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USA: New Hampshire: Castle in the Clouds, Kancamagus Highway, Lakes Region, Mount Washington, The Flume Gorge
Mount Washington, New Hampshire, USA: Railway to the moon
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
The beauty of the mountains and the thrill of ascending the Northeast's highest peak are just as enchanting today as they were in 1869, when Sylvester Marsh opened the world's first mountain-climbing railroad on New Hampshire's Mount Washington.
I was exploring the fall foliage of the New England States in the USA. After exploring The Flume Gorge, I began my drive towards Bretton Woods. In just under an hour I was at the Base Station to board the world’s first cog railway. If you are depending on your car’s GPS, I strongly suggest you to follow a map instead. The tracking in the mountainous region is very poor and you could land on the other side of the mountain from where the station is! The best way is to follow US-302 and look for the Cog Railway sign. Whilst coming from The Flume, you would need to take a left at the sign. The station is about 6 miles away.
The mountain is known for high velocity winds and fog. Sadly, the weather for the day was bad… rain, fog and winds prompted the railway management to cover only three fourths of the distance to the peak. Trains leave at regular intervals. The first one at 8:15 in the morning is pulled by a steam engine. The rest of the day diesel engines do the chore.
Nearly 150 years later, the Mount Washington Cog Railway continues to provide a sense of adventure and history as it carries passengers up a 3-mile-long trestle and the steepest railroad tracks in North America to the 6,288-foot summit of Mount Washington. Weather permitting, the visitors can take in the spectacular panoramic view, spanning the mountains and valleys of New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, north into Canada, and east to the Atlantic Ocean. However, for me, that was not to be.
Sylvester’s dream began in 1852 when, after becoming lost near the summit of Mount Washington, Sylvester Marsh knew that there had to be a better way for people to reach the highest mountain peak in the Northeast. Upon his return home, he immediately started working on a plan to build the world's first mountain-climbing cog railway.
Marsh, a native of Campton, New Hampshire, had made his fortune in Chicago's meat-packing industry and was considered by his contemporaries to be a creative and innovative thinker. However, upon first presenting his idea to members of the New Hampshire Legislature, they laughed at Sylvester Marsh and said that he "might as well build a railway to the Moon."
Undaunted, Marsh began the task of building his mountain climbing railway, along with inventors Herrick and Walter Aiken, a father-and-son team from Franklin, New Hampshire. The task was not an easy one, as equipment and materials had to be hauled by oxen for 25 miles to Bretton Woods, and then another six miles through thick forest to the base of Mount Washington. But on July 3, 1869, 'Old Peppersass' became the first cog-driven train to climb 6,288-foot Mount Washington.
I opted for the 2:30 train ride. That gave me time to enjoy the lunch at the Base Station restaurant and explore the museum too. Tickets can be purchased in advance but seats are not reserved. It’s a good idea to be seated in the front left-hand side of the coach. I believe, that position gives a good view of the tracks, the valley and the mountain.
By 5PM I was back and on my way to Jackson. My halt for the night was to be at Eagle Mountain House & Golf Club.
Mount Washington Image Gallery Photo viewer
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