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Weeks of October 14, 21, 28, 1996

Rail News from Central Virginia
Weeks of October 14, 21, 28, 1996

By Vic Stone

* News from Central VA*

Reminder - Slide Show Dates: Dec. 20-24; Dec. 27

NS - With the Main St. bridge project complete (some landscaping is still
being done), the next project will be the elimination of the 9th St. grade
crossing and the construction of the underpass.  No work has yet started
on this, but the project is in motion as parking areas have been closed in
order to build a shoofly around the area for the underpass.

Speaking of projects, NS ran a work extra #936 consisting of a piledriver
up to the B-Line about a week and a half ago.  It is to drive supports
into the ground for the new siding near Happy Creek on the B-Line.
Grading appears to be complete.  No rail or ballast trains have appeared

Trackwork on the Southern main have been the rule over the last few weeks.
Some trains have been delayed at the entrance to single track sections
awaiting open track.  

As for train operation, most trains are running on a "normal" basis (in
terms of power and times).  Northbound Roadrailer #266 has a long-hood
forward widecab leading as the ubitquitous Conrail engine had broken down.  

A quick review of train operations times is as follows:

6:48 AM - nb Amtrak 20 (if on time)
Between 6-8 AM - NS 341, 342, 222
9-11 AM - sb Roadrailer 265/I65, sb 457, nb 456, nb 154
10-12 noon - nb 214 (racks, containers, stacks), possibly 155, E41 (if
coming to Charlottesville)
12:30-2 PM - sb 213
1:35 PM - Amtrak P051 on CSX (on Su, We, Fr)
2:30-5 PM - nb Roadrailer 266/244, 155
6 PM (almost like clockwork) - sb 203/I03 
7-9 PM - nb 212, sb 211
9:05 PM - sb Amtrak 19 (if on time)
8-10 PM - nb 204
10-11 PM - sb 221

696 coal trains and 646 grain trains are typically afternoon trains
through Charlottesville (when they run).  Most of the pig trains are
fairly reliable, with the most recent exception of 213's runs (running
late frequently now).  Sb 155 is also flexible.  J.B. Hunt train #214 has
priority ahead of almost every other train.  Saturday's I03 will run about
an hour earlier.

Train 211 has been all-Southern over the past month.  With the return of
the coal trains to the Valley, 574/576 trains are running in addition to
the 577 empties down to Roanoke.  461 continues to make a middle-of-night
departure from Hagerstown, reaching Shenandoah just after sunrise.  460
leaves just before sunrise from Shenandoah, and heads north.  On
Saturdays, an attempt is made to turn 460 crew back south on a train once
it gets to Hagerstown, but sometimes it isn't successful as the crew would
outlaw on the way back.  

CSX - Geometry train W001-29 made an appearance on Tuesday running east
from Clifton Forge to Richmond.  At Doswell, it was held for an empty
westbound coal train for several hours.  The geometry train tested the
Orange Branch before heading down the Piedmont in late morning.

Chessie 2119 still holds down the fort as the wb unit on Doswell-based
Piedmont turn to Charlottesville.  It is likely that this unit will get
cycled out of this job soon since it has been here for the last 3 weeks.  

CSX 600 & 601 made a wb trip over the North Mountain SD on Oct. 26.  At
Greenwood, they stopped the train, idled #601, and let #600 take the train
solo up the hill to Afton.  It appeared to perform well.

More westbounds empties are appearing on the James River SD.  It appears
that most of these trains would be running about the time Amtrak would be
making its way between Charlottesville and Clifton Forge.

A westbound consist of note through here was two Conrails leading an EMD
leasor on Thursday, October 31.

Amtrak - With the schedule changes to take place in a week, some changes
around here are noteworthy:

Amtrak 19 will depart NY Penn about half an hour behind the current
schedule to allow for a turn of equipment from a Florida train (probably
#98).  Amtrak 20's schedule will remain the same.

Amtrak 97 will leave about 2 hours behind its current schedule.  Amtrak 81
will be moved up 3 hours, and Amtrak 89 will be established about an hour
behind 81's current schedule.

The Three Rivers extension to Chicago via the B&O is supposed to remain as
"The Three Rivers", at least for now.  Amtrak was re-qualifying crews on
the B&O west of Pittsburgh during October.  At least one train had a
de-engined F40 control car, a sleeper, and a F40.

New B42-P's have been released and are in the crew familiarization stage.
At least 7 of the units (#1-5, 7, 9) have been painted at Juniata and
delivered.  GE has manufactured up to #21, so far.  

Amtrak is also qualifying crews on the Clarendon & Pittsford for its Ethan
Allen Vermont train for the ski season.  It is likely to run out of Albany
as a separate train via the D&H to Whitehall and then onto the C&P.  

** Special Section - Report on NS Safetrans signal project

Safetrans lights are in service as far south as Berryville on the N&W
Valley Line (as intermediates) with signals in place as far south as the
siding in Front Royal with a few new Safetrans lights cut in at some
locations.  NS is lengthening blocks as it goes along with 2 new blocks
replacing about 3 of the older, shorter length.

On the N&W main east of Roanoke, there is a mix of Safetrans and N&W
position lights.  The current work is on the Old Line east of Pamplin
where Safetrans lights will eliminate the N&W position lights and CTC
will be installed. The Belt Line down to the Virginian is already
Safetrans-equipped.  New Safetrans signals are awaiting activation on the
Old Line.  East of Burkeville, no new work is evident.  On the Virginian,
most are still N&W style intermediates.  

West of Roanoke, it is a different story as the N&W main is mostly
Safetrans intermediates, and the Virginian remains position light.  Even
further west, original Virginian signals are still in place, a real

An aside, in downtown Roanoke, Safetrans lights have replaced some the
classic N&W lights at the interlocking in town near the Hotel Roanoke.  A
new highway bridge is being constructed to replace a grade crossing and
another overpass with position lights on it.  It is possible that these
position lights might be replaced once the new bridge is built.  The
signals off the Hagerstown District are already Safetrans at the

** Following section - Quick trip reports

1) MARC excursion over WM Dutch Line to New Oxford - with a GP40WCH-2 on
both ends the excursion had 11 cars and ran from Hagerstown (people
boarded in middle of the old yard, west of town) to Gettysburg and onto Ne
Oxford.  Lots of nice fall colors.  Weather was better east of Gettysburg
than west of there.  Next excursion is Dec. 7. to Hanover from Hagerstown.
Gettysburg RR will apparently be sold soon (to Rail America?)  

2) MARC excursion down Herbert Secondary track from Upper Marlboro to
Chalk Point.  With an engine on each end again, the trip ran all the way
into the power plant yard at Chalk Point for the crew to change ends.
Weather was good in the AM and clouded up for the PM trip.  Again, nice
fall colors out along the line.  This rare mileage trip was sought out by
many mileage collectors.

3) Tennessee Bicentennial train - Powered by E's 1996, 5894 (?), the train
deadheaded east from Lebanon, TN over the Nashville & Eastern (ex-L&N
track) to Cookeville, TN on the morning of October 30.  The weather was
absolutely perfect, and the E's sounded great.  The trip back to Nashville
will occur next week for the last display of the tour.  

Partial Listing of Remaining Excursions - 1996

Nov  1    UP E9's Branson-Kansas City OW
          UP 844 on freight train Coffeyville-KC, MO (Neff Yard)
Nov 2     UP 844 on freight KC-Marysville
Nov 3     UP 844 on freight Marysville-N Platte, NE
Nov 4     UP 844 on freight N Platte-Cheyenne
Nov 30    NCDOT excursion ECU (Greenville)-Raleigh (???)
Dec 7     Wilmington & Western steam excursion
          MARC excursion Hagerstown-New Oxford-Hanover
          TN Central trip Nashville-Watertown, TN RT

That's it from here.

- Vic Stone