Sunday Train Summary #6: Heritage And Color Abound

Conrail Heritage Unit #8098 cruises downgrade and underneath Lackawanna Avenue in Scranton, Pa. @ 10:30 a.m. on-the-dot on November 19, 2015.

NS-Train-W6T-11-19-2015 (10)

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2 Heritage Units in 2 days!… Conrail and Illinois Terminal roll through Scranton!…

Although Heritage Units aren’t foreign to Northeastern Pa., they’re not a common sight either. Celebrity locomotives that I know have come down the line are the Pennsylvania, the Savannah & Atlanta, the Virginian, the Lackawanna, the Central of Georgia and I’ve been told the New York Central. But this week we got not just 1 but 2 Heritage Units…. Back-to-back Thursday and Friday!

The Conrail #8098 brightened up an otherwise gloomy Thursday when it came down the line with Train W6T (a 36T Extra) enroute to Allentown, Pa.. At Allentown, the 2-unit consist (with the second unit, SD60E #6966 now leading, took Train 35Q to Spencer Yard in Linwood, NC.

The next day, Illinois Terminal #1072 led the northbound assault through and out of town with Train 14R to Binghamton, NY where it remained well into Saturday. 14R will eventually terminate in East Deerfield, Ma….

And just in case you didn’t catch the #1072 this time around, don’t worry, nobody did…. It came through town @ around 6:45 p.m. in the black of evening!… But be mindful, locomotives on 14R usually make their way back down to Enola within 5 days of coming up so be on the lookout for the lime green celebrity on the next 11R and hope that it too, doesn’t come through in darkness!


Taken from the SUSQUEHANNOCK newsletter of the Central Pa. Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (November 2015)

Shamokin Dam Power Plant Conversion….

Panda Power Funds has financed the 1,124 megawatt Panda “Hummel Station” power plant – one of the largest coal-to-natural gas power conversion projects in the United States. The plant will be located at the site of the retired Sunbury coal-fired power plant near Shamokin Dam in Snyder County, Pennsylvania. The 400 MW, 65-year-old plant was shuttered in 2014 in response to low natural gas prices and the onset of strict environmental regulations promulgated by the Obama Administration.

The Panda Hummel generating station will be fueled with Marcellus Shale gas, which is expected to provide the project with a significant operating cost advantage. The plant is expected to supply large power markets, including Philadelphia and the New York metropolitan area, when it enters commercial operations in the first quarter of 2018.

Goldman Sachs, ICBC and Investec acted as joint lead arrangers for the senior debt financing of the plant, raising Term Loan A and Term Loan B debt capital totaling $710 million. The Term Loan B debt received an initial credit rating of BB- and a “1” recovery rating by Standard & Poor’s. The Panda Hummel transaction marks the seventh financing of a new, large-scale power facility by Panda Power Funds in three-and-a-half years, representing approximately $6 billion in total combined capital. The Fund is supplying equity for the project along with large institutional co-investors including Siemens Financial Services which is investing $125 million in the Hummel Station plant.

“The natural gas revolution has arrived in the heart of coal country,” said Todd W. Carter, president and senior partner of Panda Power Funds. “I’m proud Panda is leading the way toward clean natural gas-fueled generation. We’re ready to take what we’ve learned in Pennsylvania and apply it to other coal-fired projects across the nation.”

Job Creation and Economic Benefits….

Panda’s Hummel generating station is expected to bring significant benefits to the region during construction and the life of the facility. Approximately 900 jobs will be created to construct the power plant over a two-and-a-half-year period. The generating station will create approximately 35 direct, long-term jobs to run the facility and an estimated 52 indirect jobs within the community to support the plant. By serving as the anchor tenant in the 192-acre Sunbury Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone (KOEZ), Hummel Station should also support additional investment at the site of the retired coal plant. The power facility will also help support a long-term market for Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale gas producers and royalty owners.

Environmental Benefits….

The state-of-the-art Hummel Station generating facility will utilize the latest, most advanced emission-control technology – making it one of the cleanest natural gas-fueled power plants in the nation. While the new power station will supply 180 percent more power than the coal plant it replaces, SO2 and NOx emissions will be reduced by more than 90 percent. The Panda Hummel generating station will also help preserve Pennsylvania’s fresh water resources by using 97 percent less water for cooling purposes than the retired coal-fired Sunbury plant.


Panda Power Funds selected a construction consortium of Siemens Energy Inc. and Bechtel Power Corp. to build the Hummel facility on a turn-key basis. Siemens will provide the power island package including the natural gas turbines, steam turbine, generators, heat recovery steam generators, and instrumentation and controls systems. The turbines for the Hummel generating station will be manufactured at Siemens’ manufacturing facility in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Bechtel will be responsible for the engineering and procurement for the balance of the plant, and the installation, construction and commissioning of the facility.

The Panda Hummel Station power plant will access natural gas through the MARC 1 and Transcontinental regional gas pipelines. Hummel Station will benefit from its close proximity to the Susquehanna-Roseland Electric Reliability Transmission Project, a recently completed 146-mile, 500kV electric transmission line that was one of seven nationwide projects fast-tracked by the Obama Administration’s Rapid Response Team for Transmission.

The generating station will be located on the west bank of the Susquehanna River in Shamokin Dam Borough on the site of, and immediately adjacent to, the retired Sunbury coal plant. The Panda Hummel power plant will utilize existing infrastructure at the site for the electrical interconnection, water intake and storm water runoff systems. Construction will take approximately 30 months.

Panda Power Funds has two generating stations currently under construction in Bradford and Lycoming counties. The 829 megawatt “Liberty” power plant, located in Towanda, Pennsylvania, is expected to enter commercial operations in the first quarter of 2016. The 829 megawatt “Patriot” power plant, located near Montgomery, Pennsylvania, is expected to enter commercial operations in the second quarter of 2016. The Panda Liberty and Panda Patriot power plants were the first two power projects specifically developed to take advantage of their proximity to the Marcellus Shale gas formation. (Panda Power News Release October 30, 2015)

(Editor’s Note): This project will result in the movement of many large over-dimensional loads of power plant equipment coming to Shamokin Dam by rail one last time via the Selinsgrove Industrial. With the closure of the power plant, no rail traffic is going to the plant any longer. There could be anywhere from 18 to 36 large loads moving to the plant including (3) steam turbines that would move on a Schnabel car if the Susquehanna River Bridge can support and clear that size load from Selinsgrove Junction across the river move to the wye to access Shamokin Dam. These items will likely move a year or so from now. Stay tuned to what will be significant rail activity on the S&L one last time as these loads move in. Once the plant is built, rail service will not be required for the natural gas plant. (Mark Eyer)

PORTAGEVILLE, NY Norfolk Southern, the New York Department of Transportation, and a consortium of state agencies and historic preservation organizations broke ground 10/29 on a new $70 million steel arch railroad bridge in Letchworth State Park, according to a NS news release.

The new single-track bridge is expected to be 900-feet long and be located 75 feet south of the current historic iron-and-steel truss bridge spanning the Genesee River gorge. The railroad will also install 1,200 feet of new track on either side of the gorge to align existing tracks with the new bridge. “This successful public-private partnership underscrores the strong confidence we all have in the ongoing potential of the Southern Tier,” says Norfolk Southern CEO James A. Squires. “Norfolk Southern has a robust bridge program, and the new Portageville Bridge will be a testament to today’s railroaders.”

Once finished, the new bridge will help businesses in Buffalo and the Southern Tier regions. Among the New York-based entities to benefit from the new bridge will be 10 short line railroads that serve local businesses and interchange with Norfolk Southern in the area. Among these are the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville family of railroads spread between small towns south of Rochester, NY and Meadville, Pa..

The budget for the bridge project includes $3 million in design costs and $2.5 million in construction costs from the NY Department of Transportation; a $2 million grant from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council; and a $10 million grant from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. Norfolk Southern will contribute the balance.

The original iron-truss bridge was built in 1875 for the Erie Railroad. The current condition of the bridge can no longer efficiently handle modern-day freight rail transportation. Trains must slow down to 10 mph and freight car weights have been restricted for more than a decade. The current bridge will remain open during the construction of the new arch bridge and will then be dismantled. (Trainsnewswire)

Buffalo Line Update by Mark Eyer: Local rail activity between Northumberland and Lock Haven on the NS Buffalo Line is at historical lows. Perhaps the slowest this portion of the line has even been. Following the track outage on the NBER in September for the reconstruction of track in Tyrone, NS has left trains 10A & 11A on a routing via the Pittsburgh Line to Rockville and north to Northumberland. The trains to Strawberry Ridge did return to the NBER, but the amount of trains coming to the ex PPL plant now owned by Talen Energy are shockingly low for October.

Trains arrived at the plant on 10/20, 10/26, 10/30 and 11/4. Right now, just 2 train sets are in rotation for the Ridge. In years past, 6 trains a week were common. This is very telling as alternative sources of power are being utilized at this time of year with low demand for electricity due to the need for limited heat, and no air conditioning. Couple this with the move of the 10A & 11A to a Harrisburg routing and there are many days when no trains have moved on the Buffalo Line between CP Muncy and CP Linden.

The LVRR uses the line daily below Muncy and 3 times a week from Linden to Lock Haven. 2 coal trains off the RJ Corman did operate recently, a 632 on 10/23 & 10/29. The beginning of a long term contract for limestone from Bellefonte on the NBER to the Homer City Power Plant on the B&P has begun in November. 4 train sets will be used for these stone moves in groups of cars. The stone will move via the NBER to Lock Haven, NS from Lock Haven to Driftwood, and the B&P from Driftwood to Homer City, Pa.

This is new traffic that the NBER secured that will operate year round and not be seasonal stone and will be significant. Congratulations to the North Shore Railroad Group and the Nittany & Bald Eagle Railroad for getting this new contract.

The extension of the PTC deadline by Congress will certainly bode well for the continued life of the ex PRR position lights on the Buffalo Line a little longer as NS works through the mainline tracks to be PTC compliant across its system long before addressing any needs on the Buffalo Line.

 The entire NS SD60E locomotive class is PTC (Positive Train Control) ready.

Released in early May 2015 from the Juniata Shops, I’ve chosen to spotlight the NS #7002 for several reasons…. First, the entire SD60E locomotive class is PTC (Positive Train Control) ready and  may be the only locomotive class that is at this time. Second, this unit (which was rebuilt from standard cab SD60 #6588) was the last SD60E unit right before the “almost” #7003 which was in the process of being rebuilt when it was selected to become NS 911, the “Honoring First Responders” unit.

NS SD60E 9-1-1 was almost rebuilt as #7003 before it was given the honor of becoming the “Honoring First Responders” unit.

Does less equal more?…

Maybe it does in railroading…. I know that there’s a lot of speculation going on here, but over the last 2 weeks there have been very few trains running the Sunbury during daylight…. At first glance that might seem like an omen of railfan doom, but I believe that the lack of trains in daylight may be due to all of the track welding and other work taking place along the line during the day. If I’m right about this then this is actually good news for us railfans as that means that NS is gearing up for some heavy (high speed?) train action in the weeks and months to come.


On November 4, 2015, a Norfolk Southern welding truck (up from Atlanta) and its crew waits for track to clear @ Taylor Yard to begin a days work.

And speaking of track maintenance….

Track analyzing and welding crews have been busy the last couple of weeks doing maintenance and repairs along the line…. (First photo) On November 4, 2015 track welding gangs, up from Atlanta, were doing maintenance around Taylor Yard.

On November 20 analyzing and track work was being done around the Moosic area by Sperry (Second photo), shown on August 24, 2015, on the north leg of the Steamtown wye 2-weeks before RAILFEST 2015. Sperry, located in Danbury, Ct., provides rail analysis services for the railroad industry.

On August 24, 2015 (2 weeks before RAILFEST 2015), Sperry of Danbury, Ct. gets ready to perform analysis on the tracks at Steamtown.

Maine Central SD40-2 #3403 (an ex-Canadian Pacific) in shiny new paint….

And speaking of Train 11R…. Ever since the takeover, pooled Pan Am Railways has become common on these trains and their 14R counterparts and on November 16, 2015 @ 07:20 a.m., a freshly painted PAR SD40-2 #3403 came down (or should I say “limped” down) sandwiched between two Norfolk Southern blacks.

The train lost power in one of its engines (I believe it was the #8883) leaving the other two units to drag the 70 car train down to Enola. #3403 is one of only five locomotives that have a 4-digit cab number on the PAR which has about 110 locomotives altogether….

But this particular unit is unique not only for its new paint and 4-digit road number, but also for its heritage…. The low mounted headlight, tubing across the top of the long hood and louvers at the end of the long hood are a dead giveaway to the knowledgeable railfan that this SD40-2 began life in the red paint of the Canadian Pacific…. And incidentally, if the train had shown up just 1 minute sooner, I could’ve avoided the shadows over the locomotive trucks.

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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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