Rail News from Central Virginia, by Vic Stone
Mid-week Report: issued on July 25th, 1997
Ballast trains 921 and 941 have been dropping rock along the ex-Southern mainline from points north of Manassas all the way to south of Charlottesville. With this, the rock track at Red Hill, a short spur normally unused which leaves the main just north of the plant, has been put back into service. Service to this Martin Marietta quarry only occurs when NS brings out ballast for their maintenance use. Other rock trains on the north end have run from the Vulcan quarry at Wellington, which has sees regular train E48 six days a week (every day except Sun.). No rock trains have been sighted from the Casanova quarry.
Although the Calverton-Casanova spur has been dormant for rock trains for quite some time, it saw use as a storage track on Monday morning (July 21) for 222 when its train was enormously long, and Virginia Inland Port could handle but half the train. As a result, 222 dropped half of its train onto the spur, west of the Route 28 crossing for pickup by train E95 later that evening. Storage of cars on this former line to Warrenton (called the CW-line) occurs infrequently, usually when Manassas Yard is full.
The maintenance program has also seen the use of Sperry Rail Services Car 142 on the ex-Southern main, working its way northbound from Lynchburg, testing both tracks. During its time around Charlottesville, it overnighted on the old main line (Preston Avenue spur) for yet even more rare mileage. Local E41 irregularly serves a cement plant, the only customer on the now stub-end former alignment of the Southern Railway mainline.
Due to rail inspection and ballast work, slow orders of 10 MPH have been in effect, causing some substantial delays to trains. Some stretches of 10 MPH have extended as much as 5 miles or more. However, the slow orders are of short duration, usually less than 24 hours.
Closer to home, the CSX-NS interchange track has been re-connected back to through status. A washout between Weyburn and Orange expedited the returning of service of this track, as it appeared that Amtrak 20 would have to detour one morning via the C&O to Orange around the washout. However, this did not occur, as the washout was sufficiently filled in to let Amtrak through. The shoo-fly tracks are both in service, with a speed restriction of 25 MPH on both tracks. The interchange yard is being pieced together as well. The trench for the underpass on the Southern side has already taken shape, but no overpass work has yet begun.
CP power on 341 & 342 is once again the norm, with solid sets not uncommon. St. Lawrence and Hudson engines and leased units from Helm Leasing have been sighted. Some days, there are two sections of one or both trains, regularly running about 12 hours apart. The first 342 will typically be headed northbound about daybreak through Charlottesville, and usually meeting 341 somewhere in the vicinity. A second section of 341 may appear in the afternoon, about 4-6 PM, and a second section of 342 may also run in the afternoon is traffic warrants. The CP units are even being used as Lynchburg yard engines as well.
Replacement of the N&W position light signals is continuing on the ex-N&W Valley Line. The latest casualties are the intermediate signals from Bentonville to Elkton. As of last week, Safetrans signals have been erected from Elkton to at least as far as Waynesboro, with the heads now turned into place, although still covered with bags. Microwave links were completed at Waynesboro, and the intermediate signals between Elkton and here will likely come down soon. For the most part, controlled point signals are remaining the same, except for a few selected replacements which have occurred such as Berryville, Elkton, and Lynnwood. However, because of the anticipated increase of traffic on the Valley Line from the Conrail acquisition, some controlled points may be modified, and new Safetrans signals will likely be installed here as a consequence. Intermediate signals on the Bristol Line were replaced earlier this year, trimming the numbers even further down.
Southern-painted GP59 #4610 has seen local service in Georgia, Birmingham, and mostly recently appeared on a Roadrailer train to Kansas City. UP power has been coming into Linwood on occasion via train 152 as well.
Cycle Systems of Roanoke has acquired many of the former Santa Fe C30-7's, one of which was in Kodachrome colors. It appears likely that these units will be scrapped here.
NS has begun repainting cabooses at Roanoke for use in local & mine run service. Already 2 have been sighted, with a total of at least 25 expected to be repainted.
New Atlanta-Charlotte intermodal train 270 has begun service, forwarding trailers to the Charlotte intermodal ramp; Although NS may have a good signal system, it is not invincible as demonstrated on July 16 when a major lightning storm wreaked havoc with signals and code lines, with some signals out up to 16 hours.
The office car train in late June over the North Mountain was the beginning of several recent office car moves over the C&O Business Unit. On Wednesday, July 16, a P989-16 travelled with a B40-8 (ex-NYS&W) and 4 passenger cars from Newport News to White Sulphur Springs. The next day, the train was supposed to travel down the Coal River SD down to Danville, WV, but these plans were cancelled, and the train deadheaded over to Huntington in preparation for a trip on Sunday as P991-17.
On Sunday one of the largest passenger trains that CSX has assembled in recent memory travelled between Charleston and White Sulphur Springs for the Southern Leadership Conference. Symbolled P988-20, three very clean B40-8's powered twenty-five passenger cars on a fast roundtrip, departing Charleston at 9 AM, and departing White Sulphur Springs shortly after 3 PM. In addition to the 4 CSX office cars from the previous days, there were 6 St. Louis Company cars, 3 Western Maryland Scenic cars, 1 CSX power car, and the balance Amtrak Superliners. A chase narrative of this train will follow in an extra section to the MWR. The CSX office cars returned to Jacksonville via Richmond on Monday-Tuesday, July 21-22.
Also sighted on Sunday, July 20 at Clifton Forge, was CSXT 7812, still wearing the American flag, and power from the empty Bethlehem coal train, E967, with CP 5424 and a NS SD70 with the latter set of power assigned to local H750 to Hinton late in the day. Various Chessie and pumpkin units were sighted at the dead line in Huntington as well including ex-WM, Chessie 6571.
Plant reconstruction at RO interlocking has been a result of the July 8th derailment involving Q176 and Amtrak P093. Until mid-August, CSX will replace the double crossovers which were air switches, and replace them with a single dual-control crossover. Until this work is done, trains are being delayed through this area to CP-Virginia. Also, on the RF&P, CSX is currently performing tie replacement in the middle third of the line, beginning north of Doswell.
Locally, the right-of-way relocation in conjunction with the underpass project in Charlottesville is progressing with the new right-of-way being graded. CSX is also replacing ties as well as doing surfacing work on the Washington SD as well as doing work on the "Middle Depot Track" in Charlottesville. Single-AC powered trains continue to struggle up over Afton Mountain, and in some cases, trains setting off cars to make it over the hill, especially in wet conditions. Generally, traffic continues to be about 8-10 trains over the Piedmont, Washington & North Mountain route. Local H740 had hosted a Family Lines B23-7 during mid-July, and some Conrail power has travelled with empty trains as well.
Recent heavy rains in North Carolina wreaked havoc with several CSX lines. The most notable (and visible) event was a CSX coal train on the Charlotte SD (just north of Charlotte) whose trailing AC unit (#237) hung precariously over a washout. As the news camera crews were taping the scene, the bank eroded away, and the unit came crashing into the creek. Also, further east in Hamlet, several tracks were washed out.
Mixed news prevails this month, as the added VRE coach (on Amtrak 19 & 20) has been heavily occupied on its trips for local passengers within Virginia. The bad news is that passengers have reported the car as quite unconformtable, and usually dirty, mostly on the exterior.
Various problems have caused the trains be unusually late recently. Motive power failure caused a NS SD70 #2538 to be added on the point of Amtrak 20 on Thursday, July 24. Slow orders on the ex-Southern line, and a washout west of Birmingham were the causes for some other delays. However, equipment problems have also had their share of blame as well.
The eastbound Cardinal has also had its share of delays with freight congestion. A single P42 continues to hold down the assignment for 50 & 51.
New mail and express boxcars have been delivered for service on Amtrak. These cars are currently in Philadelphia for some testing/familiarization. Amtrak is also running a test train for their Roadrailers over the Santa Fe Northern Transcon route. The purpose of this test is to see whether modification by Wabash International will allow for better performance at 90 MPH.
Also, on Sunday, July 27, a special inspection train will travel down to New Bedford, MA (probably via Attleboro) for testing purposes. The Cape Codder of years past would also travel a similar route over to Attleboro, turning east at that point.
Conrail (Tower) news - Conrail is reporting that Trent Tower in West Trenton, NJ has been closed in mid-July with control transferred to SEPTA's Wind Tower. This leaves NK Tower as the last "real" Conrail tower in New Jersey.
VRE - due to continual delays at RO, VRE will run a reduced schedule through August 11th.