Remembering a 2008 Sandusky District Outing

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My favorite photograph made on a day on the NS Sandusky District in July 2008. The train appears to be coming out of the corn field.

If you saw Marty Surdyk’s program Friday night in which he reviewed his railroad photography work of 2014, you might have guesses that he has a fondness for traveling to north central Ohio to photograph trains.

In particular, he likes to patrol the Sandusky District of Norfolk Southern between Bellevue and Bucyrus. Seeing his images taken there from the past summer brought back some memories or a 2008 journey I made with Marty and his brother Robert to the Sandusky District.

Until I joined the Akron Railroad Club in summer 2003 most of my railfanning had been confined to Berea.

I made periodic trips to Marion and got in some railfanning in Orrville during that town’s annual railroad days celebration. But more often than not I went to Berea on Saturday or Sunday and sat there all day.

Some of the guys I met would talk about places like Willard, Bellevue and Fostoria, but I had never seen them.

That began to change after I joined the ARRC and got to know Marty. He volunteered to take me out and show me places I had heard other railfans talk about.

Most of our travels involved going out on the CSX mainlines leading west of Cleveland and Akron as well as the NS Chicago Line.

Of all the places I visited with Marty the one that intrigued me the most was the NS Sandusky District.

I had seen Sandusky District trains in Marion, but never pursued them beyond there.

Unlike the other railroad routes we visited, the Sandusky District had a north-south orientation.

I was struck by how much of a rolling profile that this piece of railroad had. No, it wasn’t hills or rugged terrain. But it was enough up and down to make for some interesting photographs.

I also liked how the Sandusky District cut through farmlands that reminded me a lot of where I grew up in east central Illinois.

One Sunday visit to the Sandusky District that I made with Marty was particularly memorable.

It was July 13, 2008, on a sunny day with just enough white puffy clouds to make the sky interesting. We spent all afternoon and part of the evening chasing trains between Frank and Ridgeton.

I was a committed slide film shooter then, usually using Kodak Ektachrome 200 or Fuji Provia film. Sometimes I’d stick a roll of Fuji Velvia into my Canon Rebel G.

I had just begun having Dodd Camera copy my images onto a CD when they were processed which I thought gave me the best of both worlds of film and digital.

All images that you see with this article came from that CD and they are not of the same quality as digital images made with a digital camera. But they are adequate.

Marty was familiar with the Sandusky District having been on it many times. So he knew the best places to photograph.

Much of what we did and talked about that day has been lost in the fog of time.

We probably found a Subway, which is Marty’s go-to place for lunch. Much of our day likely was spent on the highways and rural roads looking for NS trains.

My favorite image of the day is the one that leads off this photo essay. It shows a southbound (railroad eastbound) train appearing to rise out of a corn field. In fact it is one of my all-time favorite Sandusky District images.

My second favorite images were made of the last train that we photographed on NS. Back then there was a late afternoon manifest freight out of Bellevue that usually had Canadian National motive power.

Today’s train was no exception. We intercepted it just south of Attica Junction and may have chased it a short distance.

By now we had late day light and those red and black CN locomotives looked great.

Although NS had been our primary objective, we went to Scipio to bag a pair of CSX trains, one in each direction, as the sun was setting.

I pushed the limits of what my camera could do to capture the second of those trains. The resulting image won’t win any photography awards, but reminds me of one of my most pleasant outings.

Marty, Robert and I made one more foray to the Sandusky District during which we focused on the territory between Bucyrus and Marion in an effort to photograph some of the surviving Pennsylvania Railroad position light signals.

I haven’t been back to the Sandusky District with Marty since then. I know Marty still has an affinity for the Sandusky District and gets there now and then.

I’ve since explored the territory on my own and with others, particularly in 2012 when the Nickel Plate Road 765 pulled a series of employee appreciation specials between Bellevue and Bucyrus.

I recently ran across that CD with the images that I made on that July 2008 day with Marty on the Sandusky District. Seeing them brought a smile to my face and a lot of warm memories to mind.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

There are plenty of farm fields lining the tracks of the Sandusky District. That helps keep the growth of trees in check.

There are plenty of farm fields lining the tracks of the Sandusky District. That helps keep the growth of trees in check.

The gentle roller coast profile of the Sandusky District helped endear me to this stretch of railroad.

The gentle roller coast profile of the Sandusky District helped endear me to this stretch of railroad.

Splitting the signals at, I think, a location south of Attica.

Splitting the signals at, I think, a location south of Attica.

Coal dust is flying off this northbound coal train. Note the ex-Conrail unit trailing.

Coal dust is flying off this northbound coal train. Note the ex-Conrail unit trailing.

A day our with Marty isn't complete unless you get a train next to a grain elevator. This one is at Ridgeton and the sunlight was vanishing fast.

A day our with Marty isn’t complete unless you get a train next to a grain elevator. This one is at Ridgeton and the sunlight was vanishing fast.

The train with CN power at Attica Junction (Siam).

The train with CN power at Attica Junction (Siam).

Those CN locomotives were looking sharp as they passed a recently harvested wheat field in late day light.

Those CN locomotives were looking sharp as they passed a recently harvested wheat field in late day light.

This was one of my earliest efforts to try glint photography with a sunset. I liked how it turned out. The view is of an eastbound CSX train at Scipio.

This was one of my earliest efforts to try glint photography with a sunset. I liked how it turned out. The view is of an eastbound CSX train at Scipio.

I pushed the limits of what my camera could do to get this westbound on CSX near Scipio.

I pushed the limits of what my camera could do to get this westbound on CSX near Scipio.

Sunset on the former Baltimore & Ohio at Scipo.

Sunset on the former Baltimore & Ohio at Scipo.

 

 

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