• Conway Scenic Railroad (CSRX) discussion thread

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England

Moderators: MEC407, NHN503

  by Goddraug
 
I’d only see them doing it if they had some type of equipment stationed up there and ran from both Conway and another location further west. At that point though, you’re stretching yourself quite thin with the employee base and motive power and whatnot.
  by CPF66
 
At this point, any expansion on the Mountain Division is a moot point. If they were to run to Whitefield regularly, (lets use the possibility of NHCR signing them the lease from Hazens) to make that a day trip, they would have to upgrade speeds significantly. I believe they keep the current speeds at a max of 20 MPH to bypass FRA regulations pertaining to having a dedicated dispatcher, track warrants, etc... Additionally, most of that 85 LBS rail has to be beyond shot at this point, which new rail or even relay isn't in the budget for the railroad without state or federal assistance. Yes they could expand down the Conway branch, but keep in mind 99% of the ridership on Conway Scenic are not railfans. I think its safe to say the 1 hour or so round trip to Conway and back is more than enough for families. Conway already offers longer excursions if they are interested.

As for freight, both lines have been closed for 40+ years. As others have noted the millions it would cost to bump speeds up to 10 MPH wouldn't be worth the less than 100 cars a year they might pull collectively from either line. Additionally when you start moving freight, that is a whole different ball game for a tourist railroad. It opens more hoops to jump through with the regulatory agencies, additional training employees have to go through etc... The general manager of Strausburg mentioned this in the "Roundhouse" podcast several years ago. Plus with todays 263K and 268K cars, that adds a lot more maintenance to the track than a tourist train. At the end of the day, yeah it would be nice to see some abandoned track reactivated. But is it feasible? Probably not. I think the potential customers Conway Scenic supposedly found, would get a better bang for their buck transloading on SLR or NHN.
  by NHV 669
 
The rail near the Frankenstein Trestle is 90+ years old, and the rail in the curve just east of the Hazens switch dates to 1905, 17 years older than most of the rail on the Berlin Branch that hasn't seen a train in 24 years. I have to imagine the rest of it is similarly aged...
  by b&m 1566
 
CPF66 wrote: Sun Mar 03, 2024 1:38 pmAs for freight, both lines have been closed for 40+ years. As others have noted the millions it would cost to bump speeds up to 10 MPH wouldn't be worth the less than 100 cars a year they might pull collectively from either line. Additionally when you start moving freight, that is a whole different ball game for a tourist railroad. It opens more hoops to jump through with the regulatory agencies, additional training employees have to go through etc... The general manager of Strausburg mentioned this in the "Roundhouse" podcast several years ago. Plus with todays 263K and 268K cars, that adds a lot more maintenance to the track than a tourist train. At the end of the day, yeah it would be nice to see some abandoned track reactivated. But is it feasible? Probably not. I think the potential customers Conway Scenic supposedly found, would get a better bang for their buck transloading on SLR or NHN.
You will never see the Conway Scenic handle any freight, any expansion of freight north of Ossipee Aggregates, would be handled by NHN.
  by b&m 1566
 
CPF66 wrote: Sat Mar 02, 2024 9:49 am
Who wrote: Fri Mar 01, 2024 7:49 am The Conway Scenic has expressed interest in the branch south of Conway, hopefully the state doesn't shut the door on their face like MEDOT did last year for the Mt. Division.
That was entirely Conway Scenic's fault. The state held multiple rail trail committee meetings and no one from the railroad showed up. Mind you those started back in 2018. Until two years ago they were still proposing a rail with trail, however since no rail operators had expressed an interest to save money, that plan was scrapped and they opted to just make a trail. If Conway Scenic really wanted the line, they should have objected in 2021. Waiting until the 11th hour to come forward at the trail committee funding meeting after the trail had already been finalized was bad planning on the railroads part. They can fight it in court all they want, but I don't see a judge siding with them since they failed to enter a bid for the operation during the past few cycles.
The Conway Scenic doesn't have to take the state to court, state law already dictates that rail take precedence, besides there's never been any approval of a rail trail on the Conway Branch by the state. As someone already pointed out, the state of Maine's refusal to work with the railroad, has forced the railroad to refocus on other avenues of growth, if that area of growth involves the Conway Branch south of Conway, NHDOT will listen.
  by jfwjr1
 
The folks advocating for a rail trail should advocate for a trail next to the rail.
That’s the best of both worlds.

With all the recent activity, I am encouraged that the Conway Rail Branch may just return to active rails for passenger or freight
  by Goddraug
 
A perfect world would be CSRR running passenger/tourism and NHN running freight. That would bring up some questions of track rights and cooperation, however. We'll see what happens but I remain cautiously optimistic.
  by NHN503
 
Thing to remember is that on NHDOT lines there are generally two contracts, one for passenger and one for freight. While one RR can hold both, generally its a lot easier for a tourist RR to hold one, and a freight carrier to hold the other, like on the White Mountain Branch.
  by Who
 
CPF66 wrote: Sat Mar 02, 2024 9:49 am
Who wrote: Fri Mar 01, 2024 7:49 am The Conway Scenic has expressed interest in the branch south of Conway, hopefully the state doesn't shut the door on their face like MEDOT did last year for the Mt. Division.
That was entirely Conway Scenic's fault. The state held multiple rail trail committee meetings and no one from the railroad showed up. Mind you those started back in 2018. Until two years ago they were still proposing a rail with trail, however since no rail operators had expressed an interest to save money, that plan was scrapped and they opted to just make a trail. If Conway Scenic really wanted the line, they should have objected in 2021. Waiting until the 11th hour to come forward at the trail committee funding meeting after the trail had already been finalized was bad planning on the railroads part. They can fight it in court all they want, but I don't see a judge siding with them since they failed to enter a bid for the operation during the past few cycles.
If you are referring to the Mountain Division in ME, the Conway Scenic was at those meetings when things kicked off in 2021 but were never given the opportunity to speak. The one meeting where they were given the floor to speak, they had only a few minutes to plead their case. The state of Maine never submitted request for proposals, they jumped right into a rail trail when they realized how much it would cost to keep the rails in place. But, either way it's over and done with, ME is going to tear up their tracks, the Conway Scenic now owns a bus company to shuttle their customers and in addition to that, the bus company has established bus routes in and out of Portland, which is another steady stream of income.
Now the Conway Scenic is interested in the Conway Branch, whatever their reason is, I do not know, they haven't gone public with their intentions, and it seems to be a recent development.
  by Goddraug
 
Last I've heard, they're still interested in both the Mt. Division and the Conway Branch, whether it be now or the future. Besides just tourism operations for the cruise service (and whatever freight they could scrounge up, not entirely sure if it would be sustainable but it was mentioned by Swirk in his presentation), it would probably be easier to ship any new rolling stock in from the south or the east rather than the roundabout northern NH CSX-SLR-NHCR route that is open seasonally. The question is begged as to whether or not they would be able to legally stop what's already in play in Maine, but my knowledge of railroad law is limited to what I read online and it's been conflicting.

It should also be noted that Mr. Swirk and the rest of the CSRR is understandably notorious for keeping things tightly wrapped, so as with everything on this site take what I say with a grain or two of salt. Realistically, I doubt they would be able to finance doing both lines at once. Unfortunate that they're being forced to choose like this.
  by NHV 669
 
Finance what, though? The state owns all the track beyond the seven miles of in-service Conway Branch on all ends, and the "presentation" was entirely about who CSRX is and what they do, as opposed to a formal plan for the additional trackage on either section. The RR certainly doesn't have $80-$100 million in capital lying around...
  by Goddraug
 
I guess that’s all one can really give as info when they’re given, like, sub-5 minutes to state their case with little previous heads’ up. Who’s statement about CSRR being left out of the proceedings and only given minutes to talk is something I’ve seen corroborated across the internet and in person: not given enough time to formulate a proposal or even state their case properly.

This wasn’t really Dave or CSRRs fault, more the fault of those who (deliberately?) left them out of the proceedings until the last minute.
  by Who
 
The process in Maine from beginning to end was favored towards the rail trail 100%. It took them a year a half to go from study to governor's signature, when has government bureaucracy ever moved that fast? Surprisingly, this rail trail process all unfolded at the same time the Conway Scenic was negotiating with the cruise liners and secretly sending out feelers for potential freight shippers to relocate along the line. The Conway Scenic, via a different railroad company was willing to offer freight services as a short line railroad to help offset costs, management supposedly had some businesses willing to relocate but someone at the state level found out and I'm convinced that is why the trail was jammed through so fast, it wasn't by coincidence, it was done deliberately.
  by Goddraug
 
I wouldn’t be shocked. They didn’t even bother checking in with regional economic commissions or planning boards, which goes against their own state laws. If CSRR really wanted to work that angle, they could have a semi-legitimate case. Of course, that’s a big, absolutely massive “if”.
  by NHN503
 
NHV 669 wrote: Tue Mar 05, 2024 11:13 am Finance what, though? The state owns all the track beyond the seven miles of in-service Conway Branch on all ends, and the "presentation" was entirely about who CSRX is and what they do, as opposed to a formal plan for the additional trackage on either section. The RR certainly doesn't have $80-$100 million in capital lying around...
The state will entertain an operator, but with the way NHDOT-RB is funded, you bet that that operator is going to be taking up a majority of funding the rehab cost. Current cost of ties are $53 each, so, its about 3mil for just bare minimum Class 1 in ties for MP110 to MP133. Not including your stuff and surface costs.
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