If October 9th, the last day of my fall foliage trip to Pennsylvania, was going to be the only day where I had a solid chance at clear skies, I could think of few other places to spend the time. Those skies were still in the future, however (albeit nearer than ever), as I picked my way carefully up the hillside on Horseshoe Curve's western leg that morning at 8. There was still cloud cover draped over the mountaintops, but the clouds were much thinner than before. All that was needed to burn them away was a good dose of sun, which hadn't yet reached into the valley - but it was coming.
The Curve park opening was still a couple hours away, and there wasn't another soul for miles who shared my zeal for scaling a wet, leaf-covered hill on a fall morning in the name of railfanning. The distant noise of a waking Altoona confounded my attempts to discern the sounds of any approaching trains at first, but shortly before 9 the squawk of a detector's report and a crew calling signals on the scanner confirmed that the rumble I heard was not road noise. Whatever was coming was westbound - and judging by the guttural chugging sound that slowly filled the valley, GE-powered.
The vamp continued as three hard-working diesels appeared on the distant mountainside, urging 21Q's long string of doublestacks up the grade and into the Curve's apex, where the chugging roar was joined by the sound of wheel flanges squealing in protest at being made to roll through a bend. C40-9Ws 9372 and 9066 and ES40DC 7507 laid down an impressive soundtrack as they marched past, one that made my own uphill battle well worth the time and trouble.