Our Russell Plow in the background with crew, L to R: Jordan Valladares, Roger Benson, Nate Leary, Paul Hallett, Jimmy More, and Russ Seybold
In preparation for this month’s opening, we recently ran the big snow plow through to Bartlett. There was so much snow remaining on the line this year that we had to run the line twice to get Bartlett open. On the first day, we ran #573 by itself from North Conway to Rolling Ridge Road and then returned home. The section of track from Rolling Ridge Road to Bear Notch Road/Albany Avenue in Bartlett Village is generally the most difficult section of track to reopen. The line is always in shadows there. The snow was several feet deep and also had been packed down by a trail groomer.
In winter, the track from the Bartlett Freight house to Bear Peak is used for cross country skiing. The company that runs the cross country skiing was good enough to send their groomer over to dig out the line from Rolling Ridge to the Freight House. They were able to dig an 8′ wide swath almost down to the rail head for us. This was of tremendous value to us because it removed a heavy layer of ice.
So, you ask, why don’t you simply run the plow through and open it up? Aha, I answer, what you don’t realize is that, in order to keep a given piece of track open, you have to plow after every major storm. If you don’t, due to melting and refreezing, you will get ice build-up, and ice build-up will tend to cause derailments. We had not operated a train all the way to Bartlett since last November, so we had layers of ice under the snow to deal with.
Since the locomotive (equipped with pilot plows) is heavier than the plow, it is far less likely to ride up on ice and derail than the plow is. Once you have cut a path through the ice and snow with a locomotive, then you can come back and operate the plow to wing back and flange, which is exactly what we did. At this writing we still have to get the Conway Line open, but I expect that to be accomplished in the next couple of days. Our crew has done a terrific job of getting the line reopen under difficult circumstances. Thanks, guys!
Both Gertrude Emma and Notch Coach 6743 have left the roundhouse, and currently GP9 #1751 is in stall #1 for its 92-day inspection. Coach #1133 is in stall #2 for some work which includes maintenance of the air brake system, painting the window sashes, and installation of some new flooring in the kitchen section of the car. #1133 is a very important car on the Valley Train because it carries support services for dining car Chocorua; it contains the snack bar for coach passengers; it has a nice big rest room, and it carries the electrical generator that makes power for the entire Valley Train. #1133 was built in the mid 1920’s by The Pressed Steel Car Company of New Jersey. They did a good job!
We had a snow delay but we finally sent a crew over to the Boothbay Railway Museum to complete the ‘heat & beat’ of the new door sheet for #7470’s fire box. That was quite a process to be involved with.
We brought four men to the job to join seven others who are associated with Boothbay. We had four big acetylene torches going to heat the sheet and then one man to hold the dolly and another man to hammer the dolly with a sledge hammer. Because of the angle that the sheet was being formed to, a custom-made dolly was used to attain the shape required. As I mentioned in a previous Wheel Report, Brian Fanslau had made a die and the die was welded to a metal frame which was bolted to the floor. The idea is to heat the sheet hot enough to make it malleable, and then you hammer it until it takes the shape of the die that lies underneath.
The heat generated by four torches is incredible, and the hammering had to be precise when the dolly was being used. The smell of sweat intermixed with singed hair and a ringing sound in the ears made for a day that I will long remember. It was a small taste of what it must have been like to be a boiler maker back in the old days. Anyway, we accomplished our goal. Now the piece will be taken to an industrial oven for ‘normalizing,’ then it can have its final preparation for installation in #7470 where it will reside for the next 96 years.
We held two rules’ classes last week, one for our shop staff and then another for train crews and motor car operators. We had almost 50 attendees between the two classes. This year the classes were conducted by Derek Palmieri who, in addition to his other duties, has been appointed Rules Examiner. He developed a new 62 question test which all attendees are required to take and pass in order to remain qualified in their various job designations which include, Conductor, Engineer and Trainman. The annual Rules’ Class is a very important part of our ongoing commitment to safety. There was lively discussion about many of the rules and I think that we all came away with a great sense of how important each of the rules is in playing its role to keep everyone SAFE.
We will be open on the weekends by the time most of you read this. Come on over for a visit and a train ride. We leave for Bartlett at 11:30 and Conway at 1:30. As always, we thank you for your interest in and support of the Conway Scenic Railroad.
KEEP IT SAFE,