Thursday, July 12, 2012

Trains Don't Go Up, Do They?

This is the Mount Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire.  It was built in 1866, and still runs today.  It is one of the only surviving Cog Railways in the world.  And this train goes up.
Mount Washington is the highest of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and it is the highest mountain in New England.  
Mount Washington is also known as having the worst weather in the world. This highest wind ever recorded, over 230 miles per hour, was recorded on this mountain.  It has snowed on every single day of the year at some point.  There is a permanent weather station at the top of the mountain that operates every single day of the year to try and figure out the weather patterns of this great mountain.  
Mount Washington stands 5, 288 feet tall.  That's high for the northeast.  The temperature can be hot at the bottom and cold on top.  There are a million reasons not to go up that mountain, mostly because of the completely unpredictable weather, but there is one amazing reason to go.

The reason to go is the view.  It's amazing.  You'll never see anything like it.  The most amazing part is the worst part.  You can see the bad weather coming to engulf it as you look out over the other mountains in the Presidential Range.

The top of the mountain has many surprises.  There is a wonderful visitor center, with a restaurant, the weather station, a museum, a gift shop and a rooftop observation deck, complete with giant view masters.  There is also Tip Top House, which is an old guest house made into a museum.  There is the shuttle bus building where you can catch a van to the bottom or you can catch it at the bottom and come up.  There are several viewing areas.  There is an emergency shelter for hikers.  There are several parking areas for cars that brave the trip up the mountain  road.  And there is a train platform where the Cog Railway stops.
Now, as I said, there are several ways to get to the top of Mount Washington.  You can walk, unless you're over the age of 30 and don't wish to climb Everest.  You can drive your car, which puts about 40,000 miles worth of wear and tear on it.  You can take the shuttle bus, which means that you don't trust your car and makes you feel inadequate.  Or, you can take the train.  It's the most expensive way, so you know that you're in it for the experience, and not because you chickened out on some other mode.
 It's truly not for the feint of heart.  This train goes straight up a relatively steep, tall mountain.  The starting point for the journey is in the middle of nowhere down a long narrow road.  It was the decision of the builders that this was the safest place to try a thing like a cog railway.  That was 150 years ago, and it still runs today.  That's pretty impressive.
 It's old and elegant.
 They have distinguished porters, just like they did 150 years ago.  It's like a trip back in time to see what it was like to travel the mountain in the 1800's.  In a unique way, it's the trip of a lifetime.  It's definitely a great way to spend three hours of your time.  You'll never forget it.
And when you're done, there is a museum, a restaurant, and a gift shop at the station.  It's something that everyone should take the time out to do just once.
So, while you're spending your time in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, going on tramways such as Cannon, playing on waterslides at Attitash, or hiking the Flume Gorge in Franconia Notch, take some time out and take a ride on the original Cog Railway and see Mount Washington through 150 year old eyes.


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