2 Hours of Nothing, Then 3 Trains Showed Up

I got lucky that the CSX train showed up in Harpers Ferry as Amtrak was leaving, not as it was arriving.

As any railfan knows, traffic lulls are a part of the hobby. You set up someplace to wait for a train and minutes and even hours go by with nothing moving.

Such was the case for me during a recent visit to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

I arrived at the former Baltimore & Ohio passenger station, which is now owned by the National Park Service, just before 4 p.m.

I sat down on a bench, got my scanner out and waited. And waited and waited.

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited is scheduled into Harpers Ferry at 5:16 p.m. A MARC commuter train from Washington to Martinsburg, West Virginia, is scheduled to arrive just after 6 p.m.

Presumably, CSX, which owns the tracks here, would put something through before or immediately after those trains. Instead, I heard nothing more than radio silence.

A call to Amtrak Julie confirmed that No. 29 had departed Washington at 4:48 p.m., which was 43 minutes late. Yet she insisted that the Capitol would arrive on time, but depart two minutes late.

Yeah, right. No way that was going to happen. Later, Julie amended her estimate to arriving at 6:01 p.m. which would put No. 29 just ahead of the MARC train.

A sign at the station said the MARC train was on time. Amtrak No. 29 would have to pass the MARC train somewhere or else it would be lagging behind it.

Around 5:30 p.m., the signal for eastbound track No. 2 turned from stop to clear. CSX had an eastbound coming.

The question was whether it would arrive at the wrong time. I wanted to use my telephoto lens to get Amtrak and MARC coming out of the iconic tunnel on the Maryland side of the Potomac River and then crossing the river on a bridge.

That shot would work best when made from the eastbound platform. There is a tunnel beneath the tracks so I could get to the westbound platform if need be.

Just before 6, a headlight appeared in the tunnel. A scratchy radio transmission indicated that the CSX train was in the vicinity.

The MARC train was running a bit early, which is allowed by the timetable. Amtrak was a few minutes behind it.

As it turned out, the CSX eastbound manifest freight didn’t arrive until Amtrak was leaving.

I had waited two hours and then gotten three trains in a 15-minute span. Or, you could say, it was just another day by the tracks.

After two hours of waiting, here comes the MARC train.

Approaching the platform and not getting blocked by a CSX eastbound freight.

The commuters have been dropped off and the MARC train leaves for Martinsburg.

A few minutes behind MARC here comes Amtrak’s Capitol Limited minus a baggage car today.

Approaching the platform.

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