Rail News from Central Virginia
Weeks of September 2 and 9, 1996
By Vic Stone
* News from Central VA*
- Be on the lookout for SP B39-8E on Monday or Tuesday's NS 341; it should
lead coming south, if motive power wasn't rearranged in Binghamton.
- FRA T-10 test car to deadhead over the RF&P, CSX lines to Philadelphia
- SRS 142 car probably will work north out of Charlottesville this week
The Hurricane Report:
Fran had a significant impact on rail operations for both NS and CSX, with
the hardest hit area being eastern North Carolina. CSX's A-Line and
S-Line were completely out of service for about 4 days, and some signals
are still out on the S-Line as of today. Needless to say, all trains
stopped moving on Friday. Most of the CSX's trains sat still until
Tuesday morning, when the track was re-opened, but operating was under DTC
since the signals were still out.
NS also took a hit, with mudslides closing the ex-Southern mainline in
several places, including a major one between High Point and Greensboro.
A few other segments received track damage as well. Signals were out, but
NS did manage to get VIP train #222 out of Lynchburg as far as Arrington
on Friday morning, but that was as far as it came.
With commerical power out, signals ran dark as batteries were exhausted.
Portable generators were brought in to charge up the various signals.
Trees were down everywhere, but the NS managed to take care of these
quickly, and some trains were moving by nightfall with #214 being the
first one through Charlottesville. Further south, traffic was still
halted since the mudslide in NC was still being worked upon. Amtrak
service was cancelled, except #20 was turned at Charlotte to run as #19 on
Later that night, NS began to move trains, including a circus train.
Unusual moves and combination trains were the rule; northbound intermodals
which run in early evening were now mid-AM trains. A combined 211 and
213, symbolled I11 headed south in the AM, it being routed via Amtrak's
Northeast Corridor. Multiple second sections kept this part of the RR
busy. The mudslide was cleared in morning, and Amtrak #20 deadheaded
north through Charlottesville about 12 noon. All trains through
Charlottesville were run on #2 track, with #1 being blocked by a fallen
tree stuck in the slide fence just north of Teel crossovers.
On the other local scene, CSX on the North Mountain was mostly spared.
Because of signal outages, AL Jax Dispr had no control over the absolute
signals. A westbound that was run on Saturday morning was the only train
of the day. The next day, a westbound running ahead of #51 almost
derailed as it barely made it over a washed-out culvert. The roadmaster
ordered no more empties until this was fixed. So, trains were lined in
every siding, and even the Mountain local was used as an extra set of
power to get empty coal cars over the road. The line was re-opened on
The other CSX line didn't fare so well ... the James River Line was closed
east of Lynchburg and water was over the tracks. With the River not
expected to crest until Sunday, CSX began to detour trains over the NS via
the Old Main Line in Lynchburg and onto the ex-N&W (see below). Damage
was extensive with washouts and CTC outage being the rule.
As NS pulled together and got trains rolling, it looked pretty good, but
it was only temporary as word came out that all trains bound for
Hagerstown would have to be stopped since the Virginia Division was
underwater near Front Royal. Traffic backed up all the way to Montview
Yard in Lynchburg, with trains parked on the main tracks. NS I03 on
Saturday picked through the maze of trains as it was run onto the wye at
Montview and had to run around its train because it was the only open
track left. Amtrak resumed the Crescent, and the Cardinal did run on
Sunday, both with substantial delays.
So, as CSX began to repair the damage, word came out that Amtrak's Silver
Star would be detoured via the NS to Columbia for a few days. And so the
adventure began, which leads us to ...
The Detour Report:
Due to track damage & signal outage on the CSX ex-SAL and ex-ACL routes,
Amtrak #81/91 and 82/92 detoured via the NS ex-Southern mainline to
Charlotte and then down the R-Line to Columbia. This last part of the
journey (about 110 miles) is on rare mileage. With previous requests for
special Amtrak trains on this route being turned down, this was a pleasant
The first southbound detour was #81 on Monday, September 9. Central VA
correspondents Paul Wilson & I were out at Covesville. Running about an
hour late, #81 had three F40's elephant-style, as it overtook 341 on this
double track segment a little after 6 PM. We ensued chase and thanks to a
slow order, we were able to catch it again at Amherst, and then at Durmid
(Lynchburg). An interesting side note was that this 81 combined with 79
at High Point for the run down to Charlotte due to a fuel problem with the
The detours continued with the first northbound 82 on Tuesday, September
10, cruising through Charlottesville at 1:30 PM. It also had three F40's
elephant style. For the next two days, both trains were making
appearances here, and frequently stops, as well. 82 had passengers
transferred to 51 on Wednesday, which almost resulted in a meet at the
diamond. All of the other trains had the two standard F40's for power.
For the last detour, I made a journey to Charlotte in hopes of getting
some shots on the R-Line on Friday morning. Even though 82 left Columbia
at 4:30 AM, it still rolled onto the ex-Sou main just before full sun at
7:30 AM. Following him north, he (and #73, the Piedmont) was delayed by a
dimensional train going into emergency at High Point. As he cruised out
of Charlottesville, Amtrak agent Garland Harper had some
appropriate parting remarks, "Good workin' with you, 82; hope to see you
here on a regular basis ..."
These trains were the most notable detours, but there were others as well,
including the CSX James River trains utilizing a NS route from Lynchburg
through Crewe to Petersburg. The first detour of this type occurred on
Sat, Sep 7, and continued throughout the week.
A few items of note in all this: For a while, it appeared as if Amtrak
might try to detour the Auto Trains as well
(Lorton-Doswell-Gordonsville-Charlottesville) as evidenced by some of the
CSX dispatcher's remarks, but the trains were ultimately cancelled until
track was reopened. Also, it appeared Amtrak might try rerouting the
Capitol Limited via Riverton Jct. and Manassas, but the mainstem of
the Potomac River took care of that, as the tracks were underwater in some
parts of the B&O line west of Martinsburg. Travelling to Bowie to follow
the MARC excursion train down the Pope's Creek Secondary on Sep. 8, I
heard Conrail's Chesapeake Dispr talking to TV-213 at Landover, so it
appears Sunday's 213 also went via the Northeast Corridor.
NS - Coal trains to CP have returned back to the ex-Southern main as the
D&H is hauling Bow coal trains via the CSX connection in Philadelphia.
However, even so, the amount of CP power has decreased. CP connection
train 341 has run with solid sets of NS power on many recent occasions.
Sunday, Sep. 15 was an exception as 341 and 342 both had CP leaders, with
341 having a total of 12 units (CP, NS, blue GATX, 6 NS, a CP, NS, and CP
The Sperry Rail Car 142 has arrived and has been parked in Charlottesville
over the weekend. It is anticipated that this car will work north this
Intermodal traffic has been on the rise, appearing in significant solid
sections on 456 and 341/342. NS train 211 has run the ex-Southern
mainline Tu-Sa for the past 2-3 weeks with no appearances on the Valley
Line south of Riverton.
Little new progress has been made on the Safetrans Southern light project
on the Valley Line. The N&W intermediates still are active here (south of
Sheperdstown), although Southern masts have erected from Boyce north, with
signals heads already dropped from Boyce to Riverton.
CSX - With the James River line closed, the North Mountain/Piedmont saw
the usual westbounds this week, although most trains were spaced apart
since the limiting factor was the train getting over the NS to be
unloaded. Afton siding continues to be out of service as does the power
switch at the north end of Lindsay siding.
Leased motive power is beginning to arrive from various sources, most
notably new leased units from Montana Rail Link with a total of 10 units
being leased from them, starting last week. These MRL units appear to be
able to lead, and have been concentrated in the southern areas of the
system, although one has reached Hamlet, NC so far. These supplement the
EMDX, GECX, Pitney-Bowes, and Helm Leasing engines currently in use.
New signal construction work is beginning on the engine fueling tracks in
Clifton Forge - temporary shooflys have been built to accomodate the
laying of power switches and signals for these through-fueling tracks.
In the meantime, as track and signal reconstuction is continuing from the
storm damage, the signal gangs working to remote Viaduct Jct. Tower have
temporarily stopped work.
Amtrak - The IC3 Flexliner train is being tested this week on Conrail's
Boston Line from Albany to Boston (and some side trips to Springfield),
before Thursday's release to VIA at Montreal.
The Texas Eagle appears to have a temporary reprieve as "Air Quality
Control" funding has been diverted to save the train, at least for the
The City of New Orleans got its own detour this week as an IC derailment
blocked the normal route, and Amtrak ran the northbound to Hattiesburg via
the NS, and then on rare mileage track (IC) to reach back to the normal
Other tidbits -
Conrail has apparently received the contract to paint some of the BNSF's
new units in the neo-GN scheme at Juniata.
Ross Rowland's 614 was to be moved over Conrail and NJT tracks from New
Hope, PA to Hoboken, NJ this weekend where it will undergo a test run on
the NJT main next Saturday.
- Vic Stone