Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reading Heritage in Pennsylvania

Norfolk Southern; Hershey, Pa.; February 22, 2014
Saturday, February 22, had a forecast of bright and sunny, and with a handful of Norfolk Southern's heritage units roaming eastern Pennsylvania, I headed into the Keystone State in search of some colorful diesels. The website for monitoring these locomotives, heritage units.com, showed nothing specific happening, but the odds were good that something would break loose at some point. I was driving for a rendezvous with my brother Bruce and Mike Burkhart in Harrisburg when Mike called. The Reading heritage unit had made an unexpected appearance on a westbound freight (after conflicting reports on its location the previous day). With this info, the three of us converged on Hershey, Pa., where the tracks head southward, allowing good light on a westbound train in the morning. As an added bonus, we'd be shooting the Reading unit on former Reading Company trackage.

I got to Hershey first and found the Norfolk Southern local switching the yard that serves the famous chocolate plant (at least what's left of it -- many of the Hershey factory buildings have been recently demolished). NS GP38-2 No. 5659 was doing the work in the yard.
Norfolk Southern; Hershey, Pa.; February 22, 2014
A number of freight passed through Hershey before the arrival of train 19G with the Reading unit. While the light favored westbounds, eastbound trains also looked good passing through the wreckage of some of the Hershey plant. As the morning wore on, the crowd in Hershey kept growing and growing as train time for 19G neared.
Norfolk Southern; Hershey, Pa.; February 22, 2014
Finally 19G showed up with SD70ACe No. 1067 in Reading colors on the point. The train had to make a setoff in the Hershey yard.
Norfolk Southern; Hershey, Pa.; February 22, 2014
As the train was being put back together to go west, we relocated to a former Reading station on the west side of Hershey. We might as well get some of the old Reading with the new Reading!
Norfolk Southern; Hershey, Pa.; February 22, 2014
As the train approached Rutherford yard it hit some traffic that delayed it. We knew it would have to stop on the fuel pad in Harrisburg for a crew change and fuel, so we set up in Harrisburg just east of the fuel pad. Our train was badly delayed, but we did get an intermodal train heading west out of Rutherford.
Norfolk Southern; Harrisburg, Pa.; February 22, 2014
Meanwhile, just to our right in the above shot, an oil train started heading west with the NS Central of Georgia heritage unit as the second locomotive. And just to our backs from the same bridge, Amtrak's eastbound Pennsylvanian was stopping in the Harrisburg station.
Amtrak; Harrisburg, Pa.; February 22, 2014
With our Reading unit still stuck in traffic, we relocated onto Amtrak's Harrisburg-Philadelphia line and got the eastbound Pennsylvanian again. Both of the Pennsylvanians this day would have somewhat rare B32-8 locomotives leading, with eastbound No. 513 sporting the attractive Northeast Direct paint scheme.
Amtrak; Harrisburg, Pa.; February 22, 2014
Our train still hadn't made it to the fuel pad, so we worked our way west now following the former Pennsylvania Railroad main line knowing the westbound Pennsylvanian would soon be in the picture. As we headed west on Route 15, we caught up to the rear of the oil train with the Central of Georgia unit. We thought we would overtake it, but it accelerated and left us behind poking along in traffic. This meant it was time for lunch and to regroup so we grabbed some subs at the Sheetz in Cove, then headed west to Newport to enjoy our lunch trackside. At Duncannon we passed the oil train stopped, and noticed a lot of other stopped trains. System-wide, Norfolk Southern's dispatching center had shut down and just about every NS train in the country was at a standstill. The outage lasted about 90 minutes, and when trains started rolling again, the first one we saw at Newport was the westbound Pennsylvanian.
Amtrak; Newport, Pa.; February 22, 2014
Our train still hadn't made the fuel pad in Harrisburg, so we busied ourselves shooting trains with old Pennsylvania Railroad signals (which are being replaced) around Newport. Our westbound Pennsylvanian shot featured the train splitting a pair of signals (above) on the east side of Newport, and it was shortly followed by the delayed oil train with the Central of Georgia heritage unit.
Norfolk Southern; Newport, Pa.; February 22, 2014
We then relocated to the west side of Newport where we got an eastbound train under the ex-Pennsy signal bridge.
Norfolk Southern; Newport, Pa.; February 22, 2014
Finally the train with the Reading unit made the fuel pad, had gassed up and was heading west. The timing was actually pretty good, as it would allow for a night photo passing the Pennsy signals at Port Royal. We headed there and set up our strobes, and it wasn't long before the train went by.
Norfolk Southern; Port Royal, Pa.; February 22, 2014
Norfolk Southern; Port Royal, Pa.
We ended our chase here. In all, we had followed the Reading unit for about 55 miles from Hershey to Port Royal, and it took the train eight hours to cover that distance (and 40 of those 55 miles were done in the last hour, between leaving the fuel pad and getting to Port Royal). It wasn't exactly a high speed chase.

The night was still somewhat young, so we decided to try for an eastbound train at Port Royal passing the Pennsy signals. We relocated to the overpass and were rewarded with several trains. It was a busy evening on the former Pennsylvania Railroad main line and a great way to end a great day.

You can find more photos from the day here.

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