May 2023 Wheel Report
By Brian Solomon
April 2023 proved to be unusually robust in terms of ridership and work on the railroad. We had several very busy weekend on our Conway and Sawyer River excursions. During April and early May we have had Work Extras out on the line most weekdays. During this period, most trains were assigned either GP38 252 or GP9 1751, with GP35 216 held in reserve. Mid-month April, GP38 255 was taken out of service for its mandatory 92-inspection. Our roundhouse crew also continued making improvements and repairs to equipment. Coach/ Snack bar Car 1133 Mount Washington received significant renovation and improvement. This included restoration and re-installation of vintage luggage racks in seating areas, new window sashes and new counter spaces at the snack bar.
Materials have been arriving for upcoming track and bridge work. In the second week of May we received truckloads of new ties and bridge timbers. These include specially fabricated bridge timbers for planned work between May 23 and May 25 on the River Road Bridge on the Conway Branch located immediately timetable-west of the North Yard switch. This will result in River Road closure and detours during the scheduled work and needed to be carefully coordinated with our Bridge Inspector, State DOT, and local authorities including police and fire departments. Repair to the bridge will include replacing stingers and a pair of posts damaged by bridge strikes in 2022. In addition, our track crew has performed routine work to several other bridges on the Conway Branch.
Annual Conway Branch Bridge Inspection
Our Bridge Inspector performed his annual inspection of bridges on the Conway Branch on May 5, 2023. This was following unusually heavy rain in early May that resulted in highwater on the Saco and Swift Rivers as well as on Moat Brook that resulted in flooding of some local highways. Careful and thorough inspection of the other bridges on the line found that all survived recent high water conditions without damage. Excursions operated as planned on the weekend of May 6 and 7th.
Make Up Rules Class
On Saturday, May 6, 2023, the railroad offered a Make-Up Rules class for operating, shop and track employees who were unavailable to take the general rules class on April 1st. This was held in the Chocorua located on the Middle Track in North Conway Yard. Although slightly shorter than the general class, this included a detailed overview of Rulebook 24, as well as changes in operations recently introduced through Bulletin Orders to improve safety and minimize delays to trains. This included a redefinition of the limits of the Shop Tracks, which reassigned the Plow Track switch and Plow Track to Yard Limits under the authority of the Manager on Duty. This was done to expedite moves of locomotives/rolling stock off that track during business hours. Other discussions included how to fill out new forms necessary to accurately log and comply with Federally mandated hours of service requirements, and new trespassing reporting forms. Increased incidents of trespassing on railroad property have concerned officials at the NH DOT, and as the result of detailed discussion with the DOT and Federal Railroad Administration, Conway Scenic has begun a program to log all incidents of trespassing along the railroad to demonstrate the extent of the problem in order to pursue remedial action. Conway Scenic reminds visitors that trespassing on tracks and bridges is unsafe, unwise and against the law.
Introducing Timetable 35
After months of detailed study of both the Conway Branch and Mountain Division, I reworked the railroad’s Timetable. Despite its name, the Timetable is not a schedule, but rather an adjunct to the Rulebook that lists line-specific conditions, rules and special instructions. I felt that the old timetable had a number of minor errors and incongruencies that needed to be addressed, while numerous small changes over the last few years needed to be included in the Timetable. Among other improvements, I completely redrew the linear track diagrams for the entire railroad, which now include more detail than had previously. This new document was officially issued on April 28, 2023 as Timetable 35 under the authority of the General Manager and Train Master, and has been distributed to operating crews and the track department.
Special Moves and Motive Power
On Saturday, May 13, 2023, on-going repair and adjustment to 470-Club’s recently restored former Boston & Maine, resulted in the on-spot decision to assign the locomotive to the west-end of the Valley consist, with GP38 working the east end. As result the beautifully restored locomotive worked under sunny skies to Conway and Sawyer River, much to the delight of members of the operating department. 470-Clubs pair of F7As are often available as reserve motive power, but only rarely work regularly scheduled excursions. More commonly these have been assigned to special railfan events.
On Monday May 15, 2023 Conway Scenic Railroad operated its second annual Mountaineer Social demonstration/familiarization train for the benefit of the railroad’s employees, friends and special guests. This was the first passenger excursion of the 2023 season to run over Crawford Notch to Fabyan, New Hampshire. Westbound the train was led by GP38 252 and GP9 1751. The latter locomotive was dropped at Fabyan, so that it could proceed west at a later time to collect Conway Scenic’s newest acquisitions; a former Ringling Brothers sleeping/bunk car and former Amtrak Budd-built baggage car. These were delivered to the railroad’s interchange Hazens by the New Hampshire Central on May 16. Conway Scenic collected the cars with 1751 and brought them east to North Conway, where they arrived at about 7:30pm. More special moves to collect equipment are anticipated for later this year. These moves are performed as Extras and operate as required and without a set schedule.