Brrr and a Fabulous Ride on the Cog Railway

There was much excitement this past Friday.  The day had finally arrived for the fourth grade to head to Mt Washington and ride the Cog Railway.  Each year there is a contest where the class produces a tourist video with the first prize being a free trip on the Railway.  We didn’t think we’d win as our teacher won last year but lo and behold the kids won!  And it wasn’t an understatement to say the parents had to be quick off the mark to get in as a chaperone.  I got my form in immediately.  🙂

Fortunately the mountain was far enough that we could ride a coach bus rather than a school bus.  Much nicer.  Here is the approach to the mountain from inside the bus.

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Mt Washington is the highest peak in the northeast at 6288 ft.  At home the temperature was a high of 71F/22C while the high at the summit was forecast to be 38F/3C with a wind chill of 16F/-9C.  Winds were predicted to be 55-65 mph with gusts up to 75 mph.  If it gets to 80 mph the trains stop running.  We dug out our winter wear for the trip.  So glad we did!

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The engines were from John Deere and run on bio diesel.  They do have a steam train but that only runs first thing in the morning. I was disappointed as I love steam trains.  This is the first and oldest running cog railway that opened in 1869.  The state government thought it was a joke but approved it because they didn’t have to provide funds.  Joke was on them as it was hugely popular.

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If you look closely you can see the rails going up the mountain.  The first coach was open air with benches bolted into the base.  Halfway up they would stop and pass out blankets and warm drinks for the rest of the ride.

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They would even bring up skiers  to ski down the side of the rails.  It would be black snow because of the coal.

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This 1000 gallon water tank is spring fed and no electricity or power is required.  The water is also 99.9% pure.  The steam train only has a 700 gallon capacity but needs 1000 gallons of water to get to the top so it will stop here and top up.

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The setup is quite something and it is very steep.  They encourage the passengers to stand in the aisle and try to stay upright.  The kids had a blast with this bit.

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Jacob’s Ladder is the steepest bit at 37.41% and it is 30 feet off the surface.

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The views on the way up were spectacular.  In the olden days the top was quite busy.  They had a newspaper that would publish everyday and would be sent down the railway and they also had a hotel up there that would charge $2.50 a night which was a lot of money.

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People do love to hike up this mountain and there are cairns dotting the trails every 50 feet or so to guide the hikers.

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My son and I had to hold on tight with the gusting winds.  It was very hard to keep our footing on the rocks.  I couldn’t believe it but there was someone up there in shorts!  No surprise she was complaining about the cold.  Honestly.

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This is one of the buildings that would house visitors and feed them.  This doesn’t have to be chained down as it is made out of stone but anything wood has to be chained.

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This is the building that recorded the record wind speed, notice the chains.

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This is an anemometer that measures wind speed.  They time the clicks to determine the speed.  This one was the actual one that recorded the record on 12 April 1934.  At one point the speed dropped and they realised the instruments were icing up so one of them had to climb up a wooden ladder in winds going about 160mph and whack it with a wooden bat.  People listening in on the radio heard the clicks going faster and faster until it hit the record.  Must have been something!

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A better view of the railway as we descended.  My son and I had a blast, what an adventure!  It was nice to get back to the warmth though.  🙂

Steam Gala at Swanage

Back in May I talked about the Diesel Gala at the Swanage Railway.  This weekend it’s the Steam’s turn.  I look forward to when I can actually go!  But with it being in September and the kids are back at school it is hard to schedule that but it’s on my list.  There is something about the sound of steam trains that I really love.  I get all excited when I see one.  It is the sound of adventure and history.  And old Agatha Christie novels.  I’d love to do the Orient Express, without the murder of course.  🙂

Back in 2009 I got a chance to be up close and personal with these machines and I was completely hooked.  I’ve mentioned before my FIL drives them in Swanage.  I’ve been lucky to have a couple of footplate rides and to be behind the scenes.


Even better, I got to help paint one!  The M7 was part of the exhibits at the Eastleigh show and it needed to be painted beforehand so all hands on deck.  I was all chuffed until I saw I missed a couple of spots when I was behind it at Eastleigh.  Shiny wet black paint hides a multitude of sins until it dries.  Sigh.  But it was really fun being part of the process.  They had it at the show going back and forth a bit for people to ride in.


Now they did give an option for people to pay £5 to get in early to take pictures without pesky (me) people getting in the way.  I was amazed at how many people didn’t do that!  And boy were they cranky!  But my soon to be husband was showing me how things worked and what the different configurations meant.  And as I love to know how things work I had a lot of questions.  Oh dear.  They even had some really old steam engines on display which were quite fascinating.


I was excited about having my first footplate ride back in Swanage.  The teams that drive the steam trains are so impressive.  There are years of working your way up to being fireman then driver and the knowledge is very extensive.  Being a fireman isn’t just shoveling the coal in.  You have to know how to read the fire.


And all the dials and wheels aren’t for show.  The slightest adjustment can mean a lot.  When the Mallard set the record it must have been something else to be on the footplate.  You are limited on the Swanage line to how fast you can go and I felt like I was flying!  We were going a fraction of what the Mallard went.  The fireman must have been ready to just fall over at the end.


Of course the ride had to come to an end.  I wanted to go again but you mustn’t be greedy.  🙂  I did get to have my picture taken for prosperity.


If you haven’t been to Swanage it is well worth the visit.  Here is the information for the Steam Gala.