MGA 8025 on the NS Manor Branch

Much to our delight, the 8025 was facing away from the train. I didn’t written down the location of all of our photo spots, but I believe this is along Martin Road or Crouse Road.

Much to our delight, the 8025 was facing away from the train. I didn’t written down the location of all of our photo spots, but I believe this is along Martin Road or Crouse Road.

My opportunities to photograph Norfolk Southern heritage locomotives are fewer and farther between than I’d like. Even rarer are my opportunities to catch one of the units on a line formerly owned by the heritage railroad to which the locomotive pays homage.

So when my friend Adam and I learned that NS 8025 – the Monongahela unit – had been assigned to helper service on ex-Monongahela rails, we made tracks for southwestern Pennsylvania on Sunday morning.

We had photographed Mon line operations in West Brownsville, even catching the New York Central and Savannah & Atlanta heritage locomotives leading a train down the street last June. But we had never seen, let alone photographed, the Manor Branch or any other ex-Mon line south of West Brownsville.

Adam did some crash research and plotted a route that would follow the tracks from the Bailey Mine to Waynesburg. We got to the area about 10:30 a.m. and drove along the tracks toward the mine.

We could have wished for better weather. The skies were overcast and unlikely to change. The gray and browns of winter added little color. But we didn’t have the luxury of waiting for better weather. Either we got the MGA 8025 on this Sunday or we didn’t get it at all. This might be our only opportunity to catch this locomotive on former Monongahela rails.

We caught our first break when Adam spotted the helper units idling behind a low concrete wall near the mine. The 8025 was paired with the NS 8016.

A CSX coal train was a few hundred feet closer to the mine and inching it way toward the helpers. Had we arrived 10 or so minutes later we would have missed the helper units because the CSX train would have blocked them from our view.

We drove around a bit to explore the area. I dug out my radio and around 11 a.m. the Mon Line dispatcher gave the CSX train a track warrant. Subsequent conversations between the head end and the helpers indicated that the helpers were tied on and ready to roll.  And so were we.

We chased the CSX train to Sycamore, where the helpers were cut off.

Both the CSX train and the helpers had to wait for an NS train of empty hoppers en route to Bailey Mine to pass. We caught the NS train at Ingram Hill Road.

The helpers then moved on to the Waynesburg yard where the crew tied them down and turned them off. A local railfan was there photographing the units and said a trainmaster had told him that the NS train we had seen going to Bailey Mine would not load until about midnight.

With no more trains to help for several hours, the helpers would be off duty for awhile.

After getting some last photos of the 8025, we made a foray to the Cumberland Mine, where all was quiet and a gang was out doing track work. We then headed for Sheetz in Waynesburg for a late lunch.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Further down the line, we are along Crouse Road and the train is passing through a cut.

Further down the line, we are along Crouse Road and the train is passing through a cut.

The same location as above, but looking in the opposite direction.

The same location as above, but looking in the opposite direction.

A grab shot on a road whose name I neglected to record.

A grab shot on a road whose name I neglected to record.

The head end of the CSX coal train with CSX No. 59 rounds a curve as it approaches Hopewell Ridge Road

The head end of the CSX coal train with CSX No. 59 rounds a curve as it approaches Hopewell Ridge Road

A going away shot from the crossing of Hopewell Ridge Road.

A going away shot from the crossing of Hopewell Ridge Road.

An NS train with empty hopper cars is en route to Bailey Mine. It is nearing the crossing with Ingram Hill Road.

An NS train with empty hopper cars is en route to Bailey Mine. It is nearing the crossing with Ingram Hill Road.

The crew's day is done and it's time to tie down the power at the Waynesburg yard.

The crew’s day is done and it’s time to tie down the power at the Waynesburg yard.

It's early afternoon but the helper units won't be needed again until around midnight when the next coal trail will be loading at Bailey mine.So the units will enjoy some time off in the Waynesburg yard.

It’s early afternoon but the helper units won’t be needed again until around midnight when the next coal trail will be loading at Bailey mine.So the units will enjoy some time off in the Waynesburg yard.

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