Thursday 10 December 2015

October Railfan Trip - Day 6, The Final Day

Our final day started out very foggy as we found ourselves in Tarentum, PA, Carl's hometown.  Just as we arrives this NS oil train showed up.

Following Trains To Horeshoe Don Janes

     Monday Morning started out very foggy, the same as the previous day.  Our plans were to go to a spot where there was some interesting street running.  As we were getting off the freeway we spotted an NS oil train which Carl said would be passing through his hometown of Tarentum, PA. so we raced ahead to get a "mood" shot at the station.  Right across the street from the station was the restaurant that Carl's father had owned and was still in business, now owned by his cousin.  Once we got the photo we started out again. I asked Carl how busy this spot would be and he said not really too busy, likely lots of waiting.  I didn't like the sound of that so I asked what the chances of heading to Horseshoe curve would be instead.  He said it would be about a two hour trip so knowing there would be a lot more action there we changed our plans and headed east.  A very good move in my opinion.  It was a beautiful day, the fog had lifted and the fall colours were near their peak in many areas.  
    Our first stop was the small town of Southfork, PA, a junction where a branch line diverged to a coal mine.  Again, just as we pulled up beside the tracks an eastbound freight rounded the curve working hard on the long grade to Horseshoe Curve.  It was going at a fairly good clip considering the grade but as the rear end came into sight the reason was clear.  There were four more SD40E's pushing on the rear.  The manned helper set was added at Johnstown and would push all the way to Altoona.  There was a group of these units that were rebuilt and many are used as helpers on this grade. From here we scooted up the mountain to Cassandra.
These two shots at Southfork show the three units on the point and four more helpers on the rear.  The black NS units are not as colourful as the CSX ones we had seen but are still interesting in their own way.
As soon as the train passed Southfork we hopped in the car and got a shot of the helpers as they passed the picturesque Cassandra overlook.
     Once we shot the train at the Cassandra Railfan Overlook we headed back to Jamestown Road, a rural country road that crossed the mainline and had some old PRR position signals mounted on the bridge.  After a short wait twointermodal trains passed under the bridge giving us some more photo opportunities.  Since the time was getting on we decided to get up to Horseshoe Curve before the sun got behind the hills casting shadows on the tracks.  Our plan was to climb up the steep hill behind the curve to get a different angle of Horshoe Curve rather than the usual fenced in railfan spot on the inside of the curve.  In theory it was a great plan but once I started climbing up the steep, loose dirt, root infested, no trail hill I had second thoughts.  It actually bordered on dangerous for an old guy like me.  Once we got to the spot I was totally out of breath and exhausted.  It was a good spot but my heart sank because the whole side of the curve was in shadow.  Oh well, we were here now so may as well wait for a train.  Within 15 minutes one came around the curve and I got a few shots, not what I was hoping for but at least I can say I climbed the hill behind Horseshoe Curve.
Here's my shot from the outside of the curve. You can see the lookout and old PRR GP-9 on display in the center of the curve.  I had to do some photo editing to reduce the effect of the shadows. the shadows. This is one case no sun would have been better.
    The next stop was the Galitzen Tunnel.  Again, within a few minutes we saw two trains coming out of the tunnel, one a set of helpers and the other an empty coal train.  With the afternoon sun limited to only another hour or so we headed over to Cresson for a few shots.  There was a lot of action at Cresson and this is where some of the Westbound helpers cut off and head back to Altoona to give the next train a shove up the hill.

These two trains popped out of the Galitzen Tunnel within minutes of each other.  Note the old PRR caboose in the park beside the tracks in the first photo.

The above two intermodal trains were two of about eight trains we saw go by Cresson within a period of about 45 minutes.
     On our way home we pulled into Summerhill for one last photo before starting the two hour drive back to Carl's place.  From the highway overpass this location had a great view in both directions and there was an old PRR signal right to frame the shot.  
     It was a great week of railfanning with lots of great locations and beautiful scenery.  Hopefully we can plan a trip to Montana, a spot we both want to visit in the next year or two.
A pair of SD-40E helpers shove yet another train over the Allegheny Mountains. You can see clearly where the old 4th mainline once was.

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