP UP UP ON NEW ENGLAND’S MOUNT WASHINGTON COG RAILWAY

09/01/2014
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

The adventure on the world’s first mountain climbing cog railway begins at Marshfield Base Station. Buzzing with all of the activity a person would expect to encounter in an operating train station, one of the first sights a visitor to the railway will encounter is the brightly painted engines and historic coaches, jockeying for position on the platform.

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 Passengers take pictures from every angle and queue up as the boarding bell clangs and the train horns announce their arrival or departure.

A sense of adventure and history become paramount as the train begins the spectacular climb up a three-mile-long trestle to the summit of the highest peak in the Northeastern United States. Along the way, lively commentary is given by the train brakemen about the many points of visual interest, the history of the railway and the various climate zones passengers will travel through on their journey to the top of one of the most legendary mountains in the United States.

The “Railway to the Moon” as it is nicknamed, is not only the first mountain climbing cog railway in the world but also the only mountain climbing cog railway east of the Rockies. Located in the Presidential Mountain Range of New Hampshire, just three hours north of Boston, this New Hampshire icon has been in operation since 1869. It was registered as a National Historic Engineering Landmark in 1976.

The Cog operates both modern eco-friendly biodiesel and vintage coal-fired steam locomotives exhibiting both cutting-edge technology and a nod to the long heritage of the railway. The Cog’s uniquely designed biodiesel engines are built at the base station by the Cog’s own shop crew, to the specifications the mountain railway requires.

The train ascends the mountain at an average grade of 25 degrees, the extent of the trestle completely consisting of wooden and steel track. At some points along the railway, the grade intensifies to over 37 percent. The trains climb through five distinct alpine zones, ending in the Alpine Tundra. Some of the rarest alpine plants on Earth are found here, including Dwarf Cinquefoil, which grows only on Mount Washington and Franconia Notch in New Hampshire.

Mount Washington itself, at 6,288 feet, is infamous for its ever-changing weather. It holds the world record for the highest wind ever observed by man at 231 m.p.h., and is home to a mountaintop weather observatory, serving as a training facility for our nation’s future meteorologists. Due to its unique combination of merging weather patterns, it produces some of the most challenging weather in the world, specifically in the winter months.

As part of their train tickets, summer visitors can now experience what winter on Mount Washington is like in the summit observatory’s new interactive museum, “Extreme Mount Washington.” They can drive a Snow cat simulator down a snowy mountain road or see how rime ice is formed, all from the comfort of a state-of-the-art indoor space located in the summit’s Sherman Adams Building.

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