I went to Carolina: Here's what was on my mind

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Monday, May 21, 2018

I just returned from a few days back home in North Carolina. Even though I have lived in Wisconsin, where Trains is published, for almost 14 years, the Tar Heel State will always be home. It’s the land of great barbecue, pine forests, and a place where, to my southern ear, people don’t have an accent. Let me tell you about my visit.

The main purpose of my trip was to attend a joint meeting of the Norfolk & Western Historical Society, the Southern Railway Historical Association, and the old Norfolk Southern Railway Historical Society in Salisbury. It was a great chance to see old friends and make new ones as well. And they were kind to me Saturday night when I gave a program about the top 10 news stories we’re following at Trains and a look back at how bad of a photographer I was in 1978 when I had my first good 35mm camera. I appreciate their indulgence.

While I was back home I visited a couple of favorite short lines, the Alexander Railroad and the Aberdeen Carolina & Western. The Alexander is famous for running end-cab Alco switchers for years in an attractive green and yellow paint scheme that went with the line’s nickname, the Junebug. Today, the railroad moves freight with a black SW1500 that came off Southern Pacific, and business is good. I saw industrial spurs all along the line. Business is also good on the AC&W, which I wrote about in our June 2017 issue. Unit grain trains still make their way off CSX and Norfolk Southern to the chicken feed plants in Candor. I watched an empty one of these with NS power on the beautiful welded rail and deep ballast that is on the railroad’s main line. I also observed an amazing parking lot of 43 former CSX high horsepower GEs that are now the property of Progress Rail. The AC&W is putting them into service, and they will go into lease service at Union Pacific. The railroad is also upgrading its own motive power fleet with SD60s from Canadian National that should be arriving soon.

I also spent a good amount of time at the North Carolina Transportation Museum at the Southern Railway shop complex in Spencer. This has been my home base for volunteer work for the last 32 years. While I was there I filmed a video tour of some highlights that we will have for you at trainsmag.com later. I also meandered the grounds, enjoying the sight of many improvements, many opportunities, and many friends. Among the rolling stock on display is Graham County Railroad Shay No. 1925, which is an engine that played a central role in cementing my relationship to railroading between ages 12 and 14. I was part of the team that restored the engine to operation in 1997, and I hope to see it back in service again one day. To me, it’s a very special locomotive and it carries with it many good memories and friendships for 45 years.

I also got to see N&W 4-8-4 No. 611, which is receiving 300 new staybolts and piston work as part of its 2018 maintenance. Scott Lindsay, who is in charge of the locomotive, told me more about the work in a video we’ll share with you here soon. It’s great to see this powerful machine getting attention that will keep it safe and reliable for years to come.

The museum repainted GP9 No. 620 just in time for the historical society meeting. No. 620 was always a freight engine for N&W, but it got to wear Tuscan red passenger colors in 1989 after NS Chairman Bob Claytor donated the paint. I was part of the crew that painted the engine that year. It must have been really good paint or a really good paint job to have lasted 29 years!




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