Archive for May, 2012

Update on CSX Kent Track Work

May 29, 2012

Here are a few views of the track work progress for the CSX undercutting below the Wheeling & Lake Erie’s Cleveland Subdivision in Kent.

In the first couple of photos, note the A.R.C. lettering on the cement silo. “Akron Railroad Club” maybe 🙂 🙂

CSX 78 leads the Q394 in these two views from the W&LE bridge abutments. The white ballast “road” on the left will be the Shelly Materials lead.

CSX 7778 leads a grain train as seen from ground level.

The ground level view looking west shows how much the tracks are being undercut.
Looking east, W&LE 105 leads the northbound Solon train over the CSX tracks.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Deshler Derf Dash Proved Satisfying

May 28, 2012

On my way to Derf fest in Deshler — so called because of the Derf chicken that is served — we came to an advanced state of whoa in Attica.

A Norfolk Southern coal train was blocking the U.S. Route 224 crossing. The head end power was just south of town so we detoured to check it out.

Two Dash 9s were hammerhead style (long hood forward). I thought this was strange, particularly where he was stopped he could have moved further south you would think.

Then it hit me that this wasn’t the head end but the rear of the coal train.

The power that I was looking at was the helper set. This is common in places like Pennsylvania and Virginia but not central Ohio.

We proceeded north to Attica Jct. (Siam) to find the head end. This was a monster coal train stretching over two miles long.

He was holding for a couple southbound NS trains and finally proceeded north when they cleared.

He then stopped north of the diamonds with CSX and blocked the Ohio Route 4 crossing. If the goal was to block every crossing in Ohio he was succeeding.

Also at Siam was an eastbound CSX ethanol train with two ICE SD40-2s waiting on a crew. Several CSX trains passed him but he still didn’t move so we continued our trip.

At Deshler we found a very crowded rail park and got many more good pictures. After camping out I got some reflection shots in the morning.

On the way back home I got a surprise in Fostoria. CSX has updated a former Chessie safety caboose, which is used as the shoving platform on a local freight.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Bridging the Motive Power Generation Gap

May 27, 2012

It is almost a requirement that if you are in Bellevue photographing trains that you must visit the streamlined passenger locomotive sitting at the far north end of the property of the Mad River & NKP Museum.

Rusting away on a spur track is former New York Central E8A No. 4070, still wearing its Penn Central markings as No. 4321.

Built in June 1953, the 4070 pulled intercity passenger trains for two decades until Penn Central placed it in commuter service in New York City. New Jersey Transit also briefly operated the locomotive.

For a while, the locomotive sat in Logansport, Ind., before being moved to Bellevue in 1996 on the rear of a Norfolk Southern freight train.

On Friday (May 25), while in Bellevue with Ed Ribinskas and Jeff Troutman, I caught the NS 184 with a CN SD70M-2 in the lead passing the PC 4321 on the adjacent NS Toledo District.

The two locomotives were a few hundred feet apart, but the distance was far wider than that in several other respects.

CN 8885 is an SD70M-2 that is the DC traction version of the SD70Ace. Production of the SD70M-2 began in 2005 and CN has 190 of these units on its roster.

The SD70M-2 prime mover is rated at 4,300 horsepower and the unit has all of the bells and whistles that you would expect a modern locomotive to have.

Both locomotives are EMD products, but the similarities end there.

Still, for one moment in time on a windy Friday afternoon, they bridged the gap of several motive power generations.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Another Type of Heritage Locomotive

May 21, 2012

This past Saturday (May 19), I went to Chicago to present a shortened version of my steel mills program at the Homewood Railroad Days slide show.

Of course I got many good train pictures, but the best was catching the Iowa Interstate’s Rock Island heritage locomotive at Blue Island.

We first pulled up and an IAIS ethanol train was backing into the Indiana Harbor Belt yard. Imagine my surprise/shock to see the Rock Island heritage unit was on the head end.

But I was on the wrong side with the sun.

Knowing the power would return at some point, we waited and railfanned for a couple of hours. Train traffic was steady with a good variety, including CSX, IHB and Canadian National. Even Norfolk Southern and a BC Rail engine went by our lenses.

Finally the Rock Island unit returned light facing the right direction for the sun.

IAIS trains must do a reverse move through the interlocking and he had to wait another hour for things to clear up enough to get back to its own line.

The wait was well worth it for us.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon



Window of Opportunity in Kent

May 16, 2012

This is the classic westbound CSX shot in Kent. But notice how this is different from a hundred other images you’ve seen made at this location? Track 2 is gone, for now, as CSX undercuts the roadbed to increase clearances.

If you haven’t been to Kent lately to photograph the CSX New Castle Subdivision operations there, you need to get there on the double. And make plans to go back more than once this summer.

Railfan photographers have a window of opportunity to record some images in Kent that are not going to be available again.

As CSX increases clearances on the New Castle Sub and elsewhere on the former Baltimore & Ohio Chicago-Washington, D.C., mainline, the track configuration is changing. It is particularly noticeable in Kent where sections of Track 2 have been removed for undercutting work.

Workers can undercut a track without removing it, but in Kent the undercutting also involves removing part of the bedrock shelf on which the CSX tracks rest.

On a recent Saturday, Roger Durfee and I paid a visit to Kent to check out the single tracking going on there.

Chipping away at the bedrock is painstaking work and doesn’t look to be finished immediately. Once Track 2 is lowered, the same routine will play out on Track 1.

For now photographers have the chance to make images of trains passing through Kent on Track 1 with Track 2 missing.

But that is not the only change. Work was done previously to reconfigure the former Erie Railroad tracks, now owned by the Portage Country Port Authority and used by the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway.

Yet another change is not good news for photographers. We noticed on Saturday that the trees and vegetation on the east side of the Cuyahoga River seem to have accelerated their growth. It won’t be long before views of westbound CSX trains taken from the north sidewalk of the Main Street bridge with the river in the background will be largely a thing of the past.

The clearance work is a boost to railfans. Trains approaching Kent must call the CSX foreman to get permission to pass the work site.

With the line single tracked between CP 120 west of Kent and FS near Ravenna, that means rail traffic in the area will become congested at times.

Last Saturday, an eastbound manifest freight waited at CP 120 for three westbounds before being allowed over the single track.

With a good telephoto lens, you can capture meets at the new CP 120 crossovers from the Middlebury Road bridge.

Once the work is done, CSX will be able to route doublestack container trains over the New Castle Sub. Whether this means an increase in rail traffic remains to be seen.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

An eastbound auto rack train begins to pass the section of Track 2 that has been removed. Note that the removed track has been stacked on top of the original track by the former Kent passenger station.

Chipping away at the bedrock is a slow process. Crews are working at removing rock beneath the Main Street bridge.

Workers are also working to shore up the retaining walls on the east side of the CSX tracks.

CSX still has a railroad to run and when a train approaches, the workers must stop what they are doing, move equipment out of the way and stand aside as the train passes. Note that the machinery seen in the photograph above has been folded up.

Following the Coal Mine Railroad Operations of Southwest Pennsylvania

May 16, 2012

The Cumberland Mine Railroad shuttles coal hoppers between a mine and a barge loading facility.It does not connect with any other railroads. (Photograph by Todd Dillon)

On a recent Saturday, Todd Dillon spent the day checking out two railroad mining operations in southwestern Pennsylvania. One involved CSX and the other a 17-mile short line you may never of heard of: The Cumberland Mine Railroad. To read Todd’s story and view a gallery of photographs, click on the link below.

Bagging My First NS Heritage Unit

May 14, 2012

The shot of the day was from the Miami Street overpass in Toledo. The 414 with NS 8114 is moving forward on Track 2 before backing into the Stanley Secondary.

For more than a month, railfan photographers have been salivating at the prospect of catching the Norfolk Southern 30th anniversary heritage locomotives that have been rolling out of shops at the rate of about one per week.

Photographs of NS heritage units have been plastered all over the Internet and tales of catching one of the prized locomotives have dominated many trackside conversations.

But work obligations had me chained to my desk for nearly as long as the heritage units had been plying the rails. “When will I get to see, let along photograph, my first heritage unit?” I often wondered as I saw photo after photo of locomotives celebrating the memory of such railroads as the Pennsylvania, Nickel Plate Road, Conrail and Norfolk & Western, among others.

“Which of these would be the first that I would see?”

My work obligations finally began easing late last week and I vowed that I’d get out over the weekend to bag an NS heritage unit.

Fellow ARRC member Roger Durfee told me on Friday night that the Norfolk Southern heritage unit was at Mingo Junction and we made plans to go see it Saturday morning.

But that idea evaporated due to cloudy skies.

Roger tracks the location of the NS heritage units more closely than many people keep tabs on their stock portfolios. He thought there was a chance that one of the units might make it to Northeast Ohio by Sunday afternoon.

When I called him Sunday morning about 9 a.m. to see what he knew, it was the proverbial bad news-good news-bad news situation.

The bad news was that it was unlikely that any heritage units east of Ohio would make their way here on Sunday.

The good news was that the Norfolk Southern heritage unit had reached Cleveland during the night and would be going west to Toledo on a coke train.

The bad news was that I was tied up with obligations at home through late morning. Roger said I could ride with him on the chase, but would I have time to catch up with him before NS 8114 left town? Things didn’t look too promising.

I finished my domestic obligations and called Roger. The new crew of the coke train, the 414, was not yet on the train, so it would not be leaving just yet. The crew could show up at any minute, though, and the train could charge westward shortly thereafter. Or maybe not.

I began racing toward Roger’s location near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Roger said he’d call me if the train began moving. I eyed my cell phone warily as I glided westward on I-480.

As I approached the exit for the airport, I got some good news. There in bright sunshine was the Norfolk Southern heritage unit in its brilliant orange, yellow and black sitting just north of the Ohio Route 237 ramp leading off I-480 toward the airport.

Maybe this thing will work out after all. At least I got to see it.

The train began moving as I neared Roger’s position. A coke train doesn’t exactly accelerate like a jack rabbit from a standing stop, so I was able to park, get my camera out and get into position.

Let the record show that I got my first photograph of an NS heritage unit at 11:10 a.m. on Sunday, May 13.

Chasing this train would be a challenge. There was no rail traffic ahead of it. Roger figured – correctly – that the crew could taste a short day of maybe three hours before going off duty. It had plenty of incentive to keep the throttle open.

And that is what happened. The lumbering train picked up speed and kept rolling along.

The Toledo East dispatcher offered a glimmer of hope that maybe this would not be the straight shot to Toledo that the crew wanted.

Signal problems near Fairlane had her single-tracking while a maintainer worked to resolve the issues. If the maintainer didn’t clear up by the time the 414 got there, it would have to wait for three eastbounds.

It was what we wanted to hear, but shortly thereafter the maintainer released his track authority and only a grade crossing protection order would slow the coke train’s progress.

Some deft driving by Roger got us ahead of the 414. We figured to make our first intermediate photo stop near Bay Bridge west of Sandusky.

We almost squandered that opportunity. Roger wasn’t sure what road to take to find the spot he wanted to photograph near Gypsum. We didn’t have a DeLorme atlas or a GPS.

We wandered around a bit, keeping an ear on the radio. We did not hear the 414 calling signals. That turned out to be because the NS 8114 didn’t have the greatest radio.

As we made our way down a private road near CP 253, we saw a headlight bearing down on us a short distance to the east as we crossed the tracks. “Where did that come from?”

We had just enough time to bail out, set up and fire away.

We got back to Route 2 and continued the chase. Exiting onto Ohio Route 163, we barreled toward Oak Harbor.

The highway and railroad tracks were within sight of each other for much of this section, so we knew we had caught and passed the 414.

But we also knew that we weren’t that far ahead of it, either. Roger suggested finding a place for an across the field shot, but we couldn’t find anything that was open enough.

Traffic and red lights slowed our progress through Oak Harbor. There was no chance of getting a photograph here.

Indeed, the 414 had gotten ahead of us again. We set our sights on Millbury.

We could hear a stack train, the 21G, calling signals behind the 414. On another day that would have been good news because the stacker was gaining on the coke train.

The dispatcher noticed that, too, but told the 21G that she couldn’t run him around the 414 because there was a steady stream of eastbound traffic ahead on Track 2.

The 414 crew must have sensed its clear path into Toledo because it kept highballing along as though it was Amtrak’s Capitol Limited.

We made Millbury and barely had enough time to get out and shoot at a grade crossing.

Catching the 414 at Vickers seemed out of the question, so Roger made contact with his friend Michael Harding. We met on the road and Harding led us to the Miami Street overpass in Toledo.

As it turned out, the 414 got delayed at Vickers, enabling what I am sure was a good crowd of photographers to get good photos.

Earlier in the journey, the crew of the 414 had told the Toledo East dispatcher that it was a celebrity train today. She didn’t know what that meant.

So the crew explained that it had one of the new NS heritage units and photographers were out taking its picture.

As we were driving through Toledo, we heard the 414 declare an emergency. As it was starting to move at Vickers, it lost its air.

The Toledo Yard dispatcher had informed the 414 that it would be crossing over from 1 track to 2 track and then backing into the Stanley Secondary.

We set up on the Miami Street bridge and waited. I had never railfanned in Toledo before, so I made the most of the wait by photographing an eastbound manifest freight crossing the Maumee River on the swing bridge.

By now the last of the clouds that had cast a pall over Toledo earlier in the day were moving out and we saw clear skies to the west.

That eastbound manifest freight momentarily kept the 414 from moving ahead, which meant the 21G had to cool its heels as well. A northbound CSX train crossing NS at Vickers on the former Toledo Terminal also figured into the traffic flow.

The traffic cleared, the 414 had its air back and everything began unfolding as intended. For a brief moment we thought we might get a side-by-side shot of the NS 8114 and the head end of the 21G.

But it was not to be. The 414’s head end was well ahead of the stack train by the time the 21G arrived at our location.

The crew of the 414 tied the train down after putting it into the Stanley Secondary.

It was still mid afternoon and Roger wanted to wait until about 5 p.m. when the side lighting on the 8114 would be nice.

We killed time by photographing from the Route 795 overpass a Canadian National train creeping into CSX’s Stanley Yard.

Then we went out to Vickers, which Roger had assured me is one of the busiest rail junctions in Ohio. A CSX northbound was crossing as we arrived, but over the next hour or so the place was quiet. There wasn’t even a peep on the NS road channel.

We had started to make our way back to the Stanley Secondary when we spotted a headlight on CSX. It was a southbound stack train and it would have to wait for NS trains in each direction.

After that flurry, we got the static shots of the 8114 that we wanted.

The CN train we had shot earlier at Stanley Yard was ready to go back to Lang Yard so we waited near Vickers to shoot what would be our last train of the day.

The attraction on this train wasn’t the two generally filthy CN units up front, but the third unit, a BC Rail locomotive.

And with that we headed toward Cleveland. Toledo seems like a nice railroad town. I ought to get back there sometime soon.

Article by Craig Sanders

Photographs by Roger Durfee

What a beauty it was in the sunlight.

We almost missed getting this shot at Millbury.

The view from the Miami Street overpass in Toledo was the best of the day.

From here the 414 backed up into the Stanley Secondary. This gave us two opportunities to shoot the NS 8114.

On the Stanley Secondary in late afternoon light.

New ‘Horse’ Testing on the CVSR

May 14, 2012

Arriving in Penninsula.

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is testing another eco locomotive, National Railway Equipment Company’s 2GS14B No. 1400.

On April 29, I took advantage of a sunny Sunday morning to follow the first southbound CVSR train from Peninsula to Akron.

A clean No. 1400 was leading with an equally clean “Baltimore & Ohio” No. 800 on the north end.

Since these photographs were taken, No. 800 has been sidelined with mechanical problems and No. 1400 has been moved to the north end of the train.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

At the Peninsula station stop.

Along Riverview Road.

Pulling into Akron’s Northside station.

A genset coupled to a round end observation car. How many places can you see that?

Inside Amtrak’s 40th Anniversary Train

May 14, 2012

Some Amtrak F40PH locomotives have had their prime movers removed and been converted to a control unit. No. 406 often faced west on the Amtrak 40th display train during its national tour.

The day started out overcast, but I made my way to Toledo all the same to attend the National Train Day event there on May 5.

After being distracted by a Wheeling & Lake Erie freight train around Norwalk, I arrived at the Toledo station shortly after 1 p.m. The Amtrak 40th Anniversary special was on display and there was a huge crowd.

Aside from the Amtrak display train, there was a train show inside the station where fellow Akron Railroad Club member Ron McElrath had a table.

The crowd was much larger than I had imagined, which is a good thing, I hope, for the next generation of railfans.

The train tour was free but involved about an hour’s wait. I wandered around taking pictures. The line went down some—still a 30 to 40 minute wait—but it was worth it.

Three baggage cars featured displays of the various eras of Amtrak. The displays started with the “rainbow era” then progressed to Amfleet, Superliners, Acela and some future concepts that were very interesting.

Upon leaving, I explored the former Pennsylvania Railroad Carrothers branch to Tiffin. Now a short line, it uses a couple of GP9s, one of which is still painted for Central Kansas Railway.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Large crowds congregated inside Toledo’s Central Union Terminal for a train show that was part of the National Train Day event there on May 5.

NS F Units Pass Through

May 14, 2012

The Norfolk Southern “pocket OCS” glides through Bedford, Ohio. (Photograph by Roger Durfee)

An abbreviated version of the Norfolk Southern executive train passed through Northeast Ohio last week en route to Chicago for display at the National Train Day event at Union Station.

It wasn’t much of a train. It had an A unit, a B unit and a display car. In Elkhart, Ind., the train picked up the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit.

The train pictured above plus the PRR heritage unit left Chicago after the National Train Day event concluded and passed through the Cleveland around 6:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.