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February 1999


Norfolk Southern, CSX Announce June 1 Conrail Split-Date

Norfolk Southern and CSX have announced they will complete the Conrail transaction on June 1, 1999, and begin operating their respective portions of Conrail routes and assets on that date.


CSXT Recalls F-Units to Huntington for Evaluation

CSXT has recalled its F-units 417 and 418 to the shop at Huntington, West Virginia, "for evaluation," reportedly with the intention that they be rebuilt and repainted for use in executive train service.


CSXT Converting RF&P Cab-Signals to 100Hz

CSXT is converting its cab-signal operation on the RF&P Subdivision from 60Hz to 100Hz in order to make the system compatible with that of Conrail. The project began on the south (Richmond) end on January 20, and is proceeding northward in increments.


Amtrak Signs Commissary Contract with Dobbs International Services

Amtrak has signed a contract with Dobbs International Services to take over the operations of Amtrak's 11 commissaries beginning in April. Displaced Amtrak commissary workers will receive new jobs or be offered compensation packages, according to a company report.


BNSF & Tex-Mex Sign Interline Pact for Border Traffic

Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Texas-Mexican Railway have concluded a five-year interline divisional agreement for traffic moving between Corpus Christi and Mexico via the Laredo, Texas, gateway. Approximately 50 percent of all rail traffic between the U.S. and Mexico crosses the border at Laredo, according to a BNSF news report.


Norfolk Southern Opens Bulk Transfer Facility in Miami

Norfolk Southern opened its latest Thoroughbred Bulk Transfer facility on January 22 in Miami for shippers of food-grade commodities and chemicals. The full-time facility has a 106-car spot capacity. NS now has 12 such facilities on its system.


Union Pacific Has F7A Locomotive For Sale

Union Pacific is seeking offers for former CNW F7A locomotive 400. Minimum acceptable bid is $55,000. The company is also seeking offers for surplus cabooses: UP-24566, UP-25877, MKT-105 and MP-13835.


Union Pacific to Participate in Railfair '99

Union Pacific has announced it will participate in Railfair '99 in Sacramento during June 18-27 with steam locomotives 844 and 3985. Two public excursions will be offered as part of the National Railway Historical Society and Railway & Locomotive Historical Society national convention. No. 844 will pull a train June 23 from Sacramento to Tehama and return via Marysville and Chico, and No. 3985 will pull a train June 26 from Sacramento to Keddie and return via the Feather River Canyon. Convention registrants will have first call on reservations. Information is available by writing NRHS/R&LHS Convention, P.O. Box 8289, San Jose, California 95155-8289.


MO Tower Demolished

The former Pennsylvania Railroad's MO Tower at Cresson, Pennsylvania, was demolished by contractors on December 14. It had closed in 1994. An earlier effort to move the tower to a location along Front Street in Cresson failed when the building buckled from the stress of hoisting. There is talk of replicating the structure with new construction for the Front Street site.


Bob Uhland Dies

[By Allen Brougham] . . . . .

ROBERT W. UHLAND, JR., of New Windsor, Md., noted railroad photographer, historian, writer, and former B&O and Western Maryland tower operator, died of cancer January 15, 1999. He was 49.

Bob joined the B&O Railroad in 1974 and worked on the operators' extra list where he eventually served at all of the towers in the Baltimore Terminal. He and I were then co-workers serving in most of the same offices. This included HX Tower at Halethorpe, Maryland, which was his very first duty station, and the station I ultimately settled in on a regular basis for its final 10 years until it closed in 1985. We both thought of this station as very dear to our hearts. It was during this same period that clerical-position rosters of the B&O and WM became consolidated. While a number of the WM operators came over to the B&O, Bob did the opposite and took a regular WM position at the tower at Emory Grove, Maryland, near his home.

During a period beginning March 15, 1984, and ending October 1, 1985, seven towers in the Baltimore area, including the one at Emory Grove, were closed. With the harsh realities of the seniority system, and wanting to remain a tower operator, Bob chose to take the second-shift position at JD Tower in Hyattsville, Maryland, just outside of Washington. I, having more seniority than he, managed to remain at HX Tower until its very end. HX Tower was the final tower of the above-mentioned seven to close. I then undertook the unpleasant task, with regrets, of displacing my friend Bob from his position at JD Tower. From there he went to QN Tower in Washington, where he remained for about eight more weeks, and then he left the railroad in November 1985 after having served 11 years on the railroad.

Of his tenure as an operator in particular, and of his interest in railroads in general, Bob was very mindful of history and the need to record it contemporarily. At each of his duty stations, Bob was careful to meticulously photograph all aspects of the office, both inside and out, and to get shots of his co-workers, which he maintained mostly on slides. He also relished the historical import of final moments at towers by tape recording the last thing said by the operator on the dispatchers' line before the tower closed.

While railroads were his favorite photographic subject, including an immense collection of trains and engines at countless locations, he undertook to photograph other things as well. One slide presentation of his I particularly remember involved tropical storm Agnes in 1972 as it was actually happening. Never before or since had so much water topped the crest of Liberty Dam on the north branch of the Patapsco River near Baltimore, and Bob was there to get the picture. His prowess with the camera became legendary, and he always brought big attendance to meetings of railroad historical groups when he was featured with the entertainment. This included synchronized slide shows using more than one projector with programmed fade-ins set to music. On at least one occasion, when featured at the Baltimore Chapter NRHS with the topic of interlocking towers, his offering was so vast that the program had to be split into two separate installments.

He traveled extensively, and he often found the occasion to pick out mood scenes others might overlook - fog, for example, especially after dark, using the beam from engine lights or searchlight signals for their special effect.

My contact with Bob in recent years was sporadic, perhaps once a year at slide shows or picnics, but two occasions particularly stand out for their contribution to history. First was HX Remembrance Day, an on-site reunion staged in 1990 to mark the fifth anniversary of the closing of HX Tower, attended by about 90 current and retired employees and railfans. Bob participated as the chef of hot dogs, and by showing slides. Second was the closing of JD Tower in 1992, when Bob returned to participate in the symbolic recessional of operators just prior to the locking of the door. Both events, which I had arranged, stand out with me as most notable as I reflect back upon my own railroading career thus far.

A reader of the Bull Sheet since its current-format beginning in October 1986, it was he who is probably most responsible for convincing me to maintain its publication. The story may seem subtle, but the October 1986 issue was only intended as a one-time thing. It included current news on the front page, as it does today, but succeeding pages were devoted entirely to reminiscences condensed from an earlier mostly-daily offering (also called the Bull Sheet) I had prepared for friends from the latter years of my tenure at HX Tower. This commemorative issue was mailed to about 20 people, Bob included. But just two days after its issue date, Bob, the relisher of history that he was, sent me a "letter to the editor" complimenting me on the effort. He then succeeded to fill the page with his own reminiscences beginning with his childhood, later as a railroader living out his "childhood dream." With such material in place to publish and continue with yet another issue, I decided to print a second Bull Sheet the following month. The rest is history - but for the record, today's issue is the publication's 149th.

Born November 12, 1949, Bob grew up just three blocks from where I lived when I left the Navy in 1963. He earned an associate degree in chemistry from the Catonsville Community College, and he worked briefly with W. R. Grace & Company before joining the railroad in 1974. When he left the railroad in 1985, he joined a firm selling mutual funds. Later he formed his own firm, Consumer Associates, which specialized in financial planning. He is survived by his parents, Robert W. and Mary Laumann Uhland of Baltimore, two sons, a daughter, two brothers, and a sister. A memorial service was held January 19 at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Catonsville, Maryland.


The West Virginia Central Railroad

[By Gilbert Elmond] . . . . .

One evening in mid-December, I was on the internet and found Matt Reese's great web-site about West Virginia Central Railroad. His webpage has wonderful information on this new shortline in the north central part of the state. Well, since I was going to visit my grandmother for Christmas in Brownton, W.Va., just off Rt. 76, I decided to make a run over to Belington, W.Va., on Christmas Eve to photograph some of the equipment in the small yard located there. Anyway, here's the story about the West Virginia Central Railroad:

In the wild and wonderful land of West Virginia where it's "almost heaven," West Virginia Central was inaugurated at a dedication ceremony held at Spruce, W.Va., on May 16, 1998. The ceremony was part of the annual Railfan Weekend on the Cass Scenic Railroad. Visitors were transported to Spruce over the newly-built track connecting Cass to the outside world through WVC's trackage. The WVC plans to operate approximately 132 miles of ex-CSX (B&O and WM/Greenbrier, Cheat & Elk) track from Tygart Junction, W.Va. (on CSX's Cowen Subdivision out of Grafton) to Bergoo, W.Va. This trackage includes the 10-mile ex-WM Dailey Secondary track which runs south from Elkins to Dailey. Since the early 1990s, CSX had been trying to abandon this trackage after several coal mines shut down and brought the majority of the traffic to a halt. CSX filed an abandonment plan with the then-Interstate Commerce Commission after the line lost over one million dollars between 1992 and 1994. Local citizens, the local county governments, and the state of West Virginia fiercely resisted CSX efforts to abandon the line over concern on the economic impact the abandonment would have on the surrounding communities. In 1997, the West Virginia State Rail Maintenance Authority came to the rescue and bought the line from CSX for six million dollars and formed the West Virginia Central Railroad. The WVSRMA also operates the South Branch Valley Railroad in the Eastern Panhandle of the state. This freight and tourist railroad, which operates on ex-B&O trackage from Green Spring to Petersburg, W.Va., is known for its Potomac Eagle excursion trains.

To help in the operations of the WVC, WVSRMA has sought the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, an excursion line in Pocahontas County which operates on 5.5 miles of former C&O Greenbrier Division trackage running south of Durbin, W.Va. D&GVRR owners John and Kathy Smith plan to provide freight service and excursion trains over the WVC. Equipment on the D&GVRR is currently a little yellow 20-ton Whitcomb gas mechanical locomotive named "Little LeRoi," plus a blue flatcar with seats, and a red caboose. D&GVRR has bought a British Leyland Railbus, to be used in the railroad's planned excursions. This railbus was first purchased by the Federal Railroad Administration for use in the United States. It failed to trip automatic railroad crossing signals because of its light weight, so it proved unsatisfactory. Later used by the Steamtown National Historic Site located in Scranton, Pa., it was auctioned off to a resident of Exeter, Pa., and finally sold to D&GVRR. On October 23, 1998, the railbus arrived in Belington from Pennsylvania by two trucks - one hauling the frame (chassis) and the other transporting the body. The two sections were lowered by crane onto the rails and reassembled. The railbus was made in England, a British Leyland product, and manufactured around 1980 by D. Wickham & Co. Ltd., railcar manufacturers in Ware, Hertfordshire. There are only three rail buses of this type known to be in existence; two are in the United States and one remains in England. Some 58 passengers can be seated in this railbus and it has driving facilities at each end to eliminate turning. It will provide tours of the scenic and remote Cheat Valley where normal passenger coaches will not tolerate the sharp track curvatures and tunnel restrictions of the old Western Maryland Durbin and GC&E subdivisions.

Tourism will likely play an important part on the WVC, with rail access to the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park and the Snowshoe-Silver Creek Ski Resort. West Virginia Central will offer rail service to businesses along the line with on-demand switching to customers provided, in addition to the excursion trains. For now, two locomotives make up WVC's motive power. An Alco T-6 switcher #41, in Norfolk and Western livery, leased from Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, and one of the two ex-Western Maryland BL-2's #7172 (ex-82) have been brought in for use on the WVC. The BL-2 listed as class DF-1-5 by the WM, is a 1500-hp engine built by the Electro-Motive Division of GM in 1948. The locomotive wears SBVR (South Branch Valley Railroad) reporting marks and the #7172 issued to it by the Chessie System when it was on their roster. The 81 and 82 spent most of their time in freight service on the Baltimore-Connellsville main line. The WM Hagerstown, Maryland, yard is where the two spent their last years of regular service into the early 1980s. The B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore has BL-2 #81 presently on display. Reportedly, BL-2 #7172 is owned by the state and has sat for some time around the SBVR shop in Petersburg, W.Va. On October 26, 1998, the BL-2 arrived in Belington via the CSX local. It was reported that the 50-year-old locomotive needed electrical repair before it could be made operational. Then, on the night of Halloween, a ghost from the past departed Belington yard on a test run and headed south several miles down the track towards Norton before returning. A few things were reported to still need repairs, but the engine moved under its own power.

On November 10, 1998, WVC took over operations on the former B&O trackage from Elkins to Tygart Junction. In the afternoon, the first train departed Elkins for Tygart Junction consisting of BL-2 #7172, a CSX gondola loaded with scrap metal, and a former N&W caboose owned by the Mountain State Railroad and Logging History groups based out of Cass, W.Va. In addition to the freight trains, a leased trainset owned by the Roanoke Chapter NRHS is planned to be used on excursions from Belington to Elkins. Norfolk Southern previously used the set on its steam locomotive powered excursions. Expected to arrive in the spring, the set consists of an observation car, dining car, three coaches, and a baggage car. N&W Alco T-6 switcher #41 is the planned motive power to pull this trainset. Excursion trains are expected to be running by the summer of 1999.

Presently, CSX has one turn a day out of Grafton to pick up or set off cars for WVC at Tygart Junction. It has been reported that the first full week of operations on the WVC saw more freight than what CSX got in a month. Rehabilitation work on the former CSX trackage is under way. Volunteers, local and not so local, are helping get WVC operations running. Work in the Belington yard as well as on the main line will be done as weather, workers, and finances allow. The 10-mile Dailey branch will need extensive repairs before it becomes operational. With the planned reopening of this branch in the spring of 2000, it is hoped more customers will be found in this area. The line south of Elkins to Bergoo has been reported to be close to operation. The line needs repairs to several washed-out sections of the track. A single-stall enginehouse has been constructed at Belington's small yard and scenic trails are planned to be built along the right of way.

By emphasizing on forest-related commodities, and providing better service than CSX had in years past, perhaps more customers will choose to ship by rail on the WVCRR. Let's all hope for the railroad's success for years to come.