2008-10-09 01:54:37.000 – Ryan Knapp, Staff Meteorologist
If you are an avid follower of the observer comments, you know that Wednesdays are rough on a night observer both coming and going. It forces our bodies to be awake during hours they are normally asleep and when the shift change meetings are over in the afternoon, the upcoming night “ob-er” lies there in the afternoon trying the get a nap in, with our internal clock continually saying “Really? Who are you trying to fool? Get up!” At first you fight it but eventually we cave in and get up after a short time. And of course I say “we” when in actuality I mean “me.”
So this afternoon, I awoke after fighting with my internal monologue for about 45 minutes and came up to the weather room to start my shift. As I peer out the weather at the building clouds I spot the Mount Washington Cog Railways biodiesel locomotive parked on the tracks about a quarter mile or so from the summit. (So, a quick side story, this locomotive is named “Wajo Nanatasis” but to me, it will forever be called “Henry the Green Machine” from the kids show “Thomas the Tank Engine.” I think you can see why and if you know more about Henry, it makes today’s story even more amusing. I always thought it would be a great marketing ploy towards families if they added a face and added this name to it, but that is just me. So, back to the story…). Curiosity sets in and I ask our intern how long it has been sitting there and if he knew anything. He did not. So we broke out the binoculars and saw that there were people sitting inside with operators investigating. I then went to the state park help desk and informed them of what I saw. After some listening in, we found out that there was a problem with a line and that a coal train would have to be sent up to take them down.
I spotted all this at 1700 EST (1800 EDT) and sunset was to be at 1720 EST (1820 EDT) with the “rescue” train just starting up. So this meant at least another hour til those passengers would be heading down the mountain. We donated a flashlight to NH State Park to take down to them for light since the trains are not equipped for night travel. At around 1820 EST (1920 EDT) we saw flashlights and other lightning ahead of a cog train (or at least we assume it was since it was pitch dark by now) heading up. The rest was a whirl of flashlights from one train to the other (again, assuming since it was dark out) and eventually saw a flash-lighted object pull away, and assumingly, safely down the mountain.
But the entire time, we kept wondering about the passengers. Were they exited about being on the mountain for a bit longer? Were they scared of the darkness that enveloped them? Were they disappointed the sunset was not better for them? Did any of them have to go to the bathroom? We know they weren’t entirely cold since it had heat we were told but for how long would that last? Were they excited to see the other train arrive and even more so when that train arrived at the base? Were they angered at something the cog had no control over? Were they exited at the prospect of such a cool story to tell people about their cog travels to the summit? Did they meet anyone on the train they normally never would have talked to if everything had worked smoothly? So many questions but in the end, only those passengers hold the answers.
Observer Note: Are you interested in photography? Then check out the MWO Fall Fundraiser “Make The Picture: News Photography Under Extreme Conditions” to be held Portsmouth, NH on Oct. 18th with Boston Globe photographer Bill Greene. For more information, click here.
Ryan Knapp, Staff Meteorologist