MARSHFIELD STATION - Thanks to a heavy-lift crane and 68 bolts, the largest vehicle ever built by the Cog Railway in its 150-year history – more than 56 feet long and weighing 20,000 pounds — was placed on the track Monday and prepared for imminent duty.
Costing “a couple hundred” thousand dollars, the open-floored, retractable-sided, all-weather rail-laying car will allow crews to work 24/7, regardless of the season or conditions outside, to re-rail the Cog from top to bottom as part of a $1 million upgrade, said Cog owner Wayne Presby.
The car’s body was built by Cog workers in the sprawling workshop at Presby Steel in Berlin, which before being bought by Wayne Presby’s brother, David, had operated as Issacson Structural Steel.
A flatbed tractor-trailer ferried the car the 42 miles from Berlin to the Cog’s maintenance shed, which is about a half-mile below the base station.
A crane from Cote Crane & Rigging of Auburn, Maine, was waiting at the maintenance shed. In relatively short order, the crane had picked up the car and set it onto its trucks (the railroad wheel assemblies). The crane operator then lifted roof segments, which also had been made in Berlin, onto it and Cog employees used the 68 bolts to secure the roof to the car.
The car measures 56 feet, 6 inches long, is about 16 feet tall and 9 feet, 8 inches wide.
The Cog is known for designing and building its own passenger cars and biodiesel locomotives. It’s the only railroad of its kind that builds its own equipment, and none has anything like the re-railing car, said Presby. It’s by far the biggest piece of equipment the Cog has built, he said.
Presby said Cote Crane & Rigging is “exceptional at what they do.” Last spring, the company rebuilt the Cog’s bridge over the Ammonoosuc River that had been “wiped out” by a storm on Oct. 29, 2017.
The weather cooperated when the bridge was installed in March 2018 and again on Monday with the placement of the re-railing car, said Presby, pointing to the bright sunshine and calm winds.
On Saturday, the Mount Washington Observatory recorded a top wind gust of 148 miles per hour, said Presby.
He added that the last thing that anyone wanted on Monday – given that the space the crane had available to pick up, turn and place the re-railing car onto the track just outside the maintenance shed was at a premium – was wind.
In addition to the re-railing project that Presby said could take from one to two years to finish, the Cog in 2019 is also putting a new biodiesel locomotive it built into service.