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Photos by C. Zeni
Craig's Train Photos
Photographs by C. Zeni

Page four...featuring the CSX Train Q316 Chase from the Great April Fools Day Road Trip 2000. This was a trip where I and two friends set out in a rented Izusu Trooper to photograph trains along the old Clinchfield and wherever else we wandered. We ended up in Grafton, WV one day where we learned that Train Q316 was heading east for Cumberland. One of us (not me!) had the audacity to be prepared with information that allowed us to chase the train from Grafton up to Kingwood Tunnel then to cut over and catch him at Terra Alta WV, at the crest of Cranberry Grade.

CR-CSX 8688... Q316 is a Cincinnati to Cumberland, Maryland train of mixed freight. Here we see it easing into Grafton WV, getting ready to cross the Tygart River and enter the yard.
CR-CSX 8688... Having completed its work in the yard at Grafton, Q316 is now 88 cars long with 4600 tons and has started its climb out of Grafton and up to Kingwood Tunnel. The track snakes along the valley floor through Thornton and will shortly begin to gain altitude.
CR-CSX 8688... Between Thornton and Newburg the grade starts to get serious. At Thronton the train passed at about 30 mph. Here it's down to 15 mph and fading fast.
CR-CSX 8688... A second shot of the train grinding up through the ess curve west of Newburg. The locomotives are at full throttle with the flanges grinding and squealing in the sharp curves.
CR-CSX 8688... We're now in beautiful downtown Newburg, WV. Across the creek, the train has come to a complete stop. Although we had the radio scanner on, we were not hearing any communications so we didn't know why the train was stopped. In about five minutes, it started again and pulled away quite quickly.
CSX 8535... And here's why it pulled away so SD50/SD60/SD60 pusher set (bankers for our UK friends) leaning on the back. This 4600 ton train now had two SD50s, two SD60s and an SD70AC for power...with 18,600 hp it should just sail right over the hill, right?
CR-CSX 8688... Nope. The west portal of Kingwood Tunnel is about 7 miles from Newburg but as the train passes the old tower it is down to walking speed. The grade up is about 2.3 percent with constant twists and turns.
CSX 730... As the train crawls by, we can turn and look at it going into the tunnel. This is the "newer" double track bore...the tire tracks to the left lead into the old single track bore.
CSX 8535... The pushers come by, still working hard as the rear of the train is still on the upgrade.
CSX 8535... As they head into the tunnel, the pushers throttle back to dynamic braking to help ease the train down the other side of the mountain to M&K Jct. We cannot chase the train down the other side as the roads don't go where we need them to go. Instead, we head over to the next grade crest at Terra Alta.
CR-CSX 8688... At Terra Alta Q316 the train can be heard coming long before it crests the nasty Cranberry Grade, an operational problem since the B&O built it in the 19th century. The telephoto makes the crest of the grade obvious.
CR-CSX 8688... As the train starts downhill toward Cumberland it passes a B&O color position signal. As these signals fail or become unsafe due to structural rust, they are being replaced with conventional three light signals.
CSX 8711... The pushers cut off on the fly at Terra Alta. The train itself never stops, but the pushers stop and change ends for the trip back down to either M&K Junction or back to Newburg for another shove.
CSX 8711... Rather than pursue Q316 down the hill, we followed the helpers back down to MK Junction at Rowlesburg WV. As can be seen, at one time this was a busy place, being the staging point for helpers up to both Kingwood Tunnel to the west and up to Terra Alta eastbound as well as a busy branchline junction. Now the line through here sees about 10-12 trains every day. There is an active tower still there whose operator told me he expects CSX to close the tower within 2000. He also told us that there were no more trains until after dark, so we went on to Cumberland for the night.

More photos here on page five.

Get back, Loretta...

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28 May 2000. All rights reserved - you copy deese pictures without our permission, we gets you.