Could This Be The Future Of The Sunbury Line?


Since the takeover of the south end of the Delaware & Hudson by Norfolk Southern lots of changes have been taking place…. Forget, if you will, about the red corporate raider known as Canadian Pacific for now and focus on some of the positive things.

Since September 19th, 2015 we’ve seen new freight patterns, lots of track work and some promises of hope that the Sunbury Line (and the D&H) will finally be realized as the strategic rail freight corridor that it’s always been.

With the (not complete) loss of coal and slowing down of crude and fracking, NS, like all of the North American Class 1s is banking on intermodal to make up for lost revenues and carry it into the future. And with the widening of the Panama Canal and the attractiveness of eastern seaports, unit intermodal trains should be on the rise.

It’s no secret that service on the D&H under CP deteriorated to sickening lows as many through freights and customers were mothballed in the name of efficiency. And while I’m just speculating, I can’t help but to think (or at least hope) that the site of the containers shown below are a sign of bigger and better things to come.

I heard a rumor that preparations were under way at Taylor Yard to make way for a large presence of J.B. Hunt there. Makes sense since the Sunbury is now officially part of NS’s Crescent Corridor. And whether or not there’s any truth to this rumor, to be clear, intermodal of one kind or another has run across the line since the Conrail split of 1999. And while I can’t say that they’ve ‘NEVER’ made an appearance in Northeast Pa. before now, these are the first times that I’ve ever seen containers by Evergreen, HUB Group, Hanjin & Hyundai traversing the line.

Norfolk Southern has said in no uncertain terms that it’s going after the intermodal market and the New England freight market in some very big ways. So, if (theoretically) these appearances of the fourth, nineth and seventeenth top Asian shipping companies (Evergreen, Hanjin & Hyundai) and one of the largest American container shipping companies (HUB Group) is a portent of things to come, then there should be a lot interesting days ahead in 2016.

NS-37T-12-11-2015 (31)

NS-Train-36T-2-23-2016 (57)

NS-Train-36T-2-23-2016 (64)

NS-W6T-12-6-2015 (15)

The future of the Norfolk Southern Sunbury Line

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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.

8 Responses to “Could This Be The Future Of The Sunbury Line?”

  1. Andrew Zehner
    March 1, 2016 at 11:27 pm #

    I know on the road end of it there are road improvements coming around the Taylor intermodal yard. When Lackawanna County (PennDot road but county owns bridge) replaced the bridge over the R&N a few years ago the design took so long so they could make the new bridge wider for future expansion under it. When the bridge was complete the temporary bypass that was built while the bridge was out was retained just fenced off for now. There are plans for a new entrance to the yard from Oak Street under the bridge instead of using the dirt road off of Main Ave. Also other plans for improvements to turning radius for trucks in the area.

    • Railfan AC
      March 2, 2016 at 12:29 am #

      Thanks for the comeback…. I didn’t know any of that!

  2. Chuck
    March 20, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

    Thanks for the good read. On our end of things in Pan Am land, I know there is talk of adding a north/south train from Mechanicville or Ayer, MA to Atlanta, GA. Also, NS just landed a big deal with international container traffic that was previously held with CSX, so this may be contributing.

    Taylor is part of a plan to increase NS intermodal in the region. CSX services the region via Kearny/Bergens which is almost a 200 mile dray…. large places like P&G in Tunk and a few others use a lot of intermodal so this will be a boon for them.

    • Railfan AC
      March 21, 2016 at 10:34 pm #

      Thanks Chuck for that info…. It all makes sense and the Ayer to Atlanta part is something that I’ve been saying should be done for a while now.

      I also think that a New Orleans to New England unit intermodal and/or mixed freight/intermodal train should be in the works. That would give NS a haul of well over 1,000 miles.

      I’ve got an article coming up that talks more about what I’d like to see rolling across the Sunbury Line. In the meanwhile, keep us up to date on what’s happening up there in Pan Am land.

  3. Gretna Bear
    March 25, 2016 at 11:35 pm #

    Where is there a double track from the Buttonwood Yard in South Wilkes-Barre to Nescopeck? I live across the river from Honey Pot, hear ever N&S that passes, and sometimes a south bound is followed by a north bound or vice versa in a time frame requiring a double track in that section.

    taken from

    “The Pennsylvania Railroad’s Wilkes-Barre Branch was a mixture of double and single track extending from Sunbury to Wilkes-Barre, Penna. The double track extended from Nescopeck, where at one time, a branch drew off a lot of coal taffic destined for Philadelphia, to Buttonwood Yard in South Wilkes-Barre.

    By the early 1950’s traffic, while about as great in absolute terms was concentrated in fewer and longer trains, and the Nescopeck Brach to Reading and Philly about to be abandoned. The PRR removed the second track between Nescopeck and HUNLOCK Tower, about five miles south of Buttonwood., but kept about two miles north of Nescopeck as a long siding.

    Traditional “double track” operating rules called for each track to be used in one direction only; movements “against the current” were allowed only when authorized by written order. The situation in this case was further complicated by the existence of a modest sized yard, known by the romantic name of Honey Pot, about two miles north of HUNLOCK.

    So the Pennsy designated the second track, which was not subject to interference from yard swtchers working Honey Pot, as a running track, upon which through moves could pass. As activity at Honey Pot further dwindled, meets between the longer trains could be made using “the runner”.”

    • Railfan AC
      March 27, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

      There are at least (3) sidings south of Mile Marker 692 (a.k.a. Buttonwood). Banks, Nescopeck and Hanover….

      Banks (at 6,400 ft.) is the furthest away which is near the Mile Marker 750 (almost in Sunbury).

      Nescopeck technically has (2); a 7,800 ft. passing siding at the 714-716 Mile Marker and a much shorter, unsignaled (couple of hundred feet tops) siding a few hundred feet down from that which is typically used by the K81 crew for running around their train. This track is known as the Nescopeck runaround track.

      The siding you’re referring to is most likely the siding @ Hanover, just south of Broadway Street in Nanticoke (Mile Marker 697-699). It’s less than 10 miles from where you’re located and the only siding on the Sunbury Line that can handle the massive 10,000+ foot 11Rs that come down out of Binghamton, NY…. I hope this helps.

      • Gretna Bear
        March 29, 2016 at 1:52 am #

        Thanks, yes this ‘the siding @ Hanover, just south of Broadway Street in Nanticoke (Mile Marker 697-699)’ and is known locally as Honey Pot, the former modest sized yard, and across from where I live on Tilbury Terrace, in W. Nanticoke. I confirmed this using BING Maps ‘Birds eye’ view.

        • Railfan AC
          March 29, 2016 at 4:05 am #

          No problem…. I’m Sorry I had to remove your link…. It was knocking the page layout out of whack!

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