April 2023 Wheel Report
By Brian Solomon
Easter Bunny Express
The railroad opened its Spring 2023 Season with the annual Easter Bunny Express. Three trains operated to Conway each day on Saturday April 8 and Sunday, with departures at 11am, 12:30 and 3pm. The Easter Bunny was on hand to greet guests in front of the station and on the trains. Former GP38 255 did the honors hauling a six-car train consisting of; Hattie Evans, CP Reed, Dorthea Mae, Mount Webster, George B. Small, and Mount Bemis. The weather was very fine and we enjoyed robust ridership.
Working on the Railroad
During weekdays the railroad has been under a system-wide Work Authority to enable our track and operating department to coordinate their activities to open the railroad and make the necessary repairs to operate our Spring excursions. In addition to operation of On-track maintenance equipment, we have also run a number of Work Extras, some of which have been actively removing trees felled along the line and moving them to a central location for disposal. Among these Work Extras, on April 11, 2023, GP9 1751 led a short train that included former Grand Trunk flat car 54559, four-wheel depressed center car CSRX 579 that carries our green Caterpillar excavator, former Maine Central 1728 a modified Pulp car used for hauling timber, plus CSRR Caboose 75955 at the east end, that ran west to Glen to collect trees and take them West. The following day, GP38 255 led the train westbound, with 1751 (sans caboose) on the eastend to continue the same work. On April 14th, GP38 252 (with shorthood facing west) led the Work Extra with pulp car 1728, CSRX 579 and excavator, and caboose 75955. This ran to Glen for a brief stop, then to Goves to collect felled trees and related debris, before continuing West up the mountain.
Meanwhile the Roundhouse staff have been busy working on our locomotives and rolling stock. This has included 92-day inspections to locomotives, and myriad repairs and improvements to our most popular passenger cars. Our Buildings & Grounds crew along with help from our giftshop and other staff have made a variety of improvements to the station interior. The floor of the waiting room and giftshop received their annual coating of polyurethane, while the giftshop reconfigured and renovated with improved displays and restocked with a variety of new merchandise.
More New Rolling Stock
Conway Scenic is anticipating a swell of new passengers. To better accommodate them we have acquired three additional passenger cars that are similar in their design and heritage as our CP Reed. In addition the railroad has also acquired a former Amtrak Budd-built baggage car to be transformed into a head-end power car. The plan is that once the HEP car is completed to assign it to the Mountaineer to supply electricity to the train for heating, lighting and auxiliary equipment.
Track Changes in the Works
The railroad is investigating options to reconfigure the North Conway Yard to better accommodate modern operations and significantly longer passenger trains. In preparation for track work, the Track Department took down the old water spout and the wigwag grade crossing signal that had protected the Post Office crossing. The signal will require maintenance and repair, but the plan is to ulimately reinstall it at a new crossing to be built near the Firehouse.
The regular Spring 2023 passenger schedule will go into effect on April 15th. Initially, this will consist of just weekend operations with trains running to Conway at 11am and 3pm, and a Sawyer River train scheduled to depart at 12:30pm. Daily operations begin Memorial Day weekend, as does tri-weekly runs over Crawford Notch with the 11:30am Mountaineer. Additional runs to Conway will be added into the schedule later in the season as the summer business grows.