Sunday Train Summary #2: Stacks, Racks, Looking Back And Lots Of Foreign Power

I know it’s a little late to be talking about September but since this is only the second volume of this commentary (and the last volume focused mainly on the changing of the D&H over to the NS) I still think it’s worth mentioning that September was a heck of a month for railfans here in northeastern Pa.. Two of the biggest topics in railroading took place in our local area.

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RAILFEST 2015 @ Steamtown happened over the Labor Day weekend and brought out one of the most celebrated and interesting motive power and equipment displays seen in the area in a long time. There was an authentic Erie-Lackawanna (albeit dirty) caboose. Norfolk Southern’s super flashy First Responder’s Unit #911 made an equally flashy appearance. Amtrak brought out 2 of its star performers; the #642 Siemens ACS-64 electric locomotive and the #406 Phase III F40PH Heritage Unit. And even Canadian Pacific got into the spirit of the festivity with their new GP20C-ECO #2279.

Steamtown featured the 664A, 664B and 663 3-unit set painted in the stunning Delaware, Lackawanna & Western maroon & grey and an operating Lackawanna end-cab switcher built in 1935!… And that’s just the beginning….

You can’t even begin to talk about Railfest without the mention of this year’s Queen of the stage. NKP 2-8-4 Berkshire #765…. After years of trying the folks @ Steamtown finally got the big Berk to make an appearance in Northeast Pa.. As a warm up the #765 was escorted down the Sunbury Sub by Lackawanna Heritage Unit #1074 and ran several excursion trips between Allentown and Pittston over the Reading & Northern but unfortunately every silver lining has its cloud and despite its red and rosy appearance, this year it was the Canadian Pacific….

NKP 765 Steam Trips From Scranton Canceled Due To CPRS Insurance Issues….

The two mid-September steam excursions for the locomotive restoration at Steamtown did not run. The trips, scheduled for Sept. 12 & 13, would have run between Scranton and Tunkhannock Viaduct near Nicholson and benefited the restoration of the Boston & Maine 4-6-2 #3713 at Steamtown.

The trips were to be pulled by the #765 but that didn’t happen. The locomotive did pull the excursions over the Labor Day weekend from Steamtown to East Stroudsburg.

The loss of the Viaduct excursion was a major disappointment to the local groups, railfans and even the general public as these trips were timed to coincide with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of famed Lackawanna Nicholson Viaduct which was held on Saturday the 10th. The event went on “almost” as planned-that is, minus the mainline steam excursion, of course.

A statement was issued by the Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (L&WV NRHS) calling out the host railroad Canadian Pacific for imposing “insurmountable insurance obstacles” on the group and the trips.

“CP is responsible to our shareholders and our customers, and so we must safeguard our operation. Our liability insurance ask of excursion operators is consistent with that of other railroads and reflects legal settlements from passenger train incidents in recent years, “spokesman Jeremy Berry told Trains News Wire. “While we are willing to run these types of trips; we simply must safeguard our operation as we do this. “

“The cancellation is because the closing date for the purchase of this line by NS got pushed back a few months. The L&WV NRHS Chapter had anticipated that these trains would run as part of Norfolk Southern’s 21st Century Steam Program,” Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society Operations Manager Rich Melvin says. “However, since the closing date for the sale of this line from CP to NS got moved back several months, the deal was not closed in time to do this. The chapter will be issuing refunds to all ticket holders.”

Rumor has it that tickets to the East Stroudsburg excursion were offered in exchange to those who purchased reservations on the Viaduct excursions and from what I’m told most were enthusiastically accepted.



Of course, the biggest news, in conjunction with that of the #765, was the takeover of the Sunbury Subdivision by Norfolk Southern. As I write this commentary it’s been 3 weeks since the Norfolk Southern took over operations on the line and changes were immediate.

In the last volume I mentioned the new train symbols. Trains K81 and K82 are daily turns that run day and night and a breath of fresh air but the K82 is gonna’ be a tough train to catch in daylight during the winter months as its crew typically operates from about 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. (yep, in total darkness).

The New Kids On The Block….

What I like most about these shuttles is the fact that they run behind a pair of 6-axle EMD SD40-2s. These are the power units that replaced the Canadian Pacific Geeps that for more than twenty years provided local service on trains like the D-11, D-12 and D-14.

The first 40s on the property were the #3475 and #3480. Not long after, the #3475 had mechanical problems and was replaced with the #3476 which has been the mainstay at Taylor along with #3480 ever since.

But for every up there’s a down, and the down is that some of the customers on the line can’t accommodate the 6-axle EMDs requiring the NS to take additional “bumper cars” on local freights to act as “spacers” when shoving freight cars into the customer leads.

Extra Freight Manifests On The Sunbury Crescent….

In addition to the new freight symbols there’s also been a few Extras…. Literally! With the changeover of the line also came Extra freight symbols like:

M1R (11R extra)

W6T (36T extra)

W0T (30T extra)

A Caravan Of Containers…

With the loss of the Canadian Pacific Trains 258 and 259 it’s only logical that NS would take up the slack…. Now trains 36T, 37T and even 30T and 11R have been seen with the container traffic that used to run on the CP trains. The 36T and 37T were obvious candidates, but seeing that traffic on 30T and 11R who’s destination is Enola is strange indeed. We’ll just have to stay tuned to see how the whole thing plays out.

The Foreign Power Invasion Continues….

Union Pacific power is becoming so common that it’s almost not exciting to look at anymore…. I said ALMOST!  UP loco after loco has been showing up including a solid Union Pacific lash up on Train 37T that came through town on September 23rd.

Whether it’s horsepower hours owed to NS or power on lease, the Armour Yellow diesels are becoming as common as the resident black Thoroughbreds….

And with Union Pacific showing up in force on the east coast it should come as no surprise that one of its western neighbors would get a taste of Yankee spirit. On September 30 Train 31T came up with 2 surprises in the form of Savage, Bingham & Garfield GP9s. The rebuilt westerners hail from the Salt Lake City, Utah area where they mingle with the Union Pacific.

Don’t know what these 2 antiques were doing so far away from home or where they were going, but it was a rare treat to see them in the area.

And speaking of foreign power, now that CP is officially an outsider, you’d expect that they’d want to keep a low-to-no profile in the area. But apparently that’s not the case. There have been more CP Red diesels roaming through NEPA after the changeover of the line than we had when they owned the tracks!…

On September 23 alone trains 36T and 37T had (4) CP GEVOS between the two of them. You didn’t see that when CP was running through the area. To see more of the CP run-through power that I caught CLICK HERE.

And that’s not all…. I always wondered why Pan Am Railways (nee Guilford – the other D&H rapist) wasn’t prominent in the area. That changed on October 1st when Pan Am Railways SD40-2 (a rebuilt SD45-2) #616 came down with Train 11R. This was the first time I’ve seen Pan Am diesels in the region and the first of 3 times prior to the writing of this commentary that they showed up in NS freights. The other being 11R of October 3rd and 11R of October 10th.

And yes, I should also mention, that the Canadian National is still in the picture too on trains 30T and 31T!

Rack Attack….

As much as I’d like to think that it’s the sign of an improving American economy in reality I think it’s the 2016 model cars heading for the showrooms of America. Whatever the case, there’s been an unusual spike in the amount of auto racks seen on trains coming through the area. What’s more, Trains like 11R and 36T were common carriers of auto racks but lately even trains such as 30T have shown up with the rail-riding parking lots in their consists. And perhaps even more strange, for the first time that I’ve ever seen, a northbound 37T (shown above) had an auto rack (probably empty since it was a Horsehead) in its consist!

Airslides In The Area….

A week ago while railfanning in Binghamton, NY I happened on the New York, Susquehanna & Western in the last minutes of daylight and got to see something I hadn’t seen in well over a decade…. GATX Airslide covered hoppers…. Suffice it to say that I was ecstatic…. So it’s a mighty big coincidence that 11R showed up yesterday with three GACX Airslides in its manifest…. The first time I’ve ever seen them come through the region.

A New Anthracite Mine In Hazleton, Pa.?.

There’s admittedly some speculation going on here, but a reliable source told me that a new anthracite coal mine in Hazleton, Pa. replaced the old one on the NS branch. And while this isn’t exactly “new” or even news, the reason that I mention it is because back in the days of CP Train 259 one or two open hoppers would often show up in the manifests. Usually with the JDSX reporting mark. One day I got a bird’s-eye view of those hoppers and saw that they were filled with coal.

Now, let me say right now that there’s a lot of speculation going on here, but I can’t help but think that maybe those coal loads came from that mine. If anyone has any info on this subject let me know about it in the comments.

Sunday Train Summary is a summary of all my railfan adventures for the week….

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Author:Railfan AC

AC is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, a long haul trucker, a transportation enthusiast and a lifelong lover of trains. AC's mission is to travel America documenting American railroading in the 21st century while educating those who want to know about the importance the railroads play in our daily lives including, but not limited to, the movement of goods, services and more.

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