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June 2023 Wheel Report


By Brian Solomon

Construction and Repair Projects

The week of May 22th saw several important repair projects underway simultaneously. This included the long anticipated repair to the River Road trestle on the Conway Branch. The work required the road below the bridge to be closed with detours in place from May 23 to May 25, while contractors replaced major structural members that had been damaged during 2022 bridge strikes. During this same period, several grade crossings were repaired including the private crossing on the Mountain Division at Sugarwood (near the twin span Saco River bridge in Glen), which allow for the removal a temporary speed restriction on the line. Another set of contractors repaired the station tower roofs on the North Conway Station. Also in late May and early June, two track geometry vehicles inspected the railroad to help establish a plan for making necessary repair and improvements to the line. Meanwhile the roundhouse crew made repair and modification to table car Mount Webster to better enable it to serve as snack car on the Mountaineer.

Mountaineer Runs Triweekly

Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer began its revenue 2023 season on Saturday May 27, 2023, and will run on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through the summer, with an expanded schedule planned for the autumn. In the first few weeks of operation, the train’s consist has included the popular open car number 1308 Silver Cascade—named for the waterfall in the Gateway at Crawford Notch. Originally this was a coach built by the  Pressed Steel Car Company in 1931 for the Central Railroad of New Jersey. This car and its sister, No. 1304 (stored for parts near Bartlett) were acquired by Conway Scenic in 1985. Later 1308 was gutted of its traditional interior and converted to an open-air configuration with bench-style seating in the railroad’s shop and entered regular service in 1998 on the Notch Train (as the Crawford Notch excursion was then known). The car was rarely used during the Covid-19 pandemic owing to the difficulties in adequately maintaining social distancing requirements on the car and the related capacity constraints of hauling a non-revenue car over Crawford Notch. In 2022, Silver Cascade made a rare appearance on the 470 Club’s autumn trip over Crawford Notch.

Valley running Daily

Beginning Memorial Day, the Valley trainset has been operating daily with trips to Conway at 11am and 3:30pm, and to Sawyer River at 12:30pm. Budd Vista Dome Dorthea Mae remains assigned to this train set, along with open-end Parlor-observation car Gertrude Emma that is positioned at the west end of the consist. The Gertrude Emma is 125 years old this year and is among the oldest passenger cars in regular revenue service in the United States today.

Work Train to Hazens

On Friday June 9, the railroad operated a work train to the western extreme of the line at milepost 101 in Hazen. GP35 216 led westbound followed by CSRX 579 (the

four-wheel low-profile flatcar carrying the green CAT excavator), former Maine Central bulkhead flatcar 1728, and former B&O hopper 829839, with GP9 1751 at the east end. Locomotives were used at both ends of the train owing to the lack of run around tracks on the Conway Scenic operated line at Hazens. The primary purpose of the trip was to collect lengths of 85 lb. rail that had been recently salvaged from the state-owned former Boston & Maine line near Littleton. This work was done in cooperation with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

7470 Progress

In mid-June, contractors made progress on repairs to former Canadian National 0-6-0 steam locomotive 7470, which had been occupying stall one in the roundhouse earlier in the month. Work has required the cab to be temporarily lifted off the frame in order to allow access to the crown sheet at the top of the firebox. It is hoped that continued repair to this very popular locomotive will facilitate its operation later in the 2023 season. As of this writing no specific date has been set for 7470’s excursion debut.