Mt. Washington Cog Railway Track Maintenance Car. Just how difficult could it be to maintain a railway that is all of 3.1 miles long? Well, if the railway is built entirely on wooden trestle, and top half of the track is exposed to some of the worst weather in the entire world, it can be a colossal undertaking. Add in the fact that the line is busy from sunrise to sunset most of the year, and you're looking at a darn near impossible task. The maintenance windows are basically the night time hours. How'd you like to be swinging a spike maul on top of Mt. Washington on a moonless night in January? No, thank you!
Fortunately, the "Coggers" at New Hampshire's Mt. Washington Railway Company are a very clever bunch and they are constantly innovating the way in which they operate. A prime example is this very unique track maintenance car. In 2019 and 2020, the railway is undertaking a massive re-railing project over the entire length of the line. All of the old 25 lb rail, and the underlying timbers which support them on the trestle, are being replaced with 100 lb rail. The higher traffic volume on the line in recent years, and the introduction of diesel-hydraulic locomotives that go faster and are heavier than the old steam engines has made this upgrade necessary. I get chills just thinking about doing that work on that dark, cold, windy mountain, with all of its rough terrain, but the railroad has found a way. This critter, which is 65 feet long and nearly 13 feet high, is essentially a flat car with a hut on top of it, that facilitates night track work in almost any weather condition. Pushed by a diesel to the work location, the shelter or hut is positioned over the track to be replaced. It provides shelter, light, tools, compressed air and an overhead crane to facilitate moving heavy timbers or rail. On nice days, the sides can be rolled up, allowing the free flow of air, but still providing shade from the sun. As of October, 2020, this contraption has allowed the railroad to finish 80-90% of the planned re-railing, making the track stronger and the ride smoother for the customers.
Yes, the "Coggers", as they are known collectively, are a very innovative and self-sufficient group. Sylvester Marsh's "Railway to the moon" may be 151 years old, and when you ride it, it still feels 150 years old, but behind the scenes it is most definitely keeping up with the times.