Quest for Keystone Fall Foliage: 3

NS westbound 19G approaches the east portal of the Gallitzen tunnels as fall color fills the hillsides of the east slope.

Last of Three Parts

My next destination was Cresson, where I didn’t plan to stay long, but NS had other ideas.

But first I had to find my way out of Lilly. I had no trouble getting onto Pennsylvania Route 53, but I missed a turn in downtown.

I swear there was no sign showing that you have to make a right turn at the intersection where Route 53 juts eastward.

I went straight and wound up on a dead-end street. I had to zig zag my way back.

I had brought maps of all the towns I planned to visit, but hadn’t studied the map of Lilly enough determine how to get out of Lilly other than to stay on Route 53.

There is a large parking lot next to the railfan viewing platform in Cresson. I parked and walked up onto the platform. There was just one other person there and he spotted me and came over.

He was from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and we had a nice conversation about railroad operations in Pennsylvania and the highways in the Keystone State.

He been headed toward State College on U.S. 322, but got into heavy traffic of football fans leaving town. Those would have been the fans who stayed overnight after the conclusion of the Saturday night game.

That traffic led him to go another direction on his motorcycle and he wound up in Cresson.

We had plenty of time to talk because NS decided to go on siesta again. My radio was silent for a long time until the 21M showed up around 2:30 p.m.

Across the tracks from the viewing platform were three R.J. Corman locomotives that weren’t going anywhere. At least I got to see some bright color on a locomotive.

Not long before the 21M showed up, the Pittsburgh East dispatcher called the signal gang foreman to report that he couldn’t get switch 11 to show as having been thrown.

There was a good reason for that. The crew that had been digging around that switch earlier in the day inadvertently had severed a cable. They found some spikes and spiked the switch into position.

Think someone on Monday morning was going to have to answer for that one?

After the 21M headed for points west, I bid farewell to the guy from Lancaster and headed for Gallitzin.

As had happened in Lilly, I made a wrong turn coming town and had to zig zag to where I was going. I knew I was going the wrong way when the street on which I was driving went beneath the NS tracks. Had I followed the proper route I would have remained north of the tracks at all times.

I parked at the railfan park at the west end of the tunnels, but my stay here was brief. Nothing was going on so I motored up the hill to an overlook just off Tunnelhill Street.

The overlook offers an expansive view to the east, although it is somewhat obscured by trees and other vegetation.

But it is open enough to get decent photograph of trains on the east side of the tunnels.

By now the temperatures had finally reached the 70s and I no longer needed to wear a jacket.

I looked up to see a jet high overhead. I had my longest telephoto lens on my camera and snapped a couple of image.

When I enlarged the image on the camera screen I could see that it appeared to be a Boeing 747. But I could not make out any airline markings.

The radio came to life with a detector going off to the east and a westbound 19G calling signals. It was what I wanted to hear.

I could make out the outline of a train through the trees and waited until the head end came into an open area.

As much as anything, it was this image that I had driven to Pennsylvania to get. I wanted a photograph of a train grinding along with the mountainsides in the background wearing their palette of autumn colors.

I got it even if the colors were more muted than I would have liked. But the image says autumn and the lighting was good.

Having gotten “the shot,” it was time to slowly begin making my way west toward home.

I spent some time at the park by the tunnels, getting the helpers on the 19G, a westbound helper set and an eastbound intermodal train.

There was one last spot I wanted to check out and it would turn out to be the one with the brightest color.

I had been told by a guy at Cassandra that the color by the Pennsylvania Route 53 bridge over the NS tracks between Cresson and Gallitzin was particularly good. It was.

Shortly after I arrived, an eastbound trash train came along. I photographed it from both sides of the Route 53 bridge.

I noticed that an abandoned bridge abutment would offer a better place to stand on the south side of the tracks.

I walked over there and caught an eastbound intermodal train. A couple of young railfans joined me and we talked some.

What I really wanted, though, was a westbound. The light favored westbounds and there was good color at the bend where the five-track mainline curves as it heads into Gallitzin.

I had planned to leave for home at 5 p.m. NS had about a half-hour to send me a westbound. But the railroad wasn’t cooperating.

As I walked to my car I heard a scratchy voice on the radio say something like “3 west.” Was it west of Cresson or somewhere east of Gallitzin?

I thought about going back, but the day was getting late and I had a long drive ahead of me.

As I got on U.S. 22 at Cresson, I saw another eastbound coal train passing below.

The skies began clouding up the further west I went. But shortly after cresting ridge of the Laurel Highlands in Jackson Township of Cambria County, I looked to my right at the open view of the valley below and saw the best autumn color I had seen all day.

I was going too fast to pull over, so I found a ramp to reverse direction. I then had to go up and over at an exit to head westbound again.

This time I was able to pull over, put on my flashers and get out for some photographs of color on the hillsides.

Dinner was at a burger and beer joint in Murraysville named Crave.

By the time I left it was nighttime. I had entered Pennsylvania in the dark and I would leave it the same way.

But at least I didn’t have to contend with any more “highway robbery” incidents at the state line.

One of Pennsylvania’s many quirks is that you pay through the nose to enter the state on the Pennsylvania Turnpike from Ohio, but they let you leave without paying a dime.

Come back soon Buckeye and don’t forget to bring $7 with you to get in.

A broader perspective of the east slope as the 19G makes its way uphill toward Gallitzin.

Westbound intermodal train 21M splits the old signals and the yet to be turned on new signals in Cresson.

The helpers on the rear of the 19G in Gallitzin.

A westbound helper set running light is about to emerge from Gallitzin Tunnel.

An eastbound stack train casts shadows in the late day light as it passes through Gallitzin Tunnel.

An eastbound empty trash train in the first of a seven-image sequence. The view is looking west off the Pennsylvania Route 53 bridge just outside of Cresson.

 

Last train of the day in a four-shot sequence. The view is near the Pennsylvania Route 53 bridge at Cresson .

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