Checking Out Bellevue’s New Railfan Park

A railfan keeps an eye out for the next train to pop out of Bellevue yard. The shelter at the Kemper Rail Park was completed in November.

A railfan keeps an eye out for the next train to pop out of Bellevue yard. The shelter at the Kemper Rail Park was completed in November.

There has been talk about having an Akron Railroad Club outing in 2015 at the new Kemper Rail Park.

It is Fostoria’s turn in the rotation for the ARRC’s longest day outing in late June and there is a new railfan park in that city, too.

There is no reason why we couldn’t hold outings in both towns as each is a superb place to spend a day watching trains.

With the club’s interest in holding a Bellevue outing in mind next spring, summer or fall, I paid a visit to the Kemper Rail Park recently to check it out.

The shelter was completed last month just before Thanksgiving and I wanted to spend some time there watching and photographing trains.

Arguably, the strength of the park is its location. Situated along Monroe Street inside a wye located just beyond the Mini Plant, you have excellent views of passing trains on the Toledo and Sandusky/Fostoria districts.

The view of the Mad River Connection is good, although more distant. The shelter affords a good view of trains coming out of the yard.

You can’t see from the park trains on the New Haven Connection making the transition between the Fostoria and Sandusky districts out by Slaughterhouse Road.

Signals on the Sandusky/Fostoria District and at the Mini Plant can be easily seen from the park. You can see one of the westbound signals on the Toledo District, but need to walk across the tracks to see the eastbound signals because of the angle at which they are positioned.

But those trains must traverse the Mini Plant and the signals for the Toledo District in the Mini Plant are easily seen from the park.

The sheltered area of the railfan park measures 24 feet by 24 feet and is a bit small. There are no electrical outlets and, thus far, no picnic tables.

Seating is concrete and wood benches, all of which are set up to face the tracks. There is enough open space around the shelter to place lawn chairs.

Perhaps the park’s major drawback is minimal parking space. That’s not a problem if there are only a small number of people there.

But lack of adequate parking spaces could be an issue with larger groups. There is parking in a nearby vacant lot across from Wheeling Tower. Railfans have been hanging out in that lot for years.

Parking is also available at the close-by Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum, which is a short walk from the railfan park.

Norfolk Southern maintenance forces still use the area right by Wheeling Tower, so parking there might seem convenient, but is ill advised. You could be cited for trespassing.

From a photography perspective, there are number of photo angles available from the railfan park, including framing trains passing beneath the signals on the Sandusky/Fostoria districts. A long telephoto lens could yield views of trains coming out of the yard.

On the Toledo District, you could make images of trains rounding the curve coming toward the Mini Plant and of trains coming out of the Mini Plant. You’ll need a wide angle lens to get the latter images.

Of course, you can walk around the immediate vicinity to try out other photo angles. One nice thing about the railfan park is that you can photograph trains in virtually every direction.

The Wheeling & Lake Erie comes into Bellevue on two routes, the Brewster Connection and the Lake Shore Connection. Neither passes directly past the railfan park, but can be seen from the park.

The W&LE has installed a talking defect detector just outside Bellevue that I was able to hear on my scanner. W&LE crews also must use their radios to “key up” the remote control switches.

One Wheeling train came into town during my time at the railfan park and I was able to hear it sounding its horn for grade crossings as well as see it by looking down the former W&LE right of way.

As for eating, there are two pizza joints within sight of the railfan park. Other eateries are not far away although you would likely want to drive to them.

Bellevue is one of Ohio’s premier railfanning hotspots and the addition of the Kemper Railfan Park is a welcome addition. I’m looking forward to our 2015 ARRC outing there.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

There are plenty of benches at the Kemper Rail Park in Bellevue, but ample space to set up lawn chairs on the grass or under the shelter.

There are plenty of benches at the Kemper Rail Park in Bellevue, but ample space to set up lawn chairs on the grass or under the shelter. The view is looking toward the Toledo District.

An NS westbound as seen from inside the pavilion of the Kemper Rail Park in Bellevue.

An NS westbound as seen from inside the pavilion of the Kemper Rail Park in Bellevue.

A westbound Norfolk Southern train accelerates out of the Mini Plant in Bellevue as it heads for the Fostoria District. The view is from the Kemper Rail Park.

A westbound Norfolk Southern train accelerates out of the Mini Plant in Bellevue as it heads for the Fostoria District. The view is from the Kemper Rail Park.

 

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