All aboard: Gloucester’s unique Harmony Railway is on a mission to make people smile

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GLOCESTER – This Thursday, as Christmas candlelit shopping continues in Chepachet, shoppers and kids can take a break from the hustle and bustle and board a train for a ten-minute excursion 800 meters across a serene field, a forest and a covered bridge. like structure. Passengers might even spot a deer or turkeys at Harmony Railway.

“I like to make people happy. The train runs on diesel and the engineer drives with a smile, ”says Russ Gross, owner of the company and who has loved trains since his childhood.

On board the 18-foot train, up to 18 adults or 36 youngsters can breathe in the clean country air and soothe their senses. The fifteen inch track, five inch scale locomotive was custom built for Gross.

The bright blue train is “a quarter scale of an EMDF3 locomotive,” said builder Todd Swan of Swannee River Railroad Company, LLC, in Lufkin, Texas, about three hours southeast of Dallas.

Gross says Swan is doing a “fabulous” job.

Formerly with the Union Pacific Railroad, Swan’s childhood hobby was making model trains, and when he later built a backyard railroad smaller than Gross’s, visitors wanted one turn, and Swan knew it was time to build a bigger locomotive.

“The prototype is what Russ’s train is now,” Swan said.

He has built around 20 so far.

“The locomotive is a 1/4 scale replica of a GM Electro Motive Division F3 unit built in the 1940s,” he said, adding that it was essentially “the diesel locomotive that replaced vapors “.

Swan, who designs the trains and plays an important role in their construction, explains that the act is like building a house, with subcontractors doing their jobs. Assembling the train is like making, “a gigantic model”, with assemblies and sub-assemblies. Swan takes care of hydraulics, electricity, riveting, etc. The Swannee River Railroad Company recently built an elaborate engine and car unit for the San Antonio Zoo.

The Chepachet train runs on railroad tracks over well-tended land that is still a working farm, once home to apple and peach orchards tended by Gross’s ancestors. The property has been in the family since 19e century.

Gross is offering the one-time ride through his family’s campaign at $ 5 for adults, $ 3.50 for serving military and veterans, and children under two travel free.

After the train ride, another feast for the senses on site awaits shoppers, inside at Harmony Products.

As they walk into the country store, frosty visitors discover the fire dancing in the woodstove, festive decorations shining on the tree, and a plethora of last-minute Christmas presents and stocking stuffers, such as produce. maple, knitted goods, jewelry, clothing, handmade soaps and lotions, toy trains and other train items. The company also specializes in bee products.

Local teenager Katie St. Pierre helps out in the store. Sales Manager Nancy McDermott brings a decade of retail to the store.

“I’m having a blast,” McDermott said. “We sell things that make people happy. When a grandmother buys a pacifier for her grandchildren, it makes her special, she says.

Gross established his businesses in the midst of 2020’s sharp decline in the U.S. economy, and he also has 70 acres to maintain.

Like many other locals, Gross enjoys looking out the window and seeing deer on his property.

“To keep land of this size you need a source of income,” he said.

The company management award makes people happy, Gross said, pointing to an “amazing experience” in 2020 when customers brought their baby in and were delighted the baby was first allowed out for the first time. closing, and on a train ride, nothing less.

Parents with babies or buyers with packages – all are welcome on board and inside at Harmony Railway and Harmony Products on Route 44 in Chepachet.

Photo by K. Iacobbo
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