Cog Railway engineer dies in 300-foot fall taking photos on Mount Willard

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Joe Eggleston, engineer at the Cog Railway. Image/Facebook

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HARTS LOCATION, NH – Joe “Eggy” Eggleston, a “Cogger” who worked as an engineer on the Mount Washington Cog Railway and an avid hiker, died in a tragic fall during a hike accompanied by his wife Kelley on Mount Willard over the weekend.

Eggleston, 53, of Randolph, and his wife were hiking near the summit of the exposed peak in Crawford Notch Saturday at about 10:30 a.m., not far from their home when he lost his footing and fell.

He was found dead about 300 feet below later in the day by rescuers.

Eggleston was well-known among the Mount Washington community. He was a beloved railroad engineer for the Cog, who worked despite profound hearing loss.

“Train Master Andy Villaine spoke for all of us when he wrote about the loss of this great man and true Cogger:

“Eggy’s warm smile and passion for what he did will always be remembered by those he touched. I’m honored to have shared a cab with him. His home will always be in these mountains he loved. Gone too soon, never forgotten. That whistle will forever echo off these peaks for you,” according to a Facebook post.

New Hampshire Fish and Game said Eggleston and his wife were taking photographs when the accident occurred.

“The hiker’s wife heard her husband yell and looked over to notice him falling over the edge of the mountain down a steep cliff that extended to the bottom approximately 800 feet,” the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department said in a statement.

She called 9-1-1 from a cell phone at the peak and was joined by members of the Mountain Rescue Service who responded and rappelled down the cliff. Eggleston’s body was found at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

New Hampshire Fish and Game reported the conditions as treacherous and icy when they responded but noted both Kelley Eggleston and her husband were well prepared for the day trip and experienced hikers.

Mountain Rescue Service carried his body back to the Mount Willard trailhead parking area where they arrived at about 6:45 p.m.

Eggleston worked as an engineer on the coal-powered steam train, which climbs to the summit of Mount Washington at 6,288 feet during the summer months and climbs halfway to the summit in winter.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Kelley, and his friends and family. Eggy, living gracefully with profound hearing loss since childhood, once said to us ‘where else could a deaf man fulfill his dream of running a steam locomotive?’” a statement from the railroad said.

Many people sent condolences on the Cog’s Facebook page along with photos of Eggleston

Lt. Bradley R. Morse of the Region Two Office of Fish and Game in New Hampton said the department was notified of the fall shortly after 10:30 a.m. Saturday. He said Kelley Eggleston called for assistance due to the icy conditions and steepness of the terrain.
Conservation officers also responded along with Mountain Rescue Service and its technical team.

The Mountain Rescue Service is comprised of highly skilled volunteers who respond to the most technical and demanding rescues in the state.
They specialize in rope rescue in technical terrain on rock, ice, and swift water conditions.

Donations to MRS can be made through the New Hampshire Outdoor Council at www.nhoutdoorcouncil.org. Donations are tax-deductible.
Fish and Game also noted that outdoor enthusiasts are also encouraged to purchase a Hike Safe card at www.wildnh.com/safe.

The card helps support Fish and Game search and rescue activities. For safe hiking tips and a list of essential gear, visit hikesafe.com.


About this Author

Paula Tracy

Veteran reporter Paula Tracy writes for InDepthNH.org