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Edition #155, August 1, 2011

Homestead Handoff

Photographer: Kevin N. Tomasic

                                                                            Photo by Kevin N. Tomasic

Homestead Handoff

In Western Pennsylvania football is more than a game, it is woven into the fabric of each and every city, town and borough. Football provides a source of pride for the winners and anguish for the losers. Rivalries stretch back 30 to 40 years in some cases. The area has been well represented in the pro ranks by local players by the names of Ditka, Unitas, Dorsett, Marino and Montana. Around here a good handoff is as much a work of art as anything Andy Warhol ever did.

Years ago (1989) the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie and Conrail systems  began collaborating on coal trains originating at barge only served mines. The barges were brought to a load out at Glassport, PA, and then the coal was put into 100 ton coal hoppers. The P&LE then hauled them to Homestead, PA for interchange to Conrail.

In November of that year, John Jambor and I, during a chase of a westbound Wisconsin Electric train, stumbled upon three P&LE GP-38-2s shuffling Conrail hoppers at Glassport. Dropping the WEPX train (partly because we were done with it, but mostly because the P&LE train had blocked the crossing) we tried to figure out why CR hoppers were on the wrong side of the river. Soon the scanner told the tale, “Once you double the train, let us know when you’re ready to go to Homestead.”

Once the train cleared the crossing, we headed for Homestead and were rewarded with a bonus—the Wisconsin Electric train had been held at a signal and we shot him rolling by the mostly demolished US Steel Homestead works. After that coal drag cleared up, the switch leading into Howard yard swung open and GP-38-2 #2035 led her sisters up the lead.  Awaiting them at the top was a trio of GP-15s, led by #1650, that would drag the coal train back down to Thomson yard for eventual pick up by a road crew for forwarding to Niagara Mohawk Power in New York State.

As the Lake Erie motors neared the Conrail switch, the conductor got on the bottom step holding the bills in hand as the Conrail conductor reached out for the handoff. It was a picture perfect one-- just like a few dozen others that fall weekend. In Western Pa, we know how to make a good handoff.

Kevin N. Tomasic

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