Dodging Traffic in West Brownsville

A motorist finds himself staring a Norfolk Southern coal train in the face on Main Street in West Brownsville, Pa., on Saturday afternoon. The driver quickly turned off onto a side street.

I had heard about the street running in West Brownsville, Pa., but until this past Saturday (Dec. 17)I had never seen it in person. This hamlet on the west side of the Monongahela River is home to a few blocks of the NS Mon Line running down the middle of Main Street.

Street running is not all that common in the United States and railroads would rather not try to co-exist with other forms of transportation on their right of ways. More common is semi-street running in which the railroad tracks are situated between two streets, but a motorist can’t pretend to be a Dash 9 or caboose and literally run down the tracks.

But that still happens in West Brownsville. Photographs of trains in the street here can easily be found on many railroad photography websites. Less common, though, are images of trains “interacting” with motor vehicles.

As interesting as it was to see three coal trains in the middle of the street, it was even more interesting to see how motorists responded to the trains.

If the train is coming toward them, as is the case in the photo above, the motorists that we observed quickly found an alternative route. There is enough room on the west side of the tracks for a motorist to pass alongside a train — although the clearance is not all that much. There is no clearance for traffic to run alongside a train on the east side.

Once the end of a train begins making its way down the street, some vehicles follow along until the train clears the street running. It is quite an interesting sight.

Although these tracks are owned by NS, CSX trains pass through here, too, using trackage rights.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Although the van appears to be right on the tail of the coal train, there is actually another vehicle between the van and the train.

Most of the time, motorist keep a respectful, although close distance to the rear of the train. Yet as vehicles get closer to the end of street running and the crossing of a major intersecting street, drivers tend to get antsy to get there.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: