Mission Accomplished in Monroeville on the WE

Four SD40s lead a Brewster-bound train over the West Branch Huron River in Monroeville. Everything just kind of fell into place in getting this image.

Four SD40s lead a Brewster-bound train over the West Branch Huron River in Monroeville. Everything just kind of fell into place in getting this image.

A lone unit brings up the rear.

A lone unit brings up the rear.

About to leave Bellevue on the Lake Shore connection, which is one of the few sections of former New York Central track left still being used for railroad transportation on the original Lake Shore & Michigan Southern route between Elyria and Toledo via Oberline and Bellevue.

About to leave Bellevue on the Lake Shore connection, which is one of the few sections of former New York Central track left still being used for railroad transportation on the original Lake Shore & Michigan Southern route between Elyria and Toledo via Oberline and Bellevue.

During the past year I’ve noticed some rather outstanding photographs posted online of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Hartland Subdivision tracks crossing the West Branch Huron River in Monroeville.

I’ve been through Monroeville countless times going to and from Bellevue. I figured the view was from the adjacent North Coast Inland Trail, a rails to trail project, but I didn’t know exactly where in Monroeville that it was.

In early August I was en route to Bellevue for the railfan festival being sponsored by the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum.

As I crossed over the W&LE tracks on the U.S. 20 bypass around Norwalk, I spotted the headlight of a westbound Wheeling train. Now seemed to be time to find that bridge and get a photo there.

My first guess as to where the bridge was located came up empty. The next road that went through to the Wheeling tracks was Ohio Route 99. It crosses the trail just south of the W&LE tracks and I could see the bridge from the grade crossing.

I parked by the restored Lake Shore & Michigan Southern depot and walked the short distance to the bridge.

I waited a good 45 minutes and no train showed up. Had I seen a mirage or a reflection?

It turned out that I had, indeed, seen a locomotive headlight, but it was the rear unit of a train that had come down from Toledo.

W&LE trains going to and from Toledo have motive power on both ends to make it easier to do the see-saw movement they need to undertake in Bellevue to navigate from Norfolk Southern tracks to the Wheeling’s own line.

I vowed that if a Wheeling train left Bellevue during the Akron Railroad Club’s day-long outing there later in the month that I would chase it to Monroeville and get the bridge shot.

As I arrived in Bellevue for the ARRC outing, I spotted a W&LE train on the Lake Shore connection, its two SD40 eastward-facing locomotives cut off so as not to block Prairie Road.

That was a good sign. At some point that train would leave town and head for Brewster.

Then I got to the Kemper Rail Park and noticed a sole SD40 on the west end of the train. During the rail festival earlier in August, I had seen a W&LE train make the transition from the Lake Shore connection to the NS Toledo District. That train had had one unit on the west end.

I figured the train I was seeing during the ARRC outing would be going to Toledo.

It was getting to be late morning when fellow ARRC member Todd Dillon arrived with news that two more SD40s had been added to the east end of the train on the Lake Shore connection.

Todd had seen the crew getting on and presumed the train would be going to Brewster.

But around that time a crew van pulled up and a crew member got on the lone locomotive stopped just short of Monroe Street. That suggested the train was going to Toledo.

The Wheeling assigns two engineers to this train to shave the time needed to do the see-saw move on NS in Bellevue.

Just before noon, I heard the crew call the Wheeling dispatcher on the radio and say it was ready to “head back.” In short order the train began moving toward Brewster.

Todd and I jumped into my car and headed for Monroeville. Everything had fallen into place and I wound up getting the image that I wanted. It was nice to have two opportunities to catch W&LE motive power crossing the muddy Huron River.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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