Train Heaven in the Clouds

Being that Zane woke up at five and there wasn’t anything to do in the campground we arrived at the cog railway three hours before the first train and two hours before they even opened. Not a problem for Zane. The only problem he had with it was in me not letting him climb up on top of everything and smear himself in grease and coal dust. The steam engines were idling (probably to keep water boiler at temperature) with thin wisps of steam and coal smoke wafting off of their dirty engines. The two newer diesels sat quietly and crisply clean, looking as if they’d just come off of the factory floor. Mt. Washington was engulfed in a thick cloud bank some three thousand feet above us.

Most likely Zane liked the ride as much as wandering around and looking at the trains, but it is less hands-on and he’s a very hands-on kind of kid. The ride up is a noisy, jerky, slow one hour ascent with dirty coal clouds and ash accompanying and sometimes enveloping our passenger car. Eventually the combination of five am wake-up and rhythmic motion put Zane to sleep, about ten minutes away from the summit. He slept a few minutes longer after I carried him across the howling, cold wind of the mountain top and into the visitor center.

On the ride down he was wide awake and full of energy. First off we almost missed the train, being downstairs (chasing Zane) and not hearing the warning whistle. Even so I had to run to catch the train and jump on board while holding Zane, losing my hat in the process. As interesting and impressive as it is having an old steam engine push you up the side of a six thousand foot high mountain it was even more so watching them try to go down at a controlled speed. It was even noisier and more jarring, but Zane didn’t seem to notice, running up and down the aisles as best he could and looking out the windows. The grade is up to 30%, according to the signs, and you could see it when Zane tried standing in the aisle, leaning way back as if to defy gravity.