Scenic Hobo Railroad

The weather was kind of iffy. The sun would come out and tease you outside only to hide behind a cloud and drop rain on you. What do you do on a day like that when you’re on vacation?

I chose to check out the Hobo Railroad. It seems there are quite a few railroads in New Hampshire billing themselves as scenic train rides. The Hobo Railroad and the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad are part of the same transit system each advertising the other.

I found the station without any problem, In fact it’s kind of hard to miss. As you come off RT 93 at the Kancamagus exit in Lincoln there’s a huge sign for : TRAIN RIDES with an arrow pointing the way. You pass the Hobo Railroad mini golf to reach the parking lot.

I liked the train station and gift shop. There’s a play area for the kids and picnic tables and benches available while you wait for the train. I first trotted off to set up the camera for pictures. I chose a spot on the grass over by the mini put-put. 

Oh Oh! I had visitors. I should have thought of it before I set up but there hadn’t been an issue before. Of course , it hadn’t been a rainy, humid day before either. I’m talking about the plague of New England fields and forests…the Black Fly. I remember these little biting pests from growing up in the Adirondacks. They hide in the grass and as you walk through it you disturb them and they fly up in swarms.

My choice of a location for the camera must have disturbed them as I had them all over me. They were getting behind my glasses, under the brim of my hat, even up my shirt sleeves. Ugh! I found myself making some adjustments to the camera then running to the concrete walkway about 5 ft away. Just that little bit and they’d disappear.

Then I go back and do the next item and as soon as the flies came back I’d retreat. I think you can tell something was up as I don’t look quite as happy in the pictures!

After I got the train pictures I made a hasty retreat to the gift shop and purchased my ticket for the 1 pm train. I splurged for the $10.00 lunch of a sandwich, soda and cookie.

About 12:30 the Hobo Clown came out to the Hobo Stage and put on a little magic show, He was a very low-key clown but it was enjoyable. He had some good tricks too. After that show wrapped up we boarded the train.

Lunch was served very quickly after we got underway. It was pretty good. I had the ham & cheese on a bulkie roll. The roll was soft and fresh. The cheese was provolone and there was a good portion of ham. 2 thumbs up on the lunch.

The conductor started out strong introducing the staff and laying the groundwork for the ride. At first he did pretty good pointing out the things we were seeing and telling us the history of the area and the conservation efforts on the river. Unfortunately he seemed to run out of steam. Plus some the accuracy of his information was suspect. Specifically he told us that there were no moose in the area this time of year.

At the time that he said that I was thinking about taking the moose tour. Now I thought maybe I should reconsider. As you already know I did take the tour and I did see moose! So I’d have to say that round goes to the Moose Tour Operators and that the trainman needs to update his information.

Shortly after that tid-bit the conductor seemed to run out of things to say. I chatted with my booth mate and let the sway of the train lull me. If I hadn’t been in a conversation I probably would have dozed off. There was nothing to see. We traveled through woods for pretty much the whole ride…80 minutes. There were occasional glimpses of the river but no oh/ah moments or sweeping scenic vistas.

My seatmate even commented that it was a “kind of boring” ride. Now I can see why they needed a clown on the train.

Speaking of the clown, eventually he got to our car. He did a few magic tricks and made some balloon animals for the kids before moving on to the next car.

Eventually we pulled back into the station. I guess you could say it was a pleasant interlude but I personally found the actual train ride a bit dull. It might be nicer when the fall colors are at their peak. I wouldn’t say not to go, but I would lower any expectations you might have.

Steam power at the Cog Railway

Some things are just too good to do just once. Although I didn’t feel the need to ride the train to the summit again, I did want to see the steam locomotive in action. It was burning some coal and puffing a bit on my first visit but it didn’t go anywhere. So with an early morning wake-up call I made a point to get back for the 8:30 train. The good thing…I made it in plenty of time. The bad part…I forgot the sign I need for the photo contest.

Here’s what I got from the 2nd visit. It was sunny too even though by noontime it had clouded over. But it didn’t matter, the steam train was done for the day.

Kind of amazing how much smoke that little engine puts out. I could see the fireman shovelling coal like crazy. I wouldn’t want that job.

The Steam engines at the Cog were first powered by wood. Then as technology progressed the wood burning engines were converted to coal. Now the main fleet of engines is all biodiesel to be environmentally friendly. When you see that smoke and steam blowing over the forest you can see why it was important to convert the fuel to be more environmentally responsible. This one trip a day is the only nod to the past.

The pictures posted here are the clearest although I had some where the smoke was so thick you couldn’t even see the train at all. It’s really quite something to see. I’m not sure I’d want to be in those passenger cars surrounded by all that smoke!

In the early days it took 6 hours to reach the summit! 6 hours of smoky air! WOW! I’m thankful for the advancements in technology in this case. 🙂

There be Moose in them woods

It turned into a very late night!

It was supposed to rain all day so I didn’t make any plans. I figured I’d just be lazy, maybe use the laundry room to run a few things through, maybe work on some of the entries for this blog or edit some of the pictures. Instead the sun came out. Since the sun was out and the clouds seemed to be dispersing, I changed my mind and headed up to Lincoln.

I hate to waste a day so I thought I’d check out the Hobo Train and then maybe head up to Franconia Notch to see the Flume Gorge. I’d wait on the tramway as it was still cloudy and I didn’t want to waste my ride on poor visibility.

Anyway, I did go on the train and I’ll tell you about that in another post.

 Right now I just want to let you know that the moose population of northern New Hampshire is well and thriving. I can attest to that with my own eyes.

Let me explain. On the train ride I shared a booth with another lady who told me about some discount passes she got at the Visitor Center just down the street from the train station. I like discounts so after we got back into the station I made the Visitor Center my next stop.

A very nice lady went over the discounts but as I was just one person there was no real savings, but she did tell me that the Moose tours were doing a booming business. I told her that on the Hobo train the conductor had said that there weren’t any moose in the area this time of year. She laughed and said the tours were reporting 100% sightings for the season. She suggested I go talk to them. Their little kiosk was right across the street from the Hobo Railway.

I’d been planning to call them but since I was right there it seemed easier to stop in as soon as I completed my photo-op with Kodak the bear

 and Max the Moose. With those pictures secure I headed over to the Moose Tour Office.

I explained what the conductor said and was quickly set straight. I was challenged to join them on a tour. The cost was $28.00 and the tour was about 3 hours. There was no guarantee but so far they’d seen moose on every tour this season.  Their success rate for the 13 years they’d been in operation is 97%. I’ll take a chance on those odds.

I reserved a spot for the next evening at 7:30 pm and headed off to explore some more. Within 15 minutes I got a call back from them asking if I wanted to go tonight instead. They had just got a cancellation that had opened up a single seat on the tour tonight. So why not. I was already in the area anyway so I said sure and agreed to be at the Kiosk by 6:45 pm.

It was a sold out tour with a second tour going out at 11:00 pm when our tour got back. That one was sold out too. They loaded us on a good-sized bus that looked more like an oversized van. The seats were comfortable. The windows large. Thunderstorms were periodically dumping showers on us but it wasn’t torrential rain by any means.

Larry our driver

We set off on time with our driver, Larry and our guide, Steve. They told us that once we saw the moose we had to be quiet so as not to scare them away. There were a lot of children on the tour so the being quiet part was really emphasized.

We hadn’t gone far when Larry said he had a text from a motel owner that A bull moose had just crossed the river behind his property, climbed the bank and was now on the motel’s front lawn. Larry took the first exit off the highway and headed for the motel. There was a moose all right.

Not a one of us had expected that! Fun!

With that out of the way we headed back out to the highway. We were heading out to the same area I’d spent two days exploring. At the time I thought it looked like moose habitat but I didn’t see any. Of course I was there early..around 5pm. We were going to be there around 8pm. Big difference.

To pass the time while we drove and looked, Steve instructed us on moose habits and passed around “Moose parts”. He had an antler, a lower jawbone, and a hoof. He also tossed out sandwich bags of malted milk balls telling us they were “Moose Poop”. Both Steve and Larry had a multitude of very bad jokes and a CD of Moose Tunes that had the kids giggling and the adults smiling.

Steve asked for a volunteer and picked one of the little girls in the front seats. He made her the good luck moose and put a moose hat on her. That was a cute gimmick and everyone played along. The catch was that she had to wear the hat the whole trip to bring us luck. She did a good job.

All these antics carried us to our first stop. We saw a rainbow right near the Mount Washington Hotel. We stopped there for a quick photo-op and then we were back on our way.

As the sun set splashing deep orange and reds over the mountains we spotted our first moose. It was a young bull and he wasn’t about to stay around long. Everybody yelled and pointed so that could have had something to do with his quick retreat. So much for being quiet. The adults were worse than the kids! I got a glimpse of dark hindquarters disappearing into the woods.

The 2nd moose was just as skittish. But we’d learned from our mistake. There was barely a whisper, just a lot of pointing and hand waving. I didn’t see this one. Then we saw a couple of deer and another moose. This one was a female. She slipped into the woods but stopped and turned back to check us out. I was on the wrong side of the bus to get a picture plus it was quite dark at this point. The bus had spotlights they were using to illuminate the area but I doubt I could have gotten a clear picture under those conditions. Next time I will take a seat on the right side of the bus…not the left. All of the sightings were on the right side!

At about 9:30 we took a quick break at the Twin Mountain Trading Post. Our good luck girl still had on her moose hat.

We cruised through the hots spots a couple of times more but it didn’t seem that any more moose wanted to come out to play tonight so it was time to wrap up the tour. On the way back to the shop they played a beautiful movie about moose. By now a lot of the younger kids had conked out.

So I saw a moose, 2 actually. I don’t have any proof to share…this time. And the 100% success rate for the Moose Tours continues! Good tour.

The Cog Railway and Mount Washington

I wasn’t quite sure where I was but a pretty little restaurant showed up on the right side of the road. There were cars in the lot, always a good sign. Since I hadn’t seen any other places for lunch I pulled in to take a chance. The name of the restaurant is Banner’s.

 It was clean with a down to earth interior.

The staff was friendly and the service was quick. There was outdoor seating surrounded by vines and flowers but it was so hot today that the section wasn’t even open.

My waitress said I was about 45 minutes from Mount Washington and the Cog Railway. If that’s correct I should get there about 3:30. Plenty of time to get a ticket for the 4:30 ride to the summit.

Mount Washington Summit

I wanted the 4:30 train because it is discounted $9.00, That would cover my lunch! I love getting a break on prices. I can’t say saving money because any savings are sure to be gone before the week is out! 🙂

The Mount Washington Cog Railway is the first mountain climbing cog railway in  the world. Cog railways had been around but they were all “flat landers”. 

The concept of a railroad to the summit of Mount Washington came about as a result of a near tragic incident. Sylvester Marsh of Littleton, NH and a friend climbed Mount Washington where they were caught in a fierce storm. They were forced to stay overnight and nearly perished in the frigid temperatures. This experience gave Marsh the idea of a railroad so that travelers could reach the summit of Mount Washington in comfort and safety.

 Marsh designed the railroad but there were more skeptics than supporters so financing was a problem. Building of the railway began in 1866. At first there was only enough money for about 150 yards of track. Undeterred, Marsh ran his trains up that 150 yards and back proving that the little railroad was feasible.

The New Hampshire Legislature finally gave Marsh the go ahead to build his “Railway to the Moon”. The first excursion to the summit was on July 3rd, 1869. 

It seems fitting that the first “Mountain Climbing Cog Railroad” should be on the highest mountain in the Northeastern United States. The summit of Mount Washington is 6288 ft above sea level and it known for its erratic weather. There’s a sign stating that the strongest winds ever recorded were on Mount Washington and although this record has been disputed in recent years, the sign is still there for all to see.

The Cog Railway is located off RT 302. There’s a 6 mile drive from RT 302 to the Marshfield Base Station. The comfortable building houses a small snack bar/restaurant, a gift shop, museum and rest rooms as well as the ticket office.

Boarding commenced with a hearty “ALL ABOARD” from our brakeman Darrell.

 Darrell was assisted by his #2 Darrell.

I’m not sure if their names really were Darrell and Darrell or just the joke from the movie but it was fun anyway.

Each train consists of 1 passenger car and 1 engine. The engines are biodiesel locomotives. With a nod to the past there’s one trip a day with a coal-fired steam engine. That’s the first trip in the morning leaving promptly at 8:30 am. 

The trains no longer run in the winter. The season runs from spring through fall.

It felt strange to be carrying a jacket on board when it was 100 degrees or close to it, but that was the recommendation. I was assured that I would need it at the top.

Once on board, Darrell #1 began to tell us about the train and the route. The railway isn’t built right on the mountain. In fact it is a trestle track all the way up to the summit. 3 miles in fact! One section, known as Jacobs Ladder sometimes appears to be climbing right to heaven as low clouds can hide the top of the tracks. At times the gradient is 37% making this the 2nd steepest train tracks in the world and the only one built entirely on a trestle.

At the half way point there is the Halfway House built right next to the tracks. The house appears to be built on an incline but it’s actually an illusion created by the steep pitch of the train. On the side it says “This house is level”. I wanted a picture of that but the train was so close to the house that I couldn’t get it. I guess you’ll just have to go to see for yourself.

The total trip is about 3 hours. The train drops you off at the summit and returns to the bottom. You have an hour to enjoy the views, visit the snack bar and gift shop or mail a post card with a Mount Washington postmark.

 The visibility was quite clear on my visit which I am also told is unusual. Often the summit is engulfed in clouds. Sometimes the clouds are lower on the mountain and you break through at the summit, but clear days for viewing are rare. It was very windy and the temperature was hovering at 57-59 degrees. Add in that wind chill factor and I was glad I brought my jacket.

About an hour later the next train arrived with a new batch of passengers. After they off load it’s all aboard for us again.

Going up reminded me of riding a roller coaster when it starts its climb. That comparison might not be so far off. The engine is not attached to the passenger car. Going up it just pushes the car in front of it. Going down the car’s bumper rides on the engine and they let gravity do the work.

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When I got off back at Marshfield Base Station another visitor asked me if it was worthwhile to take the ride. I told him yes,  everyone should experience it at least once.

Kancamagus Scenic Highway

When I got up this morning it was almost overwhelming the options I had open to me. Unlike most of my vacation trips I did not commit to any reservations or tours in advance so everyday will be like a blank canvas. What to put on each one???

After tea and a cinnamon roll I headed to the car to drive to the Cog Railway however I am easily side-tracked and today was no different. Before I got to the exit for Mount Washington I saw an exit for the Kancamagus Highway. You guessed it. I decided to get off there and follow that route. I wasn’t sure where  it came out. I thought somewhere near Conway or Bretton Woods but since the day was all mine it really didn’t make any difference where it stopped.

The lower end wasn’t much. It was like a main street through what I think was Lincoln, NH but it wasn’t long before it began to climb.

I made a brief stop at the ranger station on the Pemigewasset River. This is the Lincoln Woods Trailhead.

I looked around a little but didn’t take the time to really hike. I wasn’t prepared but I did have to explore the  Pemigewasset Suspension Bridge where several of the trails start.

The bridge is pretty cool. You can feel it sway in the wind or when other hikers are crossing it. Since it looks very sturdy it’s a funny feeling.

 The water in the river was low but even so there were fishermen trying to tease out a trout or two.

The Ranger told me that there is a fee to park at each trailhead or you can get a day pass if you’re going to go to several different ones. Since it’s the National Forest my annual pass covered my parking. I just had to be sure to leave it on the dashboard so the rangers could see it when the made their rounds.

The last time I was on the Kancamagus it was on the back of a motorcycle and it was clear that the allure of this road to bikers was still there. At one of the scenic overlooks where the parking lot looked over one of the hairpin curves, I set up shop with the camera to try to catch a cycle coming around that curve. It didn’t take long.

Leaving that stop the road began to climb in earnest. The thermometer was hovering right around 100 even here in the mountains. Seriously HOT! That’s when I spotted the bicycles. Who would be out riding up a mountain in this heat! I had a case of water in the car. When I came to a small pull off I stopped to get more pictures and the first of the riders slowly peddled past.

I held out a warm but wet bottle of water. It earned me a smile but a shake of the head. The same with the ones following. Ok, at least I made the offer.

We leapfrogged a bit as I would drive by them then stop for pictures and they would pass me. Then I would pass them again and so on. Finally I reached the top of the Kancamagus Pass, elevation 2855. At least it would be downhill for those cyclists from this point on.

The next scenic overlook had a shelter and a large parking lot. As I pulled in I spotted the cyclists  again. They were gathered in the shelter having lunch. When they saw me they called me over and insisted on having a picture taken with me. As you can see, everyone was in good spirits.

 They said most people think they are nuts. But I just think it’s amazing. What dedication it took to get in good enough shape to make it up these mountains! And in this heat on top of it!

I left my new friends taking a well-earned break in the shade and headed back out to finish the downhill side of the Kancamagus.

I had forgotten about the waterfall I’d read about until I saw a sign for the Sabbaday Falls picnic area. It’s a National Forest site so I plopped my pass on the dashboard and locked up. I took just the camera, leaving the backpack in the car so the walk would be cooler. I now think that was a mistake. Without the backpack I didn’t have anyplace for a water bottle. Since the trail was only .5 miles I didn’t think I’d miss the water.

That was not true! I was sweating almost before I got up the first incline.

The trail was mostly uphill. It wasn’t long before I was drenched in sweat even though the trail is mostly shaded. I stopped a few times to get pictures before I reached the falls.

It was nice and cool near the waterfall. There were stone steps carved out of the rocks beside the falls that led up to a bridge that crossed the stream next to the falls. I had a blast taking pictures there. So much so I forgot how hot and thirsty I was. 🙂

Soon enough it was time to move on and return to the car. It was past lunch time too, even though I wasn’t feeling hungry I wasn’t sure how far it would be to the end and a restaurant or store.

When you start the Kancamagus a sign  says “no gas for 32 miles.” I wasn’t sure how far along I was. I wish I’d brought a cooler and packed a lunch. That would have been fun.

Back at the car I downed a whole bottle of water then it was time to head out. I didn’t stop at many more scenic pull outs due to the time but on the lower end I began to see cars lining the sides of the road. As I peered through the trees I could see another river and there were all the people…loads of them…all splashing and swimming and enjoying the cool river water. What a great way to beat the heat.

I was beginning to see signs of civilization and a sign said I was entering Conway, NH. Time to find someplace to eat.

So I’ll leave you right here where I’ll join you again after lunch.