As we were ending our 2015 operating season, we finally got a few inches of snow (just in time for Covered Wagon in the Snow), and then it turned really cold, down to around zero degrees. I was grateful for the good weather that made for an easy December operation this year, and now I’m glad for snow and cold weather so that all of the winter activities that are so important to the Valley can begin!

Our Santa’s Holiday Express trains along with the Journey to the North Pole trains were very well patronized, and then after Christmas we had very strong ridership on our regular day trains to Conway. We ended the season with our ninth annual trip out to Notchland, this year on January 2, which has been sponsored by the Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts for all of this time.

Notably absent this year was our steam locomotive #7470, which is out of service for its 15 year FRA work. GP7 #573 hauled the train of four cars out to Notchland and F7 #4266 (owned by the 470 club of Portland, Maine) hauled it back, making photo runbys at Notchland and Cobb Farm Road in Hart’s Location, Bartlett Village, Glen Ellis in Glen and Woodland Pines in Intervale. Once back at North Conway, the train made a ‘second arrival’ by backing out of the station and then going past the station and down the hill. Due to having only four cars on the train this year with only about half the number of riders than we would have had for a steam- hauled trip, we were early getting back to the station. Since there was some time available, we decided to open 4266 for tours to any of the passengers who wanted to go and see it. We shut it down, and folks came up from the train through the engine room, into the cab and back into the train again. We also gave a tour of the roundhouse and took some questions about 7470 and the status of her overhaul. I think that everyone had an enjoyable time. I know I did! Many thanks to MBRRE for running so many trips with us.

We are now entering maintenance season here at the railroad. There is much to be done before we open again on Saturday, April 16, 2016. The work will soon resume in a big way on 7470, and we have lots of periodic air brake work to do on our diesel locomotives and cars along with some other items, plus all the regular maintenance that they receive at this time of the year. Just about every car in the fleet has a need of one kind or another, so those will be addressed in the next few months. There are no major new projects in the works this year, so that gives us a chance to go back and make improvements to what we already have. I will say, though, that Sandy is asking for yet another car for the Notch Train!

People often ask me, what do you do all winter? It really is a busy time for me, and it goes by fairly quickly. I start off by helping to coordinate all the winter maintenance projects, and I make sure that we have the materials on hand that are needed to get the projects done. I work with the marketing department to help get the new brochure off to the printer. I review all of last year’s Bulletin Orders and take any information that is of a permanent nature and update the Rule Book with it. I work out the coming year’s train schedules, including special event days, such as when Thomas and Percy are here, as well as Railfans’ Day. I also do my best to figure out what we will need for train crews and other support personnel during the coming year.   I spend more time at my desk this time of year than during any other season, and I actually keep up with returning phone calls and with my email!

We will be at the Amherst Railway Society’s Big Train Show in West Springfield at the end of the month, and I hope to see many of you there! Thank you for your interest and support of our railroad.

KEEP IT SAFE!

Paul Hallett