A White Mountains Community College instructor with students in the heavy equipment tech program. Courtesy photo.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway, which has a staff of about 100, now boasts a $3.3 million maintenance facility with cutting-edge technology. The historic railroad hopes to attract a workforce so it can continue to bring tourists to the summit of Mount Washington.
Wayne Presby, owner of the Mount Washington Cog Railway, says “The Cog” was the first of its kind in the world. “All the companies operating mountain climbing train systems took our original technology and improved it. But it started with our technology,” he says. “The shoe is now on the other foot. I’ve gone to those facilities, looked at what they’ve done and added their improvements to our own.”
According to Presby, there’s only one other company in the world that builds the kind of locomotives used by The Cog—Statler in Germany. “Our line is different. We need to do extensive engineering because the grades are interesting, the cars are different, the tracks are different. [Statler] would have to engineer it from scratch, so we decided we might as well do it ourselves.”
He says the old maintenance facility, built in 1890, was inefficient. The new facility, named in honor of Johnny Suitor, a longtime shop foreman, was built for a team of master mechanics, welders and fabricators to maintain and grow their fleet of nine biodiesel locomotives.
Johnny Suitor and Wayne Presby. Courtesy photo.
To attract the next generation of professionals, The Cog has partnered with White Mountains Community College in Berlin to train interns. The school’s Diesel Heavy Equipment Technology program typically attracts 30 to 35 students per year. The goal is to have an internship program by summer 2022, providing students with transferable skills, says Presby.
“These engines are very sophisticated, they are all computer-controlled, with a system to control the maximum speed of 4.76 miles per hour, which is stuff that even Amtrak doesn’t have,” Presby says.
He sees the new center and internship program as a way to keep local youth from leaving the region after college. “These students will come in for an internship and possibly choose to stay and work here. We turn out a lot of very talented kids in this area. But they don’t believe they can find good employment so they leave the area looking [at] other places,” says Presby. “By offering them a commensurate salary and benefits and a good facility with the most modern equipment, we can attract the kids to stay here and become permanent residents on their own.”