On the east slope of the famous Sand Patch Grade in southwestern Pennsylvania we see an eastbound mixed freight as it drops downgrade into the 1897 built Falls Cut Tunnel. We are looking down from the 300 foot high black cliffs above the west portal. Below the bridge is one of the greatest, natural, deep swimming holes to be found anywhere. Unfortunately, misbehaving and drinking by locals here has made this spot off limits according to the railroad police. Heavy flooding has ravaged the area here several times in the last decade, including one flood that had water running down THROUGH the tunnel!

The above shot was taken October 3rd 1993 during the shooting of Iron Horse America's video: Into The Allegheny Range, Vol 4, Sand Patch.

Connellsville, PA, is the yard facility, helper base and west end of CSX's Sand Patch Grade. Here we see an operation that rarely occurs anymore: "Hooping Orders." The "VI" operator is handing up train orders to an eastbound on April 29th, 1993. Connellsville is only about a half hour from my home town of Greensburg, so Sand Patch is a main stomping ground for me.
Just east of Glencoe, Pa, "operation lifesaver" GP40-2 #6483, leads a GP35 "slug-rebuild" and a GE C-30-7 as they drag a freight over Wills Creek and up the grade.

Sand Patch Grade is a featured guide subject in High Iron Online's archive pages. To see more about this beautiful grade go to Sand Patch guide.