If you’ve visited Loon Mountain Resort this summer, you may have noticed some construction happening in the base area parking lot. For the past few weeks, maintenance crews have been replacing the tracks on the J.E. Henry Railroad.
During the winter, the Lilliputian-sized steam engine transports skiers and riders just over 600 feet from an area near the gondola building to the Governor’s Lodge. Loon bought the engine from the now-defunct Steam Village in the 1970s and built the base area tracks at the same time. New Hampshire’s harsh winters took their toll over the next 40 years, causing frost heaves and drainage issues.
Ken Mack, Loon’s snowmaking manager, is leading the crew that’s installing the new tracks this summer. It’s fitting that Ken is in charge, since his father and grandfather helped lay the original tracks in the 1970s. We sat down with Ken this week and asked him a few questions about the project.
Loon Mountain: What work have you done so far on the tracks?
Ken Mack: We completely removed the tracks – ties, rails, everything. We installed new drainage – five major culverts under the tracks, we replaced all those.
Loon Mountain: You said that the new tracks should be in place in the next couple of weeks. How long do you think these tracks will last?
Ken Mack: It should keep the train running for another good 50 years.
Loon Mountain: You’ve got your summer staff – four snowmaking foremen – helping you replace the tracks. What made you guys want to take on this job?
Ken Mack: I guess I’d call my crew industrious. They like to build things, so we like to go after all the big projects, take them on. We call them capital construction projects. What that does is it gives my year round folks and seasonal folks a real feeling of ownership, that they built something. Those guys working out there right now are very proud of South Peak, because they had a hand in building it. They saw it from the forest to a trail as far as clearing the trees, stumping, grading, planting the grass, installing the snowmaking pipe.
Loon Mountain: What other work are you doing on the mountain this summer?
Ken Mack: We did all the work for the ropes course [Aerial Forest Adventure Park]. We cut all the trees; we installed the road going up to the ropes course – that was this spring. Now we’re on the train tracks, and we’ll probably go on to maintenance after this project is done.
LOON TRAIN FUN FACTS:
–Named after J.E. Henry, 19th-century timber baron who owned the East Branch Railroad.
-The engine was built in 1934 in Germany by the company Orenstine and Koppel. It then served as an industrial engine for a concrete plant in Munster, Germany.
-After WWII, the engine came to America, where it was purchased by Steam Village, a Gilford, N.H. tourist attraction that operated during the mid-1960s.
-The engine runs at 50 horsepower, and 100 psi.
-Sign up for Loon’s Guest Engineer Program, and you’ll get a chance to operate the engine yourself! We’re here to make your dreams of conducting an antique narrow gauge steam engine come true.
-During a typical winter, the wood-fired, steam-powered engine will burn through 60 cord of wood.