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Steam Train Coming

Steam Train Coming

by Maurice Adams

Contributing Editor, third in a series

submitted 11/29/16

          As Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) last sang this year, “Democracy is Coming, to the U.S.A.”  Now the refrain could become:  “The Steam Train is Coming, it’s headed Our Way.”  Yes folks, the Essex Steam Train will resume its northerly march this coming spring.  It will make its way through Midway Marina and link up with an already rehabilitated 1/4 mile of track on the upriver side of Haddam Dock road.  Then it will be ready for the big push on to Gates Way, Mill Creek, and Haddam Meadows State Park.

rr1Kevin Dodd, President of The Valley Railroad Company, and Rob Bradway, VP and Track Superintendent/Property Manager, laid out the anticipated schedule of track improvements in an interview with the author on Nov. 28th. They also cautioned that restoration of the track is funded and performed by the Valley Railroad Company, and is subject to available time, structural engineering, and economic conditions.

The estimates are:

Midway Marina completion:  spring 2017, prior to general boat launchings.

Gates Way:  2018, also requiring a new trestle.

Engineering work on “High Bridge” over Mill Creek, and track repair to Haddam Meadows State Park:  2021/22.

Haddam Meadows is a major destination according to both Dodd & Bradway.  They foresee the Essex Steam Train becoming an integral part of Haddam Meadows festivities, e.g., Tobacco Valley Flywheelers Show, Haddam Fall River Days, and Haddam Fall Foliage Excursions. Tie-ins with River Quest trips initiating at Eagle Landing, and kayak-train adventure trips all along the line are also possibilities.  Successful implementation also means more visitors to the area, with lodging, eating, and outfitting opportunities.

I asked Dodd and Bradway what, if anything, Haddam is missing that might help insure successful implementation.  Answer:  restrooms, clean water, and pedestrian access (sidewalks) – all of which enable train passengers to easily disembark and participate in community offerings.  An example is the new pedestrian access to The Lace Factory in Deep River, (a great restaurant), which even hosted a wedding event brought in by the train.  Also discussed was Burlington, VT as a successful example of rails, trails, and a vibrant community business interaction.  Dodd and Bradway both said they can work with a Rails with Trails program, so long as pedestrian/biking safety can be maintained alongside the tracks.  Further, they both emphasized how important it is for the State of CT to recognize that $1 spent on tourism promotion, generally results in $3-5 back to the State.  Push your representatives for tourism promotion.

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Beyond Haddam Meadows, there are three bridges and a washout that need attention, meaning perhaps another 3 years (2025/26) into Higganum, with similar tie-ins to local businesses.  No time estimate for Maromas and Middletown, but the waterfront improvement goals of Middletown would be a natural fit for The Essex Steam Train.  All the above could mean a tremendous asset for residents, businesses, and tourists to The Lower CT River Valley.  On a clear day, listen closely for the distinctive call of the Essex Steam Train whistle, coming your way.  And you might also notice, the “No Trespassing” signs are gone from the general rail areas, except for clearly hazardous places.  Please act safely.

 

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