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 Post subject: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 2:34 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 2:14 pm
Posts: 452
Location: Essex, Connecticut, USA
Greetings:
Today is my last as Chief Mechanical Officer at the VRR (although I will continue with some other duties).
I started in March 1986 and my success over the past 30+ years has been largely due to three guys who have been with me through this journey:
Wayne Hebert, Shop Supervisor, my successor;
Bill Wolf, Master Mechanic and;
Paul Horgan, Car Foreman
Their combined knowledge, expertise, advice and dedication to doing good work has enabled me to play a major role with the continued survival and current success of the Company.
When I first came to work, I was just a contractor hired to repair No.97 and re-assemble it in time for the '86 season (which Bill and I did).
I didn't plan to stay, but quickly, I was swept into a number of major projects which fit into my areas of expertise and interested me: the institution of a boiler water treatment program, servicing air brake valves for the passenger cars and locomotives and going to China to select a new steam locomotive.
The next year I was tasked with choosing which of the steam locomotives on the property we should rebuild (No.40, which was finished in 1992) and planning & supervising the restoration of our fist Dinner Train car, "Meriden" (which went into service in 1990).
In 1989 I was sent back to China as our on site inspector during the construction of SY1647M, (our No.1647), which was delivered and placed into service in 1990.
1990 was a busy year for we came under FRA jurisdiction for both locomotives and cars (previously we were only under state boiler inspection). During this transition I worked closely with FRA MP&E Safety Specialist Paul Furman who's advise and sense of humor made what to some in our Company thought impossible, an enjoyable learning experience.
Over the next several years we acquired two former CNJ and four former DL&W coaches as well as the Parlor Car "Great Republic", all of which were restored over the next decade or so.
In 1992, due to the Savings & Loan crisis, we sold 1647 to the NYS&W (their No.142) and with the profits from that transaction were able to finish No.40 which allowed us to take No.97 out of service in 1997-98 for firebox patches and mechanical work (including turning the drivers).
1998 also saw "Thomas" visit us for the first time (over the objections of our then President) and he has returned every year since, becoming one of our major events.
In 2001, we began reading (with the permission of the author) "The Polar Express" on newly instituted night time trains. After the book was sold to people who wanted 30% off the top, in 2006 our Managers met, and in 45 minutes re-imagined what we would offer our customers during the Holidays. We came up with "The North Pole Express" in which we scrupulously avoid any use of Intellectual Property from "The Train that cannot be named". Our North Pole Express and Santa Special trains now constitute about half of our business.
In 2003, the Company had a "near bankruptcy experience" and I was part of the new management that rescued the Company. We had enough cash on hand to either keep people working through the Winter OR re-open in the Spring. I chose the latter and everyone was laid off, with our plans for the future presented at a Company "Town Meeting". Our new President and I worked without pay that Winter, but we did re-open in Spring AND everyone came back to work (although there are still folks who resent being laid off). The Company made a small profit in 2004 and we grown to turn over $5M/year.
No.40 received major firebox work which was finished in 2007. No.97 came out of service for it's next 1472 in December 2010 leaving us with only one operable steam locomotive (again).
However, with the Company on firm financial footing, in 2008 we had purchased another SY (our No.3025) at an auction, trucked it to Essex in pieces, rebuilt and reassembled the pieces and placed it in service in time for our 2011 NPE trains, which now required two train sets (complete with steam locomotives, of course).
More on the above and other interesting news can be found on "The Engine House Blog" at our website: http://www.essexsteamtrain.com
I want to thank everyone of our employees and volunteers, past and present for their help and support over the years!
My work at the Valley Railroad Company has been a major achievement in my life and I have enjoyed (nearly) every moment!
Be well,
J.David


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 2:57 pm 

Joined: Mon Feb 21, 2005 9:07 pm
Posts: 139
Location: The beautiful piney woods of East Texas
Dave,

I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with you at the Valley. The skills learned and memories made are priceless. Thank you so much, and enjoy your retirement.

Bill Drotar, Jr.


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 4:13 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:19 pm
Posts: 1552
Location: Pottstown,Pa.
J.David

Please accept my thanks for all you've contributed towards keeping the steam flame alive & well.

May you fully enjoy your upcoming leisure time and hopefully continue to contribute your considerable talents to the industry that needs all the professionalism it can get.

Happy New Year to all.

Ross Rowland


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 5:44 pm 

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2011 11:23 am
Posts: 192
Location: Sheboygan County, Wisconsin
Good for you. As an aside, I still often consult both volumes of your steam locomotive books. Thanks for all the work involved.
We met briefly at Williams, AZ one night at a GCR function.

enjoy retirement!


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 6:32 pm 

Joined: Wed Aug 25, 2004 9:44 am
Posts: 139
Dave has, of course, accomplished many other things over a long and productive career at several places. Might I venture to suggest that writing your memoirs would be an excellent use of your copious (ha ha) free time? Seriously, I think it would quite interesting to a lot of people!

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Visit Hicks Car Works!


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 6:40 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2005 1:25 pm
Posts: 4919
J. David -

Congrats on a well earned retirement. Please keep your hand in, as it pertains to steam today. And I second Randall's idea for a memoir. Jensen; IRM; the "books"; various restorations; China; Valley, etc. A best seller for sure!


Les


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 7:13 pm 

Joined: Sun Feb 27, 2005 11:47 pm
Posts: 61
Location: Maine
Dave, I would also like to congratulate you on your retirement. You have been a big help to me over the years and have learned a lot from you.
Leverett Fernald


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:35 am 

Joined: Tue Aug 24, 2004 10:34 pm
Posts: 586
Yes congrats on retiring. Hope you stick around long enough to write biography on your "Life in Kenya" I mean life with steam of something like that. You'll make millions! Seriously your experiences are so interesting to read about and your skills at writing would make a fantastic read.

Regards, John Risley.


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 8:03 am 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 9:19 am
Posts: 537
Location: Scottsboro, AL
J. David -

Best wishes for many happy retirement years. I have greatly appreciated your kind hospitality on my visits to Essex and your wise counsel both in person and through this forum.

Alan Maples
Everett Railroad


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 10:22 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:31 am
Posts: 1095
Location: South Carolina
Congratulations, David.

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Hugh Odom
The Ultimate Steam Page
http://www.trainweb.org/tusp


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 10:31 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 2:28 pm
Posts: 324
I first started volunteering at the Valley Railroad shortly after returning from a Navy deployment to the Med (USS FULTON), which included working with David right around the time he started there. This was my first in-depth plunge into railroad operations and preservation. Working alongside him was an incomparable start into this world. Somewhere in my stack of stuff I have my personal records of what I did (under his direction) on #97 and #40-a great learning odyssey. I also had my first opportunity to fire a steam locomotive during this time, thanks to him.

The Navy and then subsequent career/life changes took me far away from the Valley, but many of the friendships of those years (David, Howard, Bill) continue to this day.

David was/is a class act, an expert, and a great soul to work with and learn from.

I wish you all the best, sir!

Regards from all 5 of us....John


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:55 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 3:37 pm
Posts: 1044
Location: Pacific, MO
Congratulations on your retirement Dave.
Its been many years since we met, back to your IRM days. You were doing good things there in those days and have had a great career.
Enjoy a long enjoyable retirement and don't get too far away.

Don Wirth


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:10 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
Posts: 1810
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Congratulations!

And thank you for sharing, and contributing to the preservation movement, and giving so much pleasure and enlightenment to all of us.

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Steven Harrod
Lektor
Danmarks Tekniske Universitet
Institut for Systemer, Produktion, og Ledelse


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2017 4:42 am 

Joined: Sun May 12, 2013 2:46 pm
Posts: 131
David ,

Thanks for giving me ownership , responsibility and credit of the work I did with you at the Illinois Railway Museum when we had 5 or was it 6 boilers under ticket . We had a lot of laughs there with a great bunch of pals .
Congratulations on safely making it to your retirement .

Richard


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 Post subject: Re: J.David Conrad retires as CMO at Valley Railroad Company
PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2017 9:52 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5157
Location: southeastern USA
Well, this is terrible news for the industry. Best wishes and all that, of course...... you don't know how much you will be missed.

Dave

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"Techies never minded eating bits and jots of their work. They were grit and grease inside and out and could turn a pile of junk into a magical kingdom."

Andrea Hairston


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