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View Full Version : Where's the action & how do I find out when that train's gonna go by?


ryhomer
04-03-2006, 07:33 AM
Today was a sad sad chapter in my railfanning experiences. I decided since DST started today & since the weather was decent, it was worth the 45 minute drive to my favorite spot just north of Harrisburg, PA along NS's Pittsburgh Line. I was there between 7:30 & 8:30 p.m. on a Sunday evening & not one train went by. Can anyone explain why I happened to show up at a bad time? Any other time I'm there I see a pretty nice amount of trains roll by.

My only guesses are because the action was elsewhere. For example, I know NS starts sending a large amount of trains from Enola towards the NEC. But I didn't think this would stop westbound trains.

So besides wondering why I had such bad luck, I was hoping to find out a few things in this discussion. First, does anyone have any suggestions about trainspotting & how to find the action. Like I said, usually the Pittsburgh Line doesn't seem to see too many big breaks like I witnessed tonight (I actually have a grandma that lives next to it, & I always remember trains rolling by all the time). Also, is there a way to find out when to expect certain trains? For example, I know the Pittsburgh Line sees load after load of coal & intermodal trains.

Any help would be appreciated. If you want to send the info directly to me, feel free to e-mail me at homer560@hotmail.com.

Frederick
04-03-2006, 01:24 PM
That happens frequently on railroads. There could be nothing for 2 hours, and then they send 6 or 7 trains in quick succession.

Ween
04-03-2006, 04:59 PM
Today was a sad sad chapter in my railfanning experiences.

Welcome to the club; that's normal. But don't let it get you down.

The only advice I can offer is this: build personal experience and get to know the area you're wanting to railfan by searching for info on the web. Check Yahoo! Groups for a Group on the Harrisburg area. Check what contributors to this site a regulars in the area, and contact them via e-mail.

Other than that, be patient...railfanning is not a hobby for the impatient...

hoydie17
04-03-2006, 07:34 PM
Do you have a scanner? You can normally pick a used one up on Ebay for less than $100, or a brand new one for around $200 or so. Whichever scanner you have or buy, I strongly encourage buying the Diamond RH77CA antenna to help with reception. (Google RH77CA)

I took my scanning habits a bit farther and invested in a Motorola Spectra with all the AAR channels programmed in. Reception has increased dramatically, depending on geographics and ducting, I can hear trains talking 10-15 miles away consistently.

You can also go high tech like I've done and start using ATCS. But that's going to take quite the investment of cash to get a laptop with a wireless net connection and/or a 900MHz radio. You can do it from your desktop PC too, assuming you live in an area where there are other ATCS'rs that have set up servers for the data.

I know the area near Harrisburg has many CP's on ATCS, and if you can see what's going on in the terminal, then you'll probably be able to see what's coming your way.

The latter is just going to depend on how "in to" the hobby you are. If you just do it for the heck of it, then it's probably not feasible. If you're a serious rail-buff and photographer, then it's a good investment if you have the disposable income.

Either way if you're curious, you can check out www.atcsmon.com for info on the ATCS software.

There are options out there.

Sean

trainmonster
04-03-2006, 09:45 PM
NS runs in spurts on the Middle Division. (Pittsburgh line to the young whippersnappers! :lol: )

My experience is: More westbounds than eastbounds, sometimes it drops dead for ~1-1 1/2 hours, make sure you have a scanner so you can hear when trains hit the detectors, hit it between Thurs.-Sun.

I love the Newport area-check my stuff here (http://www.railpictures.net/showphotos.php?userid=4208) - and usually I've averaged ~10 trains in an afternoon. (not a morning person)

I live nearer the Buffalo line, and, while the power is an eclectic mix, it's a crap shoot for trains. And north-south running makes it bad for lighting.

If you want more info, PM me here.

Rich

dsktc
04-03-2006, 11:16 PM
On a good day, you can expect four trains every hour
on the NS Pittsburgh Line. The majority will be
westbound, as mentioned.

You really need to buy a decent scanner so that
you can listen to the Harrisburg dispatcher and
learn what is enroute, whether you are at Duncannon,
Cove, Marysville, etc.

Newport is also one of my favorite locations as it
is for Rich Hart.

Dave

Today was a sad sad chapter in my railfanning experiences. I decided since DST started today & since the weather was decent, it was worth the 45 minute drive to my favorite spot just north of Harrisburg, PA along NS's Pittsburgh Line. I was there between 7:30 & 8:30 p.m. on a Sunday evening & not one train went by. Can anyone explain why I happened to show up at a bad time? Any other time I'm there I see a pretty nice amount of trains roll by.

My only guesses are because the action was elsewhere. For example, I know NS starts sending a large amount of trains from Enola towards the NEC. But I didn't think this would stop westbound trains.

So besides wondering why I had such bad luck, I was hoping to find out a few things in this discussion. First, does anyone have any suggestions about trainspotting & how to find the action. Like I said, usually the Pittsburgh Line doesn't seem to see too many big breaks like I witnessed tonight (I actually have a grandma that lives next to it, & I always remember trains rolling by all the time). Also, is there a way to find out when to expect certain trains? For example, I know the Pittsburgh Line sees load after load of coal & intermodal trains.

Any help would be appreciated. If you want to send the info directly to me, feel free to e-mail me at homer560@hotmail.com.

brunswickrailfan
04-04-2006, 02:06 AM
http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=139330

I spent yesterday evening in Harrisburg after work, and I managed to get a good shot. Dave whizzed by 'bout 5 seconds before I dashed across the road for the shot. lol

The key really is patience, though at that time of evening/night, there is typically a lull.

ryhomer
04-04-2006, 04:59 AM
Hey, I just wanted to thank all of you for the advice!

Of coures, more advice is welcome. And just for the record, I do have a scanner, but I think I need to upgrade my antenna. I have a Uniden Bearcat 30-channel (I'm not sure of the model number anymore). It seems to get the job done most of the time.

Well, thanks again & happy railfanning!

Ryan

ddavies
04-04-2006, 10:54 PM
You may have just run into bad luck, there could have been a temporary problem (brush fire, train in emergency, etc.) that stopped all traffic for short period of time. The better your radio reception, the more you will be apt to be aware of such situations.

Get a 5/8 wave antenna for your rooftop. For reception, it can just be a 2 meter ham antenna, which is about 1/2 the cost of the railfan antenna "cut to size." Do not trim the ham antenna if you plan on broadcasting on the 2 meter band.

trainmaster_1
04-05-2006, 03:22 AM
Freight Traffic varies between railroads and since trains are planned at certain times of the day say CP 156 or whatever is planned at 09:00 in the morning, crews are asked if they want to take it, its up to them, if its a yes then the train is a go ahead and should be out on the road in 2 hours time if not, the train is pushed back until a crew is found and will say yes. But like what other members said on this board, brush fires, train-car accidents, derailments, train in emergancy all contribute in delay's of freight traffic along a specified line.

Crusader
04-14-2006, 10:40 PM
Ryan -
All good advice... I'll just add one thing... around here (at the eastern reaches of the Harrisburg line in Philly), I know that another factor that's been holding trains lately is springtime MOW work. Crews will often take a track or interlocking out of service for a few hours, which may hold up some trains. Slow moving traffic, like a work train dropping new ties along the ROW, can also foul things up.

But as others have said, feast-or-famine is common. Trains do tend to appear in bunches. I've had some very quiet days along what I know is a typically busy main. Then other days, it's non-stop action.

Best of luck.