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Mount Washington Cog Railway, the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world, turns 150

The Mount Washington Cog Railway rumbles up the steep slopes of the Northeast’s highest peak.Mount Washington Cog Railway

P.T. Barnum called it the “Second Greatest Show on Earth.” One New Hampshire legislator thought it was such an impossible folly that he dubbed it “The Railway to the Moon.” Locals simply say The Cog.

The Mount Washington Cog Railway rumbles up the steep slopes of Mount Washington, climbing to the 6,288-foot summit of the Northeast’s highest peak. The steam-driven journey is an exhilarating experience, traveling one hour to go three miles, through three climate zones, and across Jacob’s Ladder, the steepest, highest railroad trestle in the world. At one point, the grade is so steep, passengers must lean forward toward the floor to stay balanced. It’s a thrilling, fun ride.


If you’ve never traveled The Cog, this is the year to do it, when the iconic and historic railroad turns 150 years old and will celebrate with a variety of special events and programs. To kick off the season, the 150th rider on the railway each day will receive a $3 ticket, the price it was in 1869 when the railway opened. On June 22, The Cog will host an anniversary gala, with refreshments, gift packages, and fireworks. Another celebration, including family activities, Victorian lawn games, a BBQ, and music, will be held on July 3, the date The Cog officially opened for business. The annual Railway to the Moon festival, honoring entrepreneur Sylvester Marsh and his vision and perseverance to build the railway, will be held Aug. 17 and 18. The event will include costumes (show off your Steampunk fashions!), live music, an interactive Steampunk train ride, presentations, tea dueling, and more.

Show off your Steampunk fashions at the annual Railway to the Moon festival in August.Mount Washington Cog Railway

“The Steampunk festival is a combination of Wild West meets Jules Verne meets the Victorian Era with a circus atmosphere,” says Becky Metcalf, Mount Washington Cog Railway marketing director.

The narrated train excursion takes three hours roundtrip, including an hour at the Mount Washington summit, home to the Sherman Adams Visitor Center, with a small museum, café, and observation deck. You have a choice of riding the historic steam train or one of the newer, more energy-efficient biodiesel trains. Biodiesel trains depart every hour on the half hour; steam trains make the first trip in the morning and, new this year, an additional trip in the afternoon. Adults $72 biodiesel, $78 steam, ages 4-12 $41 biodiesel or steam, seniors 65-plus $68/$72. For more information, visit www.thecog.com or call 800-922-8825.


Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bairwright@gmail.com.