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Week of August 12, 1996

Rail News from Central Virginia
Week of August 12, 1996

By Vic Stone

* News from Central VA*

I wasn't here for most of the week, so I owe a lot of the following info
to Paul, Tom, and Garland.  Thanks for the help.

Advance Section - Special Trains:

POTUS trains: According to the New York Times, President Clinton will
indeed ride out of Huntington to Chicago via Cincinatti and Columbus.
Also on August 28, there is reportedly a swing through Michigan via the
Grand Trunk Western to Pontiac.

In conjuction with the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, there
are office cars coming from multiple railroads and several PV's as well.
Railroad such as IC, BNSF, and CSX have already indicated that they expect
their cars will be in Chicago.

CSX office cars to/from Cumberland: August 20 wb DC to Cumberland and Aug
21 return from Cumberland (dep Aug 20 at 0900, ret Aug 21 at 1130) on a
special train.

Excursions on Conrail's Pope Creek Secondary Track between Bowie, MD and
Chalk Point and also Bowie to Waldorf with MARC equipment.  In late
September, a Baltimore-Bowie-Upper Marlboro-Waldorf and return trip will
take place.  In late October another trip will also take place, this time
to Chalk Point.  The two lines split apart at Brandywine, so both parts
will be covered.  Last public excursion down this line was an Amtrak trip
run in the 1980's down to Morgantown (on the Waldorf side).  On the Chalk
Point side, there hasn't been a passenger train (except for the CR
geometry train) for at least 20 years.

NS - Maintenance has moved north to south as surfacing crews now are
working south of Charlottesville, especially in the single track segment
between Red Hill and Applegate.  Trains have been held until the
maintenance clears up, often involving 4-5 trains bunching up at either
end of the maintenance work, waiting for open track.  There has been 25
MPH slow orders placed around recent areas of work, but these often last
only a day or two.  Further south, work is also occurring around High
Point, NC.  Work train 909 continues to be called, but mostly in another
area other than where the track machines are working.

NS test dept car #52 was in Manassas and was to inspect the areas which
underwent work.

NS 341, noted as the frequent carrier of solid CP run-through power has
been powered more often by NS units recently either in a mix with CP
engines or as solid sets with no CP units.  This might be the initial
result of the SL&H restructuring.  In the 211 saga, the Southern main has
been the route of choice this week.

Rumor has it that trains 741/742 have gone back to a Conrail routing after
D&H had acquired the contract last year.  The contract originally called
for CPRS to deliver these trains to Bethlehem for 4 years, but was
reportedly dissatisfied since their share of train mileage only was
Philadelphia to Bethlehem via Reading.  These trains previously ran via
the Valley as 574/576 coal trains to Hagerstown to connect to Conrail.

In Charlottesville proper, the "temporary" bridge has now been torn down.
The new bridge offers a fairly nice view of northbounds in the morning as
the head across the diamond and under the signals by the Amtrak station.
Light poles are being installed on the bridge.  NS is also re-landscaping
the west side of the bank as a bulldozer has been levelling the hillside
in preparation for planting of bushes and shrubs.

As the bridge project approached completion, the start of a new underpass
to eliminate the 9th St. grade crossing has VDOT engineers, UVA, and NS
busy in the planning of a shoofly to be built around the current NS
alignment.  CSX's tracks will also be shifted, but it appears that they
may be realigned permanently to the south of the current right-of-way.

CSX - The westbounds are still rolling, and Conrail units were seen on a
westbounds earlier this week.  Mountain local H741 made an afternoon
departure on Thursday after a quick interchange run down to the NS.

Amtrak 50 encountered a now-not-so-unusual delay at JD Cabin in Clifton
Forge by waiting for two sets of empties as well as P051 on Wednesday.
Ivy and Brand sidings continue to be favorites for meets between P050 and
wb empties.

Amtrak - With the announcement of the changes, several other points have
come up.  The last of slumbercoach service, currently on 81/91 will be
discontinued on September 9.  With this announcenment, a uniform consist
will be established with long-distance single-level trains.  The consist
will be locos, mail cars (varaible #), a working baggage car, 4 Amfleet II
cocahes, 1 lounge car, 1 full-service diner, and 2 Viewliner sleepers.
This is to take effect on November 10 with most of the other changes on
trains 19/20, 40/41 (Broadway Limited), 48/49, 89/90, 91/92, and 97/98.
The last heritage sleepers (10/6 cars) will no longer be on these trains.

There might be a slight delay in delivery of Amtrak's new P42's from GE.
No units have yet been sighted at GE either in the shop or on the test
track.  Original schedule for delivery was to begin in September to the
Intercity Business Unit, based mostly out of Chicago.

Shortline report - Paul Wilson and Andy Gregory went to visit the
Buckingham Branch this week to tour their operations.  A morning departure
from Dillwyn on M, W, F sees the train run north, switching industries
along the way to the CSX interchange at Strathmore.  Upon arrival at the
switchback near the James River bridge, the train backs over the bridge
and runs in reverse over the CSX main to Strathmore.  On its way back to
Dillwyn, the engine leads the train west and south over the James River
bridge to the switchback.  Then the train runs in reverse back to Dillwyn
with the caboose leading.  An ex-SCL GP16 was the power for the train,
but there are also other units available for use in Dillwyn.

The Buckingham Branch RR is also the designated operator of the Shenandoah
Valley Shippers Line (ex-Chesapeake Western) from Staunton to Pleasant
Valley.  Although traffic is somewhat irregular, Tuesdays and Thursdays
are the best bet for operation, especially both days in the fall.  Before
heading to Stanton, a call to the BBRR in Dillwym would be a good idea to
confirm operations on this line.  Power is currently Jack Showalter's
Western Maryland-lettered GP9.

OS at JC, Thursday, August 15, 1996:  Thursday was a "locally" good day
in Charlottesville.  NS local E41 proceeded down the Preston Avenue spur
in "downtown" Charlottesville to pick up a car at Allied Concrete.  All
the right factors were in place with the AM sun and daytime operation.  In
the process of working the Preston Ave. spur, the train traverses the most
major grade crossing in Charlottesville at Preston Avenue.

Heading to the station and JC Cabin, CSX local H741 went down to the NS
and set off some cars for interchange.  Another rarety as most of the
interchange work is done by local H740 or during the normal operation of
H741 at night.  H741 then headed west about 1300 to switch the UVA power

Also at JC a little later, a CSX wb got the signal at JC ahead of sb NS
work train 909, creating a meet at the diamond with the two host roads.

Not too bad for all the local action.

And the last segment of this is a brief summary of my MRL trip report ...

Looking for semaphores on the MRL, I spent 4 days on the MRL in search of
the 20-30 blades that still stand on the MRL from west of Missoula to
Sandpoint Jct.  I saw about an average of 4-5 trains during daylight,
significantly less than I expected.  Even worse, they were running the
"wrong" way most of the time for a properly lit train.

East of Paradise, the ABS territory is mostly sempahores, and the line
runs the "wrong-way" which helped out somewhat, but the lack of trains was
still troublesome.  Even so, several double sets still exists and the
trains I did get had everything from BN and LMX to MRL power leading.

On the way back to Seattle, I did manage to stop in Spokane to see a NP
F-unit in the UP yard.  I also made some use of the 4x4 which I had to
take a look at Stampede Pass work.  I couldn't find the correct road to
the tunnel as there were too many gravel roads, mostly for campers.  I did
see work crews installing concrete ties and welded rail and a work trains
was picking up ties as well on the east side of Stampede.   The Washington
Central dinner train with its F's looked really good as I followed them
from Renton to Woodinville for the last train-related activity in the Pac
NW.  What a great change as clear skies and no humudity was a welcome

- Vic Stone