Labor Day Wanderings: Part 1

Most of my railfanning moves on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend were done in pursuit of NS 80xx, the Southern heritage locomotive, which I've seen just once before.

Most of my railfanning moves on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend were done in pursuit of NS 80xx, the Southern heritage locomotive, which I’ve seen just once before.

Many guys take advantage of the Labor Day weekend to make an out of town railfanning trip. I got out of town during the holiday weekend, but not for an overnight adventure. I spent two days railfanning in my “backyard.”

The plan for Saturday was to pick up my friend Adam and head to Alliance. He needed to be back by 3 p.m. to take care of child care duties and after than I would head down to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for the final day of operation of the Saturday-only bike train.

Adam and I had talked on Friday about going over to southwest Pennsylvania to find DC to AC conversion unit No. 4000, which on Friday morning had been reported on HeritageUnits.com as being in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.

But by early Saturday there had been no updates on the 4000 and traveling to Pennsylvania seemed risky because the 4000 might have moved on in the middle of the night and no one had seen it.

There was a report on HU about the Southern heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern heading west on the point of train 740. Another report said the Erie H unit was in the motive power consist of an eastbound 64T going through Lima.

They would both pass through Alliance so that was the place to be. We were going around Ravenna on Ohio Route 14 when Adam’s phone dinged with an update from HU reporting that the Southern H unit had just passed through Alliance. Now what?

I’ve seen NS 8099 just once and Adam thinks it is one of the more attractive NS heritage units. It had been out of service for several weeks due to mechanical issues.

I turned south on Ohio Route 44 and headed for Interstate 76. The new plan was go to Massillon to catch the 740 and the 34T and 740 at Mace from Cherry Road NW bridge.

I had shot the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit from this bridge on the day of the Akron Railroad Club picnic this past July.

We made good time cruising westward and managed to avoid delays in the construction zones in Akron.

Adam had just gotten his phone during the past week and no sooner had that happened, but the manufacturer issued a recall because of the danger of the phone catching fire.

That led to a lot of joking about how Adam’s phone would blow up in his hand, the flash of light would momentarily blind me and I’d crash into something. And we would miss the heritage units.

Few of that model phone have actually caught fire and those that did did so while the owner was recharging the battery. So long as Adam didn’t try to charge the battery we were safe.

An online report indicated that the 64T was following NS train 170, which had gone into emergency west of Orrville.

The Fort Wayne Line is single track between Mace and Orrville and we played guessing games as to whether the 740 would meet the 170 at Orrville or at Mace.

We also learned that the NS 4000 was in Conway and planned to lead a coal train west on the Fort Wayne line. That looked to be an afternoon move. The New York Central heritage unit was leading a train eastward on the Sandusky District. So, the day was filled with colorful possibilities.

The 170 was going through Mace when we arrived and all I could manage was an image of the rear of the train passing the PRR position light signals.

Railfan Matt Arnold arrived not long after we did. I’d never met Matt before Saturday, but had long admired his photographic work of the Wheeling & Lake Erie. He is a talented young photographer who often railfans with his Dad.

Matt said the 740 was moving slowly, which suggested the 64T would go through Mace first.

That plan was confirmed when an R.J. Corman northbound unexpectedly showed up and keyed up the Pittsburgh West dispatcher.

To our surprise, the dispatcher said the Corman train would go through Mace south to north immediately after the 64T passed through.

The Erie H unit was second of two units, trailing a Union Pacific locomotive. The R.J. Corman train had two units.

I’ve photographed Ohio Central trains a number of times on the former Baltimore & Ohio line in Massillon at Mace, but gotten the Corman there just once while chasing an OC train during the ARRC picnic at Warwick Park.

After the Corman train cleared Mace, the westbound signal for Track 2 went to clear, which is only the second time I’ve seen that indication at that signal.

Although I’ve been to Mace several times over the years, I’ve rarely seen an NS train there. I was never there during the Conrail era.

The Pittsburgh West dispatcher called the 740 crew and said he was ready for them at Mace.

It took awhile but the 740 came into view with NS 8099 on the lead. The lighting was not favorable for a westbound coming into Mace, but I did what I could with what I had to work with.

After getting the train coming image, I dashed across the road and got a side shot and a couple of going away views.

We still had some time before I had to take Adam home. It was at this point that things started falling apart.

Matt had received a phone call from a contact saying the Corman train was going to drop its cars and go to Wooster.

But I neglected to ask him where the cars were going to be dropped. I presumed it would be in Massillon, but it might have been Warwick.

I decided to chase the 740 to Orrville and figured the Corman train would be behind it.

The route to Orrville was slow going and the 740 easily got ahead of us. I ducked down a country road to a grade crossing but nothing was in sight.

I heard the 740 call a clear signal in Orrville and realized we were too late.

We waited in Orrville for about an hour but the Corman train never showed up. Either the information about going to Wooster was incorrect and/or they had gone to Warwick first.

We also learned that the NS 4000 was bad ordered in Conway with flat spots. Either those got worked out right away or the report was in error.

As it turned out, the NS 4000 became the trailing unit on the 64T, the UP unit was removed in Conway and the Erie H unit became the leader.

I felt rather dejected as I took Adam home. Had I gone to Warwick we might have caught the Corman train leaving there. It has been a good five years since I’ve photographed the Corman.

I had better luck on the CVSR later in the afternoon. Aside from photographing the last run of the Saturday bike train, I was curious as to what motive power was running on the CVSR these days.

It turned out that the Scenic train had Horizon Rail 8420 on the north end and the Baltimore & Ohio 800 on the south end.

The bike train had the newly repainted 6771 on the north end and the 1822 on the south end. I was glad to see the 6771 because I like the spiffy new livery adorning it.

I got both trains at Indigo Lake and caught a break when the Scenic had a longer than usual dwell time in Peninsula.

The conductor had told the engineer of the 8420 that there might be several people in wheelchairs in Peninsula and if so the train would need to follow a special operating plan.

As I drove north with the intention of getting the bike train at Jaite, I saw the Scenic sitting at Boston Mills station.

I would get both of them at Jaite. With that objective accomplished I headed for home and made plans for another day of holiday railfanning on Sunday.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The last cars on train 170 were tank cars. The train is moving onto track No. 1.

The last cars on train 170 were tank cars. The train is moving onto track No. 1.

The R,J. Corman train approaches the Cherry Street NW bridge. It had a red board at Mace.

The R,J. Corman train approaches the Cherry Street NW bridge. It had a red board at Mace.

Here comes the 34T with a UP in the lead splitting the PRR position signals at Mace.

Here comes the 34T with a UP in the lead splitting the PRR position signals at Mace.

A closeup of the Erie heritage locomotive. Yeah, it's trailing, but I don't get to see it often.

A closeup of the Erie heritage locomotive. Yeah, it’s trailing, but I don’t get to see it often.

I've always like the sight of uniform looking unit trains, particularly when they are snaking through switches and curves.

I’ve always like the sight of uniform looking unit trains, particularly when they are snaking through switches and curves.

The two units of the R.J. Corman train are on the move.

The two units of the R.J. Corman train are on the move.

The Corman train has the signal at Mace. I've never seen an indication like this. One light is green and other either amber or lunar.

The Corman train has the signal at Mace. I’ve never seen an indication like this. One light is green and other either amber or lunar.

The Corman train is about to briefly the NS Fort Wayne Line and move through a pair of switches.

The Corman train is about to briefly the NS Fort Wayne Line and move through a pair of switches.

Going south to north at Mace.

Going south to north at Mace.

At last the 740 made its way through Mace. Seeing four trains here in just over an hour was unusual.

At last the 740 made its way through Mace. Seeing four trains here in just over an hour was unusual.

Horizon Rail GP10 No. 8420 is back in service and the blue loaner unit has apparently returned for assignment elsewhere. It was nice to see while it lasted.

Horizon Rail GP10 No. 8420 is back in service and the blue loaner unit has apparently returned for assignment elsewhere. It was nice to see while it lasted.

Reflections of a CVSR coach in the waters of Indigo Lake.

Reflections of a CVSR coach in the waters of Indigo Lake.

CVSR 800 at Indigo Lake station.

CVSR 800 at Indigo Lake station.

The 1822 was the south unit on the bike train on its last day of operation.

The 1822 was the south unit on the bike train on its last day of operation.

Boarding the bike train at Indigo Lake.

Boarding the bike train at Indigo Lake.

As much as anything, I made this image to get the old truck waiting at the grade crossing for the northbound Scenic.

As much as anything, I made this image to get the old truck waiting at the grade crossing for the northbound Scenic.

A B&O "heritage unit" passes the former B&O train order office in Jaite.

A B&O “heritage unit” passes the former B&O train order office in Jaite.

Another photo op with the new look CVSR locomotive livery, this time at Jaite.

Another photo op with the new look CVSR locomotive livery, this time at Jaite.

The last scheduled bike train of the season is on the last leg of its last trip to Brecksville.

The last scheduled bike train of the season is on the last leg of its last trip to Brecksville.

 

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One Response to “Labor Day Wanderings: Part 1”

  1. Paul Woodring Says:

    The (guessing direction since the B&O never had North or South) Northward Absolute Signal at Mace for Corman only has lights in the main body for Stop and Restricting. The pilot light on the top could also be lit to give a train a Restricting signal with the red lit in the main body. My guess would be that either Corman has it’s own unique signal system for color lights or that they just happened to only have a green lens available to replace a broken lunar one. Probably the latter.

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