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Week of June 24, 1996

Rail News from Central Virginia
Week of June 24, 1996

By Vic Stone

* News for Central VA*

After the chase of 261 & the Saluda NRHS trip, the mid-week report is back
after a brief annullment and has these trips detailed in a subsequent
"second" section.

But first, the local news:

NS - The experimental crew-rest trial has caused some trains to run
off-schedule, most notably the manifest freights which can run up to
several hours later than the "normal" time in previous months.
Intermodals/Roadrailers are only affected slightly.

341 has returned to its mid-afternoon appearance through town.  CP power
still predominates this train.  213 is now having regular stacks in its
consist, and both it and its counterpart are seeing an increasing number
over the past few months.

NS ran an office car train from Manassas to Charlottesville, according to
a local NS employee.  It ran south and dropped off the passengers for
lunch and later returned north.  The equipment then headed south in the
late afternoon from Manassas toward Lynchburg.  The train was #O43 on
Tuesday, June 25 with two NS office cars.  Reason for the trip (and who it
carried) is unknown at this point.

NS is also replacing most of the N&W position lights on its
Riverton-Hagerstown portion of the Valley Line.  211 continues to run via
the Southern and makes its appearance between 7 and 8 PM here in

The combination of 204/212 south of Lynchburg appears to be short-lived as
both train are again running separately out of Atlanta.

CSX - Empties over the Mountain are back at a pace slightly less than that
of earlier in the year.  This now totals to about 5-8 trains now
westbound during a 24-hour period, mostly led by widecabs (CW40-8's and
AC's).  No foreign power was sighted last week from the resident trackside

A rarety through town was X004 on Wednesday.  Consisting of 8 light
engines, the train went into the siding at Massie to meet Amtrak 50.  It
continued west through town, only to be stopped at Ivy due to a track
patrol car ahead whose tires blew out while hi-railing through the switch
at the east end of Afton.  Previously that day, it met Doswell local H756
at Louisa on the Piedmont Sub also.

Second Section - Tower Items & Trip Reports

Towers - South Bend (HF) Tower will close in July as soon as track crews
complete the project that will reconfigure the GTW-CR crossing.  It will
enable the Chicago East Dispr to cross 2 GTW trains over the Conrail plant
on a reduced section of shared trackage.  Currently, GTW train must run on
over 2 miles of "joint" trackage and only 1 move can be made at once due
to the GTW switches funneling into single track before combining with
ex-NYC tracks.

Bend operators have received their 15-day notice for tower closure.

In other tower news, CTC work at CSX's Mexico Tower is almost complete,
and the closure date is slated for July 15.  CL Dispatcher will control
the mainline switches, and it is yet to be determined if the yardmaster or
the dispatcher will control the yard ladder switches.

Next in line is Viaduct Jct, ND Tower at the west end of Cumberland.
Trackwork reconfiguration is also to take place here, and the goal here is
its closing by the end of 1996.

Next year, CSX has slated its signal construction department to close two
towers on the West End, D Tower in Grafton, and Hardman (Q) Tower.  It is
also planning to send one of its crews to close one of its Chicago towers
(perhaps 75th Street?)

Speaking of towers, a continuing debate on the existence of tower (or
locally controlled interlocking) in Florence has people asking questions.
Is there currently a locally-controlled interlocking (perhaps inside the
yard office or something) that is at Florence, SC?  Anyone, please let me

Trip Reports -
1) 261 ran back west from Scranton-Minneapolis on June 13-June 25 with a
stopover in Aurora, IL and Galesburg RR Days.  It utilized a reverse route
from when it came to Steamtown, except in Chicago where it ran via BNSF's
Racetrack, etc. to get to Aurora & Galesburg.  It returned via the
Mississippi River Valley Line to get home via Savanna.

On the first day, a delay was encountered in Binghamton due to a
equilization problem which was welded & fixed at the D&H yard.  It ran
west through the Southern Tier with highlights included passing the
semaphores in good afternoon light all the way into the Canisteo Valley.
The next day in Buffalo, it moved over CR tracks through CP-Draw into the
B&P yard.

The private excursion on Sat, Jun 15 probably enabled the most shots of
any of the days of chasing.  Good weather was the rule on its way to New
Castle (arriving about 4 AM due to being held in Butler for a coal train
that night).  Sunday's run over CSX was fast & a little difficult in
chasing, especially west of Fostoria.  A stopover in Willard for servicing
allowed for some locals to view the train.

Monday's run was mostly under clouds and stormy weather was the rule when
the train was around.  At State Line crossing, there was a complete
downpour right before the train came across the diamond.  While waiting
for it at the East End of Cicero yard, another storm doused the area and
made photography very hard to impossible, even rendering my video camera
temporarily inoperable.  261 did get out onto the middle track of the
racetrack after the commuter rush was mostly over (about 7:30 or so).  It
was somewhat chaseable from 22nd Street until La Grange when it picked up

2) NRHS Excursion - With what could be the last excursion over NS in quite
a while, Amtrak equipment played host to a trip down Saluda Grade on
Sunday, June 23.  The weather was hot, but mostly good for the day.  The
train ran from Charlotte (2 F40's, 8 heritage cars, 2 MARC, 1 VRE, 1
NCDOT, 4 PV's) to Salisbury and ran via the Loops to Asheville.

Scheduling on this trip was the amazing part - the train arrived in
Asheville almost an hour and a half earlier than planned.  The 2 F40's had
no problem with the grade on the Loops, and it was difficult to chase (due
to the speed and the wrong-way lighting on the train).

At Asheville, two NS Widecabs were added for the dynamic braking down
Saluda.  The show at Saluda was really good, and although it was crowded
at the bottom of the hill at Melrose, it was mostly manageable.  NS even
had their W77 freight holding for their double at Melrose until the
R20-symbolled excursion passed them.  At Spartanburg, the two NS engines
were removed and the 2 F40's completed the circle with the jaunt up the
mainline back to Charlotte.

A good couple of weeks on the RR scene.  Not too bad for the beginning of

A reminder that the STB's decision on UP-SP is due out Wed, July 3.

Keep cool and until next week ...

- Vic Stone