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The "Suffolk System" and Connections



Rather than blend acquisitions into the melting pot, the SNR has maintained the independence of its larger predecessors, in order to accommodate certain state laws.  It also creates tax-planning and risk-management opportunities - disciplines the SNR has been ahead of its time in developing. 

Ownership of the RoW stays with each subsidiary, but as a railroad, the SNR operates as a single unit.  Similar to how, say, the CNO&TP was effectively absorbed by the Southern, but is still legally a separate entity.  

Locomotives system-wide are painted for Suffolk Northern.  However the subs do maintain small fleets of freight cars lettered for them.  Older cars are pre-acquisition remnants, but newer car orders fit into the SNR fleet standards. 

Starting in 1947, a new "Suffolk System" herald was applied to all subsidiary freight cars, which is further discussed on the "Evolution of the Herald" page.  


This subsidiary thing started with Frank Ellison, actually - a true pioneer in the hobby.  He has been  one of my heroes since reading "The Art Of Model Railroading" as a teenager, which was reprinted in the July 1976 MR, as part of the bicentennial celebration.  And re-reading it...

Frank Ellison lived in New Orleans, on a block of Colbert St. that ran between Fillmore St. and Chappelle St..  So, he named the two terminals on his famous Delta Lines Fillmore and Chappelle, and the division point yard in the middle was Colbert.  Already enthralled by the railroad he'd created, I found this reference to his non-railroad world in the midst of it all to be especially appealing - and still completely plausible.  While his contribution to the hobby, and especially to operations, was vast, this one little detail stuck with me too.  

In 1992, Barri and I bought a house that happened to be on the corner of a street named for a body of water that the SNR would serve.  Not only that - it had happened before.  Both on corners.  As in, with ampersands.  This coincidence was too powerful to ignore, so the SNR family concept had to grow from there.  So in basically my tribute to Frank Ellison, the Suffolk System now includes four predecessor roads named for places we've lived.  The latter two don't benefit from ampersands, but to me all of them sound still delightfully railroad-y.

(Actually there are three more in the wings, too - as Johnny Cash said, "I've been everywhere, man."   But that would be pushing it.  Probably.)  

Read on and see what you think! 


Description:  Originally the cornerstone of the SN's westward expansion, today the M&A is just a pair of separated branch lines at either end of an entire sub of SNR main.  It's still served from end-to-end daily though, by mixed trains 64 & 65, which call at Segway on the way through.

Influence:   A good analogue is the Virginia Central - a line through rural central Virginia that became the foundation of the C&O.

Reference:  This was our first house purchase - a 1924 Tudor on the corner of Millsbrae Ave. & Atlantic Ave. in Cincinnati's Oakley neighborhood.  This was the SNR's first home as well.  


Description:  The CJ&G was known as the "Apple Hill Road" because of the apple growing region and the longstanding Apple Festival held in Jackson, O..  In the 19th century, Jackson more or less was the hub of operations on the portion of the line that had been completed. 

InfluenceThis line is logically the Cincinnati & Eastern, which the N&W bought to reach Cincinnati from Portsmouth.  The C&E became known as the "Peavine" on the N&W because of its tortured narrow-gauge RoW through the hills of southern Ohio.  The N&W actually had to finish it as well as upgrade it - just like the CJ&G - but it beat starting from scratch. 

Reference:  The SNR's basement since 2000 is on Apple Hill Rd., east of downtown.  The Nickel Plate tribute should (hopefully) be unmistakable!  The "Road" idea just tugged at me, despite the address' lacking an ampersand and a landmark.  I was thrilled to find a downloadable version of that NKP font, at RailFonts.com.


Description:  Acquiring the S&E not only got the SNR access to Great Lakes shipping for its coal, but also, tapped merchandise and auto industry traffic in the northern Ohio and southern Michigan industrial areas.  

Influence:  Viewed through a C&O lens, the S&E is a combination of the Hocking Valley and the Pere Marquette, which accomplished those two goals, respectively.  

Reference:  Barri's and my first apartment was the first floor of a stately old 1908 foursquare, on the corner of Stettinius Ave. & Erie Ave., in the Hyde Park neighborhood. This place really was an SNR predecessor, as I used its spare bedroom to build the shelf layout that became St. Amour.

Interestingly, Stettinius is named for an attorney, who later would merge his law firm with one founded by the sons of William Howard Taft.  

S&E 2523 is painted in the new scheme SNR is using for its double-door automobile and auto parts "slogan" cars.


Description:  The SSL was one of the north-south trunk lines along the eastern seaboard.  This is a very recent acquisition, and an entry into a whole new world for the SNR, with an eye toward future strength.  So to date this subsidiary is not integrated much at all into the whole SNR.  But they're working on it. 

Influence:  The SSL was a third player in the game dominated by Seaboard Air Line and Atlantic Coast Line.  In a forward-thinking move that stunned the Street by gaining regulatory approval, the SNR acquired their southern arm early on, rather than waiting a couple of decades for the other two to merge with each other (SCL) before being acquired by their eventual northern monolith overlord (CSX). 

Reference:  Our beach house is in Southern Shores, NC.   "Shore" was too close to "Coast" and "Seaboard" to pass up!  

SSL 27949 is an early 20's all-steel ARA car, rebuilt in the SNR Suffolk car shops in 1940, with upgrades including new Youngstown doors, and power hand brake. 



Description:  The K&NE is not a subsidiary of the SNR, but an independent regional in SE Kentucky and western Virginia.  It interchanges with the SNR at Bryan Ferry, Va., and daily sends its brand-spankin' new RS3 up to Segway, via trackage rights, with transfer cars.  On the SNR, that train is PL-3/4, since it originates at the K&NE's yard in Pineville, Ky..

Reference:  The K&NE is the railroad of one of my oldest friends, and an original member of the "crew", Brian Field.  That is one of the reasons Bryan Ferry is so named - it's where we ferry cars to Brian.  


Description:  The Barrett County Coal Co. opened a mine on the Big Slide Seam in W.Va. in 1921, and built a railroad down to a connection with the SNR at Hadley, W.Va., near Carter's Summit.  They have operated independently since Day One, using a series of tough, slow geared locomotives to climb the brutal grade up to the tipple.  Their current power is a two-truck Heisler, acquired from a bankrupt logging line in 1934.  

Influence:  Graham County Railroad in N.C., and the Twin Seams Mining Co. in Alabama.  And there really is a Barrett County in West Virginia, it just required some modeler's license to move it to the coal fields.

Reference:  My wife's given name is Barrett.  She goes by Barri, Your Highness, or simply, "B".   

Barrett County #4 simmers in the interchange yard at Hadley, W. Va., before starting its return trip to Big Slide.  SNR job HC-39, the Hadley Shifter, has just pulled the loads that the Barrett County crew brought down to the interchange earlier in the day.  Sturdy as it is, the Heisler will still require two trips up the branch to get both cuts of empties up the stiff 6% grade to the tipple.  

Here's the tipple under construction. It's entirely board-by-board, so it needed sturdy wooden framing and roof trusses.

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