Sampling the NS Dayton District

The Dayton District of Norfolk Southern extends from Columbus in a generally southwestward direction to NA Tower (Ivorydale Junction) in Cincinnati.

The former New York Central line passes through Springfield and Dayton.

I had a chance on a recent Saturday to sample the Dayton District in its namesake city on leap day while being given a tour of the city’s railroads by Dayton native David Oroszi.

I’ve driven over the Dayton District numerous times over the years while traveling on Interstate 70 between Dayton and Columbus.

The interstate crosses just west and south of CP190, also known as CP Fairborn, where there is a passing siding at ends at the west end by Enon Road.

I once saw a westbound sitting there to meet an eastbound, but until this day that had been the extent of my “railfanning” of the Dayton District.

I rode over this line in the Conrail era aboard a chartered Amtrak train in September 1997 that operated between Cleveland and Cincinnati and was named the Ohio State Limited after the route’s one-time premier NYC passenger train.

If the 3C corridor ever gets off the drawing board passenger trains will travel the length of the Dayton District.

The Dayton District has around the same level of freight traffic as the CSX New Castle Subdivision in Northeast Ohio.

That means you can spend hours along it and not see anything.

In fact the Dayton District was quiet all morning on our day out. CSX, which comes through Dayton on a former Baltimore & Ohio route between Cincinnati and Toledo, wasn’t much busier.

Our goal was to catch eastbound train 198, which was being led by the 9-1-1 locomotive that pays tribute to first responders.

It would be the third consecutive day train 198 was led by a special interest unit. On Friday the 198 had the Reading heritage unit on the point and the day before that the lead locomotive had been the Conrail heritage unit.

We knew that photographing the 198 would be difficult because it would reach Dayton during the afternoon and be coming out of the sun.

It turned out to be a moot point, though, because the 198 never got out of Cincinnati before dark.

A source had told Dave that the crew that had been called for the 198 at Gest Street in Cincinnati was not qualified on the Dayton District so a new crew had to be called.

The first train we saw on the Dayton District was westbound manifest freight 179, which we captured downtown in early afternoon passing the historic Armory Building on Patterson Boulevard.

We shot it from street level as can be seen in the top photograph.

The Armory is now a professional office building whose signature tenant is a law firm.

For some reason the 179 slowed to a crawl as it was crossing the Great Miami River, which enabled us to get ahead of it and capture crossing the Miami River a second time at Miller’s Ford near Carllion Park (second photograph).

Then it was time to grab lunch to go at a Frisch’s Big Boy in Morraine.

We ate it while sitting next to the tracks just south of Main Street where we could keep an eye on a set of signals for eastbound traffic.

Our time there netted us a local, the L04 head for Dayton to drop off some loaded salt cars (third photo).

Dayton is a poster child for lost industry. Consequently NS has very little business in Dayton and most trains pass through without stopping.

During our drive around town Dave pointed out where the factories used to stand at which his father and his wife’s father once had worked.

After the local came by we headed south for Miamisburg where we hoped to catch the local on its return to Middletown. That caused us to miss an eastbound auto rack train.

We had not been in Miamisburg too long when a westbound manifest freight came rumbling through.

We never heard him calling signals over the radio and the faint radio call we did hear was indecipherable.

The former passenger station in Miamisburg is now a dental office and I used that to frame a photograph of the westbound (fourth photograph).

It was getting to be late afternoon when we heard the dispatcher give the local permission to open up to leave what remains of the former Erie Railroad yard in Dayton near Findlay Street and head west.

By now carrying symbol L10, we caught the lone locomotive and two short covered hopper cars with Wisconsin Central markings on the Great Miami River bridge at Miller’s Ford (fifth photograph).

Dave has made hundreds, if not thousands, of images of trains on this bridge over the decades and he hopes to someday make that collection the focus of a Summerail program.

A photo he made of a caboose hop with two F units and a geep crossing that bridge helps to illustrate an article about railroad mergers in the most recent issue of Classic Trains.

We were about to call it quits but on the drive back to Dave’s house checked some signals to see if anything was lined up. It wasn’t.

It had not been quite the day we had hoped for but it hadn’t been bad, either.

Such is life looking for photograph opportunities on a railroad line with modest traffic.

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