Old 11-18-2010, 06:41 PM   #1
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Default Help me shoot some great shots!

Looking to head eastward for some photography of mountain railroading. Any suggestions? Best locations, areas, divisions, or anything else you would recommend. I have ask a couple privately with great, great info. I do enjoy scenic and also old abandoned areas.

I'm looking really hard at 2 locations from the help I have already received. NS's Pocahontas Division from Bluefield to Welch and also CSX's New River Division. Any other help will be great! I will travel any state so let me know.

What steel mills are still in operation? Would like to shoot one anywhere from Chicago east.

This will be done in March sometime most likely.

Thank you.
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Old 11-18-2010, 06:53 PM   #2
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I'm not a big fan of woodsy/remote shooting in pre-foliage March, but consider CSX's Mountain and Cumberland subs: http://mtnsub.org/

To quote the website author, regarding the Magnolia Cutoff portion of the Cumberland sub

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what lies before you is probably the most remote piece of railroading in the east leading through a vast, rugged expanse of rivers, mountains, and forests
some will undoubtedly argue for other sections of RR, and it is a rather small section, the main section being about 15 miles, although it will take hours to traverse. Tossing it out there as a suggestion
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Old 11-18-2010, 07:53 PM   #3
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I think Pittsburgh, PA is often overlooked as a great place to railfan. Not only is there great railroading close to the city there are many notable places to visit within a reasonable driving distance. Wheeling & Lake Erie, Union Railroad, AVR, Bessemer & Lake Erie, Pittsburgh & Ohio Central all make for a well rounded adventure to go along with the mainline railroading of CSX and NS. Everything from high volume mainlines to 'expert level' chase routes are all availible.

Cleveland, Erie, Altoona, and Cumberland are all within 2 hours driving distance from the city.
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Old 11-18-2010, 08:53 PM   #4
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NS Pokey from Bluefield to Welch, NS Christiansburg District from Bluefield to Singer would be my top recommendations. While doing the Christiansburg you can do the NS Whitethorne District which is across the river from Narrows to VPI Farm. Whitethorne and Christiansburg districts are covered by ATCS internet servers for the most part, Pokey has ATCS but you need the radio equipment, its not on the internet. Lots of traffic, varied trains (intermodal, freight, grain, coal, etc). The line is completely accessible from Welch to Pearisburg except a brief spot between Ada and Blake and mostly accessible East of there, and easy to follow (watch your speed in Keystone and NorthFork). Big yard at Bluefield where just about everything re-crews but not much gets classified. Yard is very accessible.

The CSX Kanawha and New River sub's from Charleston to Clifton Forge are IMHO more scenic (in some places) and allow more photo opportunities (in SOME places), but traffic is so sporadic. You could go hours without seeing anything. No ATCS, all code line. Trains are 70% coal, 20% grain, 4% freight (1 mixed each way + locals out of Hinton, Quinnamont, S. Charleston and Clifton Forge/Covington) and 1% passenger (Cardinal, 3 times a week). Parts of the line can be hard to follow, chasing about impossible in some places and completely inaccessible in some stretches, especially on the Eastern end the closer you get to Clifton Forge. Yards at S. Charleston, Hinton, Quinnamont, Covington and Clifton Forge. Not much gets classified at most of these yards, some does at CF and SC, Of these yards, really only Clifton Forge is accessible without blatant trespassing or safety issues (S. Charleston)

I agree with the other posters that March certainly isnt the best time because everything is still dead, but it does open up some sightlines that are not there during the other times of the year and the weather should be OK.

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Old 11-18-2010, 09:15 PM   #5
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Heck, in March, it'd be better to come down my way where stuff would be springy already. You maybe could try Old Fort and the Wells Viaduct. Also, there's the Pickens.
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Old 11-18-2010, 09:29 PM   #6
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Heck, in March, it'd be better to come down my way where stuff would be springy already. You maybe could try Old Fort and the Wells Viaduct. Also, there's the Pickens.
What's train levels like in those spots?
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Old 11-18-2010, 09:59 PM   #7
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No clue about Old Fort, you'll have to ask Nick D or someone, but at Wells Viaduct its ~24 trains a day. If you railfanned from 6AM to 12PM, you'd probably get around 8-10 trains. For the Pickens, you'd have to ask Joe or AntD. My understanding is that they call the crew at 8AM and the go up to Anderson from Gluck and then maybe over to Belton from there. I'm not exactly sure.
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Old 11-18-2010, 10:18 PM   #8
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I'm one of those people who completely neglect short lines because I just dont have the patience for a 1 train a day type of operation, especially if I am traveling hundreds or thousands of miles. Call me impatient or lazy or whatever, but I have shortlines within driving distance I have never even attempted because they are so unpredictable and sporadic (SGLR, SCFE, FCEN) or only run trains during terrible photography times (FEC).
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Old 11-18-2010, 10:40 PM   #9
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Just to expand a bit on what Troy put.

The entire Alleghany Subdivision from Hinton, WV to Clifton Forge VA is shoot-able, legally. You just need to a person familiar with the area. The New River subdivision has the cool branches, the big scenes, and the old towns / ruins. The Alleghany is the mountain railroading side, with 11 tunnels, 3 river bridges, and two Eastbound grades.

As the make believe expert on both lines, if you decide to come this way, please keep me in the loop I'd also suggest late April / early May for the proper springtime look up here. But the lack of foliage does help in spots.

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Old 11-18-2010, 10:52 PM   #10
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I can't change the date but it works for me. I love the falling apart look. If I could choose my own date, I would go for late fall. Is there snow around yet in Early March usually? Thank you all for the help so far! I really want old, old towns, especially the almost ghost towns. I thought about the Altoona area also, but I don't think that is really what I am looking for this time.
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Old 11-18-2010, 10:53 PM   #11
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Places like between "Riffe" and Alderson, Alderson and Ronceverte (largely) and most of from White sulfur springs to Covington.

Or maybe I am just doing it wrong? I'm curious now...
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Old 11-18-2010, 10:56 PM   #12
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Is there snow around yet in Early March usually?
Not usually, but I was in North Carolina visiting family March 5 of last year and we got 7" of snow. WV is considerably North of where I was at, so it likely got the same thing or more. Last year was an odd year from all accounts in terms of snowfall.

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Thank you all for the help so far! I really want old, old towns, especially the almost ghost towns.
You likely want the C&O then. The NS certainly has the "falling apart" look, but it's the burned out and abandoned houses and buildings "falling apart" look in a lot of places like Keystone, NorthFork and Powhattan, not the photogenic kind...

The C&O has places like Thurmond, Gauley Bridge, Fayette, Hinton, Hawks Nest, etc that just dont exist on the Pokey or Christiansburg district for the most part. Dont get me wrong, there are a few places on the NS that are absolutely awesome, but the C&O just seems to have more of them if you can just get the right planets to align and get CSX to fleet a bunch of trains to where you are at in the right direction of the Sun when you need them to. Which is pretty rare from my experiences.

People like Lloyd or Jeff Hawkins can speak to this in more detail. I'm just a tourist, but this has been my experience on my trips to the area.

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Old 11-18-2010, 11:10 PM   #13
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Places like between "Riffe" and Alderson, Alderson and Ronceverte (largely) and most of from White sulfur springs to Covington.

Or maybe I am just doing it wrong? I'm curious now...
Oh yeah Troy, all shoot-able. The only place that is somewhat difficult is between Lewis Tunnel and OX cabin, because you gotta walk it, the rest of those areas are mainly drive and shooters.

Contact me privately if you want the full details, keep from gumming up Travis' thread.

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Old 11-18-2010, 11:13 PM   #14
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Next time I plan on being in the area I will definitely do that, as I feel I am missing out now.

Oh, and dont drive the road from Thurmond to Prince. I did it once 2 years ago and I told myself I would never do that again. Well, I did it again when I was up there a few weeks ago and it still sucks. That is the worst "public" road I have ever experienced.
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Old 11-18-2010, 11:14 PM   #15
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I can't change the date but it works for me. I love the falling apart look. If I could choose my own date, I would go for late fall. Is there snow around yet in Early March usually? Thank you all for the help so far! I really want old, old towns, especially the almost ghost towns. I thought about the Altoona area also, but I don't think that is really what I am looking for this time.
It still snows in March here, sometimes heavily. Like Troy said, the CSX side has the better looking old towns. A trip down the pokey can turn a stomach in several areas.

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Old 11-18-2010, 11:16 PM   #16
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A trip down the pokey can turn a stomach in several areas.
I wouldn't say it like that, but it makes me appreciate what I have a little more...
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Old 11-18-2010, 11:16 PM   #17
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Next time I plan on being in the area I will definitely do that, as I feel I am missing out now.

Oh, and dont drive the road from Thurmond to Prince. I did it once 2 years ago and I told myself I would never do that again. Well, I did it again when I was up there a few weeks ago and it still sucks. That is the worst "public" road I have ever experienced.
ah yes, Mckendree road. Everyone has to drive it once just to say they lived. There's some cool spots off that road though, if you know where to go.

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Old 11-18-2010, 11:30 PM   #18
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ah yes, Mckendree road. Everyone has to drive it once just to say they lived.
Lol, like a railfan right of passage. The road from Fairhope to Foley (from the East) near Sand Patch gave it a run for it's money until they fixed it recently...

There is also a "shortcut" I found on delorme that I thought I was gonna die on, it is listed as "county road 13" or "Jenkins Branch Rd" between Kanawha falls and Beckwith off of SR16. Shows up on the map as a decent road not a 2mph boulder field, and the best was just near the end there was a huge wash and creek which you have to drive through, I got out and checked how deep it was, then I thought, to hell with it, I gunned it, and made it. That is on the list of roads to never drive again too.
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Old 11-19-2010, 12:03 AM   #19
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Any good sites to use for info? I see frograil.com is a big help. Anybody know of a good RR map of this area on the net? Just something for me to get the placement of all the lines down and locations. Just a general map would work. SPV Atlas may be needed for the trip.
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Old 11-19-2010, 12:10 AM   #20
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No ghost towns on Donner, but you're always welcome! (gets back to scrambling to pack more for my trip tomorrow up there, gonna be nasty with up to 3' of snow falling!)
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Old 11-19-2010, 12:28 AM   #21
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Any good sites to use for info? I see frograil.com is a big help. Anybody know of a good RR map of this area on the net? Just something for me to get the placement of all the lines down and locations. Just a general map would work. SPV Atlas may be needed for the trip.
Give me a couple days and I'll make a map of the New River / Alleghany for you, with information. I do not know of one online.

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Old 11-19-2010, 12:31 AM   #22
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Old 11-19-2010, 12:55 AM   #23
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Looking to head eastward for some photography of mountain railroading. Any suggestions? Best locations, areas, divisions, or anything else you would recommend. I have ask a couple privately with great, great info. I do enjoy scenic and also old abandoned areas.

I'm looking really hard at 2 locations from the help I have already received. NS's Pocahontas Division from Bluefield to Welch and also CSX's New River Division. Any other help will be great! I will travel any state so let me know.

What steel mills are still in operation? Would like to shoot one anywhere from Chicago east.

This will be done in March sometime most likely.

Thank you.

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I think Pittsburgh, PA is often overlooked as a great place to railfan. Not only is there great railroading close to the city there are many notable places to visit within a reasonable driving distance. Wheeling & Lake Erie, Union Railroad, AVR, Bessemer & Lake Erie, Pittsburgh & Ohio Central all make for a well rounded adventure to go along with the mainline railroading of CSX and NS. Everything from high volume mainlines to 'expert level' chase routes are all availible.

Cleveland, Erie, Altoona, and Cumberland are all within 2 hours driving distance from the city.
I agree with Brad; though to add on to it; you have the Edgar Thompson Works out here; along with the acer mittal steel mill in Cleveland, WMSR at Cumberland. But hey, whatever works for you. Make Pittsburgh a sticky for future reference.
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Old 11-19-2010, 02:32 AM   #24
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The areas the others have suggested all look like good bets. If you're looking to head farther into Pennsylvania, here are some more suggestions.

The NS Pittsburgh Line and the CSX Keystone Sub are two good places if you want mainline trains climbing up and down mountains. Both lines have relatively high traffic volumes (especially the NS) so there should be enough action at these places to keep you happy. Although both lines are frequently shot, there are still enough opportunities for unique and spectacular photos around.

If you do want to sacrifice train totals for better variety, you could head up to the Buffalo Line in north-central PA. Within a two-hour radius you can get NS, Buffalo & Pittsburgh, Western New York & Pennsylvania, and the Nitanny Bald Eagle. This area is both mountainous and very desolate. You won't see nearly as much (the area witnesses about a dozen trains in daylight altogether, and they aren't all in the same place), but it could be very rewarding if you want to get some Pennsylvania shortline action.

If you're looking for abandoned areas, you may want to check out the anthracite region in northeastern PA. The region has plenty of old mining towns that have seen better days. There's even a literal ghost town, although no tracks run through there anymore. This area is primarily served by the Reading & Northern. The lines don't see much traffic, but thankfully the RBMN is fairly consistent. Further to the north is the Delaware-Lackawanna, which is less consistent but offers you the chance to shoot five or six Alcos struggling uphill with a loaded grain train. The former DL&W viaducts (now on the CP Sunbury Sub) at Nicholson and Kingsley are not too far away either.

Outside of PA, there are a few more I can think of. As J said, the Cumberland Sub offers some spectacular scenery, particularly around the Magnolia Cutoff. The area around Harpers Ferry, WV is also very scenic although it is more "touristy" compared with the desolate Magnolia Cutoff. In New York, there's the CSX River Sub. Although it only sees about 10-15 trains in daylight, the scenery there is spectacular.

I'm pretty knowledgeable on most of these lines go give me a shout if you need any specific info.

Good luck with the trip! Can't wait to see you work your magic at some areas closer to home.
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Old 11-19-2010, 02:54 PM   #25
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Thanks, Loyd, a map will be great. I've never dug into the eastern railroads as much as now and there are a lot of differences in how they were built and how they are laid out. They seem to have many more branch lines off of the main that are much longer from what I usually see west of the big river.
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