• Suggestions for busy NS action, Kentucky?

  • Discussion relating to the NS operations. Official web site can be found here: NSCORP.COM.
Discussion relating to the NS operations. Official web site can be found here: NSCORP.COM.
  by pwormald
I hope someone can help? A group of us from UK are looking at a trip in spring 2017 for a trip to chase some NS and CSX coal train or heavy freight action. We are looking at taking Amtrak to Charleston and then starting off from there with a hire car.

Can anyone recommended some good spots within a few hours drive from there? Or recommended another good starting point? We certainly prefer busy locations (we did Powder River) last time so endless coal trans is not a problem. We like stack trains also, nice scenic spots, bridges and good colors?

Sample photos of recommended locations would be a big help

  by Jeff Wagoner
If you want to see NS, the 2nd District of the CNO&TP, known as the "Rathole", is your best bet. The 1st District of the CNO&TP runs from Cincinnati to Danville, KY, and sees about 25-30 trains in a 24 hour period. Additionally, Norfolk Southern's Louisville District joins the 1st District at a place called "Faulkner", just north of Danville, and also sees 25-30 trains in a 24 hour period.

I haven't done much north of Danville to be honest, despite living an hour away. High Bridge has a park and offers some very nice shots. You can also go down into the river valley and shoot trains crossing the bridge from there. The bridge lives up to its name, being over 300 feet in height.

South of Danville, there are plenty of good spots to photograph NS in action. Follow U.S. 127 out of Danville for a few miles. There's an okay spot at Junction City, but there's better options south.
Bowen lends itself to some nice morning southbound shots:
ImageNS 216/NS M79, Bowen,KY 3/21/2014 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr
The other side of the tracks isn't bad either at Bowen, (turn on Bowen Loop Rd) but the people who live there aren't very friendly towards railfans after a few big crowds showed up for some special trains a couple years back and stood everywhere on the property. The guy that owns the fields in the foreground in the above photo is pretty friendly and will probably let you go down into the field if you want. The last time I was down there he offered me a beer or a bottle of water. (I took the latter, being as I was driving that day.)

There's a few okay shots to be had at Milledgeville, the next town down the line. The west side of the tracks there is one of the last spots to have sunlight on the rails, so if you want to get that last train, it's the place to go. When you get to Hustonville, turn left off US 127 onto Danville Pike and go into Hustonville. At the one four-way stop that's in town, turn left. In a couple miles you'll cross a bridge and go down a hill, where there's a road at the right. This place is called "Chicken Bristle". Kentucky has a lot of unique names for places. Anyhow, Murphy Rd is the road you are looking for, and it will take you back to the tracks as well. The first place you come up to the tracks is called "Palm" on the railroad. There's several photo options along this stretch of track down to McKinney. It's not uncommon to see trains waiting here for others to pass. Take this road all the way into McKinney and turn right on KY 198, known as Geneva-McKinney Road. KY 198 turns right but you'll want to stay straight at the curve in McKinney, as the road turns into KY 698 which continues to follow the tracks. Again, there's a few shots to be had here, but most aren't worth the effort. You'll cross the tracks at Geneva, where you can get some nice shots of northbounds with a telephoto lens. A mile or two south of Geneva, turn left on KY 1778. This will take you to South Fork. In South Fork there's a nice sized trestle over the Green River Valley that will give you some decent shots, especially of southbound trains.
Imagetrains3202014 072a by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

Kings Mountain,KY is the first shot with a deep cut, as the Southern bypassed the old tunnel #2 here back in the 1950s. Stay on KY 1778 out of South Fork and climb the hill until you reach a stop sign. Turn right on Old South Fork Road and follow the road, which will take you into Kings Mountain. Turn right at the end of the road and cross the overpass, and you will be able to see the massive cut here. You can see the old Tunnel #2 if you look in the right place but it's pretty inaccessible.

Kings Mountain, as shot from the overpass:
ImageNS 215, Kings Mountain,KY 5/31/2016 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

Leaving Kings Mountain, follow KY 501/KY 1778 out to US 27, and take U.S. 27 south. Waynesburg has a long straightaway for telephoto shots if that interests you, though the Southern searchlights in this photo are long gone. This was taken from KY 328.
ImageNS 111, Waynesburg,KY 11/13/2012 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

Eubank doesn't have much in the way of photo options, so continue south towards Pulaski. Turn right on KY 1247. Keep in mind this road loops back and forth onto US 27 in several places. Google Street view may help give you a landmark to turn at. Take KY 1247 back to Freedom Church Rd (there's a church at the end of the road connecting to 1247). Going back this road will take you to the tracks. This is known on the railroad as "Gradison". It's a very long straightaway, good for telephoto shots. Pass the first crossing you see (Charles Burton Rd) and go until you see a private road crossing. There's plenty of pull-off area on the east side of the tracks. While the area is marked off by private property signs, you'll be fine as long as you stand near the crossing on the west side of the tracks (if you're shooting in the afternoon). Gradison is very hilly, and gives off that "roller coaster" effect on trains when they come through.
ImageNS 223, Gradison,KY 3/21/2014 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

I have taken a ton of photos up on the other side of the signals there in the distance at Gradison. Once you get back on KY 1247, keep going south into Science Hill. Just south of town there's a nice curve going into a place on the railroad known as "Norwood". Not much pull-off area here though, unless you're willing to walk across a sometimes busy road.
Imagetrains3202014 089a by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

Norwood is another nice straightaway but the last time I shot the curve at the southend (before the US 27 overpass) a guy's dog across the tracks from me ran out and almost got squashed by a passing train (which was moving really slow thankfully.) In the next post I'll give you details on the area around and south of Somerset, where things get really scenic.
  by Jeff Wagoner
Continuing south, turn right at the light onto U.S. 27 and continue south towards Somerset. Unfortunately, Somerset has a ton of traffic lights, 30+ to be exact on U.S. 27, as they're nice enough to number them for you. However, there's a nice little way to bypass all of that and only deal with about five lights. This is handy especially when chasing trains. As you get near Somerset, look for signs for the Cumberland Parkway west towards Bowling Green. Hop on the ramp, and then get off at the very first exit. This will put you on KY 914, which will take you south around Somerset. Once you make it back around to U.S. 27, you have two options. Turn right on 27 and go towards Burnside, or continue east on 914 for a few miles and turn right on KY 2747, which will take you to the tracks.

Turning on 2747, this will take you to a place called "Elihu". They've doubled tracked the area here in the last few years, and cleared all of the brush out of the area between the road and the tracks. Some of it has grown back, but it's still an open shot.
ImageNS 890, Elihu,KY 1/21/2015 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr
This shot was taken where the tracks start to move away from the road.
ImageNS 22A, Elihu,KY 7/7/2014 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

KY 2747 will take you out to KY 90 (in several places). Turn left and take the exit for US 27 south (Burnside) when you see it. South of here the highway and the railroad both cross over the Cumberland River. The bridge is definitely worth shooting. While I've parked on it before to catch a train for just a few minutes, I recommend standing on one of the ends to shoot. U.S. 27 can get really busy at times so standing on the bridge is risky. I would also suggest waiting for a northbound to leave Burnside just south of here and catching them crossing the bridge at the north end of the highway bridge.
ImageNS 956, Burnside,KY 6/1/2014 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

Speaking of Burnside, this is where all trains make crew changes before proceeding to Cincinnati/Louisville or Chattanooga. Both ends of the yard are accessible, along with a nice spot in the middle. Just continue south on U.S. 27 and turn left at the first red light you come to.

North end of the yard at Burnside:
ImageNS 174/124, Burnside,KY 5/31/2016 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

If you continue on this road (E French Avenue), it will take you around to the middle of the yard. The main road continues under the overpass back to U.S. 27, but a road (Antioch Church Rd) on the left will take you to another spot worth shooting. You may pass several trains waiting for crews here, but keep going. Where the tracks go into a large cut is what you're here for. Again, there's not much pull off here, so keep in mind where you park, as this road can be busy at times despite being rural. An opening in the guardrail will lead you to this location:
ImageNS 23G, Burnside,KY 11/5/2015 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr
To reach the south end of the yard, go back and pass underneath the overpass and go back to the main highway. You'll turn left on U.S. 27 and continue south. Turn left on Antioch Rd (this road connects to the one we just mentioned earlier, but this way is faster, trust me.) The turn is easy to miss, so you may want to check google maps for where to turn. This road takes you back to an at-grade crossing, where you'll cross and turn left. Southbound trains are recrewed here.
ImageNS 143/175, Tateville,KY by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr
The Church on Old Hwy 27 Loop 5 here used to be a decent shot but the brush between the cemetery and the tracks has really grown back fast.

Go back to U.S. 27, and go south once again. Pass underneath the railroad overpass here and turn right by the gas station. This is Garland Rd, and will take you to the first of four massive bridges in the deepest parts of the "Rathole".
ImageNS 197, Tateville,KY 1/3/2013 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

This overpass can see some regular road traffic so keep that in mind when you're here. Trains will call signals at "Tateville" before proceeding south to this point. Head back to U.S. 27 to continue to our next photo location. A half mile or so south, turn right on Keno Rd, KY 751. You'll drive for several miles before reaching the first photo location, on Cave Springs Rd. This is known as "Keno". Probably the tallest overpass to shoot from on the entire railroad. You'll hear trains for several minutes before they arrive here.
ImageNS 956, Keno,KY 6/1/2014 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

Head back to Keno Rd and turn right on it to go to the next bridge just down the line from this one. Keno Rd crosses the tracks on the third massive overpass over the tracks a mile or so south.
ImageNS 64Q, KD Tower, Keno,KY 4/17/2014 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr
Pull off on a gravel road on the left just past the bridge to park. This road will take you down to the tracks, I recommend walking as opposed to driving down it. A 4x4 can probably make it down and back with no trouble, but you probably don't want to be stuck down there.
ImageNS 167, KD Tower, Keno,KY 4/17/2014 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr
I've crossed the tracks and hiked up the hill to the south of here before. This is something you will probably want to do with a friend, as it's pretty isolated out here.
ImageNS 167, KD Tower, Keno,KY 7/7/2014 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr
Keep on Keno Rd until you see a sign for Dead Ox Hollow Rd. There is a fire access road that leads down to the tracks about a half mile or so down this road that takes you to Dead Ox Hollow.
ImageNS 229, Dead Ox Hollow, Greenwood,KY 4/19/2014 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr
There's some more shots to be had up at the curve in the distance, but I haven't hiked back there to try it yet.

Dead Ox Hollow Rd becomes Shelton Rd. Stay south on it to go to the fourth and final overpass over the tracks here.
ImageNS 251, KD Tower (near Greenwood,KY), 6/10/2015 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr
You'll hear southbounds call KD tower signals before they reach this bridge.

If you keep going on this road, you'll see a gravel road to the right that also leads down to the tracks. The tracks run east/west here in a long straight stretch and it's possible to get shots of entire trains here. It's another location I have yet to try. This road name is Buck Knob Tower Rd. Stay on the main road to reach U.S. 27 again where you'll head further south once more to reach a few other photo locations, which I'll add in the next post.
  by Jeff Wagoner
I'll post a few more spots south towards the Tennessee state line.

Up first, Parkers Lake. Take US 27 to KY 951, and turn right. There's a pull off area just before the bridge, which can be busy at times. Southbounds are good here in the afternoons. Northbounds work in the mornings.
ImageNS 951, Parkers Lake,KY 3/20/2012 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr
ImageNS 224, Parkers Lake,KY 3/20/2012 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

A similar shot can be had a few miles south at Wiborg, on Wiborg Loop Rd. I haven't been there yet, so no photos at the moment.

The next stop of interest is Stearns,KY. Just off US 27 on KY 92, there's a railway museum here, which may be operating during your visit. It will take you down to a former coal mining town called Blue Heron, which still has the tipple and several Southern hoppers. It's worth the trip. The train is pulled by several old Alco switchers. I've ridden the train twice but never chased it.

Follow KY 92 and turn left just past the overpass onto KY 1651. This will take you south to a place called Revilo. That's Oliver spelled backwards, if you were wondering. Anyhow, you'll cross the tracks via an overpass once, but it's not a shootable location. Coming up to a hill, you'll make a left on K Ross road and cross the tracks almost immediately. Shots can be had here from the bridge with an old coal tipple in the background.
ImageNS 167, Revelo,KY 4/17/2014 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

I apologize for not being able to provide much more info south of here. Truckers Lane is just off US 27 and offers up a nice shot with a fence in the foreground.
ImageNS 957, Winfield,TN 6/1/2014 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr
ImageNS 197, Winfield,TN 3/20/2014 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr
The second shot was taken just off US 27, also at Winfield.

Oneida has a large park along the tracks where you can hang out and watch trains pass. They also have an old caboose at the entrance.
Last edited by Jeff Wagoner on Wed Sep 28, 2016 3:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by Jeff Wagoner
Finally, I'll give you a list of train symbols to look out for while you're here. Some of these may change between now and then. The railroad can be really busy at times or really slow, even for a line that sees fifty trains or more a day. The steam train photos you see are from a 21st Century Steam Program trip from 2014. I rode it the first day and chased it the second. The first day I rode it (Saturday), I passed 14 trains from Lexington to Oneida and back.

There are several southbounds in the 100s that run south. I don't know all of them, but 111/112 are common, along with 167/168. I'm familiar with them because they make the turn onto the Louisville District at North Wye.

Several "hot" intermodals run in the early afternoons down the CNO&TP, and will take priority over anything else. These trains are 215,229 and 295. 229 is the "queen" of the fleet, and will have priority over anything else. These trains are short and pretty fast and hard to keep up with. 223/224 and 22a/23g are also intermodals that run the CNO&TP. These pairs of trains run off/onto the Louisville District. 23g usually has a DPU helper at the end. 285 is an intermodal/autorack mix that comes off the Louisville District as well.

There are several coal trains that run through here as well, since you mentioned an interest in coal. While none of the mines on the CNO&TP are still open and loading trains, keep an ear out on the scanner for 708/709, 890,891, 74W/75W. Coal trains should start with a 7xx symbol. They usually run out of Indiana / Western Kentucky into Georgia. Another pair of coal trains operate off the Louisville District to the power plant at Brown, located between High Bridge and Danville.

The Louisville District may be worth a one day trip. The best place on the line may very well be Waddy, exit 43 off I-64 (Turn left if you're coming from Lexington). The east end of the siding begins in town and runs for two miles east to a point called "Harrison", which used to be "East Waddy". The siding turns here and it's possible to get many different angles. With 25-30 trains on the very congested Louisville District, Waddy can be very busy. I've been there for five train meets before.
ImageNS 223, Waddy,KY 7/23/2016 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr
ImageNS 22A, Waddy,KY 8/30/2013 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

The Bluegrass Railway Museum in Versailles may also be of interest. They have a Norfolk & Western GP9 and a Illinois Central Gulf GP10 they've recently repainted. A parking lot sits right by the tracks at the museum, but if you contact them they may let you come take roster shots if that interests you, if they aren't running trains.
ImageICG 7738, Milner,KY 8/27/2016 by Jeff Wagoner, on Flickr

I hope all this info helps, and keep in mind I haven't gone over all the possible photo locations out there.

- Jeff
  by pwormald
Thank you, I will study all you have written and check out the photos, very grateful :-D