The Mount Washington Cog Railway is the World's first mountain-climbing cog railway (rack-and-pinion railway). It uses a Marsh rack system to climb Mount Washington in New Hampshire, USA. The railway ascends the mountain beginning at an elevation of approximately 2,700 feet (820 m) above sea level and ending at the summit of Mt. Washington at an elevation of 6,288 feet (1,917 m). It is the second steepest rack railway in the world with an average grade of over 25% and a maximum grade of 37.41%.
The railway is still in operation, using one or two steam locomotives and four biodiesel powered locomotives. The train ascends the mountain at 2.8 miles per hour (4.5 km/h) and descends at 4.6 mph (7.4 km/h), although the diesel can go up in as little as 37 minutes. It takes approximately 65 minutes to ascend and 40 minutes to descend. The railway is approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) long. Most of the Mount Washington Cog Railway is in Thompson and Meserve's Purchase, with the part of the railway nearest to Mt. Washington's summit being in Sargent's Purchase.
Modern Operations :
The most common trips on the Cog Railway are between the two main stations, one at the summit and the other adjacent to the operators' logistical and repair base. From 2003 to 2006, "ski trains" ran, stopping at an intermediate station, from which passengers could ski down to the Base Station. The Cog Railway track crosses a hiking trail a relatively short distance below the summit of Mount Washington, and some hikers wait for the next train in order to moon the passengers. This practice is known as "Mooning the Cog." Several hikers were arrested for performing this ritual in 2008.
Access to the base station by car is by three possible routes, each culminating with the upper portion of the dead-end Cog Base Road. The advertised, roughly eastbound route uses the Base Road's full length from Bretton Woods. An especially scenic route, initially southbound from U.S. Highway 2, follows Jefferson Notch Road, a narrow dirt road with hairpin turns; it rises 1,500 feet (460 m) to the pass, at 3,000 feet (910 m) above sea level, between Mount Jefferson in the Presidential Range and Mount Dartmouth, before descending to its junction with the Base Road.
However, in winter, and usually before and after, the Jefferson Notch Road is closed to wheeled vehicles and used primarily by snowmobiles. The initially roughly northbound route from U.S. Highway 302 in Crawford Notch via Mt. Clinton Road is also closed in the winter to vehicular traffic. Due to the operations of trains all winter beginning in 2004-2005 the Cog Base Road is now plowed and sanded all winter to allow tourists, skiers and employees to access the Base Station.