Old Man of the Mountain and Mt. Washington Cog Railway
Twin Mountain, NH - Events of Wednesday, July 31 and Thursday, August 1, 2013When we wrote about our ride up the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway a couple of posts ago, we mentioned Cannon Mountain used to be called Profile Mountain. That's because of a rock formation that looked like the profile of an old man. The name was officially changed to Cannon Mountain in 1972.
First discovered by a survey team in 1805, the profile became famous in the 1800s and was a big tourist draw. It was written about by Daniel Webster and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and it was visited by at least a couple of presidents. In 1945, the profile became New Hampshire's official state symbol and was used on license plates and on road signs.
In the late 1800s, there were reports from climbers that some of the stones that formed the profile were in imminent danger of falling. It wasn't until 1915 that turnbuckles were finally installed to help hold some of the rocks in place. Additional efforts to preserve the Old Man were made over the years, including a major one in 1958.
Sometime between midnight and 2:00 a.m. on May 3, 2003, the forces of nature prevailed, and the Old Man collapsed. There is a memorial site on Profile Lake near what was previously a viewing area for the Old Man of the Mountain. The memorial is a short distance from the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, so we headed there on Wednesday after riding the tram and stopping in the ski museum.
The largest of four turnbuckles installed in the 1958 conservation effort was recovered from the rock debris below where the Old Man once stood by a helicopter, and it is now on display at the memorial site. The turnbuckle is 21 feet long and weighs 900 pounds. The other three turnbuckles are still in place on the mountain.
Many residents of New Hampshire were devistated by the loss of their state symbol. Soon after the collapse, efforts were begun the create a memorial on the shores of Profile Lake. The memorial, erected by means of private donations, consists of a series of metal poles with profiles of the Old Man. There are marks on the granite pavement with various heights indicated. If you find your height and stand on the mark, one of the profiles will line up with the mountain so you can see what the Old Man used to look like.
The profiles aren't just two-dimensional cut-outs. They are three-dimensional projections mounted on the poles.
When viewed from the end, the series of projections are superimposed on one another and give a realistic look to the Old Man's profile complete with the nuances of the light and shadows of the original rocks.
After we left the Old Man of the Mountain Memorial, we took a slight detour on the way back to the motor home to stop at the post office. Across from the post office was the Littleton Diner. Since it was late afternoon and we were hungry, we decided to stop.
Margery had a senior special fish and chips ($6 for the senior special, $10 for a regular portion), and Paul had a grilled balsamic chicken panini with roasted red peppers and smoked provolone and a side of fries ($10). The fish was nice and moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The panini wasn't bad, but it was no Panini Pete's. Of course, Paul didn't expect it to be; but if the chicken hadn't been so dry, the sandwich at the diner would have been a lot better.
Thursday was our last day in the area, and we decided to take a short drive to see more of the countryside. We ended up at Mt. Washington Cog Railway, which was about 12 miles from the campground. Opened on July 3, 1869, the Mt. Washington Cog Railway is the world's first cog railway. The first cog railway in Europe didn't open until 1871. The peak of Mt. Washington is 6,288 feet above sea level and is the highest peak in the northeastern United States. The average grade of the Mt. Washington Cog Railway is 25% (25 feet of rise for every 100 feet of forward motion), and the maximum grade is over 37%.
Having already ridden a cog railway up to Pike's Peak, we didn't feel the need to spend $57 per person to ride this one, but we wanted to check out the trains and to see the free museum in the station. Besides, there was a mixture of clouds and sun, and we knew the summit would probably be shrouded in clouds, which it was.
The first run each day is at 8:15 a.m. From Memorial Day through late October, the first run is made with a coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive that was specially designed for the steep grade. Note in the photo below how the boiler and cab are tilted forward so they remain approximately level when the train is climbing the mountain.
The remaining runs are made once an hour on the half hour with diesel locomotives.
Since it wasn't that hot, and since we weren't planning on taking the train (dogs aren't permitted on the train), Freeway got to go with us. He enjoyed the new smells, and left some of his own.
first engine used by the cog railway is on display. Built in
1867, "Old Peppersass" made its first run on July 3, 1869. It, too, is built with a slope.
We hung around a few minutes to watch the train pull out and head up the mountain. The trains normally ascend at 2.8 mph and descent at 4.6 mph. It takes about 65 minutes to go up and 40 minutes to come down.
In the photo below, the red train is heading up, and there are two trains heading down. One is a dark spec right at the very crest of the hill, and the other is the white spot just below the dark one. There is a siding over the crest of the first hill where the trains can pass.
We also checked out the small museum in the station. One interesting display was part of the frame of a locomotive that showed how the cog wheel drives the train by engaging with the rack, which runs between the rails.From the museum, we headed back to the motor home for an evening of relaxation before departing the following morning for our next destination. Stay tuned.