IC, CP and an All Day Wait for NS 1074

Achieving my first objective of the day was easy. A Canadian National train with three Illinois Central locomotives showed up shortly after I arrived in Conneaut.

Last Sunday didn’t get off to a good start. I got up later than I expected or wanted.

I had toyed with the idea of leaving at 5 a.m. and trying to catch the eastbound Lake Shore Limited in Conneaut or North East, Pennsylvania.

But with the weather looking iffy, I didn’t want to get an early start only to have mostly cloudy skies. Catching No. 48 can wait for a better day.

Shortly before 7 a.m. someone posted on Heritageunits.com that the Lackawanna heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern was leading the 14M at Wampum, Pennsylvania.

A quick online check of NS train symbols showed the 14M to be a Conway to Buffalo, New York, train.

How long would it take to get to Conneaut? I figured it to be a manifest freight that might work in Youngstown and even in Conneaut. Somewhere along the way it would need to change crews.

I didn’t get away until about 8:30. As I drove on I-90 past Carson Yard on the NS Youngstown Line south of Ashtabula I looked to see if the 14M was there. It wasn’t.

Once in Conneaut I headed north on Mill Street but nothing was sitting in the yard other than the usual yard power.

I got stopped at the CSX crossing by an eastbound ballast train. I parked in the lot for the Conneaut Historical Society across from the CSX Erie West Subdivision tracks.

I had three objectives for the day. Catch a train on Canadian National – the former Bessemer & Lake Erie – get the 14M and bag a pair of those Citirail units that CSX has been leasing of late.

There was no guarantee the Bessemer would be operating today from Conneaut, but there was  a good chance that it would and that it would have Illinois Central motive power.

The 14M looked like a good bet but bagging the Citirail units would be a long shot.

I set up my antenna, checked the frequencies on my scanner and waited. Less than two minutes later I heard a transmission on the B&LE channel. A train was working in the yard.

Over to the Main Street crossing I went. The B&LE channel got quiet for about 10 to 15 minutes before the switching moves resumed.

By now NS 316 had arrived in town and was working the yard. In the process they discovered they had a loaded car destined for Bellevue. Should they leave it in Conneaut or take it to Buffalo?

“Take it with you,” was the response of the Youngstown Line dispatcher.

It was getting to be late morning when Illinois Central 1034 and two sister IC units came out of the yard and poked their noses out beyond the NS trestle over Conneaut Creek.

The crew was wrapping up putting together its train. I was hoping to get the lead unit of the NS 316 crossing the trestle above IC 1034, but it was not to be.

The CN train had left town by the time the 316 ambled eastbound with Canadian Pacific No. 8917 on the point.

Under normal circumstances, I would have chased the CN train into Pennsylvania. But today I still had unfinished business. I returned to the historical society parking lot next to the CSX tracks.

It was about noon when I heard the Youngstown Line dispatcher make radio contact with the 14M.

The discussion occurred on the Youngstown Line frequency so 14M still had yet to reach Ashtabula.

Eastbound traffic on the former Nickel Plate Road mainline through Ashtabula was heavy, so the dispatcher agreed to recrew the 14M at Carson.

In the eastbound parade were intermodal trains 22K and 206 along with auto rack train 28N.

I didn’t bother to seek out the 22K or 206. Instead I focused on CSX for awhile.

An eastbound rail train came through around 12:30 p.m. that was followed by an eastbound stack train.

Shortly thereafter, a westbound monster freight, the Q393, slowly made its way through town with all 15,000 feet of it making all of 30 mph.

Welcome to the world of E. Hunter Harrison’s precision scheduled railroading.

I later heard the IH dispatcher tell another train he would do his best to get that train around the Q393, but it would be difficult.

Around 1:38 p.m. the Youngstown Line dispatcher talked with the 14M again. The new crew was on board and the train was on the move.

It must have moved slowly because by mid-afternoon it still wasn’t out of Ashtabula. It would follow train 310.

In the meantime, another story began playing out on NS. I had heard the dispatcher periodically tell the crew of westbound 287, an auto rack train, that it would be waiting in yet another siding for yet another eastbound.

The 287 must have been in and out of every siding between here and Buffalo.

Around 3 p.m. the dispatcher told the 287 it would have to go into the siding at PA for the 310 and the 14M. The latter was just now coming around the Buffalo connection in Ashtabula.

The 287 crew reminded the dispatcher it had been on duty since 5 a.m. But his brushed that aside saying they needed to take that up with the first trick dispatcher who was on duty “when that baby was born.”

I also learned that the 14M would be dropping off a locomotive at Conneaut. Less than 15 minutes later the dispatcher, his supervisor or the NS computer program that makes train dispatching decisions had a change of heart.

The 287 would come into Conneaut for a recrew. But the new crew would have the same experience the old crew old had, having to wait for opposing traffic. In this case it would mean waiting at the west end of Parish siding for the 310 and 14M.

It was getting to be late afternoon and I was getting impatient. Where was the 14M?

I decided to go look for it. I drove out to Parish Road on the west side of Conneaut, parked and walked up onto the bridge.

But there was no sign of the 14M and the signal at the west end of the yard for eastbounds was red. A CSX westbound passed by but I didn’t pay it much mind.

I noticed that the connecting track from NS to CSX, which I’ve been told was put in during the Conrail era and once hosted a detour of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, is still in place, but overgrown with weeds.

NS has altered the switch so that it now appears to act as a derail yet it is no longer possible to move a train into the connection track to CSX.

As I waited for the 14M, a large bank of clouds moved in and covered the sun. It had been sun and clouds for most of the day, but the weather was taking a turn.

I was about to give up and go back into town when I heard a horn to the west. Maybe that was the 14M.

Soon a headlight popped up on the horizon. The signal at the west end of the yard was still red and the train was moving slowly.

A glimpse through my telephoto lens confirmed that the Lackawanna H unit was on the point.

The 14M stopped but it didn’t last long because the signal turned to an approach indication.

I got my photographs and drove back to the historical society. Shortly after arriving, the heavens opened and we had an intense, although brief, shower that produced small hail pellets.

I listened to the 14M on the radio as it worked in the Conneaut Yard. During the process I got a CSX westbound freight that was a mere 300 plus axles. I guess those cars wouldn’t fit on the Q393.

By now it was apparent I wasn’t going to get any Citirail units leading on CSX today.

The 14M finished its work and I drove over to the Main Street crossing of the B&LE to photograph NS 1074 on the trestle over Conneaut Creek.

It was nearly 5:30 p.m. and I needed to head for home. It had taken all day, but I had finally got a heritage unit, the first one I’ve photographed since January.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Looks like it is going to be a nice spring day.

IC 1034 and its train will be leaving town shortly.

Looking west down Main Street.

NS train 316 had a Canadian Pacific leader and a loaded car that was supposed to have been routed to Bellevue.

The W021 has a load of rail bound for some eastern work site.

The ATVs racing along side this eastbound CSX stack train were not part of the original plan for making this image.

Trying to show Q017 along with a pair of flowering trees.

The crew of NS train 287 was relieved to hear the dispatcher say there had been a change of plans and they would come into Conneaut sooner rather than later.

A black locomotive and a bright red garage.

At last the 14M is approaching Conneaut with the feature attraction of the day on NS.

Coming into Conneaut on an approach.

After the rain came a short by today’s CSX standards manifest freight.

The last image of the day was one I waited several hours to get.

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2 Responses to “IC, CP and an All Day Wait for NS 1074”

  1. Bob Says:

    Thanks for sharing your trip. My favorite photos are the CP on the bridge and the DL&W heritage unit on the bridge as both are beautiful images.
    Bob

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