Date That Almost Lived in Infamy

June 18, 2017, started as a typical Saturday. We were busy at work. My phone chimed that I had a text message around 9 a.m.

Too busy to check it at that time, I continued working. It wasn’t until I got the next vehicle in and was in the process of texting the mileage to our secretary that I read the message.

“Erie leading 25T, 9 a.m. at Johnstown.”

“Holy Cow!”

The 25T usually comes through the Cleveland area in the mid to late afternoon. Today it had the Erie heritage unit leading, one that I have not yet seen, much less photographed.

I texted the Bro back and suggested he keep me informed about its progress.

Work wrapped up and while having lunch at home, I texted Robert for an update.

“At Conway changing crews.”

I had a few errands to run this afternoon that couldn’t wait, but the yard work could. So by 3, I was ready to head trackside.

The last report was Enon Valley at 1 p.m. It would be a family affair to see the Erie today. My nephew Henry and the Grif (his son) were also going along.

Since we had a “tot” with us, we went to the Tot Lot in Bedford. It is located on Palmetto Avenue between the crossings at Grace and Glendale.

We set up here and waited. Norfolk Southern had something happening in the vicinity of CP 86.

Eastbounds were stacked up on both mains waiting to continue east. Our westbound would not be in the picture for a while.

As we waited, Henry got a phone message that the Central of Georgia H unit was coming east on a 66W oil train. It was by Amherst.

It was trailing however, so trail equals fail. But it is still one of the H Units I have yet to see or photograph. This would be a GREAT day if I could get two in one day.

We shot eastbounds for just under three hours: 20E, 20R, 24W, 24M, 18N and a couple of more that I don’t remember the symbol on.

The low man on the pole, or the crew with the most time left to work was M4N. It was sitting at a red board at CP 110 on Track 2 for the entire time we were there.

Grif entertained himself on the slides and ladders of the Tot Lot, stopping only to watch a train go by. He made three new friends who were there with their grandmother.

When the slides became old hat, they took one of Grif’s toy trucks, one a little bigger than a Matchbox, for those who remember Matchbox Cars, and were throwing it over the gym sets.

The first one to get over, under or around to the other side and find the truck got to throw it back over, and the race was on again . . . until they got the truck stuck in the tree.

About now the other kids had to leave. It was pushing 6 p.m.

Henry was convinced that the 66W was the next train but each time he was wrong. Still, he kept insisting.

“Cleveland Terminal to M4N. OK to start heading east; you’ll cross over at CP 107 after one more eastbound.”

The traffic jam was finally subsiding. We had not gotten any more updates about 25T since Enon Valley. Where was it?

As the M4N clumped by and 18N shot past him, Cleveland Terminal cleared up the situation.

“25T, take it easy down to CP 107; got an eastbound crossing over ahead of you. As soon as they clear, you’ll get a light to go west.”

“Hot &%$#”

We loaded up Grif’s toys and his bike that he brought with him and were ready for 25T. We were going to shoot it here and head to Olmsted Falls for another view.

Skies were partly cloudy, so sun wasn’t guaranteed. We had to rub our rabbit’s foots and four leaf clovers to, hopefully, get some luck.

“25T, Clear, CP 107”

Show time was just a few minutes away. We each picked out our spots. As the gates went down at Grace Street, the sun popped out. It would be a sunny shot.

The Erie roared past with its intermodal train in tow. We were off as soon as the last cars cleared the Glendale crossing. Olmsted Falls, here we come.

There had been no further updates on the 66W and we didn’t hear anything about it on the scanner, so what happened to it?

Did it go east on the Nickel Plate to Ashtabula and turn south for Conway there? Is it still around Rockport waiting for a fresh crew? We speculated as we drove west.

As we passed Rockport Yard and the Chicago Line, our questions were answered. They spun the power and the Central of Georgia was now on the lead.

I was hoping for a miracle now, two never before seen H Units in one day . . . wow! We got to the Falls, parked across from the depot and set up shop. We were ahead.

The 25T would be the only train we would see. It came past about 20 minutes after we arrived.

Going back toward the brother’s house, Henry suggested I stop on I-480 and shoot the 66W from the bridge. It would take a long telephoto, but I might get lucky.

Traffic was heavy on I-480 and I couldn’t get over fast enough to pull over on the bridge. They were still sitting there. Not a word was said about the 66W, so how long they were going to be there was anyone’s guess.

I dropped off the rest of the clan and headed home for dinner.

After dinner I had an idea. I needed to go to the airport post office, so I thought I’d check on the 66W’s progress, or lack thereof.

This time I would come up onto I-480 from the airport freeway, making the pull over onto the bridge over the Chicago Line much easier.

The 66W was still sitting there, but they were sitting short of the signal bridge at CP Max and the shadow of the signal bridge was on the C of G and they were a little too far away for my 300mm lens. It was a good idea that fizzled.

The radio finally crackled with chatter about the 66W. A fresh crew was aboard, but they were having trouble getting their marker linked up to the 8101 and other assorted problems.

They would not be departing any time soon, and the sun was now getting pretty low in the sky.

I called it a day at this point, happy about the Erie, but frustrated by the C. of Ga. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck next time.

Article by Marty Surdyk

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