Marshfield Station

Marshfield Station, the base of the Cog Railway, is seen on March 21, 2021, with the railway at left. At 2700 feet, Marshfield Base Station is the highest full-service, year-round facility on Mount Washington. (TERRY LEAVITT PHOTO)

LANCASTER — The Coos County Planning Board unanimously approved the site plan application of the Mount Washington Railway Co. for expanded winter activities to include Snowcat tours and Snowcat skiing on their property in Thompson & Meserve’s Purchase during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting last Wednesday.

The Mount Washington Cog Railway already announced plans earlier this year to run daily biodiesel excursions, with expanded weekend and holiday service, throughout the 2021-22 winter season.

According to Earl Duval with the law firm of Duval, Klasnick & Thompson LLC, who presented the proposal on behalf of Mount Washington Railway, the company at the end of 2020 bought a PistenBully 400 Snowcat machine, which had been used for a variety of purposes including as an alternative method to evacuate passengers from the railway in case of emergencies.

Duval said the Snowcat can seat up to 10 passengers and the plan is to use it to transport passengers for either tours or skiing excursions from the Marshfield Base Station up to Waumbek Station or to Skyline at 5,500 feet.

Duval said the tours are weather dependent and require a good amount of snow to be productive. The tours would depend on the types of activities participants wish to be involved in, whether riding merely for a tour or for the purpose of skiing the area.

Mount Washington Railway owner Wayne Presby said anyone who wishes to ride on the Snowcat will be required to purchase a Hike-Safe card from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and will be asked to stay on the property owned by the railway.

Presby said the railway doesn’t yet know how popular the Snowcat opportunity will be, but that they are looking at offering it as another opportunity to experience the area.

He said the tours will be very similar to rides on the railway with drivers pointing out significant points of interest along the ride.

Presby said the trail to be used for skiers follows the trail originally built by the contractor that built the power lines in the area. Presby said skiing along the trail near the railway doesn’t involve any skiing that is too steep and follows the trail closely.

As part of the site plan application, the railway requested several waivers including surveying property lines, proposed grades, natural features such as streams, marshes, lakes and ponds, lot area street frontage and the location of deeded restrictions.

No information was presented that indicated the tours would in any way affect the normal running of the railway line. Duval and Presby both noted the Snowcat is also used for snow maintenance on the trails as well as by Fish and Game for rescue operations, so the device has already seen significant usage since its purchase in 2020.

The proposal was scheduled for public comment but no members of the public spoke about the proposal. There were also no objections submitted by abutters to the railway’s property.

The plan and waivers were approved as submitted.

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