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Week of March 24, 1997

Rail News from Central Virginia
Week of March 24, 1997

Rail News from Central Virginia, by Vic Stone

Mid-week Report: issued on March 28, 1997

NS was the railroad choice of the week for news; little is happening with CSX currently.

NS - The 3rd BNSF test coal train from the Powder River Basin to the Carolina Power & Light plants on the ex-Lynchburg & Durham line headed east across Tennessee and North Carolina on Sunday, March 23, and then headed north out of Linwood on Monday morning, March 24, on its way to Hyco.

Symbolled 764 on NS (C-NAMRXM on BNSF), the train was led by 3 BNSF SD70MAC's, #9769 (lettered BNSF), #9575, #9455 with 110 loads. The train was delayed in getting to Memphis, and also on the NS to Sheffield. The run across Tennessee was close to running times of previous trains. The 764 left Chattanooga about 8:30 AM on Sunday, and arrived in Knoxville at 1:30 PM. A quick crew change, and then off to Asheville for an arrival at 9 PM. Departure from Asheville at 10:30 PM, and arrival at Linwood at 6 AM on Monday.

The unusual move involving this train was the running around of its power at Huddleston siding, the first siding west of the Hurt connection. The crew was required to swap out the 2nd and 3rd units since they needed a short hood forward. However, the move wasn't to be without problems, and the crew, unfamiliar with computer screens took nearly 3 hours to complete the swapping (most of which was spent isolating the 3rd unit, and then putting the second unit into controlling mode). The first train ran up to Lynchburg and down the L&D (a rare move in itself), and the second train saw the South Boston pushers come to meet the train at Hurt and drag it back to Brookneal).

Empty move 765 left Hyco on Tues. night, and arrived in Roanoke at about 10 PM. On Wed, the train left Roanoke about 6 AM for the run back west.

This may be the last run for a while since CP&L has indicated that no other test trains are due, and that negotiations for coal contracts are ongoing.

On a related note, the Safetrans project has found itself over at the L&D line south of Brookneal where position lights will be replaced by the Safetrans. New signals are already up, but not yet activated.

Closer to home, a Loram Railgrinder is working north this week, grinding both tracks in double track territory, and even grinding the section of trackage which is to be removed as a part of the shoofly constructions. The Railgrinder brought its usual impressive sights as well as the accompanying minor fires along the right-of-way. The railgrinder tied up in the Preston Ave. spur (original alignment of the Southern mainline) to get water. This is the second unusual move in recent times over this section of trackage ... the Sperry Rail car also tied up on the spur as well. Both moves were done to get the equipment near a water plug for refilling.

Add 2 trains, lose 2 ... manifest trains 456 & 457 returned this week back to the ex-Southern routing after being routed over the ex-N&W line and CSX James River SD for the last 2 months. But, trains 154 & 155 have now shifted over the Valley for their entire running. As a result, 154 & 155 are now entering Roanoke instead of Lynchburg, and using the ex-Virginian and Hurt connection trackage. 456 & 457 have been extended to Linwood, and 456 is now a radio train. Given the past history of radio trains in WV being nixed, it is uncertain whether the radio units are simply shut off when entering WV or if some other arrangement has been made. 457 is returning the radio units southbound.

Yet another corollary of the 456 radio train is that NS units now lead when the train had radio mid-train units. Conrail units are not equipped with this option. 457 still had Conrail leading, however, although the radio cars are being towed right behind the engines on their way back south. Currently, no NS trains are regularly-scheduled to use the trackage rights over CSX to Lynchburg.

But, next week (March 31-April 4) will be an exception. A tie replacement is supposed to take place on the B-Line which will curfew the line to all traffic between 7 AM and 1 PM. All southbounds will be run via the Shenandoah Valley Line, and northbounds will held Manassas and released at 1 PM. Next week may be a very good week to do the trains over on the Valley, especially rare sights like the Roadrailer 265 and intermodals 213 & 211. Position lights remain plentiful south of Front Royal, but will be replaced by Safetrans soon.

The 10th St. underpass project is progressing as tracks have been laid on the ties, and pre-fab switches have been unloaded, and some have been incorporated into the shoofly trackage. The west siding is out-of-service as trackage has been cut in preparation of the shoofly cut-in. Even though the concrete isn't flowing like a river, the work continues across from the hospital.

Performance of trains 227 & 228 have been less than desirable according to NS. The time over the W&LE between Bellevue and Hagerstown is supposed to average 16 hours, but is currently running behind schedule. NS also had its share of road failures with this train as well. It is reported that NS was thinking of running other trains via the ex-Southern as well, if the 228 performance is good.

Some foreign power has been sighted along the ex-N&W trackage including CP and SP. Once-common CP on 341/342 is a rare sight nowadays.

CSX - Maintenance work near Gordonsville including a Pumpkin work train plus a Chessie caboose are keeping the line occupied for most of the day. Few westbound trains have come over the Mountain this week; most appear to be going on the James River side.

Mountain & Piedmont locals are keeping with the usual mother-slug sets for this week.

Amtrak - A F40 failure which was delaying Amtrak 19 was somewhat ameliorated by the addition of NS 6114 at Lynchburg on Friday night, March 21. The train was still about 3 hours late out of Charlotte at sunrise.

Capacity added to Lynchburg ... Spaces for Lynchburg have been added on the reservation system. After nearly 6 months of closing out spaces for the short-haul, demand has been keeping availability short on these seats, so additional seats were opened up.

ATM and debit cards are now accepted by certain Amtrak stations.

That's it for this week.

- Vic