VALE 3025: From vision to fruition. Back in 2008, Valley Railroad CMO J. David Conrad let it be known that his company was seeking a third steam locomotive, to ensure its future as "The Essex Steam Train". But when he purchased the scorched hulk of a Chinese Mikado at the Knox & Kane Auction in the fall of that year, there were more than a few nay-sayers who wondered aloud what the heck he was doing. J.David had a vision back then and he wasn't shy about sharing it publicly with the preservation community. Not only would he and his team rebuild the roughly 20 year-old Mike, they'd rebuild it as a reasonable likeness of an New York, New Haven & Hartford J-Class engine that would look right at home on the old New Haven Branch Line that is now the Valley Railroad. It was an ambitious vision, but after nearly 3 years of effort on the part of his shop forces and a very dedicated friends organization, the project came to fruition last week, when the beautful engine you see here moved under its own power in the Essex Yard. This photo shows her crossing Rte 153 light, just prior to switching on to the shop lead on Friday, November 18th, 2011. As with any locomotive restoration project, the first movement is just the first step. The shop crews are already at work fixing minor issues and making adjustments. She will need some break-in time and of course, she'll have to be turned to face north, like all other Valley Railroad Engines. The hope is to have her ready to pull the line's North Pole Express Trains just after Thanksgiving, but as with any steam engine project, she'll be ready when she's ready. Thanks to the vision of J.David Conrad and the hard work of the team at the Valley Railroad, the operation in Essex, CT will continue to be the Essex STEAM Train for decades to come.