Touch of the Southern Crescent in Pennsylvania

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My friend Adam Barr and I had just finished chasing the first trip of the Everett Railroad’s steam-powered holiday train and were heading for lunch at a Sheetz in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.

As we crossed the Pennsylvania Route 36 bridge over the tracks I spotted something green and suggested that we go check it out.

Imagine my surprise to see a Southern Railway passenger locomotive sitting on a siding still wearing its green and white livery.

So much for getting lunch.

We parked and got out to investigate. The locomotive had been dropped off earlier in the day by a Norfolk Southern local.

It was in clear view from South Juniata Street in a residential neighborhood.

E8A No. 6901 is owned by the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Georgia.

The paint has faded and chipped, but otherwise it looks just as it did in the final days of service when it pulled the Southern Crescent between Washington, D.C., and New Orleans.

The Southern Crescent was one of the last non-Amtrak intercity trains in America.

The Southern elected not to join Amtrak in 1971 but on Feb. 1, 1979, conveyed the Southern Crescent to Amtrak, which today operates it between New York and New Orleans as the Crescent.

No. 6901 was built in September 1951 as Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific No. 2924.

The Georgia museum’s website says No. 6901 was still actively pulling the Southern Crescent just before the Amtrak takeover.

The museum said on its Facebook page that the original plan for the 6901 was to send it to the NS Shaffer’s Crossing shops in Roanoke, Virginia, for a mechanical evaluation with the goal of restoring the locomotive to operating condition.

It would be cosmetically restored in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Somewhere along the way the plans changed. The locomotive wound up being sent by NS to Pennsylvania and a local man we spoke with said it had sat for a few days in a yard in nearby Altoona before making it way to Hollidaysburg.

The man said he understood that the 6901 will have asbestos removed from it by a company in Hollidaysburg.

I’ve ridden Amtrak’s Crescent once, but never saw the train when it was being operated by the Southern.

Seeing No. 6901 was like taking a trip back in time to the 1970s when the Southern won high marks from passengers for its superb service.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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