Since 1869, locomotives at Mount Washington Cog Railway have been built in-house using materials obtained locally.
What do you do when faced with an insurmountable challenge of completing a construction project on the highest peak in the Northeast? Some would shy away from such an endeavor, but not the team at the Mount Washington Cog Railway.
The tourist attraction in Marshfield Station, N.H., is installing a fourth railway switch, located about 500 ft. below the summit, with some help from a Doosan DX140LCR-3 crawler excavator and a pair of attachments. The additional railway switch is a three-phase project that will eventually help guide trains from one track to the other, increasing the frequency of passenger visits to the summit.
Facing Unique, Challenging Conditions
Mount Washington (elevation 6,288 ft.) is known for erratic weather and fluctuating temperatures that can vary throughout the year — from minus 49 to 74 F. Snow also is common on the summit, with an annual snowfall amount of 177 in. (14.75 ft.), and average wind speeds are 37 mph. Because of the Arctic-like conditions at the summit, Gareth Slattery, general manager at the Cog Railway, knew it would be a challenge building a fourth railway switch, even during warm spring months.
After consulting with Jim Mullen, his Equipment East sales specialist, Slattery rented a DX140LCR-3 reduced-tail-swing excavator because of its reliability and operating weight — an ideal match to fit on the specially designed haul cart. “I can count on Jim to send me a machine that is functional,” Slattery said. “I am all about service because when we get the machine on a mountain, you just don't run your mechanic up there to fix it. I knew that I could count on Jim and his recommendation for this application.”
Slattery faced multiple challenges, including how to transport the DX140LCR-3 to the project site. He had mechanical engineer Al LaPrade design a cart to haul the excavator to the summit — a machine heavier than the DX140LCR-3 could not have been transported.
Workers dealt with unrelenting snow and ice, even in May. Before working on the fourth switch installation, they had to move 2-ft.-wide rocks using the DX140LCR-3 with a bucket and a hydraulic clamp. After the rocks were moved, more than 8 ft. of snow had to be cleared so workers could continue on the fourth switch. If that wasn't challenging enough, 2 ft. of ice had settled underneath the snow.
Slattery paired the DX140LCR-3 with a hydraulic breaker to help break up the frozen ground — known as permafrost — allowing for a more malleable surface to lay the support beams. “We flattened out spots for our pedestals for that switch to sit on,” he said. “We created some semi-flat spots for the ‘benches' to go in. A lot of what the excavator did is act like a crane and lift beams into place.”
The DX140LCR-3 worked on the project until the end of June 2015. The excavator was brought down from the site and a second Doosan excavator will be used again in spring 2016 to continue the project. “We hope to have the project finished and the fourth switch operational by July 2016,” Slattery said.
Adding a fourth switch will improve the Mount Washington Cog Railway's operating efficiency to better manage passenger traffic up and down the mountain. “When we get the fourth switch installed, we will have an additional siding on the summit that will allow us to run 45-minute schedules,” he said. “The schedule is set up now so when the train arrives at the summit, it unloads passengers and the passengers from the previous hour get on the train and come down the mountain. We will be adding at least one additional trip a day, if not two, and the passengers can go up and come down on the same train.”
The uniqueness of the cog design is something employees at the Mount Washington Cog Railway take pride in. With the help of the Doosan DX140LCR-3 excavator, employees will continue to utilize steam and diesel locomotives on the cog railway and be able to accommodate visitors for years to come.