CHANDLER’S PURCHASE —With two sharp toots of a whistle, another live-long day begins for crews working on the Cog Railway.
They’re continuing work on a $3 million upgrade of the famed mountain-climbing railroad, the first in more than 60 years, since the Hurricane of 1938 blew down one the trestles that has brought visitors to the summit of Mount Washington since 1869.
Once dismissed as a “railway to the moon” by New Hampshire’s legislature, the vision of Campton native Sylvester Marsh celebrates its 135th anniversary this summer.
General Manager Charlie Kenison can’t help but think about the differences between a new generation of railroad crews and those who first built the three-mile railroad back in the 1860s.
It is a significant project under way for the railroad and it is one that will improve the safety of the railroad, as well as enhance the experience for thousands of riders who head up Mount Washington every year.
Last summer, the first of two switches were installed, bringing to an end a system that was incredibly complicated, involving brute strength for the throwing of nine switches to allow a train to change tracks. Those switches had moving pieces that weighed between 60 and 250 pounds.
“They were put in back in the 1940s,” said Doug Waites, who handles marketing for the railroad. “You had to be fairly strong and really pay attention to what you were doing.”
Those switches, too, were only meant to be a temporary measure.
It was a practice that made the crews be meticulous in carrying out the job. For years, the round-trip to the summit took three hours, allowing those making the journey just 20 minutes or so on the summit of the Rock Pile.
Once the switching project is finished, the trip will be cut down to two hours, Kenison said.
The latest phase of the switching involves the construction of 2,200 feet of track, beginning at the Waumbek tank at 3,800 feet.