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Week of November 25, 1996

Rail News from Central Virginia
Week of November 25, 1996

By Vic Stone

* News from Central VA*

Clinchfield Santa train trip report follows the regular news.

NS - Siding work is continuing on the B-Line east of Happy Creek.  Earth
movers have been improving the grade work already done on the line.  The
siding is on the hillside leading up toward Linden from Happy
Creek.  Most notable is the west switch for siding, which will be located
on a curve.  

Some pool crews have indicated that there might be extensive running on
the ex-N&W Valley Line as a result of trackwork on this section.  But, so
far, nothing has occurred.

A load of new Safetrans signals have arrived for replacement of position
lights on the Hagerstown District.  There are about 20 pairs of Safetrans
color lights, including approach signals to interlockings.  It appears
that interlocking signals should remain the same (as previous).

Coal trains for Bethlehem are running both via the Southern & the Valley.
742 headed north on Nov. 24, bound for the CSX interchange at Alexandria.

Mainline Southern traffic appears to remain in a fairly typical pattern.
Late connections from Conrail have accounted for most of the off-beat
train times.  

CSX - Major bridgework is occurring on the Washington SD with several work
windows issued.  Empties continue wb on the North Mountain, mostly on
non-Amtrak days, as CSX has become quite conservative in virtually running
nothing via Charlottesville during an S, W, or F before 5 PM.

Foreign power is still off & on with HATX accounting for most of the
leased locos.  

North Mountain local has returned to the scene with several carloads of
coal delivered to the UVA power plant.  Doswell-based turn still operates
as normal, with most recent power as a GP40-slug set.

Amtrak - Northbound 20 has been delayed several times over the last week,
resulting in several hours delay, and post-dawn appearances.

The new P42's have begun infiltrating the ranks of the Auto Train.  So
far, nothing has appeared around here on either the Cardinal or the

Trip Report - We arrived in Kingsport on Fri afternoon to see the P929-22.
It was due to depart Kingsport at 3 PM with the press train.  So, we went
to Copper Creek trestle and awaited.  A loaded NS train with pushers
headed south.  It was now 3:30.  The lite pushers go north ... and it's
now 4:00.  Finally about 4:20, the single unit and eight cars glide across
the top span of the trestle in the afternoon light right before sunset.
Then, it was off to Pikeville for the night.

P930-23 departed Shelby, KY on the cold, clear Sat. morning
of Nov. 23 as Santa Claus hoisted candy,books, dolls, toys, and Kodak
binders to the eager children by the tracks.  But, at the south end of
yard, Santa got a stop signal.  The yardmaster told them at that Q690
would be coming in ahead of them.  The road foreman wasn't too happy ...
calling the AO Dispatcher, he said, "We would appreciate not being held up
in the future; we have a schedule to keep".

CSX did run other trains, but they were held in siding and yards.  Any
train meeting Santa would have to remain there 20 minutes after Santa
would pass, just in case people would be crawling through the cars of the
train.  Children with bags lined the tracks for miles on end.  There were
few peopleless spots on the Clinchfield this day.

So, P930-23 with C40-8 #7563 continued south with 8 cars including the MKT
403 and an ACL car along with 6 CSX ones.  A northbound was siting in
Marrowbone siding as Santa glided past.  A big wave for the camera by both
company officials and Santa.

At Elkhorn City, there was the first scheduled stop.  Virginia governor
George Allen got on, and plenty of people greeted the train.  South of
Trammel, road construction put a near-torniquet on traffic to Dante.  At
the church in Dante, more people were waiting for the scheduled stop.
Three yarded trains were sitting also.

At the infamous Boody siding (at least for the UP steam folks), yet
another train was waiting.  Coming onto the joint track segment into St.
Paul, P930-23 was coming to a scheduled stop.  And then, a heave-ho as
Santa threw out 2 Kodak binders.  Since no one else was around, I could
only assume they were for me.  As the train headed away with Governor
Allen and Santa on the rear, Santa got on the loudspeaker and made 
sure I knew where they were.  And then it was the usual ho-ho-ho down the
tracks, as we kept on the go-go-go.

We followed Santa down through Copper Creek and onto Frisco, where an
empty NS train was waiting to enter trackage rights to head north.  The
P930-23 passed underneath the NS line with the waiting coal train sitting
on top.  

Onto Kingsport, where Santa detrained for his march through the parade.
Governor Allen was whisked away in 2 VA State police cruisers.  And the
P930-23 was serviced, and then began to head south toward Erwin.  

It may not have been steam as in 1992, but good weather helped us out this
time as another successful tradition continues thanks to the Kingsport &
other local Chambers of Commerce, Eastman Kodak in Kingsport, and CSX.

Happy Thanksgiving.  

-Vic Stone