Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Locos on both ends of a branch line run

2745 views
25 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 571 posts
Locos on both ends of a branch line run
Posted by John-NYBW on Thursday, March 11, 2021 3:19 PM

Being a transition era modeler, I don't spend a lot of time studying modern railroading but every once in a while I see something that catches my eye. This morning while traveling south on OH-13 from Mt. Vernon, I saw a train coming in the opposite direction. This line was at one time a major branch of the B&O that I believe ran all the way up to Sandusky but is now part of the Ohio Central which was absorbed by the Genessee and Wyoming several years ago. The branch runs from Newark, OH to serve the grain elevators in Mt. Vernon, a little over 20 miles. One train a day goes up and back on this line. I could see on the lead a bright blue loco and my first thought it was a Conrail retread but it had no lettering on the side, just a small logo under the cab that I couldn't make out. I have seen trains on this line quite a few times in the 20 years I have lived in this area and have seen all kinds of motive power. What caught my eye today was that on the rear was what I believe was an SD-40 in Ohio Central maroon livery facing in the opposite direction. In all the years I have come across trains on this branch, I had never seen a loco on each end. There is no facility for turning a loco on the Mt. Vernon end so I assumed it was so they could have a forward facing loco on both legs of the run but this was the first time I had ever seen this done. I'm guessing there were about 8-10 grain boxcars which is the typical consist for this train so the additional motive power wasn't needed. I'm just curious as to why they might have put a loco on either end when I had never seen that done before. 

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 12,161 posts
Posted by wjstix on Thursday, March 11, 2021 3:53 PM

John-NYBW
In all the years I have come across trains on this branch, I had never seen a loco on each end. There is no facility for turning a loco on the Mt. Vernon end so I assumed it was so they could have a forward facing loco on both legs of the run but this was the first time I had ever seen this done.

That is most likely correct. AFAIK that practice is relatively new (last decade maybe?). A diesel locomotive in neutral doesn't really add that much weight / drag to a freight, so on some branch lines a railroad will pull a trailing engine to the end of the line, then use that one to pull the train back where it started.

Stix
  • Member since
    May 2010
  • 7,884 posts
Posted by mbinsewi on Thursday, March 11, 2021 3:58 PM

The CN runs a short haul manifest daily, between Stevens Point, WI and Green Bay, WI. with a loco and an engineer on both ends.

No other crew members.

Mike.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 12,161 posts
Posted by wjstix on Thursday, March 11, 2021 4:10 PM

BTW the Conrail-blue engine you saw is probably an ex-Conrail lease engine, perhaps one owned by Trans-Global Solutions. There's an TGS ex-Pennsy SW1200 that I see every so often working the BNSF automobile yard near downtown St.Paul MN.

http://www.tgsgroup.com/services/locomotive-leasing

 

Stix
  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,959 posts
Posted by dehusman on Thursday, March 11, 2021 8:50 PM

wjstix
That is most likely correct. AFAIK that practice is relatively new (last decade maybe?)

They have been doing it for decades.  Basically its only done when locomotives are cheap.  When locomotives are expensive or in short supply then hauling around an extra engine is less attractive.

On the railroad I worked for it was frowned upon because the trailing engine isn't connected to the lead engine so there is no way to know if the wheels are slipping or the brakes have released, so they didn't want to risk damaging the engine.

On other railroads they do it all the time.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    February 2018
  • From: Danbury Freight Yard
  • 239 posts
Posted by OldEngineman on Thursday, March 11, 2021 9:48 PM

Conrail was doing this back in the late 80's. I worked jobs like this.

One place they used such a setup was the WNCH-99, the nightly New Haven to Danbury stone train. The train had to change direction at South Norwalk in order to get onto the Danbury branch. Then later on in Danbury, having engines on each end of the train made it much easier to pull the empties and set the loads at the consignee. Front units had the first engineer and conductor. Rear units had the second engineer and the brakeman.

The Providence & Worcester still runs this way, although they probably do it with a 3 man crew instead of 4.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 30,002 posts
Posted by rrinker on Friday, March 12, 2021 10:40 PM

It even made a way for the crew to get back without calling for transport in an incendent I saw near where I lived 25 years ago. push-pull out of Lansdale on the remaisn of the Reading Bethlehem Branch. There was some sort of company that got centerbeam flat cars near where I lived, but they usually switched when I wasn't home. One day I am driving home and as I drive across the grade crossing before turning on the road parallel to the tracks, I glance over and see something looks a little odd. The sidine was basically rails in mud, well, when they took the north end loco and pulled the car and started shoving it back, it tipped over and fouled ont he rest of the train parked ont he main. Didn;t really come off the rails, just leaned way over. I pulled in to a nearby parkign lot to watch the action. The crew walked all around checking things out, but eventually gave up. Locked the north end loco, climbed into the south end loco, and headed back to Lansdale. Next morning, there were a couple of cranes lifting the tilted centerbeam car off the rest of the train. Had to get to work so I couldn't stay and watch them clean it all up, but by the time I got home, it was all gone and the centerbeam car was spotted down by the industry.

                                          --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    January 2010
  • 122 posts
Posted by D94R on Thursday, April 1, 2021 9:28 AM

It's not grain they are serving in Mt. Vernon, its plastic pellets.  They also serve International Paper on the outskirts of town and Aerial.   They do have run around capability at the plastic silo, however I'm not sure if "stopping" doing that was their requirement for dual engines.   They started the dual engine runs within the last 5 years (or less).   Seems when the GP30 engine they usually used disapeard from the roster they started running the dual engine setup. 

I've chased them a couple times and watched their switching and my impression was they did it because they had facing and trailing point switches to contend with as they progressed further into Mt. Vernon.  I watched the crew swap from the "head end" to the "rear end" to switch out Aerial and then International Paper.  Then get back into the head end power onto the plastics silo.  

They then of course road the "rear end" power back home because it was then the actual head end power. 

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 571 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Thursday, April 1, 2021 10:37 AM

D94R

It's not grain they are serving in Mt. Vernon, its plastic pellets.  They also serve International Paper on the outskirts of town and Aerial.   They do have run around capability at the plastic silo, however I'm not sure if "stopping" doing that was their requirement for dual engines.   They started the dual engine runs within the last 5 years (or less).   Seems when the GP30 engine they usually used disapeard from the roster they started running the dual engine setup. 

I've chased them a couple times and watched their switching and my impression was they did it because they had facing and trailing point switches to contend with as they progressed further into Mt. Vernon.  I watched the crew swap from the "head end" to the "rear end" to switch out Aerial and then International Paper.  Then get back into the head end power onto the plastics silo.  

They then of course road the "rear end" power back home because it was then the actual head end power. 

 

Interesting. I was always under the impression their only purpose was to serve the grain elevators in Mt. Vernon. They still have the spurs to the grain elevators. Are those still served on a seasonal basis?

Also about a rear ago I noticed a few blocks south of the grain elevators on the opposite side of a chain link fence was an old covered wooden platform. It was free standing and not next to any building. I wish I remembered which street it was off of. It appeared to be a relic of the past. Maybe a team track from the transitition era. I planned to investigate it further later on but never got around to it. Do you have any idea what that is and if it is still in use?

  • Member since
    January 2010
  • 122 posts
Posted by D94R on Thursday, April 1, 2021 2:11 PM

There are no grain elevators, just the plastic pellet silos/elevator.  To be fair, I was told it was plastic pellets from a RR employee, but I can't honestly say they were correct.  However it is an industry served year round so being grain doesn't make sense.  These are the silos/elevator basically next to the B&O depot, which is also the "run around" since it connects back to the main, that I believe you are calling the spur?

 

The wooden platform you speak of, was it still north of the bridge?   Immediately south of the silo/elevator the B&O main takes a swooping curve to the east, then back south again before immediately crossing the bridge.  The southern end of the "run around" splits here, but there was also a furniture building very near here many years ago.  A Coconis or something to that effect.  It's been gone for a few years (decade +?) now, but maybe the platform was there?  In any event I can't see any platform on Google Earth, but if you can pinpoint where it was I may be able to answer that question.  There was much industry in Mt. Vernon at one point, so depending on the age of that platform, where it was, and if its still there or not, may indicate it was a loading platform for something in history.   

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 571 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Thursday, April 1, 2021 4:22 PM

D94R

There are no grain elevators, just the plastic pellet silos/elevator.  To be fair, I was told it was plastic pellets from a RR employee, but I can't honestly say they were correct.  However it is an industry served year round so being grain doesn't make sense.  These are the silos/elevator basically next to the B&O depot, which is also the "run around" since it connects back to the main, that I believe you are calling the spur?

Do you know if those silos have always been for plastic pellets or were they converted from grain silos? I guess I always assumed they were for grain so maybe that is why I assumed those are grain trains moving up and down that branch. 

 

D94R

 

The wooden platform you speak of, was it still north of the bridge?   Immediately south of the silo/elevator the B&O main takes a swooping curve to the east, then back south again before immediately crossing the bridge.  The southern end of the "run around" splits here, but there was also a furniture building very near here many years ago.  A Coconis or something to that effect.  It's been gone for a few years (decade +?) now, but maybe the platform was there?  In any event I can't see any platform on Google Earth, but if you can pinpoint where it was I may be able to answer that question.  There was much industry in Mt. Vernon at one point, so depending on the age of that platform, where it was, and if its still there or not, may indicate it was a loading platform for something in history.   

 

I went on Google Earth and I believe the platform I saw is in the notch of the V formed where the line splits just north of the Kokosing River bridge. From the sky it looks like the roof of a building but if it is what I think it is, there is an open platform under that roof. I tried to take it down to street level to look at it from there but I am using an experimental version of Google Earth and it doesn't look like it it allows that.

I'm not sure why but I had pulled into the parking lot on the opposite side of the tracks from there. It might have been because I got a cell phone call and don't like to talk while driving. I believe that is probably the location of the furniture store that you speak of. When I moved to this area 20 years ago, that was already closed and I always wondered what that building was. 

I didn't realize until I looked on Google Earth that the line split there and joins together again north of there. Is that the runaround you have described? 

  • Member since
    December 2016
  • 99 posts
Posted by speedybee on Thursday, April 1, 2021 6:26 PM

I am not a local to the area but I do enjoy looking at maps!

Here is a link to a Street View of the structure: https://goo.gl/maps/BEGc5WP9eCXrdHzMA

I have been looking at aerial photos and it seems the structure is not as old as it appears; it was built sometime between 1971 and 1988. I see it on the 1988 aerial photo but not 1971, or any prior.

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 571 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Thursday, April 1, 2021 7:20 PM

speedybee

I am not a local to the area but I do enjoy looking at maps!

Here is a link to a Street View of the structure: https://goo.gl/maps/BEGc5WP9eCXrdHzMA

I have been looking at aerial photos and it seems the structure is not as old as it appears; it was built sometime between 1971 and 1988. I see it on the 1988 aerial photo but not 1971, or any prior.

 

Yes, that is the structure I remembered seeing about a year ago. That's good research. I would have bet that the chain link fence wasn't always between that structure and the track and that there was a spur to that platform but that's just an educated guess. 

About five years ago you couldn't have gotten that view from Google Earth because the furniture store D94R spoke of was between the road and the tracks. I can't remember when it was finally torn down but it's been a few years. I wouldn't have ever seen that platform had they not torn down that building. It was a long wooden structure right where that road makes a sharp bend to the left. The Kokosing River is just to the left of the view you posted. 

  • Member since
    December 2016
  • 99 posts
Posted by speedybee on Thursday, April 1, 2021 9:03 PM

There's a remarkably crisp 1959 photo that shows your spurs in good detail. There are even a couple cars posing for the camera

https://imgur.com/a/3WlB1HT

Note that the structure isn't built yet.

 

And here's a link to the original full size photo, but beware, it's over 100mb

http://tas.transportation.ohio.gov/Imagery/1950s/1959/1229/1229-2-10.tif

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 571 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Thursday, April 1, 2021 9:53 PM

You can see the large furniture store between Sandusky St and the railroad tracks. I don't know when it went out of business but it was still standing until about five years ago, maybe even later. 

I had a hard time navigating the large photo. In the smaller version, it appears there is a diamond where now the track just diverges. This is an ex-B&O line and just south of there the line crosses a bridge over the Kokosing River and a little bit south of the bridge it crossed the PRR line which has been converted to a bike path. The Pennsy depot still stands just east of where the two lines crossed and you can see it in a Google Earth view. I'm wondering if there was an interchange track between the two at one time and if that is forming the diamond where now there is just a diverging line. 

  • Member since
    December 2016
  • 99 posts
Posted by speedybee on Friday, April 2, 2021 2:10 PM

No interchange right at the diamond, at least not in the 1959 or 1946 photos. The tracks simply crossed one another. But those two tracks did interchange just a bit further north at the B&O depot.

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 571 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Friday, April 2, 2021 2:44 PM

I'm trying to figure this out based on what I know of the area now and what I can tell from your photo. The enlarged photo shows about half the Pennsy depot at the upper left edge of the photo. That track is now a bike path and it crosses OH highway 13 and then a bridge across the Kokosing river. My guess is at some point after crossing that bridge a westbound line branched off of it back in the direction of the B&O line. Your photo shows that line going eastward to toward the left edge of the photo. There is now a tire store and a Domino's pizza in the area where that track went. It must have been torn up a long time ago.

Penny's trunk line through Mt. Vernon came out of Columbus, hugging OH highway 3 (The 3-C highway) for most of its route. I'd have to get out my old Altases to figure out where that line reached. The B&O line used to extend all the way up to Sandusky in northern OH but by the time I moved here it only went as far as Fredricktown and the Mt. Vernon-Fredricktown segment was abandoned by the Ohio Central about ten years ago. They were going to abandon the entire branch from Newark to Mt. Vernon until the state of Ohio ponied up some funds to improve the track. The state didn't want all the freight from that branch being moved to trucks running up and down OH-13. 

  • Member since
    May 2015
  • 5,117 posts
Posted by ericsp on Saturday, April 3, 2021 1:41 AM

These are plastic pellet hoppers.

This place looks like it is a grain elevator. The feed mills in California get unit grain trains and loose car grain shipments year around so shipping the grain generally is not seasonsal.

If there has been any grain shipped in boxcars in the past few decades it has probably been bagged and negligible compared to covered hopper shipments.

"No soup for you!" - Yev Kassem (from Seinfeld)

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 571 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, April 3, 2021 6:03 AM

ericsp

These are plastic pellet hoppers.

This place looks like it is a grain elevator. The feed mills in California get unit grain trains and loose car grain shipments year around so shipping the grain generally is not seasonsal.

If there has been any grain shipped in boxcars in the past few decades it has probably been bagged and negligible compared to covered hopper shipments.

 

Most of the cars I see on the trains going to Mt. Vernon are Hi-Cube plug door boxcars. I think they are 60 footers. A couple times I've seen tank cars in the consist. I've never followed the train into Mt. Vernon to see which industries get switched. In fact until you posted this Google Earth view, I wasn't even aware there were railroad spurs in that area. It is mostly a large trucking terminal. The railroad runs between Newark and Granville roads which are where I usually drive. I've never had reason to drive back into that large trucking complex. 

I just looked at a couple videos of that train and it did have some covered hoppers in the consist so I'm guessing the fact I see mostly boxcars is due to the time of year I usually see that train. I live outside 
Utica about 3 miles from the track as the crow flies. I hear the diesel horn from my house but since there is only one train a day on that branch, I don't often happen to be going into either Utica or Mt. Vernon when that train is running. I wasn't even aware until I started this thread that there were other industries being served in Mt. Vernon.

  • Member since
    January 2010
  • 122 posts
Posted by D94R on Monday, April 5, 2021 6:46 AM

John-NYBW

I didn't realize until I looked on Google Earth that the line split there and joins together again north of there. Is that the runaround you have described? 

 

 

Yes.  Probably not technically called a run-around, but that was where they performed the operation when running single units. 

 

As for grain or plastic, I can't be 100% sure.  I only know what the RR employee told me. 

 

Aside from that elevator, International Paper and either Burrows Packaging or Mauser (maybe both) are served (I said Aerial earlier, wasn't sure who all was served in that industrial park to be honest). 

But, if the packaging company is getting hopper cars, I'm banking the elevators are plastic pellets. I havent chased any of the trains long enough to catch the full out and back operations but International Paper gets box cars, and then the two business south of the tracks get both hoppers and box cars.   I'm guessing neither of those business's get grain...

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,959 posts
Posted by dehusman on Monday, April 5, 2021 8:31 AM

That structure looks like its for lumber storage.  It shows up on aerial photos about 1980 and does not look like it was ever rail served.

There doesn't appear to be a single industry that would use plastic pellets in the "downtown" Mt Vernon , OH area.  All the elevators are grain elevators and show no evidence of equipment to load or unload plastic pellets.

If they handle plastic pellets the only place I see where they could do that, is the spur near Greenwood Ave, just west of the "runaround" track.  They could spot two or maybe three cars in there and use a truck to vac them out.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    January 2010
  • 122 posts
Posted by D94R on Monday, April 5, 2021 9:39 AM

Street view doesn't help.  They keep that site clean.  Google Maps view shows a truck being unlaoded, and looks like it is an open top trailer with grain dumping into the pit. 

So, grain from there (hoppers). Paper from International Paper (box cars). Plastic pellets to Burrows and packaging components from there (hoppers and box cars)???

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 571 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Monday, April 5, 2021 11:25 AM

D94R

 

 
John-NYBW

I didn't realize until I looked on Google Earth that the line split there and joins together again north of there. Is that the runaround you have described? 

 

 

 

 

Yes.  Probably not technically called a run-around, but that was where they performed the operation when running single units. 

 

As for grain or plastic, I can't be 100% sure.  I only know what the RR employee told me. 

 

Aside from that elevator, International Paper and either Burrows Packaging or Mauser (maybe both) are served (I said Aerial earlier, wasn't sure who all was served in that industrial park to be honest). 

But, if the packaging company is getting hopper cars, I'm banking the elevators are plastic pellets. I havent chased any of the trains long enough to catch the full out and back operations but International Paper gets box cars, and then the two business south of the tracks get both hoppers and box cars.   I'm guessing neither of those business's get grain...

 

Someday when I don't have anything better to do I'm going to follow that train into Mt. Vernon to see what all it does when it gets there. Hopefully it will be a day when they are serving all their customers there. 

My impression that it's primary customer was the grain elevator I think came from the story I read about the Ohio Central considering abandonment of the branch. I think the story I read indicated the state wanted to keep the branch alive to alleviate all the trucks that would have to haul grain from the silos down Highway 13 if the railroad abandoned that stretch. 

I learned one other interesing fact. CSX still owns the track on that branch but leases it to the Ohio Central. In fact if I understand the Wiki article, the Ohio Central doesn't own any of the track it operates on. The State of Ohio owns some of its trackage. 

  • Member since
    April 2012
  • From: Huron, SD
  • 959 posts
Posted by Bayfield Transfer Railway on Monday, April 5, 2021 2:16 PM

It's sometimes surprising how real railroads do things.

In Niagara, WI there used to be a paper mill served by the C&NW.  It's on the riverside.  The mainline went by up on the bluff.  The mill track reached the mainline through a long looping siding with a small pulpwood yard and connected in Quinnesec, MI.

The C&NW kept a locomotive in Niagara just to serve the mill, rather than having the mill switched by the local freight.  There was even a little fuel tank down there.

 

Disclaimer:  This post may contain humor, sarcasm, and/or flatulence.

Michael Mornard

Bringing the North Woods to South Dakota!

  • Member since
    April 2021
  • 5 posts
Posted by KibuFox on Sunday, May 2, 2021 4:35 PM

It's relatively new, something that really started in the 90's. Truth be known, the idea seemed to come out of railroads going more to the one man operation with RCO remote locomotives. I think the first time I saw it, was photos of Conrail doing it with their freight trains on the North East Corridor, where they would top and tail trains (that's what it's called, top and tail), so the crew could acces facing point switches without having to really run around the train.

  • Member since
    January 2002
  • From: Canterlot
  • 8,321 posts
Posted by zugmann on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 12:42 PM

KibuFox
It's relatively new, something that really started in the 90's. Truth be known, the idea seemed to come out of railroads going more to the one man operation with RCO remote locomotives.

You also had smaller crews coming into play at the time, so doing flying switches or dutch drops became harder/impossible. 

Never heard it called top and tail, though.  Always heard it called push-pull. 

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!