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February 2018

The Wheel Report

Welcome back to another Wheel Report. Following my trend from the last edition, I will once again bid farewell to another “Great” of Conway Scenic Railroad. After 27 years as General Manager, Russ Seybold and his wife Dot completed the sale of Conway Scenic Railroad at the end of January 2018. Russ was instrumental in adding many of what we now consider the “staples” of CSRR’s operations. To Russ’s credit, CSRR saw the expansion of service beyond the village of Bartlett to Crawford Notch on the former Maine Central Mountain Division. Russ also brought fine dining to the high iron with the advancement of operations aboard the Dining Car Chocorua, and the addition of the Dining Car Hattie Evans to the fleet. Due to Mr. Seybold’s efforts to bring new experiences and ridership to the railroad, CSRR began hosting “A Day Out with Thomas” and “Journey to the North Pole” (formerly “The Polar Express”) under his ownership. These are just a few credits to Mr. Seybold’s legacy. I am honored to have worked with Russ Seybold and wish him all the best in his future.

With the closing of one chapter at CSRR, another begins; it gives me great pleasure to introduce David Swirk as the new General Manager and Owner. The following is a statement form Mr. Swirk. “The Conway Scenic Railroad affords its visitors the ability to step back to a time when passenger trains were the way to travel in style, across North America. The 1874 station and terminal facilities are completely intact and fully operational, which is truly incredible. Former CSRR owner, Dwight Smith and his partners need to be thanked for having the foresight to step in and keep this facility from being burnt and demolished, as so many others had been around the US. Railroads looked upon facilities like ours as liabilities, which needed to be removed, not historic structures that needed to be preserved.

When the Seybold’s purchased the CSRR in 1999, they systematically made significant improvements to the property and equipment, so guests could truly experience what first class train travel was like. That, coupled with the spectacular scenery on the former Mountain Division, makes the CSRR stand out as a truly remarkable heritage railroad property.

At one point many years ago I was just a small boy standing on the North Conway platform looking up in amazement at the 7470. Fast forward to today, walking into the North Conway station brings out a positive emotional response, which I know is shared by many of our employees and guests alike. It’s our goal to continue down the same well-established path of making improvements to the property and equipment to provide our guests a truly immersive glory day of railroading experience. We want to offer a transcontinental rail travel adventure which can be enjoyed in less than a day.

My wife Rhonda and I think that we live and work in one of the most wonderful communities in the US. Running the CSRR is truly a dream come true.”

To those of you who are new to behind the scenes operation of CSRR, winter time is the time when our passenger fleet as well as our engines receive the greatest amount of attention and repair by the crew in our roundhouse. To this point people often ask, “What does your track department do in the winter?” Our track department moves indoors to assist the shop crew in our roundhouse to complete the various maintenance and repair projects.

Track Foreman, Nate Leary, working on Coach 1140

Coach 1140 had its interior paint work and varnishing completed. Due to the efficient work with the inside of this car, it was decided to also paint and reletter the exterior of the car. When the warmer weather arrives in North Conway, all the roofs of the red coaches will be painted as well. The next car into the shop will be the 1109 which will receive all the same attention to detail as the 1140 received, as well as the instillation of new window hardware being constructed in house by Machinist Roger Benson. The exterior of the Dorthea Mae Dome Car has been sanded and painted, with the new vinyl lettering being applied this week. Two windows have been replaced in the snack bar area thanks to the team at AJ’s Glass. The shop will be moving forward on a sealant project for the Dome Car roof to address the issue of leaks.

Dorthea Mae in fresh paint on the turntable

CSRR hosted a strong showing once again the 50th Annual Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show. The two-day gate total was reported as 17,047. Brass Whistle Gift Shop Manager, Alta Crouse, at her fist time attending the show, led the CSRR crew in great sales of our 2018 HO scale boxcar and many other fine CSRR products. New this year was a technological advancement for CSRR, as we utilized an electronic card reader to process purchases. This is step one of a multipoint plan that our management team is using to both increase ease of sales for guests, and ultimately develop and publish an online ordering catalogue of our products at The Brass Whistle Gift Shop. More information about this and our soon to be released, newly designed website next month!

Last month I introduced, “Ask North Tower.” This edition’s question comes from Liam, “On Paul’s last wheel report he mentioned that new ties were put in on the Redstone line between Bolten Hill Road and the Saco River Trestle, so does this mean for Railfans day 2018 the Redstone trips will be going down there? I was also wondering: has there ever been any consideration of running regular excursions on the Redstone line?”

Thank you, Liam, for being the first contributor to this new segment. With the investment of new ties, this now allows CSRR to conduct safe operations over this section of right of way. At this time, I am pleased to announce that some departures of the Redstone line will travel as far east as the Saco River Bridge for Railfans 2018. This new location will provide an exciting photography opportunity, especially for our rare mileage hunters. To your second question about regular operations on the Redstone Branch, I will be sure to relay your comments to Mr. Swirk as he strives to continue to build upon CSRR’s current offerings.

If you have a question about the operation of the railroad or are looking for a more in depth insight to some of our equipment, please submit your question, along with your name, to [email protected], for a chance to have your question answered in a future publication of “The Wheel Report.” Please include where you read “The Wheel Report” and be sure to include “Ask North Tower” in the subject line.

See you on the High Iron, Derek Palmieri