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September 2017

The Wheel Report

We did it! Ran a train across the track diamond in downtown Whitefield, New Hampshire, that is. The day was rainy as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey over-spread the area, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the faithful several hundred passengers who rode the special train, as well as the additional throng of enthusiasts who were chasing it.

Photo credit: Josh Trainman Cobb

It was a thrill for me personally to operate our train over the diamond and then to work with Roger, the New Hampshire Central Railroad pilot, to raise and lower one of the balls on the ball signal to allow (an imaginary) Maine Central Railroad freight train to cross the diamond while we held the main line on the B & M side.

This day was a highlight in my career! Another one of those ‘once in a life time’ opportunities. Thanks go out to the Federal Railroad Administration, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, Bureau of Rail & Transit and The New Hampshire Central Railroad for allowing this event to take place in the safe and efficient manner that it did.

The previous day we celebrated our traditional Railfans’ Day centered around the North Conway Station. We ran the RDC to Conway and then over to Redstone a couple of times with run-bys at Moat Brook Trestle and Puddin’ Pond. The RDC trips were extra special, too, in that we let them go about four car lengths east of Bolton Hill Road toward Portland. Conventional trains are not allowed to go east of Bolton Hill Road. Thus these RDC trips were the only ones to have gone that far east on our system.

This year we ran our mixed extra freight train out to Notchland where there was a photo opportunity. The mixed freight then ‘piped’ back to Sawyers River where the power was run around and the train headed back to North Conway. Piped? That means we attached a back-up hose (or pipe) to the brake line. This hose leads up to the rear platform of the caboose where the Conductor can use it to make an emergency application of the brakes if the need should arise.

While this was going on, the Sawyer River & Redstone Extra was out there, too. We put 1751 with the five car Notch Train set on this train and sent it to Sawyers River ahead of the mixed extra. The entire train went into the siding there to clear the mixed that was going to Notchland. We had about 8 passengers on this train and as a result they all got upper dome seats at coach prices! I can say now that I was a little nervous about putting our fabulous Notch Train in on the siding at Sawyers River. Of course, we inspected the siding and put in a couple of ties before all this happened, but I was relieved to hear from them when they were back on the mainline and headed home.

Our normal slate of regular Valley Trains ran right through the middle of all these extras albeit with multiple locomotive changes to make it interesting.

In the evening, we hosted our annual free night photo session overseen by John Tully, Fred Jones and Doug Scott. This year, Cullen and Connor Maher were drafted to add human interest to some of the scenes. It was great!  I hope you get to see some of those wonderful images.

By the way, thanks also to Corey Fothergill and his gang of eight who jumped right in and got our newly acquired Boston & Maine 40′ box car painted and lettered for this occasion.  Special thanks also to Highball Graphics for working overtime to make all of the lettering for the new box car.

My thanks to all who worked the trains and sold the tickets and took the reservations – and to Alta Crouse, our Gift shop Manager who spearheaded designing and purchasing the “I crossed the Whitefield Diamond” commemorative pins. Will Scopa gets a big thank you for helping with the scheduling all of the many extra trains. Between Will and myself, we have well over 100 hours in the planning and preparation of the Saturday Railfans’ Days events. Time to start thinking about next year’s event!

I was looking at one of the on-line Railfans’ sites the other day where some random questions were posed regarding CSRR. I’ll answer a few of them here:

Q. Why did we move the bell back to its original position under the car body on the 252?
A. With the cab-mounted bell located right over the engineer’s position, you can’t hear yourself think! Seriously, it is difficult to hear communications on the radio and the ringing gives you a serious headache. The engine is actually quite enjoyable to run now.

Q. Will we leave the old bell in place on the 252?
A. Yes! We want to retain 252’s appearance from its Maine Central days as much as is possible.

Q. Did the New Hampshire Central Railroad pilot run the Conway Scenic train from Hazen’s to the diamond during the special?
A. While the pilot certainly had the right to run the train to the diamond, he chose not to. I had the honor of handling the train to the diamond. Cory Fothergill was the other engineer onboard the #216 for the return move to North Conway.

Q. Why does the FRA have to approve a move beyond Hazen’s?
A. Conway Scenic’s territory runs from MP 56 in Redstone to MP 101 at Hazen’s plus all of the former B & M track that is located in the town of Conway. All of this track is in ‘Limited Jurisdiction’ status as far as the FRA is concerned, meaning that only some of the FRA’s rules apply. This automatically means that we are not a common carrier and, even though we have a physical connection, we are NOT a part of the “general system of railroads in the United States.”  The New Hampshire Central Railroad IS a common carrier and is a part of the general system and is subject to the ‘full boat’ of FRA regulations. Therefore, we needed authorization to venture out onto the general system. FRA graciously took no exception to our making this special move provided that we met certain requirements.

Well! I have gone on way too long. If you’re still with me, I say thank you for your interest and support of the Conway Scenic Railroad. Fall Foliage season is upon us. Come on over for spectacular front row seats to one of nature’s great displays, Fall Foliage in northern New England. Notch Trains are now running 7 days a week! Valley Trains too!

Until next time, KEEP IT SAFE!

Paul Hallett