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Sunday, June 20, 2010

10-06-20 PHOTOS: C&O Main Line Survey 2010

Well after my success of my 2009 C&O Main Line survey I was eager to get a second bite at the apple since I had only learned the trick to cleaning the rear Viewliner window from inside the train just as we were approaching the Southern main line at Orange, VA. Trying to get good views out the back of an Amtrak train is always a crap shoot as there can be rain or a private car stuck on the end. In 2010 everything seemed to be going my way. It was closer to the solstice so I had maximum daylight. The weather was clear and sunny. There were no private cars. Unfortunately, a month before my trip Amtrak added a baggage car to the consist of The Cardinal and decided to move the sleeper from the rear of the train to the front and in doing so I was stuck with shooting through two panes of glass at the rear of the train.

Needless to say I was pissed off and although I persisted and got the full measure of photos the quality suffered greatly with much increased amounts of grain and a red tint that I had to struggle with in post production to mitigate. Still I did manage to document the next section of C&O signaling on CSX's hit list and I documented some territory that I had missed in my first go around.

Last year I had to split the C&O survey photo set up into two parts, but this year due to the decrease in quality I don't plan to bombard you with so many photos simply because there are far fewer good ones I would want to show off. Needless to say I think I will show off the photos I took during the power change in Washington DC in a bonus set.

In case you have forgotten my goal with this set of photos was to document the incredibly senic trip of Amtrak Train 50 as it snakes its way through West Virginia and the New River Gorge. I begin taking photos just west of Russell Yard in Kentucky and continue through Huntington, WV where CSX has already ruined things with last year's re-signaling effort. After that I went and had breakfast before returning to the rear end where I took photos straight through from Montgomery, WV to Clifton Forge, VA. When it was time for lunch and I resumed photos out the side of the train between Charlottesville and Orange, VA.

The super awesome set of photos can be found here: and I urge you all to just sit back and take the whole trip.

We begin our trip at 6AM at the west end of Russell Yard with some good old fashioned Ohio Valley fog. I know this and the other photos I took in the fog look cool enough, but I still hope the low light performance of non-DSLR cameras improves to get rid of the grain.

Sitting just outside the east end of Russell Yard at RU CABIN was a string of AC4400's including CSX #347 and 545 on a coal drag.

The fog had already burned away a few miles later as my train went from track 3 to track 2 at NC CABIN adjacent to some sort of industrial complex that had worked through the night.

Spoke too soon. The Ashland KY Amtrak station was completely shrouded in fog as my train continued eastward through 19th St interlocking.

Between Ashland and Big Sandy Junction was a 3-track freight super line with big C&O signal gantries at every block boundary. Here at the MP 514 auto we find ourselves in a coal train sandwich.

The train on track three was being lead by AC4400 #476. CSX seems to like keeping their AC4400s as the primary source of power on the old C&O.

Around the bend we find Big Sandy Junction where the Big Sandy Subdivision splits from the Kanawha Subdivision. This impressive interlocking complex had its perfectly serviceable C&O signals removed just a week or two ago replaced by sterile crap signals.

The closed interlocking cabin still stands Big Sandy Junction complete with a vintage C&O safety sign.

If you thought the MNRR or NJT deadlines were impressive, check out the CSX example at their Huntington, WV locomotive shoppes. Wait, WTF are a pair of brand new EMD SD70ACe's doing in there!

What a difference a year makes. DK CABIN one year ago with C&O cantilevers and pheumatic point machines...and DK CABIN today.

Here we have BARBOURSVILLE interlocking one year ago...and BARBOURSVILLE interlocking today.

Alright, enough with the depressing. The C&O signaling resumes at Montgomery, WV so no more of that bullshit Darth Vader stuff. The name of the game on the C&O Main is coal and I caught a train of such slowly making its way up the grade just west of Hawk's Nest with AC4400 #499 in the lead and the rest of the train stretching back through GU CABIN.

More than a few old C&O stations survive on this line such as this example at Cotton Hill. The operator here may have had something to do with controlling the nearby crossover of the same name at some point. 

I didn't quite get as good of a photo of the Hawks Nest bridge as I did last year, but I feel obligated to show it.

On the other hand I think I did manage a better picture of the famous New River Gorge Bridge due to the sunlight.

Another mandatory photo is Thurmond, WV with its C&O coal tower and kooky downtown which is a National Historic Landmark.

The Prince, WV station, this time with more sun.

As the sun rose I began to occasionally get photos that actually looked quite normal and didn't require massive color correcting like these C&O automatic signal masts at MP 373.

CSX AC4400 (what else) #256 hangs out on the pocket track and the east end of Meadow Creek siding.

Does this car belong to an enthusiast or does West Virgina sort of have a Cuba thing going on?

More AC4400 pairs ready for coal service at Hinton Yard. CSX #398 and 386 are representing in this photo.

Finally!! Something besides a AC4400 shows up after only a couple hundred miles in the form of EMD SD70MAC #4520. Still haulin' coal tho.

As we climb into the Alleghenies we start to enter slide fence territory.

The Big Bend Tunnel was where working class hero John Henry was defeated by a steam powered drilling machine dealing a blow from which organized labour has never recovered.

If any of you were worried if we were running out of trees here is a westbound view as my train is pulling into the Alderston station stop.

Built in 1947 the Fort Springs tunnel still has a bit of Art Deco flare. It forms part of a tunnel complex with the Second Creek Tunnel.

One of the few stations that Amtrak doesn't stop at, Ronceverte WV. Complete with coaling tower.

I used the outer window frame of the Amfleet coach to demonstrate the degree of super-elevation present on some of the curves as my train climbed its way up the grade. Still the track speed in this area varied between 30 and 50mph.

Right mounted mast signals on the upgrade just west of White Sulphur Springs.

We're getting up there now. Rounding the curve at a rock cut on our way to the summit.

Damit!! No matter how much I prepare I can never get a good picture of the C&O Allegheny Summit sign. Well, there's always next time :-( Remember to take deep breaths if you come out here as you will be 2078 feet above mean sea level.

The water in front of the Allegheny Tunnel might be a little confused. If it flows towards the tunnel it will end up in the Ohio River and the Gulf of Mexico, but if it flows away from the tunnel it will end up in the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This 5000 foot tunnel not only crosses the border between Virginia and West Virginia, but also the eastern continental divide.

A CABIN sits forlornly with no interlocking left to control.

S Curves anyone? Yeah, we got that.

On the East Slope there are a number of short tunnels as the tracks make their way up the side of a ridge. Here is Kenny's Tunnel.

The geology of this area is interesting with the rock much more yellow and crumbly than that seen on the PRR and B&O main lines.

The equilateral turnout at OX CABIN was where I had to end my photo survey last year so everything from here to Clifton Forge is new content!!

The Mud Tunnel, built in 1927, seems to be using a much less crumblier concrete than the other tunnels built during the early 1930's.

A large train of hopper cars holding wood chips was sitting on the main line pocket track ready to feed the large Mead paper mill in covington. There was an unloading facility at the end of this center siding.

The well preversed C&O passenger and freight stations at Covington, VA.

C40-10W #5322 leads a former GP30 road slug through the MP 289 interlocking at Covington yard.

Another C40-10W #5335 is waiting for our train to cut ahead of it at the entrance to the Clifton Forge Yard.

Last photo of the Main Line survey proper taken at the Jackson River Bridge moments before my train arrives at Clifton Forge and I head back to eat lunch.

We had a long station stop at Charlottesville for an engineer change so I got off to take some pictures of the engine. Our power this day was provided by P42 #201 which is missing some paint above the cab windows.

The former C&O Branch to Washington and Richmond (via Doswell) never saw the traffic levels of the James River Sub which was the main coal route into the coal export terminals at Hampton Roads. As such it is single track with short passing sidings and a 60mph max speed. In fact CSX has leased the entire line to the Buckingham Branch shortline, but retains traffic rights to send empty coal trains west. Train 50 always seems to encounter one of these empty hopper trains somewhere east of Charlottesville. On this trip we met the hopper move at the Massie siding. It was lead by, you guessed it, AC4400 #245.

The empty hopper train accelerated quickly and by the time we reached the other end of the 5000 foot, restricted speed siding the freight had cleared and the exit dwarf was displaying Slow Clear.

At this point I began to aggressively take pictures out the side window as we were approaching the end of anything I cared about so I had little to lose in being bitched at. Here we see the eastbound mast signal at WEST GORDONSVILLE interlocking displaying a Clear indication.

Rounding the curve and getting a Clear signal on the G TOWER cantilever.

I think this is my best photo yet of G TOWER at Gordonsville.

Ok so there are a few more photos taken during the DC power change, but in the interests of the time it will take for this page to load I will break those out into a separate post tomorrow. This is also one of those instances where I really urge you all to scan through the rest of the photo set because there is a lot of great scenery that I just couldn't include in the official writeup.


  1. Fabulous pix for C&O/CSX fans!

    1. Stay tuned because when I work my way up to 2012 I'll have another C&O set posted here. You can also google around and find the posts on Subchat or Live Journal ;-)