Posts Tagged ‘coal trains’

When Coal Still Ruled at Ashtabula Harbor

November 1, 2020

I was looking for something else when I ran across this image made in Ashtabula Harbor yard eight years ago.

The view is looking south at the rear of a coal train that is stretching out for what seems to be miles.

If you look carefully you will see the Illinois Terminal heritage locomotive in the distance. It’s bright green color should make it easy to spot.

It was a different time then. Coal trains were far more common than they are now, which is probably why I made this image and then promptly forgot about it. It had not been a highlight of the day.

Eight years later Norfolk Southern doesn’t carry as much coal as it did then. It has in recent years shifted coal away from Ashtabula Harbor in favor of Sandusky.

It has been quite a while since I last saw the harbor yard in Ashtabula so I’m not sure what use is made of it today.

NS still runs trains through Ashtabula on its Lake Erie District, the former Nickel Plate Road mainline to Buffalo, New York.

Maybe some coal still moves through town on NS or CSX. Yet that traffic must be a shadow of what it once was.

Chasing the Utah Railway on the ex-D&RGW

October 9, 2020


In continuing with the story of our October 1993 Utah vacation what Ursula and I saw on our first day was quite dramatic so we returned on another day to focus on the operations of the Utah Railway, which holds trackage rights on the former Denver & Rio Grande Western.

The UR hauls coal trains between Helper and Provo, Utah. We chased a westbound train on Oct. 15, getting it (shown in chronological order) Castle Gate, Nolan Station (two photos), Colton (three photos), Mill Fork, and Gomex.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Kentucky Coal Miners End Blockade of CSX Train

January 22, 2020

After receiving delayed paychecks a group of coal miners ended a blockade of a coal train on CSX tracks near Pikeville, Kentucky.

The miners, who are employed by Quest Energy, had claimed that they had not been paid for three weeks of work.

They had stood on the tracks of the CSX Coal Run Subdivision to prevent a 120-car train from leaving a loading facility.

The standoff ended after the miners were paid by Quest.

American Resources Corporation, which owns Quest, said it has apologized to the miners and said the protesters would not lose their jobs.

The blockade had prompted a confrontation between about 40 other Quest employees and managers and the protesting miners that resulted in Kentucky State Police being called to the scene. CSX Railroad Police were also called in as well.

The 40 employees and managers had sought to persuade the protesters to leave so the train could be released.

The train in question had 120 cars of metallurgical coal used in steel production. It was bound for Newport News, Virginia.

An Unexpected and Pleasant Surprise

December 12, 2016

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Railfans go to great lengths to determine when something special is coming down the tracks that they want to photograph.

They’ve set up Facebook pages, online chat lists, websites and texting networks.

Yet there will always be a place for dumb luck in getting something out of the ordinary.

Such was the case during a recent trip to Pittsburgh. We had set up at California Avenue to get Norfolk Southern train 21Q as it came across the OC bridge on the Mon Line.

Leading the 21Q was the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit, a fact we had learned about through the website HeritageUnits.com.

We had only been there a few minutes when a coal train came rumbling out onto the bridge.

The trailing unit of the coal train was DC to AC conversion No. 4004. There are thus far only a handful of these conversion locomotives in revenue service wearing one of the special liveries that NS designed for them.

No. 4004 features the a black nose, gray body and blue lighting accent stripes. Yes, it would have been nice it had been leading, but I was still quite pleased to get it as it was.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Day in Durand: Part 1

November 15, 2016

The first photo of a train that I made in Durand, Michigan, last July was one of my favorites of the day. A local is coming around the connection from the Holly Subdivision to the Flint Subdivision to head to Flint.

The first photo of a train that I made in Durand, Michigan, last July was one of my favorites of the day. A local is coming around the High Wye from the Holly Subdivision to the Flint Subdivision to head to Flint.

One in a periodic series of images that I made last summer

Back in July we made a trip to Michigan to visit with some of my wife’s relatives in Flint. While she and her cousins went shopping I drove to Durand to spend a day at one of Michigan’s most famous railroad junctions.

Three railroads serve Durand, but there is no guarantee that you’ll see all three on a given visit because two of them are short lines that might have one or two trains a day, if that.

I sort of saw the Great Lakes Central. From the Durand Union Station I saw a GLC locomotive come to the far end of the yard for head room.

But the GLC road job that works in Durand and takes interchange traffic to the Ann Arbor in Howell, Michigan, went north out of Owosso on the morning I was in Durand.

A local railfan told me that meant that by the time that job came through Durand it would be dark. So much for seeing the Great Lakes Central.

The other short line is the Huron & Eastern which shows up pretty reliably on weekdays in the afternoon.

And then there is Canadian National, the primary railroad in Durand. The CN tracks once belonged to the Grand Trunk Western, which actually was a CN property for several decades before the GTW identify began disappearing in favor of the CN brand.

Interestingly, the first train I saw on this day was a local led by a former GTW GP9r still wearing its Grand Trunk colors and markings.

It was leading a local headed for Flint that I was told had originated there last night. The train goes east from Flint, works its way to Detroit via Mt. Clemens and returns to Flint via Durand and the Holly Sub.

I had timed my visit to reach Durand in time to get Amtrak’s westbound Blue Water, which arrived early and had to wait for time to depart.

The local railfan I was chatting with said that typically a westbound intermodal train follows Amtrak into Durand.

There was a westbound not long after Amtrak departed, but it was a manifest freight. The intermodal must have been running ahead of Amtrak and I never saw an intermodal train during my approximately nine hours in Durand.

Because I was in Durand so early, it’s tough to photograph a westbound because of the lighting conditions. I tried to get the westbound CN manifest freight as a side shot with the depot but it didn’t work out that well.

If you’ve spent time in Durand you know the CN traffic is about the same level as that of the CSX New Castle Subdivision through Akron. There are going to be some long gaps between trains.

It would be about two hours before the next train arrived, a Powder River coal train bound for the Huron & Eastern.

It came into view with two BNSF units on the lead. As is standard procedure, the coal train ran east past the westbound home signals and backed up on the Port Huron Connection.

The CN crew tied the train down and cut off the BNSF motive power. The H&E would use its own power to deliver the coal to a utility plant.

The CN crew could either run light to Flint, where they would go off the clock, or they might be directed by the rail traffic controller — CN speak for dispatcher — to make a pickup in Durand.

I’m sure the crew would rather run light to Flint because it would mean less work. But that would not be the case on this day. They had work to do in the yard.

It would be another hour before another train passed the Durand depot, an eastbound CN manifest freight.

Ten minutes later the CN crew that had been picking up cars in the yard appeared on the Port Huron connection and headed for Flint. Another nearly two-hour gap between trains was getting underway.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Former GTW No. 4623 would be the only locomotive I saw on this day in GTW markings.

Former GTW No. 4623 would be the only locomotive I saw on this day in GTW markings. It is coming around the connection from the Holly Sub to the Flint Sub.

Amtrak's Blue Water leaves town en route to Chicago but its next stop will be in East Lansing. It was the first time I had seen those signals beneath P42DC No. xxx in operation.

Amtrak’s Blue Water leaves town en route to Chicago but its next stop will be in East Lansing. It was the first time I had seen those signals beneath P42DC No. 126 in operation.

After going about two hours without seeing a train the sight of a BNSF locomotive, or any locomotive for that matter, was welcome sight. A Power River coal train eases its way into Durand.

After going about two hours without seeing a train the sight of a BNSF locomotive, or any locomotive for that matter, was welcome. A Powder River coal train eases its way into Durand.

Backing up on the Port Huron connection to deliver loaded coal hoppers to the Huron & Eastern.

Backing up on the Port Huron Wye to deliver loaded coal hoppers to the Huron & Eastern.

In case you were wondering where I made this photograph here is a big clue.

In case you were wondering where I made this photograph here is a big clue.

As the coal train crew worked in the Durand Yard an eastbound manifest freight rolled through town on the Flint Subdivision.

As the coal train crew worked in the Durand Yard an eastbound manifest freight rolled through town on the Flint Subdivision.

Coming out of the Durand Yard with a load of freight cars.

Coming out of the Durand Yard with a load of freight cars.

And away to Flint we go.

And away to Flint we go.

KRR Coal Traffic Has Exceeded Expectations

August 26, 2016

An executive with Watco Companies said that it underestimated the demand for Appalachian coal when it launched the Kanawha River Railroad.

Kanawha River RailroadA month after the KRR began using the former West Virginia Secondary and Princeton-Deepwater District of Norfolk Southern, it has been running coal trains almost daily.

“Coal traffic is more than we anticipated — the domestic utility coal is up right now,” Kanawha River Railroad General Manager Derrick Jackson told Trains magazine.

As a result, the KRR has acquired additional locomotives and hired more employees for train and engine service.

The KRR has leased 10 NS SD60s and has its own fleet of three SD40-2s and four GP39-2s that are used to handle freight and local traffic.

In speaking with Trains, Jackson said the KRR is actively seeking to increase the local freight business.

Using trackage rights, KRR trains terminate at Watkins Yard on NS in Columbus.

KRR Now Operating in Ohio

August 23, 2016

The entire former West Virginia Secondary of Norfolk Southern is now back in operation.

Kanawha River RailroadThe Kanawha River Railroad is now operating loaded coal trains between West Virginia and Columbus, where they are handed off to Norfolk Southern for forwarding to Sandusky.

The first of those trains operated on Monday and was the first time that most of the West Virginia Secondary had seen a train since NS mothballed it last February.

Trains magazine reported that the first unit coal train had two NS locomotives and two SD60s leased by NS to the KRR, which is a property of Watco Companies.

KRR plans to restore shipping chemicals by rail within the next few weeks.

CSX Moving More W.Va. Coal Trains

July 28, 2016

Trains magazine is reporting that coal traffic has been on the upswing in West Virginia on CSX during the past two weeks.

CSX logo 1It reported that Contura Energy’s McClure Complex has increased the number of loaded unit trains of metallurgical coal trains it moved in the third week of July from two to six.

Five additional new trains this week were also slated to be moved. The magazine said there has been a decrease in the number of stored coal hopper cars being stored on the idled former Clinchfield Railroad.

The uptick in business follows Contura’s reorganization in bankruptcy court as a new company that is comprised of the top lien holders of Alpha Natural Resources, which had mining operations in West Virginia.

Contura acquired the complexes of Alpha’s Nicholas, McClure, and Toms Creek complexes in West Virginia and Virginia.

It also owns mining complexes in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and in Pennsylvania.

Black and Slow vs. Blue and Fast

August 29, 2014

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I managed to catch the New York Central H unit negotiating the new bypass track at Battery Park near West 73rd Street in Cleveland on Thursday. It was leading a 553 empty hopper train. Main No. 1 is still in its original location and being used, but it, too, will get connected to the other bypass main. You can see both original mains off to the right. The lunchtime show was the Navy’s Blue Angels flying team, which is in town in for the Cleveland Air Show this weekend at Burke Lakefront Airport. I know this is a railroad blog, but I thought some might enjoy the jets.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee

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Clearfield Cluster Loses Coal Customer

August 14, 2014

The last coal train has departed from the mine and over the tracks of Cherry Tree branch of R.J. Corman’s Clearfield Cluster in central Pennsylvania.

Amfire Mining’s Clymer Prep Plant shipped its last unit train earlier this week. Just before 1 p.m. on Tuesday, a Komatsu WA600 loader dumped the final scoop of coal into the train.

An hour later 55 cars of the 105-car train departed Clymer for the final time. Thus ended the shipment of coal by rail by the steadiest coal producer located on the Clearfield Cluster. The Rosebud Coal processing plant at Bigler shut down at the beginning of the summer, ending the operation of the railroad’s shuttle trains.

Unit coal trains continue to move from smaller operators, but those moves are irregular. An ethanol plant at Clearfield is the operation’s largest customer. Corman acquired the line from Conrail in 1995 and made it part of its Pennsylvania Lines operating group. It was once a joint operation of the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad.