The First Whistle Was Heard on Mount Washington

cog railwayMOUNT WASHINGTON-April 21st was opening day for the Spring season of the Cog Railway. At the ticket lobby, a world map showing where people came from to visit was on the wall. Visitors can grab a pin and mark where they are from. It took several hours to pull all the pins out from last season.

“A lot of people visited us from Africa, all the European countries, as long as the United States, like Alaska, California, all kinds of stuff,” Thomas Lane, marketing manager of Cog Railway said.

The Cog Railway is the first mountain-climbing train in the world. The founder, Sylvester Marsh, came up with the idea about the train in 1852. Marsh initially build the train not for trading or delivery, but rather for fun. In 1869, The railway started to get built in the western slope of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288.2ft. Thus, when Marsh decided to build this railway, people described this train as the “railway to the moon”. At that time in history, society had not yet invented the airplane. So building a railway to help people climb the mountain to the summit was Marsh’s goal.

Because of the high altitude, the change in temperature between the bottom and the summit is surprisingly large. Even in the summer, the highest temperature on the summit was 72F in August 1975. Tourists have to take their jackets for preparation, many feel the view is worth it. On the top of Mount Washington, a 360-degree view offers sights even into Canada. “All kinds of wonderful views, you can see the hotels, the motels,” said Lane “Wow’ will be the most and the first word to be heard on the summit.”

The initial trains to reach the top were steam trains. The wheels under the train were only for stability, and all the power came from steam engine. It drove one sprue gear to move. Then, the sprue gear motived the cog train. The cog’s teeth are connected to the rack rail, and the teeth of the wheel gear into each other to generate power. Also, beside of the cog, there is another gear called the ratchet gear. This gear is in charge of stopping the train and is connected with the brake in the driving room.

The cog train keeps its balance throughout the trip There is a way can make sure the cog train to keep its balance through a tank of water inside the train, which acts as a counterbalance to keep the train steady. As the train climbs the mountain, the tour guide offers visitors to try and stand up, which would be met with difficulty as the angle gets steeper.

Nowadays, steam trains have been taken over by new diesel engine trains. They can handle 99 gallons of diesel fuel. A round trip can cost between 17 to 19 gallons, thus, the new train can do five runs per day before needing to refuel. Compared with steam trains, these new engine trains have bigger power, and are more environmental friendly. But in order to respect the tradition, during each day in the summer there will be two-turn steam trains that send people up to the mountain.

Because of the weather conditions in the first day, the Cog trains did not climb to the summit of Mount Washington. The trains only stopped at a shelter half way, with hot cider and a fire pit prepared to keep visitors warm. At the top of the mountain was a man imitating Sylvester Marsh, complete with matching attire, to welcome everyone with a tip of his hat. Even though the weather stopped the train early, the clear day let everyone see the beautiful towns of faraway New Hampshire, and people still let off a “wow” upon seeing the sights.