Dodging and Using Clouds in Ashtabula

There wasn't much going on in the harbor yard of Norfolk Southern in Ashtabula on this Sunday in November.

There wasn’t much going on in the harbor yard of Norfolk Southern in Ashtabula on this Sunday in November.

What is it with clouds whenever I visit Ashtabula? The past two times that I’ve been there the clouds played a significant role in my photography.

I don’t get to Ashtabula often and it it just happened that I made two visit there less than a month apart this past fall.

The first visit wasn’t quite planned. Fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and I had ventured out to Lake County hoping to photograph the Baltimore & Ohio inspired livery on the switcher of the Grand River Railway.

But it was a Sunday and the switcher was locked behind a fence with no chance of getting a clear view.

So we started making our way toward Ashtabula. On this day, though, at least there was some sun.

Our first destination was the harbor yard of Norfolk Southern. There wasn’t anything going on there, but we walked out on the bridge over the yard anyway to photograph what we could find.

The nice thing about a slumbering yard is that we could afford to wait for the sun to find a hole in the clouds and then get our photographs without missing anything.

Then it was on to the bridge carrying the NS Cleveland-Buffalo line over the Ashtabula River, which Peter had never photographed.

There is a closed wooden street bridge on Topper Avenue that offers a view of the NS Ashtabula River trestle. I had not been there in a few years and wondered if the wood bridge was still there.

It took some trial and error to find it, but we were pleased to see that the wood bridge still exists and continues to be used as a walkway.

Alas, there were no NS trains near Ashtabula on the former Nickel Plate Road during our stay. There was an eastbound in Conneaut, but that train was already through Ashtabula.

We made a mental note to come back to Ashtabula and stake out the bridge during the morning hours when the lighting would be better and, presumably, rail traffic more plentiful.

That opportunity came on the day of the ARRC end of the year dinner. The weather forecast was promising. There would be mostly sunny skies.

But that had changed by Friday night when I watched a weather report on a Cleveland TV station. The good news was that a high pressure system would be over Ohio on Saturday. The bad new was that it had stalled, thus allowing low-lying clouds to fill in until the system began moving eastward.

As we drove to Ashtabula on Saturday morning, the clouds dutifully filled the sky just as the forecaster had predicted that they would. By the time we got to the bridge, the skies were overcast.

As it turned out, that didn’t matter. Once again, I heard on the radio a pair of eastbound trains at Conneaut, which wasn’t doing us any good.

The dispatcher talked about a westbound, the 205, that was somewhere in Pennsylvania. But we needed eastbounds.

We checked out a grade crossing in Ashtabula at which to photograph the 205. The photos that I made there are so mediocre that I didn’t bother posting them.

Somewhere behind the 205 was the 145, so we drove to Conneaut to intercept it. I also hoped to catch the outbound train on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie. But the B&LE road channel was quiet so maybe that train wasn’t running today.

My photos of the westbound in Conneaut were OK because the clouds there were not as thick as they had been in Ashtabula.

With the B&LE quiet we elected to return to Ashtabula and give the bridge one more chance.

We had not been there long when I heard an eastbound calling signals on the radio. It turned out to be the 206.

The images I made are all right, yet not what I had hoped to get. We need to make a return trip to Ashtabula on a day when a high pressure system is moving the clouds out, not enticing them to form.

We photographed the 206 and began making out way back west, swinging past the Grand River Railway. Once again, the switcher was locked behind closed gates.

At last the high pressure system was starting to move on and the clouds were breaking up.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Those gale-force winds blowing in off Lake Erie were downright cold.

Those gale-force winds blowing in off Lake Erie were downright cold.

A pair of Union Pacific locomotive await their next assignment.

A pair of Union Pacific locomotive await their next assignment.

Yeah, the clouds blocked the sun a lot, but they also helped to add some visual interest to the scene.

Yeah, the clouds blocked the sun a lot, but they also helped to add some visual interest to the scene.

The 206 crosses the trestle over the Ashtabula River. I like the image I made, but it only whetted my appetite to get another train on a day with better light.

The 206 crosses the trestle over the Ashtabula River. I like the image I made, but it only whetted my appetite to get another train on a day with better light.

The time to make this shot is in the late fall, winter or early spring when there aren't many, if any, leaves on the trees.

The time to make this shot is in the late fall, winter or early spring when there aren’t many, if any, leaves on the trees.

The fence on the bridge in Ashtabula isn't that high, but watch out for the vines growing on the top of it.

The fence on the bridge in Ashtabula isn’t that high, but watch out for the vines growing on the top of it.

Rounding the curve in Ashtabula on the way east with UPS trailers on NS train 206.

Rounding the curve in Ashtabula on the way east with UPS trailers on NS train 206.

Although the clouds were starting to move out, there were still plenty of them as NS train 145 slowly ambles into Conneaut for a crew change.

Although the clouds were starting to move out, there were still plenty of them as NS train 145 slowly ambles into Conneaut for a crew change.

 

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