Editor’s note: Waking up a snow covered tourist railroad after a winter of inactivity takes some work.
By Paul Hallett, Conway Scenic Railroad
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 Geep #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.