Posts Tagged ‘NS locomotive power’

The Right Direction This Time

April 20, 2021

About a week ago I was chasing trains on the New Castle District of Norfolk Southern in southwestern Ohio when we wound up in Somerville.

The tracks cross Sevenmile Creek there on a nice looking bridge. I was able to photograph a train here but it was a westbound manifest freight.

The images were fine yet not what I would have ideally wanted.

So last Sunday we got wind that an eastbound was coming and made our way to Somerville to wait on it.

The wait was worth it and the resulting image more what I wanted to get here.

Shown is manifest freight 143 on its way from Eklhart, Indiana, to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Running Westbound at Brimfield

November 25, 2020

Earlier this month I was in Brimfield when a westbound Norfolk Southern manifest freight came along.

No, not the Brimfield in Portage County but the town of the same name in Indiana on the Chicago Line between Kendallville and Goshen.

A portion of the pole line is still in place, but I would think it has been years since it was used.

Today it is nothing more than a nice photo prop that is a throwback to another era.

Mystery Passenger Train

August 21, 2020

We wish we had more information about this train. The only information the photographer sent about it is that it it is a southbound at Sugarcreek, Ohio, on Oct. 6, 1984.

The motive power is a pair of Norfolk Southern geeps and there are at least four former Amtrak passenger cars in the consist.

If you know anything about this trail feel free to leave a comment.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

First Foray to Marion Branch Street Running

June 27, 2020

On one side of the street running on the NS Marion Branch is a residential neighborhood. A southbound enters the street running on the north end.

I’d heard about it, read about it and seen numerous photographs of it. But until recently I had never experienced the street running in Warsaw, Indiana, on the Marion Branch of Norfolk Southern.

For two blocks on the east edge of downtown Warsaw, a former New York Central line runs in the middle of Hickory Street.

Parking is allowed on the east side of the street but not the west side.

My first foray to see and photograph the street running was on a hot and humid Sunday in early June.

I got a later start than I had wanted and by the time I reached Warsaw it was late morning.

Things were quiet and the signals for the crossing of the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern – formerly the mainline of the Pennsylvania Railroad between Chicago and Pittsburgh – were all red.

Nothing seemed to be imminent. Checking social media sites on my phone I found that the Lehigh Valley heritage unit of Norfolk Southern was out of Elkhart headed east on the lead of a train bound for a point in Virginia.

Maybe it would run down the Marion Branch. But just as quickly as I got my hopes up of breaking a long dry spell of not seeing any heritage units I saw a report that that train was through Waterloo, Indiana, and hence not coming down the Marion Branch.

Most of the parking spaces on Hickory Street were taken and even if they weren’t it would feel strange to be parking right in front of someone’s house.

There are houses lining the east side of Hickory although the west side of the street is commercial.

I wound up parking in the lot of a CVS drug store on the west side of Hickory. Later I parked in a largely empty lot just south of a bank branch.

It would be a long wait. The NS road channel for the line was silent for more than two hours.

I spent the time reading magazines and catching a westbound on the CF&E, which itself has some quasi street running in Warsaw.

Finally about 12:30 p.m. I heard what sounded like a train calling signals on the Marion Branch.

I never could understand its symbol but it was a southbound manifest freight.

The lighting would be of the “noon in June” variety, meaning it would be harsh. But at this point I was willing to take anything.

I’m not sure what the speed limit is for the street running, but the train seemed to move along.

I photographed from the east side of the street. My plan was to see if I could catch the southbound south of Warsaw.

As I was crossing the CF&E tracks, though, I saw a headlight of an eastbound CF&E train.

So much for the idea of chasing the NS train. Instead, I focused on the CF&E movement, but that is for another story.

By the time I got done with the CF&E chase it was mid afternoon. I didn’t plan to stay much beyond 3 p.m. before heading back home.

Maybe I’d get lucky and catch one more train on the Marion Branch.

The signals for the CF&E crossing were all lined red so things didn’t look promising.

Nonetheless, I settled into the CVS lot where I could see the southbound home signal for the CF&E crossing.

A couple minutes late I got lucky. The signal turned to clear for a southbound move.

Within minutes I could hear this train calling signals on the radio. I couldn’t understand the symbol this train was calling, either.

For this series of images, I stood on the sidewalk on the west side of Hickory because the light favored that.

It was another long manifest freight. I’m told that much of the traffic on the Marion Branch through Warsaw either turns onto or comes from the former Nickel Plate Road mainline at Claypool, Indiana, or the former Wabash mainline at Wabash, Indiana.

After the passage of the second train I saw on the Marion Branch it was time to head for home.

I had not expected a flood of traffic because this is not the Chicago Line and NS is operating fewer trains these days due to a combination of its new operating plan and recession-induced falling traffic levels.

But I felt fortunate that the two trains I did net for my efforts were both headed southward into the light.

Next time I might try the strategy of waiting in Goshen, Indiana, where the Marion Branch diverges from the Chicago Line.

Then I can follow a southbound to Warsaw to get some more street running photographs along with one or two other photo ops along the way.

My first glimpse of street running on the NS Marion Branch.

The west side of the street running in Warsaw, Indiana, is largely a commercial district.

A stop sign and an old-fashioned railroad signal govern traffic operating on Hickory Street.

Coming down the street in Warsaw, Indiana.

Waiting for Air on the NS Chicago Line

May 30, 2020

Eastbound intermodal train 20E passes the Amtrak platform in Waterloo to get my day of photographing on the NS Chicago Line started right.

It had been a long time since I’d photographed operations of the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

It had been so long that as I made my way to Waterloo, Indiana, last Sunday for my first railfan outing since early March it felt as though I’d been in another state or even another country for a few years and was returning home.

The Chicago Line has always had a mystique about it because of its heavy and diverse traffic.

I wasn’t expecting to find last weekend that same level of traffic of earlier years.

It was a holiday weekend, rail freight volume has been down by double digit numbers in the past several weeks, and NS is running fewer trains generally as it implements its version of precision scheduled railroading.

Still, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I spent six hours on the Chicago Line and saw nine trains. Just as significant was what I didn’t see during those six hours.

I didn’t see a single auto rack car, I didn’t see any foreign motive power and, most surprising, I didn’t see any distributed power units.

There were no Canadian Pacific overhead trains running during the time I was trackside and no tank car trains.

There also were some very long lulls between trains that started in late morning.

The day got off to a promising start. As I reached the Amtrak station the gates at the main crossing in town went down for a westbound stack train.

About 20 minutes later came eastbound 20E followed 15 minutes later by the 24M.

About a half hour later came a westbound manifest freight and five minutes after that came the 18M, an eastbound manifest.

It was looking like the Chicago Line of old. But after that flurry of activity rail traffic died for more than an hour and a half before the lull was broken by an eastbound coal train.

The next train, a westbound manifest, showed up an hour later. Then came another lull of nearly an hour before a westbound intermodal came along. That would be my last train of the day.

Had I arrived an hour earlier I could have caught a 40-minute late westbound Lake Shore Limited led by a Phase III heritage unit.

And speaking of heritage units, various online reports had the Interstate heritage unit leading stack train 21T.

A railfan I talked with briefly said it should arrive in a couple hours. I thought he meant in Waterloo.

I followed the progress of NS 8104 on a Facebook group devoted to the Chicago Line.

I heard a scratchy radio transmission about 11:15 a.m. and thought, “that must be the 21T.”

I got out and hung around the Amtrak platform. I waited and waited and waited. I periodically checked the Facebook page and HeritageUnits.com, but nothing new had been posted since MP 248.

The minutes ticked away and I kept thinking I should be seeing a headlight any minute.

Something must have happened. Maybe the train went into emergency, struck a car at a grade crossing, or who knows what.

It was boiling hot and I feared getting dehydrated. I didn’t dare dash back to my car to get my radio and/or some water for fear of missing the photograph.

On Labor Day weekend 2017 Marty Surdyk and his brother Robert had been in Indiana for a weekend outing and chased a Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern train on the Fort Wayne Line that didn’t exist where they thought it did.

They had, as Marty put it in a trip report, been chasing air for two hours and 40 miles.

I never left Waterloo, but it turned out I was waiting for air for more than an hour.

The 21T goes to Kansas City and not Chicago as I had thought. It had turned left at Butler, Indiana, and gotten on the former Wabash to head to Fort Wayne and points beyond.

There is in Indiana, it seems, a lot of air. On that same Labor Day outing Marty and Robert had “lost” into that same thin air an NS train they had been chasing.

So it meant that I have still not seen or photographed an NS heritage unit since last August when I caught the Illinois Terminal H unit in Marion.

That disappointment aside, it had still been an enjoyable day because I had seen and photographed something which is better than nothing.

With railroad traffic in contraction mode for the foreseeable future my expectations have adjusted accordingly. This is a year to take whatever you can and make the best of it.

The 18M was long but had no DPUs today.

The 24M may be an an afternoon train in Cleveland but it’s a morning train in Waterloo, Indiana.

An eastbound coal train broke a lull of more than an hour and a half.

Some reefer cars are mixed in with the last cut of box cars on this westbound.

My last sighting of the day was a westbound intermodal.

Sampling the NS Dayton District

March 8, 2020

The Dayton District of Norfolk Southern extends from Columbus in a generally southwestward direction to NA Tower (Ivorydale Junction) in Cincinnati.

The former New York Central line passes through Springfield and Dayton.

I had a chance on a recent Saturday to sample the Dayton District in its namesake city on leap day while being given a tour of the city’s railroads by Dayton native David Oroszi.

I’ve driven over the Dayton District numerous times over the years while traveling on Interstate 70 between Dayton and Columbus.

The interstate crosses just west and south of CP190, also known as CP Fairborn, where there is a passing siding at ends at the west end by Enon Road.

I once saw a westbound sitting there to meet an eastbound, but until this day that had been the extent of my “railfanning” of the Dayton District.

I rode over this line in the Conrail era aboard a chartered Amtrak train in September 1997 that operated between Cleveland and Cincinnati and was named the Ohio State Limited after the route’s one-time premier NYC passenger train.

If the 3C corridor ever gets off the drawing board passenger trains will travel the length of the Dayton District.

The Dayton District has around the same level of freight traffic as the CSX New Castle Subdivision in Northeast Ohio.

That means you can spend hours along it and not see anything.

In fact the Dayton District was quiet all morning on our day out. CSX, which comes through Dayton on a former Baltimore & Ohio route between Cincinnati and Toledo, wasn’t much busier.

Our goal was to catch eastbound train 198, which was being led by the 9-1-1 locomotive that pays tribute to first responders.

It would be the third consecutive day train 198 was led by a special interest unit. On Friday the 198 had the Reading heritage unit on the point and the day before that the lead locomotive had been the Conrail heritage unit.

We knew that photographing the 198 would be difficult because it would reach Dayton during the afternoon and be coming out of the sun.

It turned out to be a moot point, though, because the 198 never got out of Cincinnati before dark.

A source had told Dave that the crew that had been called for the 198 at Gest Street in Cincinnati was not qualified on the Dayton District so a new crew had to be called.

The first train we saw on the Dayton District was westbound manifest freight 179, which we captured downtown in early afternoon passing the historic Armory Building on Patterson Boulevard.

We shot it from street level as can be seen in the top photograph.

The Armory is now a professional office building whose signature tenant is a law firm.

For some reason the 179 slowed to a crawl as it was crossing the Great Miami River, which enabled us to get ahead of it and capture crossing the Miami River a second time at Miller’s Ford near Carllion Park (second photograph).

Then it was time to grab lunch to go at a Frisch’s Big Boy in Morraine.

We ate it while sitting next to the tracks just south of Main Street where we could keep an eye on a set of signals for eastbound traffic.

Our time there netted us a local, the L04 head for Dayton to drop off some loaded salt cars (third photo).

Dayton is a poster child for lost industry. Consequently NS has very little business in Dayton and most trains pass through without stopping.

During our drive around town Dave pointed out where the factories used to stand at which his father and his wife’s father once had worked.

After the local came by we headed south for Miamisburg where we hoped to catch the local on its return to Middletown. That caused us to miss an eastbound auto rack train.

We had not been in Miamisburg too long when a westbound manifest freight came rumbling through.

We never heard him calling signals over the radio and the faint radio call we did hear was indecipherable.

The former passenger station in Miamisburg is now a dental office and I used that to frame a photograph of the westbound (fourth photograph).

It was getting to be late afternoon when we heard the dispatcher give the local permission to open up to leave what remains of the former Erie Railroad yard in Dayton near Findlay Street and head west.

By now carrying symbol L10, we caught the lone locomotive and two short covered hopper cars with Wisconsin Central markings on the Great Miami River bridge at Miller’s Ford (fifth photograph).

Dave has made hundreds, if not thousands, of images of trains on this bridge over the decades and he hopes to someday make that collection the focus of a Summerail program.

A photo he made of a caboose hop with two F units and a geep crossing that bridge helps to illustrate an article about railroad mergers in the most recent issue of Classic Trains.

We were about to call it quits but on the drive back to Dave’s house checked some signals to see if anything was lined up. It wasn’t.

It had not been quite the day we had hoped for but it hadn’t been bad, either.

Such is life looking for photograph opportunities on a railroad line with modest traffic.

NS Puts Out of the Ordinary Units up for Sale

January 21, 2020

Some of the locomotives that Norfolk Southern is seeking to sell are rare birds.

Those include 29 Electro-Motive Division SD80MACs that were unique to Conrail that NS inherited when it and CSX divided Conrail in 1999.

Carrying NS roster numbers 7200-7228, the ex-Conrail units were built between 1995 and 1996 and were among a small fleet of alternating current units.

Conrail also purchased 15 SD70MACs that NS continues to operate in revenue service.

CSX received 13 of the SD80MACs from the Conrail motive power roster. NS later bought 12 of those with one of them having been scrapped.

At NS, the SD80MACs were mainstays in coal train service in central Pennsylvania although they also held down assignments elsewhere in the NS system.

NS idled its SD80MAC about the time it began implementing its TOP21 operating plan last year, the NS version of precision scheduled railroading.

A review by Trains magazine of the list of other locomotives being offered for sale by NS found that other vintage units are on the block, including some that date back to Penn Central ownership.

Several units were originally acquired by NS predecessors Norfolk & Western and Southern Railway or their subsidiaries.

These include RPU6 Slug 879 (a former EMD SD40) and RP-E4 Slugs 912 and 913 (former Norfolk & Western GP9s); MP15E’s 2368 (ex-Southern/Central of Georgia), 2374, and 2381 (both ex-Southern); GP38-2s 5202 (ex-Southern) and 5276 (ex-Penn Central); and GP40-2 3030 (ex-Conrail).

Also being sold are 58 EMD SD40-2s which came from Alabama Great Southern (Southern subsidiary; 1 unit); Burlington Northern (16 units), Canadian Pacific (two units), Central of Georgia (Southern subsidiary, five units), Cincinnati New Orleans & Texas Pacific (Southern subsidiary, two units), Colorado & Southern (BN subsidiary, one unit), Conrail (11 units), Georgia Southern & Florida (Southern subsidiary, one unit), Kennecott Copper Co. (one unit), Missouri Pacific (one unit), Norfolk & Western (nine units), and Union Pacific (two units).

Trains reported that some of the SD40-2 units are 45 years old and some were acquired from locomotive lease firms CEFX, CITX, or FURX.

Some SD40-2s were rebuilt Admiral cabs at the Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

The Other New Castle Line

November 21, 2019

Northeast Ohio railroad photographs are well acquainted with the CSX New Castle Subdivision that operates through Akron.

But there is another New Castle line in Ohio. The New Castle District of Norfolk Southern extends from Cincinnati to Fort Wayne, Indiana, with most of it running through the Hoosier State.

The route is named after New Castle, Indiana. South of New Castle the line is former Pennsylvania Railroad territory that the Norfolk & Western purchased years ago.

North of New Castle is former Nickel Plate Road territory.

Shown is east bound NS manifest freight 177 running along Gaar Jackson Road northwest of Richmond, Indiana.

Ready for Harvest

November 20, 2019

The corn in this field west of Greens Fork, Indiana, is ready to be harvested but the farmer had other things to on this Saturday afternoon, such as harvesting another field.

In the meantime, Norfolk Southern steel slab train 61T heads west past the field on the New Castle District in a classic late fall scene.

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.