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CNJ in 4 separate states in two months

Posted by Samuel Phillips
on Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Ever had a particular locomotive follow you around? Or have you ever made a trip and photograph unit, then see it in your home turf weeks later? I have, and that is Norfolk Southern's Central of New Jersey heritage unit, SD70ACe No. 1071.
Starting with a trip to Pennsylvania in late October, I photographed the unit in four different states and on four separate former railroad lines: Monongahela, Pennsylvania, Southern, and Norfolk & Western.

The CNJ is one of my favorite heritage units, so having the opportunity to photograph it several times was cool. It is fascinating how a particular locomotive moves around; one day it could be leading a hot pig train across Pennsylvania, and a week later it could be on the point of a West Virginia-bound coal train.

A year ago in October, I had photographed the CNJ unit the least of Norfolk Southern’s 20 heritage-paint scheme locomotives, but once 2013 ended, I now have a good portfolio of this tangerine and blue work of art.

It all started like this.

On a beautiful autumn morning with leaves nearing their peak, a friend and I traveled north on Interstate 77 toward Pittsburgh, Pa., taking in the gorgeous mountain scenery. Our destination was the former Monongahela Railroad, where we’d heard the CNJ unit might be found leading empty hoppers to Baily Mine.

A few hours later, we sat outside Norfolk Southern's Shire Oaks Yard awaiting a crew to board the CNJ unit and take it south toward West Brownsville, Pa. Around 3 p.m. the train heads out and our chase begins. After bagging several pictures, we finally arrive at West Brownsville where another crew will arrive shortly to take the train the rest of the way to the mine. We set up at the end of street running in the quaint town, and await our train to pass through the beautifully lit scene.

An hour passes before the train finally begins to move, but it was a close call with the sun. We only had minutes to spare before our golden light disappeared, but everything worked to our advantage and we got this photo.

Later that evening, we learned that the train might return to Shire Oaks after being loaded the next morning. So we decided to wake up early and try our luck with it again. We get trackside before daybreak and find our train is on its way. We quickly set up to the South of West Brownsville, and await our train.

Just after the first rays of morning light began to illuminate our location, here comes N22 to pass through yet another beautifully lit, golden scene. The chase was now on to Shire Oaks!

After reaching Shire Oaks and learning that a crew wasn't on duty to take the train into Pittsburgh and east to Altoona, we began hoping for another chase the next day.

We decide to shoot other action for the rest of the day, and then find out if the CNJ unit had a crew called. At 6 p.m. we learn a crew has yet to be called for the CNJ unit, so we decide to wake up the next morning around Altoona to see where the train is.

We wake early the next day and get trackside just before dawn along the West Slope. About 20 minutes before sunrise, we hear the sound of EMD's assaulting the grade at Cresson. The approaching eastbound soon passes, and to our surprise, here comes train No. 590 with the CNJ unit on the point! We quickly head to Altoona for our first shot, and begin a chase east to Harrisburg.

My favorite shot of the chase is above, and pictures No. 590 racing eastbound in gorgeous morning light, through the quaint town of Port Royal, Pa. The train is about halfway across its trek from Altoona to Harrisburg at this point, and is wasting no time getting the heavy coal drag across the road.


Just three weeks after chasing the CNJ three consecutive days in Pennsylvania, luck has it after chasing Southern 2-8-0 No. 630 from Knoxville to Asheville, I learn that the CNJ is leading a westbound empty rock train across the former Southern Railway secondary main line. My traveling companion and I head east and shoot it on the famed loops between Ridgecrest and Old Fort, N.C.

After photographing train No. 69V traversing the loops, we head to the top of the climb at Ridgecrest for the image above. The locomotive was sure clean that day, and really stood out against the dull/brown trees.

For the next the month or so, the CNJ unit escaped my area and disappeared. However, just before Christmas, I learned that it was leading eastbound loaded train No. 776 across Ohio and is en-route to my region. The next day it is set to roll across the famed Norfolk & Western Pokey division.

I immediately leave home with a good buddy and drive west to intercept it. We are almost in the town of Iaeger, W.Va., as we hear "NS 776 east, clear signal Iaeger main one, out!" We quickly turn around, and head to Roderfield for our first shot and a chase back toBluefield across the old N&W mainline.

The shot above pictures the train grinding around a tight curve at Switchback, W.Va., with locomotives in notch-8, permeating the air with the sound of a heavy laden coal train assaulting 1.4-percent Elkhorn Grade. The move is about 6 miles from the crest and crawling along at roughly 10-mph: mountain railroading at its finest!

Upon reaching Roanoke, 776 tied down for the holiday and didn't run to its destination at the Hyco power plant near South Boston, Va., until Dec. 26th. Given Hyco has a loop track, the chance of 1071 leading westbound empties the next morning seemed like a likely bet.

The morning of the 27th brings another great CNJ chase, as I got word that train No. 763 is in Roanoke with 1071 on the point. Intercepting the train of empty hoppers at Salem, Va., we chase west across the Christiansburg District.

The picture below shows train No. 763 emerging from the famed twin tunnels at Montgomery, Va., with warm winter lighting illuminating the scene. The train is currently battling Christiansburg mountain, but with two well-performing ACes in charge, the move isn't wasting any time with the relatively light train of hoppers.

Thank you for reading, and hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them. My wishes for a Happy New Year, and as always, feel free to leave your feed back below.

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