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Week of March 17, 1997

Rail News from Central Virginia
Week of March 17, 1997

Rail News from Central Virginia, by Vic Stone

Mid-week Report: issued on March 17, 1997

NS - The 10th Street underpass project is progressing with track panel switches as well as rail being dropped into place. The shoofly area has been graded for quite some time, awaiting track and ballast placement. It appears that the shoo-fly rail will be laid first on top of the ballast, and then the panel switches will be used to cut in the main tracks to the shoofly. It is expected that they will cut over the #2 side first (probably after Amtrak 20's departure) and then #1 side, to keep at least one track open through the area.

The siding on #2 side has been marked out-of-service, cut, and the north end has been removed to make room for the shoo-fly. In the meantime, grain and coal trains setting off are using the siding on #1 side for storage. Interchange between the CSX and NS still continues on the three yard tracks south of the #1 track.

With no ballast currently in place, it is difficult to place a date on the shoo-fly completion, but it will probably be at least another month at the earliest.

The BNSF-NS Powder River coal train to the Hyco/Mayo power plants on the L&D has run twice so far, the first routing including a rare southbound move over the L&D from Lynchburg to Brookneal. The second train came up from Linwood (as the first had done), but used the Hurt connection with the Brookneal pusher engines used in the reverse move to Brookneal. Two grades out of Bristol on the ex-N&W line has been speculated upon as the reason for the routes via Asheville and Linwood. The empty trains have all gone back west via Roanoke and Bristol. The first train consisted of 3 BN SD70MAC's and the second had 2 NS engines bracketing an Oakway and a SD70MAC.

With its 12-day cycle, the next train is anticipated to be in the Virginia area on Friday & Saturday, March 22-23.

NS's second order of the 9000's are showing up on several trains, mostly on 203/204. Some SP foreign power has been floating around, as well as some UP and C&NW. NS appears to have concluded their testing of AC units. 341 and 342 have had nearly solid NS power, with very few CP units running through. A NYS&W visitor was a surprise in late February and went all the way to Knoxville before returning.

Recently-added train 227 has been running with good regularity about 4-5 AM northbound through Charlottesville. Counterpart 228 has not been as regular however. On Friday night, power trouble plagued all three engines on its southbound journey. The train was unable to continue south of Gilbert and added an engine from following train 341. In the meantime, I65 was held at Orange for open track, and M54 was caught up in the mess, holding on #1 track at Rio. With 228 receiving an engine from 341 on Saturday morning, all the trains were tied up, and then Amtrak 20 came up from the south, and had to load from #2 track at Charlottesville (and make 3 stops). When #20 was away, 228 headed south as its crew outlawed in Charlottesville the following morning, and upon a recrew, its arrival was into Lynchburg.

A work train has been travelling on the north end (north of Manassas) and on the B-Line. The B-Line siding east of Happy Creek continues to see slow progress. 214 continues to meet the fleet of eastbounds on the B-Line.

In the unusual track mileage department, the Sperry car tied up on the Preston Ave. spur (old alignment of the Southern main through town), and also tested the B-Line west of Riverton Jct.

456 and 457 continue to use the Shenandoah Valley Line. 456 is averaging departure from Lynchburg shortly before 12 noon, and 457 appears in Lynchburg in the afternoon.

CSX - Some trains ... lots of trains. The Piedmont and North Mountain SD's over the past few months have seen the empty trains that mostly have come from points south of Richmond. The "Bone Dry" or AM connection is a key part of this route, and as of last week, the signals were in place, but not yet activated. C&S crews are continuing to work on this project. Within the past two weeks, some westbound traffic from Newport News have rejoined the Richmond-south empties, making for plenty of traffic on the North Mountain. Power has been mostly AC's, some CW40-8's, and other 6-axles. Foreign power has been limited to Conrail, for the most part.

The Doswell and Mountain locals have seen the GP40-slug sets recently. The Chessie caboose that was in Doswell was in Piedmont work train service and tied up in Charlottesville. Mountain local H740 has been running late as of recent, with an early evening appearance and subsequent late departure the next day.

A derailment on the Washington SD at the west end of Gordonsville threatened already-late Amtrak 50 with a detour. The Chesapeake RRE group had come down on train 51, and were waiting for train 50 when the H757 went on the ground with one axle of a car. It appeared that Amtrak 50 might use the C&O connection to the Southern in Charlottesville and detour via the NS. As Amtrak 50 pulled in the depot on the Middle Depot track, the train was informed that it would be able to continue east as the derailment was expected to be cleared at about 9 PM. Amtrak 50 did pass through the derailment site with less than a hour's delay.

Amtrak Historical Society will be hosting a tour of several Amtrak operations during the first weekend of May, including a special Amtrak trip and tour of the CETC dispatching center. Drop me an email for details.

Another excursion will take place to the Meyersdale, PA on April 26, sponsored by the Washington DC NRHS chapter. This excursion will be similar to the one run two years ago.

Trip Report - Short "Spring Break" trip

Below is a summary by Paul Wilson of a trip taken by a few friends and me down to Florida to look at the FEC and do other things:

A couple of railfans from the area and I decided to head to Northern Florida for four days of springtime buffing. Here's how we did. Click on the images for larger JPEGs.

March 9, 1997

0510 - Charlottesville, Va. - encountered CSXT 600 on the point of an empty drag heading out of town. This was my first sighting of a 6000. The Hale-Bopp comet was quite bright at that hour.

0630 - Departed Lynchburg. CSXT 6533 in Chessie paint in Sandy Hook Yard.

Approx. 0720 - Hurt, Va. An M29 (Bellevue to Linwood manifest) coming off the Hurt Connection (Altavista Dist. to Danville Dist.) 128 coming north with interesting lash up, including a switcher lettered for Norfolk and Portsmouth Belt Line.

Approx. 0845 - Reidsville, NC. M58 (Linwood to Norfolk) north with high/wides, including Army tanks.

1015 - Kannapolis, NC. Amtrak 73, the Piedmont, with a F40PH. Where are the NCDOT units? Photographed the train at Kannapolis Station and at Marcus Neubacher's "KN Tower," the intermediate signal just south of the station.

Heading south between Charlotte and Columbia, we heard 338 (Charleston/Linwood), 156 (Savannah/Linwood) and 118 (Macon/Linwood) on the "R" line.

We didn't see any action south of Columbia, since we wanted to reach Jacksonville before nightfall.

March 10, 1997

Baldwin, Fla. - Crossing of Callahan-Ocala line and Jacksonville-Pensacola line

Up with the sun at 0630 to go to Baldwin. As we arrived there, a P953 was heard on the scanner. We later learned that this train headed south toward Tampa with some sort of commuter equipment.

We headed west on the Tallahassee Sub, since that seemed to be where the action was. Caught a work train at MacClenny with engine 9508, a U18B pumpkin.

At Sanderson the Q606 (New Orleans/Waycross manifest) had been in the hole waiting to meet westbounds. He met the aforementioned 9508 running light and with the Live Oak Turn (A744). Q606 finally got out of the siding about 0945, powered by UP 3478, SP 7367 and UP 3337.

Back at Baldwin (lots of photo locations from grade crossings, including good views of the area around the tower, with palm trees to complete the scene)

Approx. 1100 - X102 (stacks from New Orleans) east with 5902/5811.

1130 - P002 (Sunset Ltd.) east with the AMTK 840 and 8 cars. The Amtrak train had been delayed by a defective air hose at MacClenny.

After looking around Jacksonville proper, we set up at the St. John's River drawbridge and caught a FEC transfer job crossing the bridge.

Our objective for the afternoon was the Florida East Coast. Southbound trains tend to be turned loose in the late afternoon, so we headed south of Bowden Yard, looking for good locations. At the North End of Bayard a work train with GP9 #669 was clearing up, pulling into the siding in front of the Bunnell turn. We heard the dispatcher say that the nearest northbound was at West Palm, some 300 miles away. FEC again lives up to its reputation as a nighttime railroad, especially in the middle.
Approx. 1700 - FEC #107 for Miami pulls out of Bowden Yard with 412/411/667. The hindmost engine, the GP9, really smoked the place up as it passed the Sunbeam signals.

March 11, 1997

Callahan, Fla. - Junction of CSX Nahunta Sub and CSX Callahan Sub. The Callahan Sub is a cutoff around Jacksonville which connects directly with Baldwin twenty miles to the south.

Approx. 0800. A southbound manifest (didn't the symbol) passes and then an empty coal drag (N12906 - Shelby, Ky. to Red Level Jct., Fla.) came off the Callahan Sub. heading north, crossing over from #1 to #2. The action at Callahan was a bit slack following this train, but we heard track warrants being given out on the NS, so we headed to Crawford and the NS diamond.

Crawford, Fla. - Crossing of CSX Callahan Sub and NS ex-GS&F Jacksonville line.

NS 150 in the siding. NS 149 (Chattanooga to Jacksonville FEC) manifest with 9006/8945. NS 239 (St. Louis/Jacksonville FEC) auto racks.

Then back to Callahan, which again seemed rather sleepy, so we decided to turn south toward Jacksonville. From 95 we saw that the St. John's River bridge was closed, indicating the strong likelihood that a train would soon cross. Sure enough, NS 149 came south with the 9006 in the lead after a few minutes. From there it was on south to the Florida East Coast headquarters town of St. Augustine.

St. Augustine -FEC main line makes a sharp turn through town, making for a short east-west segment.

Approx. 1430 #101 (with NS power) at Moultrie Jct. Approx. 1530 #905 with FEC GP9 #663 and a consist of mostly aggregate cars. Chased him north and shot the train in the siding at Magnolia, where he waited on a meet with # 103, who came just before the clouds rolled in. We caught up to #905 at Sunbeam as the sky darkened ominously.

With the weather turning sour, we dropped one of our party at the Amtrak station as planned and headed north to stay the night at Conway, SC. Our goal: to photograph the Carolina Southern's F units in freight service. Carolina Southern (formerly known as the Mid-Atlantic) operates branches from Mullins, SC to Whiteville, NC and from Chadbourn, NC to Myrtle Beach, SC. The eastern extremity of the Myrtle Beach line is out of service.

Wednesday, March 12, 1997

I awoke at 0500 to find the train switching a lumber mill adjacent to the motel. In the dim predawn light I could definitely see an F7A. Unfortunately, I could also see it sandwiched between two chop-nose geeps. Its nose would not be free in either direction.

At 0700 we headed east to find the train switching the Vulcan quarry east of Conway. The engines had run around the train and the roving brakeman (who shadows the train in a truck) was attaching a flag to the rear, indicating that the train would soon be on the move. At about 0830 the train paused at the Conway station, adjacent to cabooses and some other rolling stock lettered for Waccamaw Coast Line, the former operator of the line east of Conway. From there we got some shots of the rather long train from a grade crossing and some pacing shots from the parallel highway. We also got him performing some switching duties near Loris, SC. We later rostered some of the stored equipment adjacent to the station at Chadbourn, NC. The Carolina Southern is a veritable "granny's attic" of old equipment in various states of repair.
Pembroke, NC - Crossing of the CSX "A" line, and the CSX Hamlet to Wilmington line.

1130 - P090 (northbound Silver Palm) clatters across the diamond just as we arrive in town. Approx. 1200 - T104 (loaded hoppers, Consol-95-Grafton/Bostwick, Fla.) comes south, following a meet with Amtrak at Rex. He was followed immediately by a local job, whose symbol I did not get. 1215 - F720 local job comes east across the diamond 1230 - Q406 (Hamlet/Philadelphia manifest) comes onto the connecting track. (Five trains in an hour, not bad at all)

1355 - Heading north, we again encountered the Q406, this time at Dunn, NC, home of the Dunn-Erwin Rwy. Their switcher 5072 was parked near the CSX line.

Just to the south of Benson there's a surprise by the right of way - VIA PA4 #6767 sitting on display at the Nordic Warehouse.

Selma, NC. - Crossing of the NS (NCRR) line to Goldsboro and the CSX "A" line.

1450 - Q406 coming to town. 1600 - Amtrak #79 with P42 #1 arrives on the connecting track next to the station.

We heard another train coming south from Wilson and we shot him at the 148.9 signal. A smallish train of covered hoppers came south powered by the 7841 and the SOO 3028.

With the sun dipping near the horizon, it was time to head back to Charlottesville.

That's all for this week.

--Vic Stone