Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A westbound Norfolk Southern freight train drew several photographers to the notch on Princeton Avenue near the intersection with Bland Street for a chance to photograph a modern NS locomotive painted in the colors of the Illinois Terminal Railroad — one of 20 heritage locomotives that the railway sent into the system as part of NS’s 30th anniversary celebration.
The train was only in Bluefield for a short time, but its arrival triggered communications among several railroad buffs who came to the Bluefield yard to photograph the lime green locomotive with bright yellow lettering. Within a short time, it was gone.
“Norfolk Southern maintains a web site that people can follow to find out if one of the heritage locomotives is working in their area,” Kelley Massie, president of the Pocahontas Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society said. “Several people are roaming the network in search of a sighting. Once the sighting is posted, several people usually come out to photograph the locomotive.
“Naturally, people want to see the units working,” Massie said. “That’s what all of us look for.”
“It’s the most exciting moment in railroad history since the last of the steam locomotives were removed,” Tim Hairston, a veteran railroad watcher said. “We get about one heritage locomotive through here about every day, and it’s always exciting. The Norfolk Southern legacy locomotive is working down here as a pusher right now, so it will be down here for at least two more weeks.”
Hairston traveled to North Carolina in July when all 20 of the locomotives were together for a photo shoot. “There’s a lot of talk about the heritage locomotives on the Internet every day. Some people in other parts of the country are upset because they don’t come through there areas as much as they come through here, but with 22,000 miles of track, it would be hard for them to be everywhere,” Hairston said.
NS was formed in 1982 from the merger of the Norfolk & Western and Southern railways — two railroads with a long and proud heritage. Both of those railroads acquired earlier railroads and absorbed their rolling stock and operating territories.
The Illinois Terminal Railroad was established in 1896 as the Illinois Traction System — an interurban electric railroad in central and northern Illinois. The Traction System was hard-hit during the Great Depression and was reorganized in 1937 as the Illinois Terminal Railroad. The N&W acquired the ITR in 1982, buying it as a freight railway.
“The heritage locomotives reflect the pride we take in our long and colorful history,” Wick Moorman, NS chief executive officer stated in response to an email request for comment about the program. “As they travel through our system, these state-of-the-art units in vintage livery will serve as reminders to our customers, employees and communities that the modern rail network that keeps America competitive today and in the future has deep roots in the nation’s past.”
Other heritage locomotives include the Central of Georgia Railway, Central Railway of New Jersey, Conrail, Delaware, Lackawanna and Western, Erie Railroad, Interstate Railroad, Lehigh Valley Railroad, New York Central Railroad, New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, Norfolk Southern Railway, Norfolk & Western Railway, Pennsylvania Railroad, Reading Company, Savannah & Atlanta Railway, Virginian Railway and Wabash Railway.
Susan Terpay, NS spokesperson, said the railroad maintains an app that allows people to track heritage locomotives: “Track heritage locomotives, report safety issues on upgraded Norfolk Southern app.”
NS’s first heritage locomotive — a Conrail locomotive painted light blue — went into service on March 16. “They will continue operating in 2013,” Terpay said.
Bluefield City Manager Jim Ferguson said he appreciates NS’s commitment to regional history. “I know that when I travel into another community, I enjoy going places that help me understand the community’s history,” he said. “I would like to develop small attractions here in town to boost tourism. Our railroad history is one area we could build on, but we might be able to do something with our old No. 2 Fire Station too.”
— Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com