Exploring Vestiges of Conrail in Cleveland

The night photo session of the Conrail Historical Society featured a former Conrail locomotive and crane. The event was held at the Norfolk Southern Macedonia car shops.

The Conrail Historical Society held its annual convention September 24, 25, and 26 in Cleveland this year. Conrail has been gone now well over 10 years, so many vestiges of “Big Blue” are fast fading from today’s railroad scene.

 Even though a small cluster of lines remain “Conrail” in the east, they are considered shared assets and power is provided by CSX and NS.

The CRHS is dedicated to preserving Conrail’s legacy because in the end Conrail proved to be a success. Our group attends and hosts many shows and gatherings throughout the year, one of which is our yearly convention held in a former Conrail city.

Past conventions have been held in places like Altoona and Philadelphia. Cleveland was picked for the 2010’s convention due to it being in the middle of the “X” on the modern Conrail map, a “Conrail Crossroad” city for sure.

As the convention coordinator I knew there was a lot of Conrail history in the Cleveland area and went about setting up some tours. Norfolk Southern was very cooperative and allowed us to tour several active former Conrail facilities.

 Friday started with everyone checking in to register and enjoy some time to “catch up” with old friends and make new ones. After a member’s meeting, we had pizza and then car pooled to the first event, a night photo shoot of former Conrail equipment at the Macedonia car shop.

I had staged an SD50 still in Conrail blue, a Conral boxcar, and the Dearborn Division/Cleveland terminal caboose on one track and a former Conrail American crane on another. CRHS member Brian Alesin provided the lighting for the event.

Earlier in the day several members had “unpatched” the NS 5405 back to CR 6710, which had been its delivery number under Conrail ownership.

The crane also had one of its earlier CR numbers applied to complete this Conrail scene. A car repair scene was also recreated using two CR boxcars, a laser light and fog machine, and a member posing as the welder.

A bonus was a transfer coming in while we were doing the night shoot with a former CR SD40-2 in its consist. The crew was kind enough to stop for a moment while we shot the 3405 with a one day past full moon and Jupiter above it.

On Saturday, a bus took us to the Macedonia shops for a tour. The Macedonia Car Shop was built by Conrail in 1977. Most of the equipment the carmen use was on display and there was a boxcar up on jacks with a truck set removed so we could see the inner workings of a wheel set.

We took daylight photos of the outdoor equipment lineup that we had photographed the night before and toured the cab of the 6710 and the caboose. After a few hours at the shop it was off to Larry’s Truck and Electric (LTEX), in McDonald, Ohio, (near Youngstown) for a self-guided tour of this very interesting used locomotive facility.

We were able to roam the grounds and take photos, gather frame numbers, or just revel in the railroad history that surrounded us. We spent the balance of the afternoon at LTEX and we all were pretty tired after all that walking.

Once back to the hotel it was social time then our banquet. Guest presenters after the dinner gave a well-received series of slide shows on Conrail in the Cleveland area. Noted rail author and photographer Dave Ori showed many of his Conrail slides and provided a wealth of train information. Dennis Nerhenz entertained us with a show of stellar Conrail photos and Joe Polefko rounded out the night with a show on all the places he has worked on the railroad. He is currently first trick operator at Bridge 1. We also heard a history of Cleveland Terminal Tower.

On Sunday, it was back on the bus for a morning at Berea. This former Conrail hot spot sees even more trains these days since the Conrail split. The owner of the long-closed The Station restaurant located in the former Big Four station was there and stated he will reopen. He was kind enough to let many of us up in the tower for photos.

From Berea it was off to the former Conrail drawbridge in downtown Cleveland where we were allowed to go up and observe the operations.

Ship fans were treated to the Buffalo passing through as it made its way down river and out to Lake Erie. We were treated to several operations of the bridge for river traffic and, of course, trains were plenty. After the Bridge 1 stop, it was back to the hotel where many folks, having a long drive home, departed. Some elected to carpool to the model railroad museum in Mentor where they viewed the operating layouts in all scales. That would be our last event in the convention, a full weekend to be sure.

To view additional photographs taken during the convention, click on the link below.


Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee

Conrail Historical Society members explore the Macedonia car shops built by Conrail and now used by Norfolk Southern.

Former Conrail locomotives are part of the "collection" of used locomotives sitting at Larry's Truck and Electric near Youngstown.

The view from the window at Drawbridge tower. CRHS members were allowed to visit the tower during the group's convention in Cleveland.

It wasn't all about trains. The Great Lakes freighter "Buffalo" makes its way along the Cuyahoga River during the visit to Drawbridge tower.

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