by Amanda Gokee, New Hampshire Bulletin
The Mount Washington Railway Company is looking to expand its Waumbek station by extending the platform and building a new deck, according to company owner Wayne Presby. The expansion plan is set to come before the Coos County Zoning Board Tuesday.
The expansion is unrelated to the Cog Railway’s proposal to create upscale accommodation near the summit of Mt. Washington, Presby told the Bulletin. That proposal has been controversial after the state agreed to support it, with Presby arguing it will be an economic boost and others voicing concerns about its impact on the fragile alpine environment.
Gorham resident Abby Evankow said she was concerned that expanding Waumbek station could pave the way for Lizzie’s station, and North Country environmental activist Jon Swan took to Twitter urging residents to attend Tuesday’s meeting to show opposition for the Lizzie’s station project.
Located partway up the rail route to the Mt. Washington summit, Waumbek station sits at around 4000 feet of elevation. Passengers disembark at the station during the winter and when severe weather prevents the train from reaching the summit, and steam trains use the station for water refills. Lizzie’s station would be higher up on the mountain if it is approved by the Coos County Planning Board. The Cog Railway has not yet submitted an application to the board for Lizzie’s station, and counsel for the company said they intend to submit in March of 2023.
Presby said expanding the platform would improve the station by enlarging it, and making it more safe and comfortable for visitors. A 2020 review on Tripadvisor summarized one visitor’s experience at the station. “Waumbek Station is not a station, it’s three partially open sheds in a tiny, poorly maintained patch of slightly flatter dirt,” reads the review.
“The train ride up is completely unremarkable, 15 to 20 minutes of staring at trees slowly pass you by while you wonder about the amount of coal soot on the ground and your role in destroying the local environment,” the review continued.
Presby responded to the reviewer, noting that the Cog was working to make improvements. “We appreciate your feedback and we hope you will visit us again once we have completed our plans,” he replied.
The project proposes a 3-level deck of around 3600 square feet and requires approval by the zoning board because it would exceed the 25-foot setback from the edge of the Cog’s property.
“We’ve already been given a green light from the planning board to make the deck 18 feet by 120 feet long,” Presby said. He is now seeking permission to make the deck ten feet wider and hopes the zoning board will approve the request Tuesday.
The Zoning Board is scheduled to meet at the North Country Resource Center in Lancaster at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
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