The Mount Washington Cog Railway Makes for Ideal Field Trips
Are you looking to complement lessons plans for science, math and history? As the world's first mountain-climbing cog railway, the Mount Washington Cog Railway ascends 6,288 feet into an alpine eco system - an ideal field experience in the heart of New Hampshire's White Mountains and just 165 miles from Boston. The three-hour round trip represents an opportunity to engage a broad range of groups, from elementary and high school students to educational campers. Consider how these topics could fit your calendar:
Science: The Cog's evolution from wood-and-coal-fired steam boilers to vegetable-based biodiesel locomotive engines is the most visible example of green technology at work. Completely designed and assembled at the Cog Railway, the Cog biodiesel is a modern marvel of engineering from push-button controls to automated safety features. Another Cog feature, the solar panels, which regenerate batteries that regulate the all-important hydraulic switches, safely allow two opposing trains to pass each other around the Waumbek Water Tower.
As visitors pass through several different climate zones on their way to the summit, the train's brakeman points out geological formations, the mountains of the Presidential Range and the alpine plants unique to Mount Washington. Students learn fascinating meteorological facts about Mount Washington, and what makes it a popular destination for aspiring forecasters, biologists, and geologists.
Math: This unique train ride provides teachers and camp counselors with a variety of ways to make math practical and fun. Perhaps the best-known example occurs at Jacob's Ladder, a 300-foot trestle whose length is also represented as 90 meters. In fact, all the distances associated with the railway are rendered in both standard and metric units, which can prompt numerous conversion exercises. The wooden and steel trestle also incorporates a 30-degree turn at the same time it ascends a 37.41% grade. In decimals, that makes the slope approximately 37 feet, 4 inches. For every 100 feet a student moves in a Cog coach, s/he is simultaneously ascending 37' 4" up the side of Mount Washington. Want to add the rate of speed to this equation? Or convert percentages to degrees? The Cog's extremely knowledgeable brakemen are generous with answering questions from curious youngsters.
History: The Cog Museum at the Marshfield Base Station provides a variety of visual, auditory and video displays that trace the railway's progression from the 19th century to the 21st. The self-guided tour highlights the peak's natural history and its location in the dramatic Presidential Range. It introduces students to inventor Sylvester Marsh and details how his break-through in vertical rail design occurred at the height of America's Industrial Revolution. In 1976 The Cog earned distinction as a National Engineering Landmark. Included in The Cog's roster of 'firsts' is Ellen Crawford Teague who became the nation's first woman to run a railroad company when she became The Cog's president and treasurer in 1967. Another historic milestone occurred in 1982 when the National Register of Historic Places listed the peak's Tip Top House. Students can tour for free the 1853 hostelry and see first-hand what it was like to stay overnight on the windswept Mount Washington when hiking was the only means of reaching the summit.
In operation since 1869, this engineering marvel is the only cog railway east of the Rockies. Whether inside a coach or outside atop the tallest peak in New England, students experiencing The Mount Washington Cog Railway have an opportunity to take part in an enriching educational endeavor.