Unlike the previous two days that I had spent chasing Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 767, Sunday, Sept. 25 dawned sunny and clear.
It was a beautiful day to chase a steam train and have an early autumn picnic in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Twenty-seven Akron Railroad Club members and guests showed up to eat hamburgers and hot dogs along with snacks and desserts.
I began my third day chasing the 767 by walking the towpath trail to the culvert where the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad tracks cross over the trail north of Peninsula.
My objective was to get a shot I’d never done with any steam locomotive.
In 2015, I had photographed the 765 crossing the Cuyahoga from the west side of the bridge. But now I wanted to get the view from the east, something I had done just once with a CVSR train.
That image had been made, by coincidence, on the day of the ARRC’s October meeting.
The east side is a tougher shot than the west side because the angle is tighter. I had it all to myself.
Later, I arrived in Boston Mill just as the train was backing up for its first photo runby.
I made a few images, but got nothing of note. I walked to the east side of the crossing of Boston Mills Road with the idea of getting the 767, the Boston Mill station and the ski resort in the background. It worked out all right.
It was too early to do the goldenrod field shot, so I went to Jaite for a going away image that I ended up liking better than what I had made here the week before.
While at Jaite, I met ARRC member Steve Heister. I would see several ARRC members on this day and the number of photographers trackside on Sept. 24 and 25 was greater than what I had seen on Sept. 18. It must have been the good weather.
After Jaite, I went to Brecksville, which was quite crowded. I had to park on the access road, which wasn’t a bad thing because it would enable me to get a faster getaway. I would need that in order to get to Deep Lock Quarry in time.
My objective in Brecksville was to get the 767 and its train along the Cuyahoga River from the Old Station Road bridge.
There were dozens of people with cameras staking out their photo spot when I arrived at Brecksville station.
The woman standing to my immediate left had two dogs. She had arrived around 7:45 a.m. just as the ferry move to Akron was passing beneath her as she drove over the Ohio Route 82 bridge. Steam and smoke from the 767 below had risen to road level and it was quite foggy.
I immediately wished I had made my way to the Valley much earlier. I had not because I had been out all day on Saturday and got home late. I didn’t want to leave home early on Sunday.
Fog can make for some dramatic images. It was cool and that meant lots of steam. I should have gone for it.
I’ve seen some images made by other photographers of the ferry move and they were pretty good.
As I stood on Old Station Road bridge, it began sinking in that I would not be able to do all of the locations with the 767 that I had envisioned. There wasn’t enough time and opportunity.
The image I had gone to get at Brecksville turned out so-so. The better image was the wide view showing the river, the Route 82 bridge and the train. I wished I had stayed with that image longer than I did.
There was plenty of time to get to Deep Lock because the 767 made an unexpected stop north of Jaite when some daisy pickers ran across the tracks as the train neared their position.
The images I made at Deep Lock met my expectations. It was time to get to the ARRC picnic.
Marty and I had planned the picnic about two weeks before it was held. We had a complication when we gave the wrong name of the picnic site and the September meeting was moved back a week due to parking lot resurfacing at New Horizons Christian Church.
Helped by good weather and the lure of a steam locomotive, the turnout exceeded our expectations. We set up a photo line to catch the northbound move of the afternoon excursion out of Akron.
Many ARRC members stayed at the picnic site to get the southbound return to Akron about two hours later.
I photographed the first Boston Mill photo runby, but skipped the second one. Instead, I drove north on Riverview.
I saw Kyle Ori standing with his wonder pole next to the road near the Columbia Run Picnic Area.
The pole enables him to gain elevation of as much as 30 feet with his camera. He uses his smart phone to control the camera.
I decided to catch the northbound run of the steam train here rather than trying for the goldenrod field.
As the train went by, my camera lens began malfunctioning. It would not zoom past about 85 mm.
I twisted it a few times and finally got it out to 135 mm. But the auto focus wasn’t working properly and all of the images I made at my maximum focal length were blurry.
The same thing happened at the Chippewa Creek bridge where fellow ARRC members Ed Ribinskas and Jeff Troutman were already set up when I arrived.
This time the 135 mm images came out all right, but the wide angle images of the 767 crossing the bridge were blurry. This was not a good thing.
The remainder of the ARRC picnic gang was standing with their cameras in hand by the side of Riverview as I drove past.
My intent was to drive into Akron and get the train at milepost 43 in the Merriman Woods housing development. Riverview Road is closed south of Bath Road and the detour pointed west on Bath.
I’m unfamiliar with the roads west of the tracks so I decided to stay at Bath Road and go for the sure thing.
I had not photographed south of Indigo Lake during the two-week stay of NKP 767 and wanted to get something on the southern end.
I saw a small clump of wild black-eyed Susans next to the tracks and placed those in the foreground as I got a low angle of the 767. The autofocus function worked fairly well.
It was nearly 4:30 p.m. and I was feeling discouraged due to my camera issues. I still didn’t have the goldenrod shot but there was time to get it during the ferry move to the Fitzwater maintenance facility from Akron.
I elected instead to head home. I had done the goldenrod shot with the 765 and with my camera lens on the fritz I might not get the 767 in focus or get the focal length I desired.
I was tired and having a beer and a snack while watching the rest of the Sunday afternoon football games sounded enticing.
The next day I took my camera to Dodd Camera in Cleveland. The store manager removed the lens and shook it. We could hear something rattling inside. The lens was broken.
But this story has a happy ending. The estimated repair cost was $200 to $300 if the camera could be economically repaired. A comparable new zoom lens would cost between about $400 to $600.
I was elated when Dodd sent me an email with a repair cost of $177. The lens has been fixed and is back on my camera.
I didn’t know how my camera saga would end on that late Sunday afternoon of the last day of the NKP 767 in the valley.
I had the same thought that I always do after making my last images of the day. Will this be the final time that I see NKP 765, 767 or whatever they choose to number it on the CVSR?
Thus far the Berkshire-type 2-8-4 has returned every September since 2013. But one of these years it might not.
As was the case in 2015, I ended my 2016 chase feeling slightly unfulfilled. I had missed the goldenrod field shot along with a few other locations. I still regret not going for the ferry move on the last Sunday morning.
But if the NKP 765 never returns to the CVSR again, I’ll be satisfied with the body of work that I was able to produce of that locomotive running through the Cuyahoga River Valley.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
Tags: Cuyahoga River, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, CVSR steam excursions, Jaite, Nickel Plate 765, Nickel Plate 767, Nickel Plate Road 765, Nickel Plate Road 767, Nickel Plate Road No. 765, NKP 765 excursions, NKP 765 on CVSR, riverview road, Route 82 bridge in Brecksville, Steam excursion trains, steam excursions, steam locomotives