Stuff happens. What was to be the last day of steam operations on the Mt. Washington Cog Railway ended early for Engineer Joe and Fireman "Cookie." They had two runs scheduled this day and things were going just swimmingly....until they were descending through Skyline after the morning run to the summit. Then suddenly, their locomotive lurched and began descending faster than normal....fast enough to take separation from their coach, and fast enough to really get their attention. Fortunately, both of these fellows are lifelong coggers and they reacted instantly, applying hand brakes to slow their engine. Meanwhile, the young Brakeman on the coach also reacted, winding up his brakes so he would not collide with the locomotive, which he knew would be taking action to stop. Thanks to the training and experience of these folks, both entities came to a safe stop. But now, the engine crew had a problem to resolve and they had to fix things, while perched on a trestle and on one of the steeper sections of track. Our intrepid Fireman literally crawled out on the trestle, only to discover that his locomotive had bent its right rear connecting rod. The only way to resolve the problem would be to physically remove that rod.....right there on the trestle, with tools he had available in the cab. And this he did. After about 30 minutes, the train resumed its descent, with the locomotive braking only on 3 cylinders, and the Brakeman keeping the coach completely off the locomotive. They did a masterful job. When they arrived at the station, there was pretty large group of fellow coggers waiting to welcome them, including the gentleman who owns the railway. But unfortunately, they were done.....for the day and for the season. They had one run left to go and little #2 would not make the call. She was just one run away from a completely trouble-free season.
In the scene here, we see Joe and "Cookie" limping their wounded engine, MWRC #2 "Ammonoosuc", down the hill from Marshfield Station to the shops. When this photo was taken, the tender had been emptied of water and coal, and the fire had been dropped. If you look closely at that right rear engine under the cab, you will see that the rod which connects the crosshead to the crankshaft on the rear cog is indeed missing. It was a pretty stout piece of steel, and when I got a look at it, it was pretty noticeably bent. Over the winter season, the crew will disassemble that right rear engine and determine what went wrong. The early speculation was that perhaps a valve malfunction might be the culprit. Sadly, I did not get to photograph the engine on the summit this day, but I did get some remarkable and rare images of the crew putting the engine away.