Wheel Report | April 2020
Conway Scenic Railroad
By Brian Solomon
I am following in the tradition of Conway Scenic’s wheel reports, although because I am new to this responsibility, I will approach this in my own way. Some of you may be familiar with my writing as I’ve been supplying railroad literature and photographs to numerous publications since the early 1980s. In the mid-1990s I was the Editor of Pacific RailNews and Associate Editor for Passenger Train Journal and Vintage Rails, all published by Pentrex Publishing. Since that time I’ve authored a variety of books, including several on EMD diesel locomotives and several titles on steam power. Since 2017, I’ve been supplying a monthly column to TRAINS Magazine. Last summer Dave Swirk hired me to help out with some media projects, and brought me on full-time in December to fill Susan Logan’s role as Manager for Marketing and Events.
My first big project was to help organize and promote our re-invented Snow Trains that ran February 15-29, 2020 from North Conway to Attitash along with our one-day Cupid’s Express Valentine’s night dinner train. I launched a locally focused but multi-media advertising campaign that contributed to making these winter excursions a resounding success. In fifteen days we carried nearly twice the number of passengers on the Snow Trains than I anticipated. Our guests and crews were delighted.
To help keep the line clear in anticipation of our Winter excursions and between snowfalls during the weeks of operation, we operated several work extras from North Conway to just east of Rogers Crossing of Rt 302 in Bartlett. On three occasions we brought out our vintage former Central Vermont Russel snow plow, which proved to be an excellent tool for clearing snow. This was the first time in several years that the Russel was employed in the capacity for which it was designed.
Of Conway Scenic Railroad’s active fleet: GP35 216, GP38 252, and F7A 4266 have been idle since they put to bed for the winter in late 2019. These have been stored serviceable outside waiting to return to regular duty. GP7 573 and GP9 1751, were kept active through February working on the Valentine’s Day Cupid Express and Snow Trains revenue passenger extras and snow removal work extras. After conclusion of these moves, locomotive 1751 was drained and ‘put to bed,’ and as of April 20th was stored near the famous ball signal by the station. While 573 has been kept warm in the roundhouse and has remained available for switching moves and crew training filming. However as of this writing both 573 and 1751 will require their mandated 92 day inspections prior to their return to active service.
Boston & Maine 4268 occupies stall 4 of the roundhouse where over the winter Corey F., and Wayne Allen have continued their restoration work.
In February, the roundhouse crew prepared Budd RDC 23 Millie for Snow Train service, which included replacing the brake valves and completion of required brake inspections, plus the construction and installation of ski racks by master carpenter George Small that also involved removal a few seats. While the RDC was used on three occasions for filming of Snow Train promotional material, ultimately the decision was made not to use it for revenue Snow Train service. From the first day of Snow Train service, passenger numbers exceeded what the RDC could handle. There were also some concerns about of the effects of extremely cold weather on the RDC’s performance. Once the locomotive powered train with catering facilities was introduced and its revenue potential demonstrated, Conway Scenic opted to keep this train running, leaving the RDC for back up. The ends of the RDC have been painted and it now sits out on the short track near the station awaiting for its call for service in the Spring/Summer season.
Steam locomotive 7470 has been in the roundhouse undergoing its annual inspection and related work. In April it passed a preliminary hydrostatic test and other inspections in preparation for an FRA inspection. It was undergoing some minor repair in relation to the FRA inspection, and other routine maintenance, including construction of bushings for the engine-to-tender draw bar and both front and rear couplers and coupler pockets to correct for wear over the engine’s many years of operation.
Former Pennsylvania Railroad 1898-built Pullman open observation car Gertrude Emma is under going work, which includes: installation of a new front end sill and the reworking of all “clarestory lights” (upper, outer windows). The carbody from window sills down has been sanded and will be repainted in green along with all exterior lettering. Window frame exteriors and related areas and all varnished portions of the aft platform have been sanded and are being re-varnished. In addition the car will receive the annually brake work.
Roundhouse crew have also been making necessary repair to various pieces of the maintenance-of-way equipment, which are needed to keep the railroad open through the winter, and for track work this Spring and Summer.
The roundhouse itself has had new wallboard installed in stalls 3 and 4 in conjunction with a general tidying up of equipment in those areas.
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