Belle of a Day (Part 1)

Norfolk Southern coal train 888 gains speed as it leaves the siding at PA east of Conneaut, Ohio.

I had high hopes for getting some winter weather action photographs last Sunday. The forecast called for an 80 percent chance of snow with one to three inches of accumulation.

I had visions of catching trains dashing through the snow.

It might have happened if the temperatures had managed to dip below freezing. But they hovered around 33 for most of the day and we got rain mixed with snow and no accumulation.

I was out in Lake County with fellow Akron Railroad Club members Marty Surdyk and Ed Ribinskas in a reprise of our railfanning on Super Bowl Sunday outing.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about railfanning on the day of the NFL championship game, but we’d done it before and had some good luck getting dramatic winter weather images.

However, the snow and rain mix wasn’t heavy enough to create much effect and the overcast skies made for flat light. Nonetheless, it turned out to be one Belle of a day.

We began where our past Super Bowl day outings had begun sitting next to the CSX Erie West Subdivision in Perry.

For about an hour nothing was moving and there wasn’t any chatter on the radio.

We passed the time reminiscing about past railfan outings to faraway places and listening to  Marty describe how he came to put together his program for the February ARRC meeting titled The Power of Four.

Tired of sitting and looking at air, we decided to check the signals on Norfolk Southern. The eastbound home signal  showed an approach indication, suggesting that the dispatcher intended to hold an eastbound at CP Davis and put a westbound into the siding.

Off we went toward the Painesville trestle over the Grand River, where a new bridge is under construction. Marty wanted to get an image of a train with the old and new bridges.

We didn’t make it. The eastbound, which turned out to be coal train 888, called the intermediate signal at Madison Avenue east of Painesville as we cruised westbound on Ohio Route 84.

We turned around to chase it, not sure where we could get it. We could see it at times and were pleased to see that the lead unit was a Kansas City Southern “Belle.”

That is not something you see very day in Northeast Ohio and getting this train gave our day a focus it had been lacking.

We got on Interstate 90 at Madison and motored over to North Kingsville for our first photo op with Miss Belle.

Then it was into Conneaut where we would wait for the 888 to change crews and work in the yard. This isn’t an ordinary coal train. The coal comes from West Virginia and the train picks up its symbol at Portsmouth, Ohio.

After going west on the Sandusky District, it gets onto the former Nickel Plate Road in Bellevue and takes that to Buffalo, New York.

It drops cars in Conneaut that are interchanged to CSX for delivery to Erie Coke in Erie, Pennsylvania. The remainder of the train is interchanged to the Buffalo & Pittsburgh in Buffalo.

It took awhile for the 888 to complete its work in Conneaut. In the meantime, we saw a Bessemer & Lake Erie train roll into town and that would become the focus of the latter part of our day.

The 888 called the NS Pittsburgh West Dispatcher to let him know it was ready to leave Conneaut.

The dispatcher told the crew to depart on signal indication. The 888 would be going into the siding at Woodworth to meet a westbound or get out of the way of an eastbound that had higher priority.

After photographing the 888 rumbling over ice-covered Conneaut Creek, we learned that intermodal train 206 would pass the 888 in the siding that extends from Woodworth to PA.

We quickly hatched a plan to photograph the meet at Rudd Road, which is a couple miles or so inside Pennsylvania.

Much of the property surrounding that area is state game land, but some is private property. Someone was firing weapons on that property. The sound of nearby gunshots was a little unsettling.

The 206 soon came into view, but it had just a run of the mill NS wide-cab unit.

Shortly after the 206 cleared the switch at PA, the dispatcher lined it for the 888 to come out of the siding.

On our way back to Conneaut we listened to the crew of the 888 tell the dispatcher about how the KCS unit was experiencing excessive wheel slip, in part due to the wet rails.

They agreed to put another unit online. The crew followed that up with a conversation with an NS power desk representative about the wheel slip issue.

In the meantime, we slipped back into Conneaut and waited at the Old Main Street crossing for the Canadian National train to slip out of town and the start of another chase.

Our first photo op of the KCS Southern Belle leading NS train 888 came at North Kingsville.

NS 888 crosses the icy Conneaut Creek on its way out of town.

NS intermodal train 206 (left) overtakes train 888 at PA.

The 206 splits the signals at PA.

Now it is the turn of the 888 to split the signals at PA.

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One Response to “Belle of a Day (Part 1)”

  1. James L.Leasure Says:

    I love the photos more than any football game!

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