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CSX's Big Four Avon Yard - 2
Trespassers at the CSX Avon Yard will be prosecuted.

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And we have returned to the Offices area. You may have noticed the green rack in an earlier photo. This holds the EOT devices (32) waiting to be placed in service. While we were gone, CSX 2768, an Ex-Conrail GP38-2, (33) pulled up with a second unit in the new paint scheme awaiting assignment. It was time to visit Tower 2. In true railroad fashion, the stairs were on the outside and the operations room was about four flights up. Looking to the west, I could see a train getting ready to depart (34). Moving around the walkway, I caught one of the power/slug combinations moving east (35) toward Tower 1.

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36 37 38 39 40
After entering the control room, I paused to snap another shot west through the glass (36). This is what the operator sees. And the radio crackles with " was on the A end of the car." "Ok. how deep was it?" Not just one conversation, but two or three as once. "Set the last car off for 22?" "Roger." With a touch of a finger on the flat-touch-screen, the operator can answer. The radio in Tower 1 was struck by lightning overnight and the technician is working on it. "No. Just static." "Three step applied." "Bring 'em back. You got two or three cars left." With radio, telephone and computers, (37). (38) and (39), this tower crew watches over their yard as the trains come and go. "Onnee car." "...come back one car length to a coupling."

In (39), from Tower 2, the Trainmaster (on the right) controls the entire yard. The Yardmaster (on the left) controls the classification yard, the puller jobs and all movements in and out of the departure yard tracks.

Listening in to a conversation about the Hump Yard, "As long as you have a Hump Yard, you're gonna have run outs sometime." "Well, it's all down hill." And the action continues. "Is that on the A end or B end?" "A end. That ear is broke off on the inside of the bolster." "That north puller should be going in number 5." "No, I got 5 hand brakes on the far end." "No, I'm just getting a buzz, a continuous buzz." And the squeal of flanges on rails make their way up here as another train rolls slowly past Tower 2 and on toward the departure track. (40) above and (41) and (42) below.

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41 42 43 44 45
It's time to visit the Hump Yard. As we leave Tower 2. I take advantage of the height and take a couple of shots of the sanding and engine facilities from here (43) and (44). To the east in the yard is the Balloon Track (not shown) used for turning locomotives and cars. This track loops around back on itself just like the reversing loop on a model railroad.

On our way to the Hump Yard to the west of Tower 2, we pass the RIP Tracks (Repair In Place) and come across one of the older scale test cars (45). These cars are used to test scales to verify that they are weighing correctly. (I caught CR 80091, one of the newer cars on the Emporia in '98.) Without looking closely, you couldn't tell that there was a problem with most of the cars in the RIP Tracks.

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46 47 48 49 50
As we approached the Hump, Maurice stopped and I took several shots (46), (47), (48) and (49) of a car starting down the slope and running through the retarders with a lot of wheel flange screeching. It is not a silent operation. Also, in (49), you can see Tower 3 where the retarders are controlled. For those who may not know, a Hump Yard is designed for automatic routing of cars as they roll down an incline into a classification yard facilitating the sorting of cars by destination for making up trains. Getting ready to enter the Hump control building, I paused to catch two cars coupled together (50) as they started the routing process.

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51 52 53 54 55
The Hump Yardmaster (51) is on the top floor of the hump and controls the hump job and the receiving yards. One of the reasons that we were allowed to tour on Monday was the fact that Mondays are slow (not many trains on Sunday, so not as much work on Monday, doncha know). Unfortunately, that also meant that the hump operation was very spotty. The view from the Hump Yardmaster's office was very good and I snapped (52), (53), and (54) from there. When we left the office, we stopped on the level below at the Hump Conductor's control room. The Hump Conductor controls the switches for the classification tracks. You can see his board in (55).

Now, you remember that I told you that Tower 3 controls the retarders? Well, they also have the ability to control the routing if necessary. I presume that this also means routing a car(s) onto a run out track if something went wrong with either the routing or the retarders. That track has a pile of sand at the end to stop whatever cars may have gotten that far.

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56 57 58 59 60
Not many people are aware of it, but Avon Yard has a significant Container and Trailer operation. True, it is not nearly as large as it was under Conrail as CSX isn't into TOFC and COFC traffic as much as Conrail was, but Avon still handles a large number of trailers and containers. I shot (56), (57), (58), (59) and (60) from the roof of the hump building. You can see a container being unloaded from its railcar and being installed on the road frame.

Avon Yard Yield Sign Click on thumbnail for larger picture
61 And with this, we have reached the end of our trek. We have traveled through the Yard from east to west and are standing at the grade crossing at CP AN looking back east into the Yard. The Main does a split here with a jog to the left just out of our sight. The tracks pulling off to the right become receiving tracks. It has been quite a day and like any good tour, it leaves you wanting. I could have spent the day in Tower 2 or at the Hump Yard and then there was the trailer/container operation. Sheesh, we didn't even get into Tower 3 and there is supposed to be an old PRR hopper car still in Pennsy paint that we couldn't find. I'd like to think that we left that for another day, but I know better. You get a chance like this only once. Thanks CSX. And thanks to all of the men and women of the New York Central Big Four, Penn Central and Conrail that built and have maintained this facility and service the trains.

Now we know where many of those trains passing through Madison County come from and are going. I hope that you have enjoyed this tour as much as I enjoyed getting the information for you.

As with all things, nothing stands still. Dan B. Ufkes sent me an update on Avon.
Check it out here - Avon Yard Update - 11/7/04

Picture Credits:
All digital photos by Roger P. Hensley

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Copyright 2002 by Roger P. Hensley. All Rights Reserved.
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