Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Diesel 1606 Placed in Service

On February 13th, we conducted a test run of our newest Diesel Locomotive, Number 1606, purchased from the US Air Force back in March 2014. Normally, a new piece of motive power is big news around here, but this got a bit buried in the preparation for our annual Eagle Flyer excursion, several snow storms, and the resultant need to plow our line. Fortunately, Lee Carlson took a few photos to commemorate the event!

Rob Bradway provides the following update:

"The Valley Railroad's latest motive power aquisition made its road debut, pulling the Eagle Flyer trainset on a test run on Friday. GE 80 ton diesel-electric 1606 successfully pulled the 650 ton train across the snowy landscape from Goodspeed Station in Haddam back to Essex.

Completely rebuilt by the US Air Force prior to being purchased last year by Valley, the 1606 is identical to our old reliable 0900 and, once in a coat of fresh paint (scheme to be determined - suggestions??) will become the railroad's primary vintage diesel power on the Essex Clipper Dinner Train."

Welcome on board, 1606! Even though we're known for our Steam Locomotives, we love our vintage Diesels as well!

Look for a more formal dedication and commissioning once we get her painted up and bring her into full time service!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Plowing the Right-of-Way

We pulled out our historic Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington snow plow for the second time ever this week, to clean up the 2' of snow that storm Colbie dropped in Essex and along the CT River in preparation for our Eagle Flyer excursions, Feb 14-16.

Brad Horrigan / Hartford Courant

We were fortunate to have two media outlets come along for the ride, and the results are in!
Much thanks to the Valley Railroad crew for their hard work and for inviting the media along - providing Connecticut residents with a behind the scenes look at vintage railroad equipment and operations.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Around the Shop

The new Locomotive Servicing Facility is being put to really good use this winter as the boiler work on Locomotive 40 gets underway, work in preparation for the annual FRA locomotive inspection nears completion and work on Locomotive 1606 progresses.  This addition to our shop facilities has greatly enhanced the capabilities of our Engine House crews to get necessary work on the equipment accomplished in a protected environment.

Locomotive 1606 "under the hood"
 Meanwhile, inside the shop itself, two passenger cars are receiving much needed work.  At the south-end, Great Republic is receiving a restroom upgrade and some steelwork, while in the north bay, the Open Car (Riverview) is receiving extensive repairs and upgrading. 

Riverview Upgrades and Renovation

Once space opens-up, Coach 603 will be in for major restoration work and Dacosta will be back in to receive its generator, power control systems and air conditioning.  All of our space in the shop facility will be fully in use throughout the winter months, as we fulfill our mission to maintain and restore historic railroad equipment.

Much thanks to Bob Wuchert and "The Smokestack" for a thorough update of what's happening behind the scenes!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Engine House Addition

The folks in the engine house must have been very good this past year, because Santa Claus dropped off their present a little early!
We've documented the construction of the new "Engine House Addition" here - now you can see it in use! We have begun using our beautiful new space even though it isn't quite finished - there are more outlets and LED light fixtures to install. This is the first winter that the Valley Railroad's steam locomotives have enjoyed a decent place to rest after a hard days work.
There is room inside for two locomotives, each has its own "smoke hood" with an exhaust fan that can be turned on if there is too much smoke or steam. One end of the facility has a nicely lit inspection pit enabling our crews to do a better (and easier) job inspecting and repairing the inner machinery. 
Anything that drips off the locomotive eventually finds its way into a 2,500 gallon holding tank which will be pumped out periodicly for proper treatment and/or recycling.
We're sure that having this top-notch facility to service and maintain our beautiful steam locomotives will result in more reliable service, faster turn-around for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, and happier maintenance personnel.  Congratulations to the entire Valley Railroad team for pulling this together!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Da Costa Restoration

"Da Costa" was built 8/1927 by Pullman for use on the Pennsylvania Railroad as a 1 drawing room, 28 seat parlor car.  It was used on trains such as the Congressional Limited between New York and Washington, D.C. until some time in the 1960's when it was put into work train service.

It was purchased by The Valley Railroad in 1988 from a tourist railroad in Ohio and moved to Essex. From 1988 until August 2013 it was used for storage. 

Employees and volunteers have restored it to its present condition; it will initially be set up as a 40 seat Lounge Car.

The restoration included: sandblasting the car inside and outside, repairs to the roof and sides, complete rebuilding of the steps and car ends, new windows and lower walls, much reproduction interior moldings and window casings, two new sets of wheels, rebuilt brake rigging and couplers, all new brake shoes, extensive body work, priming and painting, and new heating system, complete rewiring and sound system.

Da Costa has been placed in service this fall for our North Pole Express holiday trains, providing additional First Class seating. However, there are several more tasks to complete next year - we'll finish the project by installing a generator and air conditioning system so it can be used in our Essex Clipper Dinner Train service.

Interested in video?

Before: On Sept. 5, 2013, Valley Railroad's Pullman Parlor Car "Da Costa" was moved into the shop to proceed with its restoration. - Youtube, video by ebtmikado

After: Pullman Da Costa's First Trip (October 25, 2014) - Facebook video by Lee Carlson

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rolling Stock and Locomotive Documentation

We've recently updated our website with update listing of our Rolling Stock, and a short history of each of our operating Steam Locomotives

Visit our History Page for information on the history of the Valley Railroad, and links to other historical railroad resources.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Boiler Interiors: An Inside Look at Nos. 3025 and 40

It isn't often that you see the inside of a steam locomotive boiler. Usually, we see their innards only once a year as part of their annual inspection (by law) for the Federal Railroad Administration.
After removing the decorative sheet metal housing over the steam dome, we undo about two dozen big nuts that hold the thick steel cover in place, and keeps the steam inside the boiler. Once the cover has been lifted off by our hoist, it is possible to wiggle down into the steam dome, past the throttle valve and end up laying on your back or belly on top of the boiler tubes and flues to begin inspecting the inside of the boiler.
We look for build ups of scale (residue from minerals in the water) and for pitting, especially on the tubes and flues (from oxygen in the water). Occasionally, corrosion from stress and/or impurities in the water might also be found. Inside is where you can really tell whether or not our boiler water treatment program is working or not (it is!).

The upper photo is No.3025, quite clean after 295 days in service since we finished rebuilding it in 2010. The lower photo is No.40, showing a bit of scale buildup (but little pitting) after 1338 days running over the last 14 years.
We are allowed (by law) to operate a steam locomotive only 1472 days within a 15 year time period. Then we must remove the boiler tubes and flues so we can clean and inspect the entire interior of the boiler. Once inspected, tube and flues are installed and we start the cycle over again.
One of the reasons that railroads stopped using steam locomotives was that they are very labor intensive machines. But we love them and care for them and use them to teach a new generation not only about their beauty, but also about the skills needed to keep them running.
J. David Conrad

Friday, May 9, 2014

DaCosta Restoration and Locomotive Servicing Facility Update

 A couple of quick photos from Essex Station as we move into our season opening weekend for both the Steam Train & Riverboat excursion, and our Essex Clipper Dinner Train.

Locomotive Servicing Facility a.k.a. The Engine House Addition
Cement workers installing forms for the inspection pit
while steel workers install walls.

Dacosta First Class Car Renovation
Dacosta was temporarily moved out of the engine house this week,
showing the new window post and sills, as well as
patching progress on the roof and window drip edge.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hard at Work

The folks in the Engine House are taking advantage of the warmer weather, sunny skies, and minimal weekday operations as they continue a number of spring maintenance and renovation projects. Although the public face of the Valley Railroad Company is our popular tourist excursions and events, the company is filled with individuals dedicated to maintaining and preserving vintage rolling stock and equipment.

J.David was kind enough to send along a sampling of works in process!

Bill rebuilding a brake beam for Dacosta

Eloise and Liu repairing coach seat.

Scott patching on Dacosta roof while Mike fits new steel for window

Contractors digging out for the inspection pit in the Engine House Addition

Anthony needle chipping rust out of Meriden belt rail
Before too long, Essex Station will be filled with families for Day Out with Thomas, and our regular Steam Train & Riverboat operations begin May 10. But in the meantime, we've got plenty of work to do. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Spring Updates (Long Overdue!)

Yes, we know we've been lax in posting here, but that does not mean we've been cooling our heels! We've just been too busy to sit down and write it all up! Thanks to JD Conrad for taking the time to write this up!

New Locomotive
Photo by Stephie Kolata /
Yesterday we were the successful bidder on another 80 ton GE locomotive, US Air Force No. 1606, last operated at an AFB in Utah. The main reason we bought it was that it has exceptionally low hours on it after a complete overhaul (albeit done back in the 80s', but it appears to be well cared for and stored in a dry climate). Also, it is a simple, robust design with which we are familiar and have spare parts for. Since we are running more evening trains (Essex Clipper and specials to events at The Lace Factory), it was felt that another backup locomotive would be prudent. Kevin is figuring out the best way to get it transported to Essex.

Keep an eye out for this new piece of equipment at Essex Station in the coming months!

Engine House Addition 
The Engine House Addition project has begun. The portion of track 7 next to the Engine House has been removed and building materials (re-bar, insulation, "new" rail for inside the building) are being piled nearby the work site. It expected that the construction company will begin digging out for the new pit next week; the addition will run teh length of the existing engine house. The addition will bring the servicing, inspection and repairs to the steam locomotives inside as well as overnight and long term storage. 
The schedule calls for the contractor to be finished with the concrete work and building frame prior to "Day Out with Thomas", so you will be able to see the work in process throughout the spring and early summer.

Photo by B. Coolidge / Passenger Car Photo Index
The DaCosta Parlor Car

We've owned the Dacosta, an old PRR Pullman (PRR 7068), for many years, and this is the year she will be returned to service, for the popular North Pole Express, as well as for general use as a First Class car and Dining Car.

After the sandblasting was finished, work began on removing rusted sections of the car body. New window sills and window post are being fit and installed. Repairs have been made to the side sills (frame). The steel work for the new sections of floor is in place, we expect to pour fiberglass reinforced concrete  to renew about 2/3 of the floor on Monday. Work is also progressing on rebuilding the brake rigging as well. New wiring is being installed throughout the car, although historic lighting fixtures will be used.