Conrail Delmarva OperationsWelcome to Conrail’s Delmarva Secondary. Streaming down through the heart of Delaware and to the tips of Maryland, this 128 mile line is extremely diverse. The secondary has many locals, a few mainline trains, and as we have come to say, "Everything But Intermodal."

The North Half

Branching south from Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor at Davis, DE, the first 63 miles of the secondary is welded, 40mph, railroad all the way to Harrington. This stretch of track is host to all four of the mainline trains on the shore. The first two mainliners, the ESPI and STES (Harrington-Conway, Conway to Harrington), are the supply trains for the entire secondary. The ESPI usually leaves Harrington around 20:30, making stops in Dover and New Castle before getting onto the Northeast Corridor. It usually spends no more than 2 hours on the secondary after leaving Harrington. The STES can be found anywhere north of Harrington around 08:00. This train often outlaws at Clay siding or Dover after working the yard. Relief crews can always be heard on the radio, and will be referred to as STES Relief.

The other set of trains on the north half are the loaded and empty coal trains headed to Delmarva Power & Light on the Indian River Secondary. The loaded train is always called as UIR-***. When it reaches Indian River, the crew will bring the power back to Harrington if time permits. This allows the engines to be serviced before leaving on the empty train. The empty trains have used numerous symbols including XSG, XSM, and XCX. The three numbers following the symbol will always be different. These two trains run up to three times a week, often on the same evening. On occasion, they will meet at Clay siding, with the first arrival holding the main. The unfortunate thing about these two trains is that they make their entire run in the cover of darkness. Let me tell you, the people of Clayton love it when two squealing coal trains meet at three in the morning.

The only local on the north end can be found at Dover. Called as the WPDD-16, the primary purpose of this train is to work Kraft Foods and Scott Paper in Dover. Some of the freight going into Kraft is sugar, both liquid and granulated, as well as starch. Scott Paper receives coal to keep their power going. The train also works its way north to Middletown, interchanging with the Maryland & Delaware Railroad at Townsend on the way up. There are numerous industries north of Dover, and the train can often exceed 50 cars. Depending on the conductor, the train will venture all the way to Porter to run around the cars. Older crews would do the old reverse drop to run around the train, but this is very rare nowadays. After returning to Dover, the cars are blocked for the ESPI and STES. This job works Monday-Friday at 06:00.


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Predictable motive power assignments line the Delmarva Secondary.  GP40-2 3317 is generally mated to bay window caboose 21292.

The little town of Harrington calls itself "The Hub of Delaware." This slogan surely represents the town’s importance to the Delmarva Secondary. Harrington is home to a nice size freight yard, a long running track, and a good size siding. Included in the yard are engine servicing and running maintenance facilities for cars and engines alike. Aside from all four mainline trains, Harrington is home to five local freights. Although all of these trains require two engines, don’t ever expect to see twelve units in Harrington. The Yardmasters have gotten quite good at running all six locals with four units. Yard locals WPHA-19 and WPHA-20 sort all of the cars coming in on the STES. Both jobs begin work at 07:00 and work as required. There will be at least one yard job working everyday, however it is not unusual to find extras if a lot of cars come in on the STES.

All cars are blocked to go out on the WPHA-21, WPHA-40, or industries in Harrington. The cars for the HA-21 and HA-40 can be put just about anywhere. The only way to know is to listen to the scanner or talk to a conductor or yardmaster.

The WPHA-40 runs Sunday-Friday at 07:00. This train runs down the Indian River Secondary to the interchange with the Maryland & Delaware Railroad. Don’t let the shortline name throw you off. There are several unit trains a month down to Tyson’s Foods on the M&D. I’d have to say the best was a hundred-car extra powered by two SD80MACs last spring. The grain trains can make for one long local, as the HA-40 also works the Indian River power plant if there is no unit train. These non-unit shipments are usually in the range of 30-40 cars. The HA-40 will also pick-up power off of the coal train that didn’t have time to return to Harrington. The crew will sometimes stop to interchange with the Delaware Coastline Railroad in Ellendale. Traffic is minimal from this shortline.

The WPHA-21 makes a midnight run to Delmar and back. This train works Sunday-Friday and is called at 20:00, but doesn’t ever leave Harrington before 23:00. Working south from Harrington, the first stop would be the Perdue mill in Bridgeville. The only work at the mill is to drop any loads and place empties for northbound pick-up. After finishing in Bridgeville, the local continues on south to Seaford. Here it will set out cars for local WPSE-14, either in Seaford siding, or in the yard. The last batch of cars is taken down to Delmar to supply locals WPDE-01 and WPDE-07. After making drops in Delmar Yard the engineer will switch head units and run back up the main to north end of the yard. The pick-up will always be ready, and the only switching required will be to couple, clear the siding, and do the brake test. Heading north, pick-ups will usually be made at Seaford and Bridgeville. Although this job sounds simple enough, it doesn’t seem to work quite right. This train is often stuck in Delmar awaiting a re-crew in the morning. In this instance, the crew of the HA-19 or HA-20 will come down early to bring the train home.

The final Harrington local is the WPHA-70. This is essentially a stone switcher that loads 25-30 cars at IA Construction in Felton, DE. When the train is loaded, it runs south to another IA Construction plant in Delmar. It is typically towed to Delmar, engine and cars, by the HA-21, and set-off in the plant siding. The train will be unloaded the next day and brought back north by the HA-21 as well.

Something to note is that Yard Limit and Running Track Rules apply to Harrington between Alley and Jack, so every movement will not require a FORM D. This is not a bad thing however because all trains approaching the yard must talk to the yardmaster for instructions. This is the best way to get information about train movements in the yard.

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WPHA-70 with GP40-2 3317 works a cut of Wimpey Mineral stone hoppers near Delmar, DE.


The Seaford local, WPSE-14, works numerous industries in the city on the same schedule as the DD-16 in Dover. The largest industry by far is Dupont Inc. This will encompass most of the crew’s day, as the other industries require as little switching as can be imagined. On Sundays, when Dupont doesn’t have to be switched, the job has gotten finished in as little as forty minutes.

The crew also works another interchange with the Maryland & Delaware Railroad. After working Seaford, the local may come north to Harrington. This will happen if the train has a large pick-up for the HA-21, or if high-priority chemicals come in on the STES. There have been special chemical movements to Seaford in trains called as SPL-???, straight out of Conway. These may occur in the future, but don’t put them in your schedule. Most pick-ups will be put on the siding in Seaford, as will most setouts by the HA-21, but on occasion the HA-21 will put overflow in the yard. This is not as easy as it sounds, due to the fact that Seaford Yard is on a southward-facing branch. At the end of the yard, the Maryland & Delaware’s Cambridge branch connects to Conrail. Their cars are interchanged through Seaford yard as well.


The last set of local freights on the shore are based at Delmar. The WPDE-01 runs Monday-Friday at 07:00 and makes a trek to Pocomoke, MD, to interchange with the Eastern Shore Railroad. The WPDE-07 works on the same schedule but begins at 09:00 and switches all of the industries in Salisbury and Delmar. Common practice is for the WPDE-01 to leave Delmar in the late morning hours. This train does a minimal amount of switching along the way to Pocomoke. It will typically work Sharp Gas and Hudson Foods in King’s Creek as the only stops before Pocomoke.

Perdue in Princess Anne receives a few cars a week, and Suburban Propane gets gas cars in the winter.

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WPDE-01 rolls through Salisbury, MD behind GP38 7726.

Traffic out of Pocomoke is primarily coal and chemicals. All of the coal is headed for Indian River as a non-unit shipment. The WPDE-07 is either the easiest job, or the hardest one, depending on the season.

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Engineer Norris Melvin throws a friendly wave from the cab of GP38-2 8041, as WPDE-07 pulls through Salisbury, DE.

Allen’s Milling in Delmar receives numerous grain trains a month and can make for a tough day. To top this off, Perdue in Salisbury receives up to 35 cars a day in the fall and winter. Traffic to Perdue is feed, wheat, and empty tanks to be loaded with cooking oil. A lot of cars will require the crew to make two trips to Perdue, as there is not enough track to get the empties out and place the loads at the same time. Other industries in Salisbury include Farmers and Planters, Salisbury Brick, and Delmarva Chemical, all located on the Mardela Industrial Track. On occasion, the crew must run down to Shoreland Freezers at the southern edge of town to drop or pick-up refrigerated fish from out west. In the summer, the work is a lot less, as the mills do about half of their winter business. The Mardella Industrial Track receives service about twice a week, so don’t expect to see the train on the West Side of town.

Motive Power

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GP40-2 3317 is a regular on the WPHA-70.

Motive Power on the secondary is as predictable as could be possible. The four mainline trains can feature any of Conrail’s six-axle road units including the newer SD70s and 80s. These trains will usually have two units, but a third one may be in the consist if the "yardy" at Enola gets power happy. Harrington has four assigned engines for local jobs. The standard has become two SD 40-2s and two GP 38s, or 40s. The engines are usually split in two sets of GP-SD, GP-SD. One set works the HA-40 and one the HA-19 or HA-20. When there are two yard jobs, the last crew called will use power off of the STES. The HA-70 will get a local unit, if tonnage on the HA-40 permits the train to run with one engine.

Otherwise, it is possible to see a C40-8W or SD60M loading 25 stone cars on 80-pound rail. To date, no 70 or 80MACS have had this honor.

The remaining locals on the shore will use the same six GP's that cycle around as they are sent to periodic maintenance. If a Harrington local unit needs to be inspected, the yardmaster will borrow a unit off of the ESPI.

Delmarva Secondary
Chesapeake Dispatcher
M.P. Station Note
0.0 Davis
Connection from Amtrak
5.0 Glascow  
5.9 Del  
6.3 Porter 1
14.4 New Castle Secondary 2
14.8 DED-Porters  
16.5 KIRK  
18.3 Canal Movable Bridge  
20.6 Mt. Pleasant  
22.6 DED-Canal  
24.0 FROG 2
24.8 Middletown  
28.7 HBD-DED-Townsend  
29.0 Townsend
M&D Railroad
35.0 CLAY
M&D Railroad
41.0 CHES  
42.4 Cheswold  
47.4 Dover  
50.7 Wyoming  
50.8 Wydel  
58.3 Felton  
61.0 ALLEY  
62.5 Moore  
64.4 Harrington
Indian River Running Track
67.0 JACK  
72.4 Greenwood  
75.5 NYLON  
77.0 Bridgeville  
80.1 DED-Seaford  
84.1 Seaford Yard  
84.2 Seaford Movable Bridge  
88.2 DED-Seaford  
91.0 LAUREL  
97.3 Delmar
DE/MD State Line
98.0 HEARN  
99.1 PATT  
99.5 Patton  
100.0 MELVIN  
103.2 Salisbury
Willards IT/Mardella IT
105.3 CROWN  
107.0 Fruitland  
116.3 Princess Anne  
119.4 Kings Creek
Crisfield IT
127.0 CASS
End of DCS
127.9 Cassatt Movable Bridge  
128.2 Pocomoke
Eastern Shore Railroad

Note 1 - Distance from Davis.

Note 2 - Movements approaching the Canal Movable Bridge, MP 18.3, must notify the ridge Tender 30 minutes in advance of expected arrival.


Railfanning the Delmarva is very easy and laid back. The only challenge may be following trains on the north half of the secondary. If you are following the ESPI and its counterpart, you should leave each stop while the conductor is walking up. If you wait for the train to start, it is hard to keep up. A good rule is to use Route 13 for just about everything. Unfortunately, there are not very many roads that stay close to the track other than Rte. 13. The roads that do stay around the tracks have 35 and 40mph speed limits, allowing you to gain nothing on the train. It’s a good idea to pick a spot and wait anywhere north of Dover.

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Click on map for larger view.

Always start at Harrington before heading north. Talk to the yardmaster or any train employee about what is coming, they’ll know. If no one is outside, you might want to knock on the door of the office and tell them why you are there and they should take care of you. You can also just walk around the station platform until someone sees you. If you are looking for a lot of action, spend the whole day in Harrington.

There are two good times to railfan Harrington, those being 08:00 to16:00, and 21:00 to 08:00.

The 8 to 4 shift will let you see at least three of the locals, as well as the STES. The 9 to 8 shift will yield most of the mainliners, pending the coal trains are running, as well as the WPHA-21. To kill time between trains you can watch the HA-21 switch or follow one of the mainliners for awhile. The line crossing Rte-13 in town is the Indian River Running Track. This leads from the yard to the Indian River Secondary and will be traversed by the coal trains and the WPHA-40.

South of Harrington the line is 25mph jointed-rail. Between Seaford and Harrington, Rte. 13 is again recommended. The tracks are visible off of the highway all the way to Bridgeville, where the Perdue mill is located. This mill is very recognizable as it towers above anything in the distance. A short trek off of the highway reveals parking near the mill. The mill is very accessible for photos, but do not venture onto Perdue property without permission.

To get to the industries in Seaford, break west from Rte. 13 onto Middle Neck Road. Turn left on the last street in front of the bridge over the tracks. This road will look like an alley but keep on it for a couple hundred feet. A turn right will put you right at Seaford station. This restored beauty makes a great shot if you can get a train to pass it. Photo angles are terrible, and it is hard to get a decent picture unless something passes on the main, as the Seaford local usually won’t venture south of the station. To access the industries, go over the bridge and you can turn left onto just about any road. If you look down from the bridge near the station, don’t let the short stretch of welded-rail, new ballast, and bridge signal deceive you. This is a secondary line.

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A pair C40-8W's idle in Delmar Yard on a WPHA-19X.

If you go back towards Rte.13, make a right onto Rte. 675. This road parallels the tracks to Delmar. This turn will be a left if you are just coming west off of Rte. 13. This road is strongly recommended if you are following a train. A few miles south a Laurel, you will see a towering mill. This is Allen’s Milling, the largest one on the shore. Don’t get this confused with Laurel Grain, a much smaller mill that does not receive service.

Most extras to Delmar will stop at Allen’s, as it is the main reason for most extras. Delmar is your classic local freight yard. It is almost exactly a mile long and has a siding and two yard tracks to create a nice three-track yard with plenty of space. Both ends of the yard are openly accessible off of Foskey Lane and Connelly Mill Road.

The line can easily be followed south of Delmar on Rte. 13 all the way to King’s Creek. The highway bridges the tracks in Salisbury and puts them on the west side of the road. Southeast of the bridge is the branch to Perdue. This three mile line has several photo ops.

Take Priscilla St. east, crossing the tracks, until you get to Church Street. A left on this road (north) will lead you parallel to the industrial track. When the street ends, continue north on Old Ocean City Road until you see an overpass over top of the road.

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GP38-2 8041 rolls through 'Crown' On a hot July 1997 day.

There are several nice photo opportunities off of just about any side road. The overpass marks the end of accessibility as the line then goes into the Perdue plant. If you continue south on Rte. 13, the line crossing the highway will be the Mardela Industrial Track. This line rounds a curve to serve Farmers & Planters, Salisbury Brick, and Delmarva Chemical. If you do venture into this area, watch yourself because this isn’t exactly the best part of town.

Track speed through Salisbury is 15mph so you can get a picture at practically every crossing. South of town, there are several nice pictures off of the highway, as the area is heavily wooded to the east. South of King’s Creek the line is very hard to access, aside from grade crossings. Just before Pocomoke, the tracks duck under the highway for the last time.

Any road west into downtown Pocomoke will lead you to the interchange with the Eastern Shore Railroad. Aside from three tracks, you will find Cassatt tower with an old Pennsy-style position light signal next to the tower. The signal still is in use as a bridge signal for the Cassatt Movable Bridge.

One setback is that four of the largest industries, (Kraft and Scott Paper in Dover, Dupont in Seaford, and Perdue in Salisbury) are all but inaccessible unless you are willing to walk. You can wait for the trains to leave these industries, but it can be a long wait. Lodging can be found at any city along the line. I would recommend a place in Harrington so that you are right in the middle of things. I remind you that you should not speed through any town on Rte. 13. Small town police forces are very eager to pay the bills on their new cars. The Maryland State Police aren’t any nicer. Just remember to bring a scanner, timetable, and have a general understanding of what should be where at what time.

The Future

Even with the Norfolk-CSX acquisition pending, not much is expected to change on the shore. It is the hope of everyone, employees and railfans alike, that Norfolk will buy the Eastern Shore Railroad to re-link the old Cape Charles-Wilmington mainline. In order for this to happen, there must be a necessity. We’ll see what the future holds.

Conrail’s Delmarva Locals


WPHA-19 07:00 Excpt. Wed and Thur Works Harrington Yard
WPHA-20 On call Daily Works Harrington Yard
WPHA-21 20:00 Monday-Friday Runs to Delmar, returns
WPHA-40 07:00 Sunday-Thursday Runs to Frankfort, returns
WPHA-70 09:00 As required Runs to Delmar, unloads stone
WPHA-R1 (Relief)
Sunday 20:00 Does HA-21’s job
Monday Off
Tuesday Off
Wednesday 07:00 Does HA-19’s job
Thursday 07:00 Does HA-19’s job
Friday 07:00 Does HA-40’s job
Saturday 06:00 Does SE-14’s job


WPDD-16 06:00 Works Dover, DE vicinity and runs to Middletown, DE, returns


WPSE-14 06:00 Works Seaford, DE vicinity


WPDE-01 07:00 Runs to Pocomoke, MD, returns
WPDE-07 09:00 Works Delmar vicinity and Salisbury, returns

Radio Channels

160.800 – Conrail Road Channel 1 – Entire Delmarva Secondary

*** WPHA-70 crews may use channel 2 – 161.070 – while switching

I would like to thank the many people who have helped me prepare this arcticle: Norris Melvin, Frank Mitchell, Olin "Matte" Matthews, Steve Merritt, Ralph Gibson, Jerry Remener, Charlie Smith, Bill Georges, Ed "Red Dog" Downs Sr, Ed "Puppy Dog" Downs Jr, Tom Brown, Bob Walton, Jacke Moore, Bill Horsman, Johnny Melvin, Larry Torbert and Charles Dugan.