New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Cog Railway just celebrated 150 years of doing the impossible on July 3rd of this year. That marks the date that, 150 years ago, cog steam engines successfully reached the summit of Mount Washington, becoming the first mountain-climbing railway in the world. Here we are 150 years later, still being able to take the cog up the mountain!
The train leaves from the Marshfield Base Station where you’ll find a free Cog Railway Museum, a gift shop, the the Peppersass Bar & Restaurant and restrooms. Head downstairs to board on the platform (A, B or C) that’s printed on your tickets.PRO TIP: Use the bathroom at the base station before boarding the train up because there are no restrooms on the train. There are a few up at the summit, though, so make sure you use those before you board to come back down.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway
On the scenic ride to the summit of Mount Washington, there is a guide who will tell you about the sites along the way as well as interesting information about the Cog. Each ride (up and back down lasts about an hour), but it doesn’t feel like it AT ALL because there is so much to see along the way.
Seriously, you can’t beat the views on the way up:
Once you get to the summit, you’ll have about an hour to explore. You’ll get to enjoy a 360° panoramic view of five US states, Canada and the Atlantic Ocean from the summit. The Sherman Adams Visitor Center is up at the top of Mount Washington and don’t worry there are restrooms, a gift shop and a small snack shop inside there. There is also an awesome observation deck on top, and that’s where you’ll have the best views.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway, also known as the Cog, is the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway (rack-and-pinion railway). In the late 1850s, Sylvester Marsh had the idea to build a railroad to the top of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, the tallest mountain in New England. At the time Mount Washington had become famous around the world, depicted in paintings. Marsh’s idea was a stretch for the technology of the period, and was met with ridicule and disbelief from state legislators and railroad officials. New Hampshire native, Marsh thought to build the railway after being lost near the summit of Mt. Washington. He worked to give people an easier way to visit the summit of Mt. Washington.
On July 3rd, 1869, the Mount Washington Railway officially opened to the public and it was one of the greatest engineering feats of the century. For reference, this was just under two years after the opening of first transcontinental railroad in America and President Ulysses S. Grant actually rode on the Cog Railway later that summer.
PRO TIP #2: Bring a sweatshirt with you when you go to the top of Mount Washington. It was 47 degrees up there on the day we went, but 88 degrees back down on the ground.
Speaking of being back down on the ground, we happened to experience the Cog Railway on the 3rd, which was their actual 150th anniversary, so we got to check out the day-long celebration at the Base Station. They had BBQ off the truck from Smokin’ T’s of Lancaster, NH, and birthday cupcakes by Love At First Bite Bakery of Whitefield, NH. Plus there were Victorian lawn games and a live acoustic guitar performance. It was a really nice little “birthday” party.
The Cog runs trains up to the summit (and back down of course) several times a day all summer long. For more information about The Cog Railway or the full schedule, please visit thecog.com or call 603.278.5404. The Mount Washington Cog Railway is located on Base Station Road, at Marshfield Station, 6 miles from Bretton Woods NH and Rte 302 (but note that it’s not in your GPS so follow the directions they have on their website to get there). Booking in advance is advised and note that there are special fares for children and seniors.
If you’re in northern New Hampshire and you’re looking for a unique experience, the Mount Washington Cog Railway is definitely something you should add to your list. My family had the absolute best time and I know yours will, too.