Follow the smoke trail! Somewhere amid the trees is a steam train. Look carefully and you’ll spot the headlight of the Nickel Plate Road No. 765.
Last Sunday was a beautiful day in Northeast Ohio. The forecast called for mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the lower 70s. It would be a great day to chase Nickel Plate Road 765.
The 2-8-4 Berkshire owned by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society would be making its fourth appearance on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in the past five years. Last Saturday and Sunday it pulled a series of two-hour trips out of Brecksville.
I had in mind getting a perspective that I’ve never captured before, which was to photograph the steamer from atop the Ohio Route 82 bridge.
You’ve probably seen photographs of this iconic bridge from ground level. It is a graceful concrete arch bridge that forms the background for many “must have” photographs of CVSR operations. It spans the Cuyahoga River valley just to the north of the Brecksville station.
My original plan was to be on the bridge for the afternoon trips, which were scheduled out of Brecksville at 1:30 p.m. My thinking was by then the sun would have swung around enough to nicely illuminate the tracks and an oncoming train to the north.
The 765 excursions were being worked around the regularly scheduled CVSR Scenic trains, which meant that the 765 and its train would be stashed away north of Brecksville at the CVSR’s Fitzwater maintenance facility until after the southbound Scenic has passed.
I was driving across the Route 82 bridge en route to my first photo location for the 9:30 a.m. trip when I saw a guy with a camera who had parked his car on the bridge.
That prompted me to change my mind and seek to photograph from the bridge for the morning trip. I parked, though, off the bridge a short distance to the west.
That was a good thing because less than 10 minutes before the arrival of the 765 a Brecksville police officer told that railfan that parking wasn’t allowed on the bridge, which has wide shoulders on the both sides.
My decision to photograph the morning trip from the bridge turned out to be a good one. The temperatures were cool and that enhanced the smoke and steam from the 765, a phenomenon that I had observed on 765 trips in past years on cool September mornings.
The challenge of shooting from the bridge is that the tracks are surrounded by trees. This is, after all, a national park and the rangers are not into cutting down trees.
But there is an open area immediately next to the Cuyahoga River and that was my focus.
When I arrived on the bridge there was still some fog hugging the valley. But most of it had burned off by the time the 765 arrived. Still, some lingering fog lay just over the tree tops.
My chase of the morning excursion ended where it began on the Ohio Route 82 bridge. The return trip was pulled by LTEX No. 1420.
My idea was to photograph the 765 as it was going north to the Fitzwater shops. It was a good idea except I didn’t expect the 765 to be putting out this much smoke, which of course trailed behind the train and obscured the view.
I had been joined on the Route 82 bridge by fellow Akron Railroad Club members Edward Ribinskas and Roger Durfee. We decided to drive down the road to Steak ‘n Shake for lunch and to come back after 1 p.m. to be ready for the 765’s getting into position for its 1:30 p.m. trip.
We were ready in plenty of time to capture the ferry move of the 765 from the Fitzwater shops to Brecksville station.
The problem was that during the morning a lot of clouds had formed over the valley and we had to contend with the sun being in and out. It was out when we arrived, but had gone in by the time the 765 showed up.
That wasn’t what we wanted, but we worked with what we had. Then it was back to my car and off to my next photo location. But that is a story for another day.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
Thank goodness for that opening along the river. The 765 is chugging its way toward the first station stop.
The opportunity to make this image is why I stood atop the Route 82 bridge. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Some residual fog lies just over the treetops as the 765 and its train eases to a stop at the Brecksville station.
The train has halted at Brecksville station and begun boarding passengers. That the Cuyahoga River to the left.
LTEX 1420 pulled the excursion train back to Brecksville. It is making the first of two stops to unload passengers.
For once we wished that the steam locomotive had been putting out a little bit less smoke. The 765 and its train is making its way back to Fitzwater shops to lay over until the early afternoon trip.
The 765 and its train snakes its way toward Brecksville station.
If only the Cuyahoga Valley National Park has one less tree this would be a perfect shot.
The crowd is lined up and getting its first glimpse of what it had come to see. It’s a living, breathing steam locomotive coming at them at the Brecksville station.