For a truly extraordinary experience, you do not want to miss the opportunity to ride to the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire, on the Cog Railway. You will enjoy spectacular views of New England, while experiencing temperature and climate changes on the three mile ride up to the top.
As you climb from 2700 feet to 6288 feet, the landscape can change drastically, from vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows, to blinding white, with snow falling.
The unforgettable experience on this amazing train begins at an elevation of approximately 2700 feet above sea level and ends at the summit of Mt. Washington at an elevation of 6288 feet. Having “an average grade of over 25% and a maximum grade of 37.41%,” the Cog Railway is the second steepest rack railway in the world,” and the only track built completely on a trestle. At 2.8 mph, it takes approximately 65 minutes to ascend the three miles up the mountain, and 40 minutes to descend, traveling at 4.6 mph. The entire round trip up to the top of Mount Washington takes three hours, which includes one hour at the summit.
The Mt Washington Cog Railway was the brainchild of Sylvester Marsh, who conceived the idea after climbing the highest mountain in the northeast, and thinking there had to be a better way. What is a cog railway? Between the rails of the tracks is a rack, which is engaged by a gear, called a cog. As the engine turns the cog gear, the train travels very slowly up the hill. The engines push either one or two cars uphill, with the teeth of the cog wheel pulling the train up the steep tracks.
The locomotive engines originally were powered by steam, created in wood-fired boilers. In 1910, coal was used to fire the boilers, creating steam. This steam was diverted into four cylinders, which then drove the cog gear. Within the past few years clean efficient biodiesel locomotives were added, and those are mainly what are used on all trips. Generally an early morning train is still the coal-fired engine. Prior to the introduction of the energy-efficient biodiesel engine, it took 1000 gallons of water and one ton of coal to power the train each trip up the mountain.
Only three people operate the cog, including an engineer, a fireman, and a brakeman. The engineer is the person responsible for the entire trip, but there is a fireman, who assists the engineer, and is also responsible for the fire and steam. The brakeman rides in the coach with the passengers, and his job description entails braking the train on the trip down the mountain.
The railway consists of 10 locomotives, which can be in service at the same time. During the busy hours, they run in pairs, passing within inches of each other, through solar-powered track switches. Departures are hourly, with one or more trains from early morning to late afternoon during the summer season. Tickets are $62 for adults, $57 for seniors 65 and older, and $39 for children ages 4-12. Reservations are recommended.