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