Shortest Day of the Year Outing–Part 2

Who says that all raiilroad photos must have a train in them? The sun sets on Sunday, Dec. 23 on the CSX tracks in Berea.

Who says that all raiilroad photos must have a train in them? The sun sets on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, on the CSX tracks in Berea, turning them into ribbons of steel.

Second of Two Parts

Less than a couple of minutes after I had departed the depot at Olmsted Falls, I spotted a familiar figure at Grand Pacific Junction. I knew it was fellow ARRC officer Marty Surdyk because of the Santa Fe jacket he was wearing. If the weather is cool or even cold, chances are Marty will be wearing his Santa Fe jacket.

I wheeled into the parking lot and Marty said he was there to seek out some Christmas photos with or without trains. He said he’d join me at Berea in a little while.

I saw two CSX trains before getting to the Berea railfan parking lot. An eastbound intermodal train was crossing Bagley Road above me and a manifest freight was cruising west as I drove on Depot Street. In the meantime, I had stopped at Mickey Ds to grab a chicken sandwich from the dollar menu.

Marty arrived at Berea about 10 minutes after I did. This sort of made it an ARRC outing because two club members were present even if we had not planned it that way.

A third club member soon joined us in spirit. We heard on the scanner the familiar voice of David Mangold who had taken over as the engineer of the 14N in Rockport Yard. Dave would be at the controls to Conway Yard in Pittsburgh.

Well, maybe he would be. After giving three-step protection and doing various maneuvers, Dave noticed that the lead locomotive on the 14N wasn’t set up right to be a lead unit. I can’t say I understood what he meant, but he had some discussions with the operations people at NS about it. This went on for what seemed a long time.

In the meantime, Marty and I spent time visiting, talking about club business and lamenting the lack of CSX westbound trains. The sun angle would have made for a nice photo with the former Big Four station, which reopened more than a month ago as a restaurant, as a prop.

Marty got a call from home. His Coshocton brother – the one who works for the Ohio Central – and his family had arrived for Christmas. Hoping to buy time, Marty said there was a westbound on CSX that he wanted to photograph and then he’d come home.

That wasn’t quite true. There may have been a westbound train somewhere on CSX headed toward Berea, but not nearby. Just before 4:30, Marty gave up the wait and headed home without getting a photograph of that elusive westbound.

By now, Dave had gotten his lead locomotive set up or decided it could make it to Pittsburgh anyway or whatever. The conductor called the dispatcher and said the 14N was ready to go.

NS traffic had been fairly steady all afternoon. Not so CSX. During the time that Marty and I spent at Berea – about two and a half hours – the only CSX trains had been two eastbound manifest freights.

The sun kept sinking and with it went my hopes of getting late day light on the former Big Four depot and the nose of a westbound CSX train.

The consolation prize was good sunset images looking down the CSX tracks. I even got an eastbound NS RoadRailer coming out of the setting sun in one of those images.

You can probably guess happened once the sun dipped below the tree line at 4:59 p.m. The CSX road channel came to life with a westbound intermodal train calling signals. It arrived less than five minutes later.

I was content to get a going away shot of the intermodal train headed into the last light of day bending over the horizon. As a bonus, an NS train was passing through at the same time.

It had been a good day. I had captured some nice static sunset images and a few interesting after the sunset shots. I turned off my camera and put it in the camera bag. I packed away my scanner and took the antenna off the roof of my car. Time to head home and enjoy a bottle of Christmas ale while watching the rest of the Browns-Broncos game.

But wait! Off to the west I saw a headlight on CSX through the trees. An eastbound was coming.

“OK, I have time for one more shot.” It turned out to be a second section of the Salad Bowl Express, that Union Pacific-CSX run through train that originates on the West Coast and carries perishables on an expedited schedule to a terminal near Albany, N.Y.

It has all UP reefers and motive power, but those are not easily identified in the darkness. I did get a nice shot of the lead locomotive silhouetted again the last rays of red sunlight.

CSX wasn’t done yet. There was a headlight to the east of another westbound intermodal train. As it was passing by, an eastbound manifest freight came through. That made for a good shot of the eastbound’s headlight illuminating the sides of the westbound containers as the trains rounded the slight curve in Berea to the west of the parking lot.

If you’re counting, that was four CSX trains in less than 20 minutes. That flurry also brought the Berea count to nine NS trains and six CSX trains. Not bad for about three and half hours on a winter day. I was happy to take it.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

A Norfolk Southern RoadRailer comes out of the setting set at Berea, Moments later the sun would dip below the horizon.

An eastbound Norfolk Southern RoadRailer comes out of the setting set at Berea. Moments later the sun would dip below the horizon.

The sun has set but the afterglow of the last light of day remains as another NS trains trundles through Berea.

The sun has set but the afterglow of the last light of day remains as another NS trains trundles through Berea.

Yeah, I should have known that about five minutes after the sun set that CSX would send a westbound train through Berea.

Yeah, I should have known that about five minutes after the sun had set that CSX would send a westbound train through Berea. There was just enough light to illuminate things.

The westbound CSX intermodal train chases the setting sun as an NS train also rumbles along on the nearby tracks.

The westbound CSX intermodal train chases the setting sun as a westbound NS manifest freight also rumbles along on the nearby tracks.

My trip home was delayed by the approach of a second section of the "Salad Bow Express" headed eastward. You can't tell, but that's a Union Pacific locomotive on the lead.

My trip home was delayed by the approach of a second section of the “Salad Bowl Express” headed eastward. You can’t tell, but that’s a Union Pacific locomotive on the lead.

Moments after the perishables train had cleared along came another westbound stack train on CSX. Where were these guys a half hour ago?

Moments after the perishables train had cleared, along came another westbound intermodal  train on CSX. Where were these guys a half hour ago?

Two CSX trains meet at Berea. That made four trains in less than 20 minutes. Not a bad way to end the day.

Two CSX trains meet at Berea. That made four trains in less than 20 minutes. Not a bad way to end the day. The approaching eastbound train is a manifest freight.

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