Before, after and in between our visit to the park we also made numerous railfan stops along the NS Shenandoah Branch and the C&O Washington Branch, which is home to Amtrak's Cardinal. We even managed to run into several actual trains, which was good because I am sure that not many of you would be interested in seeing the best of 1100 signal related photos. Of course if you are you can can find them here
The first stop was Shenandoah Junction on the NS Shenandoah Branch that runs between Roanoke, VA and Hageratown, MD. This line still has quite a few classic N&W color position lights along it as when it was resignaled about 10 years ago railroads still bothered to save $$ by cutting the old signals into the new interlocking equipment. Shenandoah Junction was a once busy interchange point between the N&W and B&O that was made largely redundant by the mergers of the past 25 years.
Next stop was the junction between the Shenandoah Branch and the former Southern "B-Line" at Front Royal, VA. Today this is part of the primary NS freight route between the Northeast and the South. Trains turn west off the Southern Main Line at Mananas, VA then head to Front Royal where they turn north again to Hagerstown where they enter former Conrail/Reading RR trackage to Harrisburg and Reading before finally going to either NY or Philly. The route is far less direct than the one CSX has access to that basically parallels the NEC. Here we can see the wye connection between the B-Line and the Shenandoah Branch off to the right, while the old Southern line to Strasburg, VA continues on over the diamond.
Here is the former N&W bridge over the Shenandoah River at Front Royal. You can see how the default route leads to the B-Line as most traffic heads towards the Southern Main to Atlanta while only a handful still use the N&W line between here and Roanoke.
Until 1990 Strasburg was a major interchange point between the former Southern system and the B&O. However the NS and CSX mergers eventually made this service plan obsolete so now the west end of the B-Line sees only sporadic local traffic. This resulted in a flange riding diamond being installed across the Shenandoah Branch.
I was lucky enough to catch a train while hanging out at Front Royal. Here NS C40-10W #7602 heads down the N&W line with a train of mixed freight.
Newly rebuilt SD60E #6960 was following behind as seen here in this video of the train as it pounds the Southern diamonds.
The N&W Shenandoah River bridge as seen from the side.
While the weather was a bit cold it did have some advantages like these cool clouds blowing across the Blue Ridge in Shenandoah National Park. This was shot just south of the US entrance.
When you have a National Park to yourself you can just stop on the main road and take pictures of wildlife without pissing other people off.
These deer weren't in the park, but were right outside the hotel place we were staying at.
Mid-day railfanning break on Day 2. This is VAUGHN interlocking, south end of a signaled siding on the Shenandoah Branch.
At the other end of the siding, SUMMIT interlocking, I caught wind of an approaching train as the southbound N&W PL mast signal was displaying Approach.
Sure enough a light engine move with NS C44-9W #9944 and SD70M-2 #2680 passed by a few minutes later.