The Chaos Theory of Railfanning Worked

Other than endless hours of trains on YouTube and a blizzard-filled trip on Amtrak to Wisconsin and back right after Christmas, our railroad activities have been few and far between lately and we have been unable to attend any Akron Railroad Club meetings for awhile because of schedule conflicts.

On a recent Saturday Max’s mom had a lot going on, so after a morning round of playing old time fiddle tunes with friends at a local restaurant, we decided to go watch trains.

After a late start, we stopped for gas and then decided to go to Berea because we haven’t been there in awhile.

As we arrived, two Norfolk Southern locomotives sat idling in front of us and headlights shown around the curve off to the west. There sure were a lot of railfans with cameras here for such a cold, blah day. We had left the camera at home.

Those headlights pulled up and stopped in front of us. Of course it was Max who pointed out his first long-awaited heritage unit. It was the Wabash locomotive but I think he was hoping for a Pennsy unit.

We were beginning to catch on as the Wabash unit and its mate backed up toward the 24M. I was amazed at how many people clearly knew what was going on well in advance, and no doubt some ARRC members were hovering around somewhere, but the car was just too warm to venture out more than the few minutes it takes to enjoy the up-close throb of passing CSX trains, one of which seemed to be belching out a little extra smoke that smelled more like kerosene than diesel fuel.

Much of the rest you already know that we watched a few trains and then finally saw the Wabash pull out and head eastward. On a whim we decide to follow. That’s not something we normally get around to doing.

Heading out of Berea I thought we’d take I-71 north and see if we could catch up with the 24M toward Cleveland.

I was stuck behind someone in a little red car poking along in the passing lane and couldn’t do much about it when I became aware of someone in a gold SUV behind me who seemed to be on a mission that required slightly more expedient travel conditions. Could it b e someone else with the Wabash on his mind?

As we began to head north toward I-71, Marty Surdyk pulled around us and headed off toward the I-480 east ramp.

I was committed to going north on I-71 while someone who clearly knew what was going on and had a plan was headed elsewhere.

So we just kept traveling alongside the 24M as long as we could, before looping around and heading south on I-77, passing under the same smoke-puffing eastbound CSX freight that we had just watched in Berea.

We kept a steady move on as I tried to figure out where would be the easiest place to get to from I-271.

I got off at Broadway and headed straight down to the south end of the yards in Macedonia, turned around and parked under the I-271 bridge next to the tracks.

In a few moments, a long westbound train came through with a number of BNSF units, but we were looking north, hoping we had gotten here in time.

As soon as the westbound freight cleared the area, I saw the reflection of headlights on the rails and the Wabash unit came into view and rolled past.

From there we headed to Willoughby where we again ran into the same smoke-coughing CSX eastbound freight.

Checking the Internet the next day, I could only chuckle as I saw where others had set up camp and caught the Wabash unit.

Sometimes I think we catch more exciting or unusual train action by random acts then we do by trying to have a clue as to what’s going on. So perhaps there is more to chaos theory than meets the eye.

Article by Ken Roby

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