Rails & Trails Pages

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Whitewater Valley Railroad 2017

On May 20-21, 2017 I visited the Whitewater Valley Railroad in Connersville, Indiana and rode with their crews for 2 days.
This is their depot, not the original, but built for their operation.
This railroad is 19 miles long and their regular train, the Valley Flyer, runs 16 miles from downtown Connersville to Metamora.  The last 2 miles at Metamora are run as short runs called the Metamora Shuttle for tourists at a cost of only $5.  The other mile extends north to the now abandoned connection with the outside world.

The yard is located almost 1 mile south of the depot.  With lots of equipment and not many tracks, staging the trains usually requires 2 engines.  They have a large shop composed of an old warehouse and a new metal-side building for housing and working on equipment.  A special feature is sleeping quarters for 12-13 people so they don't have to rent a motel while volunteering.

Here their 55-tonner, used on the Metamora Shuttle, shoves its train (the first 3 cars) and the Flyer's cars north toward town.  It will cut off its cars and head to Metamora for the days action.  The Flyer's engine will then shove its train into town to pick up passengers.

Here is some of their equipment.  The blue car is their steam car used for heating their cars during the winter runs.
The former Milwaukee Road SD9, upgraded to an SD10, will be used today for Throttle Time.  For $150, railfans can run an engine for 1/2 hour.  However, the batteries are shot and the engine has to be jump started.  Later in the day, the new batteries will be installed.
Our engine, #25, was made by Lima-Hamilton in June, 1951.  There are only 4 surviving Lima-Hamilton units and the WWV has 3 of them!  The fourth is a static display at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois.  There were only 174 L-H engines produced.  The engine was made for the Cincinnati Union Terminal Railroad, a switching railroad in Cincinnati.  It was purchased in 1973 from the Cadillac & Lake City RR which had obtained it from the CUT.  
Here is the interior of the cab of #25.

Here is our train for today, ready to be shoved uptown.
Inside one of the coaches.
The railroad is built on a canal horse path.  When the canal went bankrupt, the railroad purchased the walkway and had a ready-made roadbed.  The canal followed the Whitewater River and of course the horse path paralleled the canal so the old canal is visible all along the line.  Since the river curves, the canal curves, and so this beautiful railroad has many curves.  Also, at each lock location, the path had to suddenly change elevation so the track today has short rapid elevation changes.  Track speed is max 15 MPH.
Come along for a beautiful ride on an early summer afternoon.  Leaving town there are several road crossings and close clearances.

The track closely follows the Whitewater River in many places.
Crossing the river.
There are many remains of the old canal.

This is a feeder dam which diverted water from the river to the canal.

As we enter Metamora, the Metamora Shuttle arrives from the south after another run.
After the canal was abandoned, a water wheel was built to power the grist mill.

A replica horse drawn canal boat usually gives rides in the summer but the aqueduct had been closed down so no rides this summer.  Note the path between the rails where the horses walk to pull the canal boat.

While the passengers spend two hours taking in the town, the train shoves back about one mile for a run-around, putting the engine on the north end for the trip back.
Every train is run with 2 engineers who split the running time, a brakeman and a conductor.  Here is one of our engineers Travis Weller.  I was going to get a picture of Travis and engineer Neal Lydick at the end of the day but my camera battery gave out!

Before this siding was added a few years ago, the runaround was completed at a stub end siding but had to use both trains to accomplish the task.  Here is where the siding was located.
Metamora is a small tourist shop and I'm sure every place in town is either a restaurant or trinket shop!  Many celebrations here during the summer bring in hundreds of people.
Concrete mileposts put in when the New York Central operated this track are still in place!!! (With numbers repainted)  The number is the distance to Cincinnati.
Heading back we get an unobstructed view!
Tie replacement is on-going and in several sections ballast has been added and tamped, necessitating slow orders.
Our train today is also an "Overland Limited Wild West Train."  The train stops at the small hamlet of Laurel for an old-fashioned shootout.  (The good guys won again!)
It's hard to believe, but back in New York Central days, trains ran 40 MPH on these tracks.  (The tracks at the curves were superelevated, or banked in those days).
Some of the whistle posts are this neat design.
On Sunday morning I had some time so I drove around Connersville and found these train sights.  The Connersville & New Castle Railroad (I think) is located on the north side of town.  Here is their GP38-2 (I bet models of this engine would really sell!)
And here is a GP10.
The CSX goes through town and is an Amtrak stop.
On Sunday I make the same run with engineers Larry Shiplett and Howard Pletcher.

When I get to Metamora this time, I take the Shuttle Train for a 2 mile ride--completely different scenery.  I ride in a B&O caboose rather than the engine.
Riding the shove move.
This wood aqueduct carries the canal OVER a stream and is the only such wooden aqueduct in the world.  Unfortunately, last fall, a structural problem was found and it is closed until fixed.
Here is a lock with the wooden gates.  Note the wood handles for opening and closing the gates!
Heading back on the Flyer.  What could be better??  Sitting in the open doorway of a switcher running in reverse on a beautiful 75 degree early summer afternoon and enjoying the scenery!!!
This was the ice field.  In the 'old days,' water from the river was diverted to this field and flooded to make ice in the winter.  The railroad installed a spur track and ice was cut for use in iceboxes (early refrigerators for you young people).
About 1,000 ties are replaced each year by one man, working alone (that's his preference).
An old tank car with its ends removed serves as a culvert.
 A planned railroad park got this far before work was stopped.
Some more of their stored equipment.
They have 4 steam engines, none operating at the current time, but could be.  Apparently interest in a steam program has waned.  This is a New York Central 0-6-0.
And we are back to the depot.  THANK YOU to all the Whitewater Valley Railroad personnel for welcoming me to spend two days with them.