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Thursday, November 23, 2006

06-11-23 PHOTOS: SMS Thanksgiving 2006

This batch of photos represents a milestone in the history of Jersey Mike's railroad photography. No, it's not setting some backlog record (yes, I know it 2 months late), but these are the last batch of photos taken by my old Olympus C-3020 3.2 MP digital camera with 3x optical zoom. This camera has my primary tool for documenting and sharing my railfan experiences with the world for almost 5 years. It's replacement is another Olympus, a UZ-something with 7.1 MP and 10x optical zoom. Oddly enough my new camera cost $100 less than my original one. Let's hope I can get the same sort of superior service I came to expect from the old one.

Today I am featuring photos from what has become an annual tradition, a trip with Chuchubob to the SMS shortline in Morrisville, PA. The SMS switches cars in the Penn Warner industrial park using a Baldwin S-12 dating from 1953. SMS runs other switching services in South Jersey and operates the largest fleet of Baldwin locomotives in the country. S-12 #301 replaces an older DRS-4-4-1000 dating from 1949 in 2005 so this was my second ride on #301.

While normally the crew doesn't have any work to do on the day before thanksgiving, today we lucked out and not only did they have to do some spotting of cars at the various local industries, they even went up to the NS interchange to pick up/drop off cars from the Morrisville yard there.

After picking up some tank cars chuchu and I rode in the cab as they delivered the cars to some industry where we were educated in how strong the sloshing effect can be in half-filled talk cars.

Time was running short so we left SMS and got some breakfast at the Treetop Diner, before taking the Penna turnpike to the NS Abrams yard. From there we proceeded to the Wayne station to pick up a friend of mine and them we sent by the Stafford R5 station for some pics of the station and of a SEPTA train that went by.

You can find the whole batch of photos at:

As always a brief photo tour.

Here is SMS S-12 #301 at a crossing.

NS GP38-2 #5280 passing the SMS interchange.

NJT hi-railers stringing overhead wire on a new segment of Morrisville NJT Yard.

NS C40-9W #9029 running elephant style delivering the cars for SMS interchange.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

06-11-12 PHOTOS: C&O Cardinal

If you remember my post about the rare millage detour on the Lake shore Limited you might have wondered how I got back from Chicago. Well, I booked a sleeper on the Cardinal with the intention of photographing out the back of the train along the C&O Main line especially the New River Gourge.

Now I booked the sleeper primarily because the sleeper is typically on the rear of the Cardinal, but this time it was on head end. Another issue was that out of Chicago there were two private cars on the back, but luckily they were cut off in Cincinnati. Unfortunately I didn't notice this until nearly Charleston, WV, but the morning was dark and shitty anyway so I didn't really miss much.

My interest in the C&O main line is that it is almost completely unresignaled from C&O days with big old elephant ear US&S colour light signals with big 5" lenses. Also, the C&O was a noted user of pneumatic switch machines and I wanted to see if there were any pneumatic interlockings left.

Now, due to the shitty weather I missed some of the neatest part of the line between Russel yard and Huntington where you have 3-4 tracks with massive C&O signal bridges. I started taking pictures at the famous St. Albans railfan hotspot and while there were railfan out on the ground, from my motiving train the pictures weren't turning out so good yet.

Still, between there and White Sulphur Springs I took a great deal of exciting, yet rather gray photos. My ultimate goal was to photograph the 2200 foot Allegheny summit of the C&O main line, but a number of other ppl had come back to the last car for pictures and the conductor got pissy and kicked us all out :-(

Still, the crew was generally cool and I had carte blanche to take pics from the vestibule window of my Viewliner. Because the Cardinal has been operating without diner cooked first class food for some time now they did a much better job via a vie preparation than I had seen on the LSL a day earlier. of course like always the other travelers in the sleeper were very nice as were the geese back in coach (as opposed to my last Cardinal trip where I was stuck with a family from the no-fly list who thought it reasonable to bring 3 screaming children on a 23 hour train ride.

We were only about an hour down of our scheduled arrival time into DC, which is pretty good for a train that takes a full day to get from Chicago to DC. I had just enough time to grab my kit and run over to the regional train that we were normally scheduled to be tied up behind for the trip to NYC. The other interesting bit was that Amtrak seems to have made a serious scheduling error in that the westbound train is more than 50 min down then they can't re-crew in Charlottesville. We had to preform a flying re-crew at a small siding about 12 mines east of there.

Anyway, all the photos are posted at:

Most are listed by subdivision and then milepost. This means they go in reverse order of my trip and you go west (as I go east) as you scroll down and they you go back east again :-\ Heh, oh well.

Here's a quickie photo tour.

The cantilever signal is a C&O trademark and the old C&O main line through WV and KY is littered with them.

A little further along the main line splits with one track on each side of the New River. Not the walkway to keep locals off the tracks.

A little past that is WV's most famous tourist attraction, the New River Gourge bridge.

Next is Thurmond with its downtown which uses the railroad RoW as its main drag.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

06-11-11 PHOTOS: Lake Shore Detour

In November I took a trip on the Lake Shore Limited out to Chicago. As we passed Toledo we learned that there was a massive derailment on the Chicago line resulting from a collision b/t NS and CSX freight trains. This had our route to Chicago completely blocked.

While most people would be pissed off at the prospect of a 6 hour Amtrak delay I was in fact excited because instead of being bustituted we were going to be detoured over an alternate route, and a freight-only, rare-mileage route at that! I was catching the Cardinal out of Chicago later that evening and since I was going to spend the day railfaning anyway I might as well railfan on Amtrak from the comfort of my sleeping car accommodation.

Our detour route was to go between CP-482 in Porter, IN and CP-502 in Gary, IN. This would take us over what is now the CSX Porter Branch. The porter branch was the former Michigan Central main line into Chicago, but with the NYC takeover of the MC fell into a secondary freight access role. It was given to CSX in the Conrail breakup and hooks into the IHB in Calumet, IL.

Now, the real bottleneck for this detour was getting a CSX pilot to come out and help navigate our train over this "foreign territory". Amtrak knew this was going to take a lot of time and as we weren't the only train out there, we combined with Train 29, The Capitol Limited, at CP-435 near Elkhardt, IN. The 50 some miles went rather slowly as we were now about 24 cars long and had to make 4 stops at South Bend. At Porter things got even more interesting with Michigan service trains 635 and 651 being attached to the end of our our already long behemoth train.

There became a problem with the dispatchers not knowing what to call our train. One referred to it as the Amtrak Train 49, 29, 635, 651 combo, but this was soon shortened to just the Train 49 combo special.

After waiting at CP-423 on the Porter Branch for everything to get settled and for some freights to clear, we finally got our super-long passenger extra under way. I originally thought we were just going to go down to the CSX main crossing at Willow Creek and make a reverse move onto CSX and follow that on the old Three River's route to the Chicago Line connection at CP-501. Instead we continued all the way to the EJE crossing at IVANHOE where we switched over into IHB territory.

From there we passed CALUMET Tower and CP-100 before rejoining the Chicago Line at CP-502 which is next to HICK tower. We continued to the Hammond Station where trains 651 and 635 were cut off and the pilot transferred to two combined eastbound Michigan trains. We stayed combined with train 29 through the quad draws at CP-509 and all the way into the terminal. The reason Train 29 was coupled to us and not the other way round was that Train 29's crew went dead on hours at 21ST ST interlocking, just short of the station.

You can see all the pics from my little detour at:

Here's a little illustrated tour of the detour. 

We started out at CP-435 with Train 29 hooking onto us. The engineer was not used to yard work and rammed us pretty hard on the couple attempt.

Next our super-train paused by the MC bracket signals at CP-482 in porter, IN for the MI service trains to hook on.

The crew of this IHB train could not believe their eyes when we crawled through. One remarked on the radio that we looked like a freight train.

The operator of CALUMET tower was out on the steps taking photos.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

06-11-04 PHOTOS: TUCKAHOE Tower Centennial

Two months ago today was the 100th birthday of TUCKAHOE tower in Tuckahoe, NJ. This tower was built by the reading railroad in 1906 and was closed by NJ DoT in 1983. For almost 20 years it stood vacant and 1998 it was a real handyman's dream.

However, CMSL Tony was operating his fleet of 1950's Budd RDC cars only 10 miles down the track and his had his sights on bigger and better things. Part of this was the restoration of the old Tuckahoe station for a second RDC service between there and Richland, NJ and the adjacent TUCKAHOE was given some restoration as well.

This year was the 100th anniversary of the tower, and Tony, not wanting to pass up an excuse to grandstand celebrate not only bought a cake, not only rounded up surviving PRSL employees from local retirement facilities buy managed to bully Conrail to allow him to run two of his RDC's under their own power to Richland and back.

Now usually the Lehigh Valley F Units or PRR #7000 are the star of the show with the RDC acting as a glorified cab car, but for this birthday they would run to Richland on their own, the first time in 23 years.

Anyway you can find my photos from this special event at:

And here are some teasers for all you ppl who hate to click on things.
Oh, if you want to compare my new pics of the tower with my 1998 pics they can be found here:

LV 528 sure looks pretty, but she and PRR 7000 had to step aside for the RDC's.

The guest of honour on her 100th birthday. That was only slightly younger than the median age of the railfans in attendance :-D