Archive for January, 2012

Getting ‘Clipped’ at Painesville

January 31, 2012

We were sitting around the dining room table in the home of Ed Ribinskas eating pizza on Sunday afternoon when Marty Surdyk got a text message that a CSX westbound freight with a former Iowa, Chicago & Eastern unit on the lead was approaching Conneaut.

The heads up came from Richard Thompson who had been photographing with his clan in Conneaut for much of the day. Earlier, Ed, Marty, Jeff Troutman and myself had been photographing at Perry and trading OS reports with Rich.

The plan was to putz around on Ed’s HO model railroad layout after eating. I had other ideas, first, though. I wanted to capture that ex-ICE unit. Jeff agreed to take me trackside while Marty and Ed stayed behind.

We staked out the north side of the tracks just east of the former New York Central passenger station in Painesville. It was overcast, so for lighting purposes it didn’t matter what side of the tracks we were on.

Shortly after we arrived, it started snowing. The weather forecast was for an Alberta Clipper to sweep through the area during the afternoon, bringing with it snow and much colder temperatures.

Man, did we get clipped. The clipper arrived with the speed of an express train trying to make up time. Within minutes we were enveloped in blizzard-like conditions. The wind was blowing with gale force velocity and the snow seemed to be going blowing straight across, now falling downward. It was one of those storms with large flakes and it didn’t take long to cover the ground.

Jeff had gotten out to see if the signals to the west had come on.  We had heard an eastbound train on the radio. He pointed toward the west and I ventured out into the elements. He was motioning toward what turned out to be an eastbound intermodal train.

The wind was blowing into my face and my camera lens, but I bravely fired away. I had never before attempted to photograph in such conditions. The images turned out fair, particularly the image shown above of the train passing the depot.

The storm abated somewhat, but it was still snowing hard when I heard the train we were waiting for call a signal to the east. I got out and shortly thereafter the gates began to drop at a nearby grade crossing.

I quickly discovered that leaving your camera on auto focus during a snowstorm isn’t such a good idea. The camera went hunting and many of the shots I snapped turned out blurry. But it focused well enough to hit the “sweet spot” as Duluth, Minnesota & Eastern 6366 — the City of Winona — came into view through the snow on Track No. 1 and filled my lens. 

I zoomed back to wide angle to capture a few more shots and then waited for the rear end of this rather long train to pass for a going away shot. In the meantime, a short train — perhaps a local — passed by estbound on Track No. 2. If only that train had been a few minutes earlier or later.

I suppose I shouldn’t be greedy. But opportunities such as this don’t present themselves to me very often. I shot a few going away images and it was time to go back to Ed’s house.

By the time we got there, it had stopped snowing and it didn’t snow the rest of the day. You know the phrase, “I’d rather be lucky than good?” Had I been a more experienced and skilled snow photographer I no doubt would have gotten better photographs on this afternoon. Still, for a short time on Sunday I felt good about being lucky, very good.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Then and Now at Youngstown’s Brier Hill Shops

January 30, 2012

The weekend of Jan. 21-22, 2012, found Akron Railroad Club member Roger Durfee in Pennsylvania for a Conrail Historical Society meeting. But en route, he stopped in Youngstown to take care of some unfinished business.

Thirty-five years ago, Roger shot the above scene at Conrail’s Brier Hill shops. Before Conrail, Brier Hill sported the major classification yard in Youngstown of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad. The EL also maintained a major locomotive repair shop here.

Reportedly, the shop forces, including the managers, were railfan friendly and allowed photographers to record the array of motive power displayed there.

Look carefully at the photo above and you’ll find liveries of at least four railroads.

Initially after the Conrail takeover in 1976, Brier Hill continued to play a key role. It became the western terminus of what had once been a Conway (Pittsburgh) to Haselton Yard train. Locomotive inspections and repairs done at Gateway (Pittsburgh & Lake Erie) and Haselton (Pennsylvania) yards were shifted to Brier Hill.

The collapse of the steel industry in the Mahoning Valley combined with Conrail’s downgrading of the former EL and other lines would diminish Brier Hill. Locomotive servicing was concentrated at Conway. Much of the former EL in Ohio was downgraded or ripped up.

In modern times, some of the Brier Hill shops complex continued to be used as a repair facility by Norfolk Southern maintenance forces. The Ohio Central also uses part of Brier Hill yard.

As seen in the photograph below, though, other parts of Brier Hill are silent, with some remains serving as monuments to a glorious past.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Riding as a Passenger — For Now

January 22, 2012

Sam Sponseller gave me a heads up on a unique movement with CSX train 382. CSX units 5453 and 7723 were eastbound passing Lagrange at about 4:30 p.m.

In the consist were two GE Class 70 locomotives being transported on flat cars. These “Freightliner” units numbered 70019 and 70020 are en route to the United Kingdom.

Sam told me about some scanner chatter in which the train crew members were joking with another train about their “unique” freight move and how they will be “all over the Internet” today.

I am sure they will.

Article and Photographs by Dan Davidson


CVSR Lands $3.2M Federal Grant

January 18, 2012

Volunteers load bicyles aboard a Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train on Sept. 25, 2011, at Boston Mill. The railroad announced this week it has received a federal grant that will help refurbish a baggage car that carries bikes. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad announced on Tuesday that it will receive a $3.2 million grant from the federal government to fund construction projects on the line that operates through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The grant is part of $40.8 million being awarded nationally as part of the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks program, which is jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service. It is named after the former congressman and U.S. senator from Maryland.

The $3.2 million grant to the CVSR will:

• Install a pedestrian bridge at the Rockside Road Boarding Area in Independence.

• Pay to purchase a baggage car that will be rebuilt to provide electrical power for lighting, heat and air conditioning.

• Upgrade a 46-year-old locomotive to reduce exhaust by 90 percent and fuel consumption by 60 percent, and extend its operating life up to 30 years.

• Overhaul a fully accessible passenger car. Improvements will include new wheelchair lifts and the addition of wheelchair-friendly seats.

• Rehab a baggage car to better carry passengers bicycles.

Snow . . . and ICE at Perry

January 16, 2012

The remnants of the high pressure system that brought sunshine to Northeastern Ohio over the weekend following Saturday’s snowstorms lingered over the region on Monday morning before giving way to cloudy skies and warmer temperatures. With Monday being Martin Luther King Jr. day and a holiday where I work, it was an ideal time to catch some snow action.

Fellow Akron Railroad Club member Ed Ribinskas and I headed for Perry where we managed to find a parking spot next to the CSX tracks. Lake County was particularly hard hit by the Saturday storm, with some areas getting up to 2 feet of snow. Perry was one of those places with deep snow.

To be sure, the snow had packed down by Monday morning, but there was still plenty enough of the white stuff around to make for some interesting photography. We had scarcely parked when we heard horns to the west, which signaled what turned out to be the first of three eastbound intermodal trains running in rapid sucession.

We had heard the dispatcher on the radio tell a K symbol train at Collinwood yard that he would be following a couple of eastbound van trains.

Soon enough the K train showed up and added some ICE to the scene. OK, so technically these are Canadian Pacific locomotives and not Iowa, Chicago & Eastern units because the former has controlled the latter since 2008. 

Still, it looked like an ICE train pulling ethanol tank cars. Leading the way was SD40-2 No. 6367, the City of New Ulm, wearing Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern markings. Trailing was No. 6445, also an SD40-2, the City of Bettendorf, in a traditional ICE livery.

The train lumbered through Perry, leaving a swirling mist of snow in its wake. Yes, the ICE had been nice, real nice.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Between the Woods and Frozen Lake

January 12, 2012

An eastbound Norfolk Southern intermodal train cruises past the small lake just east of Lake Rockwell Road near Brady Lake on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012.

The run of good weather that Northeast Ohio experienced over the weekend no doubt had most railfans out trackside with their cameras. I was able to get out on Sunday for a few hours.

My plan was to park on the Main Street bridge in Kent and catch CSX westbounds with what I thought would be some interesting cloud patterns in the background. But upon arrival there, I noticed that the clouds in the northern sky did not look nearly as dramatic or interesting as they had on the drive down.

It turned out to be a moot point. I sat for a couple of hours or so and saw just one CSX train. And it was headed eastward.

With CSX apparently still out of sorts in the wake of the Friday derailment in Indiana, I decided to go over to Norfolk Southern, which presumably was running as normal.

I went for a walk on the trail adjacent to the former Erie Lackwanna line that now goes no further east than Ravenna. I noticed that the lake next to the NS tracks that I could see through the bare trees was still frozen. Hence, I was able to capture a couple of intermodals across the ice. Aside from snow what else says winter other than ice?

By now most of the clouds had passed on and the NS tracks were bathed in nice winter low light.

But after catching a pair of intermodals, NS went into snooze mode and trains became rather scarce. I continued to monitor the CSX radio frequency and heard just one train. So I wasn’t missing anything in Kent.

With the sun sinking lower in the later afternoon sky, it was time to head home for a cold beer and watching Tim Tebow and his Broncos overcome the Steelers. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad day afterall.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

If you’re going to shoot across this lake, you better like having tree limbs helping to frame your photos.


The shade helped keep this patch of snow around a while longer as the rear of an eastbound NS RoadRailer is about to pass beneath Ravenna Road.

The Erie Lackawanna isn’t running today, nor, for that matter, is the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway, whose trains infrequently shine these rails.

Nova Tower has Made it to 2012

January 12, 2012

I stopped by Nova on my way to Greenwich on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, to check out Nova tower. I found it still standing, but looking quite forlorn. The wind whistles through the upper level, and falling rain and snow continues through the roof. I took a few photos and left for Greenwich.

In days past, Nova’s operator controlled mainline crossover switches and entry switches to both an eastbound and westbound 100-car siding alongside the Baltimore & Ohio’s Chicago mainline. The tower operator controlled only the entry switches to the siding. The distant ones were either spring-loaded or opened by the train’s brakeman. The operator also issued train orders to trains crossing over and running on the opposite track (reverse) to the next tower.

The B&O was right-hand running. That operation continues today with CSX. The maneuver allowed hotshots such as the Chicago and Baltimore Jets trailer trains to pass a slower moving freight.

Operation at the tower gradually diminished during the 1970s and 1980s. It was closed on weekends and then manned by an on-call operator as needed. The train order station was closed in 1986. Operation at Nova is now controlled by the “IO” dispatcher in Indianapolis. The tower has sat basically unused for the last two and a half decades.

An agreement with the Lodi Railroad Museum has supposedly been approved by CSX. It involves transferring the tower to LRRM, but the museum has to get it off CSX property. The cost of that move and subsequent repair may be more than the LRRM can handle. Mother Nature may step in soon and resolve the issue. It could close the New Castle Sub for a while if the tower structure fell on the mainline.

Towers like Nova once dominated the railroad lines of this country. Now the operations are computer-controlled, if needed, from a desk far away. Railroad ghosts may well haunt those towers unused but which are still standing, just like Nova.

Article and Photograph by Richard Jacobs


Hudson Depot Not Long for This World

January 3, 2012

The new year is unlikely to hold good fortune for the abandoned Pennsylvania Railroad depot in Hudson. Efforts to raise funds to preserve the building fell well short of the amount needed to move the building for future restoration.

Norfolk Southern waited patiently in hopes of positive results but it has been notified that the group has given up, so down she will come. When is uncertain.

Hudson was once an important junction on the PRR’s Cleveland & Pittsburgh line. It was here that connections were made with the Cleveland, Akron & Columbus line, another PRR-owned line.  In 1941, 36 passenger trains would stop here daily.  Doodlebugs were a common site making connections from the CA&C with C&P trains.

During the holidays I took a trip there to get some photos.  The top photo one is the depot looking north along the C&P.  The second photo is looking south. To the right is the CA&C line that goes south through Cuyahoga Falls, Akron and Orrville.

Passengers from Cleveland wanting to travel west on the PRR had a disadvantage of traveling quite a distance south before transferring to a westbound train in either Alliance or Orrville.  In the same time frame, the westbound traveler on the New York Central from Cleveland was well on his way, west of Sandusky and nearing Toledo.

The third shot is from my collection and features the Hudson depot with a doodlebug on the CA&C making a connection with a northbound C&P passenger train.  As you can see when you compare the photos of today, much has changed.

Article and Photographs by Dan Davidson