June 2020 Wheel Report
By Brian Solomon Manager, Marketing & Events
As Spring blossoms on the Conway Scenic Railroad, I have lots to write about and just limited time and space to work with. On June 11, 2020 we finally got the word that we can resume public operations. Our planned 2020 reopening is for Saturday June 20th. Initially we will be operating a revised Valley train schedule with two trains to Conway and one to Bartlett every day. Boarding for the 10am Conway train is at 9:30am, boarding for the 1pm Bartlett train is at 12:30pm, and boarding for the 3:30pm Conway train is at 3pm. Guests are advised to book in advance online (ConwayScenic.com) or call us at: 603-356-5251. Owing to more complicated boarding procedures necessary to comply with State of New Hampshire mandated social distancing procedures we are asking guests to arrive prior to the scheduled boarding time. Ticket sales will be closed 15 minutes prior to departure.
We have re-branded the Notch Train by adopting the historic name Mountaineer. In addition we have adjusted the schedule and the running. The train will now board at 11:30 and depart at 12 noon for a four hour round trip to Crawford and return. We expect the Mountaineer to arrive back at North Conway just after 4pm. The Mountaineer debut is planned for June 27th, and we intended to initially run the train on Tuesdays and Saturdays, but hope to add more trains if demand warrants. In order to honor priory commitments, the train will resume its previous schedule in the fall, and will return to a 11am departure with a 10:30 boarding time, along with extended operation to Fabyans. As of this writing the details of the autumn schedule are still being refined.
Although during April, May and the first couple weeks of June we were not allowed to operate public excursions (because of the restrictions imposed upon us by the State of New Hampshire to contain the Covid-19 outbreak) we have not been idle. Quite the contrary we at Conway Scenic have been busy!
Master carpenter George Small and his team have been working to install compartment seating in our 1133 Mount Washington passenger car and has been working on options for similar arrangements for some of our other cars. Compartment seating is an experiment intended to give vulnerable guests and those with safety/heath concerns a more secure traveling environment.
On May 14, we took our RDC 21 Millie to Conway for training and media purposes and to open the line in anticipation of our eventual reopening for public excursions. Presently the RDC is back out on the short track near the station awaiting its call for service in the Summer 2020 season.
In early June, former Maine Central GP38 252 was brought into the round house to undergo its 92-day inspection in preparation for its duties working Valley trains and the Mountaineer (formerly known as ‘the Notch Train’.
Our former Maine Central GP7 has been undergoing its 92-day inspection and related repair work to put this locomotive in good shape for duties on our Valley Trains this summer.
In mid-May, former Baltimore & Ohio/Chesapeake & Ohio GP9 1751 was returned to active service and used to switch out the yard. On May 26, 2020, the engine operated a work extra that made three runs between North Conway and Conway. This was a training run to help give our engineer trainees and trainmen running experience, while taking advantage of clear spring weather for filming and photography to be used in training videos and media promotion.
470 Club’s Boston & Maine 4268 has occupied stall 4 of the roundhouse, where over the winter, Cory Fothergill and Wayne Allen have continued their restoration work. According to Cory, recent projects include adding fuel tank vents, and air filter housings, while preparing to line up the generator. The plan is to move 4268 from stall four and position it back to back with 4266 behind the round house, where work on its operational restoration will continue.
This locomotive was acquired by the 470 Club as a parts-donor for F7A 4268. In recent weeks, a variety of parts (including handrails and other components) have been salvaged from 470 club’s GP9 1757 in preparation for its eventual scrapping. It is expected that a portion of the long hood will be preserved as part of a display at the New Hampshire North Coast-where the locomotive worked for many years beginning in the mid-1980s. Presently, the remains of the locomotive sit on one of the turntable tracks outside the roundhouse.
Steam Locomotive 7470
Shop Foreman Louis Edmonds said that presently 7470 is out service pending completion of its annual inspection.
Repair and painting of 1898-built former Pennsylvania Railroad observation car Gertrude Emma has been progressing in stall 2. As of this writing most of the heavy repair work has been completed along with repainting and lettering. Among the last jobs to finish are brake repairs and on-going work the forward vestibule that requires installation of the new end sill.
Bangor & Aroostook Refrigerated Box Car 7765 was switched out of the North Yard on June 5 and moved to the turntable in preparation for repainting by members of the 470 club. The car will be repainted in-kind in its period yellow and black scheme. This was the first time a freight car was switched in the Spring-Summer 2020 season.
Operations and Training.
Trainmaster & Road Foreman of Engines Mike Lacey with the assistance of conductor K. Weimer have put together a detailed new Train Service Handbook. While Mike, Adam Bartley and I have produced a detailed Rules Class video to assist with the training of train crews and provide them with detailed information on our rulebook to assist in preparation for taking our rules test. In addition, we have been working on a series of more detailed training videos to help better educate our crews in the correct procedures and practices in the operation of trains.
I have created schematic diagrams for each of our passenger cars to assist with social distancing seating arrangements and help our ticket agents and train crews with placing passengers.
Our crews have continued to make the most of the forced closure by making necessary repairs to equipment, and track. We have been cutting trees and brush, notably along the high-fill on the Conway Branch adjacent to the golf course immediately south (railroad east) of the North Conway station. Also, in mid-May most of our crew was dispatched to Conway to assist in cleaning up rubbish around two of our original open passenger cars stored beyond the station railroad east of North Road. More than 35 bags of rubbish were removed and the area thoroughly brushed out. This was part of our ‘good neighbor initiative’ aimed at keep our property clean.
Track repairs have included routine maintenance to yard tracks, work to the bridges, and tie replacement on the curve at the bottom of the hill on the Conway Branch.
Cinders the Roundhouse Cat.
Our loyal roundhouse cat assisted with overseeing work in and around the roundhouse. Her primary duties continue to be in pest control. Our shop mechanic Jordan reported that recently she eliminated a chipmunk, yet used discretion in dealing with a porcupine that had trespassed on the property. Recent, Cinders starred in a short video filmed during 573’s 92 day inspection, where she even sat in the cab and familiarized herself with use of the independent brake. This video has been posted to the Conway Scenic Facebook site.
We intend to follow all recommended safety protocols to ensure the safety of our guests and employees. We reopened on June 20th and hope to see you this year.