Ashland Afternoon 4-2-17: CSX and Amtrak through the center of Ashland, VA

When I originally planned my chase of the circus train for April 3rd, the train was scheduled to come up the RF&P subdivision before changing to NS rails to continue west for its trip to Pennsylvania. I booked a hotel room in Ashland, intending to pick up the chase when the train reached there after departing Newport News. However, after making my reservations, the routing changed. Still, Ashland seemed like a great place to relax for a few hours before continuing on to Hampton, VA to watch the circus train loading. I caught several Amtrak trains and a few CSX freights, some of which had some interesting power!

The afternoon began with P079 hauling a pair of PV's, covered in my previous post. A while later, train Q415 rolled through. Although the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project now accepts doublestack trains, points further north do not, which meant that this train which began in New Jersey was largely trailers and single-stacks.

Shortly after Q031, the northbound P080 (counterpart to the southbound P079) passed by without much fanfare. Then came the treat: a doublestack train on the RF&P! 2017 is the first year that doublestacks have been permitted on the RF&P (which according to CSX, extends to the Virginia Avenue Tunnel in DC) and the show was not disappointing. I found that the containers on CSX were generally more colorful than the usual green and white of NS intermodal trains. Q130 was lead by engine #5500, the "Spirit of Cincinnati."

The RF&P is hopping with nearly as many Amtraks as through freights, as evidenced by three "P" series trains in a row. P195, a "Northeast Regional," P091, the "Silver Star," and P053, the famed "Auto Train" pounded over the many Ashland grade crossings in quick succession, with only the regional stopping for passengers.

During the onslaught of Amtraks, a CSX freight was seen coming to a stop at the end of the triple-track, where the line changes to double-track for the street-running portion of Ashland. The scanner revealed this to be train Q301, who was told he would be able to continue his journey as soon as the Auto Train passed. Sure enough, by the time the Auto Train engines hit the first crossing past the freight, the headlights came on and the long manifest drag began creeping to life, reaching my camera only a moment after the Auto Train cleared. Q301 had a GATX Leasing switch engine in tow, an MP15 that has apparently been on a bit of a tour of the CSX system lately.

Last but not least was train Q415, another lengthy manifest. The engine consist included the Chessie System "Bumper Sticker Unit," CSX's lame attempt at Heritage engines. I don't think these locomotives are even worth mentioning, I was MUCH more interested in the GP40-2 mother and road slug! 4 axle power out on the mainline is getting rare in the 21st century.

Video is linked below, thanks for reading and watching!