It hardly seems possible that December is here again already! At this writing we have already operated several “Santa’s Holiday Express” and “Polar Express™” trains for good-sized crowds with more to come right through the end of the month.
Over at the Roundhouse, we are engaged in a big project! The original 1874 Roundhouse floor, constructed of brick, is being replaced with concrete. Over the last 139 years the bricks in the floor have been disturbed here and there for one purpose or another. Ties have been changed, water and sewer lines have been installed, and the building has been enlarged at least twice. All of these things and more have taken their toll on the old floor so that it had become uneven and difficult to walk and work on.
Russ, our General Manager, has been promising the Roundhouse crew a new floor for many years and felt that the time had come to make good on his promise. The new floor in Stall #2 has been poured already and the work continues in Stall #1. During the course of preparing for the new floor, an all-brick inspection pit was found buried under the track in Stall #2! It stands to reason that all four stalls had pits in them when the roundhouse was built. At some point many years ago, Stall #1 had a concrete pit put in, and now that pit is being replaced in turn with a longer and deeper pit. Stall #2 was poured with jacking pads so that locomotives can be jacked up there for maintenance purposes. A jacking pad is nothing more than a ‘thick’ area of concrete – three to four feet thick and filled with rebar instead of the normal 6” thick floor. It is true that we don’t have much overhead clearance inside the roundhouse but still we routinely have to jack locomotives up inside so that we can lube center plates and turn wheels, etc. We had a 3’ deep inspection pit in Stall #1 which is a typical depth for steam locomotives. In the diesel era, pits are built deeper so that you don’t have to be hunched over when doing maintenance. The bottom of our new pit will be 4’ below the head of the rail.
A nice feature of the new floor is the installation of radiant heating tubes along with a new propane fired boiler. The guys will be able to lie down on a nice warm floor to do maintenance! We are also doing a major electrical upgrade along with plumbing and drainage improvements. Progress!
Out along the right of way this past month, we had our annual bridge inspection. When the bridge over the Saco River on the Conway Line was inspected, some pretty significant scouring of the center pier was revealed. This was an emergency situation, and as such the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) immediately issued us an emergency authorization to make repairs. I was mightily impressed with the speed with which these repairs were made! The damage was discovered on a Friday afternoon. DES was contacted first thing on Monday morning. DES issued an emergency authorization on Tuesday. The contractor began the repair work on Wednesday, finished on Thursday, and the final report was sent to DES on Friday, which they accepted a few days later. All issues like this should be handled so quickly!
We are operating “Santa’s Holiday Express” Trains on weekends from now until 12/22 and also will run on Monday the 23rd. Old fashion train rides will operate after Christmas each day from the 26th thru the 31st. We offer an 11:30 trip to Bartlett and a 1:30 trip to Conway on each of these days.
Saturday, January 4th will be the last day of the 2013 season with our annual Steam In The Snow! trip to Notchland, sponsored by the Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts. This may be the last Steam in the Snow for a while as 7470 is coming due for her 15 year inspection in July of the coming year and will be out of service for an undetermined amount of time.
Many thanks to all of our friends, customers and employees for another successful, fun and safe year of heritage railroading.
A very Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year to you all with our best wishes for the coming year.