Coaling 2019 style. In the 10 years since I last visited the Mt. Washington Cog Railway, things have changed a bit. Gone is the massive coal pile that used to exist on the north side of the tracks, just below Marshfield Station. Gone also is the coal tipple, from which the steam engines used to load coal. Both yard features are no longer needed. Back in the days when 6-7 steam engines roamed the hill, large, trailer truck deliveries of coal used to be commonplace as each trip up the mountain would consume a ton of it. Even without second sections, they'd go through about 8 tons a day. Not anymore. With the nearly complete dieselization of the line in the summer of 2009, steam operations were limited to just one trip a day for the better part of the last decade. Given all of that, the railway has really cleaned up the property, and now, only a small coal bunker exists on the south side of the tracks and the coaling of the locomotives is done the way you see it here, with a front-end loader. Although not as photogenic as the old coal tipple, it gets the job done. As sad as that may seem for steam enthusiasts, things are actually looking up a bit. In 2018, the railroad inaugurated a second steam run per day, this time in the mid-afternoon. That second run typically goes up the hill behind a regular diesel-powered train, trailing it as closely as possible to avoid causing a scheduling issue, as the steamers do take a few more minutes to reach the top. Actually, I'm told that it was the infrastructure improvements on the summit, including the addition of a passing loop, that really facilitated that second steam run.
Incidentally, there are a couple of myths about these little Cog steamers that I'd like to dispel. First and foremost, although we all (me included) list these engines as 0-2-2-0s, the real truth is that there is no Whyte System classification for these locomotives, because they have NO DRIVERS. If you look closely, you'll see that the rods on this locomotive are not connected to the wheels, but rather, they are connected to crankshafts at either end of the chassis. That connection point is where you see the little red counterweights. Those shafts are geared to cogwheels at either end of the locomotive. The wheels on these engines are not driven, but rather, they rotate freely. It's the cogwheels that the engine is really driving. The second myth is that this locomotive (#9 "Waumbek") was built by the Manchester Locomotive Works in 1908. Originally, it may have been, but there is virtually nothing left of the original #9 in this photo. Over the years, all of the Mt. Washington steamers have been rebuilt and modified so many times, that only the numbers are original....sort of. And I said numbers, not number plates. With a few exceptions over the years, these engines have typically not worn number plates like conventional locomotives. They are definitely unique. Fortunately, the railroad has preserved two of them, and according to the crews, they are better maintained now than they ever have been.