Conway Scenic Railroad

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Conway Scenic Railroad
Conway Scenic Railroad logo.png
Conway Scenic locomotive 4268.JPG
Display EMD F7 beside the 1874 North Conway freight depot
LocaleWhite Mountains region of New Hampshire
ConnectionsNew Hampshire Central Railroad
Commercial operations
Built byConway Branch: Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway Railroad;
Mountain Division: Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad
Original gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preserved operations
Owned byProfile Mountain Holdings Corp; Mountain Division right-of-way owned by the State of New Hampshire
Operated byConway Scenic Railroad
Reporting markCSRX
Length51 miles (82 km)
Preserved gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Commercial history
Opened1872
1875Mountain Division is completed and connected
1890Boston and Maine Corporation acquires the Conway Branch
1972Conway Branch abandoned north of Ossipee
1983Crawford Notch regular service ends in September
1984Last Crawford Notch train (October)
1992Mountain Division abandoned east of Whitefield
ClosedN. Conway Station 1961
Preservation history
August 4, 1974Started
1994Mountain Division operations begin
HeadquartersNorth Conway
Website
conwayscenic.com

The Conway Scenic Railroad (reporting mark CSRX)[1] is a heritage railroad in North Conway, New Hampshire, United States, owned by Profile Mountain Holdings Corp. The railroad operates over two historic railway routes: a line from North Conway to Conway that was formerly part of the Conway Branch of the Boston and Maine Railroad, and a line from North Conway through Crawford Notch to Fabyan that was once part of the Mountain Division of the Maine Central Railroad. The Conway line is owned by Conway Scenic, and the Mountain Division is owned by the State of New Hampshire.

The railroad's main terminal is located in historic downtown North Conway in the Mount Washington valley. The station complex has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.[2]

History[edit]

The Conway Scenic Railroad was founded by local businessmen Bill Levy and Carroll Reed and by Boston and Maine Railroad employee Dwight Smith. A few years after the Boston & Maine (B&M) ended passenger service on the Conway branch in 1961, Levy and Reed formed the North Conway Depot Company and purchased the station and land that made up the North Conway rail yard, with the railroad retaining ownership of the tracks and rights to operate on the still-active line with freight trains. In 1967, Smith purchased Engine 7470 and started searching for a place to restore and operate it. As early as 1968, word started to spread that the B&M was looking to abandon the Conway Branch, and in a 1968 railfan-charted "Snow Train" (round trip Boston to North Conway/Intervale) that Smith was a part of, saw what North Conway had for facilities. Shortly after, a meeting was held with Levy and Reed where a handshake agreement was made and the beginnings of a railroad were underway. In 1969 the B&M petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon the line north of Ossipee. The abandonment was approved in late September 1972, with the last train pulling out of North Conway on October 31 of that year. With terms and agreements finally completed with the B&M, in May 1974 the North Conway Depot Company was dissolved and the Conway Scenic Railroad was born. They purchased the rail line starting at the Conway/Albany town line, ending at the junction with the Maine Central in Intervale, a distance of 7 miles (11 km). The first train was run on August 4, 1974.

In 1983, bridge traffic on the Mountain Division ended, with traffic being diverted south over the B&M. Local freight service out of Portland to North Conway continued until the 1986 railroad union strike. From that point on, the Conway Scenic had no connection to the wider United States rail network. In 1992 Guilford Transportation abandoned the Mountain Division from the Maine state line, to Whitefield, New Hampshire, and sold the line to the state of New Hampshire, in early 1994. On September 1, 1994, the Conway Scenic obtained an operating lease from Bolton Hill Road in Redstone (a village of Conway) to Hazen Road in Whitefield, giving the railroad a connection to the national network again at Whitefield. Work to clear and rehabilitate the tracks commenced immediately, and on December 17, 1994, the first train to Bartlett was run, with operations through Crawford Notch starting on September 5, 1995. The first train to Fabyan Station was run on September 1, 1996. Expansions east to Redstone and west to Hazen Road in Whitefield were added on June 27, 1998, but those two points have only been used for special runs. In 2018, at the request of the railroad, the state adjusted the railroad's lease, adding an additional mile (1.6 km) of rail line east of Redstone, ending at the Saco River bridge. Upon completion of refurbishing the track, the first train was run on May 13, 2019. This marked the first expansion the railroad had seen since 1998.

In 1999 the original owners were bought out by husband and wife Russ and Dot Seybold,[3] and on January 30, 2018, the railroad was sold again to Profile Mountain Holdings Corp.[4]

Operations[edit]

The Dorthea Mae dome car

The railroad operates excursions of varying duration, generally under two banners, the Heritage Excursions and the Mountaineer:

The Heritage Excursions – running either south to Conway (55-minutes round trip) or west to Bartlett (1¾-hours round trip). The Heritage train includes the dining car Chocorua; the 1898 open-deck Pullman observation car Gertrude Emma, which is the oldest active standard gauge passenger car in the country; a former Boston & Maine heavyweight coach converted to an open-air car; and several restored heavyweight coaches, some dating back to the 1920s. The schedule varies year to year, but typically the trains to Conway operate mid-April through the end of December and the Bartlett trains operate early May through mid-November.

The Mountaineer – covering the line through Crawford Notch, is typically a 5-hour round trip to Crawford Depot (located at the height of land in Crawford Notch), but is extended 5½ hours during the fall foliage season, when the train travels beyond Crawford Depot to Fabyan Station at Bretton Woods in the town of Carroll. The Notch Train includes an open-air car (Silver Cascade #1308[5]), a 21+ first-class vista dome dining & lounge car (Rhonda Lee), a first-class vista dome car (Dorthea Mae), a first-class car (Carroll P. Reed), a first-class dining car (Hattie Evans) and commuter coaches retired from the Montreal commuter pool, one of which was converted to a "Café table car" for passengers riding in coach. Like the Valley Trains, the schedule varies year to year but typically operates mid-June through late-October to early-November.

The Sunset Dinner Train – typically operating mid-June through mid-October on select weeknights and weekend nights. It is a 1¾-hour round trip excursion to Bartlett. Special dinner trains of varying lengths include the Murder Mystery Dinner Trains and the Cupid Express, a Valentine's dinner train in February. Although the dinner train is a Heritage Excursion, the Mountaineer trainset is the one offered for this service.

Annual special events at the railroad include but are not limited to: Mother's Day & Father's Day specials, Trains Planes & Automobile Special (part of an air show event at the Whitefield Airport), Autism Spectrum Specials, Military & First Responders Appreciation Days, Railfans' Weekend, Johnny Appleseed Express, Pumpkin Patch Express, Journey to the North Pole (themed after the Polar Express), and "Steam in the Snow" (or "Covered Wagon in the Snow" when 7470 is not available), which is a photographers' special in early January, sponsored by the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts. The railroad used to host a "Day Out With Thomas" [the Tank Engine], but the event has been discontinued.[6]

Snow Trains started in February 2020 and operate over the two February school vacation weeks, for Massachusetts and New Hampshire respectively. These are shuttle trains that run daily every 90 minutes from North Conway to Attitash Mountain Resort in Bartlett and back, starting at 7:30am and making a total of seven round trips per day. Starting in January 2021, the railroad announced the addition of weekend shuttle trains to and from Attitash, for the winter. This marks the start of the railroad becoming a year round operation, a feat that was only attempted once, in 1976.

Special freight operation[edit]

On June 20, 2009, a 20-axle Schnabel car was brought down through Crawford Notch carrying a 227-ton transformer for Public Service of New Hampshire, an electrical utility company. The train was led by locomotives 573, 6505 and 6516. It was the first scheduled freight train through Crawford Notch since September 3, 1983 and the first freight train of any kind since October 1984. The empty cars were shipped out nine days later, led by 6505 and 4266. This shipment completed the first and only revenue freight move for the Conway Scenic to date.[7]

Locomotive roster[edit]

Main units[edit]

Number Builder Type Build date Status Notes
7470 Grand Trunk Railway Point St. Charles Shops Steam, 0-6-0, CN O-18-a 1921 Operational 7470, named the "Dwight Smith", is the only active coal-fired standard-gauge steam locomotive in New Hampshire. It was built in June 1921 by the Grand Trunk Railway as #1795, which was absorbed by the Canadian National Railways two years later as #7470. It began operation on the Conway Scenic with the railroad's inception on August 4, 1974, and until October 1988 its number was abbreviated to #47. Primarily used to power the Conway-bound Heritage trains, it has been used for special excursions such as "Steam in the Snow" to Notchland Inn and for trips through Crawford Notch. After four years of being out of service to conduct an FRA-mandated 15-year boiler inspection, 7470 returned to active service on June 1, 2019. The engine made its first notch appearance in eight years on June 29, 2019, and made its second appearance on September 1, 2019. This marked the first time since the Maine Central ended steam operations on the line in 1953, that a steam engine traveled through Crawford Notch, on more than one occasion in the same year. 7470 is expected to run for another fifteen years until 2034, when its next FRA-mandated boiler inspection and overhaul work is due.
573 EMD GP7 1950 Operational Ex-Maine Central unit acquired from Guilford Rail System. It is commonly referred to as "Mr. Miller's Engine" because 573 was the preferred power for the Maine Central's business train by the president of the railroad, E. Spencer Miller. When Guilford acquired the Delaware and Hudson Railway in 1984, 573 became Delaware & Hudson 573 for about 6 months before becoming Springfield Terminal #27. 573's first season at the Conway Scenic (1996) was operated as number 27. Today 573 is the typical motive power for the Valley Train.
4266 EMD F7A 1949 Operational An ex-Boston & Maine unit leased from the 470 Railroad Club of Portland, Maine. This locomotive arrived at the Conway Scenic by rail in 1981 and was restored to full service in September 1986. This unit pulled the last Ambassador passenger train on September 3, 1966, and was the last "F unit" to operate on the Boston & Maine Railroad, having been retired in 1976. This engine was used by the Conway Scenic Railroad to run the first trains to Bartlett, New Hampshire, on December 17, 1994, Crawford's Depot on September 5, 1995, and Fabyan Station on September 1, 1996. Today the engine sees limited service, reserved for special duty (special excursion and events) and serving when needed as backup power for the Valley and Mountaineer trains.
23 Budd Company RDC-1 1952 Operational The only fully operational RDC in New Hampshire, name Millie. Originally built for the New Haven Railroad. Purchased from the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway in the summer of 2008; used to provide Heritage Excursion services during the off-peak season and private charters. During the fall foliage season Millie will occasionally be added to the regular Heritage consist, when additional seating compacity is needed.
216 EMD GP35 1965 Operational Acquired in a trade from Pan Am Railways in March 2010. Ex-Springfield Terminal 216, Exx-Norfolk Southern 1328, nee-Norfolk and Western 1328. 216 has been assigned to the Mountaineer along with 252 and operates on a rotating schedule with 252 or MU's together. The engine has dual controls in the cab and can be operated from either side. 216 was delivered on May 14, 2010, and made its inaugural run June 22, 2010.
252 EMD GP38 1966 Out of service; awaiting repairs Acquired in a trade from Pan Am Railways in March 2010 and arrived on June 23, 2010. An ex-Boston and Maine, nee-Maine Central unit, 252 the "Kurt Ward" (named in honor of a former Conway Scenic employee) was the leading unit that pulled the last regularly scheduled freight train through Crawford Notch on September 3, 1983. In 1985, 252 was assigned to the cleanup train for the Calais Branch in Maine when Guilford shut the line down, making it the last train on that line. In the late 1980s, 252 was put into storage at Iron Horse Park in North Billerica, Massachusetts, until 1995 when it was removed due to the shop's closure. It was subsequently refurbished and put back in service, being assigned to the B&M. On August 4, 2020, the unit suffered a major mechanical breakdown due to a broken crankshaft and is out of service indefinitely. The railroad has acknowledged on their Instagram account that 252 will be repaired, but right now there is no timeline for when.
1751 EMD GP9 1956 Operational This unit was acquired in a trade from the Finger Lakes Railway in November 2011. The unit was delivered on September 22, 2012. Mainly used in rotation with the 573 on the Valley trains, this engine will occasionally be assigned to the Mountaineer because, just like 216 and 252, it has dynamic braking, which is a necessary component for trains descending the steep grades of Crawford Notch. In 2018 an agreement was made with the New Hampshire Central Railroad, to use this engine for their operations between Whitefield and Groveton, New Hampshire, on an as-needed basis. As a result, this engine can occasionally be seen working for the New Hampshire Central Railroad.
501 Alco Steam, 2-8-0 1910 Display; pending restoration Owned by the Conway Scenic, this engine was purchased from the 470 Railroad Club in early 2019. Originally built for the Maine Central Railroad, this engine was the last steam engine to operate on the Mountain Division in 1953, which was also the final run for 501. Delivered to the Conway Scenic by rail in November 1983, it has been on display ever since. In the late 1990s to the early 2000s, attempts to restore the locomotive were made by the 470 Railroad Club, but the plan was canceled indefinitely in 2007, after work had ceased on it about six years earlier. Since 2007 the engine has undergone a complete cosmetic restoration. In October 2018, 501 was removed from display by the turntable and placed back on display by the freight house, where it had been on display, before being moved in the mid-1990s for the first restoration attempt. Shortly after purchasing the locomotive, the railroad confirmed they plan to restore the locomotive back to operation, adding that it will be about a 10 to 12 year project.[8] Currently there is not time frame for when that restoration will begin.
4268 EMD F7A 1949 Under restoration An ex-Boston and Maine unit, nee-EMD Demonstration unit #930, now owned by the 470 Railroad Club. 4268 arrived in North Conway in 1992 on a flatbed truck and has been on display ever since. In December 2011 the 470 Railroad Club announced their intentions to return this unit to full service. Since all that remains is the shell, ex-New Hampshire Northcoast GP9 - #1757 (retired a few years before) was purchased in November 2011, to be used as a donor unit. On April 17, 2018, the 4268 was removed from its long-time display spot near the freight house and moved into the roundhouse to start the restoration. With the Conway Scenic Shop doing most of the work, the locomotive is expected to return to service this year
360 General Electric 44-tonner Display An ex-United States Army engine, now owned by the State of New Hampshire and lettered for New Hampshire Central, it was one of two engines that operated on the North Stratford Railroad. This engine, which arrived by rail in June 2005, is for sale. 360 is only on property for safe storage and has never been in operation for the Conway Scenic.
1757 EMD GP9 1956 Display Owned by the 470 Railroad Club, this ex-New Hampshire Northcoast unit has become the donor unit for the ex-BM #4268. This unit was delivered on September 22, 2012, along with the 1751. In September 2016 this unit was started up for the first time since arriving at the Conway Scenic and was left idling for a couple of hours behind the roundhouse. This engine never turned a wheel under its own power for the Conway Scenic. In 2018, the generator and engine were transferred to 4268. Once all other usable parts are removed the rest will be scrapped.
1741 EMD GP9 1957 Awaiting shipment from Waterville, ME. Ex-Springfield Terminal #72 nee-Boston & Maine #1741. Owned by the 470 Railroad Club and purchased from the Heber Valley Railroad, in December 2020. This unit last operated in 2017 and has been stored outside since. Needs work before it is able to operate again, expected to arrive in Spring of 2021.[9]

Former units[edit]

Number Builder Type Build date Notes
1943 General Electric B23-7 1978 Originally owned by Conrail, this locomotive was delivered in June 2005 and was slotted to take over regular Notch Train duties from the "sisters" when its overhaul was complete. Although the engine made many test runs both in revenue and out of revenue, it never made it into regular service due to ongoing electrical issues. In November 2011, the unit was traded to the Finger Lakes Railway for Finger Lakes GP9 unit #1751 and was shipped out soon after. This engine joined the railroad's active roster and continues to operate.
2820 General Electric U23B 1975 Originally owned by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, this locomotive, which was delivered in June 2005, operated in 2006 and 2007 before suffering a broken crankshaft. In November 2011, this unit was traded to the Finger Lakes Railway for Finger Lakes GP9 unit #1751 and was shipped out soon after, becoming a parts donor for the railroad's other active GE units. As of 2020, it still sits silent on the FGLK deadline.
6505/6516 GMD FP9s 1954/1957 A pair of ex-Canadian National units, nicknamed "the Sisters". These locomotives were acquired from Via Rail and were delivered on August 14, 1995. The locomotives were the primary motive power for the Notch Train, starting on September 16, 1995, with 6516 entering service as a powerless unit (became powered in 1998), with ex-B&M 4266. 6505 entered full operational service on September 23, 1996, and remained like that until August 2006, when service was taken over by 2820. The units were used the last few weeks of the 2006 Notch Train season due to mechanical issues with 2820 but did not run again till September 2007, when 2820 suffered a broken crankshaft. From that point on they were the primary power through the 2009 season. In March 2010, the locomotives were traded to Pan Am Railways for 252 and 216 to become the motive power for Pan Am's business train. 6505 last operated on October 18, 2009, and was shipped out on May 14, 2010. 6516 last operated on May 31, 2010, and was shipped out on July 7, 2010. The engines had been replaced because they did not have dynamic braking, a necessary component needed for trains descending the steep long grades of Crawford Notch. 2820, 1943 and now 216 & 252 have dynamic braking.
1055 Alco S-4 1950 An ex-Portland Terminal Company unit. This locomotive arrived by rail in 1981 and immediately became the primary power for the railroad and later the Valley Train excursions, until the arrival of 573 in 1996. From then on the engine was used as backup for the valley trains and special duty only, until the engine was sold to the Downeast Scenic Railroad on April 9, 2010. The engine was shipped out by rail on May 14 of that year and became the primary power for the Downeast Scenic Railroad.
15 General Electric 44-tonner 1945 An ex-Maine Central unit,[10] this engine arrived by rail in 1975 and was the first diesel engine for the railroad. It was used as the primary power when the railroad was not operating a steam engine. By the mid 1990s the railroad had outgrown the engine's usefulness and it was relegated to maintenance of way service and special duty service only. Last operated in October 2005 during Railfans' Weekend, the engine was sold to Southern Prairie Railway in Ogema, Saskatchewan, in December 2010 and was shipped out on a flatbed truck on June 14, 2011. The engine arrived at its new home seven days later, where it receive a full restoration and continues to operate.
108 Baldwin Steam, 2-6-2 1920 Originally "San Augustine County Lumber Company" #108; later became Angelina and Neches River Railroad #108 until 1954, when it was sold to the Reader Railroad. Acquired from the Reader Railroad in 1976, 108 operated on the Conway Scenic from 1977 to October 1988, when it was retired due to mechanical issues and the engine being too small to pull the longer trains on the steep grades. 108 sat on display in North Conway until November 1999, when it was sold to Rannoch Corporation, who moved it back to its home state of Texas, where it was stored on the Blacklands Railroad and disassembled.[11][12] Now owned by Robbins Rail Museum of Alabama, 108 still resides in Texas in pieces.

Appearances in film[edit]

In the 2005 Christmas television film, The 12 Dogs of Christmas, starring Jordan-Claire Green, the museum's depot was filmed in several scenes during the beginning of the film, and the Conway Scenic's passenger cars were also used in the film.[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Railinc, Search MARKs, accessed July 2009
  2. ^ Carroll County Listings on the National Register of Historic Places (District - #79003792)
  3. ^ "Conway Scenic Railroad -- History: Conway Scenic Railroad, Inc". Retrieved 2016-12-18. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ https://www.conwaydailysun.com/news/local/conway-scenic-rr-sold-to-profile-mountain-holdings-corp/article_85b6185a-0602-11e8-846a-0bed9a4d0496.html
  5. ^ https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulastephens/22207170676/
  6. ^ Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts (Upcoming Excursions, Tours, and Special Events)
  7. ^ Tucker, Edith (June 24, 2009). "End of line for made in China transformer. 411-ton transformer is hauled on Conway Scenic RR". Coos County Democrat. Retrieved July 17, 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ https://www.conwaydailysun.com/news/local/all-aboard-conway-scenic-s-th-season-opens-with-new/article_ad5f99b6-3e75-11e8-9655-b75474798377.html
  9. ^ https://www.facebook.com/470RailroadClub/posts/1013876655684557
  10. ^ Ozark Mountain Railcar listing Archived 2009-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Request for Expressions of Interest in Acquisition of Steam Locomotive #108". Railway Preservation News. July 25, 2005. Retrieved June 28, 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ "Steam Locomotive #108". The Rannoch Corporation. Archived from the original on 2005-02-04. Retrieved July 27, 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ https://latterdaysaintmag.com/article-1-1264/

External links[edit]