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Welcome to Sand Patch
Located at the base of the grade to Sand Patch, Hyndman is the westward assault to the most exciting railroad grade on the East Coast. While Tehachapi and Cajon passes are the "big grades" for the West Coast, Sand Patch is the equivalent for the East Coast.
Hyndman was originally settled as Bridgeport, PA. The name was changed after the B&O built through town and honors E.K. Hyndman, a B&O superintendent of that era. Hyndman once hosted an interchange yard with the Pennsy, several water tanks, and a tremendous extra board. When one considers the size of this small community it could be assumed that most of the town worked for the railroad! A helper station and "Q" tower were located at the East end of Hyndman. The helper station remained in service until the 1980's when it was destroyed by a derailment caused by an improperly lined switch. The Armstrong interlocking at "Q" Tower was converted to dispatcher control from Jacksonville, Florida in the late 1990's. Sadly, Hyndman's "Q" tower was razed shortly after closing.
The railroad was chartered as the Pittsburg and Connellsville on April 3, 1837 to allow the B&O access to the rich coal fields of Southwest Pennsylvania and take a stab at rival Pennsylvania Railroad interests. The railroad built east from Pittsburgh in 1847, originally opening to Connellsville in 1854. The line opened the full distance to Cumberland in 1871 when the final spike was driven at Fort Hill.
Railfans who chased trains through this territory during the late 1960's and 1970's knew of the railroad as the "Chessie System." In 1980 Chessie and Family Lines combined into a holding company before formally merging into CSX in 1986.
The term "Sand Patch" comes from a geologic formation of sandy soil found at the mountain summit. Sand Patch summit lies on the Eastern Continental Divide, elevation 2258 feet, over 1300 feet above Hyndman and a mere 19 miles away. A few structures still stand in the tiny hamlet of Sand Patch.
Westbound trains have an easy ride out of Cumberland until reaching Hyndman where tangent track all but disappears and the grade stiffens from .5 to 1.25% in short order. From Hyndman up to the summit the tracks twist through tight curves, pass through tunnels, and the grade steapens to 1.94% making for a grueling ascent. Hyndman is where all the fun begins. Though the eastbound grade is fairly gentle when compared to the west end, crews have no less of picnic keeping their heavy trains under control.
About Our Setup
The camera is located in Hyndman atop one of two former Chessie System cabooses owned by Jason Walter, our dedicated camera host. The cabooses are wired with electricity and high speed internet to provide power to the computer and burglar alarm system.
This sophisticated system operates off a Macintosh computer system running with custom written software designed to capture passing trains. The system watches the tracks for movement. Once a train is detected the system will capture a 40-45 second movie clip. After the system stops recording, the movie is compressed and sent over the internet 2500 miles to our main server facility in Los Angeles, California. There, another software program catalogs the clip and offers it for viewing. The entire process requires about 3-5 minutes before the clip is available for viewing. During a typical month over 40,000 video clips will be viewed from our three cameras.
Operations on the CSX Keystone Subdivision over Sand Patch are diverse. Traffic on the line consists of intermodal and automobile traffic, Unit coal trains from local mines, Pennsylvania's Monongahela Valley, and the Power River Basin; grain trains, coil steel and slabs, mixed freight and the occasional unit coke train. Amtrak's Capitol Limited also visits Sand Patch grade twice daily. Local coal drags are loaded off of the Salisbury branch between Sand Patch and Meyersdale, PA. The Salisbury trains frequently run with all four axle consists, usually with CSX mother and slug combinations.
A sought after and especially interesting movement occurs most often during the grain rush. The Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad exercises a trackage rights agreement that has been in existence since the Western Maryland Railway was integrated into the Chessie System. This train often features WLE power in their DRG&W inspired paint scheme.