THOMPSON AND MESERVE’S PURCHASE — Wayne and Susan Presby of Littleton threw an elegant and festive gala last Saturday, June 22, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the historic mountain-climbing railroad in the Marshfield Base Station plus an adjacent tent.
Many members of the Presby family that now own the famous tourist attraction were on hand, as well as Cathy and Joel Bedor of Littleton, who until recently were part of the Cog’s management and ownership teams.
An unplanned event — a hiker unable to complete his journey to the summit who was given a ride down the Cog to safety — reminded everyone that the Cog has long been used to aid those needing help.
District I Executive Councilor Mike Cryans of Hanover was also on hand, though after speaking had to leave early to attend his 50th Littleton High School reunion.
Cryans described the June 19 Governor and Council meeting in the State House, at which Gov. Chris Sununu presented the Presbys with an official commendation marking this significant anniversary.
Susan Presby read aloud the governor’s commendation, which noted that in 2018 more than 125,000 people rode the Cog up to the 60.3-acre Mount Washington State Park at the 6,288-foot summit in Sargent’s Purchase.
House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, North Country representatives of the state’s two U.S. senators — Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan — were on hand, as well as Reps. Henry Noel of Berlin and Rep. Mike Furbush of Colebrook.
Wayne Presby thanked the many Cog employees for their efforts and dedication over the years that have kept alive the remarkable dream of Sylvester Marsh, the railway’s innovative founder who designed and patented its rack and cog system.
President Ulysses S. Grant was among the 5,000 tourists who rode the train in 1869 after it had made its inaugural journey July 3.
Less than a month earlier in this same year, the country celebrated the completion of the transcontinental railroad with an elaborate ceremony at Promontory, Utah.
A reunion was held for all Cog employees, past and present, the following night, June 23.
Cog brakeman Tom Lane of Twin Mountain served as the emcee, introducing various speakers and a panel of some of those who produced a commemorative coffee-table book in both hard- and soft-cover, selling for $50 and $25, respectively.
They included Pam Sullivan of Sullivan Creative; project manager Rebecca “Becky” Metcalf, a Cog employee; and former “Coos County Democrat” editor Eileen Alexander, who wrote the text.
Photographer Jay Philbrick of Philbrick Photography of North Conway, who shot photos at the Cog for two years, was unable to be present.
The book — described as a “photographic essay” — was physically produced in New England, at the New Hampshire Bindery in Bow.
The book's introduction was penned by Shaheen. “Amazing!” the senator wrote. ”A small word, but one that encompasses so much emotion, and the word used most often by visitors from around the world to describe their trip on the historic Mount Washington Cog Railway.”
Charyl Reardon, who was named president of the White Mountains Attractions in March to succeed the retiring Jayne O’Connor, pointed out that a century and a half is a long time for a company to thrive.
“I Googled notable businesses launched in 1869, and there are only a handful still in business: Campbell Soup, Heinz 57, Goldman Sachs and the Jelly Belly Co. What wonderful company to be in!”
She noted that 45 years ago, the Cog was an early supporter of regional marketing.
“All the owners of the Cog have helped to enrich the White Mountains … and have played an important role in the Association’s mission of sustainable tourism growth and providing visitors with a memorable experience so they will return for generations,” she said.
Tasty hors d’oeuvres and a buffet dinner were provided by Chef Joe’s Catering of Sugar Hill. A photo booth and an array of materials were on display in the upgraded Cog museum. A champagne toast to the past 150 years and the next was offered by Wayne Presby.
Following the feast, spectacular fireworks followed an exceptionally vibrant sunset.
Some Presby family members rode up the Cog train — the M1 diesel locomotive “Wajo Nanatassis” and no. 1 coach — that was sent up the tracks at 7 p.m. to help Lt. Mark Ober of District 1 Fish and Game, organize a rescue of hiker Mike Couch, 46, a partial-leg amputee from Indiana, who had hurt his back while using crutches to try to climb Mt. Washington on the Jewell Trail.
“Having the ability to utilize machinery to assist in a search and rescue is a luxury that is almost never available, so when this situation presented itself we were extremely lucky to have the ability to request assistance from the Cog and have them respond so quickly,” Ober noted. “I can’t thank them enough for their willingness to help.”