Thursday, November 29, 2012
Today's Train of Thought- Classic Brick Work, November 29, 2012
In keeping with the recent autumnal theme, Today's Train Of Thought takes us to the Volunteer State.
EMD's SD40-2 unquestionably turned out to be a popular locomotive- just under 4,000 were produced for North American and export markets between 1972 and 1989. Many of the ones that ended up on the Norfolk Southern fleet were a little different, however. The two railways that would merge in the 1980s to form the Norfolk Southern- the Norfolk & Western and Southern Railway- were holdouts in an operating method known as long hood forward.
Since the arrival of the first GP7s on the Southern, the two lines had a tendency to operate the diesels long hood forward- basically with the engine, generator and radiators at the front of the locomotive while the cab and control stands were actually closer to the train. While it might appear at times that the train was running in reverse, the control stands were actually bi-directional. Up until around the time of the merger, the Norfolk Western and Southern ordered locomotives from both EMD and GE that featured a high hood towards the 'front'. That gave the locomotives- regardless of the model or manufacturer- a very blocky appearence, leading some to dub the high hood units as 'bricks'.
Although the Norfolk Southern acquired a number of new locomotives as well as a significant portion of Conrail's engine fleet, none of those were suited for long-hood forward running like the former Southern and Norfolk & Western diesels were [it was never a common practice on Conrail or any of the predecessor railroads, either- NANESB!].
A number of the high-hood 'bricks' have since been retired, scrapped, stored or sold off. Although a number of railroads purchasing former N&W or Southern high hood units have opted to rebuild them so they'd have a lower nose on the short hood for increased visibility, lines like the Georgia Central or Guilford/Pan-Am simply kept the high hood locomotives they acquired from Norfolk Southern the way they were.
Still, even on the rails originally belonging to Norfolk & Western and Southern, the long hood forward practice is becoming increasingly rare, let alone the locomotives manufactured for the Southern or N&W.
Here, railpictures.net contributor Chris Starnes caught 38 year old Norfolk Southern SD40-2 #3232 on the point of Knoxville to Clinton, TN local freight T12 operating short hood forward on a sunny fall day in October 2011 [video of the #3232 in action can be found here]. The venerable 6-axle, 3000 HP beast was built for Southern in September of 1973 and while she could be found almost anywhere on Norfolk Southern's vast system, the photographer caught her on 'home' rails in Knoxville, TN as the leaves above the tracks are changing into various shades of yellow and orange.
It's worth pointing out that while the #3232 has toiled away for one or two owners in nearly four decades of largely uninterrupted service, Knoxville is home to an even older Southern alumni- 1890-built 2-8-0 steam locomotive #154- that sees action a few times a year on the Three Rivers Ranbler excursion train.