Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Prototype Overview

Conrail's, now Norfolk Southern's, Harrisburg Line was former Reading Company (Philadelphia & Reading) trackage that began in Philadelphia and continued, via Reading, to Harrisburg. The portion I'm modeling is the former Lebanon Valley Branch of the Reading. The line was completed in 1858, linking Harrisburg with Reading and Philadelphia, and was part of the famed Alphabet Route in its later years under Reading ownership. Under Conrail, the line was not as important a line as it was during the Reading days. Conrail used primarily the former Pennsylvania main lines to move freight from Harrisburg east. Rutherford yard, the Reading's main westward yard, was a shell of its former self, serving as storage for retired, waiting to be scraped locomotives, as most classification work had been shifted to Enola. In fact, it isn't uncommon to find pictures of GG1s stored there, near the massive coaling tower, online or in collections. Once Amtrak took over the Harrisburg to Philadelphia line, Conrail was forced out of using it for freight and began to route all traffic for Philadelphia and, as the result of other abandonments across its system, Allentwon and northern New Jersey.

For Conrail, the line morphed into the Harrisburg Line, with connections to the Pittsburgh Line in the Harrisburg area (they technically run parallel through the Harrisburg terminal, although track charts seem to vary on this over time as well as where one line ends and the other begins), the Lurgan branch with its subsequent connections with Norfolk Souther (former N&W) and CSX (former W&M/Chessie System), the Reading Line to Allentown, and connections with CSX (former B&O/Chessie System), the Trenton Line and the industrial complexes of Philadelphia. From Reading through Harrisburg, the line was primarily a through line, but did have customers served by locals originating in Harrisburg, Lebanon, or Reading. Bethlehem Steel had a major plant in Lebanon that was shut down in the late 80s/early 90s. Also along this portion of the line is the Hershey Chocolate complex which includes its main plant, the Reese's plant, and a new plant called Hershey West that opened in the early '90s. Another customer that really exploded in its need for rail service was the quarry just outside of Annville. This quarry was owned by Wimpy Minerals and then by Pennsy Supply. During the time I'm modeling, up to 8 trains a day performed dropp-offs or pickups at the quarry. There are other, smaller industries on the line during the Conrail area, each fluctuating in rail needs. I'll get into specifics as we go through each of the areas modeled.

Under Norfolk Southern's control, the line has seen a resurgence. Conrail had a single-track connection from the form Reading property to the Pennsylvania lines at CP Capitol that has now been double tracked. While Conrail made Rutherford a barren wasteland, NS first leased the land to put in a RoadRailer terminal and then once controlling the line, created a large intermodal facility there as well. Other large industries/distribution centers have arisen in Annville and Myerstown which have added to the freight traffic. Also, Lebanon is currently undergoing a transformation as two bridges are being built over the line so that vehicular traffic can get to one side of the other of the town. As a result, many of the buildings that have provided backdrops for rail photographers are being torn down to make way for the new road alignments.

As for operations on the line itself, most schedules/books/articles indicate Conrail had anywhere between 45-60 named trains plus additional extras (ore/coal) and up to double-digit NS/CSX coal trains via the Lurgan Branch. Just about all trains switched crews at the Harrisburg terminal, with this yard becoming a regional intermodal facility over time and switching point within Conrail's TV operations. This terminal had very little in the way of switching manifests as most of that was done either at Enola or at larger yards in Allentown and Pittsburgh (Conway). I believe the statistics I had were that 25 "manifest" blocks were moved with about "75" blocks of TV movements in the terminal itself. Also, this line had two dispatchers, Harrisburg Line and Harrisburg Terminal. The line of demarcation, as far as I can tell, was at CP Tara, located between Rutherford and Hummlestown.

View Conrail Harrisburg Line in a larger map


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