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Southern Steam & Searchlights on the 2nd District of the CNO&TP

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  • Southern Steam & Searchlights on the 2nd District of the CNO&TP

    Southern Steam returns to the 2nd District of the CNO&TP....I never thought I would have a chance to write those words...but 20+ years after the last steam powered trip South of Danville, Ky, we once again had the chance to see the smoke and cinder show thanks to NS and TVRM.

    A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you my take on Southern 630's trips out of Cincinnati, down to Danville KY. In that piece I expressed my feelings at the return of mainline steam to our area, and while the trips on the North end were awesome, the trips on May 31st and June 1st from Lexington, Ky to Oneida TN and return is what I had really been waiting for. Now, technically speaking, NS and TVRM have ran over the South End of the 2nd District for the past couple of years (Chattanooga to Oneida) but the North end is were the (really) good scenery is and the area I have spent so much time enjoying over the past 30+ years.

    Carmon and myself spent both days with the train, joined by a friend who came up from Florida for the big show plus a lot of other friends. The weather treated us good, and the trips ran pretty much on time except for a late return on Sunday. I had expected to see a LOT more folks out shooting that we did, but I guess the Streamliner shindig over in Spencer had a lot of them otherwise occupied. The turnout of local folks was outstanding. It seemed like every place you looked, they where standing at crossings, back yards, alongside the road and any other place you can think of watching the 630 roll by with smiles and had been a LONG time since such a sight had been seen.

    It was great to be able to stand at places like Kings Mountain and Parkers Lake once again and listen to the sounds of a steam whistle again echo through the cuts and valleys. I have spent a lot of time in that area shooting the likes of 611 & 1218, but it was great to be able to shoot Southern Steam on home rails. Nothing against the big engines, but the 630 looked right at home under those classic model SC searchlight signals and crossing the Cumberland River bridge at Burnside!

    Here are a few small samples from the weekend. You can find the entire set (42 new images) at this link, be sure to check them all out! >>>>> Norfolk Southern Steam in 2014 Photo Gallery by E.M. & Carmon Bell at

    Friday, May 30th
    "Little Engine - Big Show" Southern 630 accelerates away from CP Fayette on the North side of Lexington, after shoving out to the mainline and then crossing over 1 to 2 track. You would almost think this was "The Ponce" roaring into town, and not a ferry move that was only going about 2 miles to the NS yard......If you ask me, I think she was glad to have escaped the Borg (RJC) yard were the train was stored in Lexington, and be back on home rails without getting any RED paint applied

    Saturday May 31st

    "Oooooh That Smell" The wonderful aroma of coal smoke fills the valley North of Oneida Saturday afternoon as the 630 eases down the storage track to clear the mainline. I may be a bit odd (probably no objections to that) but that is One of the best smells in the world...They should make perfume and air freshener out of it.

    "Northbound with a Vengeance" The heat was oppressive and the air so heavy you could almost drink it as we stood at the KY / TN state line Saturday afternoon and waited. A whistle in the distance down around Ratliff was soon heard, followed by the rapid, sharp beat of 630's stack long before the headlight popped over the hill almost a mile a way at Silersville. Quick enough, the train was on us, Northbound with a vengeance laying down a trail of smoke and cinders across Two states. A moment in time that was long in coming, short in duration and worth every drop of sweat to witness.

    "Noisy Neighbors" Most folks would want a final resting place to be peaceful and quiet, but that has not been the case for the long interred residents of the Tateville, Ky Cemetery. While the cemetery was there a LONG time before the Cincinnati Southern built through the valley (I found stones from the early 1800's in there) I would like to think that it has been a peaceful coexistence. I have little doubt that the cinders falling from 630's stack landed on the final resting place of more than One railroader as she passed by, a fitting tribute from the modern world to those that labored to create it.

    Sunday June 1st

    "Survivors" SR 630 was shaking the ground as she climbed out of the cut at Kings Mountain Sunday morning. The 109 year old survivor is passing under the GRS Model SC searchlight signals, unique to the CNO&TP and survivors on their own right, having stood for over 6 decades. Sadly, the 630 will be round to celebrate her next birthday...those iconic signals wont. I was elated to be able to shoot steam under that signal bridge once again, and humbled to know it would be the last time I would ever have the chance.

    "Breathing Room" In the era of regular steam service on the CNO&TP, the crew (and passengers) would have probably been taking in a mass amount of coal smoke and heat into their lungs as the train plodded along through the tight confines of the 27 tunnels that made this line the wide cuts and realignments have eliminated that hellish ride. SR 630 made a fine sight as she pounded up the hill at Wiborg, Ky Sunday morning laying down a perfect smoke trail through the cut, instead of choking through One of several tunnels that could once be found in the area

    After a quick crew change at Burnside, Northbound SR 630 comes across the Cumberland River Bridge in almost perfect light Sunday afternoon. With all of the train traffic in the area, we all breathed a sigh of relief to find the train to be on #2 track and not blocked from view thanks to some thoughtful dispatching and maybe a little luck!

    My last sight of 630 that weekend, as she raced North out of Danville,Ky running well over an hour late. I hope we have the chance to do it again with the 4501 or 611, but if not I will be happy knowing it DID happen again, 20 years later!
    Last edited by EM Bell; 06-09-2014, 07:54 PM.
    E.M. Bell, KD4JSL
    Salvisa, KY