The Mount Washington Cog Railway, the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world and the only cog railway still in operation in the United States, celebrated 150 years of business in 2019. After a hiatus due to the COVID-19 crisis for the first half of 2020, the Cog is back in operation, offering one of the most unique experiences in the Northeast.
The Cog is located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, 6 miles from the grand Mount Washington Hotel.
The Cog has remained an icon of New Hampshire’s heritage and has maintained its historic roots by allowing passengers to take the three-hour round-trip riding in a historically inspired coach powered by a 1912 vintage coal-fired steam locomotive or one of the modern biodiesel engines, all built on-site. 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.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway is a must-do New England adventure with a mountain experience like no other. Passengers travel in the vintage styled coaches to the summit of the peak known for having the world’s worst weather, but on a clear day views extend from the Atlantic Ocean into Canada as the train reaches the summit. Along the way, knowledgeable brakemen provide colorful commentary on everything from flora and fauna to the weather extremes of the mountain.
Once at the top, visitors will find Mount Washington State Park and the Sherman Adams Visitors Center. The mountain-top facilities are likely to reopen later this summer if pandemic restrictions ease. Until then, the Cog is providing additional shelter and temporary restroom facilities at the summit.
Back at the mountain base, the new Cog Railway Museum, located in the upper level, tells visitors the fascinating story of how the historic railway came to be and offers media presentations and interactive exhibits on everything from operating a train in the engineer simulator to a 10-minute clip of the Emmy award-winning documentary “Climbing to the Clouds.” Downstairs, visitors can peruse the gift shop full of local and custom items to find that perfect Cog gift or White Mountain souvenir.
Headquartered in a historic station built in 1874 in North Conway, N.H., the Conway Scenic Railroad offers a variety of trips of varying length and duration.
The Conway Valley Train runs 11 miles total and takes just under an hour, traveling south past North and South Moat mountains and crossing the scenic Saco and Swift rivers. The Bartlett Valley goes north and provides equally picturesque vistas of fields, woods and river crossings. The Notch Train travels north through Bartlett into Crawford Notch with a stop at Crawford Station before continuing on to Fabyan Station.
The Notch Train experience is unlike any other in New England. As the train begins to gain altitude, it breaks out of the woods into the spacious opening of Crawford Notch. The train makes several river crossings — East Branch of the Saco, Ellis River, Sawyer River — over well-maintained trestles. The famed Frankenstein Trestle crosses a mountain ravine high on a sheer rock face that looks down miles into the Notch and the Mount Washington Vally in the distance.
New England has an array of other train adventures. While the Green Mountain Flyer has canceled all rides through Labor Day, other rail attractions, such as the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat in Connecticut, have re-opened.
The Cape Cod Central Railroad takes guests past marshes, cranberry bogs, dunes and other places accessible only by rail. Explore the natural beauty of the Cape and learn about its history on a scenic excursion, or take the dinner train. Due to COVID-19, passengers will be required to wear a face covering prior to boarding, but may remove it once seated at their table. A maximum party size of six is permitted at this time, and tables will be seated at least 6 feet apart.
As an extra precaution, Cape Cod Central Railroad has made an investment in “PermaSafe,” an air and surface sanitation system, effective in safely killing 99.99 percent of all viruses, according to the railroad’s website. In addition to treating all surfaces, PermaSafe will be applied through each individual railcar ventilation system prior to opening.