Sticking it Out ’till Dark to Catch the Reading

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After tracking Norfolk Southern train 65R all day on Monday, I headed to Alliance to try and catch it. The Reading heritage unit was in the lead. 

The 65R is an empty oil train and it seems a good portion of the NS heritage fleet is in that service. As I write this the DLW, NKP, RDG, PC, IT, and MGA units at least, and maybe others, are on oil trains.

Arriving at the railfan parking lot after 6 p.m., I discovered the 65R had left Conway 20 minutes earlier.  I figured it should take about an hour for the train to cover that distance or about 7 p.m. approximately. 

I headed behind the PTC Alliance steel plant to see if I could catch their SW1 plant switcher.  During my last visit it was nowhere to be found but this time it was parked out back in good afternoon light.

Next I headed north and caught up with a westbound NS freight at Atwater. Then I settled in at MP 70.8, a nice open spot with plenty of sunlight.  Several trains passed and then the 16N went east. It had the NS 8114 heritage unit trailing, a good start but not what I was after.

A couple of other railfans joined me in the wait, but  7 turned to 7:30 with no further updates as to the 65R’s location.  About 7:45 we saw Roger Durfee drive by heading for home. 

That was not a good sign. If he was giving up the train must not be close. 

Finally we got an update that the 65R had just cleared Enon Valley at 7:45 p.m. Enon Valley is across the state line in Pennsylvania. It is no wonder that Roger went home.

The sun had dipped behind some trees but we still had ambient light if the train could come. We might get something, so we waited. Then 9 p.m. came and went and I was really pushing the ISO on my camera. At 9:10 p.m., we heard a horn but were dismayed to realize it was coming from the Fort Wayne line. We were on the Cleveland line, which is a different set of tracks. 

By now we had too much time invested in this chase so we decided to stick it out and at least watch the Reading unit even if no photos could be had.

Finally, at just before 9:30, the 65R showed up. I decided to try a photo anyway.  I was at ISO 3200, the maximum that my camera can go and found myself wishing for one of those 66,000 ISO cameras.

At f2.0 and 1/15 I could only try a pan shot. Although not the photo that I wanted, it wasn’t too bad and better than no photo at all. 

I later found out that NS had basically single tracked 30 miles of line between Alliance and Pennsylvania for track work.  The 65R took three hours to go 19 miles. But that’s the breaks.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

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