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March 2019

The Wheel Report Archives


When the wheels stop turning at Conway Scenic Railroad, that’s the time the shop shifts into high gear. The combined efforts of the Mechanical department and the Track Crew, who work in the shop during the winter months, have been incredible.

Some of the projects to look for on the rails for the 2019 season include Notch coach 6739, the Mount Bemis. This car has had a complete transformation of the interior. This includes new interior paint, flooring, seat upholstery, woodworking, and lighting. This car will also be the first of the 6700s to have their original sliding doors replaced with new swing doors.

The long term occupant of stall 2 has been the Dorthea Mae, Conway Scene’s first Dome car. (More on the subject of dome cars later.) The Dorthea has had many interesting changes and updates to her. The snack bar, which has long occupied one of the two lower compartments, has been removed. The future of the compartment space will be a topic of discussion in 2020. The area around the former snack bar is now redone as the Screening Room. Here you will find 8 swivel barrel chairs looking out of the newly installed picture viewing windows, thanks to our friends at AJ’s Glass in North Conway. This location will also boast a very large TV (i.e. the “Screen” in Screening Room) that will be a key part of the new onboard narration and media presentation which I’ve dubbed “Rail TV” as we work out this new and exciting offering for the guests of the Notch Train line. Add new paint and window treatments to this space as well as new carpet and updated heating units and you have yourself another First Class offering at the Conway Scenic Railroad.

Don’t worry, we spent some much needed time up in the attic, I mean dome, of the car as well. So much so that it was completely gutted to the structural elements. New specialized production glass was ordered to replace some of the damaged panes. Also after many hours of research, phone calls, and trials, we were able to find companies to manufacture all of the specialty gaskets we need to complete this portion of the project. Heating system updates, new paint, lighting, and heating units were all on the punch list as well.

In other news, stall 3 has seen activity as well. GP-9 number 1751, which is my favorite locomotive at Conway Scenic, has received some less noticeable, but very nice, improvements. These include electrical work to the control stand, a full cab interior repaint, and major compressor work which will serve that locomotive well for years to come. If you are interested in seeing the cab up close, plan to visit us for our Father’s Day event in Conway where that will one of the tour locomotives along with many other activities. Please visit conwayscenic.com for tickets and more information.

Stall 4 is the one that I know regulars to the Conway Scenic are the most interested to hear about and here it is: Stall 4 is where the EX- Canadian National locomotive 7470, the railroad’s flagship, has been receiving much needed attention under the care of Brian Fanslau and his team from Maine Locomotive & Machine Works. At the time of this report, (which is about 12:30 AM on a Wednesday) many of the stay bolts are installed, the firebox sheet has been installed, and plumbing fixtures such as the water injectors and sight glass are finding their way back into the cab, with flue pipe to be installed soon. Like so many others, I’m very excited to see, hear, and – yes – even smell the return of 7470 to service in 2019.

One thing that always has impressed me about railfans is their ability to find information and share it with the world at a moment’s notice. This fact was never clearer to me then last November as Brian Solomon, the noted railroad author and photographer, David Swirk, Conway Scenic Railroad Owner and General Manager, Rhonda Swirk, Office Manager, and I made our way from California to New York aboard the Silver Splendor formerly the Silver Buckle of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy route between Chicago and Denver. This car, now renamed Rhonda Lee, is the newest acquisition to the fleet at Conway Scenic, and it will be entering service on the Notch Train as a dedicated dining car.  It also will be a small plate and craft beer venue on the very popular Sunset Dinner Train to Bartlett.

As an aside, it was an honor to ride and document my trip on the car across this great country. I look forward to releasing clips and articles about that trip as time allows. I would like to take a moment to thank Ed Jeffrey of the New Hampshire Central and his crew for all of their assistance in the move and winter securement of the car. I look forward to the big move to North Conway come spring.

I would like to also wish my close friend and former Conway Scenic Shop Foreman, Reuven Grehan the best of luck in both his railroading career and all his ventures.  He has departed Conway Scenic to work for the Milford & Bennington Railroad in the southern part of the State. We will miss him greatly, and as I always say to my fellow railroaders at the close of a conversation, we wish him to “Be Safe.”

However, with a departure there is a new arrival, now joining the ranks of Conway Scenic as Shop Foreman is Louis Edmonds. Louis stated his career back in the 1970s working at Edaville with former CSRR Operations Manager Paul Hallett. From there he was involved with Steam Town when it was still located in Vermont. Then he moved down to the Railroad Museum of New England, “RMNE,” when it was on the Valley Railroad in Essex, CT. In 1996 he became heavily involved with the Naugatuck Railroad which provided a new home for the RMNE, so they could operate an ex-New Haven line from Waterbury to Torrington, CT. Over the past 20 years he has helped the Naugatuck grow into a great tourist railroad that thousands of people enjoy riding each year. Louis was also director of the Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts from the late 70s through the mid 90s and is still an active member. I look forward to working with him as he gets settled in for the start of Conway Scenic Railroads 45th season of operation.

In closing, I have a question that was submitted to me in “Ask the North Tower.” It comes from Adam Estano, who asked “Is it harder to control wheel slip or perform dynamic braking in heavy rain and or heavy snow?” Thanks for the question, Adam. For this particular one, I went to Cory Fothergill, long time part-time employee of the Conway Scenic in engine service and Engineer with New Hampshire Northcoast. Here is what he had to say: “When you find yourself in wet rail or snow conditions, wheel slip may occur based on the load the locomotive is pulling. However, if you are working in a higher notch you will be developing more amps, which are being utilized in your dynamic braking. So working the engine hard based on the load and rail conditions, even with dynamic braking, can present issues of wheel slip. So keep your sanders filled and in working order.”

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