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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Snaking along the Lehigh River

On yet another beautiful summer day in eastern Pennsylvania, we find Norfolk Southern train 11J snaking along the lower part of the Lehigh River, with its consist of empty autorack cars destined for the midwest for reloading. Train 11J is traversing the Norfolk Southern Lehigh Line, the main east-west freight line on the NS system in the northeast, connecting the metropolitan NY/NJ market to the rest of america. This was originally the main line of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, which continued in a northwesterly direction along the river, up into north central Pennsylvania; after the consolidation of the bankrupt northeast railroads in 1976 (with the Lehigh Valley being one of them) and the formation of Conrail, this portion of the mainline was then made part of a more direct east-west line, utilizing the Reading and Penn Central (ex-PRR) mainlines for quick transportation of goods to Pittsburg and points west. With the breakup of Conrail, Norfolk Southern took over the Lehigh Line, and continues to utilize the route to its fullest, putting some 25-30 trains across eastern Pa. every day. Today we have an ex-Conrail unit returning to home rails, with NS 8429 (ex-CR 6248, blt 6/94) leading NS 9409, as they make good time along the river.

Image recorded August 7, 2010.

NS Lehigh Line Bethlehem Pa Norfolk Southern train 11J

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Nothing beats a new pair of shoes

Transitioning from the Conrail Shared Assets Port Reading Secondary to the Conrail Shared Assets Chemical Coast Secondary, Norfolk Southern loaded unit ethanol train 66Q negotiates the west leg of the wye at CP-PD for staging before final delivery, just a mile away.

The lead unit, NS 9577, a GE C40-9W, appears to have rebuilt trucks underneath her, as nothing else on either locomotive is as clean as her new ‘shoes’! The best guess is that she was very recently released from the Juniata locomotive shops, out in Altoona, Pa, where major work is done on NS locos; with road units acquiring grime fairly quickly, this must have been just her first or second trip after servicing. This is also a good comparison of the two Dash9 models; the leader has the now-standard wide cab, with additional room for the engineers ‘desk’, as well as an overall quieter environment for the crew, while the trailing unit has the ‘old standard’ spartan cab, seen on most units built before the very early 1990s.

Image recorded on April 14, 2011.

Nothing beats a new pair of shoes

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Locomotives with different pasts make strange bedfellows

Originally built for service south of the Mason-Dixon Line, these two locomotives are strange bedfellows, both in their current location, and their current assignment.

Norfolk Southern SD40-2 6141 was built for the Norfolk & Western Railroad as number 6141 in May of 1978, primarily for mainline duty through the mid-Atlantic region of the US. Norfolk Southern MP15-DC 2408 has retained her original number also, ordered by the Southern Railway in April of 1982 for switching service in the southeast region of this great land. How coincidental, that, in the year 2010, following the merger of these two great roads in 1982 and the subsequent acquisition of parts of the Conrail empire in 1999, these two units with so much in common, yet built for two vastly different railroad applications would become partners in this day’s operations as yard hostlers in Allentown Yard in eastern Pennsylvania.

These two veteran locomotives are yet another example of the fine products produced by the dedicated men and women of the General Motors ElectroMotive Division, 32 and 28 years ago respectively.

Image recorded April 24, 2010.

Locomotives with different pasts make interesting bedfellows

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