The first trip of the day heads for the summit. It's 8:30 AM and the sun has only been shining on Marshfield Station for just over 30 minutes as the Mt. Washington Cog Railway sends its first trip of the day up the hill. Typically, the first train of the day will be one of the steam runs. Because the steamer is slower, it will typically leave about 30 minutes before the first, regular, hourly run with one of the diesels. In this image, veteran Engineer Joe Eggleston takes MWRC #2 "Ammonoosuc" away from the platform and onto the bridge over the river of the same name. Although these little engines only weigh about 18 tons, their departure from the station is as impressive as that of any steam locomotive in action today. Just beyond the bridge, the initial climb up Cold Spring Hill is very steep, offering the crowds on the platform a close-up opportunity to see the world's first mountain-climbing train doing its thing, the same way it has for the last 150 years.
For almost the first decade of the diesel era at the Mt. Washington Cog Railway, the use of steam power was limited to just one trip per day, usually the very first departure. With that single trip proving to be popular and often selling out well in advance, the line elected to add a second steam run a couple of years back, typically as a second section of the last trip of the day. The basic problem with running steam in a diesel environment is that the steam locomotive is somewhat slower than the modern power, and would just be in the way if introduced in the middle of the normal schedule. Therefore, the scheduled steam trips typically leave about 30 minutes before the first diesel trip of the day, and just after the last trip. The timing of these first and last trips varies somewhat, depending on the time of the season. During most of the season, the first trip will be at 8:30 AM and would look like the capture seen here. During the fall foliage season however, the first trip is typically sent up the hill a full hour earlier, even before the sun first pokes its head above the mountain. The last trip of the day will generally leave at 4 PM and will not return to the base station until about 30 minutes after sunset. During fall foliage season the railroad is quite a busy place. That last trip of the day can often consist of as many as 4 sections: three diesel and one steam.