1. Q696 gets ready to depart the east end of Shelby on Sunday afternoon, 10-15-2017. Q697 is parked on yard track 2. This day CSX 5291-360-3209-2342-6915-6901-2251 will have 93 cars. Shelby.
2. With a clear signal Q696 departs off the main. Where I’m standing is now the Kingsport SD and no longer the ex-C&O’s Big Sandy. The Big Sandy now ends at this control point (Louisville Div.) and the Kingsport begins (Florence North Div.) CSX 5291. Shelby.
3. Meanwhile Q697 has doubled his train to Q692 and is leaving Shelby with a huge freight. He is departing down the switching lead which becomes Track 2 at Fords Branch. Here he has a clear at FO Cabin to enter single track heading west. If this cantilever signal looks like it is leaning, well it is! There was a big derailment here back in the late 1960s. CSX signal FO Cabin.
4. Q697 with UP SD70ACe 8643, CSX “SD50-3” 8662 and UP SD70M 3980 pull to a stop to await the conductor to arrive by taxi from the yard. FO Cabin KY.
5. This was once the site of Chapparal Coal’s preparation plant. CSX 8662-UP 8643. FO Cabin KY.
6. A SD70M from above. This is from a new bridge spanning the river and railroad that leads to the industrial park. UP 3980-8662-8643. FO Cabin.
7. The conductor finally arrives. He informs the dispatcher that there are loads on the rear and empties on the front of the train where they are not supposed to be according to the print-out. They will need to do some re-arranging at Pauley siding-Coal Run Junction. UP 8643-8662. FO Cabin KY.
8. UP 8643-8662-3980. View 2. FO Cabin KY.
9. UP 8643-8662-3980. View 3. FO Cabin KY.
10. I guess the dispatcher can line up anything he wants if there are no opposing meets. Q697 is free to do his thing at the West End of Pauley. I head in the house to watch the NFL. CSX signal WE Pauley KY.
11. CSX has resumed running Duke Energy coal trains south on the Big Sandy-Kingsport-Blue Ridge Subdivision route. They go to the Brice Power Plant south of Bostic NC, on the old Clinchfield. CSX doesn’t use manned pushers anymore out of Shelby. These Duke trains use distributed power...two on the front and two on the back. Dec. 16 was a Saturday, so I now had the opportunity to go up to Shelby to see how this operation worked. N760-14 with 110 DKPX loads behind CSX 3470-980-561-426 moves from Track 2 to the switching lead at Fords Branch.
12. N760-14 comes to a stop at the east end of Shelby. MofW is working on yard track 2 in the distance. CSX 3470-980-561-426. Shelby.
13. I thought that the front two were going back to the west end to be the DP units. No, it got more complicated than that. CSX 3470-980. Shelby.
14. All ACs are evidently not set up for distributed power. The Russell crew had some re-arranging to do. CSX 3470 561. Shelby.
15. CSX 561. Shelby.
16. CSX 561 3470. Shelby.
17. Back at the west end, the Russell crew couples up the DP units, and the outbound Kingsport crew conductor sets up the DP. CSX 980-561 285. Shelby.
18. Approach signal at Levisa Jct. for N760 to stop at Marrowbone siding. Originally the dispatcher had set up a meet at Elkhorn City with a loaded train out of McClure Mine. The 149-car McClure train would not fit in the Elkhorn siding without blocking a crossing. Such a long train would hang out at the south end forcing N760 to stop. The engineer explained that getting started on that 1.5% grade was a “crap shoot”, and there was a possibility of stalling. The dispatcher admitted that he was not that familiar with the territory but didn’t like “crap shoots”. It was decided to meet at Marrowbone – eight miles north -- instead. This would give the engineer on N760 a chance for a “run-and-go” at the steep grade. CSX signal Levisa Jct approach.
19. N760 rolls by the inactive McVicker tipple at Levisa Junction. CSX 3470-426.
20. It was unusual for the engineer to call signals and not have the pusher engineer acknowledge! CSX 561-980. Levisa Jct.
21. With N760 waiting at Marrowbone, I went ahead to Elkhorn City for a shot at Pool Point bridge. The path to this overlook had been beaten down by railfans during the run of the Santa Train in November. CSX 102-3438-3091 brake down grade with T209-15 and 149 loads of metallurgical coal from McClure VA mine. McClure coal goes to Newport News or steel mills in the Midwest. Pool Point.
22. N760 makes a charge at Elkhorn City coming off the C&O onto the Clinchfield. The grade starts here! CSX 3470-426. Elkhorn City.
23. CSX 3470-426. View 2. Elkhorn City.
24. N760’s speed has slowed appreciably. I can hear the train climbing through the yard and into the Breaks gorge. But there is no one to wave at me. CSX 980-561. Elkhorn City.