272_SantaTrainOnce again it’s December, a time of the year that we have always closely associated with the magic of trains and bright holiday lights! We have been operating our Santa’s Holiday Express Trains on the weekends and The Polar Express™ on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, and the crowds have been great. One of the things that I really like to hear when I am near the ticket window is customers telling our agents that they are buying tickets for their child’s ‘first ever’ train ride. That is a big part of our mission – to make this heritage railroad available to the public so that everyone can get a glimpse of what it was like to travel back in the days of the horse and buggy, coal stoves and hand-operated pitcher pumps. There is absolutely nothing else like that ‘coming home by train’ feeling for the holidays!

We took advantage of the time right after the end of Notch Train operations to install about 1100 ties between Bartlett (MP 72) and Crawford Depot (MP 85). This work, along with the work of rebuilding the 43 open culverts that are located between Frankenstein Trestle and the Gateway, plus all of the surfacing work that was done, puts the line between Bartlett and Crawford Depot in excellent condition. We were already in very good condition between North Conway and Bartlett so now we have a really good physical plant from Conway right up through to the Notch. The stretch between Crawford Depot and Fabyan could use a few ties but is still in good shape, and we will get to that work soon.

While the tie work was going on in the Notch, there was another crew working up beyond Fabyan in the town of Carroll just a bit west of the Lennon Road crossing. We replaced an old 18” diameter culvert that provides drainage under the track there. The beavers have been blocking this pipe for years, creating a nice beaver pond for themselves and, in the process, had succeeded in raising the water level to the top of the rail there on more than one occasion. The new pipe is 36” in diameter and will be much more difficult for them to plug. Notice I did not say that it would be impossible for them to plug because I know better! At least it will be more difficult for them and should slow them down for a while.

Back at Nancy Brook just east of Notchland, we had to bring in some more large stones to place in the bank there to stabilize it. This is the very last of the remedial work done to repair the damage that was inflicted by Tropical Storm Irene last year. Once again I want to say what an excellent job was done by the State of New Hampshire’s Bureau of Rail & Transit in responding to this potentially line-closing event. Without access to the funding and the expertise they provided, trips by rail through the Notch could have become extinct.

On the Conway Line we had our annual bridge inspection where everything was found to be in good condition. It is interesting to note that the turntable is considered a bridge and must be inspected to the same standards as all of the other bridges on the line. I was with the inspector during the inspection of the wooden bridge that carries the railroad over River Road in North Conway. Each and every support timber gets thumped with a big hammer and from the sound of the hit, the inspector can determine the condition of the wood. This particular bridge was built in 1931 and over the years we have changed out a timber here and there, but overall it is as strong today as the day it was built and is truly a testament to the bridge builder’s art.

We will be running trains on the weekends right up until the end of the year and also daily during school vacation week from the day after Christmas until New Year’s Eve (No trains on New Year’s Day). We will finish the season by running the Sixth Annual STEAM IN THE SNOW train on January 5, 2013, hosted by the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts. Some tickets are still available for this train which you can get by contacting our reservations department or through Mass Bay.

From all of our Crew to all of you, we wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and the Best of New Years. Please keep SAFETY in mind as you go about your daily activities!!

Paul Hallett