CSX's Sand Patch Grade: A place I should have visited long ago

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Thursday, June 11, 2020

SAND PATCH, Pa. – I am now at a stage in life where I am grateful for my life’s experiences, especially those that I’ve had in the enjoyment of train life. At 59, I’m far from done, but I am also feeling a sense of urgency to get to places that I’ve long read about in the pages of Trains or on Today, was one of those days.


I’ve heard about Sand Patch grade on the Baltimore & Ohio for all my life. It’s the busy mountainous crossing of the Alleghany Mountains between Cumberland, Md., and Pittsburgh, Pa. Today, it’s CSX’s main line, and it was a great show on June 11 with stack and merchandise trains and even one of those rare coal trains of the past. (I know. I cannot get used to that either).


For the better part of a morning, I saw a flurry of trains in both directions. It was almost too busy to eat a PBJ sandwitch and gulp down a Coke. There were signal maintainers, track crews, and hy-railers out keeping up the property. It was a good day. The curve at Sand Patch is so photogenic, that I didn’t mind that the summit tunnel is inaccessible.


I made a quick stop at Mance to photograph an eastbound at the 1892 post office that has been a landmark in the horseshoe curve there. It's an icon to eastern railroad enthusiasts. I wish I'd come here a long time ago. But better late than never! 


So, my friends, as we begin to travel once again, start dusting off your list of must-see places. Get out there and see them. Train life is still a great life.

For a look at CSX, be sure to check out our CSX at 40 100-page special issue and companion DVD. Order at



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