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December 2017

The Wheel Report

Even though we are only running trains on the weekends, Conway Scenic has been a beehive of activity. Out on the line we have had several different crews hard at work accomplishing various tasks.  Employees of Gordon T. Burke & Sons have been hauling in large pieces of granite ledge and lots of smaller rock in order to rebuild the roadbed. This to repair the washout damage that we suffered at the hands of the unnamed wind and rainstorm. They have had a couple of excavators working at various places along the line.

MP 64

In order to get to the location of the damage in the vicinity of MP 64, the track was flooded with ballast stone to the top of the rail so that Burke’s huge articulated dump trucks could run out to the work site and dump their loads of ledge and stone. The height of the retaining wall along the river bank has been raised by at least a couple of feet by the addition of more refrigerator size pieces of fractured ledge. To look at it now you would say ‘that’s a permanent structure’. Of course that’s what we said after we got done fixing things up after Tropical Storm Irene was done with us!  You simply can’t control Mother Nature when she has a mind to get wild. That doesn’t stop us from trying however. I did come away from MP 64 with a rare souvenir, and that is a photo of my Honda Accord parked very near the milepost. In normal times there is no way to get a car out near the milepost. Washout work is also wrapping up now at MP 65, Beaver Dam Lane, and near 3rd Iron.

As the track gets reinstalled over the repaired washout areas, it needs to be lined and surfaced. For that work we have selected Maine Track Maintenance Company of Fairfield, ME. Between our regulator and MTM’s tamper, the track will soon be back in good shape. The plan is to have the line between North Conway and Bartlett all ready to go before we get done with the repair work this fall. Some of the work west of Bartlett will have to keep until spring, and that will consist mostly of side dumping ballast rock from one of our stone cars. There are lots of blown down trees that need to be picked up as well. I’d like to acknowledge and thank Brian Lombard, P.E. who works for the New Hampshire D.O.T. Bureau of Rail & Transit. He spent a lot of time and effort in designing the repairs and then in personally overseeing the crews as the repairs were completed. Projects and repairs like this don’t just happen by themselves; they take good people to do the work and to make sure that the work is done correctly!

While all of this was going on an MTM tie gang was replacing ties on the Conway Line. We have changed out approximately 500 ties on the line, mostly on the long curve behind McDonalds and on the Westside Road curve. This gang also changed out about 600 ties between Bolton Hill Road and the Saco River Bridge and trestle over on the Redstone line. We now have an opportunity to offer an excursion on a newly rehabbed section of line! Mileage collectors take notice! The tie gang then went on to change out ties on the Crawford Notch Line including replacing ties that were lost as a result of the washouts.

In addition to this, we had an MTM bridge gang working on the line. They changed out 30 timbers on the Swift River Bridge in Conway and then came up to North Conway where they replaced two timbers on the River Road Bridge. This crew also worked on some Crawford Notch Line bridges replacing timbers. They will be back to replace timbers on the ‘Girders’ bridge up near the gateway next spring. Finally to top it off, Wayne Duffett from TEC Associates in South Portland, ME was here to conduct our annual bridge inspections on the Conway Line, including inspecting the turntable in North Conway yard which is in fact a bridge. We were under a Federal Mandate to make sure that all of our bridges were ‘rated’ by the middle of this past September and, Wayne has completed that work for us as well. Basically, rating consists of making sure that a given bridge can safely carry it’s designed load. If a bridge is found to be wanting in some respect, it either needs to be repaired or downgraded. I am pleased to let you know that Wayne reports that all of our bridges are in a safe and suitable condition for service. Wayne is a good friend of the Railroad. He was a fireman on 7470 here back in the 1970s who then went on to work for Maine Central for a while before starting his own company. He was instrumental in saving the 4th Iron Bridge after Tropical Storm Irene and he has helped us repeatedly anytime there has been a question about our bridges.

MTM Bridge Gang at River Road

All good things must come to an end sooner or later as much as we hate for that to be the case. I gave my notice to our General Manager a year ago last November letting him know that I would not be continuing as Operations Manager here at Conway Scenic. I have loved this job as no other and have been most grateful for the opportunity to serve. My first day on the job was April 11, 2005, when I replaced Gary Webster who had been the first person with the title of Operations Manager here.

There are a number of reasons for my decision, among them wanting to spend more time with my lovely wife and my fabulous twin granddaughters. One of the most important reasons, though, was that I found myself not being motivated to take on new events or to be involved with new projects. I wanted things to remain as they were. I think a large part of the attraction of Conway Scenic is the fact that its physical plant is an anachronism, a thing existing in a period in which it doesn’t belong!

I have done what I could to honor the past. However, the fact is that, if the company is to survive and flourish, it has to change and grow. Mark Snyder, who was President of the Cape Cod & Hyannis Railroad back in the 1980s, once made the point with me that, if a company is not growing, then it is shrinking and headed for failure. We don’t want that for Conway Scenic! Forward momentum results from a lot of hard work that is done by talented people who are motivated to make it happen. Derek Palmieri will be taking over for me as the next Operations Manager sometime in January. He is just such a motivated individual, and I expect that with the guidance of our long-time General Manager, Russ Seybold, and the addition of Rick Krystof in the reservations department, good things will continue to happen at Conway Scenic. As for me, I am planning to help staff the booth at the show in West Springfield one more time and then fade into the sunset!

My sincere thanks to all of you, new friends and old, who have helped me along the way. It has been a good run.

As always we thank you for your support of and interest in the Conway Scenic Railroad.


Paul Hallett