It is time for yet another one of my railfan vacation trip reports. This one covers my trip from June 16-21, 2002, to eastern Pennsylvania and the anthracite coal region, along with some time in New Jersey as well. We will pick up the story on the morning of Sunday, June 16. Pictures will be added to this page as I get them back and have time to scan and post them.
I left home on Sunday morning instead of Saturday, due to less than ideal weather conditions in eastern PA on Saturday. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't all that great on Sunday either, but at least it wasn't raining. I drove across I-80 and went through Hazleton to Jim Thorpe, where I hoped to shoot Reading & Northern train PILE, the return trip of the thrice-weekly (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday) train that runs over the former Lehigh Valley main line from Jim Thorpe to Coxton Yard in Pittston, southwest of Scranton.
After looking around town for some suitable photo locations and finding none that met my tastes, I found (quite by accident) the access road into Glen Onoko and the Lehigh Gorge park. It is a very busy place with lots of bikers, hikers, and folks who raft or kayak on the Lehigh River. I decided to hike upriver a little ways, following the bike trail that occupies the former Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) right-of-way. (Both the CNJ and LV paralleled each other through the Gorge until 1965, when the railroads combined portions of their lines into a joint main line north of Allentown. The CNJ line through the Lehigh Gorge was then abandoned.)
I got up as far as the signal at milepost 125, and decided to wait around there for a while. The train was expected through there between 4:00 and 5:00 PM, maybe earlier. While waiting, I realized that the CNJ right-of-way was probably busier today than it was when the CNJ was an active railroad, as there was a steady stream of bikers and hikers going past. Some thought I was looking for snakes, which I thought was odd until a little later, when I saw three guys walking along the tracks with special sticks doing just that...
After selecting a different location south of where I was before (and closer to my car), I heard a train call a signal at MP 127 shortly before 4:00 PM. Some quick math told me based on the milepost of the signal that the train would be arriving shortly, so I set up for a shot. Had there been sunshine, the train would have been backlit, but since the sky was filled with clouds, it didn't matter. A headlight rounded the curve and the train appeared, with Reading & Northern SD50 5033 in the lead. (Photo) Out of group of used locomotives purchased by the R&N in the past several months, the 5033 is (so far) the only one to have been repainted, and it looks sharp! Trailing the 5033 was the 8011, a solid black C30-7 purchased from Norfolk Southern, and the 5022, another ex-Union Pacific SD50. I got the shot and headed back to my car. Fortunately, I had brought my water cooler with me, as it was hot and muggy that afternoon.
I drove down to Lehighton, where the train was dropping off its cars at the NS interchange, and shot the power coming back north, then shot the power again coming into downtown Jim Thorpe and passing the restored CNJ F-units on display next to the main road. (Photo) After that, I drove back into the old CNJ yard where the power is parked. The Rail Tours passenger train which operates on weekends over the Carbon & Schuykill (former CNJ Nesquehoning Branch) was parked in the yard as well. On a hillside north of town, someone had erected a tall flagpole with a huge American flag, and I took a shot of the 5033 with the flag behind it after the crew had gone home and moved their vehicles from in front of the locomotive.
I had heard via e-mail before I left that the R&N was going to run a light engine from Port Clinton up to Jim Thorpe, pick up the PILE power, and move it down to the Panther Creek Partners facility outside of Nesquehoning, where the Monday morning culm train to Jeddo departs from. So I drove over to Nesquehoning and camped out to wait for the light engine to pass. I even had good sunlight for a while too, but after 6:30.the clouds started to roll in, and I decided to head up to Scranton instead so I could be ready for the next day's (hopeful) chase of the Delaware-Lackawanna's Portland Turn.
Arriving in Scranton, I checked in at the Econo Lodge on Davis Street, and had dinner at Friendly's. During the night I had a nightmare that my car died while railfanning!
Railfans know: To chase Alcos
Follow the route of Phoebe Snow.
When the sun shines bright, all is right
Upon the Road of Anthracite
(Okay, I know that the Reading & Northern goes by "The Road of Anthracite" today, but the Lackwanna used it first!)
I arose around 7:30 AM and stopped past the the D-L shops to see if they were running their twice-weekly turn job to Portland, PA, over the former Lackwanna main line. The crew I talked to thought they were, but I wasn't sure. I had been told previously that the D-L often left the Portland Turn power on Bridge 60 in downtown, so I went there to check. I found three units parked on the bridge warming up with D-L shop guys checking them out: C424 804, C420 310, and M636 3643. So they would be running to Portland, but when? I took some pictures of the power, along with one of D-L's RS3's that was parked by Bridge 60 tower. A crew later came and moved the engine a few hundred yards and parked it again. (Photo) The sky was clear in the morning, but some puff clouds began to appear starting around 10:30 AM. They would be a factor throughout the day.
To make a long story short, I was waiting on an overlook along Ridge Row by the University of Scranton with three other photographers around noon, having just photographed a Steamtown shuttle train running with their Nickel Plate painted Geep. Two of them, John and Mack, were from Poughkeepsie, and another guy, whose name I didn't get, but was driving a Mercury Sable, were waiting there as well. At 12:01 PM, train PT-98, the Portland Turn, made its departure from Scranton. Led by the 804, it passed with about 18 cars in its consist. (Photo) I jumped in the car and made chase.
Mercury Guy and I beat the train to Moscow and shot him passing the station, which was still boarded up because the 2002 Steamtown excursion season does not begin until July. From there, I drove south to Tobyhanna, forgetting once again that, despite what the map may lead you to believe, there is a stop sign at the intersection of routes 435 and 307, and taking about six months of life off of my brake pads in the process After arriving safely at Tobyhanna, I had about 45 seconds to get ready for the shot, as the train roared through doing every bit of 40 MPH. At this point, I figured it would be a tough chase the rest of the way. Fortunately, I got through Mt. Pocono fairly easily, and arriving at Gravel Place on the north side of East Stroudsburg, I found that the train hadn't arrived yet. Mercury Guy, John and Mack, and another older gentleman from New Jersey (along with his two dogs) showed up as well to await the train. Apparently he had stopped at Cresco to make a pickup at the lumber transload site.
I figured I could get a shot at Gravel Place, as the train would probably be working the industries there, and have plenty of time to set up for a shot passing the restored interlocking tower in downtown East Stroudsburg. The tower shot was one that I absolutely had to have. Speaking of towers, the old concrete interlocking tower at Gravel Place was visible to the south from the grade crossing, completely overgrown in trees and vines. I pulled out the August 2001 issue of Railpace magazine, and compared the picture in there taken over 25 years ago to the scene in front of my eyes, and was just amazed. I'm convinced that much of the eastern U.S. needs a good dose of defoliation or tree removal, as tree growth continues to take away good shots.
Unfortunately, the train crept through Gravel Place without stopping, as it had no work to do on the way down. Fortunately, due to the slow track speed on this part of the line and the need to flag the grade crossings, I darted through some side streets and made it to tower with a minute to spare and got the shot. (Photo)
From there, I headed south, and using a couple miles of I-80 to make up time, I drove down Route 611 through the Delaware Water Gap. I couldn't find any suitable places to shoot from on the way down, as there were too many trees along the tracks, so I headed to the overpass at Slateford Junction to get a shot there. To say that location has grown in would be a gross understatement. Dog Guy, along John and Mack showed up, and one of them even made the comment that it was a "peek a boo" shot, as there was enough room between the trees to shoot a couple of the locomotives, and that was it. (Photo, compare to these) But, Slateford Junction was a pretty historic location on the former Lackawanna, and at least now I can say that I have a shot from there too.
The next shot was about a mile south of there, where the Lackawanna "old road" went under the bridge carrying the Lackawanna Cutoff over the Delaware River. Although heavily treed in, it still made for a nice shot by framing the train in the arch of the bridge. Unfortunately, this one turned out to be a cloudy shot. All five railfans, and the train, continued on the Portland.
At Portland, I wasn't quite sure where I was going, so I followed Dog Guy back to the remains of the Lackawanna's yard. I chatted with him for a few minutes while he let his dogs run around, but it wasn't particularly scenic, so I drove back into town and parked on the street outside of the former Lackawanna depot, which now houses a couple of businesses, including a café.
Due to not being allowed to use the NS wye tracks in town, the D-L has to perform some complicated maneuvers, including splitting up the locomotives, in order to swap its outbound cars with its pickups. NS leaves the cars for D-L on the main north of the wye, and the D-L train comes into Portland with the locomotives in the middle of the train. Very screwy and time-consuming, so while they were playing around, I decided to stop in the café in the station and find something for lunch. They also sell antiques in there as well, and the decor was pretty cool. The cute blonde girl who was making my lunch thought taking pictures of trains was pretty neat, and she was even more impressed when I told her that I had chased this train from Scranton! I took my honey mustard chicken wrap out to car, opened a Coke, and waited for the train to leave.
After finishing my lunch, I parked myself on a little hillside just north of the station to shoot the outbound train. Not much later, the train, now symbolled PT-97, headed north, and I took a couple of shots. (See the top of page 19 in the November 2001 Railpace magazine for a similar photo by Tom Nemeth.)
Heading back north, I was looking for a place to photograph the train where you could actually see some of the scenic beauty of the Water Gap. I finally found a spot next to Route 611 near the "point" of the Water Gap where the road starts to climb up away from the river. (Same page and issue of Railpace as before, bottom of the page, for a similar photograph. Thanks Tom!) It was pretty humorous actually, as I was standing on top of a stone retaining wall next to the road, holding on to a highway sign, with a camera around my neck. I got a few waves and toots from passing cars, as I waited about 20 minutes for the train to show up, but finally got the shot, and the sun came out in time as well.
From there, I easily made it into East Stroudsburg to take a northbound shot of the train passing the former interlocking tower, and then beat the train by seconds back to Gravel Place for another shot. (Photo) The train crew had some switching to do there, so John and Mack and I headed to an overpass north of Gravel Place to check out the shot. Too many trees and shadows, we decided, so we all made our way up to Cresco, where there is a fine shot to be had off of the highway overpass.
A cloudburst only slightly dampened my spirits on the way to Cresco, as the sun came out again afterwards. (After all, it wouldn't be a proper trip for me to the Pocono Main without some rain!) John and Mack and I sat and waited in our respective cars for a while as the crew switched at Gravel Place. Surprisingly, we could not pick up any radio transmissions to inform us of what they were doing. Finally, all of us emerged from our cars around the same time, as we all had that "railfan intuition" that it was getting close to train time, and set up on the bridge. Mercury Guy joined us up there too.
After about 15 minutes, we saw the 3643 appear in the distance, pushing a bulkhead flatcar loaded with lumber. The car was spotted on the lumber transload siding, and the locomotive backed down the main to pick up the rest of the train. A few minutes later, the three locomotives and the train came into view and passed the station and underneath us. (Photo) They were working hard trying to pick up speed and climb up the grade, and the sound was incredible. I wish I could have recorded that it was beautiful.
Snapping back to reality, I started the car and made a dash to Tobyhanna. I was concerned about getting hung up in Mt. Pocono, as it was now quarter to six and in the midst of rush hour (if there is such a thing in the Poconos), but I got through town fairly easily and John and Mack and I all made it Tobyhanna with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, a big puff cloud covered the sun as the train went by, and there were lots more dark clouds to the north. All of us agreed that continuing the chase would be futile based on the cloud cover, so those guys headed back towards home and I headed south towards Shartlesville, one exit west of the Reading and Port Clinton exit (Route 61) on I-78a convenient place to start a day on the Reading & Northern from. I stayed at the Dutch Motel, which was inexpensive, but lacked an ice machine.
I arose fairly early and after picking up breakfast at Burger King, arrived at Port Clinton, the world headquarters of the Reading & Northern, around 7:30 AM. Just by chance, I happened to run into there another railfan who I had previously communicated with but never met before. We talked with some of the R&N employees to figure out what the game plan was for the day. The Mountain Job, which heads towards Mt. Carmel, went on duty at 6:00 AM and was long gone. The Minersville Job was scheduled to go on duty at 8:00 AM, and take SW8 800 up to work the Reading Anthracite breaker at Minersville along with other local work. Seeing that the 800 was painted in R&N colors, and the Mountain Job probably had one of their ex-UP SD40-2s still in UP paint (which was confirmed later), I decided to chase the Minersville Job. The engineer on that train showed us his paperwork, which didn't have a lot of work to do, but I figured it was worth a chase anyway. We photographed some of the power at the engine terminal, including SP SD45 7525 and SD38 2000. (Photo) The other railfan went home to get some rest, having just gotten off of work, and I watched the Minersville Job take off with the 800 running light (no cars in tow).
I chased him up to a place south of Landingville, where the tracks cross the Schuykill River on a stone arch bridge. (This spot is just off of Canal Road south of town where the road comes up along the river. There's a place to park your car and a path into the woods that will take you to the riverbank, maybe 50 feet from your car.) I shot the locomotive there, and just missed shooting it again at the Schuykill Haven station, so I went over to West Cressona Yard and watched the crew switch cars. They picked up four empty R&N hoppers for the breaker, then headed north, and I shot the train passing the Cressona station (from safely behind the gate). (Photo)
The next shot was to be at Westwood Junction, where the Tremont Branch splits off from the Minersville Branch and heads west. The junction is easy to get to, as there is ample parking along Route 901, and you can walk across a footbridge over the Schuykill River. (Just stay back away from the tracks.) The scene has definitely changed at Westwood Junction compared to the Reading days. Signals once protected the junction, and the bases of two of them can still be seen next to the tracks. The line to Minersville was once double track, and at one time, a Lehigh Valley branch crossed above on a bridge!
At the junction, I found a guy from Hamburg and his son who were also out taking pictures. We chatted a little while as we waited for the train, and finally, a headlight came around the bend. We all took our pictures and drove up to Minersville, where the original Reading station still stands.
The shot at the station is pretty nice in the morning, as the tracks bend towards the northeast here and you can get some nose light on the locomotive if the train arrives early enough. A caboose and a CNJ camelback steamer, covered with a tarp, are parked behind the station. (Photo) We got our shots here as well, and I then followed the guy from Hamburg back to the small yard north of town where the crew did their switching. A short wooden trestle carries the yard tracks over a creek there, and it made for a nice shot from the edge of the creek as the switcher rolled past. The Reading Anthracite breaker is located some distance to the north, and as far as we all knew, it was inaccessible.
When it appeared that the train was getting ready to head south, I drove to the south side of town, where the tracks cross Maple Avenue, and set up for a shot there. On the other side of the road was a film manufacturer (can't remember its name) that receives loaded covered hoppers, but none of them appeared to be empty. I was correct in my assumption, as the train rolled through the crossing and past the plant without stopping.
After shooting it again at Westwood Junction (Photo), I drove back towards Cressona, after briefly checking out the shot at Becksville (BECK block station) and deciding that I didn't like it at that time of the day. At Cressona Yard, I shot the train again, and while he worked the yard, I also found a way to reach the mainline track south of Mine Hill Crossing (MINE block station), where the Minersville Branch splits off from the "main line" to Pottsville. (There's a path from behind the substation off of Caldwell Avenue. Although this may be considered trespassing, the crew didn't seem to mind, as I wasn't close to any active tracks.)
About this point, the crew told the dispatcher they were going to pick up lunch, then head to Pottsville to switch the Yuengling Brewery. Shortly thereafter, I heard the Mountain Job get an addition to its Form D to come back towards Tamaqua. Leaving the Minersville Job for now, I hopped onto U.S. 209 and made a dash for Tamaqua, hoping to get a nice shot of the train passing the station. Except for a couple of hillbillies in front of me in an old junk Oldmobile who didn't want to pass a slow semi truck in front of us, it was an uneventful trip. I did notice that along part of Route 209, the road had been built to allow for the addition of another pair of lanes, but that area was used as a hiking path instead. Now there's a good use of taxpayer dollars...
At Tamaqua, I set up for the shot while watching some contractors building what looked like a metal cage next to the Verizon building adjacent to the tracks. I asked if that's where they were going to put people who didn't pay their phone bills...
Eventually, the Mountain Job arrived, with the 4321, an ex-UP SD40-2 still in yellow and gray, leading as the sole unit, and running long hood forward. Yuck. (Photo) But, for some strange reason, I decided to chase it, and shot it again at Zehner's Crossing, New Ringgold, and Drehersville. By the last shot, it had clouded up pretty good.
I drove back to Cressona to find the 800. On the way, I heard someone yell on the radio "Get off of this property NOW!" I'm not sure what that was all about. I just know it wasn't me!
I found the 800 at Cressona Yard, and set up for a shot at the Schuykill Haven station. Unfortunately, the clouds rolled in there too shortly before the train arrived, so I was 0 for 2 (including last year's trip) at getting a good shot at that station. I tried to chase it back to Landingville, but just missed the train there.
At this point, it was really getting cloudy, so I broke off the chase and decided to head towards Reading. I figured if the sun came back out, I could shoot some NS trains at Temple, as the show was pretty much over on the R&N for the day. On the way I stopped at Sheetz, filled up the gas tank, picked up a 12-pack of Coke, and got an MTO chicken sandwich. As I pulled out of there, the rain began to fall.
When I arrived at Temple, it was raining harder, and eventually turned into a pretty good thunderstorm. R&N SD38 2000, which was previously at Port Clinton that morning, was now parked behind the Temple station. After listening to the radio and learning that the rain was not going to stop anytime soon, I packed in my gear for the day and drove to Allentown, checked in at the Super 8 on 15th Street, and called an early end to the day.
I learned this day that the key to successfully railfanning on the R&N is to have a scanner and listen closely. The train crews talk a lot to the dispatcher to get Form D's in order make movements, and knowing the locations and block stations helps a lot too. If you don't have a radio, you are going to be frustrated and miss a lot of shots because you don't know what they're doing.
I started the day in Bethlehem. My initial goal was to chase the NS H75 local, which works the Cement Secondary. However, I later decided against that and chose to stick with shooting mainline action on the NS Lehigh Line.
After about a half hour of rain and thunder in the morning, I parked my car and perched on the Hill-to-Hill Bridge above CP-BETHLEHEM. I shot the H65 local (powered by GP38-2 5387 and SD40-2 3435 and both still in Conrail blue) coming out of Allentown Yard across the former Reading bridge over the Lehigh River. From there, I headed down to the Minsi Trail Bridge, and shot the H65 again as it was parked next to the former Bethlehem Steel plant. While on the bridge I met a couple of railfans from New York City, and shot some pictures of the former steel plant. (The bridge has a tall chain link fence all along its length, but there are some "railfan holes" cut in the fence at certain locations. While I'm not one to advocate vandalism of public property, I certain will take advantage of it where present ) After shooting the H74 local going past the plant (Photo), all three of us left the bridge and went our separate ways.
I drove over to Easton, hoping to walk down to the edge of the bridges over the Delaware River and shoot a westbound coming over the former CNJ bridge. Unfortunately, the NS cop parked by the old Lehigh Valley station put the kybosh on that, so I stopped at McDonalds, picked up some lunch, and sat in my car near the old station (away from NS property) and ate. While eating, I heard the dispatcher make reference to having to get a "detour train from Jersey" over the Lehigh Line into Allentown. I wasn't quite sure what that was all about.
I then drove over to Phillipsburg, NJ, and drove around looking for a place to shoot an eastbound that announced its presence on the scanner. Unfortunately, I forgot that the Lehigh Line uses the old CNJ alignment through town, not the old LV, so I missed the train. I did see where the former union station and the former "PU" Tower on the CNJ were.
While, driving through town, I spotted a CNJ caboose near the tracks, so, being a major CNJ fan, I had to check it out. What I discovered was the museum site of the Phillipsburg Railroad Historians. Two of their members were around, and they gave me a quick tour of their facilities. Their restoration shed has an old trolley car which is being restored. As I was leaving, I shot eastbound NS train 48G coming under the highway bridge and passing PU Tower. It wasn't a real good shot, but at least it finished another roll of film. I also learned that the "detour train" I had heard referred to on the radio before was a Canadian Pacific detour train which was being routed that way due to a derailment south of Scranton on CP's Sunbury Main.
As I was driving back towards the highway bridge over the Lehigh Line, I smelled the distinct odor of something burning. At first, I thought I had passed a restaurant where someone burned the hot dogs, but the smell didn't go away, and it smelled like plastic burning. I didn't think it was coming from the car, but I thought I had better stop and make sure, so I pulled into the lot in front of the old Philipsburg train station and raised the hood.
What I saw brought terror to my eyes: the alternator in my 1994 Chevy Beretta had smoke pouring out of it, and I could see the insides of it were bubbling and burning. I thought "...this sucks..." Suddenly, photographing trains was no longer a priority, as I had to get this fixed, and quickly! About this time, a man and woman walked past on the sidewalk and saw my predicament. They gave me the phone number to a garage which was about a mile away. I called them on my cell phone and the guy I talked to told me to bring it over, if the car would still run, and they would take a look at it.
The car started, and I drove like a madman down Main Street in Phillipsburg to the garage before the car died, caught on fire, or worse. Fortunately, the car made it. To make a long story short, Dennis and Sam at Warren Brake and Tire took good care of me, and two hours and $230 later, I was back in business. And praise to the Lord that it happened where it did and not somewhere on I-80 in the middle of nowhere, and that there were passerby who directed me to a nearby garage!
I drove back up to the bridge where I had discovered the alternator problem, and checked the westbound signal there. It was lit with a high green, so I knew a train was coming. I decided to try for a shot from the bridge with part of "PU" Tower in the picture. A few minutes later, the CP detour train rolled by, powered by four SD40-2s. I thought this was a great shot, as the tower had its red "PU" signboards still on it (or at least replicas of the originals from the CNJ days). The four red CP locomotives, with a little imagination, could pass for a quartet of CNJ locomotives in their late-day red "Coast Guard" paint scheme. That will probably be the closest I'll ever get to photographing a real CNJ train passing that tower.
I decided to head back to Bethlehem, as I wanted to get some afternoon shots from the Hill-to-Hill Bridge of trains passing the former Bethlehem Steel works. I wasn't expecting to beat the CP detour train there, but as it turned out, I got back just in time to get one shot of the train running along the Lehigh River before it went under the bridge.
While on the bridge, I also shot some light NS power running past, and a pair of Philadelphia Bethlehem & New England switchers run down under the bridge, changing tracks, and running back towards the plant. I later saw them in the distance pushing some intermodal cars into the BethIntermodal facility.
From there, I went over to Allentown Yard and took some shots around the hump from the road. NS must have done some tree clearing since the last time I was there, as I was able to see some of the yard, including the hump itself, much better. After that, I went to Canal Park in Allentown, where the former Allentown Terminal bridge crosses the Lehigh River. This bridge is used by freight trains entering or leaving the west end of the yard from the Reading Line. At one time, it was used by CNJ passenger trains to reach their passenger station across the river in downtown Allentown. I shot NS train 45A pulling out of the yard and heading towards Reading on the bridge from the Canal Park as the light was starting to go away. Calling it a night, I went back to the Super 8 and hit the hay.
As if I hadn't inflicted enough punishment shooting Norfolk Southern the day before, I decided to start out the day with more of the same. I started out by driving past the Allentown hump, where I found a set of Guilford power parked and awaiting its next call to duty. I then set up at the Canal Park for a shot of a train crossing the bridge over the Lehigh River, and found a westbound pulling out of the yard. As I took a couple of shots of that train, I heard a horn to the northwest, near downtown. Some quick review of geography told me that the only trains in that part of town were R.J. Corman, so I headed up to see what I could find. Coming off of the Hamilton Avenue bridge, I saw a train heading north, and after a couple of wrong way trips down one way streets, I finally caught up to it at Pump Place and took a shot. The area to the north was mostly surrounded by industry, especially on the east side of the tracks where the light would be, so I abandoned the chase and headed east.
I knew that the H75 local would be out at Stockertown in the morning, so I headed out towards the Cement Secondary to see if I could find it. I arrived near Stockertown Yard just in time to see flashing lights at the grade crossing and then they stopped. I thought the train went west, so I went looking for it, but after a tour of the line all the way to Bath, I decided that this was a wild goose chase to be done on my next trip. So it was back to the main line.
I decided to try in Easton the eastbound shot from high up on the hillside, looking down at where the tower used to be. I found the spot on Lachenour Avenue and parked the car. I couldn't believe how much the shot had grown in compared to old pictures I had seen! In another year, the shot will be almost impossible. I waited around for a while for a train to show up, but none came, and the light angle started to get bad, so I decided to move.
I went down to the park along the Delaware Canal to see if I could find a good shot from river level, but no such luck. I saw a path that would take me to track level next to the former CNJ bridge, but the light angle at the time wasn't that good, so I decided to forgo the climb until a later time.
Seeing as the noon hour had come, I repeated yesterday's routine: lunch from McDonald's, and park and eat next to the tracks. No NS cop this time, so I could park a little closer.
After I ate, I drove into New Jersey to the Bridgewater station on the NJ Transit Raritan Valley Line, where I met up with Steve Barry to do some trains on the former CNJ mainline. I shot an inbound train east of the station before Steve arrived.
We had some time before the next NJT train, so Steve showed me a shot on the Lehigh Line near Manville Yard where the main crosses the Raritan River. The former Reading line to Port Reading parallels the Lehigh Line here as well. On the way out from the shot, we found a former MBTA and Cape Cod Railroad FP10, now lettered for Indian Head Central, parked on what used to be the connection between the Reading and CNJ main lines, now reduced to an industrial lead. ("Route of the Crusader," Steve said. Sniff...whimper...)
Our first shot was to be at Raritan, and after a drive full of merges, jughandles, and other pleasures of New Jersey driving, we arrived in Raritan in time to shoot both the inbound and outbound trains passing the tower east of the station. Actually, had they been a few seconds closer together, they both could have been in the same shot. Fortunately, the inbound train on the near track cleared before the outbound train on the far track passed. A flagpole with Old Glory flying on it was next to the tower. Steve said that was added after September 11.
The next shot was at the station in Lebanon. We looked at some of the restored and to-be-restored equipment parked there, and after a while the train came. Having captured that train on film, we moved on to the stone arch bridge at North Branch. This was a bit of a walk-in shot, as you have to walk down the NJT right-of-way a few yards to get to the river, but it wasn't a bad hike. After that, we shot a train at the end of the line, in High Bridge. As we waited for the train to arrive, I was trying to visualize a pair of CNJ SD35s with a westbound freight rolling by. Sigh...
The last shots of the day were at Annandale. Despite me taking a wrong turn on the way, we still made it in time for the train. Pre-train entertainment was provided by a woman who was waiting for a train arguing on the platform with her loser boyfriend. Steve and I just stood there and didn't say a word. Once she looked down the tracks at us and yelled "what are you looking at?" before tearing back into her boyfriend. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...
After shooting both the last outbound train and its deadhead move back to Raritan, Steve headed home and I drove back to Shartlesville for the night. This time, I decided to try the newly renamed "Budget Motel" across the freeway from the Dutch Motel. It was a little nicer that the Dutch Motel, but his price wasn't exactly "budget" compared to the Dutch Motel. What is even more interesting is that the Budget Motel, which used to be the Fort Motel, has "themed" rooms. For example, my room was called "Once a Knight." It was painted like the inside of what I'm guessing to be a medieval tent, with a life-size knight in armor painted on the front wall behind the TV set. Depending on one's point of view, it was pretty neat or pretty creepy...
For the last day of the trip, I decided to do the Reading & Northern again. I figured that since the Mountain Job would likely have some ex-UP six-axle power, I would sleep in a little and chase the Minersville Job again. However, as I'm approaching the Route 61 exit on I-78, I hear the Port Clinton dispatcher give a Form D between Port Clinton and Zehner's. Unfortunately, I didn't hear what received the Form D, but I thought I should check it out, so I drove up to Zehner's and waited.
Fifty minutes later, nothing had showed up, and I'm thinking that I was faked out by a hi-rail truck. (I found out later I was right.) It was close to 9:00 AM at this point, and I decided to head over to Cressona and see if I could catch up to the Minersville Job. When I got there, the Minersville Job had already headed north, having received a Form D to Minersville, but another train, with R&N SW1500 1546 running light, was there in the yard picking up a car. I headed up to Westwood Junction to catch the Minersville Job, and on the way, I learned that the 1546 was going out to Good Spring. Since the R&N doesn't run out that way as much as they used to, I would chase that train past Westwood Junction.
The Minersville Job showed up at Westwood Junction with two "pups", the 800 and 802, back to back. I shot it there and headed to the Minersville station, where I reprised my earlier shot there. I left that train and went back to Westwood Junction to shoot the 1546 with a reefer in tow. The brakeman threw the switch and the train headed towards Tremont.
I easily beat the train to Tremont, and parked my car, looking for a place to shoot the train. I wanted to do something with the restored station there, but decided to wait as the light would be better coming back. So I shot the train north of the U.S. Route 209 crossing as the train curved towards the station. A one-way street runs on either side of the tracks through town, and I parked my car (in the best getaway position), and waited for the train to arrive. An older lady asked me what I was doing, and I told her that a train was coming. She didn't seem to believe me, and said trains hardly go through town anymore. I assured her one was coming in about ten minutes. She went in her house. I still don't think she believed me.
About ten minutes later, the train arrived, and I got the shot. Told you so, ma'am.
I got myself a bonus shot in Donaldson, just north of Tremont, as the train stopped for no apparent reason and then continued again. I got out to Good Spring and waited for the better part of an hour for the train to arrive. Part of the delay was that the crew ran around the loaded reefer before they came into town, since there was no runaround track there. Apparently, some customer in Good Spring gets reefers full of potatoes every so often. I have no clue why. The loading dock for the reefer is made from an old semi trailer, parked perpendicular to the spur. The reefer is spotted with its door next to the dock trailer's doors. Another set of doors were installed in the side of the dock trailer. Another semi trailer backs up to these doors, and that is how the potatoes are unloaded.
On the way back, I shot the train going through Donaldson through a nice open field with the mountain in the background. There is another shot from a road that climbs the side of the mountain on the south side of town that I looked at, but it would only be good in the winter as the foliage hides the train in the summer. I continued the chase, getting pictures at Tremont (with the station), Westwood Junction, and Becksville.
The crew was told to stop at the upper yard in Cressona to respot some cars for Kaytee, which receives loaded covered hoppers of birdseed. While they were doing so, they found some empty cars, and were advised by Port Clinton to take the empties with them. I watched them switch cars for a while as I stood next to the road. An old footbridge over the tracks was there, but was closed off so I couldn't stand on it. Just south of the footbridge was a collection of restored cabooses, including Baltimore & Ohio, Erie Lackawanna, Reading, New York Central, and Boston & Maine cabooses. There was also an old passenger car, covered in rust, which appeared to once have been painted blue with two white diagonal stripes on the ends. From what lettering I could read on it, the car used to be a Conrail training car of some kind.
Around this time, the Minersville Job with the pups was approaching Becksville. The crew on the 1546 was advised they were going to have to work the "Pennsy" (original Blue Mountain &' Reading, out of Temple, PA) after they returned to Port Clinton, so they worked out a deal for the Minersville Job to take their cars, and they would return light to Port Clinton. This was done, and I took a couple more shots of the Minersville Job and its pups.
Around this time, the crew on the pups decided to grab something to eat real quick, and then they would head up to Minersville to switch cars for Yuengling. I decided that this would be a good time to grab a bite to eat, so I stopped at the Burger King next to the first grade crossing north of Mine Hill Crossing on the line to Pottsville. Because of burger overload from the prior two lunches at Easton, I ordered a chicken sandwich. Somehow, three other people who ordered burgers got their orders before I did, and while I was waiting, I heard a horn and looked through the drive through window to see the train going by. When I finally got my burger and got onto Route 61 to north into Pottsville, I got stuck behind a construction truck doing about 20 MPH. Finally, I made it up there (actually, to Mount Carbon, just south of the Pottsville city line) where the R&N has a transload site for covered hoppers, and another spur for where they set out cars for the brewery. Unfortunately, there was a string of covered hoppers on the near track, and so I couldn't see what was going on without trespassing or crossing tracks, so I stayed put.
Apparently, the brewery isn't anywhere close to where the R&N spots their hoppers. My guess is that they send trucks from the brewery to haul their materials the rest of the way. North of the transload site was a nice old signal bridge at Pottsville Junction, where the passenger line into downtown split off from the freight main, which headed along the southeast side of the city. I was hoping the engineer would have to back up under the signal bridge so I could take a picture, but he didn't have to, and I wasn't about to trespass and ask him to.
Anyway, I set up a little bit south of the transload site and got a shot of the train heading back to Cressona, pushing an empty covered hopper in front of the switchers. There really aren't any other shots that I could find between Mount Carbon and Cressona, as the river separates the highway from the tracks, and there are lots of trees enclosing the right-of-way.
The train crew picked up the rest of their train in Cressona Yard and received their Form D to head back to Port Clinton. While they were doing that, I set up for a shot at Landingville. Unfortunately, the clouds struck and it wasn't the greatest shot, but there was still some decent light when the train came. At that point, I decided to end my trip, seeing that the forecast for the next two days was going to be hot and muggy. I made my way back to I-78 and headed for home.
I had to laugh at some of the billboards posted along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Turnpike Commission has an advertising campaign of "Peace, Love, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike" going on, with billboards in 1960s psychedelic colors and designs. Some of the better ones were "Share the LoveLet Someone Merge", and "Rome Wasn't Built In A Day, Either."
Hope you enjoyed the report. I'm looking forward to going back and doing some more of it again sometime. As I have time, I'll add a few scans of some of my slides from the trip. Thanks for reading!