I should comment on the track conditions that were mentioned. Though it was not a major snow event that caused all of the problems, it was however the extreme cold and frost in the ground. It has been sometime since the area had seen such a deep frost in the ground. When the freight did slow down, taking into account the light (and short) rail, snow piling up and little traffic over the line, it doesn't take long to make things difficult to push through. The centercabs with straight blade pilots don't like to push through the deeper drifts while pulling. It wasn't so much that they weren't passable, but rather too labor intensive to justify the cost of trying. Under normal conditions with more traffic, the snow, ice and drifts don't build up as severely on the line. When I worked there full time, we generally plowed or ran a train north 3 days per week just to keep the line open.
As for the condition of the track.....it is no secret that major work has been concentrated on the 7 miles of track that the passengers operate on. This has been true of both grants awarded for rehab as well as the A&A's own maintenance practices. The north of the line has had considerable amounts of timbers put in the ground. The problem is and has been that the roadbed is also in need of major attention. Wood is important to hold the gauge of the rails. However, the base is just as or perhaps even more important. As cars get heavier and traffic increases (because freight is way up over 10 years ago), the road bed shows it's problems. Number one concern is drainage! As the track settles and lack of adequate drainage, stone addition and tamping occurs, there is nothing to hold the track in proper place. The number one problem on the north end is drainage! There are many natural springs near Beaver Meadows and the poor muddy base is very apparent. Now, add the extreme frost in the ground with all of that moisture and the track profile becomes a huge problem. The mention in the article was referring to the worst of the areas near the Beaver Meadows Bridge. The problems were so extreme that plywood shims were placed in certain places to try and maintain enough level track to continue service. Once the spring thaws came, additional stone and tamping work has been commenced to the worst area to keep traffic moving. (All of that material and labor as well as the major expenses of the new locomotive are what necessitated the temporary layoffs. Thankfully the dedicated employees stuck with the company to get them through those difficult times). A contractor was brought in and major ditching was done in the worst places and if you travel that portion of the line can see direct benefits of it and the right of way is beginning to dry out as it should.
The other thing you will notice is that the brush was cut way back along the 7 passenger miles. This makes for both better pictures and a safer experience for the guests.