The trains that passed Warwick Park on Sunday where the Akron Railroad Club had its annual summer picnic seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary.
The day’s final count was 15 trains, which was well above the low of nine but far short of the record of 21.
The trains pretty much mirrored the usual level, distribution and type of traffic that you might expect on a given day on the New Castle Subdivision.
Four of the trains carried general merchandise, four had auto racks, two had empty crude oil tankers, two had double-stacked containers, one had empty stone hoppers, one had coke hoppers and one was a light power move.
The motive power assignments were pretty ordinary, too. Most of it was CSX owned, although six trains had non-CSX power on the lead. This included four trains led by BNSF power, one led by a FURX unit still wearing some Norfolk Southern markings, and an NS unit leading an auto rack train.
Some trains also had foreign units trailing, all of them owned by locomotive leasing companies. Two of the “rent-a-wrecks” wore the colors of former owners Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific, but the lettering and logos of UP and CP had been painted over.
The BNSF units provided a splash of color that contrasted with CSX’s ubiquitous blue, yellow and gray. But BNSF units are not uncommon in Northeast Ohio.
There were no locomotives from a far-away regional, short line or passenger hauler; and no lesser-seen locomotives from such Class I railroads as Kansas City Southern, Canadian Pacific or even Canadian National.
There were no “locomotives of interest” as HeritageUnits.com likes to call locomotives of Class 1 and regional railroads that its members track. This would include heritage locomotives of Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific, among others.
Nor was there anything out of the ordinary behind the motive power. There were no passenger cars, cabooses or exotic freight cars.
There were a few interesting sightings, but nothing that you couldn’t wait to get home to post online that would cause a ripple of excitement in the cyberspace railfan community.
What we saw on Sunday during the ARRC picnic was more of what we’ve seen dozens of time before.
Every time that I set out on a day-long railfan outing, there is always the anticipation of getting something out of the ordinary.
More often than not, I come home at the end of the day with more of the same old, same old.
As I drove home Sunday night my thoughts kept coming back to Richard Jacobs’ program at the ARRC meeting 48 hours earlier.
Much, of what Jake showed can’t be seen anymore unless it is in a museum or serving out its years on some out-of-the-way short line or tourist carrier.
For example, Jake showed GG1s pulling Amtrak trains at Princeton Junction, N.J. Today, you can’t ride behind an operable GG1.
Jake showed locomotives of the Erie Lackawanna, Lehigh Valley, Central of New Jersey and the Reading. Today those fallen flags have been gone for decades.
Yet in 1973, much of what Jake showed us last Friday was “ordinary” or “the usual” for that railroad in that location.
It is hard to imagine that someday those CSX wide cab locomotives that are so ordinary today will be of interest to those watching slide shows, or photographs in books, magazines or websites.
Some who attended Sunday’s picnic in Warwick can remember when the railroads in town were the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania. Go back 50 years and spend a Sunday in Warwick and you’d see a lot of “ordinary” B&O and Pennsy motive power.
As they ate their burgers and hotdogs, those guys probably lamented that you couldn’t see steam anymore. Go back another 25 years and steam locomotives were just as “ordinary” as wide cab diesels are today.
Even on this past Sunday, I made it a point to make a few images of the ordinary that I know will not be so ordinary much longer. This included the color position light signals still standing guard at the east end of the yard where the double track becomes single track.
There is also more that goes into making a photograph what it is than the equipment being shown. Differences in lighting, composition and technical quality can make an image of an ordinary locomotive or train into something extraordinary. Much of photography is still about location and what you do with it.
There was much I was hoping that I might see on Sunday that never materialized. But in looking back on what I did see, maybe it wasn’t so ordinary after all.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
Trains Seen at ARRC Picnic 2014
8:55 a.m. K067 CSX 5201 Empty crude oil tankers
9:08 a.m. K919 CSX 86 Empty stone hoppers
9:17 a.m. Q226 CSX 661 Auto racks
19:22 a.m. L137 BNSF 4401 Light power move
10:39 a.m. Q353 CSX 8732 Manifest freight
10:47 a.m. Q216 CSX 7566 Auto racks
11:21 a.m. Q015 CSX 7605 Intermodal (containers)
12:24 p.m. Q363 BNSF 4128 Manifest freight
1:56 p.m. K381 CSX 3064 Coke
2:12 p.m. Q389 CSXZ 908 Manifest freight
3:04 p.m. Q016 BNSF 7145 Intermodal (containers)
3:58 p.m. Q330 FURX 5505 Manifest freight
4:12 p.m. Q296 CSX 4724 Auto racks
5:05 p.m. K065 BNSF 7816 Empty crude oil tankers
6:42 p.m. Q299 NS 9222 Auto racks