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Edition #221 May 1, 2014
Photographer: Kevin N. Tomasic
Photo by Kevin N. Tomasic
A few years back I was out driving around Western Pennsylvania, with no particular agenda, hoping to find a train. In the late afternoon I found myself on the road that runs from Zelienople, PA to Evans City, PA. As I got near to Evans City the traffic was at a dead stop and I could see coal hoppers moving west—they had the crossing in town blocked right as the kids were getting out of school. I did a quick 180 and as I did so I saw the head end going by. The power was the three Allegheny Valley Railroad SD-45s. I went down to the next crossing, at Eidenau, PA where I ran into a young railfan. I said, “Hey there’s three AVR SD-45s heading our way.” He looked at me with a bit of distain and corrected me saying, “Those aren’t real 45s, they were rebuilt by KCS with 16 cylinder engines.” “But they’re still flares, aren’t they?” I shot back. That ended the conversation, but the exchange stuck with me.
Being that I’m 54, I grew up with SD-45s when they roamed Penn Central and later CONRAIL in the Pittsburgh area. Back in the late 70’s, they were still hauling most of the priority trains on the mainline. One of my most memorable encounters with them was near the end of their service on CONRAIL. It was a late afternoon in 1981 and I was at the crossing at Leetsdale, PA—three SD-45s swept around the curve at 60 per on a westbound TV train. Those old girls went out the way they came in, hauling the hottest train on the line. They still had it!
In the following years, I ran into 45s around the country in my travels and even saw a few as leasers on CSX and NS in Pittsburgh, but the encounters became few and far between as the 2008 recession doomed most of them.
Fast forward to Good Friday in 2011, Keith Clouse and I went out to do some photography. We’d gotten word that the AVR was running a morning train to interchange with the Buffalo & Pittsburgh at Eidenau. Not knowing what was on the train, we picked a spot at the west end of Glenshaw Tunnel on the ex-B&O Pittsburgh and Western sub. Suddenly the damp air rang with the sound of horns and headlights bounced off the wet walls of the tunnel. In a few moments one, two, three AVR SD-45s rolled into view, their prime movers screaming on as they lifted 50 plus cars up the grade.
We spent that rainy morning with the AVR-1 as they went to Eidenau and turned back with 40 cars for Glenwood. The shot here is from Mt. Royal Boulevard as they ride the bridge over Pine Creek after coming past a local fire hall being set up for an Easter Bunny breakfast. For us it certainly was Good Friday.
Yeah, they got 16 cylinders under the hood, but they’re still flares to me.
Kevin N. Tomasic
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