Volume 63 – Issue 6 1 June 2023
From the Brass Hat
Hi all and thanks to everyone who had a hand in preparing and executing the Nuclear Fuel Train Veterans’ rides. This began with the Save the 10 project when Duke Energy donated the two cabooses and four pulpwood cars as we rescued the four NCRM-owned historic railcars stored at the Harris Nuclear Plant. I can’t say how pleased I am at the near-perfect execution of the historic Fuel Train Veterans’ Event. You all helped bring back some good memories for the folks who used to run the trains. I received many laudatory comments from the leaders of the Highway Patrol, Harris Nuclear Plant and our State Officials who were present. They were impressed with the spirit and professionalism of the train crews, the expert refurbishment of the cars and locomotives and the overall facility. I really think the event got some important visibility for our Museum with some important potential partners. My sincere thanks to everyone who helped make this go from a “what-if” thought to what we did in execution. I know you all put a lot of thought, time and effort into bringing it all together.
Sadly, we lost two members in May, Richard Lasater and Bob Roule. Richard was a friend to many of us and a major figure in the earlier days of the Museum. Bob was very active over the past decade since joining. Both will be missed dearly. Additional details elsewhere in this issue.
As always, a myriad of projects continue around the yard and up the line. A new roof for the Motor Car House, tie replacement, painting cars and structures, locomotive repairs and electrical work only begin to describe it all. Photos below.
Thanks for all you do for our Museum. I look forward to seeing everyone soon.
President’s Remarks for the Fuel Train Veterans’ Event
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the North Carolina Railway Museum. I am Chris Tilley, President of the Museum and the New Hope Valley Railway. Thank you for coming to the Fuel Train Veterans’ event to honor those members of the NC Highway Patrol, CSX Railway and Duke Energy who rode these trains in the completely successful effort to move nuclear fuel by rail safely and securely in our state.
For those who may not be familiar with the NCRM, we are an all-volunteer, 501c3 tax exempt educational institution tracing our roots back to the East Carolina Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, founded in Greenville, NC in 1963 and moved to the present location in 1982. Everything you see before you has been built or rebuilt, maintained, restored and cared for by a dedicated crew of member volunteers from all walks of life, from military to scientists, medical to IT, engineers to teachers, heavy equipment operators and expert diesel and electrical system techs to students and family members. There are even a few current or former professional railroaders in our midst. We have members from their 20s to their 90s.
We are always looking for volunteers to help us Restore, Preserve and Engage in our mission to educate current and future generations in the exciting science, technology, and development of America’s railroads while preserving the heritage of railroading, its connection to and social impacts on the land, people, and industries of North Carolina and our nation.”
Fuel Train Veterans’ Event a Success!
by Victor Varney
After so many, many hours of dedicated NCRM volunteer effort, our two nuclear fuel train cabooses looked beautiful for their inauguration on the NHVR on May 20, 2023. It was only a year ago that we rescued them from the Harris Nuclear Plant (HNP) as part of the Save the 10 project. On hand for the day were 11 fuel train veterans with their families and guests representing Duke Energy (2), the NC State Highway Patrol (7), and CSX Railway (2). The NC SHP had 6 more officers attending with today’s HazMat Transport unit to see how they used to move spent nuclear fuel on trains “back in the old days”.
A brief recognition ceremony was held before the fuel train veteran train rides. Altogether there were 40-50 people in attendance (not counting NCRM volunteers). Aside from Chris Tilley and Victor Varney from the NCRM, Tom Haaf, Vice President of Harris Nuclear Plant spoke on behalf of Duke Energy thanking the veterans for their many years of service safely moving nuclear fuel in the Carolinas between 1989 and 2008. Then followed Colonel Freddy Johnson, Jr., who currently commands the NC State Highway Patrol, sharing some of his own recollections of working on the fuel trains, and thanking the NCRM for including the NC SHP in the history the Museum will perpetuate about the fuel trains. Ben Moss, State House Representative from District 52 spoke on behalf of CSX and shared some of his memories as a former fuel train engineer.
Finally, Dan Gurley, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Speaker of the NC House Tim Moore shared his thoughts about our Save the 10 project partially funded by a state grant, and how happy he was to see how the NCRM will be preserving and sharing the history of the fuel trains in North Carolina. He also pointed out some other VIPs with their families in the audience including Jason Orthner, Director for the NC Department of Transportation Rail Division, Sam Hayes, General Counsel for the Speaker of the House’s office, and Leigh Johnson, NCDOTs Legislative Liaison.
Following several pictures of our guests in the yard area in front of CPRX 10009, 11 veterans with one guest each plus a few of the current NC SHP officers boarded the two fuel train cabooses. The “simulated” fuel train with both cabooses left a little after 11 am headed to our north end. Immediately after, we boarded all the other guests on our excursion train to “catch” the fuel train in New Hill yard for pictures and a run by. Upon our return (excursion train first and then the fuel train), all of our 39 guests who rode the trains were very happy with the experience. Comments from a number of veterans were how much better the cabooses looked than when they rode on them, how glad they were to come to today’s event, and lots of thanks to the NCRM/NHVRY team. We also generated a lot of positive impressions with important members of the state government that helped reinforce further support for the NCRM. Both Jason Orthner, NCDOT Rail Division Director, and Ben Moss House Rep and still current CSX employee also commented about the professionalism and dedication displayed by our volunteers running the NHVR. Col. Johnson also offered to provide us with a few more “dummy” rifles, old rechargeable flashlights and NC SHP handheld radios to show as originally placed in the cabooses.
Not to overlook, Tom Hutchinson’s fuel train and #10 “little critter” diesel running on the garden railroad, and Gray Lackey’s O-scale fuel train running around the O-Scale nuclear power plant were hits with the veterans and kids alike [and even NHV Engineers too!].
A few pictures of this event are included with this article. There will be more photos plus some amazing drone videos by Member Jimmy Sumerell available on a new fuel train caboose page on our website. This new webpage will also have information for the general public about visiting and riding the fuel train cabooses. too.
Thank you to our many dedicated volunteers that helped organize the “simulated” fuel train consist in advance, get everything organized the morning of the event, serving snacks to our guests, and running two trains on our line with passengers in a very special operation for this important event.
If you do not receive crew calls, please contact the crew caller if you are interested in participating!
Back in the “Old Days” – The Story of “One Unlucky Snowman” – as told by and to Chris Tilley
A long time ago, in a galaxy very close to Midway, during the NHV Santa Train rides, Frosty the Snowman (then performed by the late Richard Lasater) a bunch of people on 4 wheeler ATVs were riding up and down the line between the rails shortly before train time. Richard reported this on his NHV radio to Gray Lackey, who in turn called the local Sheriff’s department.
As Gray was explaining the actions of the trespassers and the danger to which they were exposing themselves, the department’s dispatcher asked where to send the deputy and who the point of contact on the ground was. Gray said the deputy should talk to Frosty the Snowman where Horton Road crosses the NHV tracks. The dispatcher remarked that it was a criminal offense to make prank calls to law enforcement agencies.
Gray explained that NHV Santa Trains were in progress and the person who observed the 4 wheelers was dressed in a snowman suit waving to riders on the train as it went past each time. The dispatcher heaved a heavy sigh and responded “I will never live this next radio call down, when I call a Deputy to meet Frosty the Snowman and the whole department hears it…” (relayed by Gray Lackey)
Similarly, but quite a few years later, Richard was once again in the role of Frosty at Midway Crossing on a very cold December morning. As the train went by, Frosty waved in his normal, cordial manner. As the train returned, Frosty was waving frantically at the train, enough so that the Conductor ordered a stop. He walked back to Frosty for a quick conversation and the train resumed it’s southbound journey to the yard. The conductor called the Dispatcher on the radio and announced that Frosty was locked out of his car and freezing, not to mention he needed a bathroom and couldn’t get out of the suit without assistance. The Dispatcher, the late Bob Crowley called a local 24/7 locksmith to come unlock Richard’s car for him. Of course, he added that the locksmith needed to come to the crossing and help Frosty the snowman get into his car before he froze to death. CLICK. The locksmith hung up on Bob who immediately called back. When he repeated his request, the locksmith said “Yeah, and I need to meet Frosty the Snowman, Right.” CLICK. Bob called a third time and explained that he was not pranking the locksmith and they eventually came out and rescued a very cold Frosty. At least that is the way I remember it happening.
As an aside, a NHV member brought a whole mounted deer, expertly displayed by a taxidermist, which stood majestically every December ride day for years at the gravedigger corner of the Midway intersection. Said beast had a temporarily attached red nose, of course. One morning, a local hunter shot the Rudolph impersonator! He was puzzled when the deer failed to fall or run, but figured it out eventually. The deer was never brought back to the Museum again.
[Editor’s note: If you have photos or other info about long-ago events at the NCRM, please contact your editor. You can submit your own “Back in the Old Days…” 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]
Last Run – Richard T. Lasater
We are sad to announce the passing of long-time NCRM (and formerly ECC-NRHS) life member Richard Lasater on 5 May 2023 after a period of declining health. He was a member since 1983. Richard was a NC State graduate in Pulp and Papermaking sciences and worked for the Alexander Railroad in western North Carolina for a time in the early 1970s. He served as President of the ECC/NHV for a few years in the early 90s and also edited and produced the Tarheel Telegrapher for many years. He also served as Frosty the Snowman for our Santa Trains for many years until his health precluded him from doing so. Upon hearing that another had taken up the top hat and begun serving the Museum as Frosty, he joyously exclaimed that he had been trying to find someone else to wear that hot suit for years! He was a great friend to many and
Archive photo courtesy Tim Carroll
contributed greatly to our Museum in the formative years of the 1980s. He will be missed.
Last Run – Robert C. “Bob” Roule
We are sad to announce the sudden passing of NCRM Bob Roule on 23 May 2023. Bob was a member since 2014 and served a term as a member of the Board of Directors, the first chairman of the Fundraising Committee during Save the 10 campaign, car brakeman and announcer on many trains. Prior to his time with the NCRM, Bob was a newspaper Journalist and even a Sergeant First Class Drill Sergeant in the Army Reserve. Bob was always a cheery person who could present a gruff exterior if the situation required. We will miss him.
HO Scale Equipment for Sale
by Tom Hutchinson
In early May, a visitor dropped off some HO scale equipment, primarily rolling stock, as a donation for us to sell to benefit the museum. In addition to freight cars, there are some other equipment and supplies, including a Tech 7 power pack. The cars are weathered and have knuckle couplers so they are suitable for the serious HO scale hobbyist. If you are interested, contact Tom Hutchinson to schedule a mutually agreeable time to view them and/or make an offer. They are currently in storage at Bonsal.
NCRM New Member Orientation Scheduled
by Victor Varney
The next quarterly new member orientation session will be offered on Saturday June 10 from 10 am to noon. It will be held under the covered area behind the yard office, and include a tour of the property along with some of our ongoing projects. The new member orientation session is intended to give new members information about our history, bylaws, how to get information, who’s who, and most importantly how to get involved as a volunteer (and have fun). This session is open to those who have been members for up to 2 years. This is not a substitute for the rules and safety training sessions necessary to get involved with train operations, but we will explain how to attend those sessions, too. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to either Dennis Winchell or Victor Varney.
Saturday Work Crew for 10 June:
For the next 5 months we are going to conduct monthly Saturday Crew Work Days between 9 am and midafternoon (we may start earlier on hotter days). Mark your calendar now for Saturday Work Days on June 10, July 15, August 12, September 23, and November 4. These Saturday Crew Work Days will offer increased opportunities for volunteers to come out to Bonsal while still fully employed M-F, the more the better. By no means do these scheduled monthly Saturday Work Days limit any project teams that wish to organize to work on a specific project on any other day of the month. I will reach out to everyone a week before June 10 to see what projects to put a project on the list for that day. Chris will then get that list out to everyone. After trying this out for the next 5 months, we will assess the results and determine how to continue Saturday Work Days in 2024.
Around the Yard
NCRM 2023 Schedule 3.0
3 Brew & Choo 1pm 4 trains
9 Friday ride 1030am
10 New Member Orientation 10am
10 Saturday Crew Workday 9am (NEW)
11 Slow Down Sunday 1pm 3 trains
14 Wednesday ride 1030am
15 Board of Directors 6pm
17 Operate-a-Loco 1100am 4 rides
18 Operate-a-Loco 1100am 4 rides
23 Friday ride 1030am
1 Brew & Choo 1pm 4 trains
14 Friday ride 1030am
15 Operate-a-Loco 1100am 4 rides
15 Membership meeting 10am
15 Saturday Crew Workday 9am (NEW)
19 Wednesday ride 1030am
20 Board of Directors 6pm
23 Slow Down Sunday 1pm 3 trains
28 Friday ride 1030am
5 Brew & Choo 1pm 4 trains
11 Friday ride 1030am
12 Saturday Crew Workday 9am (NEW)
16 Wednesday ride 1030am
17 Board of Directors 6pm
19 Operate-a-Loco 1100am 4 rides
25 Friday ride 1030am
TBD New Member Orientation
8 Friday ride 1030am
9 Brew & Choo 1pm 4 trains
13 Wednesday ride 1030am
16 Operate-a-Loco 1100am 4 rides
17 Thomas in the Garden 1pm 3 trains
21 Board of Directors 6pm
22 Friday ride 1030am
23 Rules&Safety Training 9am*
23 Saturday Crew Workday 9am (NEW)
1-13 Decorating daily – please help
7 Membership meeting/BOD election 10am
14 Halloween 215pm 5 trains
19 Board of Directors 6pm
21 Halloween 215pm 5 trains
27 Boo & Choo 5pm 3 trains
28 Halloween 215pm 5 trains
TBD New Member Orientation
4 Saturday Crew Workday 9am (NEW)
8 Wednesday ride 1030am
11 Veterans’ Day Brew & Choo 1130am 4 trains
12 Operate-a-Loco 1100am 4 rides
16 Board of Directors 6pm
17 Friday ride 1030am
25 Decorating Day Potluck 9am
2 Santa Trains 930am 5 trains
3 Santa Trains 930am 5 trains
9 Santa Trains 930am 5 trains
10 Santa Trains 930am 5 trains
16 Santa Trains 930am 5 trains
21 Board of Directors 6pm
NOTE: Safety meeting 1 hour before all listed train movements. Crew calls issued 1 week prior from Chris Tilley.