Pictures of the Mount Washington Cog Railway

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Pictures of the Mount Washington Cog Railway including engines, cars, tracks and switches (turnouts). This is the oldest cog railway in the world. It was started in 1866 and first ran in 1869. It takes passengers from a base station to the top of Mount Washington, 6,288 feet, in New Hampshire. Mount Washington is the highest peak on the east coast. It has the worst weather in the United States because of its height and the winds and storms that frequent this peak. The Cog Railway still uses steam driven engines.

An engine uses 1,000 gallons of water on each trip and one ton of coal. The steepest grade is 37.41% at Jacob's Ladder which is a tresle 25 feet above the surface. At his point a person standing in the front of the passenger coach is 14 feet higher than a person standing in the rear of the coach.

An engine (there are seven of them) pushes a single passenger coach up and acts as an emergency braking force going down. It uses negative air pressure braking much like a "jake" brake on tractor trailer trucks in the United States. The coach has its own braking system and actually does not touch the engine going down.


Pictures of some switches on the Mount Washington Cog Railway. Each switch has 9 working parts. Most railroad switches have one or two working parts. Switches on the Cog Railway are set manually. The brakeman gets out and sets each part of the switch. Note in the pictures that the center cog rack has to be set as well as the outer rails. Quite a sight to watch this being done. At the end, the brakeman counts the points that he has set and it better be nine or there will be trouble.


Pictures of sledding on the Cog Railway. Originally workers would use these wooden sleds to come down the mountain. The descent usually took 15 minutes but some could descend the 3 miles in less 3 minutes - more than 60 miles an hour. These sleds were called "The Devil's Shingle". Later, visitors tried the sledding and it became something of a sport. When a worker was killed on a slide board in 1906, their use was stopped.


Pictures depicting some of the history of the Mount Washington Cog Railway the first cog or rack railway in the United States, begun in 1866 and first operated in 1869. It is the first and oldest cog railway in the world. There is another famous cog railway in the United States, the Pike's Peak Cog Railway (14,410 feet high) which is just outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The engines on this cog railway were originally steam but have now been converted to a Swiss type cog railcar. Pike's Peak Railway uses the Abt rack system. The maximum grades are 25%, which is about the upper limit for the Abt system. Many rack railroads use the Riggenbach system, also called "ladder rack". The steepest cog railway in the world is the Mt. Pilatus Railway in Lucerne, Switzerland. It uses the Locher rack system to climb grades of 48% !

I have added links to both the Mount Washington Cog Railway and the Pike's Peak Cog Railway.

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