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                   Friday, February 13, 2009 - 12:05AM

Westbound manifest at the St. Albans depot

By DAN ROBINSON
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25 Years of Storm Observing
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I bought new tires this week on a nice 60-degree day in St. Albans. I had some waiting time during the process, so I took a short walk along the tracks. This first view is looking east down the long straight stretch, maybe the longest straight section of track in the state that I know of. The opposite end of this is all the way past the Kanawha Terrace intersection with US 60 - about 4 miles from end-to-end, remarkable for being in this type of terrain. The train in the distance is somewhere around Spruce Street.

At the far end of the straightaway is the location of the former Chef Wong's restaurant, a relic of my childhood and a place that was once one of my family's longest-running traditions (I had my first meal there at age 2, no wonder I love Chinese food). The building burned down many years ago after Chef Wong moved out to the Southridge shopping center. Walking up to the tracks behind Chef Wong's yielded a great long-distance view to the west, with many sets of signals from the foreground to the background all the way into downtown St. Albans (where these pictures were taken). As a kid, for me it was always a cool thing to watch all the signals change from red to yellow to green, in succession down the line, in advance of an approaching westbound train. Either that, or watch an eastbound's headlight appear in the distance and watch it slowly get closer (as I did with this westbound here). All of the signals in this image are new, (sadly) replacing the old classic C&O signals and cantilevers in use since the 1930s and 40s.


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St. Albans depot lettering:


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The westbound manifest approaches:


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Looking west now at the bridge over the Coal River. The tower in the background is the 1,500 foot WVAH TV mast, the one I frequent for upward lightning shots during storm season. It's a good 4 miles away from where I'm standing here, which gives you an idea of its size:


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On another tangential note - the signal indication above (red over green) means the train is about to switch tracks ('cross over' to an adjacent track). When the green (or yellow) is on top, the train will continue straight. In most CSX ex-C&O territory, the signals remain red by default until a train is manually cleared through by the dispatcher. At that point the signals will change to some configuration other than all red (a mixture of green, yellow and red). So, if you see any greens or yellows on a C&O-style signal, that means a train is not far away. A useful tidbit to know if you're waiting for a train to photograph. The signals go back to red once the locomotives pass.

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