View Full Version : Decatur, AL

04-21-2005, 03:57 AM
On Saturday, April 16 I made the 100+ mile trip from suburban Nashville to Decatur, AL because I read it was a good place to take in some action. For those who do not know, Decatur is where the CSX Nashville-Birmingham line joins with the NS Memphis-Chattanooga line to cross the Tennessee River on a drawbridge. The south end of this junction is near the Decatur depot, and there happens to be an open area with a parking lot immediately to the south of the depot. There is also an interchange yard directly to the west of the NS line as it splits off toward Memphis. I should also mention there is a pedestrian overpass near the Tennessee River drawbridge where I snagged some pictures. The pedestrian bridge can be found to the west of the apartments and condominiums along the river. I found it by driving around by the apartments and just parking at one of the apartment complexes near the bridge. There is a chain link fence on each side of the overpass, which will be an obstacle for certain types of cameras.

I arrived at about 10 A.M., and the action started shortly thereafter with a CSX train heading north. Although I am not familiar with train symbols and donít record the engine numbers, I can tell you that I saw 8 trains in two hours and forty minutes (5 CSX and 3 NS). Two of the NS trains were BNSF operated coal trains, and the other was a local. I took a break from train watching and went to the National Wildlife Refuge nearby to do some short hikes. When I came back the action cooled off somewhat, but trains were still coming at a decent clip, there were 6 in the approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes I stayed (3 CSX and 3 NS). Even though there was a little more down time, one of the CSX trains was switching the interchange yard, and made several moves in and out of the yard to get all of its cars, filling up the lag time nicely. All told, there were 15 trains (9 CSX and 6 NS) in approximately 5 hours and 10 minutes of observation. The highlights included an unusual looking CN unit on a CSX train, a Montana Rail Link engine as the third unit on an NS train, and a couple of unpatched N & W covered hoppers (I thought they might be uncommon) on an NS train. I will mention that of the 6 trains on the NS line 3 were the BNSF operated coal trains.

As for picture taking, the parking area south of the depot is a very good spot in the morning. There is a gravel parking area between the two main lines and the yard that would be good in the afternoon, although I think it might be railroad property. However, I did see some people park there and take pictures in the afternoon, and nobody said anything about it. The pedestrian bridge near the river is also good, probably in both the morning and afternoon as long as you can get your camera lens through the chain link fence. My only regret was not finding it sooner than I did. I have included some pictures from my trip below, including three that were accepted here at railpictures.net, and the remaining collection of pictures, which were either rejected or not submitted.

I would strongly recommend a trip to Decatur if you live in the mid-South and havenít already been there. If you wanted to make it an overnight trip there are hotels there, although I am not sure there are any along the two main lines. The only real drawback was a lack of restrooms.

My breakfast recommendation for the railfan would be the new omelet sandwich from Burger King that has received a lot of bad press for being so unhealthy. I had it at about 8 A.M. and didnít get hungry again until 6 P.M.

The pictures are below, thanks for taking the time to read my write up.

One of CSXís finest engines leading a train into Decatur.

The NS local, the first actual NS engines I saw on the trip.

CSX heading south across the drawbridge.

The remaining pictures are at the link below.


Thanks for looking.