Traffic remains moderate on the North Mountain and Piedmont Subdivisions even though the export coal market has been weak over the past few months. CSXT still runs between three and eight westbounds a day over the territory. Most of these are empty VAPX (Virginia Power) hopper trains and empty grain trains. Some empty hopper trains from Newport News run through as well.
On occasion, empty sulfur trains returning from North Carolina also use this line. These are always interesting trains to catch. Sulfur trains usually consist of 75 to 90 empty tank cars, powered by Soo Line or CP Rail locomotives.
CSX still runs local freights between Charlottesville and Richmond and between Charlottesville and Clifton Forge. Both usually run every other day. Power for these locals is usually a GP40-2/Road Slug set. Amtrak, of course, runs Trains 50 and 51 over the line three times a week .
About a year ago, every through train over the North Mountain line was powered by one or two AC4400CW’s. Sometimes an 8-40CW would show up, but it was definitely AC4400CW country. Since the Conrail merger, things have changed for the better: variety is now the norm. SD50s, SD60s and SD70MAC’s of both CSX and Conrail heritage have been making regular appearances through Charlottesville. Older SD40-2s have also been frequent. Less regularly seen are lease units, AC6000CW’s, and SD80MAC’s. Most trains operate with two or three units, and the occasional “one unit wonder” runs have become less frequent.
As for the track, not much has changed in years. The Piedmont Subdivision east of Gordonsville is still DTC. The bulk of both subdivisions are still made up with jointed rail. CSX has yet to install a single defect detector on this territory. Over the past few weeks there has been a fair amount of track work between Staunton and Gordonsville, but none of it has been major work.
– Galen Wright
Copyright Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society, Inc. Apr 2000
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