Archive for December, 2011

Twas the Night Before Christmas

December 24, 2011

It's Christmas at the 1868 former PRR Orrville Union Depot now owned by the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society. (Photograph by Richard Jacobs)

Christmas and trains just naturally go together. In many homes, a model railroad surrounded the Christmas tree. Railroad enthusiasts remember how when they were boys they would look at the model trains in the Christmas catalogues of Sears, J.C. Penny or Montgomery Ward and ask Santa to bring them a train.

Countless thousands of packages moved by rail during December and many took the train to go home for Christmas. Railroads offered extra sections to handle the crush of business.

Today the Christmas catalogue has been all but replaced by websites. Far fewer homes put up model train displays around the Christmas tree and Santa doesn’t get as many requests for trains for Christmas.

The long strings of baggage and express cars carrying Christmas season parcels are only a memory. Select Amtrak train still carry baggage cars, but the carrier handles few packages now. FedEx and UPS have long since supplanted Railway Express Agency as a primary delivery service of Christmas packages.

Amtrak trains continue to be full with travelers going home or traveling for the holidays, but most people travel by air or highway.

Still, the romance of Christmas and trains continues, if only in memories and imaginations. It has been more than four decades since passengers and packages got off at the Pennsylvania Railroad station in Orrville.  Indeed, no scheduled passenger trains pass by here anymore.

Depot owner Orrville Railroad Heritage Society keeps the Christmas spirit alive at the station with decorations and an  open house earlier in the month in conjunction with the Santa Claus trains that it sponsors.  

Still, on Christmas eve night, all will be quiet here. But if you happen to venture down to this station, or any station, and listen carefully,  the ghosts of passengers, conductors, engineers and ticket clerks will be trading stories about days past when this was a busy place at Christmastime.

Late Afternoon In Berea

December 19, 2011

The setting sun reflects off CSX rails at Berea on Sunday, Dec. 11. With winter arriving, scenes such as this will become scarce in coming weeks.

Sunday, Dec. 11 was a rare day for this time of year in Northeast Ohio. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and the forecast promised to remain that way all day. It was a perfect day to get out with the camera, but I didn’t feel like chasing trains all over the countryside.

So, I decided to go to Berea to see what I could do photowise that I had not done before. Considering how often I’ve photographed at Berea, that would be a challenge.

If you like to see a high volume of trains without having to move, Berea is ideal. A typical day there can net you 20,  maybe 30 trains between Norfolk Southern and CSX.

Yet from a photography standpoint, Berea is less great. Sure, there is a high density of freight traffic, but after a while your photos all start to look the same. You are confined to the south side of the tracks and the lighting isn’t always ideal. The bridge carrying Front Street has opened some new photo vistas, but they are more limited than we’d all like.

Still, I went to Berea with the idea of seeking new ways of photographing rail operations. I remembered capturing an image several years ago of a westbound CSX train late in the day with some intense lighting on the nose. Of course, I did that image in late December, not the middle of the month.

As the sun began sinking in the west, I noticed that the reflections off the wires on the utility lines on the north side of the NS tracks began glowing as if covered in ice. I spent the rest of the afternoon experimenting with the late-day lighting, much of it back lighting, to see what I could create. Shown here are a few of those images.

Photographs by Craig Sanders

That's not ice on wires of the utility lines along the NS tracks. Its how the light plays on the wires.

Somehow this westbound CSX manifest freight seems more husky when the late light washes away most of its color.

Trains passing on CSX (left) and NS heading into the sunset.

No, it's not a steam engine in the consist. It's just diesels doing what diesels sometimes do.

Photographs crave the "sweet light" of late day. I'm not exception and I got it with this westbound CSX train.

This image was captured earlier than the photo immediately above. Although it doesn't feature quite the warmth of the other image, there's still plenty of glow playing off the rails and the former Big Four passenger depot in the background.

Dodging Traffic in West Brownsville

December 19, 2011

A motorist finds himself staring a Norfolk Southern coal train in the face on Main Street in West Brownsville, Pa., on Saturday afternoon. The driver quickly turned off onto a side street.

I had heard about the street running in West Brownsville, Pa., but until this past Saturday (Dec. 17)I had never seen it in person. This hamlet on the west side of the Monongahela River is home to a few blocks of the NS Mon Line running down the middle of Main Street.

Street running is not all that common in the United States and railroads would rather not try to co-exist with other forms of transportation on their right of ways. More common is semi-street running in which the railroad tracks are situated between two streets, but a motorist can’t pretend to be a Dash 9 or caboose and literally run down the tracks.

But that still happens in West Brownsville. Photographs of trains in the street here can easily be found on many railroad photography websites. Less common, though, are images of trains “interacting” with motor vehicles.

As interesting as it was to see three coal trains in the middle of the street, it was even more interesting to see how motorists responded to the trains.

If the train is coming toward them, as is the case in the photo above, the motorists that we observed quickly found an alternative route. There is enough room on the west side of the tracks for a motorist to pass alongside a train — although the clearance is not all that much. There is no clearance for traffic to run alongside a train on the east side.

Once the end of a train begins making its way down the street, some vehicles follow along until the train clears the street running. It is quite an interesting sight.

Although these tracks are owned by NS, CSX trains pass through here, too, using trackage rights.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Although the van appears to be right on the tail of the coal train, there is actually another vehicle between the van and the train.

Most of the time, motorist keep a respectful, although close distance to the rear of the train. Yet as vehicles get closer to the end of street running and the crossing of a major intersecting street, drivers tend to get antsy to get there.

New Steam Loco in Jerry’s Roundhouse

December 1, 2011

Jerry Jacobson has added another steam locomotive to his Age of Steam Roundhouse. The latest addition is Morehead & North Fork No. 12, an ex-Southern Railway 0-6-0 that had been stored indoors since the railroad dieselized in 1963.

The 1905 Alco has been owned by the M&NF since 1952. In its last years, the 4-mile long M&NF primarily carried coal, clay products and lumber to an interchange with the Chesapeake & Ohio at Morehead, Ky. The line was abandoned in 1985. No. 12 joins the line’s other two steam engines, Nos. 11 (2-6-2) and No. 14 (0-6-0), in preservation.

“It’s a nice rebuildable size with a simple design. It’s been kept in nice shape inside the engine house,” Jacobson told The Morehead News. The locomotive’s tender was moved by truck on Nov. 16, and the engine will follow as soon as routing and truck permits are approved.

Jacobson currently owns 12 other steam locomotives.