Three Train Sunday: NS 290, 055 and 12R

Norfolk Southern train 055 (High and Wide Pipe Extra) throttles up after a meet at Nokesville, Virginia.

This day's railfanning was a real nail-biter from start to finish. On my way out of the house, I heard an "055" calling signals coming East towards Manassas; frustrating as I was still at least half an hour from the tracks. Much to my relief, it stopped at Bristow to restock on supplies, and to meet a Northbound 290. I managed to land right in between the two trains at Nokesville, next to the 39.4 defect detector, arriving with about 3 minutes to spare before 290's headlights appeared over the horizon. 290 roared through at full track speed, bouncing over the crossing and shaking the camera (reminding me that I need to start experimenting with a stability system) with its short train of autoracks and doublestacks.

NS intermodal train 290 roars over the defect detector at Nokesville, VA.


As soon as the switch at the end of the double-track was clear, 055 continued its southward trek towards Lynchburg, complete with a friendly wave from the crew! The entire High-&-Wide Extra consisted of 68 flatcars loaded with pipes bound for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, save for a single covered hopper bringing up the end of the train.

Once 055 was out of sight, I popped into the local 7Eleven to buy a fresh set of batteries for my new scanner, which I had foolishly failed to charge the night before. Until now, I've been relying on a Broadcastify feed coming from Bristow, which usually works well... as long as I'm railfanning near Bristow. I purchased a Uniden BC125AT off the Amazon, and so far found that it only picked up within a couple of miles of where I was standing (for instance, I could hear the Nokesville defect detector clear as day.) Given that 12R was following 290 up the Washington district, I opted to head a bit further south to meet up with 12R, which nearly failed. Just as I passed through Midland, I heard on the Uniden scanner "12R clear Midland, North on 1, out!" The Broadcastify feed I use doesn't reach as far south as Midland, but sure enough, as I did a 180 and floored it back North, I could see the tail end of 12R through the trees, going maybe 5-10mph slower than me. I managed to get juusssttt far enough ahead of him at Catlett, having barely enough time to park my truck and plant my tripod before the crossing activated. However, I apparently didn't have enough time to press record (which I didn't notice until I got home) but the poor lighting in my pictures prompted me to get ahead of the train again.

I thought I would have to go as far as Delaplane to beat the hot-footed 12R, but once I passed the siding at Gainesville on 66 and saw that it was empty, I reasoned that I could beat him to the hiking trail crossing at Broad Run. Once I arrived and had my shot set up, a couple of passing hikers asked if there was a train coming. I could hear the rumble of the engines through the trees and replied "In about a second, yeah!" and sure enough, one second later the horn started wailing, and the manifest charged around the corner, affording me the money shot of the day.

Please enjoy the video below, and the pictures above if you haven't already, and as always, thanks for reading!