Sunday Exploring My Backyard

Norfolk Southern 2668, an SD70M-2, leads train 309 across the former Nickel Plate Road drawbridge over the Cuyahoga River and the Flats. The train had a rather short consist.

Sunday, July 8, 2012, was the kind of warm and sunny day that would have been just right for going to a ballgame, picnic or maybe even railfanning. Although the Cleveland Indians were in town taking on the Tampa Bay Rays, I elected to chase trains. In the process, I was able to see Progressive Field where the Tribe plays.

Friend Adam Barr and I decided to explore some new territory in our backyard in Cleveland. We left Adam’s house about 8:30 a.m. and made our way to the Tremont neighborhood. The parking lot for the University Inn on 7th Street has an expansive view of the former Nickel Plate Road drawbridge and trestle over the Cuyahoga River and the Flats.

As impressive as this view is, though, train traffic on the line is not heavy. You can sit for a long time and see nothing.

After setting up, we learned that we had just missed an eastbound, but could hear Norfolk Southern train 145 calling signals in the distance. The lighting was less than ideal, but I managed to snag a few decent images, particularly using the Inner Belt bridge and the NS trestle as framing devices.

One reason we came here was because construction of the first of two new Inner Belt bridges is well underway. Demolition of a giant warehouse that stood next to Interstate 90 for decades has opened new vistas. Once the Inner Belt bridges are completed, they will change the landscape here.

Neither Adam nor myself had been down here before, so it was time to do some exploring.

With nothing on the radio after the passage of the 145, we decided to check another new location, Battery Park. This upscale housing development sits next to the NS Chicago Line just west of downtown.

Rail traffic was at a standstill shortly after we arrived due to the drawbridge over the Cuyahoga being up. After the river traffic had cleared and the bridge was lowered, we had a flurry of trains, two westbounds and an eastbound.

We then heard the NS Cleveland District dispatcher talking to the 22K, which was on the Cloggsville Connection to the ex-NKP. We headed back toward where we had been, but decided to park on or near Abbey Road and walk in on that Abby Road bridge.

We weren’t sure if we had missed the 22K or not. We didn’t see it during the couple of times we crossed the NS tracks en route. Then we noticed the drawbridge was up and a lake freighter was heading down river.

After the American Courage passed, we waited for what seemed like an agonizingly long time, all the while  wondering if 22K had gotten past us somehow. That seemed unlikely. Besides, the home signal for the drawbridge displayed an approach indication for an eastbound move.

At last we spotted the 22K rounding a curve and heading toward our position on the Abbey Road bridge.

After lunch at the Flying Fig restaurant near the West Side Market, we returned to the parking lot next to the University Inn. After another long wait, I heard a distant and scratchy radio transmission that sounded like a train calling a signal.

It would turn out to be the 309. We would have a westbound in reasonably good light — or at least as good as it can be at 2:30 in the afternoon on a July day — for a shot with the Cleveland skyline in the background.

Like the 145, the 309 had a short consist. The dispatcher had indicated that the 309 would recrew at Rockport Yard. Perhaps it would pick up a few cars there, too.

Adam had some family obligations to take care of, so we prepared to leave. But I spotted a lake freighter heading up river. We stayed to photograph the Calumet. It easily dwarfed the pleasure craft that passed it.

Then again, the trains had been easily dwarded by the massive bridges over the Flats. It was like looking at a forest of steel and concrete.

It had been hot, but not unbearable. The breeze felt nice and the humidity was much lower than it had been on Saturday. We had photographed a lot of trains, but had recorded images in new territory for both of us. I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer Sunday afternoon.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

NS 145 lumbers across the trestle over the Flats on Sunday morning. In the lead is SD60 No. 6568.

Although Cleveland sits next to Lake Erie for several miles, there are few places in the city to photograph trains with the lack in the background. An opening in the trees opposite Battery Park provides such an opportunity if you don’t mind the wires in the background. The white dots on the lake are sail boats.

An eastbound NS manifest freight passes the community center at Battery Park on track No. 2. Leading is NS 9444, a dash 9 that is oh so common here.

NS 22K crosses a bridge over a city street as it approaches the Abbey Road overpass west of the drawbridge on the former Nickel Plate Road line. A passing lake freighter delayed the train, but in this view the double stack container train is on the move eastbound.

Bridges, bridges everywhere. The lead locomotive of NS 145 is dwarfed by a steel city of bridges. The locomotives have just passed beneath the Inner Belt bridge carrying I-90 over the Flats and Cuyahoga River. The pier to the right will support the new Inner Belt bridge that is now under construction. The bridge to the left is the ex-NKP drawbridge.


Lake freighter American Courage is about to clear the ex-NKP drawbridge over the Cuyahoga River as it slowly makes it way down river.

Calumet slowly goes up river as a sail boat under motor power has pulled to the side to led the much larger vessel pass. The Cuyahoga River makes a number of bends here, hence the Indian name meaning crooked river.

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3 Responses to “Sunday Exploring My Backyard”

  1. Marty Surdyk Says:

    I thought the Abbey Rd. bridge was closed and removed as part of the Interbelt Project? Were you flying in the air? How did you get those shots?

    • csanders429 Says:

      If the Abbey Road bridge was closed earlier, it is open now. Traffic is being maintained on one lane, going northbound only. The sidewalk is still open and the bridge is heavily used by pedestrians and bicycles. There is construction on the bridge, though.

  2. Marty Surdyk Says:

    COOL, have to remember that for future shooting.

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