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February 2023 Wheel Report

By Brian Solomon

Plow Extras
The early weeks of winter were exceptionally mild, but this didn’t paint an accurate picture of the whole 2023 winter season. By late January, several storms had dumped blankets of heavy wet snow in the Mount Washington Valley. Unlike the light fluffy powder that can be easily plowed from the line by Conway Scenic’s locomotive with sweeps attached to help clean flangeways, heavy wet snow required greater attention from our train and track crews. Complicating matters was a temperature/weather cycle that resulted in snow, followed by rain, followed by a rapid drop in temperatures that resulted in dangerous conditions because of ice accumulation.

On several occasions, Conway Scenic dispatched the 1934-built Russell Snow Plow to clear the line. This was typically preceded by the track going out ahead of the plow to clear flangeways at crossings and switches. The primary objective for the plow was to keep the line clear from the North Conway Station to Second River Run crossing in Attitash for weekend operations of Snow Train. On two occasions, on request of the track department, the railroad also cleared the Redstone Branch between Mountain Junction and the State Yard at Kearsarge in North Conway. Since the plow was facing west, it was necessary to haul it east with GP38 255 and then plow west from Kearsarge to Mountain Junction. These were unusual operations leading me to wonder if the plow had ever been used previously to clear the Redstone Branch?

Plow operations are exciting events, but typically organized at extremely short notice, most often in reaction to and anticipation of changing weather conditions. If wet snow is allowed to settle in too long, it could be very difficult to clear from the line. Limited availability of crews during the winter, often means that the plow is operated as needed and around other necessary moves, including switching out the Round House tracks for the mechanical department.

Snow Train Successes
This season’s Snow Train has had several weekends of robust patronage. The railroad operated as scheduled on Saturday, February 4th, despite the Arctic freeze that closed many of the area’s winter attractions. As a result, the railroad carried many more guests than initially expected which made for one of the busiest Snow Train days to date.

To promote Snow Train, on February 11, 2023, Conway Scenic hosted a live radio broadcast with Lakes Media and the musical dou Eastwood Station. In addition, we filmed and recorded Eastwood Station on board the train singing their song Snow Train.

Snow Train will expand to daily operations from Saturday February 18 through Sunday February 26. Trains board at 10:30am, 12 noon, 1:30 and 3:00pm. The consist includes Budd Vista Domes Rhonda Lee and Dorthea Mae, plus first class accommodation on Hattie Evans, C.P. Reed as well as one or two coach class cars. Conway Scenic GP9 1751 has led the train westbound, with GP38 255 working eastbound.

March Maintenance
From February 27 until Friday April 7, the railroad will be focused on the maintenance of track, equipment and facilities. Although we may operate Work Extras, there are no scheduled excursions. This annual shutdown allows the railroad to prepare for commencement of the Spring operating season. We plan to begin the season with Easter Bunny Expresses that will run between North Conway and Conway.

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