Posts Tagged ‘NS executive train’

New Horses for NS OCS Fleet

May 18, 2021

The Norfolk Southern Office Car Special went through Northeast Ohio on Monday. The train has new motive power, a pair of SD60E’s that have been re-geared for 79 mph running. They are its new power replacing the old F units.  I caught the train at Rootstown.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

Wabash H Unit Leads NS OCS

November 15, 2020

Norfolk Southern’s executive train made a pass through Northeast Ohio on Saturday led by the Wabash heritage locomotive.

It traveled the Fort Wayne Line and reported by Crestline at 7:32 a.m. and Orrville at 12:38 p.m.

The six-car train was headed back to its home base in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where it arrived around 11 p.m.

It is shown above passing through Canton.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

First Look at the NS F Units

July 18, 2020

I don’t recall when I first became aware of the plans of Norfolk Southern to buy a fleet of F units and rebuild them for use with its executive train.

However, I do recall reading about the locomotives as I sat in my car at Cassandra, Pennsylvania, on an October morning in 2007.

It was my first visit to Cassandra and at that moment traffic was in a lull.

Although I knew it was highly unlikely, I thought maybe NS will send those fancy looking F units out on a test run and I’ll get to photograph them.

Cassandra is not that far from Altoona, where the F units were based. Such are the trackside fantasies of railfans.

In reality, I didn’t get to see the NS executive units for eight more months.

My opportunity finally came in June 2008 at Brady Lake when the executive train came up the Cleveland Line en route to Bellevue.

It was being sent there to help celebrate the retirement of an NS executive who had begun his career in Bellvue.

The F units and its train would park by the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum and I would be among the hundreds — maybe it was thousands — who turned out to see and photograph them.

But that was a few days away as I stood next to the old Erie Railroad bridge spanning the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline at Brady Lake.

A headlight to the east was my clue to get my camera ready.

The F units were well received by railfans in part because they were different.

In a sea of wide cab locomotives that all looked the same the NS F units provided a welcome contrast.

It also helped that the units wore a classic looking livery that hearkened back to the “tuxedo” look that once adorned the Southern Railway F units.

As the executive train came into my viewfinder I was impressed with what I saw.

You can’t really appreciate what you’re seeing as you’re photographing it. If stop to admire a moving train you’ll miss getting the photographs you want.

My recollection is that the day I got my first in-person look at the F units was a cloudy one. I was using slide film and worried that there wasn’t enough light for a good exposure of a train doing track speed.

The conditions may not have been ideal, yet there was just enough light and with some Photoshop work on the scanned images they don’t look too bad.

As I wrote in a post last November I only was able to photograph the F units 12 times before NS sold them.

It would have been nice to have captured them a few more times, but life has a way of intervening and limiting your opportunities.

My first photographs of the NS F units were not my best images of them but I find these images to be satisfactory. There is something about a first that makes it special.

Fort Wayne Line Memories

April 9, 2020

An eastbound Conrail RoadRailer train approaches the diamonds with the Indianapolis Line in Crestline on Sept. 12, 1998.

The news that Norfolk Southern plans to reduce the infrastructure of its Fort Wayne Line between Alliance and Crestline brought back a lot of memories of the trains I over the years on that route.

That sent me into my photo collection where I discovered I had a surprisingly wide variety of trains and types of motive power.

I say surprising because the Fort Wayne Line has not often been a place where I’ve spent a lot of time, particularly west of Alliance.

East of Alliance the Fort Wayne Line is a busy railroad hosting a extensive assortment of NS traffic operating between the Midwest and East Coast.

But west of Alliance is another story. It was a moderately busy place in the Conrail era because traffic coming east from Columbus, Indianapolis and St. Louis joined the Fort Wayne Line at Crestline.

But after NS and CSX split Conrail, traffic on the Fort Wayne line plummeted.

It wasn’t always that way. The Fort Wayne Line was a principal freight and passenger artery to Chicago for the Pennsylvania Railroad, hosting many of the railroad’s Blue Ribbon fleet passenger trains.

Conrail downgraded the Fort Wayne Line west of Crestline in the late 1980s, a move that sent Amtrak’s Broadway Limited and Capitol Limited onto other routes in November 1990.

I first experienced the Fort Wayne Line on June 12, 1995, during the Orrville Railroad Days festival.

Conrail would send a locomotive to display and you could visit the cab.

The Orrville Railroad Heritage Society would operate track cars and a passenger train on a siding that was the original Wheeling & Erie mainline before the Orrville bypass was constructed.

You could count on seeing a few Conrail freights pass during the late morning hours.

I got lucky during the June 1998 festival and caught the rear head end of an eastbound W&LE train passing over the top of the rear of an eastbound Conrail manifest freight on the west side of Orrville.

I got even luckier by scoring cab rides twice in the battered F unit the ORHS used to pull the excursion train during that era.

During the final years of Conrail I got out with Dan Davidson to railfan the Fort Wayne Line and we nabbed some good photographs of Big Blue in Crestline and Orrville.

The railroad days festival later moved to August and one year the Akron Railroad Club had a table at a train show held in a pole barn owned by a lumber company.

By then NS owned the Fort Wayne Line and trains were far fewer in number so my forays there were limited to outings when I knew something out of the ordinary was coming.

The Fort Wayne Line was among the favorites of the late ARRC member Richard Jacobs, who lived not far from in Apple Creek.

Jake was active in the ORHS and spent a lot of time in Orrville. He therefore knew when the locals could be expected to arrive.

Jake and I twice photographed the NS locals in Orrville and caught an R.J. Corman train on the Fort Wayne Line once.

Corman uses the Fort Wayne Line to reach its isolated operation in Wooster, a remnant of a former Baltimore & Ohio secondary line, where it serves a Frito Lay plant.

Fellow ARRC member Paul Woodring and I also caught the NS local in Orrville in June 2008 when it had a caboose. Or should I say it had a shoving platform?

Paul and I would railfan the Fort Wayne Line four years later when we chased a ferry move of Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765.

We picked up the chase in Massillon where I recreated a scene that the late ARRC member Robert Redmond had made decades earlier of a westbound PRR steam train coming off the fabled curved bridge over the Tuscarawas River.

Getting the NKP 765 in the same location was tough because by the time it arrived I was photographing right into the sun. But I got the shot.

We later captured the 765 east of Mansfield and at North Robinson passing a pair of classic Pennsy position light signals.

I photographed a number of noteworthy visitors to the Fort Wayne Line over the years.

There was the NS executive train on April 30, 2011, as it made its way to the Kentucky Derby with the F units that have since been sold.

I chased it with Roger Durfee, getting it at Maximo and Orrville.

Then there was Bennett Levin’s Pennsylvania Railroad E8A Nos. 5711 and 5809, which were headed back to Philadelphia after pulling a private car special during the Dennison railroad festival on the Ohio Central in August 2004.

And there was the time during the 2016 ARRC picnic in Warwick Park in Clinton when we learned that the NS Pennsylvania Railroad heritage locomotive was leading eastbound manifest freight 12V.

We followed its progress on social media throughout the day and several of us headed for Massillon in late afternoon to get it.

I chose to catch NS 8102 splitting the PRR position light signals at CP Mace. It just might be my favorite Fort Wayne Line photograph made west of Alliance.

NS increased its use of the Fort Wayne Line around 2014 by diverting some crude oil and ethanol trains that had been using the Chicago Line.

Thinking there might be enough increased traffic to make a day outing worthwhile I drove to Orrville one Saturday morning on a photo safari.

The day got off to a promising start when an eastbound crude oil train with helpers on the rear came through shortly after I arrived.

I heard the crew of that train talking on the radio to another train, which I presumed was in Massillon meeting the tanker train at CP Mace, where the Fort Wayne Line becomes single track to Orrville.

However, it would be an hour before that westbound, a coal train, showed up.

Once it passed through it would be four hours before another train came along, an eastbound crude oil train.

It was a good thing I brought plenty of magazines to read.

None of the four regular manifest freights that use the Fort Wayne Line through Orrville showed up during my time there on this day.

My last photo outing to the Fort Wayne Line was more productive. On Sept. 3, 2016, Adam Barr and I had gone to Alliance to railfan but got word that the Southern heritage unit was leading a westbound coal train over the Fort Wayne Line and would meet the 64T at Mace.

The 64T was being led by a Union Pacific unit and had the Erie heritage unit trailing.

We drove over there and caught both trains as planned. A bonus was a northbound R.J. Corman train waiting to cross at Mace.

It couldn’t get much better than that.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

You could always count on seeing some Conrail action in late morning in June during the Orrville Railroad Days festival. In a view made from Orr Tower a westbound RoadRailer comes through town.

The late Richard Jacobs and I caught the NS local working in Orrville on a couple of occasions including November 2010 when it was backing off the Fort Wayne Line and onto a remnant of the former Cleveland, Akron & Columbus line.

En route to see the thoroughbreds run in the Kentucky Derby, another thoroughbred strikes a classic pose in Maximo on April 30, 2011.

A touch of the Pennsy passes a former PRR passenger station in Orrville as Bennett Levin’s E8A locomotives return to Philadelphia.

It may be trailing but at least I caught the Erie Railroad heritage locomotive at CP Mace.

This just might be my favorite photograph that I’ve made on the Fort Wayne Line. The Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit leads the 12V at CP Mace in Massillon.

The lighting was tough but I managed to recreate with Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 an image similar to one made of a Pennsy steam locomotive by Bob Redmond leading a train west from the curved bridge in Massillon.

N.C. Short Line Bought Other 2 NS F Units

December 14, 2019

A North Carolina short line railroad has purchased two of the four former Norfolk Southern F units that were recently offered for sale.

The Aberdeen Carolina & Western acquired F9A No. 271 and F7B No. 276.

Earlier the Reading & Northern had announced that it bought F9A No. 270 and F7B No. 275.

NS once used the F units to pull its executive trains.

The AB&W is a 150-mile short line that runs on original Norfolk Southern Railway trackage between Charlotte and Aberdeen, North Carolina.

The short line said it plans to use the F units to pull its economic development/corporate train and is likely to repaint them in its colors of magenta and gold.

NS had acquired the F units in 2006 and rebuilt them to GP38-2 at its Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

Remembering the NS F Units

November 22, 2019

Norfolk Southern decided sometime earlier this year to sell its distinctive F units and bids were due this past Wednesday.

At this writing the winning bidder has not been identified but that information is likely to be revealed at some point.

As it turned out, I photographed the F units of Norfolk Southern 12 times.

They didn’t operate that often and when they did make it through Northeast Ohio I often was busy with other activities and couldn’t make it out to photograph them.

All 12 times that I caught the F units were at locations within Ohio with nine  of those being in Northeast Ohio. Five times I bagged the F units in Olmsted Falls.

The last time I photographed the F units was in June 2018 in Oak Harbor on the day of the Akron Railroad Club’s longest day outing to Fostoria.

I also photographed the F units in Amherst during the picnic of the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts.

My first photograph of the F units was made in June 2008 at Brady Lake when the executive train was en route to Bellevue.

A few days later I was in Bellevue to watch that train arrive at the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum as part of a retirement party for a high-ranking NS executive who had begun his career in Bellevue.

It would be the only time that I made static photographs of the NS F units.

NS is not selling its executive fleet. Presumably it will continue to operate with a power car and freight locomotives.

Perhaps the executive train will some day operate with one of more of the NS heritage or tribute locomotives on the point.

It won’t be the same as it was with the F units, but it will still be worth capturing.

Some railfans have lamented on social media that they didn’t photograph the F units more often.

That is a commonly heard refrain when something of value is about to vanish or is already gone.

Do I wish I had gotten out to photograph the NS F units more often? My answer is “yes, but.”

In the abstract there are numerous trains I wish I had photographed or photographed more often, but I understand why that didn’t happen.

I’m satisfied with the opportunities I did have to photograph the F units and the images I was able to make.

That includes the photograph above, which one of my favorites.

It is mid October 2013 in Olmsted Falls and the executive train is headed westbound on Track 1 of the Chicago Line. The trees are about to reach their peak fall colors.

It is a reminder of how good we had it and how nothing lasts forever.

NS Selling Its F Units

November 13, 2019

Norfolk Southern is selling the distinctive and iconic F units that have pulled its executive train for the past several years.

Word of the sale has been circulating around Facebook for a couple of weeks and Trains magazine reported on Tuesday having obtained a copy of the assets-disposition bidding sheets that NS distributed on Nov. 6 in advance of an auction of the F units and other oddball equipment on its roster.

The F units were acquired in 2006 by former NS CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman and had been a favorite of many railfans due to their Southern Railway-inspired “tuxedo” livery.

The A-B-B-A locomotives were rebuilt to GP38-2 standards by the Juniata Locomotive shop in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where the units and the 20 car executive train fleet is based.

Two of the NS A units (Nos. 270 and 271) were built as F7s by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors in 1952 for the Baltimore & Ohio.

The NS B units, Nos. 275 and 276, were built by EMD in 1950 for the Chicago Great Western.

NS also acquired three other F units of Chicago & North Western, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific linage to use as parts sources.

The NS A units initially were given roster numbers 4270-4271 while the B units were numbered 4275-4276.

Earlier this year the digit “4” was dropped in order to free roster numbers for rebuilt standard-cab General Electric C40-9 DC-powered units into wide-nose AC44C6M AC-powered units.

The NS F units were regulars at such high-profile events as the Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia in April, and the Kentucky Derby in May.

At both events, the executive train served as a hospitality suite.

The units also pulled the executive train for other purposes both business and public relations related, including employee appreciation specials and appearing at special celebrations at railroad museums.

The Trains report described the pending sale of the F units as not necessarily a surprise, saying that this past September the NS executive train operated without the F units for the first time since they took to the rails on NS’s behalf in 2007.

NS owns a power car to provide head-end power to the executive fleet passenger cars so they can be pulled by any type of locomotive.

Other units that NS has put up for sale include former Reading Company EMD SW1001s Nos. 2104-2105; six former-Southern Railway EMD MP15s Nos. 2362, 2386, 2393, 2398, and 2403; modified EMD MP15E No. 2423; RailPower RP20BD gensets Nos. 100-101; RP20CD genset No. 3830; NS BP4 No. 999, a battery-powered experimental unit built by Juniata in 2014; and partially disassembled SD40-2 No. 3463 (former BN/CEFX No. 7083).

Bidding in the motive power auction will end on Nov. 20.

Chasing Down the NS OCS Train

July 16, 2019

Back in May Norfolk Southern ran its executive train on the Fort Wayne Line through Northeast Ohio.

I chased it to get some new views and as many old Pennsylvania Railroad position light signals as I could.

I also went out because NS has repainted and renumbered the engines so they wouldn’t conflict with new diesels they had bought.

My first photo location was the curved bridge in Massillon.  It’s probably the most famous spot on the line and a must have photo.

Next was Wooster but the train was going through just as I pulled up.  I then went to Lucas, which is just east of Mansfield.

After a crew change I got it passing under a signal bridge in town.

My final stop was North Robinson passing an intermediate signal.  This ended the chase as it was getting dark then.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

 

NS OCS Makes Northern Ohio Appearance

June 26, 2018

The executive train of Norfolk Southern is no stranger to Northeast Ohio, but its visits and few and far between enough to make getting it still a treat when the opportunity arises.

Such was the case on Sunday afternoon when operating as symbol 955 the train of A-B-B-A F units and 12 cars can through on the Cleveland Line and then the Chicago Line.

It was en route to Chicago and reportedly stayed overnight in Elkhart, Indiana, before continuing to the Windy City on Monday morning.

I intercepted it in Oak Harbor along with fellow Akron Railroad Club members Marty and Robert Surdyk.

We had been in Fostoria for the annual ARRC longest day outing and decided about 5 p.m. to head up to Oak Harbor, where the 955 came through about 7:20 p.m.

The train did not appear to have anyone aboard other than the head end crew.

NS OCS Passes through NE Ohio

May 25, 2018

On Wednesday the Norfolk Southern office car special came through Northeast Ohio. I caught it at Alliance. I was about to head home when I heard a report that the Central of New Jersey heritage unit was leading NS train 15V. This train takes the Fort Wayne line at Alliance. I went to Louisville where I got him at the MP94 signals which are still a Pennsylvania Railroad design.

Photographs by Todd Dillon