Rail News from Central Virginia, by Paul Wilson
"Mid-Week Report" for Week of December 8.
Posted December 9
Back Issues of the "Mid-week Report" are available
Coming full circle (A review of current operations) - After nearly two years of exploring different possibilities to ease congestion on the B-Line, local traffic patterns have returned to those of two years ago. Manifests 457, 155 run again on the ex-Southern main. At least one of these trains is often involved in the southbound AM rush when 341, 265, and 213 all jockey for position in order to reach Lynchburg. Opposing them are 222, 154, 456, and hot intermodal 214. This activity in the morning nods off in midday and picks up with northbound Roadrailer 266/244 and southbound 203 in the early evening, followed by 212, 211, 204, and 221. 342 runs typically in the overnight hours.
Garbage trains 371 and counterpart 372 have run twice so far, averaging less than a once-per-week appearance. The announced schedule called for the train to run twice a week via the Shenandoah Valley and Glasgow to Lynchburg and onto Waverly. For the first runs, both trains ran in the overnight hours on the Valley. 372 made a daylight appearance in its second run on the Valley. Turnaround time appears to be about 36-48 hours between arrival at Waverly and the beginning of the return trip back to Hagerstown.
Garbage traffic is also increasing on 457 and 155 as Epic double stacks and USWX containers move south to connect with garbage local V62 at Lynchburg. Sporadic second sections of these trains have also run.
Intermodal trains 217 and 218 began service between Greensboro and Chicago in mid-November. Trains are profiled to go via Roanoke and the Hurt connection, but there is speculation that the trains might go via Winston-Salem as well. Eastbound 218 is due into Greensboro in the early AM while westbound 217 departs in the evening. Traffic is primarily UPS.
Foreign power is about average with a C&NW C44-9W 8624 in the middle of 204's consist on Friday, Dec. 5, returning south on 203 the next day. CP units continue to be intermixed with NS ones on 341/342.
Work on White's Cut siding near Front Royal is progressing as the right-of-way is being realigned for the main track. Currently, trains are using the siding as the through track while the main track is being rebuilt. Approach and switch indicators have been installed as well.
Bridgework in Charlottesville is slowly progressing as piles and shoring are being installed. Trains continue to utilize the shoofly at timetable speed of 25 MPH.
Foreign power has been the primary feature of CSX operations as of late. Soo SD60s 6046 (red) and 6007 (white) were on a K890 (sulfur empties) on Friday, December 5, followed by a lone WC "SD45-3" 7504, pulling E967 over Afton with no problem on Sunday, December 7. WC power also appeared in late October with FP45 6652 and Algoma Central 6006 leading an empty grain train west. SP runthrough coal train N574/N575 continues to host solid sets of SP power to the mine near Quinnimont, W.Va.
The night before Thanksgiving proved to be a long one for the Piedmont SD Roadmaster. A train with dragging brake rigging tied up the mainline east of Charlottesville for several hours. CSX has yet to install defect detectors anywhere on the Piedmont/Washington/North Mountain subdivisions despite persistent rumors.
A Plasser Geometry car, symbolled W002 ran east from Clifton Forge to inspect the area subdivisions and continued eastbound to Doswell.
New DTC "Baker" block has been established just west of Doswell. Speculation is that CSX created this block to allow Verdon rock trains to work without interfering with various locals around Doswell and the H757 Charlottesville turnaround local.
CSX ran the annual passenger train up the Philadelphia SD on Sat, Dec. 6 for the lighting of the Christmas tree at Jackson as P91606. Santa trains are slated to run on the Shenandoah SD this Saturday (Dec. 7) from Brunswick.
Charlottesville station renovation - New plans have been drawn up for the proposed Amtrak relocation to the former REA building. The buildings still need to be acquired from NS before any major work begins. Some preliminary exploratory work has begun with sample digging of the vicinity.
Amtrak ran a high speed test of its express cars on the Harrisburg Line a few weeks ago. 25 express cars powered by P42-9BWH102 and two 800's tested east of Lancaster, PA.
With the cessation of the hospital train from Chicago to Beech Grove, Amtrak 50 has been carrying the hospital cars toward Indianapolis. A second unit is added at Chicago to take the cars into Beech Grove.
Although BNSF has agreed to allow Amtrak to run Roadrailers at 90 MPH, NS is still not convinced. An "intermodal train" speed restriction (60MPH) remains in effect on any Amtrak trains carrying the new express boxcars.
Amtrak's 1998 wall calendar features a painting of the recently restored Manassas depot. The illustration by Ted Rose shows Amtrak's Crescent stopped at the historic station.
Citing lower than expected ridership and the resulting budget shortfall, Virginia Railway Express is eliminating trains 333 and 334 on the Manassas line effective 1/4/98. 333 is the last outbound evening trip and 334 is reverse positioning move for 333. VRE's ridership has not fully recovered from this summer's slump. Riders shunned the service due to reliability problems in the aftermath of July's derailment of CSXT train Q176 at RO. CSXT's rebuilding of the destroyed interlocking affected VRE service for several weeks, as severely late trains and last-minute annulments became all too common. The VRE Board has shelved expansion plans until ridership rebounds.
BB Santa Claus Trains
The Buckingham Branch and the Old Dominion Chapter NRHS are again teaming up this year to sponsor Santa Claus trains between Dillwyn and Alpha. On Saturday the consist featured one of BB's chopnose geeps followed by a caboose and two coaches sandwiching a pair of open cars. St. Nick himself stood in the rear vestibule during the reverse move back to Dillwyn. The trips will again run on Dec. 13th.
- Vic Stone, with additions by Paul Wilson
Photo by Christina K. Wilson