Railfanning The Florence/Sheffield/Muscle Shoals Area

Although the geographical location is actually a few miles east of Muscle Shoals, the Norfolk Southern operates a large classification yard near the Shoals known as Sheffield Yard. Once part of the Tennessee Division, the NS line from Memphis to Chattanooga runs through the Shoals and is now considered part of the Alabama Division of Norfolk Southern. A line to Birmingham, AL connects with the Memphis to Chattanooga line in the Shoals area and provides a connection between Memphis and Birmingham. This junction is located near the west end of Sheffield yard near the Muscle Shoals/Tuscumbia city limits. Traffic between Sheffield and Memphis is typically on the order of 12-16 trains a day. The line south to Birmingham sees about 6 trains a day, while the line from Sheffield to Chattanooga sees about 10 trains a day. Of course, these are estimates as any number of occurrences can cause these numbers to vary.

Due to it's remote location, much of the NS Sheffield yard is not visible from public property. The far east end of the yard is visible from a public road crossing (Gnat Pond Road) where you can catch east bound trains leaving the yard. Wilson is at the west end of the yard and forms the east leg of the wye at the junction with the main line to Birmingham, AL. Viewing/Photographing trains here is not too hard as there are a number of public roads through the area (namely Elledge Lane). Norala, which marks the west leg of the wye, is visible from an overpass on Highway 43 and possibly Decatur Street. Avalon Avenue is also a pretty good place for train-watching/photography and begins a stretch of double-track that extends to Tuscumbia. Downtown Sheffield is also a good spot to watch the action on the NS double-track. Highway 72 west out of Tuscumbia parallels the NS main line to Memphis and provides some good train-watching spots.

The shortline Tennessee Southern operates a stretch of former L&N trackage from Tennessee into the port of Florence, AL on the north side of the Tennessee River. The L&N once interchanged with Southern Railway at the Shoals via a bridge over the Tennessee river. This bridge is no longer used and the draw span has been removed and installed at another location on the Norfolk Southern. You can often see Tennessee Southern power at the Port of Florence near F-L Sand & Gravel's barge transfer operation.

  Useful Scanner Frequencies for The Florence/Sheffield/Muscle Shoals Area

AAR Channel 56 - 160.950 NS Road (Channel 1)
AAR Channel 09 - 160.245 NS Dispatcher to Train (Channel 2)
AAR Channel 48 - 160.830 NS Train to Dispatcher (Channel 2)
AAR Channel 76 - 160.250 NS Hump Channel
AAR Channel 83 - 161.355 Yard, Switching
AAR Channel 37 - 160.665 Yard, Switching
AAR Channel 17 - 160.365 Carmen
AAR Channel 25 - 160.485 Yard, Switching *
AAR Channel 92 - 161.490 Yard Channel #4 (maintance/shop)
AAR Channel 11 - 160.275 NS PBX Huntsville and Sheffield
AAR Channel 43 - 160.755 Tennessee Southern
For a full list of AAR Channels, see the Railfan Scanner Tips Page
* Updated/Verified 10/02/2011

  Latest Additions to The Florence/Sheffield/Muscle Shoals Area Photo Gallery

Click here to view a gallery of all photos from The Florence/Sheffield/Muscle Shoals Area!


A empty coal train rolls through the small town of Courtland, AL on its way back west for another train-load of PRB coal.

File Size: 200 KBytes · Downloads: 2632 · Uploaded: November 08,2014


NS #6920 "Honoring our Veterans" leads westbound train 163 through Wheeler, AL. The things us railfans will do for a picture! :)

File Size: 333 KBytes · Downloads: 3367 · Uploaded: January 15,2013


It's getting dark as the NS Office Car Special rolls in to the siding at Wheeler for a meet before heading further west.

File Size: 284 KBytes · Downloads: 3194 · Uploaded: January 07,2013


Norfolk Southern empty west bound coal train 733 rolls through Courtland, AL. This location is known to the railroad as Robertson Jct and there is a spur that splits off to run to the International Paper plant in Courtland.

File Size: 457 KBytes · Downloads: 3007 · Uploaded: May 24,2012


An artsy shot of a hopper truck in empty west bound coal train 733 through Courtland, AL.

File Size: 300 KBytes · Downloads: 2972 · Uploaded: May 24,2012


A BNSF Heritage painted SD70MAC brings up the rear of empty west bound coal train 733 through Courtland, AL.

File Size: 559 KBytes · Downloads: 3211 · Uploaded: May 24,2012


A west bound NS train passes the control point Pride on its way towards Memphis, TN. This is just west of the Tuscumbia, AL area.

File Size: 407 KBytes · Downloads: 3264 · Uploaded: April 29,2012


A southbound NS train rolls through the Wilson control point and will turn south on the NA/West End District to head towards Birmingham, AL.

File Size: 362 KBytes · Downloads: 3034 · Uploaded: April 29,2012


West bound NS train 163 heads through the Norala control point. I had parked the Jeep to get a photo and ended up climbing up an embankment and got it in the photo. One of my favorite shots!

File Size: 395 KBytes · Downloads: 3320 · Uploaded: April 29,2012


East bound NS intermodal train 22N prepares to enter the double track at Tuscumbia, AL.

File Size: 238 KBytes · Downloads: 3014 · Uploaded: April 29,2012


Our first train of the day, 10/02/2011, was Norfolk Southern Alabama Division local train A12 heading eastward in Courtland, AL with just 8 cars in tow.

File Size: 471 KBytes · Downloads: 3149 · Uploaded: January 09,2012


On the way to the Quad-Cities area, we found this NS local power tied up at Robertson Jct, where the spur to the International Paper plant (and a few other customers) joins the Memphis District - East End main line. This is my first time catching a road slug!

File Size: 354 KBytes · Downloads: 3096 · Uploaded: January 09,2012


Norfolk Southern loaded coal train 734 rolls through downtown Sheffield, AL on the east bound main. Check out the BNSF Executive SD70MAC in the number two position!

File Size: 399 KBytes · Downloads: 3768 · Uploaded: January 09,2012


The DPU pusher on loaded coal train 734 rolls across Atlanta Ave in downtown Sheffield, AL on the east bound main.

File Size: 385 KBytes · Downloads: 2936 · Uploaded: January 09,2012


Norfolk Southern intermodal train 22N rolls through downtown Sheffield, AL on the east bound main line towards Sheffield Yard.

File Size: 356 KBytes · Downloads: 3298 · Uploaded: January 09,2012

Click here to view a gallery of all photos from The Florence/Sheffield/Muscle Shoals Area!

  Latest Additions to The Florence/Sheffield/Muscle Shoals Area Video Clip Gallery

Click here to view an gallery of all video clips from The Florence/Sheffield/Muscle Shoals Area!


A video compilation of our day railfanning the Norfolk Southern Memphis District West End in the Quad-Cities area of Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield and Tuscumbia. Most of the footage is from downtown Sheffield on the double track NS between "East End Two Tracks" and the control point Tuscumbia. This is a great area to railfan and highly underrated in my opinion

HD Video Clip - Views: 3179 · Uploaded: January 09,2012


This video clip is in Phil Campbell, AL as the NS 320 rolls through a large curve near the center of town. This area was hit hard by the tornadoes of April 28, 2011.

HD Video Clip - Views: 3255 · Uploaded: July 08,2011


Westbound NS intermodal train 201 blasts past the east end of Wheeler siding. Unfortunately, this puppy slipped up on me and I didn't get time to straighten the camcorder! HA!

Video Clip - File Size: 3223 KBytes · Downloads: 4620 · Uploaded: September 17,2008


After meeting westbound train 201, Norfolk Southern local train A82 pulls out of the siding and on to the main line headed towards Decatur. Thanks to the crew for the friendly "toot" as they pulled out! Gotta love those old high hood motors!

Video Clip - File Size: 12213 KBytes · Downloads: 4524 · Uploaded: September 17,2008


Westbound Norfolk Southern train 17Z rides off "in to the sunset"! This video was taken a few miles west of Tuscumbia on NS's Memphis District West End subdivision.

Video Clip - File Size: 7155 KBytes · Downloads: 4960 · Uploaded: September 17,2008


All content ©1999-2023 John D. Peterson/AlabamaRailfan.com unless noted. These pages are in no way affiliated with any railroad or other company mentioned in these pages. This information is provided for entertainment purposes only.