Cog Railway Hotel Proposal

Cog Railway, Mount Washington on the summit of Mount Washington in the White Mountains, New Hampshire. Completed in 1869, this three mile railroad leads to the summit of Mount Washington.
Mount Washington Cog Railway in the Alpine Zone, New Hampshire
 

Cog Railway Hotel Proposal, Mount Washington – The owner of the Mount Washington Cog Railway is again proposing a restaurant and hotel accommodations on New Hampshire's Mount Washington. However, this project is a little different than the 35-room hotel proposal he made a few years ago. The Cog Railway owns a 99-foot-wide strip of land that straddles the railroad from the Cog Railway Station to the summit of Mount Washington. These accommodations would be built within this strip of land, below the summit.

In the new proposal, 18 rail cars would be placed at 5,800 feet at a station from mid-May through mid-October. Some of the rail cars would be dining cars, and nine of them will be sleeper cars that can accommodate up to 70 guests. And because the station isn’t on the actual summit of Mount Washington (6,288 feet), the Cog Railway will have a daily train dedicated to transporting passengers back and forth from the new station to the summit. If approved, this estimated $14 million dollar project could take up to 7 years to complete.

With the exception of the railroad, the new station and infrastructure to operate a hotel on Mount Washington will have to be built. The project is in the early stages, and more information will become available as the Cog Railway goes through the permitting process.

Mount Washington has a history of hotels. Built of stone, the first Summit House hotel was completed in 1852, and the second summit hotel, also constructed of stone, the Tip-Top House, was built in 1853. The second Summit House hotel, which accommodated 150-200 guests, was built in 1872-1873. It burned down in June 1908. The third and last Summit House hotel, built in 1914-1915, accommodated 90 guests. It was demolished in 1980.

Currently, the only establishment in the general area of the proposed hotel site that runs like a hotel is Lakes of the Clouds Hut. Located in the alpine zone at 5,012 feet, this hut is open May/June through September. Capable of sleeping 90 people, it’s the most popular hut in the AMC hut system. If the proposed hotel is built, the number of people overnighting in the alpine zone will almost double; Mount Washington's alpine zone will see a significant increase in pedestrian traffic.

The impact this project could have to the alpine zone environment is a legitimate concern. Tiny alpine plants grow in the alpine zone, and some of these endangered plants only grow in the White Mountains. Adding more people to an area that is already overcrowded will potentially do more damage to the alpine zone environment.

The environmental impact and overcrowding are just two concerns. There are concerns about brightly colored rail cars impacting the view. Some worry about hotel fires, medical emergencies, and sewer lines bursting. And others worry that unprepared hotel guests will put a strain on search and rescue. Others wonder if the dining cars will be open to hikers. And the commercialization of Mount Washington is also a concern.

While this proposal is an interesting approach to bring back hotel life on Mount Washington, the fragile alpine zone may not be able to handle the increase in pedestrian traffic that will come with it. It will be interesting to see if the Cog Railway is able to obtain the permits.

A few links:
News stories about the Cog Railway proposal (Google search showing articles) here.
A petition: Stop the Cog Railway (again) from building luxury lodging on Mount Washington.

 

Happy image making..


 

View more photos of the Cog Railway here.

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Erin Paul is a professional photographer who specializes in environmental conservation and historic preservation photography in the New Hampshire White Mountains. His work is published worldwide, and credits include; Backpacker Magazine, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and The Wilderness Society.

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2 Responses to “Cog Railway Hotel Proposal”

  1. Mike Saltmarsh

    Indeed, my main concern with any of the proposals is an unwitting, or worse, unwilling public trampling the alpine vegetation in a far reaching radius around the site. I'd like to think Lakes is different in that the hiking community is better informed, yet I've seen on Moosilauke as one example of people ignoring the plea to stay on the paths. If the hiker crowd is unwilling to protect sensitive environments, the general public (on average, not everyone of course) I think should be obvious to be more of an impact.

    While it is their land, the freedom to do as one pleases is limited by impact to others, particularly neighbors. Given the neighbor is the USFS, that is the public. Like one cannot impact wetlands on one's property to a degree, it is even more important in this case given the number of endangered and threatened species in the alpine zone. Perhaps none of them are at the site proposed, I don't know, but hopefully a thorough vetting of the project will come to the right decision. The Dixville wind project, while completely on private land, still required extra work on environmental impact studies due to it's elevation – in large part relating to the pine marten habitat.

    The USFS hopefully will have a say as well as it seems unlikely that the hotel can keep guests strictly on their land, and as I mentioned, they are abuttors. 

    Personally, I would prefer any lodging to be at the summit itself, since that is already highly disturbed property, and in reality the MWOBS does that to a small degree, so there's that in addition to Lakes as well. The Cog could certainly profit from this in numerous ways from bringing guests up, financing and running the property, etc., but obviously the Cog would not get 100% of the profits as some sort of deal with the State would have to be made, being on their property. And perhaps some of that money could go to study and protection of the vast remainder of the alpine zone. 

    So many different options with so many pros and cons. I get the uniqueness of lodging at that altitude, and I'm not totally against such a thing, but I will be watching for a lot of due diligence of a number of parties (county, state, USFS in particular) before I can look at it as a generally positive measure. 

    Reply
    • Erin Paul Donovan

      Hi Mike,

      My concern is the same – the alpine zone environment. The Presidential Range and the White Mountains are already overcrowded. And I just can’t see how adding more people to an area that is already dealing with overcrowding is going to help the conservation of the alpine zone environment.

      Hopefully, the groups involved will research this proposal inside and out. The ending result could be disastrous.

      Reply

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