Posts Tagged ‘NS F units’

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.

R&N Shows Off F Units in New Livery

January 16, 2020

Reading & Northern has released a photograph of one of its recently repainted F unit that it acquired from Norfolk Southern.

R&N bought two of the ex-NS F units and plans to use them to pull passengers excursions, including a trip on April 18.

Although no date has been announced, the R&N said the demand for tickets for the April trip has prompted it to begin planning additional excursions this year behind the F units.

In a news release, R&N said the F units were built in the early 1950s, but rebuilt by NS 15 years ago in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

R&N received the locomotives in late December and plans to have them on public display on occasion at its Reading Outer Station.

The April excursion will depart from the Outer Station on Pennsylvania Route 61 and Bellevue Avenue and travel to Pittston, Pennsylvania.

Highlights of that trip will include the Hometown High Bridge and the newly constructed bridge adjacent to Lehigh Gorge State Park over the Lehigh River.

Some seating options for the April 18 trip quickly sold out after ticket sales began on Jan. 6.

Tickets and further information about the excursion is available at http://www.rbmnrr-passenger.comor or by calling the passenger office at 610-562-2102.

R&N Plans Excursion With Ex-NS F Units on April 18

January 8, 2020

The former Norfolk Southern F units that Reading & Northern acquired will pull their first public excursion on April 18.

The railfan-oriented trip will operate 230 miles on a roundtrip between Reading Outer Station in Muhlenberg Township and Pittston.

R&N said the locomotives, former NS F9 No. 270 and F7B No. 275, will be adorned in their new livery for the excursion.

The excursion will be the first public trip to cross the railroad’s new bridge at Jim Thorpe Junction.

Tickets for excursion are on sale and cost $99 for coach with premium seating priced at $110. Open-air car seating costs $125, and “observation dome car seating” aboard R&N’s former Milwaukee Road full-length dome costs $150.

Two café cars in the consist will offer snacks and a light lunch. The excursion will take 12 hours and two photo runbys are planned.

For more information and reservations, go to or call 610-562-2102.

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.

Reading & Northern Buys 2 NS F Units

November 25, 2019

Reading & Northern has purchased two of the four Norfolk Southern F units that were put up for auction last week.

The Pennsylvania regional railroad and tourist line operator bought F9A No. 270 and F7B No. 275 and plans to use them in special passenger service.

The fate of the other two NS F units has not yet been revealed. Bids on the locomotives were due on Nov. 20.

NS acquired the F units in 2006 to pull is executive fleet of passengers cars. The Class 1 carrier has rebuilt them to GP38-2 standards.

They have been based at the Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

R&N owner and chairman Andrew M. Mueller Jr. told Trains magazine that he was surprised to win the bidding on two of the NS F units because he expected a larger railroad to buy all four of them.

Mueller said tentative plans are to the replace the NS light gray paint with R&N Tuscan red on the streamlined units and keep the NS roster numbers.

R&N already owns two former Bessemer & Lake Erie F7s that are in the process of being restored to operating condition.

The NS A-B set will be combined with one of the former B&LE units to form a matched A-B-A consist, Muller said.

He said the NS F units will be moved from Altoona to the R&N’s interchange with NS at Reading, Pennsylvania, soon.

R&N plans to display the NS F units at its Outer Station Christmas-light display.

Muller said the NS units will be used to lead the first train over a new bridge connecting the railroad’s Lehigh and Reading divisions that is being constructed at Nesquehoning Junction and expected to open shortly before Christmas.

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 Makes Run Through NE Ohio

August 3, 2014





The Norfolk Southern executive train made a run through western Pennsylvania and northern Ohio on Saturday. The OCS doesn’t usually operate on weekends so this was a special treat.

I was at the picnic of the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts at the former New York Central station in Amherst on Saturday afternoon with fellow Akron Railroad Club members Marty Surdyk, Tim Krogg and Dennis Taksar.  The weather could have been better, but at least it had stopped raining.

I had seen online reports before leaving home for the picnic about the train’s progress and thanks to Roger Durfee, I got an update that also confirmed that NS train 955 had taken the Cleveland Line out of Alliance and not the Fort Wayne Line.

We were located just west of milepost 213 on the Chicago Line. The 955 faced a traffic jam. NS crews were out working on Track No. 1, so single tracking was the order of the day.

Ahead of the 955 was the 145, which was waiting for eastbound traffic. The 145 and 955 would go over to No. 2 track at CP 216 and eventually into the connection at Vermilion to get onto the former Nickel Plate route to Bellevue.

We positioned ourselves on the Jackson Street bridge over the NS tracks and waited. We could hear the 955 and the 262 calling signals. Who would arrive first? It was the RoadRailer, which changed our respective approaches to getting the OCS. Ideally, we wanted no train on Track No. 2.

That didn’t quite happen. But because 955 had an approach at CP 212, it ran slow enough that this enabled the tail end of the RoadRailer to get far enough east to create somewhat of the shots that we wanted.

There was no one visible in the rear of the theater car and the shade was drawn part of the way. This suggested that the OCS, which online reports said was en route to St. Louis, was running as a deadhead move.

For Marty, it was the first time that he had seen, let alone photographed, the NS executive train with its classy-looking F units. We were all pleased with what we got.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders