by Robert W. Bermudes, Jr.
A living museum, the Mount Washington Railway Company—or, more familiarly, the Cog Railway, or simply “the Cog”—was chartered by the New Hampshire State Legislature in 1858 at the request of Sylvester Marsh (1803-1884). The charter allowed him 5 years to build his railroad. Born and raised in
Although with sufficient means to build the Cog Railway by himself, Marsh knew the success of his endeavor required the support of local railroads to bring the passengers needed for the railway he proposed. The site of his railway was twenty-six miles from the nearest railroad station, in
With time, and an agreement that Marsh would demonstrate the practicality and safety of his railway at his own expense,
With Lyon’s BC&M shouldering a large stake in the endeavor,
Broadside Announcing Opening of the Cog
The first official passenger trip to the summit took place on July 3, 1869. In the early years, passengers arrived at the base depot by stagecoach from the local hotels, the Crawford House and the White Mountain House. That first season the roundtrip rail fare from the depot to the summit was three dollars. The roundtrip stagecoach ride from the Crawford House or White Mountain House to the base was another three dollars.
The trip to the base became significantly easier on July 4, 1876, with the inaugural run on the BC&M branchline from the Fabyan House to the Cog. With the completion of this line, the Cog Railway started to pay dividends. Up to this time, either due to reinvesting or due to lack of income, the railway had not paid dividends to its shareholders. The first year of the branchline, the Cog paid a nine percent dividend. With the completion of the branchline, the Cog Railway began to fulfill the 1866 financial vision of the railroad men who had invested in the project. By 1885, it had returned eighty-eight percent .
The Cog Railway’s founder and president, Sylvester Marsh, was pushed aside by Lyon who gained control of a majority of the stock. Marsh continued as a figurehead president, until his death, but with little real authority. This was evident as early as 1870 when the Hitchcock/Huntington party requested of Marsh the use of the Cog Railway’s summit facilities for their stay in the winter of 1870-1. Marsh stated “he had not the authority to speak for the company.” Professor Hitchcock “went to
In the late nineteenth century, the Cog changed hands several times as the railroads of
While the B&M was an excellent steward of the Cog, Henry Teague significantly updated the operation. In the last year of the B&M management (1930), the Cog was still running on a timetable used during the stagecoach days; two roundtrip trains a day. In the depths of the Depression, with most passengers arriving by automobile, Teague added more trains to the schedule. In 1932 there were five trains departing the base between 8am and 4pm. In 1933, there were seven departures between 9:30am and 5:50pm, and by 1939 there were nine trains a day between 6am to 6:30pm. For those without automobiles, Teague arranged for buses or limousines to pick up passengers at the local hotels.
Business grew sufficiently so that, by the mid-1930s, Teague toyed with the idea of double-tracking the mountain to get more trains to the summit each day. The 1937 opening of the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway put that idea to rest. The tramway enabled visitors to quickly ascend to the summit of
When Henry Teague died in 1951, he bequeathed the railway, (then valued at $167,000), to his alma mater,
One of the best things she did to ensure the long-term viability of the railway was to hire Edward M. Clark (1924-2009) as general manager at the close of the 1973 season.
Clark and Sanders introduced two other Cog “firsts.” During their tenure, the “speeder” was developed to quickly move workers up the track (one is still in use as of 2010) and the “Spirit of ’76,” a diesel-powered locomotive for work crews was constructed. Unfortunately, this forward-looking locomotive was not credited as the labor- and time-saving device it would later become. In part due to this, Mrs. Teague fired
Ellen Teague sold the railway in 1983. A group of
The most notable change at the Cog Railway since its inception has been the introduction of diesel-powered hydraulic locomotives into regular passenger service. The first one ran in 2008. Two more diesel locomotives followed in 2009, and an additional one in 2010. Built in the Cog shops, these locomotives are powered by 600-horse-power John Deere diesel engines driving hydraulics. Burning about eighteen gallons of B20 bio-diesel fuel each trip and carrying just one crewmember, the engineer (the fireman is no longer needed to shovel coal) the diesels are cost-effective, faster, use less fuel, create less pollution, and promise the benefit of less maintenance than their coal-fired forebears.
Into The Mist, 2003 Photo by the Author
The several books written about the Cog do not begin to touch upon the wealth of Cog-inspired mechanical- and human-interest stories.
Cog Railway Photos, Page 1