The Mighty Oval In the Street

NS 1066 leads the N22 down the street in West Brownsville, Pa., on Wednesday, June 13. The trailing unit is NS 1065, the heritage unit that pays tribute to the Savannah & Atlanta.

I ventured down to West Brownsville, Pa., on Wednesday with my friend Adam Barr in search of a pair of Norfolk Southern 30th anniversary heritage locomotives. We had information that No. 1066 (New York Central) and 1065 (Savannah & Atlanta) were at Bailey Mine with a coal train that was being loaded.

These same two units had come through Northeast Ohio on Sunday afternoon, but I was tied up with domestic duties and couldn’t get out to see them. But Akron Railroad Club Bulletin editor Marty Surdyk did.

For all Adam and I knew, that Bailey mine train might be there all day or it might have already left. Further complicating things were Internet reports that the Norfolk & Western unit was on a coal train heading west to Conway Yard near Pittsburgh and that the Lehigh Valley unit had been put on the 11A at Altoona and was also going to Conway.

Still another heritage unit, the one devoted to the Pennsylvania Railroad, was leading the 23Z at Harrisburg. So many heritage units and so little time.

We got to West Brownsville just before 10:30 a.m. in time to catch a southbound work train with a caboose on the rear. Maybe that was a good sign.

Our plan was to stick around West Brownsville until about noon and then head up to Leetsdale if we didn’t see the heritage units here.

Sometime between between 11 and 11:30, we heard the Mon Line dispatcher mention the NS 1066. That did it. We were staying put because the NYC heritage unit was on the move. It would be a long wait, though.

We were encouraged when the Mon Line dispatcher told a maintainer over the radio that the N22 with the NS 1066 was behind the CSX train.

Our hope was that we could catch the NYC heritage unit and still have time to get to Leetsdale to catch the N&W and LV locomotives. The Internet reports as to the progress of the PRR unit did not sound promising. That train wouldn’t get to Pittsburgh until after dark. Also, we both had to be back home by around 6 p.m.

About 11:45 a.m. we spotted a train approach the signal at Street. We thought it was the CSX train, but it had NS power and NS hoppers.

Not long after that we saw a CSX train on the tracks across the river. We had heard it receive a track warrant to Brown and we thought it might be the CSX train the disaptcher had mentioned earlier. Adam wondered if the NS train we wanted was behind this train. But a quick check of the map made that seem unlikely because Bailey mine is on the line that runs through West Brownsville.

We eventually figured out that the Mon Line dispatcher controlled two routes in the area, including the one on the other side of the river.

It would turn out that there were two CSX trains in the area. The second of them arrived at Street about 12:20 and stopped. We thought it was waiting for a signal. By now we had figured out that the train we wanted was behind this train.

The CSX train sat and sat and sat. After about a half-hour, the Mon Line disaptcher called the CSX train to see what was going on. It turned out that the CSX train, the N65, was unable to reach the Newall train director for instructions as to what to do with the train once reaching that yard.

The NS dispatcher was no more successful in reaching Newall, either. Finally, the NS dispatcher asked a crew that was en route to Newall to ask the train director to contact him.

About 1 p.m., the NS dispatcher relayed the yarding instructions to the N65 and it finally began moving.

It would be another half-hour or so before the N22 arrived at Street. where it stopped for a recrew. By the time N22 got underway, it was 2:15.

We got our photographs and had ideas about catching the train north of California, Pa. We drove up there, but the train was nowhere in sight nor did we hear anything on the radio.

We needed to begin heading back to Cleveland, which was a good three hours away. We drove past Conway but could not see either the N&W or LV heritage units. We heard the train with the N&W unit on the radio, but the conversation didn’t sound like it would be leaving town. An Internet report had it going to leave and go out the Fort Wayne Line.

We needed to get back home so we left Conway empty handed. Still, we had seen two heritage units in the street at West Brownsville. That alone made the trip a success.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Waiting for a recrew in West Brownsville.

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