Eastern Pennsylvania Trip, May 26-31, 2001

Here we go again with another one of my railfanning vacation adventures. This one was to eastern Pennsylvania, specifically, the Anthracite coal region of the state. I did manage to slip over to New Jersey for half of a day too. Here we go, beginning the morning of Saturday, May 26.

Day 1: Saturday, May 26, 2001

On the Road

No, I don't know where I'm going
But I sure know where I've been...

The day dawned with clouds in northeastern Ohio. After waking up and doing some last minute packing, I headed out on the road. My destination for the day was PicnicRail is Blandon, Pa., which is just northeast of Reading. I took the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Harrisburg, and then cut north to U.S. 422 and followed it and the Conrail Harrisburg Line to Reading. While in Hershey, I stopped long enough to shoot NS train 40T with a pair of Canadian National locomotives for power. Trains 40T and 41T are Buffalo-Allentown trains that usually run with CN power.


The road from Harrisburg to Reading was rather slow, with lots of traffic and stop lights. I made a mental note not to go this way again if I was in a hurry. I finally got to Reading and drove along the north side to Blandon and found the Maier's Grove picnic area where PicnicRail was being held. During most of the event it poured rain. Norfolk Southern provided a little entertainment in the form of two or three trains. After dinner, Railfan and Railroad magazine editor Steve Barry presented a clinic on improving your slide photography, followed by a pair of his multimedia programs: "Ride This Train" and "Keeping the Faith." Steve and I made plans earlier to meet up later in the week for railfanning, depending on his schedule.

Once the event was over, I drove up to Shartlesville and stayed the night at the Dutch Motel. It was one exit west on I-78 of the exit for Port Clinton, the headquarters of the Reading & Northern Railroad, which was my destination the next morning...

Day 2: Sunday, May 27, 2001

Welcome to Port Clinton

I arose that morning, checked out of the motel, and after grabbing a croissant at Burger King, headed to Port Clinton. (As for the origin of the name, I believe there was a canal that once ran through the town. You don't naturally think of too many "ports" in the mountains.) They had two sets of locomotives running and warming up when I arrived--a three-unit set of SD38s, and another single SD38. All were former Grand Trunk Western units, still wearing the red-and-blue colors of their former owner. The three-unit set was assigned to the turn job that ran out to Good Spring to serve a number of customers, including coal breakers. They also had a set of their switchers parked in front of the shop too. The morning was cloudy and overcast, but the sun did peek out a few times long enough to permit some decent pictures to be taken.

I was having some problems hearing the crews' conversation on the scanner. Apparently, my radio frequency information was out of date. By accident, though, I discovered that they were using the same frequency as the Bessemer & Lake Erie which was already programmed in my scanner. I watched the train pull out of the yard. Supposedly they were going to be making a reverse move to pick up some other cars and go. However, I never heard them say that they were leaving. After sitting around the yard for about 10 minutes, I realized that they were gone and I'd better get moving if I wanted to catch them (on roads I didn't know, no less)!

Game on!

I caught the rear end of the train going over the road in Auburn, so I figured I wasn't completely out of luck. I finally caught up to the train in Cressona, where the R&N has a yard. The yard was full of R&N hoppers wearing "Reading & Northern" speed lettering, with a colored panel on one end proudly declaring "Domestic Coal Service." The yard and the main runs along a street through town and it had slowed down enough that I was able to get a few pictures as the train picked its way through the yard. It was still cloudy at this point.

I shot the train again at Beckville, upon where it stopped to set out cars at a concrete fabrication plant. I ran ahead to a little wide spot in the road called Llewellyn to scout out a possible shot. My map showed a road that led down into a valley and crossed the tracks, and, thinking it was scenic, I drove down into it. I found on the way there that the "road" was a road in the loosest sense of the term only, as there were many potholes and mud puddles. Upon arriving there, I didn't like the shot location, as it was too tight, and I drove back out to the main road.

That hissing sound...

I got out to look at the car real quick and see how muddy it had become from the puddles, when I heard a hissing noise coming from my left rear tire. Apparently, a sharp small stone, maybe an inch or two long, had punctured my tire. The stone was still in the tire, and I was about to pull it out, but then thought better of it, as it was helping hold some air in the tire. (Duh!) Suddenly, the train chase became a minor issue, as I had a bigger problem on my hands: finding a way to repair or replace a tire on a Sunday morning before a holiday!

A local suggested I drive to Pottsville and see if I could find a place to get the tire replaced. Since this was a few miles, I pulled out of the trunk and administered to the tire a can of Fix-A-Flat, put some more air in it at a service station, and drove to Pottsville. After driving around the downtown area, my hopes were looking slim. I stopped at another gas station to add air, and a lady, seeing my car's horrific state of uncleanliness, offered the services of a car wash that the Pottsville High School football team was doing that morning. I told her that I had bigger problems at the moment, but if she could tell me where I could get my tire fixed, I'd let them wash the car.

She told me there was a Wal-Mart with a tire shop north of town, so I drove up there. To make a long story short, two hours, fifty four dollars, and one new tire later, I was back in business. And, true to my word, I drove back and let them wash my car.

Back to the chase

At this point, I had doubts that I would ever catch the R&N train again, but I decided to give it a try, and drove to Tremont, the next town west of Llewellyn, where I found the train parked at a grade crossing with no crew aboard. Unbelievable! A quick look around showed there was a restaurant a few hundred yards north of the crossing, and I correctly guessed that was where the crew was. Apparently they had already gone out to Good Spring and were returning to Port Clinton, but still had some work to do on the way.

Their first matter of business was to set out a pair of bathtub gondolas at a loadout on the other side of the crossing. In the process, it began to rain. After doing that, they pumped up their air and headed for Cressona. I shot the train again between Llewellyn and Beckville at Westwood Junction, where the Tremont Branch to Good Spring splits off of the Minersville Branch. By the time the train arrived there, it was raining harder. After that shot, I made a dash for Cressona and the yard.

The rain had stopped by the time I got to Cressona. However, by the time to train arrived, the sky was turning black to the west. While the train was picking up some cars, it began to pour rain, accompanied by thunder and lightning. I wisely made a retreat to my car and drove across the river to Schuykill Haven, where the old Reading station had been restored and was now in use as the town police station. I parked the car and waited for the rain to stop and the train to come. Fortunately, the sun came out by the time the train passed the station. I made chase again, which was a little hairy because the train was now doing 40 MPH. I beat the train to a little hole in the wall called Landingville, where the tracks made a sweeping curve next to a neat old house. With a couple minutes to spare, I shot the train there in good light, and without exerting any effort, I still beat the train back to Port Clinton.


Since the show was over for a while on the Reading & Northern, I headed towards downtown Reading and checked out a few spots on the way. I found CP-LAUREL in Temple, along with the former Blue Mountain & Reading station and some equipment belonging to the Reading Company Technical & Historical Society, including an Alco RS-3, a pair of Baldwin switchers, a few boxcars, a caboose, and a couple commuter coaches and Bluebird MU cars. Going west from Temple and on the other side of PA Route 61 was a nice overhead bridge shot of the Reading & Northern main line passing the Cryovax plant with an abandoned pair of signals that could be worked into a shot.

I drove further into down past CP-BELT and ended up at the Spring Street yard in downtown, just south of the old Reading shops. Everything in that yard looked like it had seen better days. An NS yard crew with a pair of switchers was kicking cars around in the yard. From watching them, they looked like they had graduated magna cum laude from the Jordak Institute of Speed Switching (as I'm known to do sometimes while working as yardmaster on a couple of model layouts I operate on).

About this point, the skies opened up and it poured down rain. Since my plans for Monday were in Scranton, I decided to head up there now and get to bed early. But as I going north on Route 61, I could see blue skies to the southwest. I stopped at CP-BELT and waited for a while. Eventually the skies cleared out and bright sunshine followed. I stayed long enough to shoot an NS local entering the yard and a road train cruise through CP-BELT and around the northwest side of the city on the Belt Line.

I then went over to Temple again, where I caught a westbound hopper train passing the Blue Mountain & Reading station. While exploring the area south of the grade crossing, I ran into another railfan from Phillipsburg, NJ, who was sitting on top of an abandoned coal trestle. There was a nice view from up there for an eastbound train, so I hung out there. Not long after, an eastbound went through with about a dozen locomotives on the point. The second unit was a former Ferromex C30-7 or similar, restenciled FAIX. The red and green locomotive was a nice splash of color in an otherwise blue and black consist.

By now the sun was starting to get low, so we left and headed for our respective destinations--in my case, Scranton, the home of Steamtown. I drove up the Pennsylvania Turnpike Northern Extension to Scranton and checked into the Econo Lodge on Davis Street off of I-81. When I got to the motel, there was nobody behind the front desk, but then a young blonde lady in jeans and a sweatshirt who was the desk clerk came into the lobby and vaulted herself over the desk. Apparently she had left the desk for a minute and locked the door without taking her keys. Oops...

Day 3: Monday, May 28, 2001

Memorial Day

The next morning I had intended to sleep in for an extra hour or so, since the first Steamtown excursion didn't leave until 11:00 AM. Unfortunately, my body, used to getting up at 6:00 AM for work, had other ideas. So I had plenty of time to check out photo spots and other attractions around downtown Scranton and Steamtown itself. The old Central Railroad of New Jersey freight station is still standing next to Lackawanna Avenue, which I thought was pretty neat. Yes, I got a couple shots of it.

Scranton was a major yard and the headquarters of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. I took some pictures around their old shop buildings, which are now used by an Army contractor to make shell casings. (Just casings, no live ammo.) I also shot an ex-Lackawanna tower east of the shops, and some of the equipment in the Steamtown yard. I came to the conclusion that at one time, a large part of the Scranton economy revolved around three initials: D, L, and W.

The sun was shining brightly as I set up for my first shot of the 11:00 AM train along Ridge Row behind the University of Scranton, where I ran into Ron Freitag from the Danbury Railway Museum. Shortly after 11:00 AM, a cloud of smoke could be seen over the trees as Canadian National 2-8-2 #3254 was smoking it up coming up the grade out of town. After getting several shots (and getting rained with cinders), I got on the road to beat the train to Elmhurst. Fortunately, since much of the drive is via freeway, getting ahead of the train was easy. I got my next shot at the curve just north of the Route 435 overpass in Elmhurst, and then got to Moscow in time to shoot the train pulling into the restored DL&W station. I then drove back to Scranton, found some lunch and while getting ready for the next run, I found that I still had cinders in my hair...


The 2:00 PM train left town under cloudy skies. I shot it at a different location near Ridge Row, then caught it again under the abandoned signal bridge north of Elmhurst. At this point, I drove back into town and stayed at Steamtown until it closed at 5:00 PM. During my stay, I went on a shop tour, where we got to see the roundhouse and the restoration shop. In the restoration shop, we were shown some of the tools and machines used in restoring locomotives, along with Baldwin Locomotive Works 0-6-0 #26 and Canadian Pacific 4-6-2 #2317. The #26 was going to be in the shop probably for most of the year, as it was receiving its mandatory 5-year maintenance, but the CP Pacific was having some wheel work done and should be back in action by July 4.

Further in the back of the shop were two locomotives being restored by outside contractors that were using the Steamtown shop facility. One was Boston & Maine 3713, owned by the Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Chapter NRHS. The other was PRR K4s Pacific 1361, being restored by the Railroaders Memorial Museum of Altoona and funded by state grant money. Both locomotives are being restored by one-man crews. I had heard that the 1361 was going to be finished by this fall. From what I saw, maybe fall of 2002...it didn't look a whole lot different than when I last saw it there four years ago. I'm sure it will be worth it for Pennsy fans everywhere when it is done!

Searching for anything running...

Once Steamtown closed, I drove down to Pittston to check out the Reading & Northern's yard there. However, the only gate into the yard was locked, so I didn't bother trying to find another way in to look around. All I saw were lots of covered hoppers.

I then drove back up into town to Taylor Yard and found a five-unit set of Canadian Pacific power parked north of the old Taylor station. There were four CP paint schemes represented: CP Rail with Multimark, CP Rail without Multimark, CP Rail System dual flags, and the lead unit was a gray ex-Guilford piece of crap restenciled with CP lettering and numbers. Zesty...

I then drove up into town and checked out the Delaware-Lackawanna's trackage, which consisted of the old Delaware & Hudson Penn Division north to Carbondale. On the north side of town is the old D&H freight house. Model railroaders would recognize it in an instant...it looked like it was the prototype for the Walthers Water Street Freight Station kit!

By this time it was getting dark, so I went back to my motel. When I got there, I found that my keycard to my room wasn't working right, so I went to the front desk to get it fixed. This time, the same desk clerk was there, but this time she was wearing a sweater over a white bustier and what I think were leather pants. I'll have to admit...she was the most interestingly dressed lady I've seen behind a motel desk in all of my railfanning travels...

Day 4: Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Doing the D-L

Tuesday morning dawned bright and clear. The day's activities were to photograph the operations of the "the" Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad. (Yes, that's how they spell it.) D-L operates the old D&H main as previously mentioned, along with the ex-Lackawanna mainline east into the Pocono Mountains to Tobyhanna and Mt. Pocono. I arrived at their shop around 7:30 AM and asked the train crew what their plans for the day were. To my surprise, they didn't know either...they were basically "on call" awaiting orders. So I drove into town, found some breakfast, and checked out some photo spots on their ex-D&H line.

Arriving back at 9:00, I found they were going to make a run down to CARBON to interchange with CP. I got some well-lit shots of them switching north of their shop, and then ran down to the Davis Street overpass north of CARBON. They beat me there, so I waited on the bridge for the return trip. I thought they were going to get on the CP main and go over to Taylor Yard to interchange. Nope, they did it right at CARBON, as I could see them at the other end of the bridge going north. Oops!

They beat me back to the shop, and I found out they might run to Carbondale later, but they didn't know yet. I went into town and shot the Steamtown shuttle trains in the yard for a while. By this time it had clouded up. After a while, I walked over to Bridge 60 Tower and talked to the D-L dispatcher to see what they were doing. She was very helpful, telling me that there was a grain train scheduled to run to Mt. Pocono around lunchtime. The other crew was also going to be heading to Carbondale around the same time.

What to do? Shoot the crew working their way to Carbondale with the Alco C425, or shoot the grain train on the old DL&W main, which is a less-common event, even though it would operate with run-through Canadian Pacific power? The choice was easy: Forget the Alcos, I'm going to Mt. Pocono!

The Grain Train

It's time to go with Jer, you know
To chase trains in the Poconos
Where the sun shines bright
From morn 'til night
Upon the Road of Anthracite

Well...it didn't quite work that way, but it wasn't that bad either... After grabbing a turkey sub at the Steamtown Mall food court, I got ready for the grain train at Ridge Row. Another railfan showed up there, saying that he had heard that Reading & Northern had their LEPI train (Lehighton-Pittston) train called for 2:00 PM, and it should be in Pittston by 5:00 or 6:00. I took that under advisement, but figured that if this went well, I'd stay with the grain train for the rest of the day.

I could hear the grain train grinding its way up the hill past the Lackawanna Station hotel. It soon showed up and was captured by both of us on slide film. It was powered by a trio of CP SD40-2’s: the lead unit in CPRS Dual Flags paint, and the other two in standard CP Rail action red. From what I could gather, the grain train had about 50 cars, but the mill at Mt. Pocono could only handle 27 at a time, so some of the cars would be set off at the Nay Aug and Jessup sidings. That would give me plenty of time to get to Moscow and shoot him passing the station there, so I leisurely drove up there, parked, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I waited over an hour before the grain train showed up. During the wait, the clouds were breaking up some, and the light went from overcast to full sun several times. Fortunately, the sun came out as the train passed the station. I then jumped in the car and beat the train to Tobyhanna, where it stopped to make a pickup at the propane dealer located there. As the train pulled past the abandoned interlocking tower there while making the pickup, I snapped a couple of shots. The engineer yelled out to me, "Was that slow enough for you to get a good shot?" I gave him a thumbs up in return, and got in the car and drove down to Mt. Pocono, where I found the Harvest Mills facility that received the loaded grain trains. At the facility, D-L keeps their C420 locomotive, which is painted in an pseudo-Lehigh Valley scheme.

As I was waiting for the grain train to arrive, the sky was starting to cloud up again. By the time the train arrived, the sky had turned black to the north, and it began raining shortly thereafter as I retreated to my car. And oh did it rain! It was pouring down like crazy and the wind was gusting something fierce. Meanwhile, the D-L guys were trying to switch cars in this. After about 30 minutes, the rain stopped, and the sky cleared up again. I went a little west of Harvest Mills to the Route 940 overpass, where I was able to get a decent shot of the power as they were pulling the empties out of the plant.

Eventually they were ready to go, so I booked back to Tobyhanna to get a shot of the train passing the restored DL&W station there. And, again, as I arrived, the sky was starting to cloud up and turn dark again. I shot the train passing the station, and decided that I didn’t want to chase the train back to Scranton through the rain, especially since I was heading to Allentown anyway, so I broke off the chase and headed south.

Jim Thorpe and the Lehigh Valley

On the way, I took a short detour over to Jim Thorpe, where the historic CNJ passenger station still stands, and some restored equipment is on-site, including the pair of restored CNJ F3’s in the tangerine and blue paint scheme. I paid my respects to the F-units and photographed them and some of the restored cabooses parked there. On the way back to the freeway, I pulled in to the old yard at Lehighton (or maybe it’s Packerton—someone will correct me). The LV shop buildings were still there. Only a couple of tracks went through the yard—the rest of the area is empty and being reclaimed by nature. It was a rather depressing sight, considering at one time that yard was full on a daily basis of hopper cars loaded with anthracite coal on their way east.

I finally checked in to the West Allentown Super 8, which is rather railfan-friendly, as it has small refrigerators in each room—a great place to put your film overnight. I drove to a little tavern/restaurant a couple miles west of there on Old U.S. 22 and got a hot turkey sandwich for dinner, and then came back and went to bed.

Day 5: Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Allentown and Bethlehem

Wednesday morning found me at the west end of Norfolk Southern’s Allentown Yard at the bridge over the Lehigh River, awaiting a westbound to enter the yard. Unfortunately, the only movement I had while there was an intermodal train which took the bypass around the south side of the yard. I got to hear it go past behind the trees. Oh well…

I decided to move on and find a better spot. After stopping to watch an SD38/MT6 slug set pushing cars over the yard’s hump, I found my way to Bethlehem. There I photographed the old CNJ Bethlehem station and later found myself on top of the Hill-to-Hill bridge, overlooking a beautiful shot of the bridge that carries the Lehigh Line from the east end of Allentown Yard across the river to CP-BETHLEHEM, where it joins the Reading Line (that south side bypass I mentioned earlier). This bridge was originally the Reading Company’s connection into the Allentown Yard, which was originally a CNJ facility. I believe the Lehigh Valley took it over after CNJ pulled out of Pennsylvania in 1972.

Down in Bethlehem they’re killing time
Standing on bridge, waiting for train...

And, oh did I wait on that bridge. A little bit of entertainment was provided below by an NS policeman busting some bum who was walking across the railroad bridge. I shot one intermodal train from the bridge that was taking the bypass around the yard, but it wasn’t really the shot I wanted. That train stopped and looked like it was fouling the interlocking at CP-BETHLEHEM, so I figured nothing would be coming for a moment. Oh, and I did miss a train that came out of the yard and went up the Cement Secondary. Arrgh…I wanted to get a shot of something on ex-Lehigh & New England trackage...

While I thought the interlocking was blocked, I drove over to the south side of town to check out some things, including the old Union Station that the Reading and Lehigh Valley used, located next to the Hill-to-Hill bridge and CP-BETHLEHEM. While I’m there, a train came across the bridge and rolled past. I was a little steamed at that point. I ended up finding a phone and called Steve Barry to see what his plans were for the afternoon. We agreed to meet at the Mt. Olive train station and go from there in his car.

So I went back on the bridge, and after another half-hour or so, I was blessed with an eastbound local coming out of the yard and over the bridge. Now I was feeling a little better.

Easton and beyond

I then drove east to Easton, passing the former Bethlehem Steel complex in the process. What a depressing sight. There were a lot of jobs that used to be in that mill, and now many of the buildings are in the process being demolished.

Over at Easton, I grabbed lunch to go at McDeath, and pulled in by the passenger station to see if anything was coming. There was an NS block truck parked by the signal bungalow where Easton Tower used to be, so I figured I’d better not wander up on the old passenger platforms. Eventually, the truck left, and I checked the signals. They showed a westbound train lined up. I considered trying to walk down to the shot of the bridge over the Delaware River, but I wasn’t sure if I’d have time. Good thing I didn’t, because not long after, a westbound multilevel train rolled by with a former Conrail SD60I on the point.

After that, I started off for Mt Olive, NJ. As I was approaching the bridges over the river, I had a stroke of stinginess and decided to take the free bridge over the river instead of the toll bridge that would have put me right on U.S. 22. It was a good thing, though, because at the east end of the bridge, next to the former PRR tracks, was an old Penn Central passenger car, still wearing PC markings. It was next to a place called "The Box Car", which from what I understand is/was a bar and grill and/or strip club.


After a pleasant drive through Washington and other such locales, I made it to Mt. Olive. Steve arrived a few minutes after 2:00 and I tossed my camera bag in his bag seat and we took off. We started shooting the Newark City Subway’s PCC cars at Davenport Avenue. These cars are slated for replacement with new cars in the next few months, so it was a good thing I was able to get pictures of them when I did. And let me tell you, they run on that line like streetcars. Literally. We never had to wait more than five minutes for another car to roll by in either direction. While there, we were met by another legendary East Coast railfan, Carl Perelman. After hanging out there for a while, once everyone got their fill of PCC’s, Steve and I headed for the Harrison PATH station to shoot the Acela Express train, and I think Carl was going out to the Gladstone Branch of NJ Transit.

If you’ve never been there, Harrison (or Newark itself, for that matter) is an unbelievable place, especially during the rush hour. First you have the four-track Northeast Corridor, where Amtrak trains, powered by AEM7s’ E60’s, HHP-8’s, and the Acela Express trainsets, all roll by. There’s also NJ Transit trains, either sets of Arrow MU cars or standard coaches powered by ALP-44’s, pushing or pulling. On either side of the Corridor are the PATH tracks, with trains every few minutes. It’s a sight any railfan should behold in his or her lifetime.

Anyway, we shot the Acela Express train, after almost getting skunked by an arriving PATH train. We also shot another train powered by one of Amtrak’s new HHP-8 electric locomotives, along with some PATH trains and NJ Transit trains. We then went over by the old Tiffany factory not far from there along the Boonton Line. The factory is an old brick building with a turret on one end that is being converted into condos. This section of the Boonton Line will be abandoned when the Montclair Connection is completed, so it was a prudent thing to shoot. The East Orange freight branch comes off the Boonton Line by the factory, so the trackage itself will not be torn up, but it also won’t host any more NJ Transit trains. We shot an outbound train passing the factory in decent light.

Gladstone Branch

Now was decision time—what to do next? I was offered the option of doing the new Hudson-Bergen light rail line, or going out to the Gladstone Branch, where the old wooden catenary poles are earmarked for eventual replacement. I decided on the latter, so we went out to the Berkley Heights station and shot an outbound train there.

Going west from there, we tooted at Carl, who was shooting from an overpass, and after looking at a couple spots around Gillette and Stirling, ended up at a rural crossing between the two. Carl finally caught up with us, and we ended the day shooting the last three outbound trains that would run in daylight. The sky was completely clear and the sunlight was sweet. While sitting frustrated in the Wal-Mart on Sunday morning waiting for my tire to be replaced, I remember asking myself why I do this stuff. That afternoon on the Gladstone Branch, I remembered why.

Steve then dropped me back off at my car, and while he went home, I went back to Allentown, staying at a Super 8 on the north side of town.

Day 6: Thursday, May 31, 2001

Allentown again

I began the day again at the bridge over the Lehigh River at the west end of Allentown Yard. This time I was successful, as I shot a road train coming in about 8:45 AM. From there, I drove around downtown a little bit, looking to see what I could find. I came across the old CNJ passenger station, now tastelessly converted into a nightclub or something like that. I also drove over and found CP-BURN, which used to be a real hotspot for railfans, but since the Conrail takeover, the NS Police have chased away the railfans, so nobody goes there anymore. It’s not really that scenic anyway, so I stayed just long enough to consult my maps and move on.

The Road to Emmaus

I decided that the game plan for the day would be to follow the NS Reading Line from Allentown to Reading. The first stop was in the town of Emmaus, which had a quaint downtown, a nice overpass and cut that the tracks ran through, and the old Reading station still stood. I met another railfan on the bridge who was taking pictures before he had to go to work. We had one westbound train with a stealth Dash 9 on the point (yuck), and later I shot eastbound 16G with a nice set of NS power off the bridge with some houses in the background.

The nice thing about Emmaus is that the tracks curve around a lot, so during much of the day you can get good light on both eastbounds and westbounds. The scanner tipped me off to a westbound that would eventually be coming, so I relocated to a grade crossing on the north side of town, where the light was good for a westbound, and there was a signal there too. (I really like the old searchlight signals with the large targets that many of the Anthracite roads used, like Reading, CNJ, Erie, and Lehigh Valley.) There was also a connecting track there where a shortline connected in—the guy on the bridge told me about it, but he wasn’t sure who ran it.

Anyway, I’m standing there by my car waiting for this westbound to call a signal or somehow confirm its presence, where I hear something behind. I turn around to see boxcars moving towards me on the shortline’s track, being pushed by an ex-Conrail GP10. I talked to the crew and found out that the line is the Penn Eastern Railway, owned and operated by Emons Transportation, the same folks who bring us the Ma and Pa, Yorkrail, etc. They locked down the Geep and walked down to the store for a few minutes, then returned, took their cars, and rolled west again. It was a neat surprise, and something different than NS.

The waiting is the hardest part

Eventually the NS train arrived and rolled past the crossing and the signal with a clean set of power. Satisfied with that, I moved west looking for another location. After looking in Macungie and Alburtis, I settled on a spot in an open area west of Mertztown. There I proceeded to sit for over two hours until NS finally ran a westbound, which I shot broadside running through a cornfield and past another Reading-style signal.

From there I moved to Topton, where an old Reading station still stands and is being restored. There’s also the Topton Hotel, a neat old building next to the tracks, which can be used as a photo prop too. After waiting there for an hour and a half and grabbing an ice cream bar for lunch at the general store, NS ran an eastbound local bound for Alburtis and Foglesville via the C&F Secondary. That was closely followed by westbound train 457, with a widenose Dash 9 in the lead (surprise!). While waiting for those trains, I found west of town the connection for the East Penn Railway (not to be confused with Penn Eastern). They had an old Geep of Guilford heritage and paint parked there, along with some old Long Island passenger cars, a couple of cabooses, and some beat-up PCC streetcars in the weeds.

Continuing west, I stopped in Fleetwood, (which to the best of my knowledge is not named for Mick Fleetwood) and looked at a shot by the old car factory there. However, with the radio being dead and the haze on the western horizon starting to thicken, I decided to drop off the Reading Line here and head towards Reading. I ended up back by the BM&R station at Temple, where I shot an eastbound train with a group of NS locomotives that had their lettering painted out and were probably going for sale or scrap. It was soon followed by eastbound train 40T with CN power on the point, which I shot by the signal for the Evansville Industrial Track at CP-LAUREL.

Finishing where I started

By this time, it was drawing close to 6:00 PM, when the Reading & Northern crew would be on-duty to make the run south from Port Clinton to Reading to interchange cars with NS. So I headed back up to Port Clinton, stopping briefly to fill the tank at a Sheetz station which was selling gas for $1.47 a gallon, and arrived in Port Clinton. I talked to the engineer, who was very friendly and told me what they would be doing. He added that they would only be running 20 MPH because the lead unit on the train did not have ditch lights. The power for the train was a pair of SW8M’s painted in the R&N’s classy green and yellow paint scheme.

I started out shooting him going under the abandoned bridge south of Port Clinton, where the PRR’s own line to Schuykill Haven crossed overhead. (The southern part of this line, from Temple to South Hamburg, is now operated by Reading & Northern.) It’s a bit of a walk-in shot, but since he was doubling onto his train at this point, I had enough time to set up farther down the road and shoot him again in better light. The problem with this line is that in the summer, the sun angle prevents you from getting any nose light on the engine due to the line’s north-south orientation. It does curve around somewhat, so some places are better than others, but it would be a great chase if they left Port Clinton at 10:30 or even 1:00 PM. But, you have to work with what you have.

After he went by, I drove south to Mohrsville and set up for a broadside shot at grade crossing just across the river. The forecast for the next several days was calling for rain, and the haze to the west was starting the thicken, so after the train went by and I got the shot, I decided to end the trip right there at 7:00 PM. I packed up the camera, put in my new Cheri Keagy CD, and headed out on the road. Six hours later, after weaving around careening trucks on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I climbed into bed one tired guy.

My hometown’s comin’ in sight
If you think I’m happy you’re right
Six days on the road, and I’m gonna make it home tonight

As I was being passed by trucks doing 80 MPH, I started thinking that someone needs to light a fire under the intermodal marketing guys at CSX and Norfolk Southern. There’s a lot of business out there waiting to be had, and grabbing some of it would make the roads safer for the rest of us.

Acknowledgements and references

The following individuals and web sites were most helpful in making this trip successful:

Jerry W. Jordak -- jer@smellycat.com