Sunday, October 28, 2012

Car 601 **UPDATE**

It's been a while since the Engine House blog has been updated.  It's hard to believe, but over the next few weeks we're preparing for North Pole Express.  It seems that this operating season has gone by in a flash.

We have accomplished quite a bit this year.  We've put roller bearing wheels on several cars, including 501--which is just about ready to leave the shop.

Car 601 continues toward completion of its cosmetic restoration.  Here you can see the inside and the windows being installed. 


To give everyone an update on what we've done so far:
  • North and south end stairs and vestibules repaired and rebuilt with new steel.
  • Outside sandblasted, primed, and painted.
  • New windows were made by New England Joinery.  They're been stained and painted.
  • Window glass from original Adlake windows was cut to fit new sashes and installed.
  • New bronze window latches were cast, machined, assembled, and installed in the windows.
  • Window sill was cut and fit.
  • Doors were removed, repaired, sandblasted, painted, and being installed.
Charlie at work on window stops and latches. 

As North Pole Express approaches, we'll be finished with 601 fairly soon.

New "Half-round" cocktail tables were made for Meriden.  This year for North Pole Express the Meriden will be converted from dining car to Parlor car.  We have new, comfy leather chairs to make this a true first class experience.  We'll be converting the car in the next week.  After NPE and the Eagle Flyer the Meriden will be converted back to a dining car.

Wallingford will receive the same treatment this year.  Its tables will be removed and converted to a Parlor car for NPE.

Engine 3025 is currently in service with Your Hand On The Throttle.

Engine 40 is in good form and ready for service.

Preparations are underway for North Pole Express.  We've prepared spare injectors for the locomotives.  We have a supply of fresh brake valves for our coaches.  Coal supplies are being increased.  So, we should be in good shape as North Pole Express starts November 16.

It promises to be a good season for North Pole Express.  We hope that we have the same good luck with the weather this year as we did last year.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Along the Line

As soon as Essex Steam Train & Riverboat's busy, 7 day-a-week summer schedule relaxed after Labor Day, the facilities crew immediately embarked on its next “Accessible History” infrastructure project. Improving on April’s new Dickinson Crossing at Essex Station, the Main Entrance was completely re-graded and paved -- from Route 154 , across the tracks, and over to our main parking areas. For 41 years, this entrance was traditional gravel; depending upon the season, it could be dusty, bumpy, muddy, or any combination of the three!

To facilitate this project, a short unused section of Track 7 was removed where it passed through the driveway to allow proper grading for drainage.

This Main Entrance upgrade was a joint project with the owner of the Witch Hazel Works, an office condominium located across the tracks in the former Dickinson Witch Hazel Distillery building. By working in partnership, we improved the comfort and safety for patrons of both venues. Road markings and clearly denoted pedestrian pathways make future arrival at Essex Steam Train & Riverboat and the Witch Hazel Works, more welcoming and easy to navigate. 

Rob Bradway
VP, Track Superintendent & Property Manager

Rob Bradway directs passenger traffic around the Quarry Paving vehicles. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Along the Line

While Essex Steam Train & Riverboat possesses many unique features, perhaps the most engaging is our "accessible history" - - up close and personal, not behind a rope barrier, not behind glass, not in a book. Unimpeded access to our active artifacts, people, and natural setting in the lower Connecticut River Valley, is a significant part of what makes a visit with us so engaging, exciting, and unique.

Along the Line...we've just completed 2 projects that further enhance visitor accessibility.  The Essex Station platform has been widened to provide a larger area for photography, chatting with our locomotive crews, or just standing in awe at the sight of a live steam locomotive. A new pedestrian ramp makes access to the platform from the parking area more direct and comfortable. And, a strip of green grass is growing nicely to separate the platform from the adjacent parking area.

Further up the railroad, select brush clearing has been performed along the tracks at Pratt Cove, the largest tidal estuary on the Connecticut River. Now, there are more expansive views of this pristine tidal preserve to enjoy during your Essex Steam Train and Essex Clipper Dinner Train excursions.

Visit us this summer, and see how we make history "accessible"...and more fun for you and your family!

Rob Bradway
VP, Track Superintendent & Property Manager

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Along the Line

The Track Department has tackled another railroad crossing upgrade, this time at the Essex Hardware crossing. 

Smaller in size than the recently rebuilt Dickinson Crossing, the hardware store crossing posed a unique challenge -- performing the work as quickly as possible since the driveway is the primary access to the busy Essex Hardware Company. The Track Crew and some members of the Friends of the Valley Railroad put in a 12 hour day to remove the old pavement, ties, rail, and ballast, and build new track through the crossing, as well as tie upgrades on the approaches. A new ballast subgrade drain was installed to keep the foundation dry. Rubber rail-seal was used, and new pavement installed. Just a quick two-day crossing rebuild, but of VITAL importance to both rail operations and the convenience of a popular local business.

Rob Bradway
VP, Track Superintendent/Property Manager

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring Training!

I would be remiss to talk Spring Cleaning without mentioning Spring Training.

Under the leadership of Bob Wuchert, Operations Manager here at Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, 62 members of the railroad operating department completed a comprehensive Training & Rules Exam, March 31 and April 2. This dynamic training program and exam is the culmination of months of work by the Operating Committee, Supervisors of Locomotive Employees, and Trainmasters. Tailored to each individual railroad position, the training is integrated with the NORAC Rulebook, Valley Railroad Timetable and the new Valley Railroad Air Brake Rules book.

Once again, our qualified and skilled Train Crew is ready to roll in 2012!

~ Susan

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Cleaning

Essex Steam Train & Riverboat is taking Spring Cleaning seriously... rebuilding the 40 year-old “Dickinson Crossing.” This crossing takes visitors over the tracks from Essex Station’s Main Entrance into the Parking Lot, as well as to offices in the original Witch Hazel Works building and to neighboring residences.

The project started when the track crew removed the crossing’s gravel surface with a backhoe. Next, a Kershaw Tie Handler was operated to pull up the rails and remove the old crossties. The track bed was prepared, new crossties were placed and rails were installed.

Rob Bradway, VP, Track & Property, says, “While modern machinery certainly helps, there is a huge amount of good ol' fashion back work including shoveling, spiking, bolting up the rails, lining and leveling the track, and tamping the gravel beneath the ties.” Perhaps that’s why we call Rob our Hero of the Rails!

A BIG thanks to the Track/Engine House crews, and the Friends of the Valley Railroad for their long, hard days. Essex Steam Train & Riverboat looks forward to welcoming our passengers in 2012 with a smooth crossing!

Happy Spring!

~ Susan

Sunday, March 18, 2012

No. 97 Inspection

J.David Inspecting Smokebox

March saw a brief flurry of activity on No. 97 as it was inspected by a crew of Valley Railroad staff and various Freinds. Ron Olsen began the work by loosening numerous nuts on the smokebox front and other parts. J.David removed all of the front end netting and baffles to access the front tube sheet for ultra-sonic inspection. By the 16th the locomotive had been moved to the shop. Paul Scarbrough and Pete Barrington gridded out the firebox and Burt began polishing spots for U-T testing. On the 17th Wayne Hebert and Dave removed the steam dome cap and inspected the boiler interior and water side of the firebox.

Wayne Removing Crown Stays (note gridding)
Several staybolts and crown stays were removed to assist with thickness testing and checking for any cracking of the firebox sheets. Dave and Burt removed the valve and cylinder heads while Wayne began the U-T work. On the 18th, Bill Wolf came in to inspect and measure the valve and cylinder bores. All of the wheels were measured as well.

Bill Measures A Driving Wheel
It is hoped that the inspection will be completed next week. Once Dave has all of the data, a scope of work and budget can be created. Figuring out where the funds necessary to accomplish the work will come from will take far longer than the planning. No work will be done until funding is in place.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The 2011 Season is finished and thus begins the work of preparing for 2012.  Engine 40 has completed it's annual inspection and has had a "caps job" done.  Bill Wolf has been very busy working to machine a new wrist pin for the fireman's side crosshead as well as making new studs for the air compressor bracket and  preparing the fireman's injector to be ready for the upcoming season.  Others have been working on re-installing the lagging, piping, brakes, and water-glasses.  The air compressor was removed and had several boiler studs replaced and the bracket was repaired.   Interesting note that #40 has 292 service days remaining that need to be "used up" over the next two seasons, so we can expect to see 40 pulling quite a few trains this year. 

Wallingford was in the shop for maintenance and repairs.  Having completed most of the work we now have 1000 in the shop getting its "M&R" for the upcoming season. 

During 2012, Engines 40 and 3025 will be operating; however, 40 will see more service because we need to use up the valuable 1472 inspection days.  Engine 3025 is new and has many, many years left to use up its days. 

The tentative 2012 Motive power operating schedule (which is subject to change)
Engine 3025 will start the 2012 season in Fri, April 13 and operate until May 20, 2012 (weekends). 
Engine 40 will operate May 26 through June 29, 2012
Engine 3025 will operate June 30 through July 30, 2012
Engine 40 will operate July 31 through August 30, 2012
Engine 3025 will operate August 31, Sept 1-3, 2012
Engine 40 will operate September 7 through October 22, 2012
Engine 3025 will operate October 26 through November 4, 2012
Engines 3025 and 40 will both operate Christmas starting November 16 through December 27
Please remember and don't be disappointed if your favorite engine isn't operating a particular day.  You can always call the office to verify; however, under certain circumstances the schedule may be altered at the last minute.