Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Cool Chromes -- Pounding Around The Curve

Cool Chromes is a semi-regular feature where we look at some slides that have just gone through the scanner.

Back when I lived in southern New Jersey, the Southern Railway Steam Specials (and later the Norfolk Southern Steam Specials) came within a one-day trip from the house only on one of their departure points -- Alexandria, Virginia, was three hours down I-95 and trips departed there bound for either Charlottesville or Front Royal. I chased many a trip to both places.

In August 1982 I had chased Southern's ex-Chesapeake & Ohio 2-8-4 No. 2716 to Charlottesville (2716 was a magnificent locomotive, but sadly only served in the Steam Specials for a little more than a year when mechanical issues sidelined in permanently). I knew the locomotive would put on a spectacular show climbing Fairfax Hill on the last leg of its northbound trip, but I didn't know where to go. Marc Balkin of Custom Steam Productions (he was producing audio tapes then; video was still not available) clued me in on a great spot on a curve on the hill. Fairfax Station Road winds its way out of the town of Clifton, and a few miles out of town it turns left at a T intersection before turning right again and heading into Fairfax Station. But turning right at that T put you on Colchester Road, which went under the tracks. At the underpass, there was a good location if you walked up the hill. And it was good.

On that first visit in August 1982, a freight train left Manassas ahead of the steam special. It was a Chessie System freight running on trackage rights over the Southern.
Chessie System (on Norfolk Southern); Clifton, Va.; August 1982
A few minutes later, the 2716 came pounding past with the steam special.
Southern Railway 2716; Clifton, Va.; August 1982
And as soon as the steam special cleared, another freight could be heard growling up from Manassas, this time led by diesels in Southern's attractive "tuxedo" black and white.
Norfolk Southern; Clifton, Va.; August 1982
If my slide mounts are to be believed (someday I'll pull out the notebooks and verify this), I was back on Fairfax Hill about a month later to witness the newest locomotive in the NS steam program. Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611 came pounding past on this day.
Norfolk & Western No. 611; Clifton, Va.; September 1982
I wouldn't get back to the curve for a steam special for another five years, but in August 1987 (I think -- the date on the Kodak-processed slide mount is pretty much unreadable) I chased Norfolk & Western Y-Class No. 1218 to Front Royal and back. Once again, a freight departed Manassas ahead of the steam special. And despite the Southern's merger into Norfolk Southern over half a decade earlier, this train was led by a pair of units still showing that Southern Serves the South.
Norfolk Southern; Clifton, Va.; August 1987
Shortly thereafter, the massive 2-6-6-4 came pounding up the hill. Roll on, eighteen wheeler!
Norfolk & Western 1218; Clifton, Va.; August 1987
With Norfolk Southern operating the new version of the steam specials, Steam In the 21st Century, I'm hoping that eventually trips will be run northward out of Manassas. If they are, I will return to my favorite curve and listen for the whistle at the end of the day.

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