Switching a Trailing Point Siding: NS HA13 at Filmtech

Vincent Lee

On October 8, son Chris and I were spending the day, as we often do, railfanning around the Allentown, PA area. Allentown is still a hotbed of rail activity, even though its industry base and rail facilities have shrunk greatly from what they were in their heyday. Late in the afternoon, we were about 10 miles west of Allentown yard on the line to Reading when we heard the NS dispatcher give permission to Local HA-13 to scoot west out of the yard and switch Filmtech Industries. We quickly decided to drive east to see this operation.

Filmtech, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical that makes high tech filtration products for water treatment and chemical processing, is located at MP 32, 2 miles west of the end of Allentown yard. In this area, NS’s Reading line is double tracked, and Filmtech is served by a trailing point siding off Track 2, the eastbound Reading line main (ZTS Map). By the time we arrived at Filmtech, HA-13 had already come west on Track 1, the westbound main, past Filmtech, and was calling the dispatcher for permission to open up the crossover at MP 31 Emmaus Junction, so he could move over to Track 2. Permission was granted, and he made this move. HA-13 started to return eastward, arriving at Filmtech just as a westbound manifest train, 35A, charged past (photo 1). For the next 90 minutes, we watched HA-13 work. HA-13 is a very desirable job, since it has regular hours and no overnights away from home. Consequently, its crew was very senior in the Allentown crew district. The crew was very professional in their work and experienced from so many years on the railroad. It was instructive to listen to their concise radio conversations, see their hand signaling, and observe how they double checked the alignment on the siding switch and derail every time they had to pass over.

Filmtech’s siding was about 10 cars long, with a derail, and a steep but short grade up off the main track. There were about 7 covered hoppers already on the siding, and HA-13, with a single GP-38-2, #5577 for power, arrived with two covered hoppers to drop (photos 3, 4,& 5). It also had about 15 other cars it had picked up from earlier switching work. I thought it would take the crew about 15 minutes to switch this siding, and they would be on their way. I was woefully wrong! Their work included shifting cars around within the siding, and fishing out a particular car near the end of the siding that had already been unloaded. To do this, they had to leave one car tied down on the siding grade while they shoved the empty car back against their train (photo 6).

After dropping the two new loaded hoppers on the siding (photo 7), they tied onto their train (photo 8), and pumped up the air. While they were waiting, the dispatcher called them and inquired how much longer they would take. He pressured them to hurry, since he had train 39G coming east on their track, whose crew was on “short time”, i.e. their 12 hour permitted time in service was about over. The dispatcher wanted to make sure that HA-13 would not delay 39G, and possibly strand a train on the main while a relief crew was taxied out.

Within 5 minutes, HA-13 was on the move east. On its end was one last surprise (photo 9), an old Conrail caboose, #21248. NS still uses cabooses on yard locals in the Allentown area that involve long shoving moves such as HA-13 completed to get to Filmtech.

Map of area from Conrail ZTS book

NS HA13 pops into view as the rear of 35A clears

Riding the shove back

Going to work unlocking the Filmtech switch.

NS GP38-2 5577, a Juniata rebuild, shoving hard up

the short grade.

Shifting out the cars.
5577 shoving in hard again.
Lining and locking the switch on the mainline.
A nice surprise on the rear!


End of the Line
Chris and I really enjoyed watching this operation. It gave me a much greater appreciation for the work railroaders do in even such a seemingly straight forward situation. I also feel a greater sense of purpose now when switching those “simple”
trailing point sidings on model railroads.