On Photography: On the Periphery of the Mainline Lie Some Interesting Operations

Fostoria (CSX coming out of mixing center)-x

Railroad photographers in Northeast Ohio are fortunate to have easy access to some of the busiest mainline railroad routes in the United States. These routes can be counted on to provide variation in motive power and train consists.

But not far from the mainline are railroad operations that offer some interesting images if you have patience and an eye for detail.

Consider the image shown above. It shows a CSX local pulling auto racks out of the Ford Motor Company mixing center in Fostoria. The racks are being taken to a yard on the Columbus Subdivision located south of F Tower.

Now the first thing that many viewers will see is that the locomotive is running long hood forward. That might cause some to want to “turn the page” so to speak on this “boring” or “ho hum” scene.

But look around some more, paying attention to the rich detail beyond the locomotive itself.

Notice those dwarf signals? They have probably been there for many years and despite the veteran signals on the nearby mainlines being replaced by modern signals, those dwarfs are likely to continue to be in place for years to come.

Indeed, it was the dwarf signals that attracted me to this photo in the first place.

I also noticed that there is some sort of sign placed behind and slightly above the dwarf signal facing the camera. It has the appearance of a semaphore blade and I’m not sure what it’s purpose is whether it be to mark a boundary or give a signal indication.

Whatever the case, it is a little detail that I had not seen before.

I also found interesting the sharp curve that the train must navigate. I had seen a train on this track in a visit to Fostoria a few years ago and was pleased to get another one.

I like photographing trains on sharp curves, particularly when you can seen the cars that trail the locomotive(s).

Siding and industrial spurs often have the quality of being more integrated into their neighborhoods than do mainlines. Buildings and even houses are close to the tracks and the railroad must coexist with other enterprises that occupy the same neighborhood.

You get a sense of that on the far right of photo where there is a fence and shed that are is part of someone’s backyard. I tried to work some of the nearby homes into the shot, but the space was too tight to show much more than the locomotive nose.

Although not obvious in this image, I am standing in the parking lot of a small business to make this image. The business was closed on Sunday when I was there.

CSX probably uses these tracks just once a day. I was fortunate that the local went into the mixing center during daylight hours. Some spur and industrial operations occur at night.

Hence you have to be lucky and/or study operations in a given location to know when you are likely to catch a train.

Chances are that once you’ve worked a location a few times, you’ll have exhausted most if not all of the possible photo angles to be found there. Tracks such as these are not going to feature much variation in the motive power used or the freight cars moved except over a long period of time.

Yet these peripheral operations can add some variety to your photo collection and to a photo outing.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders


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