Eastern Pennsylvania Trip, October 17-20, 2002

Wednesday, October 17, I drove out to Scranton, most of it in the pouring rain. While I had made a meticulous list of items I needed to pack for the trip, I realized about 10 minutes after I got on the Ohio Turnpike that my scanner was at home, so I drove back and got it. The leaves in central PA were peak or close to it, but the colors got patchier the farther east I went. Stayed the night at the Rodeway Inn in Moosic.

Thursday morning I went to the Delaware-Lackawnna shops to see what the day's plans were. I ran into several railfans there, including a guy from upper New York state, two from New Hampshire, and one from Massachusetts. There probably isn't a day that goes by on the DL that someone isn't taking pictures of it... Anyway, the Portland crew had the Falls Road RS11 #1802 outside of the shops, and they started off by taking it and the 805 south about a mile to switch a customer and come back. While they did that, we watched as the shop guys used a crane to install a new radiator in their ex-Knox & Kane S6 switcher, the 1044.

They then took the 805 (C424) and 645 (M420, both in British Columbia Railway green paint) north with a cut of cars to Green Ridge yard, with an engine on each end. They messed around there a while and came south on the Vine Street Branch, stopping to pick up a car at Gress Refrigeration on Wyoming Avenue. The spur crosses the street, and traffic was stopped while they made their pickup. Up to this point, the sky had been cloudy all morning, but the sun peeked through briefly a couple of times while they were doing this. They then headed south to Bridge 60 and got on the Pocono Main, picked up the 3642 (M636), rearranged their train and power to put the 3642 on the point, and headed up to Ridge Row behind the University of Scranton, where they made some more pickups and screwed around for a while longer.

They finally left town at 1:15, and I shot them in somewhat decent light coming under I-81. A few minutes later, the engineer reported that the 805 wasn't pulling its weight. They stopped at Winton siding and found the locomotive had low fuel pressure. A truck from the shop agreed to meet them at Elmhurst, and the train resumed. I shot them coming under the signal bridge at Elmhurst, where I ran into Brian McDowell from Cincinnati and his friend Bill who was out visiting from Missouri. At Elmhurst, the train stopped, and after 20 minutes, the shop guys arrived and performed what has to be the most-photographed fuel filter change in the railroad's history, as there had to have been a half-dozen other railfans besides me witnessing this event. At least it was sunny....but that was about the most sun we would see for the rest of the day.

After going through all that, it was determined that the 805 was just not going to run that day, so they took off to Portland with two engines running. I shot them at Moscow and again at Gouldsboro station. A fellow named Dominic from Montreal followed me the rest of the trip, as he had never shot the line before. We shot the train again at Pocono Summit station, Cresco (where they stopped to set out a load of lumber), East Stroudsburg (by the tower), Slateford Junction, and coming under the Cutoff bridge south of the junction. By the time we got to Slateford Junction, the light had pretty much gone in the toilet. The crew had begun their switching moves at Portland when I left, but I'm guessing they were going to tie up the train and bring it back the next day.

Friday, I did the Reading & Northern Lehigh Line between Lehighton and Pittston. Except for some puff clouds, it was sunny all day. I started the day by going to the yard in Jim Thorpe to see what the R&N was using for power. My worst nightmare was realized...the 3200 (ex-SP SD45) and two of the solid black NS C30-7s. Barf. The R&N engineer that day was the famous "Big Mike" Bednar, who told me that NS train 40T (the CN runthrough train) was not far away, so I went to the grade crossing at Packerton, shot the 40T there, and chased it down to Parryville, where I shot it coming under the northeast extension of the PA Turnpike and passing a cement plant before returning the Lehighton to see the R&N train come out.

I then went up into the state park at Glen Onoko to do the overlook shot from the rocks, where I ran into Rodney Miller, who I had met at the Railpace picnic a couple months ago, and another friend of his. Rodney was going to chase the train up to Pittston, so after LEPI rolled by at 9:45, I followed Rodney onto the road and off we went.

I found out the hard way that the Lehigh Line is a tough piece of railroad to shoot. The morning trains are almost useless for pictures, as they're usually coming out of the sun, and the vegetation has grown up enough to make some good shot locations impossible today. We finally ended up shooting the train again a couple miles south of Dupont, and again by a cemetery less than a mile away from Pittston Yard. We stayed there for a few minutes longer, as we heard some other movements on the radio, and were rewarded with a shot of a repainted light R&N SD40-2 heading north on the Taylor Secondary (former DL&W Bloomsburg Branch), and a shot of the "A-Team" (the YJPI-A local out of Pittston) returning light to Pittston.

At the yard, we took some shots of the power there, including the "Quicker Picker-upper" SW1500 and another freshly repainted SD40-2. Big Mike invited us into the yard office while he and some of the other crews ate lunch. During this time, a Luzerne & Susquehanna train came into the yard with a car to drop off. They had a car to switch farther south on the DL&W "Bloom" which they operate west of Pittston Junction, and took off with a black SW1 #30 and the car. Rod and I shot the train coming off of the Susquehanna River bridge, which was a cool shot. Rod, after saying he was going back to the yard, followed the train south, while I found some gas and lunch and went back to the yard. Around 3:00 PM, Big Mike and the PILE took off, and I chased it solo back towards Jim Thorpe, getting shots at Penobscot Yard, Crestwood, and Tannery. Back at Jim Thorpe, I was coming into town and saw a train going by with NS power...the H66 local returning from Hazleton. The LEPI was behind him, so I found a bright still-sunny spot around the curve south of the Jim Thorpe Market where the LV station used to be. Rod joined me there as well, having picked up the chase enroute, and we shot the train coming around the curve. We then went down to Lehighton Yard where we watched the PILE give the H66 his cars in the fading sunlight.

Saturday was pretty much a washout, as it rained most of the morning and was cloudy and foggy all day. I chased the Rail Tours excursions out of Jim Thorpe over the Carbon & Schuylkill, who operates the former CNJ Nesquehoning Branch between Jim Thorpe and Haucks. R&N also has trackage rights over the C&S as well. This day, the R&N also ran an excursion from Port Clinton to Jim Thorpe. The Rail Tours trains operated with power on both ends....a pair of C&S GP10s in Conrail blue on the east end, and a pair of former BAR F3s painted as CNJ 56 and 57 on the east end. The blue and orange CNJ F3s were the main reason I was there that day and the next.

I followed the line and took a few shots as reference, and also took a couple pictures of the R&N train as well. I then went back into town and over the river to Glen Onoko, parked the car, and walked across the old CNJ bridge across the Lehigh River so I could get some shots of the remains of "PQ" tower, which controlled the junction of the Nesquehoning Branch with the mainline. While it was a shorter walk than coming in from the yard in Jim Thorpe, I'm not sure how wise it was, as the bridge was wet from the rain and the timbers and ties weren't all in the best of shape...

I rode the afternoon train for something to do. The excursion ran all the way out to the Hometown High Bridge over the Little Schulykill River east of Haucks. The train passed slowly over the bridge to give riders a good look. The bridge is really in the middle of nowhere....it is a half-mile from the nearest grade crossing, and there's no roads that I know that run under it. On the way back, we met the R&N excursion west of Nesquehoning by the Ametek plant. R&N had sent an SW1500 and a power car from Port Clinton while it laid over in JT, as the generator on the train could barely keep the lights going in all of the cars. Power on the R&N train was two of their repainted SD50s and the SW1500 being returned to Port Clinton.

Sunday I arrived at Lehighton to find CP train 410 parked on track #1 at CP-LEHIGHTON. Power for the train was a SOO SD60, two CP SD40-2s (one with Multimark, one without), and a CP SD40-2F "red barn." I talked to the engineer, who told me he was outlawed after bringing the train from only Binghamton, and gave me a nice lecture about the NS operating department's flawed views on how to run a railroad. I shot 40T around 8:30 as it passed the 410, and then I took off in chase, getting it again coming around the curve at Palmerton north of the station (which is today a residence and is private property). I beat the train to Slatington, where I ran into Olev Taramae and another railfan setting up for the shot. I followed them to two more shots, the last being in Northampton, and then returned to Jim Thorpe.

I shot both excursions with the CNJ F3s several times. The real money shots were from a hillside above the tracks as they passed Lake Hauto, and on the Hometown High Bridge itself. Despite the light coming in at a perfect angle and being a unique location, I was the only person to record on film the passage of the train across the bridge. As I was walking back to my car while the train crept along, I was taking with the passengers in the open-window car...and was actually walking faster than the train until it stopped so the crew could change ends. After chasing the train back to Jim Thorpe and getting a couple of last shots, I packed in the gear and drove home. The weather was sunny in the morning, but some high clouds and haze developed as the afternoon went along. Still, it was 100% better than the day before, which was a total washout.

Final tally: 1296 miles on the Pontiac, one roll of E100VS (used while cloudy in Scranton Thursday morning), and seven rolls of EPP. Now to see how the slides come out...

Jerry W. Jordak -- jer@smellycat.com