Well despite all of the predictions ALTO was not "closed by December" so it seems that my rush to get out and take photos, rail or shine, was short sighted. So as the gray days of winter came to an end and spring sprung up around me I once again got in the car and drove the three hours to Altoona one bright sunny morning in late April. This time I made sure to drive around a bit to capture everything that I needed to as I suspected that I would not be getting a third chance so instead of just ALTO interlocking and the station area I went out to SLOPE, HOMER and the grade crossing at Fostoria.
If you are interested you can see the full set of 500 some odd photos here after you are done looking at the ones that have trains in them below.
We begin with a bit of a treat as I was tipped off by a railfan hanging out on the ALTO road bridge that an NS Heritage unit was go out momentarily with a train of empty coal hoppers. Unfortunately the unit in question was not something appropriate like Conrail, Penn Central or PRR, but I Nickel Plate unit #6100 is better than the standard NS fare here seen coming and going past the classic PC signal bridge and the tower itself.
In this video clip we can see 6100 knock down the 2371 automatic signal at SLOPE.
At end end of the long hopper train was one of the many sets of 6300 series SD40-2 locomotives that make up the helper pool for the stretch of track between Altoona and Johnstown. In this set we find 6304 and 6301.
Here we see ALTO tower standing by itself. The tower is suposidly going to be moved over to the nearby Altoona Railroaders Museum, however because NS couldn't just have the tower preserved in situ it now sits unoccupied and is already falling prey to thieves and vandals. Probably only a matter of time until someone sets it on fire.
Here we see the rear of the 12RA signal on the old eastbound signal bridge, with the bagged westbound track 1 signal for CP-ALTOONA behind it and the 2371 automatic at CP-SLOPE displaying Clear far in the background.
Shown here at the head of a long crude oil train is NS 2530, an END SD70 basic with no stupid side nose cab.
Following close behind was Amtrak's Train 42, the eastbound Pennsylvanian.
Which made its Altoona station stop while the long crude oil train rolled through.
Here is a video of Train 42 starting up and taking off past the long string of tank cars and the 6328/6329 helper pack on the rear.
Side view of the tower and rear view of the eastbound signal bridge.
Video of the 6327/6309 helper pack drifting past the tower.
Here we see 6327 as it rolls under the PC signal bridge and the front of 6309 as it passes the tower.
View of the ALTO interlocking plant westbound from the Altoona Station platform. Now notice the position of the new westbound cantilever signal for CP-ALTOONA...oh wait, you can't because it is completely hidden by the road bridge! So instead of reusing what is a robustly built, structurally sound, historic landmark, NS decided to chop it down and build something new that is completely invisible to westbound rail traffic. BTW don't say it is some corporate policy of standardization as they reused the exact same model of PC signal bridge at HICK when that tower was closed. Total fail.
Oh, be careful when you visit Altoona on a Sunday because the railfan walkway over the tracks at the station building IS CLOSED on Sundays because its not for tourists or anything? This means you have to use the other walkway to the east which puts the proper one in all of your photos. I guess since ALTO was closed its kind of a moot point now as there is nothing really worth seeing there anyway.
Full view of the Penn Central signal bridge, ALTO tower and the east end air plant for the pneumatic point machines.
Side view of the modern PC era signal bridge.
Next up on the trip is CP-SLOPE, which us under the control of ALTO tower from a panel next to the Model 14 machine. Because SLOPE is in service only on tracks 1 and 2, track three is provided with an automatic signal.
The signaling wasn't the only thing that dated from the 1930's. Here we see the power supply transformer for the westbound signal bridge has a big old yellow sticker on it warning people that it contains PCB's...yummy.
The relay hut for CP-SLOPE was literally built on the foundation of the old SLOPE tower in a conversion that dates from the 1950's back before prefab standalone metal huts existed. Here you can see the thick bundle of cables that run to ALTO tower and control the remote interlocking plant.
Yay, more PCB's! These were the chemicals that made America great.
What goes up must come down. In addition to the through freights there is a constant parade of helper sets that have finished with their task and then turn around at CP-UN to head back to the helper base at Altoona. Here we see 6307 head of 6308 passing into CP-SLOPE.
Train from the other end showing 6308 as the set heads toward ALTO interlocking. Notice the Medium Clear signal pulled up on the track 2 mast signal at ALTO.
That would turn out to be for an eastbound double stack train with NS C40-9W #9699 on point.
This of course has more helpers on the rear including #6312. I believe that engines in the 6300 series helper pool are geared for a lower top speed than standard SD40's.
Another set of helpers drifts down track #1 with 6305 heading things up.
Back down at ALTO, the first helper set has received a Slow Approach signal on the 10R for a move into Altoona Yard.
In this video the first helper set takes the signal while the second set creeps up behind it. That set then gets a Restricting indication to follow the first down the yard lead.
At the CP-SLOPE eastbound signal gantry we catch NS 9615 with a unit train of New York City garbage. Even in April this pile of shit was leaving a trail of reek behind it. Thanks New York -.-
Next up on the trip was the famous "Altoona Works Backlot" where all sorts of engines from all over NS and other related railroads take a ride on the turntable as they are transferred from one bay of the complex to another.
Former Conrail GP38-2 #5128 hangs out next to a flat car full of locomotive hoods.
P&W unit 2006 with what looks like fire damage sit behind GP50 #7044.
Peeking out of one of the shoppe bays was MBTA GP40MC #1119 in for rebuilding. #1118 was there as well.
SW1500 #2220 was providing the hauling power that day for full sized loads.
Although this little Rail King shifter wasn't too shabby, shown here hauling SD60I #6738 all by itself.
He was waiting for a bare locomotive frame, probably part of the SD60E rebuilding programme, to get done taking its ride on the turntable.
A short distance from the backlot was another bridge over the Altoona Yard complex which provided views of CP-HOMER, also targeted for replacement.
The bridge was also adjacent to the Rose main line re-crewing facility, with C40-9W #9259 and its train in the process of being re-crewed. The little hut labeled ROSE was for CP-ROSE, an small interlocking located off the main line at the mouth of Rose Yard. This plant had been completely ripped out as part of the re-signaling project.
A pair of GP38-2's, #5608 and 5806, were working the yard.
The next stop on this voyage was the three-track automatic signal bridge at Fostoria. This bit of hardware was installed in the 1980's when Conrail still cared about keeping the flavour of its traditional railroad territories and NS saw no reason to fuck with. In fact they even gave it a fresh coat of paint.
Here we see signals lit after a train passed by. Technically the track labeled as "1" is a controlled siding.
I knew that a train was approaching when we heard an eastbound call the signal at CP-ANTIS, but when the detector west of Fostoria went off the excitement started to build as both trains were rolling towards a meet at the Fostoria signal bridge. Here is a video clip spliced together from my B camera, which ran out of battery, and my A camera, which was held for a still of the westbound. In a stroke of double luck the clips from the two cameras lined up.
The final stop of the trip was yet another bridge over the Altoona Yard complex, this one overlooking CP-WORKS. Here we see the new slow speed mast signal at the end of what used to be a controlled siding between ALTO and CP-WORKS. From the new configuration it appears that this will be used more as a third main track through CP-WORKS, although the Slow speed movement won't improve things.
Old and new eastbound cantilever signals at CP-WORKS with the Altoona Works located back and to the left.
Wider view of the Altoona Works from CP-WORKS and the Penn Central era footbridge made from the same stuff as their beam style signal bridges.
Well that's it for Altoona. Tune in next week as I head out to Temple University for a full rush hour spent trying to track down the last of the Silverliner II and III's.