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Philly NRHS - Railfan Pictures of the Week


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The Philadelphia Chapter of the

National Railway Historical Society

Established in 1936


Railfan Pictures of the Week - 09/12/2004

CSX Bethlehem Branch Lansdale PA September 1 2004

Change, they say, is inevitable and in the case of CSX's operations centered around Lansdale PA, frequently necessary. Until quite recently, it was rather boring, the SOP consisting of a nightly transfer run from South Philadelphia's Greenwich Yard to Lansdale via either the SEPTA Main or, in the case of high cars, NS's Harrisburg Line to Abrams and a reverse move up the Stony Creek Branch and a return before the sun rises, and two local jobs: one daylight job for classification of new arrivals and servicing customers on the Bethlehem Branch north of Lansdale and one nighttime job that worked the Doylestown and Warminster Branches after the last SEPTA runs were out of the way.

Recent events have conspired to shake things up a bit. First, they changed the transfer runs to originate and terminate in Lansdale, which means an extra set of power has been laying over in the yard every day, including weekends. The runs also began earlier than usual, sometimes even in daylight. This may have been due to work SEPTA was doing on the Main near Melrose Park that resulted in a curfew on the line. Then there was a derailment at the north end of Lansdale Yard where a boxcar, the last car on a run down to the city, was dragged some 600 feet through a pair of crossovers. The rails have been repaired but the crossovers are still out of service, so the Bethlehem Industrial Track (the Reading soutbound main) could no longer be used to store empties between the yard and the only working crossovers on the branch, just north of Eighth Street. About a week later, four cars derailed on a return run up the Stony Creek Branch, which tied up that line for about a week and stranded high cars either in Lansdale or, for loads waiting to come up, in Greenwich.

With the BIT unusable for storage south of Eighth Street and north of Schwab Road (rails had been cut during crossing work) and the need to keep the Bethlehem Running Track (the Reading northbound main) clear to service the branch, cars were stored anyplace available, including the Stony Creek Branch, the wye and the siding on the Doylestown Branch. Once the Stony Creek and BIT/BRT rails were repaired, the backlog of cars flooded in, as there were some 100 being stored in Greenwich during the work. Possibly due to the condition of the Stony Creek Branch, only four axle power has been used there since the derailment, which has meant a Sunday night run down and back with the local power GP38-2's while the SD50's make the SEPTA main runs. Something else new has been the use of the former Bethlehem Layoff Track as a bad order storage track. The BLT, due to its poor condition (a young forest now grows in the guage of much of the track), had been relegated to the occasional MOW equipment and the annual Sperry Car, but just prior to the derailments it was being used for storage of the transfer power and now holds as many as four bad ordered cars, which CSX car men have been working on this week.

As of today, it would appear that the crossovers at the north end of the yard have been repaired as they are once again storing empty cars on the BIT between Cannon and Eighth.

The day crew, after running up the BIT to Eighth Street to cross over to the BRT, rolls through the Cannon Avenue grade crossing toward the yard to start their work for the day. Dark Future GP40-2 6354 leads coming south (it was recently swapped out for CSX 2811).
The other local unit is GP38-2 2531, notable for the orange reflective stick-on numerals "31" (usually found on former Conrail units) on the cab.
The transfer power, SD50's 8613 and 8623, can usually be found on the BIT. The rails of the BLT can barely be seen in the foreground with the bad ordered cars out of the picture on the left.
Returning from working the Bethlehem Branch, B738 approaches Vine Street in Hatfield.
Today's train was small, the two engines bringing back only two cars. In the foreground you can see CSX's expedient and cost effective solution when repairing the two track grade crossings on what has become a one track branch: cut and remove the rails of the disused track and then black top over it. This has been done on several crossings from Schwab Road north.
All pictures September 1 2004 c. 2004 John P. Almeida
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Website created June 12, 2002

Last Updated September 12, 2004