So due to the actions of the late Senator Byrd, not only does The Cardinal pass through WV, it makes a stop about every 10-20 miles. Still in a state with few transportation options to reach the outside world the train is well patronized as you can see at from this picture of the old C&O Hinton Station. Also, it looks like the station has escaped the rebranding that began about a decade ago. Long live the pointless arrow.
Patriotism runs strong in West Virginia. U-S-A! U-S-A!!
Epic beard man was also there to watch the train roll through, but fortunately he didn't try to start anything.
Departing the station we passed a coal train with two road units and a road-slug pair with a former GP30 as the road slug. How many of these things doe CSX have!!
This is a cute signal. It has to be placed close to the tracks to allow ling of sight through the tunnel, but that required the elephant ears to be trimmed a little.
The tunnel in question is the Big Bend Tunnel. The 5000 foot twin bore was the site of the famous John Henry ledgend. This was the newer bore built in the 1930's and the only one still in use today. At Hinton the Main Line leaves the New River valley and begins to follow the Greenbrier River east towards the Allegheny summit. The Big Bend in question is in the Greenbrier River.
There is a Wheel Impact Detector to check for flatspots at MP 345.
Near Barnettown, WV are a few straight stretched of track complete with two-track signal gantries.
Alderston, WV is the next station stop.
A bit beyond Alderston we enter a large bridge and tunnel complex as the main cuts straight through the meandering Greenbrier River. Unlike Big Bend Tunnel, this entire section is two track. First up is Mann's Tunnel, comprised of two, single track bores. This is the track 2 tunnel. The track 1 tunnel is about 100 yards to the north.
Next is the Fort Springs Tunnel, the portal of which has a bit of an art deco flare. This immediately opens out onto a Bridge over the Greenbriar River, before being swallowed up by the Second Creek Tunnel.
At which point the two tracks collapse into one at an equilateral turnout.
Surprisingly the The Cardinal does not make a stop at Ronceverte despite the presence of a station and platform. Perhaps it did in the past.
Past the Ronceverte Station is another concrete C&O coaling tower.
Next station stop was white Sulfur Springs, which is home to the famous Greenbrier Resort. This was built and financed by the C&O railroad as a destination for passengers from DC and the east coast as sort of a very upscale traction company amusement park. The Greenbrier currently owned by CSX and is still known for its top quality service and golf courses, unlike the Penn Central's ill-fated investment in the Six Flags franchise.
The Greenbrier Resort was also the site of large secret bunker that was designed as part of a Cold War continuity of government plan to house members of congress and related government officials. I am not sure if the plan involved taking the train or not.
Here we see the station platform and siding tracks for any private cars that wish to get set out. There used to be multiple siding tracks that allowed sleeping or other first class cars to be set out here, but today they have been cut by the parking lot.
There is one more tunnel as our train begins the climb up the stiff grade to the Allegheny Summit. This is the part of the route that such super steam as the 6900hp H-8 class 2-6-6-6 articiulateds were built for.
Just past Tuckahoe Interlocking the train enters the 5000 foot Allegheny Tunnel that passes under the eastern continental divide.
In this case track 1 was the newer bore, and track 2 the original bore built in the 1930s.
The C&O Allegheny Summit is marked by a signal indicating the elevation of 2078 feet above sea level.
Just past the summit is the famous A CABIN, which no longer even has an interlocking associated with it. However it is a well known railfan hotspot if you want to take the trek out there.
Heading down the east slope the track reverts back to single and we head through a number of short tunnels as the tracks skirt the wavy hillside on its way to the James River at Clifton Forge which included Kelly's Tunnel seen here. It's a real shame to see a major railroad main line over a mountain summit reduced to a single track like this.
The soil is a bright orange color and there are many cuts as the route slices against the grain of the hillside.
I don't know what happened in the early 1930's to encourage the C&O to go on such a building spree, but all of the tunnels appear to have been re-finished about that time. This is Moores Tunnel.
There was a little bit of MoW work before we got stuck at OX CABIN due to a failed code line, forcing the crew to hand operate the switch back to the double track section.
At this point the sleeping car attendant needed to get back and clean out his room and kicked me out of the rear window position. Seeing it was now time for lunch I threw in the towel on getting the remaining 15 miles to Clifton Forge. At Clifton Forge The Cardinal turns onto the North River Sub, which is much more boring than the Main Line to Richmond, consisting of single track with a few short passing sidings. CSX recently leased the whole thing to the Buckingham Branch shortline. Due to the dirty back windows and the desire to just take a load off I decided to take a break after lunch.
I did take this picture of the pole line illustrating how it carries both signal communications and signal power in the form of a 440V AC line.
Using the side window I took a pic of the Slow Clear on the dwarf signal as we left the Afton Siding. The strange lattice structure is a cantilever mast for the eastbound main track signal.
There was a huge crowd at Charlottesville, both getting off an on the train. This heavy travel which might steal valuable seat space from LD riders has been partly remedied by the new Lynchburg Regional trains.
JC CABIN is where the C&O Branch to Washington and Doswell crosses the former Southern RR Main Line, currently used by the Crescent. Between here and Orange, VA where the C&O branch folds into the Southern RR main for the last 50 or so miles to DC, the Cardinal is restricted to 40-60mph on very poor track while the Southern Main allows speeds up to 70-80mph. Installing a connection between the North Mountain Sub and the Southern RR main could cut 30 minutes off of the Cardinal's journey.
At Massie siding we were passed by a train of empty Coal hoppers. CSX uses a directional service for C&o route coal sending the empties via the North Mountain Sub and Doswell and loaded trains via the James River main line straight to Richmond.
At this point I realized I could force my hand through the rear Viewliner doors to clean off a small window to take clear pictures from. While pissed i didn't realize this sooner you can tell the difference it makes.
Coming round the wye we now enter the 9 mile stretch of 40mph track to the Southern RR junction at Orange. I remember on my first Cardinal trip how frustrating it was to creep along at 40moh after having gotten used to the 70mph Southern RR main and assuming the rest of the trip would be the same.
9 miles later we are finally off of the Washington Sub and onto a real railroad again. I hope things were better than this in C&O days!!
Seeing as I had a trip planned on the Crescent I didn't bother to try to document the Southern RR main so I just called it a day at Orange and sat down to wait for dinner. Yes...the Cardinal is way longer than you might expect with a 23-24 hour journey time from Chicago to the NEC.
I will finish with this video I took to use up the last free space on my memory stick. It documents the last bit of the journey between RO and CP-VIRGINIA where we finally got back onto Amtrak territory. This section of the CSX Landover Line was recently re-built to avoid conflicts between through freights and VRE/Amtrak trains heading in/out of the Capitol Hill tunnels. This is also the rail line with the crazy surveillance system that's designed to stop terrorists from blowing up tank cars with rocket propelled grenades...or something like that (rolls eyes).
Anyway, that's it for my 2009 Chicago trip. I hope you enjoyed it and stay tuned next time for a trip to historic Phillipsburg, NJ.