Behind the Lens: The World's First Mountain Cog Railway

Photos and musings from photographer David Kidd.
by | December 21, 2018 AT 12:11 PM
White Mountain Cog Railway
(David Kidd)

The 60-acre state park at the summit of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington bills itself as “Home of the World’s Worst Weather.”

Hurricane-force winds are observed at the summit an average 110 days per year. In the winter of 2004, the wind chill at the top of the mountain was recorded at -102 degrees Fahrenheit. Add to this an average 280 inches of annual snowfall, and it’s a wonder anyone would want to visit the place.

But this forbidding destination has been drawing tourists since before the Civil War. A hotel, anchored with chains over its roof, was erected on the summit in 1852. A year later another hotel, the Tip Top House, was built nearby.

Early tourists arrived along a private road, first by horse and eventually in cars. By 1869, the Mount Washington Cog Railway -- the first such railway in the world -- was ferrying passengers up and down the mountain.

The original hotel is long gone, and the Tip Top House is now a museum. But the Cog Railway is still making several trips a day. In 2019, it celebrates 150 years of service.

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David Kidd | Photojournalist / Storyteller | dkidd@governing.com