Posts Tagged ‘NS Pittsburgh Line’

Day on the East Slope

June 23, 2021

About three weeks ago I took a trip to Altoona, Pennsylvania, and railfanned the east slope of the former Pennsylvania Railroad Alleghany Mountain grade.

Here is a selection of some of my photographs, all of which were taken at Bennington Curve.

In order they include a downhill stack train, Amtrak’s westbound Pennsylvanian, and an eastbound coal train that had the PRR heritage leading and the Lehigh Valley heritage as a DPU

Photographs by Todd Dillon

CSX in an Unexpected Place

December 31, 2020

If you’re familiar with the Pittsburgh Line of Norfolk Southern then this location probably looks familiar. It is Cassandra, Pennsylvania, and the image was made at a popular railfan hangout.

Yet you might be thinking, “say what? That’s a CSX train.” Indeed it is.

Back in October 2013 CSX had a major derailment on its route east of Cleveland. Some of the railroad’s highest priority intermodal trains were sent detouring over NS through central Pennsylvania.

Although lead unit 5212, a GE ES44DC, had been built for CSX it had an apparatus that was compatible with the train control system used on the Pittsburgh Line.

Therefore, the trains could operate with their CSX locomotives, making for an unusual sight because foreign units did not typically lead trains on the Pittsburgh Line.

These images were made during my first visit to Cassandra, a day trip that began early and ended late because it was an out and back excursion.

The fall foliage wasn’t quite as brilliant as I had hoped it would be, but it still looked like October.

Staking Out MG Tower on the East Slope

August 20, 2020

The second day of my trip to the East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania was spent on the east slope of Norfolk Southern’s grade over the Allegheny Mountains.

Mid Grade tower, or MG for short, is located about halfway up the grade about two miles west of Horseshoe Curve.

It used to be an important place on this busy mainline and while still busy it has been negated by technology.

Sadly, the tower has fallen upon hard times and is scheduled to be demolished. Here are a few photographs from my visit.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

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.

No Injuries in NS 3-Train Derailment in Pennsylvania

November 11, 2019

No injuries were reported in a three-train collision on Norfolk Southern in Pennsylvania on Friday.

New reports indicated that the railroad’s Pittsburgh Line reopened on Sunday morning following the crash in which one train struck the other from behind, causing a derailment that struck the third train on an adjacent track.

The crash occurred about 3:30 p.m. near Georges Station Road in Hempfield Township about three miles east of Greensburg.

NS said in a statement that a westbound empty crude oil train hit the rear of an intermodal train, derailing both locomotives of the tank car train and some of the tankers. The derailed locomotives remained upright.

Eleven intermodal cars carrying 50 containers also derailed. Of those nine intermodal cars carrying 32 J.B. Hunt containers spilled onto the adjacent track.

NS said that after the line is reopened that traffic would be delayed 24 to 48 hours.

Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian did not operate on Saturday between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Sunday eastbound train originated in Harrisburg.

Officials said no hazardous material was spilled during the derailment.

Railroad officials are still investigating the cause of the collision.

Railway Age reported that the tank car train was operated at restricted speed of less than 20 miles per hour when it crested a grade and was going around curve when it struck the stationary intermodal train on an descending grade.

The report said the Pittsburgh line in that area has positive train control, but that a PTC system would not necessarily have prevented the collision because although it regulates the maximum restricted speed in a location “it is unable to determine the exact position (emphasis in original) of obstructions ahead.”

The trade magazine said existing PTC systems do not through an end-of-train device determine the position of the rear of a train and transmit that telemetry to a following train via the wayside and central office PTC equipment.

Obstructions could be a stopped train, a broken rail, or an improperly lined switch. PTC also cannot determine “half the range of vision” for a railroad’s restricted-speed rule, Railway Age reported.

At best PTC could mitigate the severity of restricted-speed accidents.

Railway Age said PTC will not prevent some low-speed collisions caused by permissive block operation in which more than one train is in a block a time.

Nor can it prevent accidents caused by trains “shoving” in reverse, derailments caused by track or train defects, grade crossing collisions, or collisions with previously derailed trains.

The magazine said such features might become part of the next generation of PTC.

2nd Amtrak Train to Pittsburgh Hinges on NS Study

November 6, 2019

Norfolk Southern is conducting a study that it expects to complete in the second half of 2020 of capital improvements it wants to see before agreeing to host a second Amtrak train between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Amtrak currently operates the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian over the route and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation along with local officials have been pressing for several years for additional service.

Communities along the route want the option of being able to travel to Pittsburgh on day trips.

The Pennsylvanian is scheduled to depart Pittsburgh in early morning and arrive in the evening.

Jennie Granger, PennDOT’s deputy secretary for multimodal transportation said this week that her agency has asked Amtrak to consider adding a second train between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

“What would it take?” she said PennDOT asked the national passenger carrier. “What would a second round-trip train a day look like? Give us a timetable. Ideally, how would this work with the Keystone trains on the eastern part of the state? How would we make it work with Penn Station, going into New York?”

In response Amtrak gave PennDOT a proposed timetable that it presented to Norfolk Southern.

Granger said NS responded that it would need to do a study that the state would need to fund. “The study itself is a lot like a traffic study,” Granger said. “It takes into account their freight movements, both historically and what they’re projecting going forward … and then, how does that interact with our proposed two trains a day?”

Granger told a luncheon meeting of the Cambria Regional Chamber of Commerce in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, that because NS owns the track, it can say who does or does not run on it.

“If they don’t want Amtrak on it, they don’t have to let them run another train a day. That’s all there is to it,” she said.

Once the NS study had been completed and presented to PennDOT, Granger said the agency will “have a better-educated idea of how to proceed with that service.”

PRR Signals Being Removed in Pittsburgh

September 17, 2019

Workers this past weekend were reported to have replaced the former Pennsylvania Railroad position light signals in Pittsburgh at Bloom, Solomon and Pitt.

All of these locations are on the Pittsburgh Line east of the Amtrak station in downtown Pittsburgh.

Norfolk Southern has been replacing the venerable PRR signals over the past year in favor of modern signals.

The work has eliminated intermediate signals. The line is being governed by cab signals with a positive train control overlay.

An online report indicated that the signal bridge just west of the South Millvale Avenue was removed.

It had in recent years supported a set of the newer signals.

CP Bloom is where Amtrak’s Capitol Limited diverges from the former PRR mainline to the original Baltimore & Ohio mainline through Pittsburgh.

It is also a popular place for photographers to capture Amtrak trains with the Pittsburgh skyline looming in the background.

Tribute to Fallen PRR Signals in Pennsylvania

June 11, 2019

Some railfans having been making pilgrimages to central Pennsylvania in recent weeks to get one last photograph of the Pennsylvania Railroad installed position light signals before they are pulled down from the Pittsburgh Line of Norfolk Southern

Oneline reports indicates that at interlocking plants the position light signals are being replaced by modern signals and that intermediate signals are being removed and not replaced.

The former PRR mainline has a cab signal system similar to that in use on the NS Cleveland Line/Fort Wayne Line between Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Here is a tribute to the position light signals featuring NS trains as well as Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian at Lilly (two photos), Summerhill, Cresson and MG Tower (located two miles west of Horseshoe Curve near Altoona).

Photographs by Todd Dillon

Ed’s Pennsylvania Adventure: Day 5

August 25, 2018

On Wednesday, Aug. 15 we made our way home to Ohio, but made a stop at Lilly, Pennsylvania, in the hopes of getting something at the position signal bridge before it disappears. I was there for 30 minutes and had good luck. Shown above are an eastbound and two westbounds, all of which arrived in the span of 28 minutes.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Ed’s Pennsylvania Adventure: Part 1

August 21, 2018

Last week Ursula and I did a six-day trip to Pennsylvania that focused on Altoona and Hershey.

Our first stop was Horseshoe Curve. During our time at the curve from 1:30  p.m. to 6:15 p.m. we saw 21 movements, including 18 trains and three helper movements. Several times there were two trains at the same time.

In the top photograph, the Penn Central heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern paces from Track No. 2 another train on Track No. 3 in late afternoon.

In the top photo below, a stack train eastbound on Track 2 passes a train on track 1. In the next image an eastbound meets a westbound late in the day.

That’s the back of Ursula’s head in the next image of her making a video of the westbound Amtrak Pennsylvanian.

Most of the time the crews are friendly when Amtrak goes around the curve as was evident today from the Amdinette.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas