When Chicago meatpacking magnate Sylvester Marsh originally presented his idea for a railway to the top of the Rockpile, the state legislature told him that he might as well “build a railway to the moon.” Sometimes it feels like you are climbing that high as you sit in the rickety vintage railway cars as they make their 30-degree ascent up to the top of the peak.
The railway first opened in 1869, and it was the first in the world to employ toothed gears, or cogs, that meshed with a pinion on the track to prevent the train from slipping backward. When it opened, the Mount Washington Cog Railway immediately stole the thunder of the carriage road in Pinkham Notch . These days, the Auto Road  is more popular, but the railway railway (Base Rd., off Rte. 302, Bretton Woods, 603/278-5404 or 800/922-8825, www.thecog.com , Jul.–Oct., $59 adults, $54 seniors, $39 children 4–12, free children under 4) is a more relaxing and romantic—as well as more expensive—way to climb to the top.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway runs year-round, with hourly trips during the summer and winter and a limited schedule in the spring and fall. Round-trip takes about three hours, and is accompanied by a guided narration that explains the natural features of the valley as well as the history and technology of the railway itself. A museum at the base station includes Old Peppersass, the first locomotive to make the climb.