Paducah and Louisville Railroad
|Our hotel in Paducah||P&L diesel shop entrance||Diesel shop||One of several leased SD90s|
|Sanding and fueling station||Car shop||One of two business cars||Come on inside!|
|Business car interior||Business car interior||Second business car interior||It's a caboose kinda thing|
|On the main line||Four ex-ARR units in a row||GP40 #2107 (ex-ARR #3020)||GP35 #2106 (ex-ARR #2502)|
|GP35 #2104 (ex-ARR #2501)||GP40 #2101 (ex-ARR #3016)||GP40 #2107 (ex-ARR #3020)||GP40 #2107 (ex-ARR #3020)|
|GP35 #2106 (ex-ARR #2502)||GP35 #2104 (ex-ARR #2501)||GP40 #2101 (ex-ARR #3016)||VMV from highway overpass|
|Locos in VMV bone yard||Locos in VMV bone yard||Locos in VMV bone yard||Locos in VMV bone yard|
|Locos in VMV bone yard||P&L RR headquarters||Part of VMV (love the roofs!)||John eating at Taco Johns|
|Kentucky Dam||Kentucky Dam||Kentucky Dam||Coal yard|
|Gravel yard||Waiting for #2103||GP40 #2103 (ex-ARR #3017)|
In 2000, the Paducah and Louisville Railroad purchased six Alaska Railroad surplus locomotives. Since Paducah is a mere six hours drive from my home in Dayton, Ohio I decided one day I would pay them a visit and photograph them in their new paint scheme. On Friday, February 2, 2007 my son John Michael Combs and I did just that.
We left Dayton at 5:55 p.m. armed with a Kentucky map, various Mapquest directions, cameras and Wendy's hamburgers. Although snow was falling earlier in the day, by the time we got to Kentucky there wasn't a cloud in the sky and a full moon was illuminating our way. Using the Kentucky map, a mechanical compass, Scotch tape and pencils, my son made a prediction we would arrive in Paducah at midnight. We arrived at America's Best Value Inn in Paducah at 11:58 pm just a mere two minutes shy of Nostradamus' prediction! Better still was the fact we had crossed into Central time thus earning us an extra hour of sleep!
At the inn's continental breakfast the next morning, my son filled his hollow leg with four waffles, four donuts, a piece of toast and three cups of apple juice. I then called Mike Phillips, P&Ls Chief Mechanical Officer and Vice President, to let him know we were on our way to the diesel shop. Mike had agreed to give us a tour of their operations plus help us track down the ex-Alaska Railroad units. Fortunately for us, five of the six would be in the general area while the sixth was out of reach on the A&O in West Virginia.
We met Mike about 9:00 am at the diesel shop under a beautifully blue and cloudless sky (a photography bonus!). During our conversation I learned Mike began working as a railroad carman and eventually joined the P&L Railroad when it first opened in 1986. Through the years he worked his way through the ranks and now enjoys the job of CMO.
Mike also explained the railroad connects directly with four of the Class I carriers (the BNSF, CSXT, CN and NS) and also interchange unit coal trains with the UP and connect with regional railroad (INRD) and two short lines (the LIRC and FVRR). The main commodity for the railroad is chemicals although they have a huge business with coal, lumber, steel and clay.
I asked Mike to tell me a little about the purchase history of the six Alaska Railroad locomotives. He said they were bought in 2000 and were immediately sent to VMV where they were rebuilt from the frame up. Also, the GP40-2s were upgraded to GP40-3s. The P&L uses these six units in pairs with one as a locomotive and the other a slug.
We toured the diesel and car shops and checked out the various activity in the main yard. We also checked out the strikingly beautiful interiors of both of their business cars. Next, Mike drove us around all the yard's perimeters so we could check out the various power and consists. Going back into town, we viewed P&Ls headquarters building as well as the huge (425,000 square foot) VMV complex.
Ever the cordial host, Mike drove us to Calvert City so we could view a mixed freight train lead by four of the ex-Alaska Railroad units. I am happy to report these ladies really seem to enjoy their new life on the P&L and their new striking paint scheme. After grabbing a bunch of photos, we headed back to the diesel shop. Mike then lead us to another location called Littleville where we could get more photos shortly before the train entered the main yard. As the train approached, I turned on the camcorder and set it on the roof of my car. My son John took photos on my new Canon Rebel xTi while I shot some on the Sony DSC707. What a successful day!
We then went to a highway overpass to grab a few photos of the locomotives in the VMV bone yard. Next, we stopped at Taco Johns because our names are John and we figured it must be the place for us to eat. Refueled and refreshed, we headed to Central City in hopes of catching the fifth ex-ARR unit. Along the way, we made quick stops at Kentucky Dam, a coal processing facility and a gravel yard.
Luck was with us as we arrived at our viewing area about 30 minutes prior to the arrival of a freight train with our ex-ARR unit on the point. A few clouds had rolled in and we were treated to a scenic sunset. At 6:25 pm our freight train came roaring through and my son John was able to snap a few photos of GP40-3 #2103 (ex-ARR 3017). Now our day was complete.
It was now time to head for home. We drove straight for five hours and returned to Dayton at 11:00 pm. It was incredibly chilly filling up the car with gas when the temperatures are hovering just above 0 degrees and a sharp 10 mile per hour wind. Upon returning home, we put our exhausted bodies to bed, happy in the fact we had a very satisfying visit with our former ladies.