The AVRR Today
Today, the Auburn Valley Railroad (AVRR) operates from spring to late fall at such events as Train Day in May; monthly Steamin’ Days that combine rides in historic automobiles with the trains; the organization’s annual benefit event, the Auburn Heights Invitational; as well as special charters and school programs. With oversight from the Board of Director and Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve staff, the majority of AVRR operations and activities are managed by a dedicated team of volunteers.
Key roles on the railroad include engineers in charge of operating the locomotives, conductors who manage passengers and ensure the safe operation of the locomotives, and a station master who serves as the master of ceremonies each time the locomotives are run. Each key role has its own training program.
Volunteers spend up to two hours firing up the organization’s steam locomotives for a day’s activities. Volunteers start the fire with paper and kindling and then transition to pea coal. Once a hot fire is burning, it is a waiting game until the engine builds up enough steam pressure.
Track maintenance is an ongoing activity on the railroad, and all volunteers are encouraged to help. Routine tasks include replacing worn ties, checking the gauge of the track and making sure it is leveled appropriately. The curves must be elevated on the outside rail to compensate for the centrifugal force of a moving locomotive or train. If necessary, volunteers will fire up an engine to check the track.
Improvements are made to the railroad layout when deemed necessary. In spring 2015, AVRR volunteers completed a major retaining wall project that extended the existing retaining wall south along the mill race bank toward the rear of the museum building and north toward the pond. Volunteers had to remove track so the contractor could pour the concrete wall and then build new sections of track, and install and level the new track before the start of the event season.