July 2020 Wheel Report
Our big news is that on June 20, 2020 we finally resumed operations and began our summer operating season. We are delighted to be up and running, but achieving this has presented more than its fair share of challenges. We received notice that we could resume operations with very little warning and a host of special conditions in order to comply with State of New Hampshire protocols aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19. These include a variety of social distancing measures and the necessity to sanitize our trains between runs. These limit the number of passengers we can carry while incurring greater layover times because of more slower and complicated boarding procedures. Because of the short notice we had to adopt and adapt procedures quickly. This remains a work in progress and we continue adjust our operations as we find more effective ways of coping with this unusual operating environment. Operational changes have included running most trains as ‘Extras’ instead of ‘First Class’ train on the timetable. While trains continue to follow printed times, running them as extras grants crews necessary flexibility to handle variances caused by Covid-19 boarding procedures and other changes. A related change was our advertising of ‘boarding times’ rather than ‘departure times’ in an effort to encourage guests to arrive in a prompt and timely fashion so as to minimize delays.
Initially we began by operating three Valley trains; two to Conway, and one to Bartlett. As demand increased, we added a second Bartlett run, while operating extra trains to Conway at peak periods. This has included a few trips with RDC Millie to accommodate additional guests.
Prior to resuming excursions to Crawford Notch, a work extra with GP9 1751 was dispatched to milepost 80 (railroad timetable west of Frankenstein trestle) to remove some rocks that were deposited on the line during the spring snowmelt. Dave Swirk operated the excavator to lift a boulder weighing an estimated 11-15 tons clear of the line.
We have rebranded the Crawford Notch excursion as the Mountaineer, a move that has been months in the making. By adopting the historic name we not only pay tribute to the heritage of the run over Crawford Notch, but provide our streamlined train with the most fitting name available to it, and one that helps distinguish this scenic mountain journey from our Valley trains that run to Conway and Bartlett. The Mountaineer made its debut on June 27, 2020 with a ribbon cutting ceremony at North Conway immediately prior to its maiden departure. Presently the train scheduled for an 1130 boarding on Tuesdays and Saturdays with plans to increase frequency to meet popular demand.
So far ridership has been better than expected on both the Valley and Mountaineer with many trains sold-out or operating near capacity during peak times.
In June, Bangor & Aroostook refrigerated boxcar 7765 owned by the 470 Club was switched from its storage position in the North Yard and positioned by the shop in preparation for repainting by club members including: Cory Fothergill, Eric Grover, Jackson, Jordon and George Small, and applied vinyl lettering supplied by Jim Abbott of Highball Graphics. The repainting was completed in early July and exhibits exceptional craftsmanship.
The following locomotives were returned to active service in preparation for the summer season; GP35 216 and GP38 252. GP9 1751 is in reserve, while GP7 573 is expected to be returned to service in the coming weeks.
Are you interested in a railroad job?
Conway Scenic is presently interviewing for a variety of seasonal and full time positions including those in the track and mechanical departments as well as culinary and customer service representatives. Please contact: [email protected]