Day 5: September 28, 2015
Braking Good

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When the Littleton Motel opened in 1948, the built-on-site Sterling diner across the street had been there eight years and it had replaced a factory built "parlor car" diner that opened in 1930. The Littleton Diner is where I started my day with whole wheat pancakes and helpful conversation with the waitress and a local who came in for his daily oatmeal. There is a better lighted view of the diner in a photo I took yesterday.

Today's big adventure and the only thing I'd actually scheduled before leaving home, would be a ride on the Mount Washington Cog Railway. Most of the current locomotive fleet is bio diesel but the first run of each day is with steam. That's what I had signed up for and my 7:30 arrival gave me just enough time to get my ticket and check out the museum before boarding. The second picture shows a Devil's Board which workers used to ride on to descend the 3 1/4 mile track in under three minutes.

I grabbed a couple pictures of my ride before climbing on. The flames in the fire box are visible in the second one.

And now the fun begins. That's Morgan, the brakeman, standing in the doorway. After introducing himself, he informed us that our unseen engineer and fireman were Joe and Pete, respectively. Morgan would keep us informed and entertained all the way to the top. We were welcome to step to the door for pictures of the track but we would have to take turns because "I think there's more than one camera onboard today". Partway up the slope, the track splits to allow ascending and descending trains to pass each other. The once manual switches are now powered by solar panels. A feel for the track grade, which averages more than 25%, is provided by the buildings and trees along the way. The Appalachian Trail also leads to the summit of Mount Washington and, as track and trail converge, many of the cairns marking the trail can be seen.

There has been a weather observatory at the top since 1932 where the highest surface wind speed ever measured (231 MPH) was recorded in 1934. I suppose that, if you really do have "The Worst Weather In The World", you might as well flaunt it. The Tip Top House, a former hotel, is the oldest surviving structure on Mount Washington.

We had about an hour at the top where it actually got a little crowded with multiple train loads (The first bio-diesel of the day wasn't far behind us.), hikers, guided tours in vans, and folks who just drove up themselves. Yes, there is a toll road and, yes, I think I'd like to drive it someday. Lots of people posed for pictures next to the summit. I climbed to within ten or so feet then decided that the uneven footing and powerful wind gusts really weren't for me. Instead I took a summit silhouette selfie.


Morgan's role going down was entirely different than it had been coming up. As I told him as trip's end, it was the first time I had ever seen a brakeman brake. Each of the big wheels controls the brakes for one axle and Morgan used them well. The locomotive also serves as a brake on the descent. It and the passenger car are not connected in any way. If something were to happen to the locomotive, the passenger car can be stopped and held with its own brakes. During the return trip, I got a look at the trestle then got to watch us cross it. We exchanged waves with a train we passed on the split section, enjoyed the toot of the whistle, and were all happy to reach level ground.


I stuck around long enough to grab some pictures of the next couple of trains boarding and heading up the slope. In fact, you can see two trains climbing at the same time in the full sized view of the third picture. That's Peppersass, the first engine to climb the mountain back in 1868, at upper right of the first picture.

Good advice can be found on the New Hampshire roadside.

In Maine they have telephones big enough to hide a Miata.

I drove to the Maine's state museum in Augusta and snapped a picture of the capitol's back side before discovering the the museum is closed on Mondays. I did take its picture along with a full frontal of the capitol. I'll be back tomorrow.

With the exception of Montpelier, I've had pretty good luck with motels on this trip but this is the winner so far. Everything about the place, especially my room just felt right. The price was reasonable and the people friendly. The owner of Axell's Scandinavian Inn originally came from Sweden but has been here long enough to become thoroughly Americanized. A wonderful place to end a busy day.

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