Bad Luck = Missing NS 8101 Yet Again

The 24W has completed its work at the Maple Heights intermodal facility and it heading eastbound in Bedford, Ohio, on Sunday, Aug. 25.

The 24W has completed its work at the Maple Heights intermodal facility and it heading eastbound in Bedford, Ohio, on Sunday, Aug. 25.

Before I left home on Sunday morning for the Akron Railroad Club outing to Alliance I saw online that the Central of Georgia heritage locomotive was leading an eastbound train that was sitting at the fuel pad in Elkhart, Ind.

I felt a surge of excitement. Of all the Norfolk Southern heritage units that I’ve yet to photograph, No. 8101 is the one I would most like to get.

The report did not say what train the 8101 was leading. Chances were good that it might be bound for Conway Yard near Pittsburgh or beyond. If so, I had a shot at capturing it during the Akron Railroad Club outing in Alliance.

Shortly after I arrived in Alliance, fellow ARRC member Paul Tait checked Heritage Units.com on his smart phone and determined that the Central of Georgia H unit was leading the 14N, a train that would pass through Alliance.

That got me even more excited. Today was going to be the day.

You see I have a history with the 8101. On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend 2012, the 8101 led a train westward through Cleveland during the afternoon.

I drove to Olmsted Falls to catch it, only to miss it by a few minutes. In early November last year I was in the Kent-Brady Lake area when the 8101 led a westbound grain train through the area around the noon hour.

I was less than a mile away from the NS tracks, but had no idea that the 8101 was in the area. Not long after that miss, I was driving home on Chester Avenue in Cleveland when I spotted the 8101 from a distance. It was a trailing unit and I didn’t have my camera with me, not that I could have gotten a photo of it given the situation.

The 8101 has been through Northeast Ohio a few other times, but I was either working, tied up with other commitments or it came past during the nighttime hours.

Paul continued to monitor the progress of the 14N as we watched trains pass through Alliance.

The 14N moved rather slowly. It was reported at Toledo at 12:44 p.m., but didn’t get out of there until nearly 2:30. The Chicago Line was congested and the 14N would not reach Berea until 5:39 p.m. It had to change crews and work at Rockport Yard.

Just before 4 p.m., fellow ARRC officer Marty Surdyk suggested that we would have a better chance of getting the 14N and the 8102 at Bedford.

Marty learned from a source that the new crew for the 14N had been called for 5 p.m.

So we trekked up to Bedford, ending up at the Willis Picnic Area of the Bedford Reservation because the “tot lot” was full when we got there.

We had no sooner parked when Marty got a text saying the 14N didn’t have a conductor. The next available crew for the 14N was called for 7:40 p.m.

Even in a best case scenario, the chances of the 14N passing our location during daylight were pretty slim. A few NS trains ran past us until we decided about 7:30 to go to dinner.

There was barely enough sunlight peeking over and between the trees to illuminate the power of the 24W, which turned out to be the last train that I photographed on this day.

It is a nice photograph but not of equal value to what I missed out on. I went home that night feeling sharply disappointed.

Marty and I had failed in the sense that we had not achieved our objective. That doesn’t mean, though, that we were failures.

We didn’t do anything wrong or in an incompetent manner. We had a good plan, but things just didn’t work out as we had hoped. Circumstances beyond our control were just not in our favor.

I’m still disappointed that I missed the 8101, but I also understand that there is an element of luck involved in photographing heritage units, including circumstances being in your favor.

I’ll keep watching for the 8101. I might even have another outing or two where I miss it. I’d like to think that I’ll get it someday but that is not guaranteed.

One thing is for sure, though. Catching up with this locomotive is higher on my wish list now than it was before Sunday.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

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