Consolation Prize

Well, sometimes things work out perfectly, and sometimes things just work out, but with a consolation prize. I knew that the NS New York Central heritage unit (NS 1066) was in Allentown yard, and I knew that road power is frequently used on Allentown-based locals, so I made the 90 minute drive to see how good (or bad) my luck was on this given day. Fortunately, I did catch the NYC unit in Bethlehem, but under very cloudy, early morning skies. OK, I thought, not bad, but far from perfect, so I hung around (knowing that Allentown can produce a nice surprise at any given moment). Finally, the clouds depart, and the game is on to get the best possible photograph in this very scenic area before I begin the trek back to the Jersey Shore.

Using the best 2-way radio technology available (this day, a Kenwood NX-700) to my advantage, I hear the dispatcher give permission to NS train 38G,  “UP Eight Three Four Nine”, to double their train at the west end of Allentown yard, not knowing that there was any other foreign power in the area. Rear wheels spinning, I make a beeline to Emmaus, a few miles west of Allentown, to a spot where I’ve shot from before, and where the midday light would work in my favor. I present to you my ‘Consolation Prize’ for the trip, Norfolk Southern Allentown, Pa. to Camden, NJ train 38G with Union Pacific EMD power in the form of SD70ACe 8349 and SD70M 4799 up front, with NS 9319 (GE C40-9W) assisting. Thanks to the reports from the internet, and a little ‘just plain dumb luck’, the day turned out better than I had expected, and the drive home went just a bit quicker than most.

Image recorded December 28, 2013.

Norfolk Southern train 38G NS Reading Line Emmaus Pennsylvania

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Storming westward

Intermodal is big business for todays railroads, especially in the northeast, with the major seaports of Newark and Elizabeth, NJ shipping & receiving thousands of containers and trailers every month. Several trains leave the north Jersey area daily, and one of the larger ones is Norfolk Southern symbol 21M, running from Secaucus, NJ to Chicago, Illinois, generally leaving somewhere around sunrise on a normal day.

On a beautiful September morning, we see westbound NS 21M storming the curve at the western end of Allentown Yard, coming off of the bypass around the yard, and transitioning from the NS Lehigh Line to the NS Reading Line. For the next 35 miles, the crew will travel the Reading Line, and then enter the Harrisburg Line for points west. NS 2764, an EMD SD70M-2, leads a couple of GE sisters on this ‘hot’ train, and will see few delays along their route; competition with the trucking industry mandates a tight schedule for the railroads, to ensure that the mile-long trains continue to be ‘a mile long’.

Image recorded September 14, 2013.

Norfolk Southern Train 21M Lehigh Line Allentown Pa

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A Handsome Makeover

Railroads are famous for extending the life of their most reliable locomotive models, with engine shops performing rebuilds and upgrades to get thousands of additional miles from their investments. The most popular candidates are the EMD units of the late 20th century, some of whom are still working hard 40 and 50 years after they exited the assembly line. The massive Norfolk Southern facility in Altoona, Pa, known as the Juniata Back Shops, can handle any type of loco repair or overhaul that is needed. Many other railroads send their power to NS for work, due to the capabilities and resources of this location. In 2010, NS began a rebuild program for EMD SD60 locomotives, with 27 units completed as of this date. This program is an extensive overhaul, to include a new NS designed wide cab, replacing the standard ‘narrow’ cab that was originally incorporated.

NS 6905 began life as a conventional SD60, built for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad as their #8040 in September of 1986. She went to work for Union Pacific as UP 5992 after the CNW merger, then soldiered on after being sold to rail lessor Helm Financial as HLCX 5992. NS purchased several units in 2009 from Helm, needing some dependable and fairly late-model locomotives to bolster their roster. The new wide cab is an attractive design, and nicely distinctive from the ‘generic’ lines of the hundreds of GE widecabs on the rails. In this scene, NS 6905 (now an SD60E) is seen slicing through the frigid New Jersey air, as she leads Atlanta, Ga to Secaucus, NJ intermodal train 212 eastbound on the Lehigh Line, climbing the small rise at MP 29. It’s nice to have a new face in town, and the NS forces have indeed given this old unit a handsome makeover!

Image recorded on February 17, 2013.

NS train 212 Lehigh Line Piscataway NJ

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Point and Shoot

We all want that perfectly lit, sunny shot with deep blue skies overhead, but sometimes one has to ‘throw caution to the wind’ and use their instincts for a non-perfect, but still interesting photo. The light in Piscataway, NJ, along the Conrail Shared Assets portion of the Lehigh Line is best for eastbounds in the morning, and many fantastic pictures have been captured here over the years. As such, this photographer tends to not bother with westbound trains with the sun behind them, choosing to conserve precious megapixels for better oppurtunities. However, on this day, a crazy idea danced around in my head…what if I turned & shot westbound NS train 11J as it headed towards me, ‘away’ from the sun in this location?? Nope, I thought, it will be a poor shot, and I’ll just push the delete button again and wonder why I did that. But…what if it works?

No way, it’s just a waste of time.

So, literally on impulse, I quickly spin the thumbwheel to adjust the exposure, turned, pointed & fired. ‘Click’ goes the shutter, and just like that it’s over; oh, my, what have I done? I know better than to do that, what was I thinking? This can’t be good, can it?

Here for your viewing pleasure is an up close & personal view of NS C40-8W 8389 leading the empty autoracks of train 11J, westbound on the Lehigh Line, MP29. Perfect? No, but quite interesting, and honestly much nicer than I had anticipated. Once in awhile you have to go with your gut, and just point and shoot.

Image recorded on October 18, 2012.

NS train 11J Lehigh Line Piscataway NJ

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A Long Day

I had it all planned very nicely; internet reports of a special High & Wide movement from Allentown, Pa to Manville, NJ, on the Norfolk Southern Lehigh Line main brought me to the tracks on a chilly Fall day, and I chose a spot where a nice wide-angle shot could be had. And then…the Rail Gods stepped in. Earlier in the day, westbound NS train 19G stalled on the approach to Pattenburg Tunnel in western NJ, and was delayed getting up and running again, which brought the crew to the end of their allowable hours (“outlawing”) in Bethlehem, Pa. At this point, eastbound intermodal train 22V was approaching Bethlehem, so they parked their train and jumped on 19G to continue their trip west. The crew from the High & Wide train was pulled and put on 22V to continue east, and the dispatcher remarked about the ‘special’ running the next day. Well, that’s great, I thought, and decided to head home; as fate would have it, I decided to check the message boards one last time, and saw that Allentown had found a crew, and the High & Wide was on the move! No problem, I’ll turn around & race back to my spot, and all will be well.

To make a long story short, I just plain ran out of light; the special did indeed get underway, but travels at restricted speed, and with the sun setting earlier in the day in November, the final image of this particular afternoon was the very late-running 22v, behind GE C40-9W’s 9751 and 9890, shown at sunset in Manville, NJ. Some days you’re lucky, some days you’re good, and sometimes a perfect plan turns into a very long day.

Image recorded on November 19, 2011.

NS train 22V Lehigh Line Manville NJ

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