Lancaster & Chester Railway
"The Springmaid Line"
You've all heard of shortlines: Those are railroads which are vestiges of once mighty Class I lines, right? Well, not necessarily so. Some shortlines were established to serve a particular local market. Far from being the Atlantic Ocean, Plains, and Pacific Ocean Railroad of North America, many of these railroads simply existed to link point A with point B. Some did the job admirably well. The Lancaster and Chester Railway is a case in point. After 110 years (since 1896), the L&C has not only hung in there, it's gotten stronger and stronger. A case might be made that the L&C is stronger today than at any time in recent history. Plan on spending an entire day on this twenty-nine mile railroad, and plan on spending many frames of photo or virtual exposures on an interesting, photogenic, and most progressive railroad.
For a tour of the "new" part of the Lancaster and Chester, from south of the Catawba River at Catawba, South Carolina, to Kershaw on the Norfolk Southern's (ex-Sou) SB-Line, go here. This is referred to as the "Kershaw District" by the L&C, and was taken over from NS on March 25, 2001.
Contents And Navigation
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A Resource Site: Before you take this tour, you should visit Joe Hinson's Lancaster & Chester Railway railfan site. Besides photos and the usual stuff, Joe has extensive knowledge of the operational side of the railroad and its history, and he speculates on future developments for the property. If you'll print the pertinent data out, study it, and then take it with you on this tour, you'll not only see trains, you'll understand why the train is there and what it's doing. Highly recommended!
Business Plan. No, I don't know what the L&C business plan is, and no, I don't know what it's statistical benchmarks might be, but I do know the philosophy behind the business effort: Make the customer think the only reason you are on the earth is to move his or her cargo. Make the customer think that if his or her cargo does not move as it should, you would take that as a personal affront, and make sure it will never happen again.
Business development. There is a vast amount of land available for industrial development in both Lancaster and Chester counties. Further, with excellent rail and interstate access, a good labor force (mostly non-union), and a pervasive state, county and local pro-business attitude, that industrial development is definitely taking place. Actually, the whole area is booming. We can almost guarantee you that if you visit the area every year, you will see a major, new rail customer on the line every time you visit.
Railroad car rehabilitation. The L&C is an opportunistic business, in that it will pursue any business opportunity which it feels can accrue to the benefit of the company. One such example is its Car Service effort. Mr. Bob Willetts and his staff are rebuilding and restoring passenger cars for the private car and (potentially) dinner train/excursion markets. It is amazing to see the before and after photos of their creations. If you are serious about having such work done for yourself or your company, you can contact Mr. Willetts thru the company offices at (803) 286-2100.
Motive Power. This is a short line railroad, but is so industry intensive that it's more correctly thought of as an industrial switching business. For that reason, and because the rail is relatively light (although in excellent condition), the line has remained solidly committed to using diesel switchers. As of late 2000, the line had 9 engines, and if certain plans develop, will need more by early 2001. Joe Hinson, who lives in the L&C territory, tells me that the L&C tried an NS GP38-2, but was not impressed. Joe's extensive roster of the L&C is the definitive one.
The Railroad. Geographically, the railroad connects the county seats of two adjoining counties -- Lancaster and Chester. The county seats have the same names. Both towns are about 40 miles from Charlotte. I-77 runs dead south from Charlotte, and crosses the L&C a little closer to Chester than to Lancaster, but the difference is not significant. Characteristic Piedmont topography of rolling, gentle hills is evident along the entire route of the railroad, but the engineering was such that no real grades are encountered, with the exception of the climb west from Richburg. While there are definite ups and downs, they are minor, but there are plenty of curves used to follow the most level topography. The most significant geographical feature on the line is the Catawba River, which is crossed just east of Fort Lawn. Trains operate over the line at 20 miles per hour, although track conditions allow for 25 mph.
MAPS: I have examined the Chamber of Commerce map for Lancaster County, the Champion map for Chester County, MapQuest on-line maps, and the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer for South Carolina. All have errors in them: Roads on the map where no road exists on the ground, thru roads which do not go thru, tracks which no longer exist, and new tracks not on any maps. Indeed, the 1981 CSX Interchange is on no map that I've seen yet! Obviously, the more sources you can gather ahead of time, the more chance you'll have of smoothly working thru this tour.
Mapwork: Much of the tour is made easier if you have a detailed map for back country roads. You can find information about Railfan Maps that are available.
Lancaster to Chester, SC -- Railfan sites:
Lancaster -- NS interchange. In downtown Lancaster is what used to be the NS interchange. This is the eastern end of the L&C, and we begin the tour of the railroad here, and will go east to west. Mile markers go down from here to the west.
From the intersection of US-521/SC-200/SC-9By-pass, go south on US-521/SC-200, which is Main Street in Lancaster city. As you begin to get south of the downtown area, you will see a large, seemingly tin building on the west side of Main Street. This is an old cotton gin, and is the tallest building around. Before you get to the gin, take a left and go east on Chesterfield Avenue. After two blocks, turn right onto Market Street and go south one long block to the tracks.
The northern track is that of what was Norfolk Southern's Rock Hill - Kershaw branch, which was part of the NS SB-Line. On March 25th, operational control and responsibility shifted to the L&C This branch is covered here. For now, trains leaving the original L&C have access to the Kershaw District only via the single track just south of the station. It is an operational problem for the railroad, and management is exploring options for a new interchange, possibly with a wye, which would be of considerable benefit for the operations of both branch and mainline. [Webmaster's Note: I'm going to refer to the original L&C as the "mainline", and the Kershaw District as the "branch" because doing otherwise is rather cumbersome.]
The area of interchange, specifically that west of Market Street, used to have a smallish interchange yard, and management may be able to move the plastic pellet transloading area from the station to this area. However, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that management will probably move the business completely out of the downtown area, if (and it's a big if), they are able to construct a wye. With only one customer currently north of Lancaster on the branch, operating up there and back is inefficient. Moving the transloading facility a little north of town would not require a great deal of acreage, would allow for the addition of aggregate and other materials to be transloaded, would ease congestion (both street and railroad) around the station/Market Street area, and would make northern customer delivery/pick-ups more economic.
Lancaster -- Station Area. Continue south on Market one block to Gooch Street, and take a right to get back to Main Street. Go north (right), cross the first set of tracks, and take a left to park north of the station. This impressive building houses the offices of the railroad and it's various activities. It also, upstairs, is the site of the L&C's historical museum, which is open from 10:00 to 4:00 on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month. South of the station, in a fenced area, is the Car Service facility, which was referenced above.
Also located at the station is a team track with an unloading ramp. Today, this is largely used to spot covered hoppers of plastic pellets which local manufacturers pump from the cars to trucks. This is an active business.
>Lancaster -- Engine House. While you can drive directly to the engine facility from the station, you are driving on railroad property to do so; therefore, get back on Main Street and go north until Elm Street, and take a left for two blocks, and then go left again onto French Street. French will take you to the Builders Supply area, and you need to carefully go thru the area straight ahead to the tracks. Be very cool here, as lots of trucks and forklifts use the area, and you are on private property. Park near the gate and look into the property. Do not go thru the fence unless you have railroad permission to do so. The large building to your left is the engine house.
Why is it so big? All but a few of the engines are parked in the facility during nights and weekends, and servicing is done inside, also. You will usually see 2 engines or so outside the building, but you're looking almost dead south, so photos will be back-lighted. We are now going to head out on the line to Chester, but first we'll take a short detour to see something impressive.
Lancaster -- Springs Mill. If you're familiar with this part of the country, or if you've read some of the other Frograil tours in North and South Carolina, you already know that virtually every town was a mill town. Some mills have long since been demolished, most seem to be derelicts, and a few are still in daily operation. The L&C has been nicknamed "The Springmaid Line" for generations, and the big Springs Industries mill in Lancaster is not only in daily operation, it's in tip-top condition. It is also one very impressive complex. To see it best is to see it from the front, so we have to follow the NS tracks for a short distance. The "Southern" runs in front of the mill, and the L&C runs behind the buildings. [NOTE: There is little or no rail traffic generated by the mill. 40 foot boxcars by the zillions used to be everywhere in this area, but no longer.]
Instead of going back the way you came, go west on Old Skipper Avenue. Bear to the right when it ends, cross the NS tracks, and take your first left onto Elm Street. From this point, rather than attempt to give you every turn and twist in the road, let me just say all you need to do is take the streets and turns to keep you parallel to the tracks. The towers of the mill will be obvious. Throughout this area, don't hesitate to drive thru some of the neighborhoods of quaint mill houses. Many are old and rundown now, but look thru that and enjoy a little part of our urban history.
When you get past the mill, take a left on 1st Street (caution -- this may be marked as 9th Street. It is definitely 9th south of the L&C), go over both the NS and L&C tracks, and turn left (east) on Brooklyn Avenue. This will take you along the back of the mill, and you can get trackside via any one of several streets between 9th and 15th. At 15th you can cross the tracks and you'll be at the end of Old Skipper Avenue.
If you are not interested in the mill, go west on Old Skipper Avenue from the engine house area. At the end of the street, take a left, and go over the tracks on what is 15th Street south of the tracks.
Lancaster -- Memorial Park Road. At the intersection of 15th and Brooklyn Avenue, go west (right) on Brooklyn. There are several streets between 15th and 9th which will get you trackside, but the backdrop for photos is not particularly photogenic. Incidentally, milepost 28 is °behind the mill. Continue west on Brooklyn which will cross Springdale Road, and eventually curves to go 90� north. At Jenna Lane take a left and go to Gamble Drive, and take a right. Finally, take a left on Deaton Drive, and in one block you'll be at Memorial Park Road. Take a right, but you'll only drive a block or so before encountering the tracks. Park on the east side of Memorial Park Road, in the abandoned industrial area. There is plenty of open viewing from the southwest quadrant, but the southeast is fairly poor. Again, this is not a particularly photogenic area.
[NOTE WELL: We will now be encountering an increasing number of industrial facilities. Not only are these private property, many of them are downright paranoid about security issues. With the hideous overuse of lawsuits in America today, this is easily understood. Do NOT, under any circumstances, venture onto any industrial property for any reason.]
NOTE ALSO: The L&C is not some dinky little cutesy railroad. It is well maintained and power is quite adequate to move a train easily at 25 MPH and even a little more. You should plan your interception points well in advance. If you don't, you should not try to both drive and navigate simultaneously -- it's dangerous. Remember, the train will slow (and usually stop) in several industrial areas along the way.
Lancaster -- West Manor Drive. Here's a good example of the problems we'll encounter with maps on this tour. According to the map distributed by the Chamber of Commerce and MapQuest, you should be able to take a left onto Old Lansford Road, and then go out to SC-9Business. 'Tain't so! Old Lansford has been closed off for years. So, continue north on Memorial Park Road right out to SC-9Business. Take a left (west) on SC-9Business (which is West Meeting Street), and in about a mile, West Manor Drive will be on your left. Drive to the tracks and park. It's not visible from the tracks, but there is a very nice subdivision just to the west, so there is traffic over the crossing, and you might get some rather quizzical looks. Don't linger longer than necessary. Besides, once the line train goes by in the morning, it'll be well into the afternoon before it returns. However, for true photographers, this might be a good place to get a very nice shot.
Tall trees on the southwest quadrant indicate that shadows will often be a problem in this location. We'd suggest you go on a little further to Grace Complex. Remember, the train is going right along at 20+ mph, so you don't have time to hit every single crossing in this part of the line.
Lancaster -- Grace Complex Area. Continue west on SC-9ByPass and in another one-half mile, you'll come to its intersection with SC-9. Take the entrance to SC-9 westbound, and go just over a mile more to the Grace Complex area. Take a left onto Grace Avenue, and park just south of the tracks to the east.
Looking west along the tracks, you'll see the very large Springs Industries complex, with several buildings. Behind and to the north of the buildings, you'll see the silos and conveyor of a power plant. The plant is still owned by Springs, and is operated by Enron Building Management Services. Of interest to us is that the plant is coal fired, and is a steady customer of the L&C. Rather than huge unit trains of 10,000+ tons, this power plant requires several cars a day, and these are handled via the regular freight schedule. Don't even think of entering Springs' property.
Now, as to the area in which you just parked. On the county map from the CofC, there is a road, Nebo Road, which parallels the tracks on the south for maybe a half mile to the east, crosses over them, and then ends at SC-9. When we were there last, extensive utility work was being done, and we could not explore. However, there was an area of dirt road visible maybe 100 yards east of Grace Avenue. We don't know how far it goes, or if it's public or private, but the area close to Grace Avenue should be OK for good pics. Stay away from Grace Avenue itself, because it is very busy with street traffic -- especially trucks. [Webmaster's Note: Joe Hinson tells me that "Nebo Road is accessed from Hwy 9 and once ran to Grace. But most of this is now considered private property and is clearly marked. The best course of action would be to cross the tracks, turn around in the church parking lot and come back out."]
Catawba River. As you approach the large Catawba River Bridge, take a right just before the bridge. There is a sign for the "Highway Nine Landing", and a boat landing symbol is on the DeLorme atlas. However, the landing is north of the highway, and the tracks are to the south of it. The right turn you took will take you down a dirt road to the landing area. Wear jeans and stout boots or shoes here, as it is fairly rough walking in the area -- and it can be ugly muddy, too.
There is a path going south, under the highway bridge, and it leads to a clearing where fishermen set up their gear. Follow the path just a little farther and you have a wonderful view of the trestle across the river. This is an afternoon, probably summer photo location. Lock your car, and Joe recommends that you not be here after dark.
This location was contributed by Joe Hinson.
Fort Lawn. Get back on SC-9 and continue west. You'll parallel the tracks all the way to the Catawba River, and they are fairly close in a few places, but not worth a stop. The L&C bridge is quite visible from SC-9, but there is no public access and there are big trees on all four quadrants. A boat is the only way to get in position for photos. When you cross the river, you're in Chester County.
Shortly after the river, you'll come into the crossroads of Fort Lawn. From Spence (which is just west of Catawba), a Seaboard Air Line branch came south thru Fort Lawn and on to a power plant in the Great Falls area. The branch is long gone, and its connection with the L&C at Fort Lawn is also long gone. As you get just west of US-21 in Fort Lawn, you'll go over a minor overpass -- look down, and you'll see the vestiges of the branch. Believe us, you've got to know it's there to see it. And it will get much harder to see it, as SC-9 is being 4-laned, and when the work is done, the overpass itself will be gone. [Webmaster's Note: You might want to keep in mind that SC-9 is being 4-laned all the way into Chester, and roadwork will probably continue in some areas for quite awhile.]
When the connection was taken out, in 1981, a new connection was made in northeast Chester. More on that later.
Richburg -- Circle S. As you leave Fort Lawn and travel towards Richburg on SC-9, you'll soon see a large feed mill elevator on the horizon. This is Circle-S, and it receives grain by unit train. Drive past the mill, and then take your first left at Morrison Road (which may be unmarked), cross the tracks, and then take a left onto the paved road which parallels the tracks. The 1991 Champion Map Company map we were using shows a public road paralleling the tracks on both sides of Morrison Road, but it is private to the west. Also, there are a few houses just east of the elevator, but the road peters out very shortly.
Photos to both east and west are excellent from this road, although L&C has a habit of working mostly westbound in the morning and eastbound in the afternoon, so sometimes the sun isn't very friendly. Also, L&C keeps one engine here, and a relatively mild telephoto lens will get you a good picture of it. You do not need to trespass onto railroad or Circle-S property for photos. As you can imagine, the arrival of a grain train pulled by up to 6 switchers makes for a major disruption of this bucolic location! The mill is located at MP-17.
One interesting thing to notice here is that the switches are solar-powered power switches. First class all the way for this railroad.
Richburg -- Teledyne Allvac. Continue west on SC-9, and you'll shortly come to the intersection with SC-99 going down to Great Falls. The L&C crossing here is OK-Good. A little farther is a better one. Just west of SC-99 on SC-9 is a sign to the Allvac Division of Teledyne Corporation. About 100 feet south of the tracks is a gated entrance to the property. If you know a train is coming, take a left from SC-9 and go over the tracks and park well off the road. Tell the gate attendant you're just waiting to take a picture of the train, and that you'll probably be there no more than 10-15 minutes. Then take your pix and leave. This is an excellent photo site.
Richburg -- LCDC -- Glass Works. Continue west on SC-9, and as you come into the eastern edge of town, you'll see a big sign on the south side of the road announcing the Lancaster and Chester Railway Distribution Center (LCDC). You're only a couple miles from I-77, so this is an ideal place for an industrial center, and the L&C is developing a big one. The first location we'll visit will be the eastern-most industry, which is a glass factory. Enter the LCDC via the entry at the sign, and take a left past the tracks. Note that some of the businesses here do not use rail. The spur to the glass plant is not accessible to railfans. You'll come to the end of the road paralleling the tracks, and it will turn right to go down to the plant's entrance. You can drive down the road and check out the plant and the cars there, but you'll have to make a U-turn and come back up, as you are not allowed on plant property.
From the point at which the LCDC road turns right to access the plant, you can park to the east of the streets. Access to the spur for the plant is not possible without trespassing, and it's in the middle of a bunch of trees anyway. You really can't see into the plant either from here. So, here's the strategy: Just wait for the train to pull and replace the covered hoppers with silica sand, and then get good photos when it comes past the spur heading further west. You'll have excellent photo access all along the LCDC access road, incidentally, and you won't have to trespass to get it.
Several cars of sand a day are exchanged at the plant.
Richburg -- LCDC Thyssen/Krupp. Drive back west on the LCDC road, and continue on (slowly, as it's quite rough) to the point where the road bends towards Richburg and becomes Old Richburg Road. Head west on Old Richburg, and you'll pass a large Thyssen Steel distribution center. The spur into the plant is probably out of use, although the facility is definitely in use. Continuing on, the next industry is a newer, larger Thyssen/Krupp Steel distribution center. There is an active spur coming into the property, and a few cars of steel coils are delivered daily. Good photos from either side of the tracks are easily taken north of the street. It is interesting to inspect the spur, and to figure out how it gets to the Thyssen/Krupp property.
Based on information I got on March 25th, bulk shipments of steel are also made to Thyssen. Imported steel offloaded from ships comes the Chester on a, perhaps, monthly basis, and is then placed in the SIT yard (your next location) and delivered to the customer as needed. Such bulk shipments can consist of 2-3 dozen cars, so this business is far from insignificant.
Richburg -- SIT Yard. Immediately west of the tracks is a dirt road going north along the tracks. This road is on no map that I've seen, and is neither gated nor posted. If you take it, you'll come to East Lancaster Street in about a block. The road crosses East Lancaster, but then goes down into what I call a Storage-in-Transit (SIT) yard. It's really just a siding, but there are loaded sand cars, steel coil cars, and covered hoppers containing plastic pellets. These are probably staged to meet either increased demand for cars, or to cover lack of delivery from the Class I's. There is active switching here by the over-the-line train daily.
We did not go down the dirt road towards the tracks, as that seems obviously to be railroad property, but took a left on East Lancaster, instead. You'll be able to see the cars in the yard, as you're fairly close. However, in the summer, you'll not see much. As you get into the village, take your first right onto Broad Street, cross the tracks, and take your first right. This will get you close to the west end of the siding/yard, and you can see a good deal of action from there. Go back the way you came, and do not cross back over the tracks on Broad. Continue straight, and turn left on Mountain Gap Road. Go over the tracks and find a place to park. There is a small, 0-4-0 steam locomotive on display in the Richburg Park next to the tracks. It's within a small open shed. A nice picture is to get the three diesel switchers and their train as is goes thru just next to the steamer.
The steam engine is from the Edgemoor and Manetta Railway, which was reportedly the last common carrier to operate steam locomotives in the United States.
On to the Chester Wye and interchange:
Getting there: From Richburg west, we'll be off SC-9, and will be on some country roads. It is from this point on in the tour that the lack of accurate maps will be a potential problem, so be alert. According to the maps, you can continue south on Mountain Gap Road to Lancaster Road, and then go west on West Lancaster Road, under I-77, and then on towards Chester. This is not correct, as West Lancaster ends at the interstate. Therefore, continue past Lancaster to Old Richburg Road and turn right. This will take you under the interstate. Actually, there's a complete interchange here, including life support facilities to keep you and your car going for a while longer. This is exit 62.
Between here and Chester, the railroad will mostly be away from you, and you'll be going thru some truly backwoods countryside. However, it's very pretty, and we highly recommend the drive to you. If you wish to take a shortcut, you can go up to SC-9, which is exit 65 on I-77, and go west all the way into the eastern edge of Chester at Beltline Road. Go here to resume the tour.
Continue west on Old Richburg Road, and you'll pass Lizzie Melton Road, which goes off to the right towards the tracks. The crossing is poor and not recommended as a railfan site. Further west, you'll come to a point known as Knox, and Knox Station Road goes to a crossing which is so-so to poor, and likewise not recommended. The Knox Farm, however, has some very fine cattle (Santa Gertrudis?) about 5 feet from the edge of the road. Thru this part of the L&C, the line really does more represent the Petticoat Junction Railway than the industrial switcher it really is. Beyond Knox, map-wise, things get a little screwy, so pay attention, and don't worry -- you'll get there just fine.
At Knox, the tracks are close to Old Richburg Road, and you'll go over them just west of Knox Station Road. This is not a bad photo location. Somewhere, perhaps at Knox itself, the road has become Orrs Road on the Champion map. MapQuest shows it as Old Richburg Road, and DeLorme doesn't even try to name it. Once past the tracks, you will go down a long hill and go over a creek, then up and down over a second creek. Just beyond the second creek, the Champion map shows a road leading down to Orrs, the location of the west leg of the Chester Wye. It either is a logging road only, or it simply no longer exists. Continue west, pass the impressive Black Creek Church, and you will come to an intersection with Beltline Road. You are now in civilization again, sort of, and we'll begin the major effort of exploring the CSX interchange and the Chester Wye. But first, it's important to understand the history and layout of this area. And have no doubts -- this is an extremely important railroading area.
History: We don't know the dates for sure, but here is a loose progression of what has developed in the area. As industry grew in the area, a need developed for a spur from the L&C (which is about a mile south of the Beltline/Old Richburg Road intersection) to a new plant just northwest of the intersection. The spur was built. Remember the connection that was taken out of service some 20 years ago in Fort Lawn ? Well, congestion in Chester itself, as well as an overall growth in traffic, forced the L&C to think outside of the box to solve the problem. Here's how they did it. The Old Richburg Road/Beltline intersection is a little less than a mile south of the CSX Greenwood - Hamlet main line. The same line goes thru downtown Chester a few miles to the east. Additionally, there is a passing siding (Landrum, MP-348.4) about one-half mile west of a line going directly up from Beltline road.
It's amazing what happens when people cooperate, isn't it? The L&C was given permission to cross SC-9 and establish a new interchange with CSX. This was a win-win solution for the two railroads, the town (more industry than ever is moving in), and the workers in the area. There are, however, two concerns going into the future. First, there are three tracks in the interchange, but they are relatively short (the distance from SC-9 to the CSX main is only a half mile at most). These tracks are pretty full most of the time. I have personally seen both the road train and the Wye train there at the same time that a CSX freight was trying to get into the interchange area. Second, the line up to the interchange going north from the main crosses SC-9 at grade. The latter is a very busy highway, and getting more so fast. Indeed, it is currently in the process of becoming a 4-lane divided highway.
Continuing with the history, it became obvious to the L&C that the switch from the main line to the CSX interchange spur would be a source of significant headaches operationally. They solved most of these problems by adding a track from the interchange track/industrial spur to the main line at the southwest end of the spur, giving the L&C a complete, modern wye.
Chester -- CSX Interchange. From the intersection of Old Richburg Road and Beltline, go north on Beltline to SC-9. Park on the southeast side of SC-9/Beltway. The spur track up to industries and the interchange have been hugging the west side of Beltline, and continue straight north past SC-9. There is a dirt road, identified as Meador or Meader Road, depending on the map, continuing north from SC-9, but there is a gate (which is being removed because of the expansion of SC-9 to four lanes), which it is usually open. The road is not posted. I do not know who owns the road. There are no houses or farms on the road, which used to cross the CSX and continue north. However, the road is now cut at the tracks. The interchange begins just north of SC-9, and continues up to the CSX tracks, which is maybe one-half mile. You might consider walking the road, taking a few pics (all to the west, as the east side is an industrial complex, is well fenced, and to go over there would be really, really stupid) and leaving. There really is no reason to hang around. That said, there is a great deal of activity in this small space.
Chester -- Wye North. After visiting the interchange area, go back south on Beltline, cross the Old Richburg Road and Orrs Station Road and you'll see a brand new spur going off to the west. This spur is going into a huge plant built by Owens Illinois to provide cultured marble to homebuilders. Almost immediately south of the new spur is the north leg of the Chester Wye. Both the road train and Chester Wye train will be thru here, perhaps several times, daily. There is good viewing from the east, but not the west, which is all private property. You'll have to stand on the shoulder of the road on the east, but the railroad is so close that you'll have no trouble getting good pix.
Probably the best location for a railfan is immediately southeast of Orrs Station Road. There is a substantial gravel/dirt pull-off area, and you can back in to allow a full, 180° view of the north-south action. Viewing is excellent, and there isn't so much traffic that photos are difficult. The spur leading into the GAF insulation plant east of Beltline is just to the north.
Chester -- Ecology Lane. Another interesting map problem is Ecology Lane, which doesn't exist on anything but the MapQuest map (good for them) and the ground. Continue south on Beltline, and you'll shortly come to Ecology Lane. This road leads west to the new Owens Illinois plant, as well as to other industries. Spur tracks are to the south of the lane. The intersection of Ecology and Beltline offers excellent views of trains coming off the north leg of the wye eastbound. Between the tracks of the main line and Ecology Road is a dirt road, which is in good condition, but I've never seen it in use by anyone other than railfans. This is the spot to watch action in the spur south of the main and the switching work at the east leg of the wye.
Chester -- Wye East. To follow the wye to the east leg, from the Beltline/Ecology Lane intersection, go north to Orrs Station Road, and go east. This road roughly parallels the tracks east of Beltline, and will cross the L&C main line tracks, but will then shortly end, contrary to MapQuest, DeLorme, and Champion. Zero correct out of three is pretty bad. This is really not much of a railfan location. Also, the folks who live out here are used to certain things, and tolerate them. Random visitors do not constitute one of the things they are used to, and the locals really aren't warm towards strangers.
Chester -- Wye West. Instead of going southeast on Orrs Station Road, you can continue south on Beltline, which will take you a little east of the actual west leg of the wye. Ecology Road crosses the west leg just east of the switch with the main. This is a very built-up industrial area, and is extremely busy. It is not recommended as a railfan location.
Chester -- Beltline Crossing. Continuing south on Beltline will take you back into the country, south and away from the tracks. However, the road will curve to the west, and you'll cross the tracks at grade. This is perhaps the nicest grade crossing on the entire railroad. If you know about when the train should be thru, this is a nice place to meet with friends, share completely untrue railfanning stories, and enjoy a shortline train at its best.
Chester -- Hinton Street. Continuing west on Beltline, take a right onto Belt Road, which will go straight south, cross the tracks at a so-so crossing, turn 90° to the west, and then end at Wilson Street. Take a right onto Wilson, and drive into town. As you enter the city itself, you'll come to a crossing, which is open on the southwest and northeast. You'll need permission to take pix from the southeast quadrant, but you'll be able to get excellent shots from there. The railroad switches a facility just to the west of the crossing, so the best engine pix are from the southwest quadrant.
Continue on Wilson and keep to the left as it becomes Harris Street. This will bend 90° to the north, and you'll continue on until taking a left on Hamilton Street. This will end at the tracks. Take a right at the tracks and park in the vicinity of the food store/ convenience store at the corner with Hinton Street. [NOTE WELL: It is not recommended, anywhere in this area of Chester, to be railfanning without at least one male friend along.] As you look to the west, the near tracks are those of the L&C, and the far tracks are the NS Charlotte - Columbia main line and interchange track. The L&C will use both their own and the NS tracks to work the interchange traffic, as will the NS use both railroads'. However, most work is done on the L&C tracks. This place can be really dull or really interesting.
Chester -- GrahamStreet. Cross the tracks on Hinton, and take an immediate right onto Cotton Street (identified as Bryce Street on the Champion map). Cotton more or less parallels the tracks to an intersection with Gadsden Street. Take a right on Gadsden, go over the tracks, and take the first left onto Steinkuler Street. After two blocks, turn left (west) and head towards the tracks. The Champion map shows a loop at the end of the street, but believe us, the street ends just before the tracks.
When you get to the tracks, you'll see the two L&C tracks coming together and leading to the junction with the NS main. This is the west end of the Lancaster & Chester Railway, MP-0, and it's at about MP-R44 on the Norfolk Southern.