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 / rrpicturearchives.net
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.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Locomotive No. 97 (2-8-0 "Consolidation")

Locomotive 97 was built by Alco's Cooke Works (#65188) in November 1923 as a stock coal-fired engine along with twelve other 2-8-0's of various sizes, two 2-6-0's, and five 0-4-0T's. The 200 was her original road number and she was sold new to the Birmingham and Southeastern (an Alabama shoreline) in March 1926, running there through the 1950s. While being held in storage, the locomotive was purchased by a New York businessman about 1964 and hauled to the Vermont Railway. Her original number conflicted with one of Vermont Railway's diesels, so the 200 was renumbered 97. She worked occasionally in Vermont in 1965 and 1966, and was then hauled to Connecticut where she would play a significant part in the events leading up to the creation of the Valley Railroad operation in southern Connecticut.

In 1966 and 1967, the steam department of the Connecticut Electric Railway ran locomotive 97 on occasional day excursions out of Hartford over New Haven Railroad. These excursions were sponsored by the Connecticut Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. At the end of 1967, a group of individuals from the steam department formed our organization, the Connecticut Valley Railroad Association, and ran three trips during 1968 with the help of the Empire State Railway Museum of Middletown, New York. After the takeover of the former New Haven Line by Penn Central, which tended to discourage steam excursions, the locomotive sat in Danbury for almost a year before being shipped to the Valley Railroad. After repairs, she returned to service in 1973, and then underwent a major rebuilding in 1979 that returned her to a more original appearance. Since then, locomotive 97 has logged thousands of miles along the Valley line.

Locomotive No. 40

Built by the AMERICAN LOCOMOTIVE COMPANY at their Dunkirk (N.Y.) works in August 1920, No. 40 has had a long and interesting career. It was one of an order for three identical units constructed for The Portland, Astoria & Pacific Railroad and hauled train loads of logs and lumber. Later it was sold to the Minarets & Western Railway for similar service. When that railroad could not pay its debts, the locomotive was given to the Southern Pacific Railroad, which sold it to a used locomotive dealer which in tum sold it to The Aberdeen & Rockfish Railroad in North Carolina.

On the A&R it pull freight and passenger trains until about 1950 when it was retired and stored in a small shed. Here it remained until it was discovered by an employee of the Valley Railroad. It was purchased in 1977 and loaded onto flat cars for it's trip to Essex and a new career pulling trainloads of tourist for the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat.

No. 40 is one of less than 200 steam locomotives in the United States which remain in operable condition. It burns about 2 tons of low sulfur coal for fuel each day and evaporates about 6000 gallons of water pulling a 400 ton train a total of 50 miles. It takes two people to operate a steam locomotive: an "engineer" to run it and a "fireman" to shovel coal into the firebox and maintain the proper level of water in the boiler.

The original Connecticut Valley Railroad was built in 1871. Today the tracks are owned by the state of Connecticut and leased to the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, which provides the traveling public with a historic and enjoyable means of experiencing the Connecticut River valley.

J. David Conrad
Vice President
Valley·Railroad Company

Eagle Flyer – a Fresh, Relaxing Perspective on the Conencticut River Valley.

Heading out over the railroad to inspect the track prior to it being buried in snow reminded me very quickly of why riding on the Eagle Flyer train is such a unique and relaxing way to spend a leisurely 2½ hours in the stark, wintry Ct River Valley. With trees lacking their foliage, additional clear views emerge of the surrounding forest, river, and an abundance of wildlife. From the windows of this train we have seen countless eagles, a harbor seal sitting on a log watching us watch him, followed a harbor seal along the shore north of Deep River station, heron nests in Haddam, red-tail hawks. 

People have de-trained at Eagle Landing State Park with their binoculars and headed down to the dock for nature watching; others step off at Goodspeed Station Country Store in the old freight house in Haddam to do some shopping. We have people board at our outlying stations; one couple actually rode north on the 11:00 train, walked across the East Haddam Swing Bridge to have lunch at the Gelston House restaurant, and returned on the later train. Check the schedule on our website, and use the train as you wish! You are limited only by your own imagination (and the train schedule, of course....).

For 2014, it appears that ice on the river will be a given. The railroad is covered in a blanket of snow which should hold through the weekend. Our guest Master Wildlife Conservationists will be on-board to point out all the natural wonder of the valley. In addition to our traditional Eagle's Nest snack bar on the train, where snacks, soft drinks, cocoa and coffee are all $1.00 each on the honor system, our Essex Clipper Dinner Train chef John Evans will be aboard providing hot soups, and sandwiches made to order, for a nominal charge. 

Passengers may wander through the train at will, which will feature five (5) warmly heated cars consisting of three coaches, one diner car, and a parlor car with individual leather lounge seating – same ticket price for all, sample all of the cars during your trip! The train will be drawn by our two vintage diesel locomotives, one on each end of the train. Engine 0901 is widely regarded as the oldest diesel locomotive in regular service in the country.

It's been a long, cold winter so far – treat yourself to a day “outdoors” within the cozy confines of our vintage train, have lunch and creamy cocoa with us, and marvel at the frozen splendor of your Ct River Valley – aboard the Eagle Flyer!

Rob Bradway
Vice President of Track and Property
The Valley Railroad Company