We have been open now for the past three weekends, and business has been good. GP7 #573 has been doing the honors and is running well. There has been extremely high fire danger in our area so we have been running with our custom-made spark arrestors on, and the crews have been keeping a sharp eye out for any sign of fire as we make our way back and forth through the Valley. We are beginning to see some green shoots on the trees and bushes now, though, so the fire danger will begin to subside soon.
Two Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) steam locomotive specialists were here last week and they spent the better part of a day looking #7470 over. Because of their good condition, they are going to allow us to keep the 5” super-heater flues in the boiler. That will save us an estimated $4,500 in parts and labor and quite a lot of time. They also agreed that the existing ‘dry pipe’ is in good condition and is well able to safely perform its intended function for the next 15 year cycle of operations. The specialists commented that they rarely get to see a locomotive with part of its firebox sheets removed and they were most interested in what they saw. As things stand now, we are hoping for the return of 7470 sometime in 2017. We will keep you informed of our progress. One of our local photographers recently made a $200 donation to the 7470 restoration fund for which we are most grateful.
Maine Track Maintenance Company was on the property in April and turned about 85 curve worn rails end for end up on the mountain between MP 78 and Willy siding at MP 80.88. This was done in order to equalize the wear on the high rail and bring the gauge in a bit. We figure that we have extended the life of these particular rails by about 20 years when you take into account the traffic that we put over them.