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Southern Steam & Spring in the Mountains

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  • Southern Steam & Spring in the Mountains

    It would seem that NS is taking full advantage of using the smaller engine (Southern 630) in the new steam program to visit places that would be off-limits to bigger power of the "old" program. While plenty of mainline trips are being run, the 630 is also getting the chance to wander off to some of those far corners of the system where steep grades, great scenery and awesome local folks are the rule.

    Case in point are the recent trips that operated out of Grundy, Virginia on the former N&W Buchanan branch. Grundy is not exactly a place you might expect NS to run trips out of. Its not easy to get to, there is not much in the way of support infrastructure close by (just getting a cellphone signal was a challenge), and the population base is not all that great. All of those (supposed) negatives did not seem to play much part in those trips, as they all were pretty much sold out and probably saw just as many local people ride as those from out of the area. All one had to do was look at the crowds and festival like atmosphere in town to know that this sort of thing don't happen here very often, it WAS a big deal, and that is exactly what the steam program is for...people. I would have to say if NS ever wanted to reach out and make some folks happy and get some good PR, then Grundy was the place to do it. Railfans aside, it was hard not to notice the crowds of smiling people everywhere you went...steam seems to have that effect.

    I will have to admit that when the Spring Schedule came out I had little to no interest of going to shoot the runs out of Grundy. I had been there only once before (LOST) and had no idea about the operations or scenery on the branch. I like to be well prepared in these adventures and know where I am going, Three ways to get there, and every angle to shoot in any lighting conditions at every location (picky..who..me??). Needless to say, I had not prepared as I had not intended on going, but after some encouragement (nagging) and gentle persuasion (more nagging) from a couple of folks, I found myself leaving home at 0400 in the morning with a few of the usual suspects to keep me company.

    Never being one to go unprepared, I had lined up a crackerjack local guide just in case....and being prepared paid off in spades! We spent the first half of the morning trip from Grundy to Devon following him at a high rate of speed across some fun roads and bagged some great shots in some great locations. The train did not move very fast (maybe 25mph tops) and that let us get him several times. We would roll up to a photo location we had never been to before, and have about 30 seconds to figure out how to shoot it....combat railfanning at its finniest!

    After the First trip made it to the wye at Devon, our expert guide left us on our own. With 4 sets of eyes we did pretty good for the rest of the day, and came away with some good stuff. At the end of the day, I had driven 600 miles in 21 hours, had a great time with a great group of folks and got to see one of the best steam shows I have seen in years. Was it worth it...you bet it was!

    Below are a few samples. Be sure to check out the entire set (34 new images) at this link >>>> Norfolk Southern Steam in 2014 Photo Gallery by E.M. & Carmon Bell at pbase.com

    04/19/14

    This was my First steam shot of 2014, and a great way to kick off the year. Southern 630 crosses the Levisa Fork at the East end of Weller yard as the train starts the morning trip across the Buchanan branch.


    "Eruption" Westbound NS 066 has just cleared the yard limits at Weller yard and Thomas Wye, and after the engineer called a CLEAR at Lynn Camp, the stack of that little engine erupted in smoke and sound as the throttle came all the way out. When they came around the curve you could hear the diesels working, but by the time the head end came by, the sharp report of 630's exhaust had drowned out those SD40-2's as the train accelerated up the ruling grade on the Buchanan branch. I would have liked to be around during the days of N&W steam here to have heard a Y6B do the same.



    A Rocky Start" After turning on the wye at Devon, SR 630 heads back East towards Grundy, seen here between Ought One and Woodman, Ky . The former N&W Buchanan branch passes through some rugged and beautiful scenery that seems to constantly be changing mile by mile.


    This was one of the few times I have heard 630 work hard for any extended amount of time..they really let the old gal show her stuff all day. In this scene the train is climbing the steep 1.70% grade out of Hurley, Va. The stack talk and echos brought shivers to my spine....a sound not heard here in decades.


    "Cinders & Red-buds" Southern 630 pounds up the last stretch of the 1.71% grade and is about to plunge into Raitt tunnel at Virginia Lee, Virginia. Soon the rain of cinders will stop as the train is swallowed by the mountain, leaving only the lingering smell of burning coal to mingle with the sweet scent of Spring in the mountains.


    "Over the Top" , Southern 630 reaches the crest of the grade at CP "Virginia Lee" and pops out of the West end of the Raitt tunnel after the long climb up from Grundy. Its all downhill from here to the Pokey main at Devon.


    With the head end already across the Tug Fork and into Kentucky, and the rear still on the other side in West Virginia, Southern 630 peers through the tunnel at "Ought One" after turning on the wye at Devon. The train is headed back for Grundy with the last of several sold out trips in an area that had not seen a steam locomotive since the N&W dropped the last fires in the 1950's


    "Walking and Talking" Southern 630 had a bark like I had never heard from her before as she slowly walked her train up the ruling 1.71% grade on the former N&W Buchanan branch near Virginia Lee, Virginia. That pair of SD40-2;s tucked in behind the A tank were carrying part of the load, but the 630 had more than her share. I have never heard that little engine work as hard as she did on these trips.
    E.M. Bell, KD4JSL
    Salvisa, KY

  • #2
    Beautiful, you came away with some real winners on this trip. Been wondering when we were going to get to see these! Thanks for sharing.
    Standard lengthy disclaimer / warning / terms of use: All postings by "NSRLink" are fictional, public information, for entertainment purposes only, should never be taken seriously, and in no way should be construed to represent the positions, views, ideas, or thoughts of any railroad carrier, person, entity, organization, or otherwise. By reading anything posted or associated with the user ID, "NSRLink," any entity agrees they shall not be offended, harmed, sad, defamed, inflamed, upset, mad, harassed, have their feelings hurt, or similar. Parties or entities not agreeable to these "terms of use" are hereby required to block this profile "NSRLink" and agree to not read or view posts so they will no longer be offended, harmed, sad, defamed, inflamed, upset, mad, harassed, have their feelings hurt, or similar in any manner, and may do so via UserCP "Edit ignore List" & adding "NSRLink" to the list. Thank you & good day to you.

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    • #3
      Encore...


      630 storms out of the West end of Raitt tunnel


      Southern 630 tackles the 1.70% grade out of Hurley Eastbound

      Not to complain too much, but I wish they would take off the silly yellow vests & jackets when in the cab, it just sticks out like a sore thumb on something like a steam special. I stand by my assertion I made several years ago >> Chasing the NS Show Horses (OCS) across KY & TN >> Post 11.
      Standard lengthy disclaimer / warning / terms of use: All postings by "NSRLink" are fictional, public information, for entertainment purposes only, should never be taken seriously, and in no way should be construed to represent the positions, views, ideas, or thoughts of any railroad carrier, person, entity, organization, or otherwise. By reading anything posted or associated with the user ID, "NSRLink," any entity agrees they shall not be offended, harmed, sad, defamed, inflamed, upset, mad, harassed, have their feelings hurt, or similar. Parties or entities not agreeable to these "terms of use" are hereby required to block this profile "NSRLink" and agree to not read or view posts so they will no longer be offended, harmed, sad, defamed, inflamed, upset, mad, harassed, have their feelings hurt, or similar in any manner, and may do so via UserCP "Edit ignore List" & adding "NSRLink" to the list. Thank you & good day to you.

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