HIGH IRON Online Magazine. Issue 1, Winter-Spring, 2001
Published by Iron Horse America, Hosted by Railfan.Net
INTERACTIVE MAP: Click on circles to visit the best locations of the Sand Patch summit region.
*This feature is written from EAST to WEST, so click the map from RIGHT to LEFT.
SAD NEWS UPDATE: 2001, October's end; SA Tower, which had stood vigil at the summit for nearly a century, was decomissioned. The tower was subsequently demolished last winter too. Fortunately I made it there trackside and in the tower too for a visit on October 22nd just days before the end. Got pix and video. With the new signals, closed towers and heightened security as of Sept 11th, 2001 there is a bit of a loss to Sand Patch's magic. Also the helper pocket was removed, to simplify trackage, in the spring of 2002. CSX claims to only need the crossovers and pocket at Manila. Nonetheless Sand Patch is still one of America's railroading treasures. Please enjoy my feature.
It is one of the legendary meccas for American railfans. It even draws train-spotters from overseas. It is known as Sand Patch Grade, and it is 100 miles of grades and curves over the Allegheny Mountains of PA and MD.
Climbing north and west from Cumberland, Maryland the CSX mainline over the Alleghenies to Pittsburgh, Pa ascends over 1500 feet to crest the summit at Sand Patch, Pa. (SA tower, now gone, was one of the last manned interlocking towers on this historic B&O grade and it stood across the tracks from the summit marker). I have been traveling to this place to camp and take pictures and video since the eighties, and it calls to me if I don't get there for a while. Those who have spent time on Sand Patch can tell you that there is a magic in those mountains and on that railroad, but nobody can tell you what the magic is. It isn't a vast quantity of trains, or the best scenery on the continent, that makes you happy. It isn't non stop good weather, or classic older diesels piled up on heavy drag freights and cut into the middle as helpers. There is something can only be called the Sand Patch magic.

The "fallen flag" paint jobs of the CSX predecessor railroads were a great attraction to Sand Patch in the early CSX years. Today there are only a handful of non-"Bright Future" units on the system. This feature will give view of many of the most popular photo spots at the apex of the Sand Patch grade, and with many of the old paint schemes. This is the way I like to think about the place. My favorite visits were the first 7 years or so when "life was like a box of chocolates, and you never knew what...." Anyways, please enjoy. MtnGoat

Sand Patch VIDEO

Last updated: 16,SEP,02 URL: Information and Comments:Webmaster
Copyright 1996, 1997,2000,2001 Iron Horse America Video ABOVE PHOTOS AND MAP By Will Holloway