Tour: Riding the Cog in January

By: Marty Wagner, Comfort Inn Concord GSA Class of 2011

Whenever visitors to NH ask me about going up Mt Washington via The Cog Railway,  I always tell them it’s like being on top of the world.  Now that I’ve taken my first Cog trip in winter, I have a new fantastic experience to recommend.  Our trip to Waumbek Station started with a picture perfect winter day with blue skies and cold temperatures that just added to the feelings of being on an adventure that, in the end, included even more than I had expected.  

As we waited for our train to leave, there was plenty at the base lodge to keep us occupied. The museum offered great displays about the history of the Cog, including a couple slideboards that had carried riders down the mountain at 60 miles per hour until the practice was banned. It proved to be just a bit too dangerous for some.  Stories of the workers who built the railway and continue to build the rail carriages right on site were also fascinating.  Following the visit to the museum, there was a snack bar to keep everyone well fed and a gift shop with something for everyone.  I loved all the things there related to the Cog Railway and Mt. Washington.

As our train started up the mountain, the tracks wound out ahead of us making it clear how quickly we’d be gaining elevation.  The trees lining the route stood out all the more against the snow-covered mountain, and seeing 2 skiers coming down alongside the tracks made it even more magical.   As the trees next to us seemed more and more crooked, we knew we were in some of the steepest inclines along the whole 3 mile route to the top.

When we reached Waumbek Station and got off, the aromas of the fire pits was wonderful and added a sense of warmth despite the low temperatures.   But to then see the breathtaking views around us made me say “Wow!” without even thinking.  Below us relatively nearby was Bretton Woods, but sprawled beyond that as far as the eye could see were our fabulous White Mountains, which seemed to reach all the way to the Vermont border, as well as northward. On that wonderful clear day, it really did feel like we could see forever.   If I wasn’t at the top of the world, I was close enough to get the same exact feelings of awe.

After some hot beverages and toasting marshmallows, we boarded the train to leave our lofty viewpoint.  Our trip back down the mountain was as much fun as the trip up, as our brakeman told us even more stories about magnificent Mt. Washington and its remarkable historic train.   And the views looking both back up the mountain and down to the base station still left me saying “Wow” all over again.

Any visitor to New Hampshire would be amazed by this experience, and I’ll be happy to pass along my experiences of traveling on the ‘railway to the moon’ in the winter.  I can’t wait to do it again.