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NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/20/24 9:55 p.m.

That 2.6% grade above Gordon really had the old RDCs sweating. I was honestly a little worried, since the RDCs are a bit tired, RDCs aren't exactly overpowered even when new, and last year the R&N had been concerned about taking the RDCs north of Tremont due to that grade and their inability to handle it.

We also passed the absolutely massive, shuttered, Mt. Carmel Mine. Seriously, photos do not convey how mammoth this place was and I really wanted to stop and get out here and walk to the edge.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/20/24 10:04 p.m.

We then arrived at Locust Gap, where we made a stop for a photo runby. According to our trip organizer, it has been several decades since a passenger train has passed through Locust Gap, although freight trains pass through regularly (QAMC Tamaqua-Mount Carmel aka "The Mountain Job"). Once upon a time, there was regular Shamokin-Philadelphia passenger service, namely the King Coal, which did run over this line, but that made it's last run in 1963. I know, before gaining access to Jim Thorpe, Andy Muller had once planned to regularly run steam to Mt. Carmel or Locust Summit, but that never materialized. The #2102 or #425 would really put on a show over this line, but it would likely need some infrastructure improvements to handle them, and Jim Thorpe and Pittston seem to be the major focus these days.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/20/24 10:04 p.m.

We then arrived at Locust Gap, where we made a stop for a photo runby. According to our trip organizer, it has been several decades since a passenger train has passed through Locust Gap, although freight trains pass through regularly (QAMC Tamaqua-Mount Carmel aka "The Mountain Job"). Once upon a time, there was regular Shamokin-Philadelphia passenger service, namely the King Coal, which did run over this line, but that made it's last run in 1963. I know, before gaining access to Jim Thorpe, Andy Muller had once planned to regularly run steam to Mt. Carmel or Locust Summit, but that never materialized. The #2102 or #425 would really put on a show over this line, but it would likely need some infrastructure improvements to handle them, and Jim Thorpe and Pittston seem to be the major focus these days.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/20/24 10:05 p.m.

I do not know what this town was off in the distance (Kulpmont, maybe) but this was a neat shot as we continued climbing west of Locust Gap.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/20/24 10:13 p.m.

We got our last photo runby on our westward march at Mt. Carmel Junction, which is not within Mt. Carmel. There are a couple companies up there that are customers, including a blasting explosives manufacturer, a plastic container manufacturer and a paper plant. We would continue farther west to CP NORA (No clue why that control point is named NORA) where the R&N interchanges with North Shore's Shamokin Valley Railroad. We were not allowed to get off there due to poor ground conditions from recent rain, so we simply ran up that far and then returned east. I know that in the past, Andy Muller has tried to wrest that trackage away from Shamokin Valley, saying that SEDA-COG, who owns the trackage, never allowed him to bid on operating it. He went to court a couple times to try and gain the trackage, or at least bid on it, but ultimately was not succesful. Again, with access to Pittston and Jim Thorpe, the bid for this line seems to have fallen by the wayside.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/20/24 10:20 p.m.

While passing back through Locust Gap, we passed over one crossing that had a bad combination of a dip in the rails and a buildup of asphalt. There was a loud screech and bang, and the train came to a stop and over the radio, I heard a conductor say "I'm on the ground." So, those of us who heard it thought they meant that we'd derailed and there was a bit of a panic moment. Turns out the conductor was saying he was on the ground to investigate, and it turned out that the door on the HEP generator, which hangs pretty low under an RDC, had caught and bent. They ended up "repairing" it so we could get underway.

The "repairs".

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/20/24 10:23 p.m.

We then stopped at the north portal of Buck Mountain Tunnel and got off for a static photo shoot. There simply wasn't enough room to do a runby, so they parked it at the tunnel portal and let us take photos.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/20/24 10:28 p.m.

I also noticed this cool logo on the side of the #9168, which was missing from the other two.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/20/24 10:35 p.m.

After that, we jetted back to Port Clinton, with no further stops, and then disembarked.

I did ask an R&N employee about the status of the other three RDCs that they've acquired. From how it sounds, one of them will be used as a parts source, since it's already in fairly poor shape, while the other two will be put back in service. One of the two is quite close to being operational again, just waiting on some parts for the brakes, and then the other will need some basic maintenance before going into service as well.

When asked what the two new RDCs will be used for, it sounds like they will be assigned to the yet-unannounced Nesquehoning-Jim Thorpe shuttle service. Jim Thorpe parking is at a premium and traffic is a nightmare, so R&N's hope is that they can use Nesquehoning campus to supply parking, and then shuttle people the 5 miles down into Jim Thorpe. It was mentioned that the idea is, free parking and then $10 for a shuttle ride, or for slightly more, you can get a shuttle ride and a Lehigh Gorge Scenic ticket.

VolvoHeretic
VolvoHeretic GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
4/22/24 8:08 a.m.
VolvoHeretic
VolvoHeretic GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
4/22/24 8:28 a.m.

And I guess because I was looking up 'old trains' on the internet my news feeds have these cool videos now.

 

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/23/24 8:04 a.m.

Nick, have you ever seen tie spacing this wide? The post stated it was on the L&N circa 1900. 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/23/24 8:09 a.m.

In reply to Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) :

Huh. That's really weird. My first thought was that there were ties in between and they had ballasted over them, but the spacing appears too uniform and I can't even the ends of ties outside the rails in between. Also, the spacing is too uniform. And why does a bridge have ballast anyways? With that distant of spacing, I'm guess it was light trains only and moving very slowly.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/23/24 8:32 a.m.

So, Sunday morning, I headed up to Tamaqua to chase QASD (Tamaqua-Shenandoah), which would be traversing a lot of the same line as the trip before. While Shenandoah is included in the symbol name, it actually rarely goes up to Shenadoah. That's a dead-ended bit of track that was a Reading Co. mine run, and the R&N mostly just shoves hopper cars up there to store them. Most of the time it works the coal mines at Gilberton and sometimes goes up as far as Girardville.

This was looking down into the north end of Tamaqua Yard. The #3059 along with a bunch of other power was sitting in the yard while the #3069 and #3058 were switching the yard. There's a road that goes in along the yard, which is supposedly how you access the Tamaqua sewer plant and the transfer station, but I couldn't tell if it was actually a public road or not and didn't feel like getting busted for trespassing. Some railfans are pretty bold, but I try not to be one of those who just wanders all over private property.

I rode in the #3059 two years ago, when it was working at Lehigh Gorge Scenic and that's a really nice machine. It's one of the SD40-2s that NS rebuilt with one of their proprietary Admiral Cabs, which includes a windshield that slopes towards the inside from the top down to reduce glare; new cab and nose structure with thicker, tougher walls; new floors, new heaters and air conditioning; new, tougher collision posts. It's considerably heavier than a stock cab and nose, 12,500lbs versus the 3,500lbs of an EMD assembly, and it's much quieter and rides smoother.

And the QASD, with 20-ish coal hoppers, begins heading out of Tamaqua Yard.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/23/24 9:17 a.m.

QASD rolling out of Tamaqua past a row of Bradford pears. I jokingly wondered which component of this photo would bother environmentalists more; the diesel locomotives, cars for carrying coal, or the ecological scourge that is Bradford pears.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/23/24 9:22 a.m.

I had hoped to catch them at East Mahanoy Junction, but Tamaqua is a nightmare to get out of, and so I missed them there. I did catch them approaching Mahanoy Tunnel though. This shot was taken from Route 54, over the top of the south portal. All that stuff in the foreground is the old blower housings for the ventilation blowers. I'm honestly surprised that, with the condition some of it is in, the R&N hasn't removed it for safety's sake.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/23/24 9:25 a.m.

Passing over a bridge that reads "Pulling For Mahanoy City" on it's way through Mahanoy City.

I hoped the catch them again farther down the road, but got stock behind a truck that was going well under the speed limit and missed them before they got into Gilberton. I went down to Quality Hill Road and waited and then realized that basically once they are in at Gilberton Coal Company switching cars, you can't get near the facility to catch them, and they spend a long time in there working the mine.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/23/24 10:05 a.m.

Here's where things went kind of sideways. Once QASD stopped at Gilberton Coal Company, I realized that they were going to be there a long time. And there was no way to get any photos without hard trespassing on an active coal mine. Yeah, not going to happen. So, I pulled up the handy online guide for R&N's freight operations and saw that every Sunday, the PSNG goes on duty at 11am. PSNG is Port Clinton-Good Spring and runs over the Mine Hill branch to Good Spring, which I had ridden on last year's Railroad Explorer RDC trip. At this point I realized that I could easily make it from Gilberton to Auburn before 11 and I would be able to catch R&N operations on three different components of the system over three days: the NRFF on the mainline from Reading to Pittston, the QASD and RDC charter over the Mahanoy & Shamokin line, and the PSNG on the Mine Hill Branch.

So, I jetted over to Auburn, to set up where the R&N's active tracks pass under an abandoned bridge for the old PRR Schuykill Valley Branch and waited. I arrived at 10:30am, so plenty before when the PSNG supposedly leaves Port Clinton. And I waited. And waited. And nothing came. A look at the Port Clinton webcam, which only shows the enginehouse and the station, not the yard, showed all the power that had been there the night before still sitting in front of the fuel racks. Hmmm. Finally, at around 12:30, I decided to head up to West Cressona to see if maybe they had gone on duty early and were up there, or maybe they had no cars to grab at Port Clinton and had instead used power from West Cressona. I found two SD40-2s, #3053 and #3068, idling in West Cressona yard but with no one around.

  

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/23/24 10:16 a.m.

At this point it was around 1pm, and I didn't want to leave with just a couple shots of QASD for the day's effort. I was near Port Clinton and the Sunday NRFF would be coming through soon, and since the NRFF doesn't run on Saturday, my hope was that it would have accumulated more carloads and be a bit bigger. Plus, NRFF was heading north to Pittston and I had to go that way anyways to go home.

The train was indeed much healthier in size and included two of the "Fast Freight" SD50-2s (CSX's term for an SD50 downrated to SD40 output) on the lead, the same two SD40-2s from Friday's train, and 46 cars. This is the first time I've gotten the SD50s on the lead of the NRFF. I had chased it two years ago, again on a Friday and again very short, and it had been led by SD40s then. I think part of the issue that time was that they were running #425 from Reading to Jim Thorpe and the SD50s were set aside to act as diesel helpers on that trip. But from my experience so far, don't chase NRFF on Fridays. Seems to always be a very short train.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/23/24 10:22 a.m.

Passing Hawk Mountain Road just north of Molino.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/23/24 12:13 p.m.

Climbing up through East Mahanoy Junction.

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/23/24 12:14 p.m.

Rounding the curve at Tunnel Road in White Haven.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/23/24 12:19 p.m.

Passing under the signal bridge at Mountain Top, PA. After this I headed for home. Not the day I had planned but it came out okay. 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/23/24 12:51 p.m.

I am curious where the next Railroad Explorer charter trip will go next year. Last year they did from Port Clinton to Pottsville, Minersville, and Tremont. This year they did Port Clinton to Mt. Carmel Junction. Ignoring the mainline, that really only leaves the line from Haucks south to Delano and Morea and north to Oneida Junction and then west to West Hazelton and east Hazelton, and the line from Pittston to Mehoopany. The old Hamburg-Temple line, the original Blue Mountain & Reading is out of service north of Leesport and is mostly used for car storage. And the weird disconnected bit from Towanda to Monroeton (the Monroeton Shippers Lifeline) is only accessible by using NS trackage, and I'm pretty sure NS wouldn't allow a passenger excursion over that, but that's irrelvant because that line was severely damaged by flooding in 2011 and has been out of service ever since, on account of lack of customers.  

NickD
NickD MegaDork
4/23/24 1:04 p.m.

Marc Glucksman did get a group photo of us during the first runby. That's me sitting down in the right front in the gold and gray hat with the gray flannel shirts. I swear, the old woman is not sitting on my lap.

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