Wednesday, July 01, 2009

White Mountain Railfest

White Mountain Railfest and Ottawa - Part 1

Note: We're changing the way we do blogging here. Instead of trip reports where every day is posted all at once, we'll be posting small portions of each trip separately. This will result in more frequent updates in more reader-friendly sizes. And instead of sticking to just one trip, we'll be bouncing back and forth between something current and something older. Here we'll take a look at the first part of a recent trip, this one to the White Mountains and then on to Ottawa, Ontario. Enjoy.

Back in January, Dick Towle of the Flying Yankee Restoration Group stopped by the office to discuss what was hoped to become an annual event -- White Mountains Railfest. With the Hobo Railroad (current home of the Flying Yankee) leading the way, a three-day event was planned for June 2009. Here's a report from the event.

Photos from the event can be found in the Photologues section.

Day 1: June 12, 2009 -- Flying Yankee at Night
With non-optimal weather in the forecast, I left New Jersey and drove pretty much non-stop to Lincoln, New Hampshire, home of the Hobo Railroad. Once there, I looked up the folks from the Flying Yankee Restoration Group and went over the logistics for the evening's night photo session. Friend Jeff Smith joined me, and after going over all the details, we headed for pizza.

The scheduled start time for the session was 7:00, but darkness didn't fall until well past 9:00. Once it got dark, though, the fun began. We started off with a shot of the Flying Yankee in its tent, posed with a 1954 Cadillac. You couldn't tell by looking at the shots, but the under-restoration Yankee was missing some glass and all its wheels. There's work to be done, but the classic trainset is starting to look good.

The timing was planned so we'd swing around and try a shot at the station with the Hobo Railroad's equipment with the photo line facing west into a dusky sky. Our timing couldn't have been better, as we got a nice purple sky behind the train and depot. Several shots were made here, then we headed further out into the parking lot for scenes with the railroad's Rail Diesel Car. A few more shots at the west end of the station, and it was off to bed.

Day 2: June 13, 2009 -- Hobo Day
The Hobo Railroad hosted the all-day events of Saturday. The main trip originated out of the Lincoln depot and headed beyond the usual trackage covered by the regular passenger trains, with the special going all the way to Ashland. Along the way, photo stops were made near Woodstock along the Pemigewasset River and at a Christmas tree farm below Plymouth.

At Ashland passengers detrained at the restored station for a tour. A few scenes with railroaders were set up for the benefit of photographers. It was agreed that Ashland would make a great night photo location for future events. Soon it was back on the train, with another photo stop at the Plymouth depot and a final stop at a bridge over the "Pemi" near Lincoln.

The Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train hosted Railfest in the evening, with an outstanding meal (I had the scallops) served while the train headed along the river. A special photo runby and group photo was made near Woodstock. After arrival back at Lincoln, Jeff and I (along with a couple of other folks) did an impromptu night photo session of some more of the Hobo Railroad's equipment. It was a fun day.

Day 3: June 14, 2009 -- Through the Misty Mountains
Rain had been a constant threat throughout the weekend, and Sunday morning it had arrived. It didn't dampen the spirits of Railfest attendees, however, as they gathered at the White Mountain Central in North Woodstock, New Hampshire (and literally right around the corner from the Hobo Railroad). The WMC had their Climax logging locomotive fired up, and soon we were heading north along the "Pemi" with the Wolfman in pursuit. (The WMC is part of Clark's Trading Post, one of the oldest family theme parks in the country; Clark's is famous for its trained bears and the Wolfman provides plenty of entertainment during the train rides).

After a few runbys, the locomotive was serviced for the regular runs later in the day, including taking water and wood (yes, the Climax is a wood burner). Photographers were able to shoot the servicing scenes. Steam is steam, be it a tourist operation of the present or regular service of the past, and steam scenes are timeless.

Up next was a tour of the White Mountain Central shops, where a Shay logging locomotive and a Maine Central REO railbus live. The shop was straight out of the heyday of short line steam, with all the tools and clutter (that's clutter in a good kind of way) laying about. There were plenty of targets for photographers here. The Shay hasn't run since the 1950s; the WMC also has a Heisler (which sees service), so it owns one each of the three types of geared logging locomotives. Once the shop tour was done, White Mountain Railfest came to a conclusion.

Since it was only lunch time, Jeff and I headed to the Mount Washington Cog Railway near Fabyans. I had heard that a couple of out of service steam locomotives were behind the shop and I wanted to check them out. After lunch in the railroad's restaurant, we headed down to the shop where we found a steam-powered work train being put together. We quickly got permission to walk around the shop area, and soon we found 0-2-2-0 No. 8 disassembled for maintenance (and not looking like it would be reassembled anytime soon) and the oldest locomotive on the line, No. 1 (the Mount Washington) vanishing into the weeds. The Cog is still an active railroad and treats its equipment not as historical artifacts but as working machinery. Like the conventional railroads of the 1950s, the Cog is now dieselizing and the steam locomotives are simply being pushed aside.

The shop door was open, and we were welcomed in to see the Cog's two newest diesels under construction inside; both were scheduled to enter service in less than a month. In an adjacent section of the shop, two more steam locomotives rested; the Cog has six steamers in service. While the railroad is dieselizing for financial and operational reasons, some of the employees we talked to seemed less than enthusiastic about the departure of steam.

At this point Jeff said farewell and headed for Boston. I was due in Ottawa in two nights, so I continued north. I made a brief stop at Whitefield, New Hampshire, to photograph the surviving ball signals at the former Boston & Maine / Maine Central diamond, then headed into Vermont. A stop at St. Johnsbury yielded a nice shot of the depot during a break in the clouds, and I followed the Washington County Railroad (former Boston & Maine, now a part of Vermont Rail System) north to Newport. At Newport there was power from both Vermont Rail System and the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic sitting near the surviving roundhouse; alas, a storm prevented any more sun from shining on this day. I got some shots under menacing skies, then headed towards the border.

At the border crossing I found a friendly customs agent who liked trains. When I told him I was heading into Canada to photograph the railroads he gave me a quiz. Apparently the location where the customs point is located was once known as Rock Island, and he asked me what significance Rock Island had in the U.S. I told him about the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, and he said I passed the rail enthusiast test and was waved into Canada. (He also told me something I didn't know -- Delson, Quebec, home of the Canadian Railway Museum, was named for the Delaware & Hudson). I headed past Montreal and tied up in the western suburb of Dorval near the main lines of both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, ready for the next day.

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