Mount Washington Cog Railway Technology

Technology at the Mount Washington Cog Railway

2019 Cog Railway Update

The Cog Railway created and installed a Track Maintenance Car in 2019 that allows track work to happen 24/7, no matter the elements!

The Mount Washington Cog Railway has an impressive history marked by some astounding innovations. This spirit of innovation demonstrated by Sylvester Marsh, is alive and well at the Railway.  Over the past twenty years we have made major enhancements to the operation with new switches, a passing loop, air ride coaches and diesel locomotives.  In the near future we will accomplish even more impressive advancements while still preserving a viable steam powered operation.

The railway is in the process of completing one of the largest projects in its history, replacing all of the existing light rail on the entire mountain with 100lb. rail which will be secured by Pandrol eclips.  The rail we are replacing has been in service since the 1890’s. This project includes rebuilding the track from the maintenance shops to Marshfield Station.  As part of this project we designed and built an unusual work car.  The work car is completely enclosed, with the exception of an open floor. It is equipped with heat, lights, a knuckle boom crane and advanced hydraulic powered maintenance tools. This car will allow us to increase the number of days spent on track work exponentially.  It is the largest car we have ever built.  It is 57 feet long and over 12 feet wide.

This year we will complete construction of our 7th diesel locomotive and already have secured parts to begin building our 8th locomotive.  With the completion of the 7th diesel, we will have the largest fleet of locomotives in service in the history of the railroad which includes 2 completely refurbished steam locomotives.  Once these locomotives are complete we will have an uphill capacity of as many as 3000 people.  This is a 300% increase over the capacity of the railway in 1983.

We will begin survey work this summer for the building of a brand new 18000 square foot maintenance facility below the current maintenance area.  The new shop will be equipped with large overhead cranes and air casters. Air casters are moving devices that ride on a cushion of air and will be used to move machinery and equipment around in the shop enabling us to avoid having tracks in stationary positions on the floor. 

We intend to restart winter operations again, with train service to Waumbek during the weekends and holiday periods.  Marshfield Station will be opening daily to provide services to hikers, snowshoers and back country skiers during the winter months.  This will include offering our own guide services.

We will be extending our tracks at the summit back to the original termination point.

And we are engineering new 50 ft long and 13 ft wide railroad cars that may be used for multiple purposes as we continue to expand our summer operations and reclaim some of the former revenue sources enjoyed by the railway.  Stay tuned for updates as to all of these innovative projects.

-Wayne Presby, President, Mount Washington Railway Company

What is a Cog?

cog 1 (kg, kôg) n. 1. One of a series of teeth, as on the rim of a wheel or gear, whose engagement transmits successive motive force to a corresponding wheel or gear.

Cog wheel and rack on display at Marshfield Base Station museum

Think of a cog as the sprocket on your bicycle.  A chain wraps around the bicycle sprocket and propels the bike forward as you pedal.  Instead of a chain we use what is known as a rack which is designed much like the chain on a bicycle and looks similar.  However instead of wrapping around the cog, our cog climbs up the rack providing traction to climb and descend the mountain.  

A deep-rooted history of invention and fabrication has always been one of the Mount Washington Cog Railway’s most intriguing attributes. The Cog has had very few owners and has been in operation consistently for almost 150 years. It has adapted to and overcome adverse opinion, two world wars, the Great Depression, the Hurricane of ’38, and the challenge of technology to become one of New Hampshire’s most successful historical attractions.

Designated as a National Historic Engineering Landmark in 1976, The Cog was referred to as “One of the greatest wonders of all time” by the Boston Transcript at its inauguration in 1868 and P.T. Barnum declared it the “second greatest show on earth”.  It can certainly be argued that this is still true to this day.

The personal design and building of biodiesel locomotives continues the tradition of innovation and improvement that has characterized the Cog Railway since 1869. From being the first mountain climbing cog railway in the world, to the use of solar-powered track switches, to the advanced Parker IQAN on-board computer packages, the Cog continues to be a leader in cutting edge technology.

Technology Videos

The Mount Washington Cog Railway was featured on Motorweek Clean Cities! 
See the footage (link opens new window)

The Cog moved locomotive #8, Moosilauke, to its new home in Twin Mountain, NH at the intersections of Route 3 and Route 302 with the aid of a crane and tractor trailer trucks.

Technology Articles

A special crane train helps clear debris and rubbel from the sides of the tracks.
Past meets the Present in a display of all three generations of trains run at the Mount Washington Cog Railway.

The current cog ownership has been cleaning up the railway right of way thanks to the design and building of a new crane car.
Click here to view article (pdf file format 311 KB)

Cog Railway Ingenuity: The great engineering feats of the Cog
Click here to view article (pdf file format 357 KB)

The Cog Railway’s first biodiesel engine was featured in the John Deere Power Systems Publication, “Power Source” in 2008.
Click here to view article (pdf file format 738 KB)

Trains Magazine feature on the Biodiesel Engines at the Mount Washington Cog Railway
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