Cog Railway Engineer Joe "Eggy" Eggleston. In all of my travels to steam railways over the past couple of decades, I can't say I've ever met anyone who loves his job as much as Joe Eggleston from the Mt. Washington Cog Railway. That smile you see as he posed for this image wasn't just for the camera. "Eggy", as his colleagues call him, looks this way pretty much all the time. For nearly 30 years, he's had one of the most unique jobs in all of preservation railroading, and that's fixing and running these odd-looking teakettles that have been plying the cog rails of the northeast's highest peak for well over 100 years. Although the railroad is only just over 3 miles in length, it is the second steepest cog railway in the world, and experiences weather conditions can be anything from sparking and beautiful to literally the worst that mother nature can dish out. No two days are alike for Joe and his fellow "coggers" as they are collectively known, and no two trips are alike either. Through it all, Joe has been smiling like this literally every time I have seen him over the past couple of decades. He is really living his boyhood dream every time he climbs into the seat.
Although there are only two steam engines left in operation on this line, and most trips are now diesel-powered, things are actually pretty good for the steam crew. The two engines they do have are in better condition than they've ever been, and if anything, the railroad has been adding back steam trips in recent years. In 2009, when the first diesels appeared, steam was limited to just one run per day. Years later, after track improvements were made and a new platform built on the summit, a second run was added. In the past couple of years, it has been 3 per day. Getting on one of these trips definitely requires advance reservations. They are typically sold out at least a few days in advance. You'll also note how clean this train looks. Joe and the crew literally clean it after every run, so it looks pretty when they bring it to the platform. And when they do, you won't find many people pointing their cell phones at the diesels.