Posts Tagged ‘NS in Pittsburgh’

Autumn in the Trench

October 30, 2020

It’s an early November day in Pittsburgh. An eastbound Norfolk Southern manifest freight is passing beneath a dramatic canopy of green and gold gingko tree leaves in West Park.

This section of the Fort Wayne Line is also known as the trench and is a favorite of railroad photographers, particularly when those gingko trees turn colors in the fall.

As nice as this image is, it could have been better. In another week or less all the remaining leaves will have turned gold and the falling leaves will leave a golden carpet on the four-track mainline.

But my window of opportunity to photograph here was limited to the weekend. Still, I was pleased with my results.

Pittsburgh Residents Opposing NS Clearance Plan

December 4, 2019

Norfolk Southern has encountered considerable citizen resistance to its plan to operate double-stacked container trains through the north side of Pittsburgh.

The dispute has gone to mediation after residents protested that the project to increase clearances in the city will cause added noise pollution as rail traffic increasedsfrom about 25 trains a day to as many as 50.

The residents have also expressed concern about the type of cargo that the train will carry.

NS plans to raise bridges at Pennsylvania and West North avenues, lower the tracks at Columbus Avenue Bridge and build a new Merchant Street Bridge.

NS said raising the bridges is needed because it cannot lower the tracks in some areas.

The project in April 2017 received a $20 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for the bridge work. NS will pay $8.2 million.

The Pittsburgh residents sought mediation after the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission declined to intervene on their behalf against the bridge construction work.

The mediator, who was chosen by NS and the Northside Leadership Conference, has said he will work with NS.

PennDOT representatives are meeting with community groups to listen to their concerns.

NS has said that routing stack trains over its Pittsburgh Line, which is also used by Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian, is a shorter and faster route than the Mon Line that the carrier currently uses.

The Mon Line bypasses downtown Pittsburgh, running along the south side of the Ohio and Monongahela rivers.

Work on the clearance project has already begun in the suburbs, but no work has yet been undertaken in the city.

A Pennsylvania court had agreed to hear arguments on the dispute, but delayed the hearings for at least 90 days to allow the mediation process to play out.

NS to Pay $2.5M to Pittsburgh Light Rail Operator

November 16, 2019

Norfolk Southern has agreed to pay the Port Authority of Allegheny County more than $2.5 million to reimburse it for damage to a light rail line that occurred due to an NS derailment in August 2018.

The sum is a settlement of the Port Authority’s $3 million claim that had been submitted to NS last February.

During the derailment on the NS Mon Line, intermodal cars and containers slid down an embankment onto the Port Authority’s Station Square station.

The tumbling rail cars also damaged track and overhead wires of that section of the light rail line, which was out of service for three weeks for repairs.

The settlement must still be approved by the full governing board of the Port Authority next week.

Port Authority Chief legal officer Mike Cetra told the board’s performance oversight committee recommended that discussions with NS over the settlement were grueling at times and some claims had to be submitted to the railroad twice.

PRR Signal Bridge Removed From West Park Trench

October 5, 2019

The Pennsylvania Railroad era position light signals in the trench in Pittsburgh’s West Park were removed last weekend.

The signal bridge on the far east end of the Fort Wayne Line have long been a favorite for photographers.

It was located near the intersection of Brighton Road and West North Avenue.

An online report indicated that as part of the work and interlocking has been expanded and new switches installed inside the trench.

The work also included removal of intermediate signals between CP Leets and CP Penn.

Trains using the Fort Wayne Line are now using cab signals with wayside signals located only at interlockings.

No Injuries in NS Pittsburgh Derailment Sunday

August 6, 2018

No injuries were reported after a Norfolk Southern train derailed on Sunday afternoon near Station Square in Pittsburgh.

However, rail cars fell down a hill and onto the light-rail tracks operated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

The transit agency said that riders experienced delays heading to and from downtown Pittsburgh, as workers cleaned up the debris from the derailment.

Seven cars of a Chicago-bound double stack train derailed. NS said the derailed cars were carrying food products, beverages, housewares and other retail items.

NS sent cranes to the site to lift the rail cars and containers and stage them in a parking lot at Station Square where they will be loaded onto tractor-trailer or flatbed trucks for removal from the site.

The railroad said it expected to have the route, known as the Mon Line, cleared in 24 to 48 hours after the derailment.

“Norfolk Southern is actively pursuing detour and reroute options in an effort to minimize shipping delays and working closely with customers to meet their service needs,” an NS spokesman said.

The train of three locomotives and 57 loaded intermodal rail cars was 7,687 feet long and weighed 4,838 tons. NS officials are still seeking the cause of the derailment.

An Hour or So at East Conway

January 7, 2017


Three trains came out of Conway Yard and then backed up to switch tracks during my time there.

The title of this post notwithstanding, I don’t know how much time I spent at East Conway near Pittsburgh in early December.

Hanging out there was not on our agenda when my friend Adam and I ventured toward Pittsburgh. It just sort of happened.

We thought we might be able to catch westbound train 21Q, which was being led by the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage locomotive.

Earlier in the year we had caught the New York Central H unit at East Conway. Given that the PRR and NYC merged in  1968 to form Penn Central, there was a certain symmetry to photographing the PRR and NYC heritage locomotives in the same place in the same year.

As it turned out, we spent more time at East Conway than expected. The 21Q had to wait for a new crew to arrive and there was opposing traffic coming in and out of Conway Yard.

We had been told by local railfans on another trip to Pittsburgh that it is all right to hang out on the bridge over the East Conway interlocking.

The bridge carries a street into the yard and, we were told, it is a public street.

I’m not sure about that, but during the two times that we spent on that bridge in 2016 no one from NS told us to leave and there were always a number of locals there making photographs.

NS has installed security cameras on the bridge, although that may have more to do with checking who and what is coming in and out of the yard.

Getting images of Conway Yard from this bridge had been on my “to do” list for some time.

So everything seemed to work out during this visit. It would have been nice had it not been overcast, but I can live with that.

Now that I’ve made numerous images at the East Conway bridge, I’m not sure I’m all that motivated to go back there except, perhaps, to photograph something specific, like say, the Penn Central heritage unit. I’ve pretty much documented operations there.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Four movements at one time at East Conway.

Four movements at one time at East Conway.

A light power move comes out of the yard for head room.

A light power move comes out of the yard for head room.

Keeping watch ahead for a light power move returning to the yard.

Keeping watch ahead for a light power move returning to the yard.

Keeping watch from a gondola as a manifest freight backs up at East Conway.

Keeping watch from a gondola as a manifest freight backs up at East Conway.

An eastbound stack train has a new crew and is ready to go east.

An eastbound stack train has a new crew and is ready to go east.

An eastbound stack train passes a manifest freight backing into Conway.

An eastbound stack train passes a manifest freight backing into Conway.

It Must Have Been Serendipity

December 24, 2016




On the day of the Akron Railroad Club’s end of the year dinner, I spent the morning in Pittsburgh with my friend Adam.

We were driving down the main drag of New Brighton, Pennsylvania, when I spotted something on the Fort Wayne Line of Norfolk Southern that I wanted to check out.

I had seen a Conrail caboose sitting on a siding attached to a work train. There was no locomotive with the train so it probably was sitting there for the weekend.

What a coincidence that on the day that I would be attending a program that evening about Conrail I would see a piece of Conrail.

It has been 17 years since Big Blue became a fallen flag, but traces of it still abound.

An Unexpected and Pleasant Surprise

December 12, 2016




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

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

Pair of Pennsy Keystones

December 6, 2016

It's a Pennsylvania Railroad keystone rolling over the top of another Pennsy keystone in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. NS No. 8102 is leading westbound stack train 21Q.

It’s one Pennsylvania Railroad keystone rolling over the top of another Pennsy keystone in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. NS No. 8102 is leading westbound stack train 21Q, which is passing an eastbound stack train on the Fort Wayne Line.

Last Saturday my friend Adam Barr and I headed for Pittsburgh for a morning of railfanning Norfolk Southern in the steel city.

We had been in town about a half-hour when an an online report popped up that the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit was headed west past Manor, Pennsylvania, with a load of sea cans. That turned out to be stack train 21Q.

Manor is east of the Pittsburgh where the Pennsylvania Turnpike crosses over the NS Pittsburgh line between Pittsburgh and Altoona, Pennsylvania.

We headed for California Avenue with the idea of getting an image of the locomotive paying tribute to the PRR on a structure that was built by the PRR, the Ohio Connecting Bridge that today carries the NS Mon Line.

When I think of railroads in Pittsburgh, structures such as this come to mind. I also think of the former Pennsylvania Railroad.

We were able to get ahead of the train and catch it at CP Leets in Leetsdale. Although I had my scanner on, we didn’t get any warning of the train approaching because I didn’t pick it up calling any signals.

Our “heads up” was another railfan bolting from his car and running toward the bridge over the tracks that carries a road leading into an industrial park. I was barely able to get the shot I wanted of the Pennsy heritage unit passing former Pennsy position light signals.

We weren’t sure if we could beat the 21Q to East Conway because it was moving along at a good clip. But it turned out the stacker would have a long wait there because of traffic working in Conway Yard that needed to come out to East Conway for head room as well as the need for the 21Q to change crews.

Our last photo op of the 21Q was planned for the bridge over the Beaver River in Beaver Falls. But things did not go according to plan because Adam, who was driving, could not find a parking spot in a timely manner.

He dropped me off at the east end of the sidewalk of the bridge and I walked as fast as I could toward the river. I wouldn’t make it.

The 21Q had already called the signal at the Brighton and I could see its headlight illuminating the sides of the containers of an eastbound stack train that was slowly making its way toward Conway.

I noticed the Fort Wayne Line bridge had an old, but faded Pennsylvania Railroad keystone and decided to make that the focal point of my last photograph of NS 8102, thus ending my chase of the 21Q with an image of a pair of Pennsy keystones.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders


Coming at you on the OC bridge.


When I think of Pittsburgh I think of massive bridges and the Pennsylvania Railroad. This is as close as I can come to recreating the golden age of the PRR in the steel city.


For the second time in 2016, I caught the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage locomotive passing by former PRR position light signals.


With a new crew on board, the 21Q gets underway at East Conway.


A roster-type shot at East Conway of NS 8102.

Pittsburgh Landslide Hindered NS Mon Line

July 2, 2016

A landslide earlier in the week continues to hinder Norfolk Southern traffic in Pittsburgh and has resulted in the closing of a street until next week.

Affected is the Mon Line, which was briefly closed on Tuesday after the landslide on the south side of Pittsburgh.

NS logo 1One track has since reopened, but another was still buried beneath rock and debris.

An NS spokesman told local media that the railroad has removed 400 tons from its tracks and trains are being restricted to 5 to 10 mph operation through the affected area.

City officials have closed West Carson Street where boulders landed during the landslide.

In an attempt to stabilize the landslide area, portions of Mt. Washington may need to be blasted. NS is doing the stabilization work.

Officials with NS and the city are still attempting to determine who owns the property where the slide occurred. The property owner might be billed for the cleanup costs.

Steve Cowan, a spokesman for PennDOT’s District 11 headquarters, said Carson would be closed between the Fort Pitt Bridge and Commerce Drive.

NS said the landslide is the fourth or fifth to occur within the past month and a half.

One media report indicated that NS was considering getting a permit to use explosives to remove some rock before the latest landslide occurred.

“We have serious concerns about this area,” said NS spokesman David Pidgeon.