Volume 64 – Issue 4                             1 April 2024

From the Brass Hat
Spring has sprung! Since this date is also “April Fool’s Day”, you will find a couple of humorous articles from past issues and a small dab of humor from Doc Majors interspersed with the normal real information normally contained within these pages. Also included is the entire March/April 1984 issue of the Tarheel Telegrapher detailing the initial “Open House” (ride day) from 40 years ago.

Our crew has been pretty busy, as usual, fixing things and improving others. For anyone who has ever attended a meeting or had lunch behind the Dispatcher’s Office, no more mud! We now have a concrete floor under our picnic tables. That is a relatively small project, but it will be a long-lasting improvement we will all enjoy.

We had our first excursion ride of the year in March and everything went smoothly with locomotive 399 doing the honors. Thanks to everyone who had a hand in that operation. Of course, we still have the Anniversary celebrations coming up in April, hopefully with a lot of riders and site visitors. The Caboose Hop has been postponed till later in the year by a Board vote to concentrate on Anniversary prep.

At the March meeting, the Board of Directors voted to accept the Railroad Equipment Rebuilders company’s offer to purchase our Harsco Mark IV tamper. The also voted to begin discussions to determine possible ways to work with the Denton Farm Park group in a mutually beneficial manner.

Get your 1900 era costume ready for the April 20-21 Anniversary celebrations. Nothing in particular required, as long as it looks “right” for the period. A vest, maybe a pocket watch on a chain and possibly even a bowler hat or two would be nice. Tell all your friends to come out for the ride!

As Always, Thanks for all you do for our Museum.

Respectfully submitted,

Chris Tilley
President, NCRM


Get to Know a Member
by Tom Hutchinson

Name: Dennis Winchell

How long have you been a member? Since January 2018

Where are you originally from? I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and grew up there and in a suburb called Chagrin Falls.

What is/are/were your job(s) in real life? I began my career as an officer in the Air Force as a Communications Engineer, putting in 21 years of service before retiring. I then went to work for Northrop Grumman as a Communications Security Analyst, retiring after 16 years. Much of my military and contractor work involved security of classified networks (helping to keep the bad guys out!).

Where do you live now? Durham, NC

Any family…siblings, parents? I have a wife (Mary Anne), a brother, three sons, and 6 grandchildren.

How did you become interested in trains? As a youngster, we used to visit my grandparents, who lived in a small town in Ohio. A train freight line ran behind the houses across the street from my grandparents. When I heard a train coming, I would run to watch it go by. My father built an S-Gauge and later an HO train layout. My brother and I used to run those trains for hours. As an adult I build an HO train layout and thoroughly enjoyed building and operating it.

What is your favorite activity at the New Hope Valley Railway? I thoroughly enjoy being part of the train crew, and especially conversing with the passengers, who often have their own interesting stories to tell. I am a qualified Head End Brakeman and hold a Class 3 (Trainee) Locomotive Engineer Certificate. [Dennis has also graciously volunteered to lead the effort to assemble all the various Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and “How-To” policies in effect for the NCRM into one collection for better group understanding and use. -ed]

40th Anniversary: First Public Train Rides on the New Hope Valley Railway April 1984
by Victor Varney

This year we are celebrating not only the 120th anniversary of the New Hope Valley Railroad’s charter, but also the 40th anniversary of our first public train rides on April 14, 1984. See the Jan-Feb 1984 Telegrapher announcing the upcoming “Open House” which back then was how a day of public train rides was named. [Excerpt below – ed] Note that the New Hope Valley Railway team invited fellow NRHS chapter members in North and South Carolina.

Also, there were no tickets sold! Visitors wanting to take a train ride were asked to make a donation. The “Open House” was intended to be a fundraiser for our very young railroad museum.

In the following Mar-April 1984 Telegrapher there is a report on what happened at the “Open House”. [Reprinted in its entirety below – ed] It was clearly a successful day (by 1984 standards). There were three train rides plus motor car rides, too. 127 riders plus children. A little over $400 was “donated” plus another $360 industrial donation of batteries. The comment in the article that most struck me was “I think the Chapter came of age on April 14,”. That’s the day it all started on the New Hope Valley Railway!

It should not be overlooked that our organization when it started was solely focused on “donations”, Not ticket sales. Our anniversary celebration this year is intended to rekindle our priority on “donations” vs. just ticket sales. We can’t forget that donations got us started and will enable us to improve for the future, too.

If you do not receive the operating crew calls, please contact the crew caller if you are interested in participating in train operations!

Welcome, New Members!
We are pleased to welcome the following new members this month: Rick Harper, Mason Williams, William Schultz, Jack Pendray and wife, Linda. Welcome to you all. I know you will have fun working with us! Please grab on to a veteran member and make them show you what they do. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me or one of the Board Members. – Chris

I understand that the BOD April 1, meeting will discuss the following: 1. Conversion of the coin slot phone in the Seaboard booth to digital-wireless. This will stop the necessity of the Gift Shop staff for having large quantities of quarters for riders making long distance calls. 2. Renewing contract for the use of the blue Ford truck, long thought to be inoperable, with VinFast gasket plant in Moncure. 3. Replacement of some of the windows in the “Mansion” to negate some of the complaints from our ever-growing number of B&B users. 4. Opening Bedrooms A and B in the ALEXANDRIA for overflow use from the “Mansion”, our main B& B revenue source. 5. Sale of the stainless-steel siding from the RDC for $13,000. Replacement will be with the original Maine cedar planking, donated by the Boston and Maine Railway Historical Society. 6. Acknowledgement of a grant from the NCSU Biology Department ($25,000) to utilize the new drain ditch as a habitat for the rare New Hill Newt tadpoles, Bonsalis Tilleyoinis. Other non-agenda items as may be required. – Happy April Fool’s Day – Doc Majors

The Air Will be Finer in Carolina in CPRX 10009
by Victor Varney

At the February board meeting, we got the OK to purchase a new generator of one of our spent nuclear fuel train cabooses CPRX 10009 which we also call NHVX 309. We had hoped to use 309 in our trains during 2023 given it has more seating and 1 more AC unit than our other fuel train caboose CPRX 10002 (NHVX 302). Unfortunately, the generator in 309 was found in early 2023 to be damaged due to mice chewing up some wiring inside. That pushed us to change plans to use 302 in our trains with only one AC unit starting August 2023. At least until mid- September when 302’s generator experienced a coolant system leak that made it inoperable. However, 302 continued to run in our trains with very positive feedback from our visitors for the rest of 2023 without a generator or AC using only the 12v lighting system powered by its back up batteries.

The new generator for 309 arrived on Wed March 6. It was a rainy, overcast day. In the pictures you can see the old generator being pulled out and the new identical generator being installed. Note that on 309 there is a nice roll in/out shelf that the generator sits on which makes it much more straightforward to service and swap a generator. There isn’t a shelf like this on 302 which means it is more difficult to access for service and can only be removed by using a torch to cut the metal box it is in under the floor of the caboose. When the time comes to repair/replace the generator on 302 early 2025 we plan to have a new container crafted with a roll in/out shelf like on 309.

It wasn’t until the following Wed March 13 when our technician from nearby D&H RV Center finished making all the electrical and fuel line connections. At that point we were able to start the new generator. It runs great. And it is very quiet. But alas the old 120v to 12v converter (used to run the 12v lighting and charge the 12v backup batteries) was found to be bad and in need of replacement.

Our train ride on Wed March 20 delayed by a week getting the new converter installed and making sure everything is now running correctly. Happy to report that the generator and converter as of Wed March 27 are working great and we can also now run the lighting circuits off the 12v backup batteries without the need for the generator to be running. With the generator running we can also run the two AC units with cooling and heat pump heating just fine as well.

From here on out, our volunteers will be responsible for making sure 309’s oil, coolant, and diesel fuel levels are correct before each train ride day. D&H however will perform all scheduled preventative maintenance for us. First time will be after 25 hours and then every 50/100 hours after that.

If you are interested in becoming a docent or brakeman that can share the history of our spent nuclear fuel train cabooses and operate the generator and electrical system on 309, or the backup battery/shore power set up on 302 that will be on static display in 2024, please join the special training session run by Victor Varney that will follow the Rules and Training session on Saturday April 6. Yes – the air will now definitely be finer in Carolina when riding in 309 in the summer or winter!

Transitions Can Be Hard, But NOT at the NHVR!
by Victor Varney

Yes, transitions in life can be hard. Transitions at railroads between one type of rail to another can be hard, too – unless you have the proper track gear.

As many of you know, when the Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) built the 20-mile line from Bonsal up to near what today is South Point Mall as a bypass around Jordan Lake, they used 70 lb rail. That’s 70 lb for every three feet of rail. They did that to as closely match as they were obliged the original “old” line up to Durham flooded by Jordan Lake that used even lighter rail (60 lb?). We understand that the ACoE had the very last 70 lb rail made in the USA back in the late 1960s or early 1970’s for this project.

However, during the time shortly before or after the “old” Norfolk Southern’s acquisition by Southern Railway, much of the rail in the Bonsal yard, the old mainline (running by the depot), and beyond to the south was all converted to 100 lb rail (actually 100 RE) to match the rail being installed on the siding into Harris Nuclear Plant (formerly the “old”, long-abandoned 10-mile NS track to Duncan).

All this means that when the Army Corps of Engineers installed the 70 lb rail up to New Hill and beyond, there had to be a “transition” between the newly installed
70 lb rail and the 100 lb rail now in Bonsal. That “transition” is easy to see on our line just before the switch in front of the track car house where our line heads north to New Hill.

Here is a picture that shows how and where a “transition” happens on the NHVR. You can see that the rail joints on both sides look a little different. These special joints keep the inner line of the rail lined up despite the heavier rail being slightly wider on top. The side profile of the rail joint tells you everything you need to know about the rail transition happening here. Maybe we should let our passengers know when riding our trains that when we cross this point that we all “just transitioned”….

[Editor’s note: If you have photos or other info about long-ago (or recent) events at the NCRM, please contact your editor. You can submit your own “Back in the Old Days…” or other article with pictures about anything (within reason) from our past for the Telegrapher. If you can rough out the ideas, we can work with you to craft an article to benefit the entire membership. – CT]

Around the Yard
(1987 view from the rail bridge over Old US-1)

FUNDRAISER for North Carolina Railway Museum / New Hope Valley Railway by Marco Zarate

Eat at Red Robin Restaurant in Apex on April 25th to support the North Carolina Railway Museum. JOIN US and support our mission of preserving and sharing North Carolina railroad history! Dine-in or Order To-Go online.
Click here for more information. 


Around the Yard