Fight Mt. Washington pollution

by Tyler Newby | 7/12/94 5:00am

Although Mt. Washington is not an active volcano, it belches smoke all summer long.

Viewed from a distance, New England's highest peak is one of the most easily distinguished landmarks in the state of New Hampshire. Known by skiers and climbers for Tuckerman Ravine and by all for some of America's worst weather, the daunting mountain is perhaps the state's most precious natural area.

But the puffs of black coal exhaust smoke that scale the mountain daily in the summer are sad reminders of man's ongoing exploitation of the mountain.

Hiking up the mountain last weekend, I was taken aback by the stunning beauty of Tuckerman Ravine's sheer cliffs and still present snow banks. Like all natural settings, the quiet of the area was an essential part of this beauty.

But just as I crested the ravine and began to scramble up the summit cone, I was jolted back into reality by the shrill scream of a train whistle. As I squinted up at the summit I could see the thick black exhaust rising up from the other side of the mountain.

The source was the Mt. Washington Cog Railway making one of its daily chugs up and down the mountain.

It is curious that the Cog Railway has escaped the environmental movement for it is, perhaps, the most blatant encroachment on nature in this state.

In addition to the exhaust from the coal-burning engine, the train's shrill whistle hardly blends harmoniously with the natural environment.

It substitutes the atmosphere of an amusement park for what is actually an unique piece of the environment.

Although at one time, this railway was a symbol of America's industrial drive and man's ability to conquer nature, it is now a blight on the White Mountains.

Started in 1869 it is in fact the world's oldest mountain-scaling railway.

For this reason, it is obviously a popular tourist activity. Of course, the fact that the Cog operates almost exactly the way it did more than 100 years ago appeals to tourists just as much as the mountain itself.

In fact, in 1956 when the Railway company added newer, quieter and cleaner passenger coaches, the public demanded the return of the old ones.

Is polluting the mountain a price worthy of making tourists feel like they were on a ride 100 years ago?

As history shows, public opinion is not always the right opinion. The Cog is certainly a valuable piece of history, but along with other articles from the past, it belongs in a museum.

Visit the Mt. Washington valley, and see how the railway stains an otherwise beautiful mountain. If it bothers you, write to the Mt. Washington Railway Company and the state legislature.

Dartmouth has had past relationships with the Cog Railway, and it can have future influence. The College actually owned and operated the railway from 1951 to 1962.

While the College no longer owns the railway, its community can still create change. The limits of our action need not be confined to Hanover.

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