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February 1996

 

Juice Train CSXT's Best Performer

The Tropicana Juice train was CSXT's best-performing merchandise train in 1995 with a 94 percent on time record, according to CSXT. The Tropicana Juice train, recently redesignated K650, operates on CSXT from Florida to Baltimore, thence as a Conrail train to New Jersey. Between Baltimore and Philadelphia, as a Conrail train on CSXT, it is designated Z414.

 

CSXT Implementing Three New Service Lanes

The Chicago Service Lane was officially established by CSXT effective January 1. Its territory covers the former Chicago and Nashville divisions from Chicago to Birmingham, and from Memphis to Chattanooga. John Drake is the general manager. The Louisville Service Lane, under general manager Bob Bernard, becomes effective February 1. The Baltimore Service Lane, under general manager Emory Hill, is slated to become effective next month. Billy Eason has been named CSXT's vice president-service lanes.

 

CSXT Adds 200 Jumbo Hoppers for Grain Express

As part of CSXT's Grain Express program, 200 new jumbo covered hoppers have been placed in unit train service. The cars accommodate more than 5100 cubic feet of capacity, or about 11 percent more than conventional equipment.

 

CSXT Renumbers its F-Units

CSXT's two remaining F-units, 117 and 118, have been renumbered 417 and 418 respectively. This allows continued sequential numbering of CW44AC units, currently being delivered.

 

CSXT Adopts Another Intermediate Locomotive Paint Scheme

CSXT has adopted yet one more intermediate paint scheme. It has applied a yellow nose to a black locomotive, former Georgia Railroad unit 6776, a GP40.

 

CSXT Restricts Grade Descent in Snow

CSXT has issued instructions to prohibit trains (except lite engines) to descend grades of 1.5 percent or greater for a distance of three or more miles when snow accumulations exceed 24 inches. Trains may descend such grades whenever there has been a movement within the previous hour, or it has been determined that roadbed snow level no longer exceeds 24 inches.

 

Amtrak to Run Through Coaches Via Three Rivers and Capitol Limited

Amtrak will reportedly extend through coach service from the Three Rivers to the Capitol Limited at Pittsburgh. To implement the operation, standard-level Amfleet coaches from the Three Rivers will be coupled to a coach-dorm transitional car on the rear of the Capitol Limited - which runs with Superliners - thus allowing passengers from the Three Rivers access to the rest of the train.

 

Conrail to Sell 1800 Miles of Branchline Trackage to Shortlines

Conrail has announced plans to sell about 1800 miles of branch lines to shortline companies. Most of the lines involved are grouped into 12 geographic clusters or corridors. Conrail also plans to sell about 200 additional miles of line not associated with the clusters, according to a press release.

 

Norfolk Southern Boosts Stock Dividend

Norfolk Southern has boosted its dividend to 56 cents a share payable to shareholders of record February 2.

 

Capitol Limited Stops at Miller Tower

[By Allen Brougham] . . . . . Not just once, not just twice, but THREE TIMES within about a 25-hour period last month, Amtrak's famed Capitol Limited made stops for passengers directly in front of Miller Tower. And on one occasion, the stop was for . . . . ME! The occasion was the gigantic snowfall occurring Sunday and Monday, January 7-8, dumping some 30 inches of the white stuff all over the place, making road travel -- even in a 4-wheel drive Tracker -- impossible. Sunday would normally be the last day of my work week, and I had already spent the previous night in a Martinsburg motel to make getting to the tower easier. But owing to the forecast of continued accumulation throughout the day, I opted to drive to NA Tower in Martinsburg and ride Q347 over to Miller. This I did, but I was prepared for the thought that I might be there for a while. Indeed, as day turned into night, the phone rang as third-shift operators within our 5-tower cluster called in to mark off. Second-shift in due course turned into third-shift, and with the snow remaining heavy throughout the night, third-shift eventually became first-shift . . . The other towers within the Brunswick to Hancock cluster suffered the same fate, and by Monday morning at 7AM, all of the operators had been on duty 12 hours or longer. But Miller Tower, at the tail end of a nearly mile-long dirt road from the then-isolated community of Cherry Run, could well have been an outpost on the moon! A few trains did run, though, and Amtrak 29, the westbound Capitol Limited of the day before, was slated to make a journey before the day was out. The superintendent and chief dispatcher were concerned about the welfare of their stranded operators, and arrangements were made for Amtrak to stop at the towers with meals. Operators could also be transported by train, including Amtrak, if any could make it to the railroad where they could be picked up. By mid-morning the snow had stopped -- in fact, the sun came out -- but there was still a lot of drifting. Finally, that afternoon, Jim Vargo was able to drive into Martinsburg where he boarded Amtrak 29 (then about 21 hours late), riding it to Miller to relieve me. But I wanted to go the other way! So there at Miller I waited, having already been there 24 hours, meanwhile enjoying my Amtrak meal, hoping sometime for a way to get out. I called a friend, CSX brakeman Mike Welsh, who lives in Hagerstown. He has a 4-wheel drive Blazer. I knew he'd never make it to Miller, but if the roads were clear enough to get to Cherry Run, I'd find a way to hike out. Well, he tried, for which I'm grateful, but Cherry Run Road was just impassable. Oh, well! Two eastbounds would be coming in due course. First would be Amtrak 30, later an R138. I really didn't want to stop 30, but R138 was running about eight hours behind 30, so I opted to let it give me a ride. Anyway, 30 was going to stop at Miller, or at least slow down, to give whoever was on duty some supper. So shortly after 9PM that evening, a very late Amtrak 30 came to a stop at Miller Tower, and I climbed (literally) on board. It was ironic . . . I had been at Miller for 30 hours, and then got picked up by number 30! Dark as it was, I went into the Sightseer Lounge car to reflect upon the lights of the passing no-man's land as we silently glided the course toward Martinsburg. Such ambiance through such a forbidding snowbound terrain! We made a stop at West Cumbo Tower with supper for the operator. (They offered me some supper, too, but I declined.) Safely back at Martinsburg, and the comfort of my motel room, I ventured the following day (Tuesday) back to Miller in the afternoon to relieve Jim, who had been there by then 24 hours. This time the roads were open (barely), so I drove to Miller in my Tracker. (It took me two hours to go 14 miles!) But Jim, whose car was still in Martinsburg, had to get there by train. And the next one to come along was . . . Amtrak 30. Now I know that many of you who live up north, or out in the Rockies, will wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, 30 inches of snow is only 30 inches of snow. But remember, a storm of this magnitude is an anomaly in our parts. The jurisdictions simply don't have the equipment needed to keep roads open during such an assault. When such a storm happens -- which is rare -- we just have to make do as best we can. Then, come spring, it will be something simply to remember.. In writing this piece, I could have titled it "30 Hours at Miller." It could have been sort of a sequel to the article in the January issue about an eight hour shift. But I chose the title I'm giving it, as this is how I'll mostly remember it. After seeing the Capitol Limited's daily passage, and looking forward to riding it in a Superliner, I've finally gotten my chance. And I didn't have to venture very far to do it!

 

And Then Came the Flood!

[By Allen Brougham] . . . . . Nearly two weeks had passed since the Great Blizzard of 1996, and much of the aftermath remained on the ground. But then it turned warm . . . and then came an onslaught of RAIN! The date was Friday, January 19. The rain had stopped by the time I got to Miller to begin the 3PM shift, but the normally placid Potomac River was about to breach its banks. I had seen it this high before, but I kept a watchful eye as the afternoon wore on. The phone rang. Danny Unger, an operator who had also seen the river this high before, had a few words of advice. The dirt road leading to Miller Tower had some places that were lower than the tower's parking lot. If I waited until the water reached the parking lot, I might find my car trapped in by water too deep to drive out. Also, he said, the water can rise very quickly. So I took the occasion to move my car to the crossing, nearly a mile away, and walked back to the tower. By then, water had begun lapping to within a foot of some of the low spots along the lane. Amtrak had been annulled, and the last train -- westbound coal cars -- passed the tower at 6:07 PM. Later, track inspectors in a hi-rail truck went through to look for high water. "You'd better be thinking of leaving!" were their words of advice before they left. Soon, water began pouring into the parking lot. I called Dave Wood, our signal maintainer, who came to the tower in his hi-rail truck to move his records to the second floor. Then, just after 9 o'clock, as water rose toward the bottom step, we both left by rail for the crossing. For the next two days, the operators of Miller Tower spent their time in the sequestered comfort of NA Tower in Martinsburg, where we could maintain continuity of our clerical calling functions. No trains were running. By Sunday evening, the water had receded enough to return to Miller Tower. Damage was minimal, but the parking lot was a quagmire of mud. Trains began running the following day, but only westbound. By Tuesday, trains were running in both directions, but still no Amtrak. By Wednesday, Amtrak service had been restored. Things were mostly back to normal by Thursday, at least in our area. The flood of 1996 was of the type seen perhaps once in a decade. The last one of at least this magnitude, which was higher, was in 1985. Probably the biggest flood in the tower's history was in 1936 when the water actually made it to the bottom of the second floor. It was then that much of the tower's signaling infrastructure (relays, etc.) were moved to the back part of the second floor to protect it from future flooding. It was a wise decision!

 

The Ashley Drew & Northern Calls it Quits

[By Allen Brougham] . . . . . Somehow, it just won't be the same. The good old Ashley, Drew & Northern has long been my favorite shortline. Its distinctive green and white boxcars and bulkhead flats have graced trains throughout the land, and the appearance by any of them has prompted me to render one of my songs as the car passes. Oh, it's not a very elaborate song -- it only has three different notes -- and the only words to it are "Ashley, Drew & Northern." So enamored was I of this tiny line in southeastern Arkansas with such a huge fleet of cars, that I spent a whole day back in 1991 paying it a visit. It was one of my layover days during an Amtrak trip I took to Arkadelphia, Arkansas, the trip and visit to the AD&N being duly reported upon in the May 1991 issue of the Bull Sheet. But before I went, I primed myself with a great deal of homework. I memorized catchy names of some of the locations along the 40-mile right of way from Monticello to Crossett -- names such as Osmont Bluff, Lone Sassafras, Fountain Prairie, Roark, Beech Creek, Milo and Pugh. I even enlisted the help of friends to conjure up fantasies of just what these places were all about. Was each a bustling community? We even wondered if their population base justified high-speed train service, such as Metroliners, to speed the folks from place to place on the ADN. In our fancy, we even made up hypothetical schedules for such a service. Express trains would cover rush hour service between some of the points; locals would fill in the gaps throughout the day and night to serve all stations at frequent intervals. But the stations having the most frequent service between each other would be Milo and Pugh. This prompted the creation of the Milo-Pugh song, but so much for that! In fact, at one time there really was passenger train service along the AD&N. A timetable from 1929 lists mixed trains 1 and 2 making three-hour runs daily except Sunday, northbound in the morning and southbound in the afternoon. Hardly a Metroliner operation! Such as it was that day in 1991 when I took off in a rented car for the two-hour jaunt from Arkadelphia to Monticello to explore the line. I found most of the places named above. They were hardly the mythical metropolises I and my friends had imagined, but nonetheless quaint and in keeping with what I had really imagined.. But once in Crossett, the line's headquarters, I found a rather impressive terminal and shop area. The folks there were super friendly, gladly giving me permission to photograph on the property, and they even gave me an official AD&N cap. (It's green and white!) The Ashley, Drew & Northern, named for Ashley and Drew counties, which the line serves, is owned by the Georgia Pacific Corporation. Other shortlines owned by Georgia Pacific include the Amador Central; Arkansas, Louisiana & Mississippi; Blue Rapids; Chattahoochee Industrial; Fordyce & Princeton; Gloster Southern; and Old Augusta railroads. Locomotives of some of these lines might be seen interchangeably at the Crossett terminal. On return from my trip, I reported to my friends what I had seen, and proudly wore my cap to fit the occasion. From then on, seeing AD&N cars held increased feeling in my heart.. But then, several months ago, I got a call from Rob Wimbish, an attorney I know who works for a firm representing shortline railroads. He does not represent the AD&N, but he knew the firm that does, and he reported the sad news to me . . . The Ashley, Drew & Northern had filed for abandonment. The AD&N's application was noted in an item on the front page of the October 1995 issue. This brief item told its own story, but it shrouded my own feelings of losing what I considered a close friend. It just won't be the same! Rob knew of what I felt toward the AD&N, and he obliged by requesting a copy of the abandonment application from the railroad's counsel in Washington: Shea & Gardner. In fact, they graciously sent it to him by messenger. The application is replete with legalistic wording, but the sad truth it unfolds is that "the demand for ADN's rail services does not warrant continued operations." Primarily a forest products carrier with its parent company the principal shipper, traffic had declined in recent years. From 1980 to 1994, total carloadings had declined from 26,843 to 5,570. Moreover, the line was built without an engineered roadbed or grade, and this resulted in a costly operation in terms of locomotive performance and fuel inefficiencies. But the nail in the coffin was a decision by the parent company, owing to plant changes at its Crossett facility, to eliminate all local pulpwood shipments within the next year. As to what traffic would remain, the answer lies in the "t" word . . . trucks! One saving grace, according to the application, is the presence of the Fordyce & Princeton and its trackage rights agreement with ADN on 4.7 miles of its track from Crossett to Whitlow Junction. F&P intends to buy that portion, and continue to operate it. Will I now have to change my song to "Fordyce & Princeton" from the one I have been singing? Again, it just won't be the same!

Some History of the Ashley Drew & Northern . . . . .

[From the company's application for abandonment] . . . . . The Ashley, Drew & Northern Railway Company was an outgrowth of the logging tram roads built by the Crossett Lumber Company to haul logs to its mills at Crossett, Arkansas, shortly after the turn of the century. The Crossett interests formed the Crossett Railway Company in 1905 which built a line about ten miles north of Crossett. In 1912, the Crossett, Monticello & Northern was formed by the same interests to extend the line north to Monticello and beyond to Pine Bluff or Helena, Arkansas. Later that same year, the line was turned over to a promoter, R.O. Roy, who organized the Ashley, Drew & Northern, which completed the line to Monticello in 1914.. In 1902, after the Crossett Lumber Company announced plans for construction of a large sawmill and formation of the town of Crossett, the Mississippi River, Hamburg & Western Railway Company (later Missouri Pacific) extended its line from Hamburg, Arkansas, to Crossett. The Rock Island's line south from Little Rock reached Crossett in 1907 with the intention of building on to New Orleans. Although it never went further south, the Rock Island continued operating into Crossett until it was shut down following bankruptcy in 1980. In 1907, the Arkansas, Louisiana & Gulf Railroad Company completed a 54-mile mainline from Monroe, Louisiana, to Hamburg, with a five-mile branchline from Rolfe Junction, Arkansas, to Crossett. It also had visions of building to Pine Bluff or other points northward in Arkansas. Failing to obtain financing for its extension north from Hamburg, the AL&G leased the AD&N between Crossett and Monticello in 1915 as part of its expansion plan. The AL&G then operated over 90 miles between Monroe, Louisiana, and Monticello until it went bankrupt about 1918. The road was reorganized as the Arkansas & Louisiana Midland which continued to lease and operate the AD&N until the A&LM also went bankrupt in 1920. The lease was terminated and the AD&N returned to operating its own line which continues today. Just before being scrapped, the assets of the bankrupt A&LM were purchased at auction by a new carrier, the Arkansas & Louisiana Missouri, which operated the line until 1991 when its assets were purchased by the Arkansas Louisiana & Mississippi Railroad Company. This road continues to provide rail service between Monroe and Crossett.. The Fordyce & Princeton was originally a tap line created in 1890 to haul logs to the Fordyce Lumber Company's mill at Fordyce, Arkansas. By 1981 it had dwindled to a small switching carrier at Fordyce that connected with the Rock Island and the St. Louis & Southwestern Railway Company. That same year, following the bankruptcy of the Rock Island, the F&P purchased the Rock Island's tracks between Crossett and a connection with the Southern Pacific at Fordyce which it continues to operate today. The Missouri Pacific line from Montrose, Arkansas, through Hamburg and into Crossett was abandoned in the early 1980's. Thus, the area served today by the Ashley, Drew and Northern between Crossett and Monticello is also served by the Fordyce & Princeton between Crossett and Fordyce, and the Arkansas, Louisiana & Mississippi between Crossett and Monroe.

 

Another 29 Song

Dale Jacobson of Greenbelt, Maryland, writes with the thought that the song I render for Amtrak 29 [see last month's issue] is perhaps a little too bland. After all, it repeats the same phrase a dozen times through the course of the melody without ever saying anything more than the fact that the train is coming. Dale is a government employee, and needing something constructive to do during the recent shutdown, he thoughtfully composed some words to make the song more meaningful. It's still sung to the tune of "Here Comes Santa Claus."

Here comes Twenty-nine,
Here comes Twenty-nine,
Westbound down the line.
Here comes Twenty-nine,
Here comes Twenty-nine,
Looking mighty fine!
All the people look so happy,
See their faces shine!
Cares unravel when you travel,
On Amtrak Twenty-nine.

 

Bodine's Closes - Hedgesville Restaurant

I put them out of business! I'm sure I did! Once or twice a week over the past three years, while en route to the tower, I'd stop at Bodine's for their all-you-can-eat buffet. [See last month's issue] The trouble was, "all-you-can-eat," for me, is what would normally be eaten by three. Neat eh? Three meals for the price of one! And some days I'd stoke in even more than that! Finally, they put up the white flag, and their last day was January 28. Carded as the "Biggest Secret in Hedgesville," Bodine's had been in business for 16 years. Owned by Jeffrey Manor (he used his nickname Bodine from the character Jethro of that name in the Beverly Hillbillies), many of the artifacts at the restaurant were from his parents' household in Little Georgetown, West Virginia. The pleasant atmosphere and service were a credit to the family-run operation. It will be missed. [A.B.]