Wednesday, January 4, 2012

REWIND: ERN Harrisburg Line Photo Tour - November 1998

Photography by Kevin Burkholder unless otherwise noted:

While the motive power may have changed since this 1994 view, the trains have remained constant and heavy.  CP-Capital, nearly the western-most point of the Harrisburg Line, is where traffic either rolls off of the Lurgan Branch or out of Harrisburg from the Pittsburgh Line.  This BAL-44M with SD40 6306 and GP40-2 3278 is climbing through the Harrisburg Amtrak station eastbound from CP-Harris.  This location is not easily accessible but is located just off Cameron Street in Harrisburg.

At CP-Capitol, Harrisburg Cold Storage has a plant that is serviced by rail.  From the rear of that plant, located just south of 13th Street on Berryhill Street, this view is possible.  This was train ALBA-7 in November of 1994.  The SP SD40-2M was being routed westbound for delivery after rebuilding at Mountain Top, PA.  Conrail C40-8 6026 and the SP SD40-2M 8611 were the sole power for the ALBA-7.

When the clearance project was undertaken in 1996, this location, just west of 61st Street in the former Rutherford Yard, was a tight spot.  This is number one track, normally reserved for westbound traffic, but located within CTC Territory between Harrisburg and CP-Tara.  This view is possible by utilizing 61st Street to a dirt road off on the north side of the bridge.   Today a loaded westbound UXC-177 (Reading & Northern export coal) heads under 61st Street and through the widened cut.  Next year, number two track will be moved to parallel number one through here, making this single track view obsolete.
The Triple Crown Roadrailer facilitiy resides directly behind the Wal-Mart store along Grayson Road in Rutherford.  This location is ideal for catching the afternoon departure of RR-281.  C36-7 6642 leads a Conrail C40-8W and 125 Triple Crown trailers out of the yard at Milepost 106.1 on number two track.

Few quality locations exist between Harrisburg and Rutherford, PA.  Besides being the location of the Triple Crown Roadrailer yard and soon-to-be intermodal yard, Rutherford hosts a Wal-Mart (lots of Kodachrome there!).  This view of PICA-8 in April of 1998, is possible from paralleling the tracks on Grayson Road.  Grayson Road is accessible from US Route 322 and a turn onto 61st Street (CR Friendly Texaco on southeast corner and the Wal-Mart complex on the northeast corner).  Several views are possible along here.

Overview Road, located off of Pleasant View and accessed from either Rutherford or Hummelstown, offers a semi-elevated view of traffic in both directions.  In August, RR-262 departed the Triple Crown facility in the early morning hours.  The high summer morning sun makes this view possible.   Due to the dense tree population, Spring, Fall and Winter shots are tough here.   This RR-262 is being highballed eastbound behind GP40-2's 3297 and 3387 as they approach CP-Tara.

You can also shoot CP-Tara interlocking and the end of CTC (for now!), by looking east from Overview Road.  An afternoon ALPI train sweeps through the slight curves within the interlocking at CP-Tara.  This was the location of the fatal September 1997 rear-end collision and subsequent derailment, which tied up the line for a little over twenty-four hours.

The next significant establishment east of Rutherford is the Borough of Hummelstown.  Two grade crossings offer OK views of traffic.  East of town, there is an elderly iron bridge that was spared and raised when the clearance project rolled through the Valley in 1996.  This location, looking west, gives an excellent morning view of eastbound traffic.  BUAL-4 with Conrail Ballast Express C32-8 6610 and SD40-2 6520 accelerate around the sweeping curve on the approach to Brownstone.

The location known as Brownstone on the railroad, is right behind a brand new Holiday Inn Express between Hershey and Hummelstown on Walton Avenue.  Brownstone, and this view looking east are accessible by turning back a dirt lane next to a Taco Bell fast food establishment.  Canadian Pacific 557with CPR SD40-2 5698, CP SD40-2 5430 and D&H GP38-2 7303,  is seen passing the West Hershey Chocolate factory.

West of downtown Hershey in the village of Swatara, an early brick station stands tribute to the passing traffic and the heritage of the village itself.  ALPI-5 on September 15, 1997, rounds the 'S' curves that make this shot unique on the Harrisburg Line.  ALPI-5 is in charge of C36-7 6641 and LMS C40-8W 706.  The location is accessible from US Route 422 and a turn north on Hockersville Road.  Follow Hockersville Road back to the tracks and you are here!

In downtown Hershey, the US Route 743 overpass offers unobstructed views in both directions.  The bridge is also equipped with sidewalks on both sides of the road, making it a pretty safe place to photograph. Looking west, a morning TV-200 with a Conrail SD60M leading a Chicago & Northwestern C44-9W heads eastbound.

The eastbound view is a classic, with variations dating back to early Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Co. photos.  The Hershey Chocolate USA plant sets most of the backdrop with huge cocoa bean elevators to the north of the tracks.  On this particular day, Hershey was the 'Sweetest Place On Earth', as Morrison-Knudsen was delivering an order of SD40-2M's to the Southern Pacific.   SP (SD45 carbodies) 8600, 8601, and 8655 had Conrail GP38-2 8231 along for the ride as the charged through Hershey.

You've seen plenty of Derry Road shots in the feature, but here is the view looking southwest from the same location!  The Hershey Chocolate factory's cocoa bean elevators and conveyor frame up PICA-7 in June of 1998.  The PICA train often operates with SD80MAC's, this date being no exception, as 4104 and 4118 hammer the curve within the chocolate plant confines.
Just east of Derry Road, near the intersection with Laudermilch Road, the railroad location of Landis exists.  This is the other end of the curve that shifts traffic southwest through Hershey.  The annual Operation Lifesaver trains that were operated with Conrail's pristine Office Car Special equipment were easily lensed here.  E8A's 4021 and 4020 team up to take the train to Allentown, PA.

The next location of any interest is Palmyra.  Here, three separate crossings offer several views of the line.  Two grade crossings are split by an overhead bridge in town.  US Route 422 to North Railroad Street will bring you to this view, where a stone station has been restored and now altered by a construction company which uses it for office space.  On a snowy January 15, 1996, SNO-202 is busy moving over four feet of snow in some locations. The SNO-train is a push plow 69619 and GP38-2 8094.

Looking west from Railroad Street, Block Operator Jim Largent is hooping up a Form D to eastbound train NSSE-3 on September 13, 1997.  Railroad Street was one of the normal haunts for the Block Operators.

The next street east of Railroad Street that offers any type of view is the Grant Street overpass.  It is possible to shoot from the west side of the bridge unobstructed, the east side has chain link fence making views more difficult.  In April of 1998, Reading & Northern empty hoppers are returning to Reading on Conrail train XBM-9, behind C40-8W's 6199 and 6125.  The units accelerate after picking up a form D at Railroad Street, visible behind the units.
With the amount of traffic on the Harrisburg Line, meets are often possible to capture.  One location that is ideal for lensing such meets is the Spring Creek Road overpass between Palmyra and Annville.   Looking east towards the location that will become an automated crossover, an XGW-12W empty taconite hopper train with SD80MAC's 4107 and 4120 are stopped at a red signal as ALHB-5 behind C32-8 6617 and GP40-2 3400 prepare to make a pick up and set out for Carmeuse.

In Cleona, the view from a private road crossing, referred to as Books Crossing, allows a wide open vista with the approach signal bridge to Wall Interlocking, just two miles ahead.  ALHB-0 is seen westbound at Books Crossing behind SD80MAC's 4125, 4123, and C40-8W 6253.

The Reading Company signal mast that had stood guard at the Wall interlocking for many years, fell in 1996 to this new overhead signal bridge.  Ironically, this was the same period of time that all overhead structures were being removed or raised.  This bridge was constructed to allow maximum clearance for stack traffic.  The RR-262 train with C40-8W 6115 and GP40-2 3294 has no problem cruising under the bridge on the way into Lebanon, PA.  This view is possible from the 16th Street grade crossing in Lebanon.

Within the Lebanon City limits, trains are restricted to 25 mph, due to numerous grade crossings in succession.  At MP 86 in 1996, CP train 558 was a visitor with SD40-2 5670, SD40-2 5448, and SD40-2 5784.  In 1999, these trains will move over this route daily.  This location is between 4th and 5th Street in Lebanon.

Lebanon Chemical plant acts as a nice photo prop for traffic that heads west through the community of Avon.  CSX power often can be found leading ALHB trains and this day is no different.  GP40-2's 6120 and 6079 lead the 'Valley Local' westbound to Millards, where a pick-up and set-out are the norm.

During major flooding in 1996, CSX traffic began detouring over the Harrisburg and Pittsburgh Lines through Pennsylvania.   Extreme time savings were realized by CSX over the Conrail routing and priority intermodal traffic between Philadelphia and Chicago continued to use the routing into early Spring.  In January, DET-136 (R-136 at the time on CSXT) was eastbound behind Conrail GP40-2 3310, CSXT C44-9W 9044 and C44-9W 9051.  The Conrail unit was required for cab signals on the Pittsburgh Line.  This location is East Street, just east of Avon, off of King Street (was East Cumberland Street in Avon).

In Myerstown, several more views are possible from various locations.  Off of King Street, this view of an Office Car Train is possible from an abandoned bridge abutment that formerly belonged to the Race Street overpass.

East of Myerstown on Weavertown Road, an overpass allows views of traffic being routed through a rock cut east of the bridge.   In a bit of irony, Conrail SD40-2 6458 leads five Norfolk Southern units westbound on ALNS-3.  This view will be repeated in the future with NS units likely making up the entire consist.

As the shot in Richland may be a classic, the power is definitely the wave of the future.  This power, Norfolk Southern C40-8 8696 and C40-9W 9002 were actually powering a Canadian Pacific train 555-05 on May 5, 1997.  At the time, the residents of Richland though this was odd power...little did they know what the future held!

Moving east from Richland, Fort Zellers Road offers a nice view across a field of a small fill that carries the rails over a cow path tunnel.  Chicago and River Line traffic often detoured over the Harrisburg Line during the warmer months to allow maintenance on single track sections of those lines.   This would eliminate delays being incurred to high priority traffic.  TVLA was a frequent visitor and is seen with Conrail C40-8W 6197, SD50 6730 and SD50 6740, crossing the small fill.

By continuing east on Fort Zellers Road, the village of Sheridan will be the next stop.  After dropping down into a small creek ravine, the old Sheridan Hotel is visible on the left.  The building now serves as apartments but the rails that the building served still host trains daily.   The Sheridan Shack, located to the left of HBBE-5 is the 'temporary residence' of block operators that are kept here during the maintenance season.  There are currently hand thrown crossovers located here.  Just to the east of here, new automated crossovers are being installed as this is written.

Continuing the trek eastward to Reading will take you through the community of Robesonia.  On the east end of town, a single grade crossing allows a nice open view of traffic in both directions.  After an intense night of heavy snowfall, TV-212 has been delayed and is operating well into daylight over this portion, a rare occasion indeed!  Conrail C40-8W 6088 and NS SD50 6553 team up to move the intermodal traffic east.

In Wernersville, a lot of tight views are possible, including this interesting shot through the remnants of the Reading Railroad station that is still standing.  Mail-8M with Conrail C30-7A 6571, GP40-2 3318 and B36-7 5033 race the early morning stacks towards Morrisville, PA.

At Sinking Spring, the former Conrail Akron Secondary is now occupied by East Penn Railways, which utilizes power from the owner previous to the Emons acquisition earlier this year.  In February of 1998, Conrail TVLT rolls by the LANO GP10 in downtown Sinking Spring.   Kodachrome by Rob Palmer

Just west of Reading, the Reading Line branches off to the north at Wyomissing Junction. At the same location in October of 1997, Ballast Express C32-8's 6615 and 6619 (now wrecked) are moving westbound ballast on BAL-8B1 as they leave the Reading area.  The bark from the big GE's is deafening as the struggle to drag the train up the connection from Valley Junction, strains the six-axle units.  

Eastbound OCS-103 with E8A 4020 continues on the Harrisburg Line after passing Wyomissing Junction in Wyomissing, PA.   In this view from the overpass at the Vanity Fair Outlets, the single track that branches off to Valley Junction and CP-Belt is seen behind the train.  Kodachrome by Rob Palmer

Thanks for taking this REWIND to the ERN November 1998 issue and the Conrail Harrisburg Line - my how things have changed - EVERYWHERE!


  1. Wow its actually great to see a lot of these older locomotives. Where I live in Pittsburgh, I only see mostly Conrail and Northfolk Southern engines. The NS engines are my favorite with their sleek black paint.

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