April 2021 Wheel Report
By Brian Solomon
Spring Season Debut
April 2, 2021 dawned beautiful and clear. It was an auspicious start to our Spring season that began with our annual Easter Bunny Express. We scheduled three trains a day for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, boarding at 11 am, 12:30 and 2:30pm, all operating using a foreshortened streamlined train set consisting of Mount Webster, Hattie Evans, C.P. Read, 6743 Mount Willey, and Vista Dome Dorthea Mae and running from North Conway to Conway on the Conway Branch. We were delighted to carry ample numbers of guests on every train. Our Easter Bunny was out in front of the North Conway Station greeting guests and passers-by. Our Buildings & Grounds team decorated the station and grounds with festive regalia and a large plywood egg colored for the season. Our train crew assisted in decorating the line with large Easter eggs to be spotted by young eyes from the train. All of the Easter Bunny Express trains were hauled by former Maine Central GP7 573.
Our regular Spring Valley services began the following weekend on April 10, with excursions running both to Conway and Bartlett. We used same boarding schedule except that the first and last runs went to Conway and the middle of the day trip to Bartlett. We were pleased with the ridership.
Instead of posting departure times for the public, we now plan to only give boarding times. Valley trains will depart promptly as soon as the last ticketed guests have safely boarded (assuming the guests have arrived on time). Guests are advised to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to their published boarding time. Trains may not be held for late arrivals.
Initially we plan to assign our streamlined set to the Valley runs. This gives our guests a greater choice of Premium and First class seating. However, once the Mountaineer resumes its normal summer schedule, the traditional Valley set will become the standard consist on the Conway and Bartlett runs. Also from mid-June we are planning to extend the midday Valley trip to Sawyers, which we plan to market as our afternoon ‘Pub Train’.
On March 31ist, we dispatched a Work Extra led by GP7 573 leading our wooden bodied caboose to run west over the Mountain Division and clear the former Maine Central over Crawford Notch to Fabyan. This was significantly earlier than in recent years. Although the work train crew encountered fallen trees, accumulated snow, and some moderate-size rocks on the line, none of the obstacles we encountered took more than a few minutes to remove. The most significant blockage was an impressive block of ice that had rolled down the mountain and deposited itself on the line west of milepost 84. The Work extra made it to Fabyan and back by 5pm. Locomotive 573 performed flawlessly on this early run over Crawford Notch. I traveled on the train and made numerous still photographs and video.
On April 1, 2021, we dispatched 573 on another Work Extra, this time down the Conway Branch to Conway to help prepare the route for the upcoming Easter Bunny Expresses (see above) and to collect a ballast car for use on additional work trains. This resulted in some comparatively rare moves on trackage in the Conway Yard.
Steam Locomotive 7470
April 2021 marks the 100th birthday of our steam locomotive 7470. Although the locomotive is presently undergoing some minor repair, we hope to have it under steam later in the season for a fitting birthday celebration. The locomotive remains very popular with visitors and we get nearly daily enquiries about its planned operation.