Governor Dedicates the Mount Washington Cog Railway's First Biodiesel Locomotive
Ruth and Larry Kirkman of Brookville Pennsylvania, the winners of the contest to name the locomotive
Governor John Lynch dedicated the newest locomotive at the Mount Washington Cog Railway on September 6, 2008 and opened a new era in the 139-year history of the world's first, mountain-climbing cog railway. The traditional bottle of Ammonoosuc River water was broken on the engine's cab, and an American flag, draping the side of the cab was removed to reveal the name of the Cog Railway's first biodiesel locomotive, Wajo Nanatasis. The name, pronounced "Wadzo Nanna-tassis" is Abenaki for "Mountain Hummingbird" and was selected from many entries in a "Name That Train" Contest.
For the first forty years of Cog's operation, wood-fired boilers powered the train to the 6,288-foot summit. Around 1910, more efficient coal was introduced. Each six-mile round trip consumes a ton of coal and 1,000 gallons of water. The inauguration of Wajo Nanatasis signals the intention to supplement the coal-fueled locomotives with several biodiesel engines, which will diminish emissions and conserve the use of fossil fuels. Wajo Nanatasis was designed and built on site, at the base of Mount Washington, by Cog Railway personnel led by Chief Engineer, Al LaPrade.
The Saturday ceremonies, which drew approximately 300 people to Marshfield Station, opened at 11:00 a.m. with a greeting from Joel Bedor, who, with other local businessmen, purchased the railway in 1983. Mr. Bedor briefly reviewed their 25 years of stewardship of the Cog Railway, bringing it into the 21st century and introducing Multiple improvements such as more coaches; new automatic, solar-powered switches; bringing a commercial power source to the base station; miles of new track; the 1984 completion of the new Marshfield Station, the inauguration of winter operations and finally the new biodiesel locomotive, "The biggest innovation since 1869."
Unveiling of the Winning Name 'Wajo Nanatasis'
Mr. Bedor introduced William P. Veillette, executive director of the New Hampshire Historical Society. Mr. Veillette recounted the history of the Cog and the achievements of its inventor, Sylvester Marsh. He quoted from several contemporary accounts that reflected the public's initial skepticism then avid appreciation of Marsh's marvel. Concluding with the most recent improvements to the original operation, Mr. Viellette said: "As New Hampshire residents, we should all feel very proud of these accomplishments. I want to personally thank Al LaPrade and his team for giving us the opportunity to witness history rather than read about it in books."
Wayne Presby & Jeanne Shaheen
Mr. Bedor then introduced Wayne Presby, president of the Cog Railway, by recalling their relative youth when they assumed ownership of the venture, and cited Mr. Presby's "vision and persistence" as the force behind the quarter century of progress.
Mr Presby began his remarks by noting that this occasion was the first dedication of a new locomotive since 1983. Presby also reflected on Sylvester Marsh's motivation to proceed despite sharp public ridicule adding, "Marsh adhered to that inventive spirit which is today embodied by our General Manager Charlie Kenison and Chief Engineer, Al LaPrade." Laughter greeted Presby's mention that most of LaPrade's career was devoted to working at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on nuclear submarines - a career spanning several epochs of engineering science.
"Al LaPrade is one of the most talented engineers I have ever met. He has immersed himself in the operations of the Cog Railway to get a full understanding of its intricacies. He routinely works as a brakeman on the passenger coaches when he is not doing engineering work or when passenger demand necessitates it. Most engineers do not have the opportunity to do this or are not allowed to take the time to do this. As a result his designs have been flawless and have worked without compromise right out of the blocks. Without his assistance and skills we would not be able to accomplish the goals we have set for the operation."
Governor John Lynch - contest winners Ruth and Larry Kirkman of Brookville Pennsylvania - Dr. Susan Lynch
Presby emphasized that the biodiesel project was a New Hampshire initiative that drew on local companies for expertise, assistance and even fabrication. Presby briefly discussed a company that he has formed to manufacture biodiesel fuel at a plant in nearby Haverhill, NH. White Mountain Biodiesel, LLC will be capable of producing 3-5 million gallons of biodiesel per year.
Mr. Presby concluded his remarks by highlighting some distinctive features of the new locomotive. The 617 horse-power engine is governed by a custom-designed computer system that will shorten the round trip to the summit from three hours to two while monitoring every detail of the vehicle and track.
Mr. Bedor next introduced former NH Governor and candidate for U.S. Senate, Jeanne Shaheen. He recalled her dedication to supporting tourism in the state and mentioned several initiatives that particularly benefited the North Country.
Governor Shaheen spoke briefly of the importance of tourism, "an industry that brings $4.3 billon into our state every year and supports 67,000 full and part-time jobs." She singled out the Cog Railway's heritage of overcoming skepticism to become a leading attraction. "And today we see a new energy initiative at the Cog Railway, part of what is happening across the country, moving our nation toward energy independence. It is a testimony to the Bedors and Presbys, " she concluded, adding to the crowd's laughter: "You know, Mr, Marsh was a lot like the Bedors and Presbys."
To introduce incumbent Governor John Lynch and his wife, Dr. Susan Lynch, Mr Bedor spoke of the Governor's support of tourism and attention to North Country concerns.
Governor Lynch began by thanking the Cog owners for their commitment to New Hampshire. "And today, we recognize their contribution to the environment, and environment that we pass on to our children. The Governor noted that the biodiesel project fit into the state's "25 by 25" initiative to move New Hampshire toward increased energy independence. His concluding remarks were met with laughter: "Wayne told me that I'm going to drive the locomotive. Wayne, I've never driven a locomotive! I hope it is Governor-friendly."
As the ceremonies approached the unveiling of the locomotives new name, Joel invited Ruth and Larry Kirkman of Brookville Pennsylvania, the winners of the contest to name the locomotive, onto the dais. Mr. Bedor explained that they had driven 700 miles to attend the ceremony. He then invited Mr. Presby to take the microphone to announce the new name. "He can't pronounce it," Mr Presby joked. "It is Wajo Nanatasis."
Bedor resumed by explaining how the name was selected. He mentioned Cathy Belcher of Jackson, NH who had suggested the name "Abenaki Hummingbird." Belcher had wanted a name that honored the Native American heritage of Mount Washington, while describing "little workhorses with tiny environmental footprints."
All on the platform were invited to gather at the track where Charlie Kenison and Al LaPrade undraped the American flag that had covered the name of the locomotive. The Governor then broke the bottle of Ammonoosuc Water on the chassis of the engine and mounted the cab. Waving from the window of the cab, Lynch cried "Everybody clear out!" and pushed the joystick that controls the motion of the locomotive. Wajo Nanatasis had entered into history.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway is a National Historic Engineering Landmark. Its first locomotive, Old Peppersass, reached the summit of Mount Washington on July 3, 1869, making it the world's first mountain climbing railroad using a toothed cogwheel to engage the rack between the rails.
Old Peppersass is on display at the Marshfield Station, and the Cog Railway Museum, which is full of memorabilia and the rich history of this pioneering railroad, is free and open to the public.