I had reserved our reservations over a month in advance for the cog. The day of our adventure to the summit of Mt. Washington the weather was in the upper seventies, light wind but rain was in the forecast. We kept waffling on whether we should go or not and as a result we were running late for our reservations. We made it to the base station with less than five minutes to spare. We hustled through the station picked up our tickets and headed out to the historic Mount Washington Cog. My father, boys and I took time to inspect the pristine cog engine and historic train car. This was the perfect distraction for my father who is seriously not impressed with heights or the thought of riding anything to the top of a mountain. As we approached the cog's passenger car, we were greeted by two "brakemen". They happily accepted our tickets and smirked at several of us who wore shorts and flip flops. Their smirks were the equivalent of foreshadowing in a good book. We boarded and quickly realized that we were the only ones riding this late afternoon train to the summit. As the cog started the climb, one of the brakemen came in and introduced himself. He went on to share some interesting facts about the history of the Mount Washington Cog Railway and the construction of the scenic railroad. The ride itself is best described as slow and steady. The kids were encouraged to open windows, enjoy the sights and ask questions. The poor weather conditions helped keep grandpa's nerves in check as you could not see more than a few hundred feet in any direction. The cog railway was literally in the clouds shortly after leaving the base station. The brakeman pointed out that Mt. Washington proudly boasts to be "Home of the World's Worst Weather". He went on to say that Mt. Washington's summit temperatures this afternoon were in the low 40s with wind gusts exceeding 70 mph. Instantly, the brakemen's smirks reappeared. We appeared to be approximately halfway up Mt. Washington and I was pretty sure he was pulling our leg. He went on to say that the cog was going up today only because conditions were forecasted to stay the same or lessen. The cog railway will not climb Mount Washinton when wind conditions are exceeding 75mph. As we officially passed the halfway point of the mountain, I was still pretty sure the brakeman was "exaggerating". The winds remained mild, rain was light and the temperature didn't appear to have changed much. As the cog continued its Mount Washington climb, we left behind us the tree line where almost all plant life ceases to exist. No sooner did the trees disappear than I noticed the kids putting windows back up. The wind began to howl, temperatures plummeted, and rain/sleet beat on the cog. To clarify, having grown up in Miami, I've lived through enough hurricanes that I have lost count...the winds were screaming. Minutes later we came to a stop and the brakemen announced that we had reached the summit. We thanked and tipped the brakemen for their exceptional service. Upon exiting the cog's passenger car we were met with hurricane force winds, sleet and rain...all of which were going sideways and stung our skin. Flip flops and all, we quickly scurried into the Mount Washington observatory building. Inside we found bathrooms (the ride up is 40+ minutes long), two gift shops, a cafeteria offering "acceptable" quality food with fair pricing, and an interesting museum. Admission to the Mount Washington observatory museum is included in the price of riding the cog railway. I would not pay separately for the museum but enjoyed it none the less. The museum's highlight is a massive panoramic view from the summit showing what could be seen if a hurricane was not currently consuming the mountains summit. After a brief bite to eat, I ventured out with my two boys for a short walk to the observation platform. The boys delighted in the weather conditions and braved them long enough to climb the rock formation to the posted summit of Mt. Washington. We went back inside and were able to coax several more members outside and up to the platform. Experiencing weather conditions like that was both thrilling, entertaining and a highlight of the trip. We all gathered back together just in time to board the near capacity cog railway for the return trip to the base station. I sat in the first row of the cog's passenger car. On the way down Mt. Washington the brakeman earns his name. He stands vigilantly watching the cog's engine descend the mountain. Should the cog's multiple brake systems fail, the brakeman would manually be able to stop the car. I was interested to learn that the passenger car is and never was actually attached to the cog's engine. Both during the ascent and decent the passenger car is leaning against the engine. As we reached the halfway point of the mountain, the sky briefly cleared allowing for some beautiful scenic photos. I honestly cannot imagine how amazing the views would be on a perfectly clear day. My six year old loves foxes and was thrilled when we saw a family of them next to the railroad. We arrived safely back at the base station and took time to explore the hands-on museum and gift shop.
Only my Hampton Inn, Littleton, New Hampshire offers a Mt. Washington Cog Railway vacation package. The cog is approximately 15 or 20 minutes from the hotel. If your vacation plans have you staying at one of my Vermont hotels (Comfort Inn & Suites or Fairbanks Inn, St. Johnsbury), the drive to the cog would be approximately 45 minutes. No matter which hotel you call home while on vacation, be sure to add the cog railway to your family trip.