The trip reports have been fairly quiet recently....and this is why--a weeklong sojourn to the northeast for steam action in mid-September 2013.
Ok, a whole bunch of stuff coming, so we'll do this chronologically. Maine Eastern FL-9 eastbound from Brunswick to Rockland, ME on September 12, 2013. These are two shots near the town of Bath. Wasn't planning on doing this---actually didn't even know they existed. It pays to be lucky and check the motel brochures sometimes. I guess we'll consider that luck....as opposed to poor planning on my part. Sometimes, things just work out.
Boothbay Railway Village
...and this was why we couldn't stay with the Maine Eastern all day. Boothbay Railway Village in Boothbay, Maine. 2ft gauge (typical Maine narrow gauge) with German steam engines. Very friendly museum that I think tends to get passed over with the more well-known Maine tourist railroads--like the nearby Wiscassett Waterville & Farmington. Nice museum, charming town and marina, plentiful amounts of good, fresh seafood. What more can you ask for?!?
Mt. Washington Cog Railfan Day
On September 13, 2013, the Mt. Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire held a Railfan Day. Although a far cry from the “glory days” of 2009 and before when the railroad was all steam, there were multiple departures this day (unlike most which only see steam on the first trip up the mountain). In addition to the normal summit trip, there were 2 halfway trips offered to Waumbek Tank and siding, along with a photo runby on the mountain. While the weather was less than accommodating (read: rain, and a forecast for snow on the top), the misty clouds provided some great steam effects. Grades of up to 37% are encountered on the trip up the mountain, and the steam engines make quite the racket going up the hill.
Just one note….you never appreciate the speed of a Shay until you start photographing cog engines!
and more....from the railfan trip.
Conway Scenic Railfan Weekend
On September 14-15, 2013, Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway, NH held their annual Railfan Weekend. Here’s a little bit from the morning of the 14th. The main draw for us was the relatively rare appearance of Canadian National 0-6-0 #7470 under steam. Although long trips were operated up the mountain through Crawford Notch to Hazens, the steam engine was confined to the lower end of the line operating the regular tourist run between North Conway and Conway, along with one trip to Bartlett each day during the mid-day high sun.
The 7470 will go down in 2014, and the rumor mill suggests she will not return, so get your pictures while you can!
Photographically, the best consist operated was a diesel freight between North Conway and Bartlett with the apparently recently-painted 1751 in New York Central-ish livery. For those who think I’m going crazy shooting diesels (and I’m sure there are a few), rest assured that it was basically a scouting run for the steam and I didn’t miss anything in the process!
White Mountain Central Railroad Days
The White Mountain Central Railroad in Lincoln, NH might just be one of the northeast’s best kept secrets. The entire operation is better known as Clark’s Trading Post, and the railroad is just one part of this family amusement park that’s been going for over 50 years. For those unaware, a general comparison from a more southeastern perspective would be Tweetsie Railroad with performing bears and logging steam engines…and like Tweetsie, once you get away from the park, the railroad offers some good photography opportunities.
Once a year in September, the White Mountain Central fires up every available piece of equipment for Railroad Days, and operates a parade of power ranging from the normal tourist trains, freight trains, logging trains, a railbus, steam tractors and various other odds and ends. Access to the line for photography is granted for this weekend as long as you stay out of the covered bridge while trains are moving, but as a suggestion, hope for a cloudy day as the railroad is VERY treed in. As far as operations go, the railroad will send 2 or 3 trains up the line, then all will back down to the park, and soon enough, more trains will head out.
The normal operations consist of the locomotives pushing their trains up the hill, but at least one train a day during Railroad Days was run in pull-push fashion, allowing for some more conventional photography. Interestingly enough, all the steam power is wood-fired, which adds a bit of interest in itself. The log train was pushed, but logging operations tended to operate with the steam engine on the downhill end, so the authenticity factor of a pushed log train was retained. The engine assigned to the log train also has the least fanciful paint scheme, which only adds to the illusion. Pick the right run, and you might even see the log train doing some real work.
Don’t wait too long to experience the spectacle however. New Hampshire has adopted the FRA boiler codes, and with the Climax being the only steam engine powerful enough for the regular tourist trains, the days of multiple steam engines plying the rails of the New Hampshire mountains will eventually come to an end. The simple reality is that it doesn’t make sense to keep multiple engines that can’t pull the regular trains up to code so that they can be steamed one or two days a year. Until the inevitable happens, enjoy this treasure that lies somewhat off the beaten path, as we visit Clark’s Trading Post and the White Mountain Central Railroad on September 14, 2013.
OK, time for pictures. We'll start with a bit of the log train.
....and now, it's time for some of the other equipment.
and one last shot from the pull-push train. Getting steam engines leading trains up here is as rare as hen's teeth, to quote a popular southern expression.
The Leviathan on the Saratoga & North Creek
…or better known as “the best laid plans of mice and men” department.
The main reason for the trip to the northeast was the first major outing for the 2009-built replica of the Central Pacific 4-4-0 #63, the Leviathan. After several years of intermittent displays, and a couple of runs at the Illinois Railway Museum, September 2013 would bring the Leviathan to the Saratoga & North Creek Railroad in upstate New York for the first ever extended operations of the engine. Owing to issues with Canadian Pacific, who owns the lower couple of miles of track (including the wye in Saratoga Springs on the south end), the Leviathan was scheduled to operate an 80-mile roundtrip on Sept. 14-15 between Corinth and North Creek, NY, where a functioning turntable was present.
The event was timed to coincide with the Teddy Roosevelt weekend in North Creek. In September, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt was in the Adirondack Mountains when he received word that President McKinley had been shot. Racing south, Roosevelt arrived in North Creek on September 14, 1901 to find word that McKinley was dead and that he would be the next President of the United States. His train south was pulled by a 4-4-0 that greatly resembled the Leviathan—which has the distinct advantage is being just about a perfect stand-in for late 1800s/early 1900s American railroading. At the time, steam technology in the United States did not have the diversity that would soon characterize American railroading, so the Leviathan is basically “authentic” power to just about every railroad that it will visit.
Back to present day, the plans for the Leviathan didn’t quite work out as envisioned. Despite a few test runs that proved the schedule was doable, issues that had nothing to do with the steam engine caused the Saturday trip to run 2-hours late, and the engine still had to be towed 40-miles backwards to North Creek on Saturday evening to be turned for Sunday’s excursion. Those delays coalesced into a major problem on Sunday morning, when passengers showed up in Corinth to find no steam engine and no train. The delays from Saturday meant that the steam crew was dead in regards to the Hours of Service law, and without a second steam crew available, there was no way to get the steam engine from North Creek to Corinth on Sunday morning. After refunds and a free train ride on the regular diesel-powered tourist train were offered, passengers arrived in North Creek to find the Leviathan under steam and ready to head south. A free steam excursion was offered to the patrons, and the Leviathan departed shortly after the regular train.
Once the Leviathan got going, things went well, with the engine hitting close to 30mph at times...that is, until she approached the town of Hadley—about 6 miles north of Corinth. A mechanical problem disabled the engine on the single track mainline, and all operations quickly ground to a halt. With the steam engine fouling the main, the evening northbound train from Saratoga Springs to North Creek was cancelled, and the consist ran north to retrieve the passengers. A diesel was sent from North Creek to push the steam special to Corinth the next morning, and after the cancellation of the morning southbound from North Creek (due to the train being trapped on the south end of the line below the steam special), things returned to normal on the Saratoga & North Creek.
Needless to say, the planned full day of photography didn’t exactly go as expected, but we did manage to get a couple of decent shots. Those that were fortunate enough to see the Saturday operations were the real winners here, even though the weather was challenging both days. You win some, you lose some, I guess. Still, even with the issues, seeing a Civil War-era 4-4-0 at speed on the mainline unassisted with at basically period consist (a 1920s passenger car) is simply beyond cool, and well worth the trip. Hopefully, the difficulties encountered this time will not prevent a return in the future. The Leviathan is a beautiful engine, and the S&NC is a very nice, scenic piece of railroad. I must get back up here and try to do it justice next time. I think I’ll have to plan to be there for both days next time---you just need that much time on this railroad to get the good shots.
…and with that, the journey of 2762 miles comes to an end. Not a bad week if I say so myself.