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 


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 


NEWS AND OTHER STUFF WE THOUGHT OF Behind the Scenes of an Excursion


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Lamenting the loss of America’s “Last Logger” as Simpson Timber’s rail operation shuts down.


The fi rst of two public excursions celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville rolls north of Avon, N.Y., on May 9, 2015. The special rare-mileage trips were operated by the railroad using ex-New York Central coaches provided by the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. PHOTO BY MICHAEL BURKHART


IT’S NOT EVERY DAY your friendly neighborhood shortline celebrates a major milestone. This past May, the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad in western New York turned 50 (as we detailed in the May 2015 issue). When I first came to the Rochester area in the fall of 1995, the LA&L stretched only 8.5 miles from the end of track in Lakeville to the Conrail interchange at Avon. By the end of my freshman year the railroad had purchased the rest of the branch up to Genesee Junction, and also acquired the rights to operate the venerable Bath & Hammondsport. Just five years later the railroad would set its sights on portions of the old Southern Tier as well. Soon the fleet of four Alcos doubled and then quadrupled to keep up with business. Yep, this was definitely one interesting shortline operation to watch grow over the years! With the approaching anniversary, my col-


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leagues at the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum saw an opportunity. We enjoy a good working relationship with the railroad since its trains roll past our depot six days a week. Would they be interested in run- ning a special rare-mileage public excursion in May? Among our roster of vintage diesels is former Rochester Gas & Electric No. 1941, a 45-ton General Electric switcher which also happened to be the very first diesel the LA&L acquired at start-up in 1965. Would the rail- road allow us to host a special night photo ses- sion at Lakeville Shop using our locomotive? The answer was an enthuastic “Yes!” from LA&L president and CEO Gene Blabey III. The date was set for May 9 to coincide with the LA&L’s first revenue run in 1965. Even though it was the dead of winter and


our museum was literally buried under two feet of snow, our volunteers went to work


getting ready. Our excursion fleet is made up of six Budd stainless steel coaches and one Railway Post Office built in 1941 for New York Central’s Empire State Express (NYC 2566, 2567, 2568, 2571, 2572, 2578, and RPO 5021). We had three coaches in service for our successful fall foliage trips the LA&L helped us operate last year. Could we get a fourth coach in service to help increase our revenue? A team went to work to assess repairs. I helped set up a marketing plan and advertising budget. Aside from using free resources like our web site and Facebook fan pages, we also relied heavily on press releases and paid newspaper advertising. Because of the volume of tickets we were going to sell, I set up ticketing with our local supermarket chain, Wegmans. For a reasonable fee Wegmans handles all sales and reporting. We met with railroad management to determine the schedule and other details of operation. Given that we would travel nearly the entire length of the railroad, we wanted to leave ample time to service the train between runs. Two departures at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. seemed to work best. The railroad also suggested we hire some local school buses to remain on standby in case we had to bus passengers back to Lakeville for whatever reason. The cost was minimal and gave us all peace of mind should trouble arise. Next came the details of the night photo


session that would take place at the LA&L’s Lakeville Shop. To show three generations of motive power on the LA&L, we asked to pose our RG&E 1941 on one track; then LA&L Alco RS1 No. 20 plus caboose 2603 on the next track over; then whatever road power would come off our excursion train on the third track. The kind folks in charge said, “No


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