New Hampshire's colorful Cog Railway. Fall colors provide the backdrop as the Mt. Washington Cog Railway's Diesel-Hydraulic Locomotive M4 "Agiocochook" takes the B-section of the 1PM excursion up the hill to the summit of the Northeast's highest peak. Since 2009, The Cog has been primarily a diesel operation, with the exception of the very first and very last trips of the day. And like the railroad's coach fleet, the new locomotives are painted a variety of bright colors, resulting in some very colorful trains. On this particular day, with the oranges and yellows in the trees, I found this combination particularly appropriate for the season.
The diesel-hydraulic locomotives you see on this railroad are most definitely indigenous power. All design and construction was done right here on the property. They are the brain-children of Mechanical Engineer Al Laprade, who started his career working on submarines at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, then came here, where he was intimately involved in many of the recent innovations. He and his crew built the first, experimental prototype locomotive, M1 "Wajo Nanatassis" in 2008. All of the others in the fleet feature more or less the same design, but with improvements based on experience. Each locomotive is built around a 600 hp John Deere Marine Engine, driving a hydraulic motor, which, in turn, drives a pair of cogwheels. The locomotives have sophisticated, redundant air brakes, and multiple computer controls. Operation is controlled by a single cab crewman, who manipulates a spring-loaded joystick on the control panel. The joystick functions as a sort of "dead-man's switch" in that it would stop the locomotive immediately if the Engineer were somehow incapacitated. Unlike the line's steam locomotives, these diesels have redundant air brakes and do all of the braking for the entire train. On the descent, a Brakeman/Conductor still mans the brakes in the coach in case of emergency, but is typically hands-off all of the time.
Although the steam fanatics among us were sad to see the diesels take over, there is no question with regard to the advantages they offer the railroad. They make a round-trip on 18 gallons of B20 Biodiesel Fuel (vs. 1000 gallons of water and a ton of coal). They make it to the top non-stop in 40-45 minutes (vs. 1 hr and 15 min for a steamer). They have more redundant safety features and they require only one cab crew member. They start with the push of a button. They also don't shower the customers with cinders, nor do they require extensive boiler inspections and firebox sheet replacements. About the only thing they can't do is replicate the majesty and drama of steam departing the platform.
From a hint of "Bee" (NKP 765), colorful "Bees" (KCS), "Bees" w/ "attitude", to "Bees" that "sting" your eyes, in their own way they have "Bee" on display! Equipment that "Buzzes" with Yellow & Black colors! ("Bees" can still "Bee" entering this "hive"!)