First Run For Reading & Northern’s ex-NS F-Units

(ABOVE) Reading & Northern’s Office Car Special shimmers in the early morning sunlight of the former Lehigh Valley Coxton Yard in Pittston, PA just minutes before heading north to Taylor and its Keyser Valley (Scranton Branch) track.


The much anticipated first run of the former Norfolk Southern “Fab Four” Electro-Motive F units — F9A No. 270 and F7B No. 275 that were sold to the Reading & Northern happened on July 4, 2020.

The units made their first official run over the Lehigh Division portion of the system from Jim Thorpe, PA to Pittston, PA. The Office Car Special tied down overnight in the former Lehigh Valley Coxton Yard and on Sunday, July 5, it made its way up the ex-Delaware Lackawanna & Western Bloom Line to Taylor and up the ex-DL&W Keyser Valley Back Track. From Taylor, it returned to Pittston and headed back south to Reading.

Under NS, the locomotives wore a version of the former Southern Railway black-and-gray F unit paint scheme, with an image of the railroad’s thoroughbred horse on the nose of each A unit. The cars wore the Norfolk & Western’s classic Tuscan Red paint with gold lettering. The office-car fleet includes a power car to provide head-end-power, so it can be led by a non-equipped freight unit.

(ABOVE) R&N Number 270, in her original NS blackwash and number is shown on the turntable of the Juniata Shops in Altoona, PA on May 10, 2017.

“We’re going to fix them up for our passenger train,” R&N owner and chairman Andrew M. Muller Jr. told the Trains News Wire in 2019. The railroad operates special trains over much of its 350-mile system throughout the year, using freight locomotives and its large collection of passenger cars.

R&N already owns two former Bessemer & Lake Erie F7s that are being restored for service. Muller says that the newly acquired A-B set will be teamed up with one of the ex-B&LE units to form a matched A-B-A lashup. The units retained their NS numbers and interestingly enough, the original Philadelphia & Reading Company rostered a freight F7 carrying the number 270 through the 1950s and 1960s. The new 270 will operate over some of that same trackage.

Disposition of the other two F units, another A-B set, was to the Aberdeen, Carolina & Western. All four Fs had been acquired by NS in 2006 and rebuilt to GP38-2 standards by the railroad’s Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona.. Since then, they were based in Altoona, along with 20-plus office cars.

The Southern Railway, which merged with N&W in 1982 to create NS, was an early convert to diesel power, acquiring the demonstrator set of FT units that ran an 8,700-mile tour around the United States in 1939-1940. That performance widely proved the practicality of diesel-electric power in heavy freight service. Up to that time, it had been confined to lighter-duty passenger and switching service.

Built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors Corp. in 1952, the two A units, Nos. 270 and 271, began life as Baltimore & Ohio F7 locomotives. Rated at 1,800 hp, the A units were previously used by MARC, the Maryland Area Rail Commuter service. The B units, numbered 275 and 276 and rated at 2,000 hp, were built by EMD in 1950 for the Chicago Great Western.

The four were acquired during CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman’s administration, along with three other Fs of Chicago & North Western, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific heritage, which were stored for use as parts sources.

(ABOVE) The three derelict units shown above were used as parts donors for Norfolk Southern’s Tuxedo F-Unit fleet. Note the GSLX reporting mark on the CP unit and the SOU on the other two. All were photographed at the Cresson Steel Company in Cresson, PA on May 10, 2017. The Canadian Pacific B-Unit has since moved to the Stourbridge RR in Honesdale, PA.

When NS acquired the units, it numbered the A units 4270-4271, as the highest-numbered Southern F7 unit was the 4269. The B units were numbered 4275-4276. Within the past year, the digit 4 was dropped from all four when NS’s program to rebuild standard-cab General Electric C40-9 DC-powered units into 4000-series wide-nose AC44C6M AC-powered units started reaching into the 4200 number series.

The A units featured a camera mounted in the windshield, to provide a closed-circuit signal to TV monitors back in the train. They are also equipped with positive train control.

The F units led office-car trains across the 19,500-mile, 22-state NS system, reaching New York, Chicago, and NS’s headquarters city of Atlanta. They regularly made trips to the Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., each April, and to the Kentucky Derby in Louisville each May. During each event, the parked train served as a hospitality suite.

They also pulled “Blue Ribbon Special” employee appreciation trains in 2011. In addition, they represented NS at events and celebrations such as “Norfolk Southern Days” at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and the four-day “Streamliners at Spencer” gathering in 2014 at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, N.C..

First Run For Reading & Northern’s ex-NS F-Units

This article was last updated on July 6, 2020

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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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