A WINTER RIDE ON NEW HAMPSHIRE'S FAMOUS MOUNT WASHINGTON COG RAILWAY
When Ryan and I decided to head to the White Mountains to celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend I was so excited to discover that they are FULL of history. I love learning about the places we visit and when we got the chance to ride the Mount Washington Cog Railway I knew we would be in for a real history lesson. The Cog, also nicknamed “the railway to the moon,” was completed in 1869 and was built through the genius and enterprise of Herrick and Walter Aiken of Franklin and Sylvester Marsh of Campton. FUN FACT: one of our best friends is a decendent of Walter Aiken, and her son carries on his namesake! Over three miles long, this unique railway takes its passengers to the 6,288-foot summit via a cog gear and rack system - the very first of its kind!
At the time the railway was built, tourism was on the rise thanks to the rapid expansion of rail travel and “Grand Hotels” were being built all over the region (one of which being the Omni Mount Washington, where we stayed!). Marsh wanted to give travelers an easier and safer way to experience the grandeur of the White Mountains than hiking, so he set out to plan transportation via steam locomotive. In 1866, for $2000, the “Old Peppersass” locomotive was built in Boston, and by August of 1868 the railway was formally opened (with construction reaching the summit in July of 1869).
We set out for the Cog Railway’s full-service winter facility, Marshfield Station, on Saturday afternoon and luckily had beautiful weather. The skies were clear and it was not too cold, making it the perfect day for a trade ride to 4000 feet! During the winter months when the snow and freezing temperatures make it unsafe to ride to the summit, the trains will stop at Waumbek Station (or in better conditions at Skyline which is at 5500 feet). As the train engineer called “ALL ABOARD,” we followed our fellow passengers on to the train and got ready to set off on our voyage. The brakeman, who is stationed out on the front deck for the up- mountain trip to the summit and acts as the engineer’s eyes, gave us a lesson on the cog grear and rack system (not unline a bicycle sprocket and chain), and explained how they had mostly transitioned from steam locomotives to biodiesel. As we ascended slowly up the mountain, stunning vistas came into view to the north and west. We passed by snowshoers hiking along side us and skiers skinning up and skiing down. After about 20 minutes we pulled in to Waumbek Station, where we were greeted with coffee, hot chocolate, warming huts and fire pits to roast marshmallows.
While the other passengers hopped in line for their hot refreshments, Ryan and I set out to explore the area around the station. We took photos of the epic views, and even walked over to the water tank a short distance from Waumbek Station that held the water used to run the coal-fired steam engines. By the time we got back we had the warming huts all to ourselves and got cozy with some hot chocolate! We were so sad to have to head back down the mountain as it truly is such a beautiful and unique experience to see the White Mountain region from above. We can’t wait to head back out for a ride on the Cog Railway during the warmer months when we can go all the way to the “top of New England!”
If you have the chance to take a ride on The Mount Washington Cog Railway, we highly recommend it! It is the perfect activity for all ages and a great way to admire the beauty of the White Mountains!
Our winter ride on The Mount Washington Cog Railway was comped in exchange for the blog and social media coverage we provided. However I am not being compensated for this post. Thank you to The Mount Washington Cog Railway for hosting us!
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