Tracking Down NS Varnish in NE Ohio

The Norfolk Southern executive train rushes through Salem late on Sunday afternoon.

The Norfolk Southern executive train rushes through Salem late on Sunday afternoon.

Norfolk Southern doesn’t operate passenger trains in the traditional sense. It doesn’t offer scheduled trains for which the traveling public can buy a ticket.

But like other major railroads, it has a fleet of passenger equipment for use in its executive train fleet and for other purposes involving track inspection.

When the word got out on Sunday that the NS office car special was traveling through northern Ohio en route to its home base in Altoona, Pennsylvania, it seemed that everyone and their brother went trackside to get it.

The OCS had been in the St. Louis area and traveled on the former Wabash mainline to Fort Wayne, Indiana, on Saturday night.

It had F9A 4271, F7B 4275 and F9A 4270, and passengers cars NS 23 (Buena Vista), NS 24 (Delaware), NS 7 (Pennsylvania) and NS 21 (West Virginia).

I first heard about the move of the OCS, which operated under symbol 956, from Marty Surdyk, who joined me in Sebring for an afternoon of railfanning on Sunday afternoon on the Fort Wayne Line east of Alliance.

Marty’s nephew Henry was chasing the train around Cleveland and sent us OS updates.

We elected to photograph the executive train as it passed through Salem because the tracks here are on a northwest-southeast alignment and the lighting would be better.

Train 956 was following intermodal train 20E and both were crossed over from Track 1 to Track 2 at CP Murph to run around grain train 52T, which was stopped ahead on Track 1 at CP Lum near Columbiana.

The intermodal train and OCS went back to Track 1 at Lum to continue their journey toward Pittsburgh. A report on HeritageUnits.com indicated that train 956 reached Altoona around 10:30 p.m.

My other sighting of NS varnish came late Friday afternoon in Olmsted Falls. It was a track geometry train with NS 38, a track test unit that railfans have nicknamed “the brick” because of its rectangular shape.

No. 38 was behind NS GP40-2 No. 3035 and was accompanied by NS 36, an open platform passenger car that carries the name “Research 36” on its flanks.

I could see NS personnel wearing safety vests sitting in the rear-facing seats and watching the tracks unfold behind them. It may be a research train, but it carries passengers and wears the same Tuscan red that adorns the NS executive fleet.

Traveling under NS symbol 906, the track geometry train tied up for the weekend at Rockport Yard. It left Cleveland on Monday morning headed for Pittsburgh.

A report on HU indicated that “the brick” would be inspecting Track 1 from Pittsburgh to Altoona.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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