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Week of January 12, 1998

Rail News from Central Virginia
Week of January 12, 1998

Rail News from Central Virginia, by Paul Wilson
Back Issues of the "Mid-week Report" are available

Amtrak in Freight Service

Amtrak P40 828 was given an unusual assignment last Friday (1/9). Charlottesville-Doswell local H756 ran out a fuel at Klockner Pentaplast. The westbound Cardinal's engine, the 828, was cut off from the train at North Gordonsville and proceeded light to pull the local into the clear at Gordonsville siding. P05109 took a 53-minute delay as a result.

New Trackage on the B-Line

"Cody" and "Woody" are the new stations at either end of a two-mile stretch of double track to the west of Linden Hill. Spring switches favor right-hand running through the segment, which is designated "two main tracks." It now requires a minimum of three track warrants to run the length of the B-Line (west to east): Riverton to Woody, Woody to Cody, and Cody to Manassas. There's often a meet at Allison thrown into the mix, which requires the issuance of the fourth warrant. Switch indicator signals are in service for the new trackage at Happy Creek, Dismal Hollow, White's Cut: these being the three most popular names for the site.

DTC blocks on the Piedmont Sub

In more dark territory news--this time on CSX. Three new blocks have been recently instituted on the Piedmont Sub. These are Sandco, Tommy and Baker, bringing to eleven the number of blocks on the Piedmont SD. In order east tow est they are Sandco, Atlee, Peake, Bear, Tommy, Baker, Noel, Teman, Vepco, Louisa, and Melton. The old smallish block limit signs have been replaced with larger END THAT BLOCK, BEGIN THIS BLOCK reminiscent of those on the SP. CSX has also taken out of service the westward approach signal to the diamond at Doswell and trains on the Piedmont must now approach the diamond prepared to stop.

CSX crossings identified

Speaking of signs, CSX is erecting identification signs on all grade crossings to allow quick identification if a stalled vehicle fouls the tracks. Signs show milepost and emergency number to call, along with other information. The system-wide signage program comes in the wake of a wreck outside Savannah, in which confusion over a stalled truck's location led to the derailment of an Amtrak train. CSX and the FRA agreed to implement the program.

Work on New CSX Alignment Continues

New tracks have been laid and ballasting for the new alignment over the 9th/10th St. Connector. Work on the 9th and 11th Street crossings underway and the new tracks should be connected in the next month or so.

No CR locos south of Hagerstown

The power pool arrangement has come to an end, as Conrail now prefers to keep its power north of Hagerstown, citing long absences on the NS system. CR locomotives on trains TV211, TV213, ALNS and SENS now cut off at Hagerstown. Some continue to run beyond on roadrailers 265 and 266. While CR power has diminished, the rainbow of colors on the Washington District has not abated. CP (including new "beaver" scheme), UP, CNW, SP units have held down regular assignments between Alexandria and Lynchburg in recent weeks. Foreign power is most commonly seen on trains 203/204, 341/342 and Alexandria Pepco coal train 696.

Amtrak's Express Plan

An Amtrak planning document indicates that the passenger carrier is considering operating a mail and express train between Washington and Atlanta via Richmond and Raleigh. Other provisions of the plan call for dramatic changes, with some of the transcontinental routes seeing two and threefold increases and a reconfiguration of Florida service. Union Pacific has cited this leaked document as proof of an Amtrak scheme to run scores of largely express trains. As of late Amtrak officials have backed away from the report.

In any case, some adjustments have already been announced and Amtrak Intercity is increasing frequency of service on routes that now see less than daily service. In February Amtrak will institute a weekly through train between Chicago and Los Angeles over the Eagle and Sunset Limited routes, via San Antonio. Closer to home, there's no word about running the Cardinal more than three days per week, although Amtrak considers the Cincinnati to Chicago portion of the route to be ripe for express service. Less than carload express service on the Cardinal was suspended last summer when Amtrak removed the baggage car from 50/51's consist. To date, the Cardinal has not carried express boxcars or MHCs. At present the Three Rivers is the preferred East Coast/Chicago routing.

Under current operating patterns, the Cardinal's baggage is carried in the lower level of the transition sleeper/crew dorm. This area also offers storage for four bicycles.

-Paul Wilson