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posted by David Blazejewski alias Dave Blaze Rail Photography on Thursday 12th of August 2021 12:39:30 PM

What do I mean? What's so sad about this? Nothing is sad about this image itself as Conway Scenic's ex Maine Central GP38 252 sits coupled back to back with Boston and Maine F7 4266 on the siding in front of the splendid 1874 depot with the classic ball signal preserved from Waumbek Junction, NH at left. This was always my happy place to just 'be present' even if nothing was moving as it was arguable one of the most authentic and intact tourist railroads in the country situated in truly beautiful country. I have memories going back to childhood here as do countless railfans and have made some great friends in this very place. I was introduced to the business of railroading here at a young age and a quarter century later I have two decades in the industry behind me. So this place is important to me...it is special in a way few other places are. But I was just up there last weekend to spend a night with family and while the White Mountains are as majestic as ever and the Saco still runs cold and clear the Conway Scenic is nothing like it was....to put it plainly it made my heart heavy. How so? Well let me list a few ways. Glaringly of course is the fact that 252 has failed catastrophically with no plan in the near term to repair her and she is parked forlornly out behind the roundhouse. After four and a half decades of visitors feeling welcome to walk around the yard that is no longer permitted and one can't walk through and linger by the roundhouse or look at the assorted equipment except from afar. I have no idea why but the place is now littered with ugly repair stakes and blue rope string barriers everywhere like some sort of perverse contorted maze with plenty of simple printed keep out signs. Oh, and that unwelcome feeling extends even to the platform. No more sitting on the bench by the bay window enjoying the sight and sound up close. Nope, only ticketed passengers are allowed with plenty more signs and ropes everywhere. Maybe this is some covid requirement, I don't know but it is awful. And it's not even done tastefully with more ropes everywhere as an entanglement hazard and and poorly hand written signs in faded black sharpie stuffed in sheep office depot plastic sleeves thumbtacked sloppily to the depot....and who the f--- willingly and needlessly puts tacks in the depot anyway?! Shall I go on? The ticket window is now out front and sure I get that cause of covid and social distancing but man is it ugly. Poorly constructed of plywood and only partially painted and wrapped with plexiglass I've seen better looking dunking booths at the fair. To put it simply it just looked cheap and trashy. And shall we talk about the train? I only photographed the Valley Train but man it didn't look good. For one it was running 15 to 20 min late consistently, something unheard of for decades. Secondly 1751 pulling the train is really shabby looking still wearing its faded and streaked lighting stripe paint a decade after it arrived from the Finger Lakes Railroad. Third, with a 'Notch Train' car mixed in the Valley consist it lost it's uniform color look. Oh, and as far as I can tell despite hauling around the diner you can't have lunch on the train and there is no dinner train this year. Why? Who knows. Maybe they will blame covid but the Cafe Lafayette is running down in Lincoln so it can be done. And in what I consider the most egregious failure especially in these times is the lack of an open car. Why? I don't know. But both trains had one forever and there was no better way to soak up the sights and sounds of the north country while enjoying the fresh mountain air tinged with that magical scent of fir. But now, in an era where fresh air is healthier and safer than ever there is no open car option that I can see. Maybe they have one on the 'Mountaineer' I don't know. Then let's add that the rack cards (or brochures) found in all the normal tourist spots and restaurant entrances are much less appealing being only a simple cardboard front and back. The trifold is gone, the couple photos are terrible and unappealing and there is no schedule listed instead directing you to the web site. In this location that still features an older demographic making everything web based seems foolish and then the lack of a schedule even on the web site is ridiculous. It's as bad as restaurants that won't give you a printed menu anymore instead having to click through dozens of descriptions to find what your options are. That's what they've done. There is no one page listing the schedule. You have to pretend like you're booking and drill into each day to see what is or isn't running. User friendly and inviting it is not. Am I done, no...the truly saddest of all was seeing the ball signal laying on its side. Was it taken down on purpose or was it knocked down? I don't know. But it is a sacred and important part railroad history once located in a truly scenic off the beaten path location you can still visit today if you like a good walk or take your bike. I hope it is down for a reason and is going back up but I don't know....and it really shocked me to see it laying like so much scrap wood on the ground. What has happened to this place?! It truly makes me sad like seeing an old friend get sick as they slowly slip away. You want to remember them how they were...and I want to remember you how you were Conway Scenic. Oh Gary and Dwight...come back please... But on the bright sight...there is an ugly old antique school bus parked in the yard now if the north country junk yard aesthetic is your thing! So enjoy this simple look back before the fall. Saturday October 6, 2018 North Conway, New Hampshire





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  • Published 09.29.22
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