Skip to main content

New Hope Valley Railway Opening Day

On Sunday, May 2nd, I had the pleasure to take photos of the New Hope Valley Railway's Opening Day.  I arrived to their Bonsal rail yard early - around 9 am - and was able to walk the grounds and explore the trains. (Entire flickr set - located here.)

IMG_5997

IMG_6001

IMG_6079

The New Hope Valley Railway is an all-volunteer excursion railroad. The East Carolina Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society acquired slightly over four miles of track and right of way from Bonsal to New Hill in 1982.  Two years later, the first public ride was offered, and they have been operating ever since.

The pride of the New Hope Valley Railway is Steam Engine No. 17.  No. 17 is a 0-4-0 oil burning locomotive that was built in 1941 by the Vulcan Iron Works.   In 1999, the New Hope Valley Railway and the North Carolina Railroad Museum purchased the steam locomotive.  After three years of restoration and repair, No. 17 was back to full power and has been a treasure to the New Hope Valley Railway and to visitors ever since.

IMG_6144

17's crew consists of a number of dedicated individuals that spend numerous hours working under extreme conditions.  They were kind enough to allow me to climb into the locomotive to take some photos of the inside.

IMG_6041

IMG_6054

The NHVR's Bonsal yard is more than just a home for their various cars and locomotives.  It is home to the North Carolina Railway Museum, and one of the features of the museum is a totally restored 1922 Bethlehem Steel Railway Post Office and Baggage Car.  The inside of the RPO car is in amazing condition and you can instantly imagine what is was like to work handling the mail inside the car.

Restored mailcar - North Carolina Railway Museum

Restored mailcar - North Carolina Railway Museum

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dead of night

The NHVR begins operating trains at 11 am.  They alternate between their diesel engines and No. 17 throughout the day with the final train running at 4 pm.  I took a ride out on the 11:00 AM diesel.

It was amazing to see how the Bonsal yard changed from the time I arrived at 9 am to when the first train left at 11.  A typical sleepy North Carolina Sunday morning slowly transformed to an active family playground where kids of all ages were sharing a great experience.  The excitement of children when they hear the first train whistle is contagious and spreads throughout the New Hope Valley's three passenger cars.

Soon, two familiar words are spoken, "All Aboard!"  And the first passenger ride of the NHVR's season is underway.  We travel four miles to the end of the track in New Hill.  There, the train stops as the diesel locomotive needs reverse back so it can pull the passenger cars back to Bonsal.  As the engine passes by, the operators and a few passengers wave hello to all.

IMG_6121

After the engine has been hooked back to the cars, the conductor walks by making a final inspection.  The most popular man on the train smiles and waves to all as he walks by.

IMG_6130

When we return back to Bonsal, the excitement gathers again.  Patrons eagerly waiting for the next run wave hello to all that are returning from their pleasant one hour ride through the woods.  As I exit the train, the attention is focused on the switching of locomotives.  The diesel engine that led us to New Hill and back is being replaced by the steam workhorse, engine no. 17.  The focus to detail of both the yard crew and 17's crew is precise.

IMG_6146

IMG_6157

IMG_6165

No. 17 is now successfully hooked onto the passenger train and is ready to make its first run down the line for 2010.

I head back to my truck and head over to Horton Road.  The New Hope Valley crosses this quiet rural residential road and is a great vantage point to catch any of the trains in motion.  Off in the distance, I begin to hear the long loud whistle of No. 17.   I hear it again, this time closer.  Soon, I can not only hear the train but feel the vibrations of its approach.  To my left and out of the woods appears No. 17.

Engine 17 at Horton Road

As the train passes, the passengers waive hello and some even took pictures of myself.  Photographing the photographer...not a bad idea.

I take one more trip back to Bonsal to catch No. 17's return to the yard.  I set up in the same place that I did two years ago where by chance my friend and I came across No. 17 for the first time.  The feeling is the same though slightly different.  Passengers waiting to board the 1:30 diesel run now share the excitement of hearing the distant whistle, the slow building roar, and the vibrations of the approaching train.

IMG_6217

IMG_6219

I take one last set of photos before heading home.  The New Hope Valley Railway is a treasure of not only the Triangle but North Carolina as well.  The treasure comes from the experiences on the rail yard, the train ride, and those around you.  But the real treasure comes from the numerous volunteers that spend countless hours on something they thoroughly enjoy.

I certainly look forward to taking a ride on the New Hope Valley again!

Comments

Larry G said…
very cool! thanks for sharing!
Marc said…
It seems to be that you have got a very pleasurable experience while taking photos of the new hope valley railway station.
Beci said…
Great pix. Have been to Bonsal and the NHV Railway. It's a great time and you certainly did justice to the history and dedication of the railway. Thank you, from a North Carolinian.
Arthur Mcinnis said…
That must be a truly wonderful ride!

Steam powered engines are known for their distinct look. They reflect the onset of industrialization. That time, steam was the latest craze. Such vehicles operate in temperature controlled setup. Parts like mepco valves, nicholson traps and the likes help in maintaining a fairly controllable temperature enough to run the train smoothly.

Great pictures by the way. Thanks for sharing!

Popular posts from this blog

Small Towns of Virginia Series - Charlotte Court House

This sleepy little rural town in Central Virginia can easily be overlooked.  Located miles from the Interstate or four lane US and Virginia Highways, Charlotte Court House in many ways is easily forgotten.  However, this tiny town of slightly over 400 residents holds a lot of Virginia and American History.

In 1799, Charlotte Court House saw the passing of the torch from an aging Patrick Henry and a young John Randolph.  The great debate over states' rights was the last for the fiery Henry and the first in public for Randolph.  Randolph would go on to serve in the US House of Representatives and U.S. Minister to Russia.  Henry, who was serving in the Virginia General Assembly representing Charlotte County at the time of the debate, died three months later.

Charlotte Court House is not the original name of the town.  Originally named The Magazine, then Daltonsburgh, followed by Marysville (which was the town's name at the time of the Henry-Randolph debate), Smithfield, and finally…

History of the Wawona Road (Yosemite National Park)

Recently I located a portion of the Old Wawona Road that was the original alignment used by wagons and early cars to get to Yosemite Valley from the south before the Wawona Tunnel was built.  Locating the Old Wawona Road was the primary driving force to head to a very dry Yosemite National Park this winter.






Generally I don't talk about the history of a route first, but in the case of the Wawona Road I thought it was particularly important to do so first.  The modern Wawona Road is approximately 28 miles in length from the north terminus of California State Route 41 at the boundary of Yosemite National Park to South Side Drive near Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite Valley.  A good chunk of people entering Yosemite Valley use the Wawona Road which generally is considered to be the easiest route...that certainly was not always the case.

The origins of the Wawona Road are tied to the Wawona Hotel.  The first structure in the Wawona Hotel complex dates back to 1876 which was built by the Wa…

Old California State Route 41 on Road 425B

While researching the history of the Lanes Bridge crossing of the San Joaquin River I noticed an oddity on the 1935 California Division of Highways map of Madera County.  Today California State Route 41 takes a crossing of the Fresno River west of the confluence with China Creek.  Back on the 1935 Map of Madera County the crossing is very clearly east of the confluence crossing on what are now Road 425B and Road 426 in Oakhurst.   CA 41 can be seen traversing southbound from Oakhurst on Road 425B towards Coarsegold on the 1935 Madera County Map.

1935 Madera County Highway Map

After viewing Road 425B on the Google Street Vehicle it was clear that the path downhill from the top of Deadwood Gulch was substantially more haggard than the modern alignment of CA 41.  I finally had occasion to visit Oakhurst today so I pulled off of modern CA 41 at Road 425B.   Immediately I was greeted by this warning sign.






Road 425B ahead was clearly a narrow road but barely wide enough for two vehicles.  T…