Paying tribute

In 2012, Norfolk Southern decided to paint twenty of their newest locomotives in special ‘Heritage’ schemes, commemorating the original railroads that now make up the NS system. This action has brought a welcome splash of color to the NS mainlines, due to the very plain black paint with white lettering on the current fleet. Unfortunately, the state of New Jersey has experienced few sightings of these special units to date, but I suppose that will only build anticipation in the railfan community in the coming months. The people’s opinion is unanimous; though incurring extra cost to design and paint these units, NS has created tremendous excitement and goodwill in the industry by recognizing and paying homage to the predecessor roads of years, and centuries, past.

The second Heritage unit to grace the rails of NJ (the Pennsylvania RR unit was the first) is seen entering the Conrail Shared Assets Operations Chemical Coast Secondary in Port Reading, NJ, on a warm & sunny July morning. Today’s NS ethanol train 68Q features the colors of the Central of Georgia RR on NS 8101 (GE ES44AC, blt 2/12), and it is one of the more beautiful locomotives in the Heritage group. Her stay would be short; the ethanol trains, on average, spend less than 48 hours in the area, and she would be on her way west the very next day. With a lot of the newer power in coal train service in the southeast US, the fans in NJ welcome the few special visits that come our way, as evident by about a dozen enthusiasts at this location alone, and several dozen other admirers along the NS mainline in northern NJ. Bravo, NS; thank you for paying tribute to your heritage, and may we all say “job well done”.

Image recorded July 24, 2012.

NS train 68Q Central of Georgia Heritage Unit Port Reading NJ

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An experienced leader

Some seasoned railfans lament that most new locomotives all look the same (“oh great, another friggin’ widecab”), and that the hobby is not as interesting as it once was. This was especially true (until the recently unveiled Heritage Units) along the mainlines of Norfolk Southern, whose ‘basic black’ paint scheme and numerous GE Dash 9 locos left little to get excited about. Once in awhile, though, one will experience some good luck and encounter something a bit out of the ordinary. It’s hard to plan good luck, although internet reports greatly assist; sometimes it just boils down to being in the right place at the right time.

On a beautiful Fall morning in central New Jersey, I make a withdrawal from the ‘luck bank’, and find an old dog leading the pack on NS train 69Q, ethanol empties just beginning their journey west for reload, as the crew transitions from the Conrail Shared Assets Chemical Coast Secondary to the Port Reading Secondary. NS 3337 was built for Conrail in June of 1977, when EMD SD40-2’s were the most common mainline power for all of America’s railroads. In the year 2011, these elder units are mostly used in local or yard service, or occasional mainline service for some of the smaller regional & shortline roads. To find an experienced leader on the point of a Class 1 road train on this day brought a smile to this photographers face, and thoughts of those ‘damn widecabs’ were nowhere to be found.

Image recorded on October 7, 2011.

NS train 69Q with ex-Conrail entering the Port Reading Secondary in Port Reading NJ

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