Posts Tagged ‘Railfanning in Leetsdale Pa’

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

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Coming at you on the OC bridge.

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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.

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

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

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

A Pittsburgh Saturday

May 21, 2016
An eastbound stack train rolls through Glenfield, Pennsylvania, on a nice spring day. The day had begun rather cloudy, but had cleared up by mid afternoon.

An eastbound stack train rolls through Glenfield, Pennsylvania, on a nice spring day. The day had begun rather cloudy, but had cleared up by mid afternoon.

The day after the April meeting of the Akron Railroad Club I ventured to Pittsburgh with my friend Adam Barr. Neither of us had been there in a while so we were overdue to make a trip.

Adam had seen a location that he thought was promising in Glenfield. We parked next to a ball diamond where a game was progress when we arrived.

Our arrival coincided with a lull in traffic that lasted more than an hour. But in time things picked up and after getting a few shots, we motored up to Leestdale.

Here is a selection of what I was able to record.

Photographs by Craig Sanders

This might be train C88, which operates from Conway Yard to Altoona, Pennsylvania, and ferries motive power with it.

This might be train C88, which operates from Conway Yard to Altoona, Pennsylvania, and ferries motive power with it.

A grab shot of a westbound auto rack train that I made as we were making out way toward Leetsdale.

A grab shot of a westbound auto rack train that I made as we were making out way toward Leetsdale.

A westbound stack train passes beneath the former Pennsylvania Railroad position light signals in Leetsdale.

A westbound stack train passes beneath the former Pennsylvania Railroad position light signals in Leetsdale.

A coke train rumbles through Leetsdale. The train originated at in Clairton, Pennsylvania, and is headed for either Chicago or Detroit.

A coke train rumbles through Leetsdale. The train originated at in Clairton, Pennsylvania, and is headed for either Chicago or Detroit.

Mighty Oval on the Mighty Keystone

April 25, 2016

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Some railroad photographers relish making images of Norfolk Southern heritage locomotives on the former home rails of the company that the engine commemorates.

For example, I recently saw online a photo of the Erie heritage unit on a former Erie Railroad route going over a concrete bridge that still bears the “Erie” name.

I’ve had had few opportunities to get NS heritage locomotives on their home roads and it has only occurred three times. In all of those instances the situation involved a Conrail family member, e.g., Conrail on ex-CR, Penn Central on ex-PC.

Last Saturday I was in Pittsburgh when we got word that NS 1066 was leading a 65R across Pennsylvania and would arrive in the steel city in late afternoon.

No. 1066 wears New York Central markings and the 65R was traversing former Pennsylvania Railroad tracks.

I wanted to get it amid a scene that said PRR and what better way to do that than with PRR-style position light signals.

We waited in Leetsdale for the 65R to come trundling down the Fort Wayne Line.

We later had another opportunity to photograph NS 1066 waiting at another generation of signals, this time the Safetran signals installed by NS just east of the entrance to Conway Yard.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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Heritage Locomotive Bonus Day in Pittsburgh

February 4, 2015
The Lackawanna and Central of New Jersey heritage locomotives teamed up to lead an eastbound crude oil train beneath the iconic Pennsylvania Railroad signal bridge at Leetsdale, Pa.

The Lackawanna and Central of New Jersey heritage locomotives teamed up to lead an eastbound crude oil train beneath the iconic Pennsylvania Railroad signal bridge at Leetsdale, Pa.

Last Saturday was almost one of those days that railroad photographers dream about.

Every so often you’ll see a posting on a railfan chat list in which the poster brags about having bagged multiple Norfolk Southern heritage locomotives in a single outing.

There’s an element of luck involved in doing that. You have to be in the right place at the right times on the right day.

I nearly had one of those days last Saturday. The day dawned with four heritage locomotives sitting in Conway Yard near Pittsburgh.

This included the Central of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Lackawanna and Central of New Jersey heritage units.

By mid morning the Monongahela H unit had joined them after coming in on the lead of a manifest freight that had traveled the Fort Wayne Line to Alliance and then the Cleveland Line to Rochester, Pa.

East of Pittsburgh, the Illinois Terminal unit was the second locomotive in the power consist of a westbound tanker train. If you’re not counting that is six heritage locomotives and I saw all of them.

A friend and I were railfanning the Fort Wayne Line at Highland Cut where I was looking to make some winter photographs of the snow and ice on the sides of the cut as trains maneuver through an S curve.

There was a report that the Lackawanna and Central of New Jersey H units had teamed up and were backing onto a train at Conway. But the report was confusing as to whether the train would be doing east or west.

We decided to head for Conway to check it out. It turned out that the train was the eastbound 66Z.

It was just starting to move as we arrived. In the meantime, we spotted the Central of Georgia H unit sitting at the engine service facility.

This is the only NS heritage locomotive that I had not photographed. I still don’t have a photo of it.

Sitting near the fuel rack was the Pennsy H unit. It was coupled to a pair of Canadian Pacific locomotives.

Rather than loop back so I could get a drive-by photo of the Central of Georgia unit, we continued to Leetsdale because the 66Z was on the move.

After checking out the photo angles from the bridge to the industrial park, we elected to shoot at ground level just east of the westbound signals at CP Leets.

That proved to be a good decision. The 66Z came by us shortly after we got situated.

The engineer of the NS 1074 (Lackawanna H unit) reported to the Conway Terminal Dispatcher that the locomotive had stopped loading and he reset everything.

It then began slowly loading again. The dispatcher advised the crew to keep him informed if there was any change.

After photographing the 66Z in Leetsdale, we took off to see if we could catch the train a second time.

It was moving along at a good clip and we got off to a late start. We also didn’t know if it would go via the Mon Line or through West Park near downtown Pittsburgh.

We had to travel the congested and traffic light plagued Ohio River Boulevard. Our chances didn’t look too good, but we tried anyway.

As luck would have it we caught the 66Z and didn’t see it on the Ohio River Connecting Bridge that is part of the Mon Line.

Then Adam missed the turn to get off the freeway. The GPA on his smartphone recalculated and we got off at another exit north of where we wanted to be.

We had to navigate a maze of city streets. In our favor, though, was a report from the dispatcher to the 66Z to take it easy to Milvale because there was a train ahead stopped to get a new crew.

That meant that the 66Z was moving at a near crawl. I spotted the ditch lights as we rolled up to the Ridge Avenue bridge over the trench in West Park.

We probably parked illegally, jumped out and ran to the bridge. At the same time, a cluster of railfans were also converging on the bridge from two directions with cameras in hand.

A couple who were cross country skiing in West Park asked us to step out of the way so they could cross the bridge on the snow on the sidewalk.

We obliged and wondered what they must have been thinking at seeing a bunch of guys with cameras come running up.

I got the photo and we headed back to Leetsdale, checking out the locomotive situation in Conway.

The Central of Georgia and Pennsylvania heritage locomotives were covered up so there was no chance of getting a clear drive-by shot of them.

We saw the Monongahela H unit in a motive power consist at the west end of Conway that appeared to be attaching to a train. But a passing coal train and the guard rail prevented me from getting a clear shot. It was trailing anyway.

With the Illinois Terminal unit on a 65R that was in the Pittsburgh area, we hung out at Leetsdale to photograph that train.

Of the six heritage units I had seen, I was able to photograph three of them. Sure, I’d would have liked to have gotten all six, but I was pleased with what I was able to see and photograph. It had been an amazing day.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

A wide angle view of NS 1074 and NS 1071 at Leetsdale. To the right is a stopped westbound tanker train waiting for a signal.

A wide angle view of NS 1074 and NS 1071 at Leetsdale. To the right is a stopped westbound tanker train waiting for a signal.

Despite traffic signals turning red, heavy traffic and making a wrong turn, we got to West Park just in time to capture the 66Z going through the trench.

Despite traffic signals turning red, heavy traffic and making a wrong turn, we got to West Park just in time to capture the 66Z going through the trench.

The photographers huddled together on the Ridge Avenue bridge cast a shadow on the snow and soon the NS 1074 in Pittsburgh's West Park.

The photographers huddled together on the Ridge Avenue bridge cast a shadow on the snow and soon the NS 1074 in Pittsburgh’s West Park.

 

 

Pittsburgh Winter Journey (Part 2)

February 20, 2014
A westbound stacker rumbles across the Ohio Connecting bridge from the Mon Line to the Fort Wayne Line. It would be the last westbound we saw on this day.

A westbound stacker rumbles across the Ohio Connecting bridge from the Mon Line to the Fort Wayne Line. It would be the last westbound we saw on this day.

In the last installment, Peter Bowler and I had decided to strike out for Pittsburgh. Our destination was West Park.

Peter had brought along a portable GPS, but it wouldn’t start up right away and we ended up stumbling around not knowing where we were going as he tried to get the GPS to work. We ended up in Homewood.

The GPS finally came to life, but not when I needed it to do so. As I approached an intersection where I had to go left, right or straight, the GPS went silent.

I saw that going to the right would take me to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I didn’t need a GPS to tell me that I could go east on the Pike and then south on I-79 toward downtown Pittsburgh.

As we approached Pittsburgh, it began snowing. This was something of a surprise because the forecast called for a 30 percent chance of snow showers. I saw the snow as a positive because it would give a fresher appearance to the existing snow on the ground.

What we didn’t expect is that it would snow off and on, but mostly on, for the rest of the morning and well into the afternoon.

I posted earlier this week some images from West Park. We also spent time at California Avenue to get trains on the Ohio Connecting bridge over the Ohio River.

Traffic there was more sparse that we would have liked. As we sat waiting for trains, a 17G passed beneath us, but we couldn’t see it.

We only heard it on the radio and the sound that I made. I found out later that the 17G has the Nickel Plate Road heritage unit in its motive power consist, but it was trailing.

I guess that means that we failed twice. After our second trip to West Park we head north on Pennsylvania Route 65 in search of food and drink.

We found both at a Subway. Our final stop of the day would be at Leetsdale. It had been cold, but not uncomfortable at West Park and along California Avenue.

But as we stood on the bridge spanning the NS tracks the wind was whipping around a bit and it had a bite.

We could clearly hear two CSX trains across the Ohio River, but NS was silent. It was getting dark and we were feeling defeated.

Peter mentioned that he’d never been shut out at Leetsdale but today appeared to be that day.

We began walking toward the car when Peter spotted an eastbound tank car train in the distance headed our way.

We scrambled to reach the place were the concrete wall is low enough to step over. Traffic across the bridge had been higher than normal during out stay at Leetsdale and many of the vehicle had been automobiles rather than trucks.

No traffic was coming we rushed to get into position as the tank train was closing on us fast. It didn’t help that the pavement was slippery.

I elected for more of a side angle shot of the head end, which I was able to get whereas Peter wanted the most coming straight on image.

The tanker train was kicking up a snowy mist as it passed by. What a beautiful sight. With that our railfanning in Pittsburgh came to a close.

We would later spot the Nickel Plate Road heritage unit near the fueling rack in Conway Yard and spot a few more trains as we made our way out of town. We had not seen a high volume of trains but made nice images of those that we had seen.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

A work train makes it way into Island Avenue Yard. It was the first freight train I had seen use this leg of the wye.

A work train makes it way into Island Avenue Yard. It was the first freight train I had seen use this leg of the wye.

An eastbound stack train heads out onto the bridge. We both liked the effect the snow clinging to the bridge made. It transformed the scene into something we had never seen before.

An eastbound stack train heads out onto the bridge. We both liked the effect the snow clinging to the bridge made. It transformed the scene into something we had never seen before.

Plenty of snow coated the trailers on the rear of the intermodal train.

Plenty of snow coated the trailers on the rear of the intermodal train.

The tanker train passes the iconic position light signals at CP Leets. How much longer will these signals continue to stand guard here?

The tanker train passes the iconic position light signals at CP Leets. How much longer will these signals continue to stand guard here?

Its winter in the Pennsylvania hills as snow has settled everywhere in Leetsdale.

Its winter in the Pennsylvania hills as snow has settled everywhere in Leetsdale.

Snow is flying as the tank train crosses over at CP Leet. This is a color photograph, but the grays of winter predominate. Only the red "snake eyes" of the position light signals add much color to the image.

Snow is flying as the tank train crosses over at CP Leet. This is a color photograph, but the grays of winter predominate. Only the red “snake eyes” of the position light signals add much color to the image.