Tidewater to Lake Erie
Williamson, WV - Chillicothe, OH
When all is said and done, there probably never has been a more consistently profitable railroad in North America than the Norfolk & Western Railway between Norfolk, Virginia and the coal fields of far western Virginia and West Virginia. This vitality was multiplied by the movement of coal and freight north from Williamson to Columbus and all points north and northwest. As a key piece of today's giant Norfolk Southern Corporation, the line is seeing strong coal traffic and more of most other traffic, such as intermodal, manifest, and unit grain trains. This tour will take you, point to point to point, from Williamson, West Virginia, to Chillicothe, Ohio. It is part of a much bigger tour, from Norfolk to Sandusky, and you can find out about the overall effort here.
As of September, 2005, segments from Williamson to Crum (~24.0 miles), and Prichard to Kenova (~12.6 miles) have been completed, a combined distance of roughly 36.6 miles. Because it was previously available, Portsmouth, Ohio, was included, which adds about 2.4 miles.
Contents And Navigation
Train Gifs. All train gifs used within this tour are from the Ed Bindler's train gifs site, which is here.
Tony Hill, Webmaster and data provider -- all text, unless otherwise noted.
If you'd like to contribute to this, or any other tour, please contact me at email@example.com, and let me know what you'd like to do. We'll work together: You supply the data/info, and I'll do the HTML stuff and upload it. You'll get a chance to review the fruits of your efforts before the general public sees the finished product, so you can let me have your corrections, additions and changes.
AG. An at-grade crossing.
NAG. A not-at-grade crossing. Unless I mention otherwise, these are usually not worth the time and trouble to drive to.
NARL. Not a railfan location. This is because of any number of reasons, such as lousy photo ops, dangerous, no shoulder on a NAG bridge, etc. As a general rule of thumb, it is wise to avoid NARL's.
NFOG. Not found on the ground. Often, very minor roads depicted on maps of rural areas do not exist on the ground, turn out to be private driveways, or have become overgrown in forests. I lump these together in the NFOG category.
The Railroad -- Geographic. Between Williamson and the Ohio River at Kenova, the railroad is pretty simple. There is the Tug Fork river (the Big Sandy River after Louisa/Fort Gay), and the railroad, except for a few tunnels, follows the river all the way to Kenova. On the other side of the railroad are hills and small mountains. The builders and maintainers of the railroad have had to contend with a very narrow shelf of land between the river and hills, and that has made for a pretty impressive engineering effort. The railroad is in superb physical condition, and in the Fall of 2005, plans are to increase tunnel clearances, which will allow double stack traffic.
Be aware that trains can easily roll along at 50mph, and can do so very quietly. Be alert, and do not think this is a backwater branch line. This is major league mountain railroading, and Norfolk Southern does it extremely well.
The Railroad -- Traffic. As of Fall, 2005, coal traffic has been heavy northbound from Williamson. Most of this coal is for utilities, and traffic levels somewhat rise and fall with weather conditions. Intermodal traffic is growing rapidly, and manifest, grain, and other commodities (not including auto racks) are also showing strong growth. Expect at least 1 train per hour, but like any other railroad, you can see nothing for 3 hours, and then 3 trains in 15 minutes.
Life-support. You're going to be in a very sparsely populated part of America. There is a dearth of life support all thru the Tug Fork/Big Sandy valley. There are hospitals in Williamson, Louisa (KY), and Kenova. There are motels in the same three towns. You won't find fine dining anywhere in the valley, but you won't go hungry, either. Do be aware, however, that there is nothing commercial between these same three towns, and if you let yourself get low on gas or suddenly get hungry, you might have a significant wait -- or problem.
Before embarking on this tour, you should get very familiar with the tour guide home page, which has lots of solid info you will want to digest before you head out.
Driving the area. All highways and roads mentioned, including local roads, can be negotiated by normal cars, unless otherwise mentioned. That said, if you have access to a 4-wheel drive vehicle, bring it, as there are places your Webmaster didn't go because he was driving a low-slung 1995 Cutless. 4-wheel drive just gives you more flexibility and stability.
Mapwork: Much of the tour is not easy if you have no detailed map for back country roads. I definitely recommend you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work.
Photographic Considerations: As I've done in several Other Tours, I've attempted to rate the photo fields for all 4 quadrants of many crossings detailed in the tour. The following format is used: NE2, SE1, SW4, NW4, where you go clockwise around the quadrants from northeast to northwest, and numerical ratings, from 1 to 4, with a 1 being excellent, and a 4 being non-existent, are assigned. Note that I'm rating only photo field availability, not the photogenic qualities of the site. I'm a picture taker, not a photographer, and you guys who are good photographers will have to make your own determinations.
Also, understand that there is nothing flat and nothing wide open anywhere on this tour. A rating of 1 on this tour may barely equate to a 2 in the Midwest or Coastal Plain. But a 1 does indicate that, for the territory, this is an excellent photo field.
Williamson, WV - Chillicothe, OH -- Railfan Sites:
We ended the prior section of this tour back in Mohawk, way back where the Tug Fork bends beyond the southwest corner of West Virginia to head north thru largely inaccessible country. We rejoin civilization, at least as far as this tour segment is concerned, as we come into Williamson from the north on US-52. The latter comes into town on an almost dead south bent, and then swings to the west and northwest, to head thru Williamson.
East Williamson -- Teter Street. Parallel the tracks on US-52, and note that a small alley will follow the tracks as you swing to the north. Take that alley, and park just off it to the north. This is a wide open, mown area, which yields excellent viewing to the northwest and somewhat to the southeast. While you have a good chance of getting skunked here because of standing cars on the various yard tracks, you also have the chance of very good viewing of mainline and other action here on the north side of the yard. Note that the yard is very much southeast - northwest here, so take "north", "east", etc, with a grain of salt.
Continuing on via Teter, you'll come to a wooden walkway that spans the yard. This is really a neat thing. Just trot on up there and run back and forth and take pix. You will be arrested. This walkway is for railroad employees only, and railfans are not welcomed. Ah, well, not everything is possible in this life.
East Williamson -- End Teter Street. Continue past the walkway (drive very slowly and carefully, as Teter is a downright rough street), until you come to the end of Teter. Another road joins here, and you can turn right and go one block back to US-52. There is no name indicated for this road on anything I can find. It may simply be still named Teter. Park in the vicinity of the right turn, if possible, and walk back to the tracks. Be real careful to respect private property here, as this is a tight area. You're probably better off staying on the street for your pix.
As is usually the case when shooting in a yard area, you have a good chance of seeing nothing but immobile cars in front of you, but then again, you can also see some good action here.
Williamson -- Station Area. Get back on US-52 and head northwest. Pass up the first overpass to the left (Vinson Street), as that is a NAG/NARL. Take the second left from US-52 that goes over the tracks, and this one is AG. Take the second left past the tracks -- the first is one way the wrong way -- and go one big block to Logan Street. Take a left to go back towards the tracks. Park on or near 3rd Avenue. You will want to walk around this general area, as there are multiple photo ops, and you'll want to find the one that works with the light present, as well as with your personal inclinations. The Williamson depot is just southeast, and across the tracks from, the foot of Logan Street. This is an afternoon location, as I don't recommend attempting to shoot from US-52, which is on the other side of the tracks.
Williamson -- Prichard Street. From where you parked, get onto 3rd Avenue to continue to the northwest. You'll come to one of those bizarre crossings where there is a street + with a \ track going right thru the +. So you really have a crossing with 6 quadrants!
Like the location in the center of town near the station, this is a place that you'll just have to walk around to examine photo possibilities, as the worthiness of each quadrant varies with sun angles, lines of sight, and personal preferences.
Here's a technical note: Ron Stafford points out that if you take a left onto US-119, about 150 yards past where you got on US-52 at Ben Street, you'll go up and over the railroad and Tug Fork into Kentucky. At the point where you go over the railroad, just to the west is a set of crossovers at MP 470.3. This point is "Gate", and is technically the end of the Pocahontas District and the beginning of the Kenova District. You are 470.3 miles from Norfolk, Virginia. The point is called "Gate", as there is a flood gate there that can be closed over the area of the tracks.
Gate seems inaccessible to railfans, so you have 2 options from the intersection of US-52 and US-119. For the combat railfan, continue across US-119 to follow the tracks to the southwest. Note that both US-52 and US-119 go north here, over a big hill, and far away from the tracks. The old US-52 is now officially West 4th Avenue, and it makes a deep U (always with the tracks on your left, and the Tug Fork beyond them). The area within this loop is West Williamson. At the bottom of the loop, the road becomes West 3rd Avenue, and goes straight north to a point where it once again bends to the west to start another broad U.
You can take a right here and join US-52/119 about 400 yards to the east, take a left, and continue on to Goodman.
If you wish to attempt to stay as trackside as possible, you can take a left and bend the to west and southwest via West 3rd Avenue. This U encloses the area known as Fairview, but the railroad slices across the top of the U, so there are no railfan locations in the Fairview area. Indeed, I saw no railfan locations along either U, although I faithfully drove both of them.
For the non-combat railfans, or those with time concerns, at the point at which US-52 goes north along with US-119, take the right and take this by-pass north of both U's. You'll cross the tracks (NAG/NARL), West 3rd Avenue coming up from Fairview, and then the Tug Fork. After only a very short distance, you'll cross the Tug Fork again and this area of West Virginia is known as Goodman. Look for the first real road to the right, take it, and park in the area of the tracks, which parallel this road (it's the end of the second U, actually). There are several spots for photos, and like others we've seen on this tour, you'll want to walk around to determine where you want to set up for pix.
Chattaroy -- Old Highway 119. North of Goodman, US-52/119 will once again cross the Tug Fork. Just before the bridge, take a right onto Old US Highway 119 to stay in West Virginia. Old 119 will very shortly get you trackside. There is a small road that goes to the right and over the tracks; park to the south of this secondary road, which is Harris Hollow Road. The crossing ratings are: NE4, SE2, SW1, NW4. This is an afternoon location.
Chattaroy. Continue north on Old 119, and take a right at Buffalo Creek Road, and park to the north of the latter. Photo ratings are NE4, SE4, SW2, NW1. Another afternoon location, this one is less on a bias, and more straight north - south.
MapQuest shows Old 119 crossing the tracks just north of Buffalo Creek Road, and continuing on well to the north, but it looks to have been cut. The road north of this location seems to deteriorate, and we were in a small sedan, so we didn't chance it. Please let me know whether a railfan can continue north via Old 119 beyond Buffalo Creek Road.
Borderland. Drive back to US-52/119, take a right, and head over to Kentucky, and then back into West Virginia. You'll shortly go over the tracks on a NAG/NARL, and should look for a creek (Dan's Branch), and then 2 roads to the right: Davis Branch and Hillcrest Drive. Just past the latter, will be a road to the left; take this, cross the tracks, and park along the road that parallels the tracks. This is "Borderland" crossings area, and is MP 475.6. Photo considerations are: NE4, SE4, SW3, NW2, and is an afternoon location.
Between Borderland, Hatfield, and all the way to Nolan, there are several private drives crossing the tracks, but I didn't see anything I'd consider a railfan location. MapQuest shows some "roads" crossing the tracks to the west, but these are either NARL or NFOG.
Nolan. As you approach Nolan, look for Nolan Road to the left. Take the left, cross the tracks, and park. Nolan is the point at which an important branch, served by about 4 coal preparation plants, comes in from Kentucky to join the NS main line. There is no photography from the east, but north of Nolan Road and west of the tracks, you've got an excellent view of both the branch coming in from the northwest, and the mains. This is MP 477.6.
Nolan -- Bethel Temple. Just north of Nolan, via US-52/119, you'll cross the tracks on a NAG/NARL. MapQuest shows a road to the east just before the overpass. Do not take this road. MSN Maps doesn't show it at all. Whether it exists or not, it does not go thru to our next railfan location. Up above you on your right, you will see a large church: Bethel Temple Assembly of God. Watch for it, as it's easy to miss as you go by. Just past that, take a right onto Miller's Circle Road. Note that there is disagreement among various maps as to the name of the road, but I believe Miller's Circle is correct.
Miller's Circle will quickly take you to the tracks. There is plenty of parking west of the tracks. Here are the photo ratings: NE1, SE1, SW1, NW1. This is, by far, the best photo location we've seen on this tour. You'll see the church to your south, and note that the road going to it ends just past the church. This is the remains of the road mentioned in the previous paragraph that apparently was eliminated when US-52/119 was upgraded.
There is often a fair-sized flea market on the northwest quad of the crossing.
Maher -- 479. This location doesn't have a place/town name, so you'll have to stay alert. Go back to US-52/119 and take a right to head north. As you approach the separation of US-52 and US-119, look for MP 479 next to the tracks. Where the two US highways split, follow the signs to US-52. As you peel off from US-119, you'll see the tracks spread out in front of you. Park and walk around to find the best location for your pix. Viewing from the north is excellent, but there is none from the south.
Naugatuck -- Winco. As you continue north on US-52, you'll see a few possible railfan locations, but they are NARL. You'll go around a broad bend and head straight west for a few miles. When the road veers to the north, look for a very narrow, steep road on the left: Winco Block Road. The space between the tracks and the highway is so narrow that it has been developed as a "V", with traffic to and from the south using the south leg of the V, and to and from the north using the north leg. Both are very narrow and steep, so be extra careful.
There are plenty of photo possibilities in the area, with the exception of the northwest quad. Walk around, be patient, and you'll get good shots. This is a pretty good location, but do be careful entering and leaving it.
Naugatuck -- Wye. This is a most interesting location, but one that you'll have to work hard to make your pictures work -- yet it can certainly be done. Head north on US-52 until you come to the Naugatuck area. You'll come to a VERY busy, and somewhat complicated, intersection with WV-65. You should bear to the left to follow US-52, and look for a tiny alley going off to the left. Take the left onto this alley and head over towards the main line and the river. It is easier to drive this than to explain it in writing. Just use your railfan's nose. As you cross the mains, you'll see one of the prettiest neighborhoods I've seen in West Virginia.
There is a yard north of the US-52/WV-65 intersection, and there is a major coal branch extending to the north and then southeast. In the area where you have now driven, there is a complete wye, so a train can come from any direction and go in any. This is a tough area to fan for one who doesn't know train numbers and local operations. If possible, this would be a good place to meet with a knowledgeable local fan.
At the wye, the mile markers we've been following from Norfolk end, at MP 484.3, and the mile points that will extend into Ohio begin with 0.0.
Kermit. Head further northwest on US-52, and you'll closely parallel the tracks for quite a few miles. There are a few private crossings, but nothing that I'd consider a railfan location. You'll come to a major, 90° bend in the road, from northwest to southwest, and you'll see the railroad going straight and into a tunnel. The highway is busy, and I don't consider this a photo location, but you might want to stop and see if you can get it to work. It seems way too tight to me. [Full disclosure: It is quite possible that I've confused this tunnel mouth with that of Tunnel 3.]
The highway will once again do a major change of direction, and go fully 150°, pass the area of East Kermit, and straighten up to head due north. The railroad will come under you, as the highway becomes well elevated over the tracks, which are in the tunnel below you. You'll be able to catch a glance of some trestles in the river valley below, where the main line crosses Upper Burning Creek, and a branch line crosses the Tug Fork to go into Kentucky at Lovely, KY. There is no public access that I could find to this area, alas, so continue north.
When you get to Kermit, take the first left into the town (Virginia Street?), cross the tracks, and park. Photo ratings are NE4, SE3, SW1, NW1. This is obviously an afternoon spot. A little further north of the crossing itself, the photo rating for the northeast quad improves markedly, but you might have to dodge some coal trucks.
Greyeagle -- Tunnel 3. North of Kermit, you'll swing to the northwest and then to the north. As the latter happens, you pass the "Grey Eagle" timetable location, but there is no public access. Grey Eagle is the point where double track from the south (timetable east) ends (MP 6.4), as there is a tunnel coming up. Also at Grey Eagle is a talking defect detector (MP 6.8). After a couple of miles going straight north, you'll bend 90° to the west, and this is the location of the tunnel mouth for Tunnel 3.
You can park and get pix here, but it's pretty tight, and you might have to be creative. I'd want to work this area in the winter, with no leaves on the trees. Every square inch of openness helps.
Stepptown -- North. Continue west on US-52, and it will bend back around to follow the river to the east. As you begin to go from east to northeast, the railroad pops out on your right. I think it's too problematic for pix. The highway will continue to snake around, all the way to a westerly heading, and then head to the north again. Watch for a road to the right, and take it.
The community of Stepptown is west of the tunnel mouth, but it's the closest named point to this location, so I'm calling this crossing Stepptown North. Note that the railroad spells the name with only 1 "p". The photo ops on all 4 quads are rated as 2's, so this is a pretty good overall spot any time of day. At the railroad point of Steptown, double track begins again, at MP 7.4.
Crum. For the next several miles as you head north on US-52, there are private and minor public crossings, but none I'd consider railfan locations. There are NAG/NARL's, extremely tight ones, and super busy ones. Note that coal truck traffic has picked up big time as you've headed north, so stay alert. You'll reach a point where the highway veers away from the tracks and heads up a hill to avoid a wild and woolly area along the river. This is Crum. Just before the highway and railroad separate is a crossing on your left. It is probably signed as Crum Road. Take the left, cross the tracks and park.
Photo ratings are NE1, SE1, SW2, NW2. However, the ratings from the east require you to shoot from the shoulder of US-52. You can get excellent pix here, but you can also get flattened by a coal truck. US-52 is no bucolic scenic by-way, so be very careful. This is about MP 11.0.
As mentioned, the railroad now goes off into the wilderness, and we'll have to revisit the area to develop the tour from this point. We will therefore take a geographical break and re-start the tour in Prichard, at about MP 45.
Prichard -- South. Approaching the Prichard area from the south, there is a new by-pass which completely skirts the town, by going up and over the hill to the east of it. Note that this by-pass is not on MapQuest, but is on the DeLorme for West Virginia. Take the by-pass and drop down into town, going all the way to the main drag, which used to be US-52. Take a left and go south to the point where you can see the road end in front of you. Park.
Photo ops are very good from the east, but there is nothing from the west: NE1, SE1, SW4, NW4. If the lighting is good for pix from the east, this is an excellent spot to get out the lawn chairs, coolers, and meet some railfan friends to swap lies. There are no coal trucks, and it's quite nice. This is the best, most relaxed photo location between Prichard and the Ohio River in Kenova.
Prichard. Get back on old US-52, and head thru Prichard. You'll soon see the unmistakable sight of a huge, concrete coaling tower looming over the tracks to your left. There is a business in front of the tower, Sartini, and you should stop in their office and ask for permission to shoot the beast. This is definitely a winter shot opportunity, because vegetation obscures much of the tower. You'll not get an unobstructed shot, but for structure fans, this is a must-have.
The presence of a coaling tower indicates that there was significant rail activity here in years past, but it's hard to see much evidence of that today. However, that's about to change. Plans by the state of West Virginia and Norfolk Southern are being developed to establish an intermodal yard here. Compared the most other areas of western West Virginia, there is plenty of flat land here for such a facility. "But aren't we out in the middle of nowhere here?", you say. No, because back at Louisa/Fort Gay, the Tug Fork was joined by the Levisa Fork to form the Big Sandy River. The Big Sandy is navigable, and there is significant industrial activity on both sides of the river. US-23 runs on the west bank, and US-52 is on the east. The entire Huntington - Kenova - Ashland - Ironton area is an industrial powerhouse, and an intermodal yard in Prichard makes good sense.
Further, the states of Virgina and West Virginia, working with Norfolk Southern, have begun a 200 million dollar effort to increase clearances between Roanoke and Kenova, allowing for transport of double stacks to and from the ports in Norfolk. It will be interesting to see how this effort plays out.
Prichard -- Elijah Creek. Continue through Prichard via old US-52. Eventually, you'll see the new by-pass up on your right. Just before you go over a creek and re-join the by-pass, look to your left, and you'll see a vestigial road going straight down towards the creek. Park anywhere in the area and walk to this narrow road. Ignore the road going down to the creek, and walk to the left, on a road leading to the tracks. You have enough room here to take pix back from the tracks and off railroad property.
This isn't much of a photo location, at NE4, SE2, SW4, NW4. That's not the point of the location. According to the station list, there are weigh-in-motion scales at MP 46.5. The signals and trackage here are rather odd-looking, and are definitely not just a set crossovers. Apparently, this is the northern (timetable west) end of the scales. I was not lucky enough to see such action here, but suspect it would be quite interesting.
Prichard -- Gragston Creek. Between the point where you re-join US-52, and Kenova, it is very difficult for me to tell you exactly where the next railfan spots are. The map is a monotonous straight line with the highway and tracks paralleling each other all the way to the outskirts of Kenova. There are almost no place names, and the creeks are mostly invisible and unmarked. I'd suggest you drive the speed limit at the maximum, and pay attention to what little landmarks I can give you.
Several miles north of Prichard, in the Gragston Creek area, you will note a set of flange greasers on your left. Turn in there, and park. There is room off railroad property. Photo ratings are NE2, SE3, SW4, NW4. This is a good spot to catch a morning eastbound.
Cyrus. Further north several miles, look for tall signal masts. As was the case back at the flange greaser, there is parking to the west of the highway, and it's off railroad property. The situation is the same as it was at the flange greaser -- tight and challenging: NE2, SE3, SW4, NW4. The signals protect the Cyrus siding at MP 49.1. There is a talking defect detector at 51.1.
Neal -- Coal Load Out. In the area of Neal, industrial development has become significant. The traffic on the highway has increased substantially. The first coal load out you pass looks far too dangerous for railfans, because of traffic and industrial security reasons. There is a second one, and you'll recognize it by the large coal piles (natch) on the left, and a very large truck parking area on the east side of the highway.
Here's how you must play this location: Shoot from the parking area. Ratings are NE1-2, SE1, SW4, NW4. Obviously, you have a good chance of getting a shot ruined by a passing log truck, but that's the breaks.
Neal -- Water Plant. Still going straight north on US-52, you'll see the muscular stacks of a peaking power plant on your left. Take the left to cross the tracks just before you get to the power plant. After you cross the tracks, the Kenova water works plant will be on your left, and the power plant will be on your right. Park way past the water works, on the left. Walk back up the road to the area of the tracks.
Photo ratings, at NE3, SE3, SW2, NW2, are nothing to rave about, but this is the only access from the west since we re-joined the tour at Prichard. The tracks are still dead north-south. We will now head into Kenova, and the tour will change completely.
Kenova -- 14th & Maple. Shortly after leaving the power plant area and heading north on US-52, the road will turn 90° to the west, and is signed to I-64 and Kenova, but you should stay straight onto Novamont Court (AKA Big Sandy Road). This is what US-52 used to be many years ago, and very closely parallels the tracks all the way into Kenova proper. Unfortunately, the tracks are hopelessly treed in all the way. As you come into Kenova, the tracks become more and more elevated, and veer off to the east. Continue on what is now Big Sandy Road, and take a right onto Sycamore Street.
There is no access to the tracks until the wye, so continue on Sycamore until you get to 15th Street and take a right. You'll go under the lead to the west leg of the wye. Trains to the left go over the Ohio River, and trains to the right go into the NS Kenova yard. The point of divergence is "Kenova", at MP 58.8. For a better photo location of the trains heading to Ohio, go back up 15th to a right on Maple. One block down, at 14th Street, you'll see some small self-storage units on the right. Park in the area, and walk between 14th and WV-75. This is a grassy area, and there are some photo possibilities. How well you like the area will depend on your taste and the light conditions available.
Kenova -- Pine Street. Continue east on Maple to WV-75 and take a left. You'll go under the CSX (ex C&O, ex B&O) main line heading to Russell Yard, and immediately after that, take a right onto Pine Street. You'll go under the NS main line heading to the Ohio River bridge, and should park. This is a well-maintained, grassy, park-like area, which continues almost all the way to the river. There are numerous photo locations, and you can pick and choose. Photo ratings are 1's all around.
Kenova -- Ohio River Bridge. Take 13th Street east of the tracks north until it dead ends at the levee. Park under the bridge and walk up the levee path to the top. Walk further east to allow a decent photo field. As you can imagine, the bridge itself is immense, and totally dwarfs the trains crossing it. This is a fun morning location. Better stay alert, too, as the ambient noise and surprising quietness of the trains can find you missing some of the action.
Kenova -- Yard Lead. While the goal of this Frograil Tour is to head into Ohio and on to Lake Erie (I should live so long!), we'll take a very short detour here to check out the yard lead to the east of MP 58.8, back in the vicinity of 15th Street. Go back up 13th Street, but use the one on the west of the tracks. Turn right at Pine Street, and re-join WV-75 by turning left. You will go under, in order, the CSX main heading to Kentucky, the NS main heading to the Ohio River, and the NS Kenova District going into the yard.
Park south of the last underpass, and you may find a decent spot or two to shoot into the yard lead. The yard itself is MP 59.13.
At "Kenova", MP 58.8, you are 543.1 miles from Norfolk, Virginia.
We have to end the tour here, temporarily, as we ran out of time to do our on-the-ground research. However, we have an added bonus for you: Portsmouth yard to Portsmouth's Vera Junction. This was originally the beginning of what was going to become the Portsmouth - Cincinnati Frograil Tour, but the shut down of the Cincinnati line rendered that tour rather moot. Since Portsmouth will become an integral part of this Williamson to Chillicothe segment, it fits like a glove.
Portsmouth -- 8th Street. Norfolk Southern (Ex-N&W) comes up out of the Ohio River Valley and West Virginia laden with coal, chemical, and merchandise traffic; indeed, while some think of this road as nothing but a coal hauler, you can expect everything from coal drags, unit grain trains, and manifest drags to hot intermodals. From the yard in Portsmouth, the line heads due west for a short while, then curves north and hugs the Scioto River to Vera Junction where one line used to head west to Cincinnati, and the other goes north to Columbus and Bellevue. This latter line is the route we are taking between Norfolk and Sandusky.The best place to watch traffic in Portsmouth itself is downtown at the yard, and we'll start at 8th Street.
From Gallia Street, cross the tracks via Broadway Street, and turn left onto 8th Street. Keep going straight, crossing over Viaduct/Harmon Street. About 1/4 mile down, you will notice the yard/crew office. That is obviously NS property, and you must stop west of there. At the point at which you stop, there is good access for incoming eastbound trains. Get off the road and onto the grassy area. Be very careful to avoid trespassing on Norfolk Southern property.
Frograil wishes to thank Todd Arnett for the information about this location.
There is a "fuel spot" at Gallia and Broadway streets, and it could not be easier to get to. From Gallia, turn south on Broadway, and before you cross the tracks, you will notice a wide gravel access road to the left. Drive down this short road and park in the paved parking lot to the left about 100 yards down the access road. This is a union hall's parking lot, and you are not unwelcome there. This spot is primarily an early afternoon shot, depending on the time of year.
Frograil wishes to thank Todd Arnett for the information about this location. Todd's Grandfather was a member of the union that today hosts the paved parking lot.
Portsmouth -- Prospect Street. The eastern end of the yard is buried in an inaccessible industrial area, but the west end has excellent photo locations on both sides of the tracks. From the yard throat at Gallia and Broadway, to several blocks west are numerous locations. From south of the tracks, a good point is from Gallia and Prospect. There is a brick-paved, small parking area across from a building supply company, and a nice large grassy area is between the bricks and the tracks. Bring a lawn chair and a cooler. There are oodles of at-grade crossings near here, so you'll hear the trains well before they arrive.
Directly across the tracks from this location is a large gravel, open area where you can set up for afternoon shots.
The yard throat itself is an excellent photo location for everything coming in and out of the yard, but on the north side of the tracks is a contract fueling activity, and its tankers go in and out of here. You need to be pretty careful, and I'd suggest the Gallia and Prospect location instead. Whatever you do, STAY OUT OF THE YARD.
Portsmouth -- 10th Street. "10th Street" is an euphemism for the alley/old street which parallels the tracks west from the yard thru the city. It goes along for several blocks, and provides excellent viewing from the north. West of Lincoln Street, cross the tracks, and continue west on 10th, which is now south of the tracks, giving excellent viewing from the south.
Portsmouth -- Waller Avenue. 10th Street "ends" at an abandoned factory, but you can continue along the gravel track towards Waller Avenue. Bump, hump and slump your way thru the area, and you'll get to Waller. Park somewhere and walk along the western curve of the railroad as it swings 90° from east to north towards Columbus/Toledo/Bellevue. Afternoon shots can be great here, but you've got to plan for the right lighting, and the trains don't always cooperate.
As a further, and significant, complication, Todd Arnett has the following comments concerning the Waller Avenue area. The area can be very dangerous after the sun sets. Prostitution, drug deals and the occasional stabbing and/or shooting occur along the street. This is one more endorsement of Frograil's recommendation that you never, ever fan without at least one additional male friend.
Portsmouth -- Vera Junction. Continue west on 10th all the way to US-23, which is the main north/south road thru Portsmouth. Head north, pass 23rd Street, and take a left onto Clare Street. Drive down towards the tracks and park. There is a well-disguised dirt road going north along the tracks. This road should not be attempted except on foot. In the summer, you will pretty much get covered by chiggers, ticks and spiders. You will itch for the next 10-12 days. It is not pleasant. After 1/4 - 1/2 mile, you'll see signals and electronic boxes. There is a crossover from the (compass) west to the east track, and around the curve to the north, perhaps another 1/4 mile is Vera Junction.
I do not know if the dirt road goes to the junction itself, as everything is very close here, and even if the road continues on, it is probably on railroad property (at least up to the junction itself). The junction area is in a lousy photo location, with the Scioto River flood plain well below you to the west, and a vertical wall on the east. There are trees on both sides of the tracks. Other than the fact that you can now say you've been to the beginning of what used to be the Cincinnati District, there really is no earthly reason for trying to visit this location.
For now, this is the end of our tour. So, how'd you like to make it an even better tour by extending it? Heck, we want to see it go all the way to Lake Erie. Clearly, we need your help.