Moving From Point B to Point A

I know what you’re thinking’ that’s bass ackwards. You go from Point A to Point B.

Well normally you do, but on March 1 the brother and I went from Bellevue to Ada.

How did we get there? Read along and you’ll find out.

I was barely in the door of my apartment on Saturday after work when my phone started ringing.

“Going to be a beautiful day tomorrow; Lisa (my brother’s wife) is off work and I’m itching to hit the road somewhere.”

“Where are we heading?”

“I don’t care, you pick someplace.”

“I’ll text you later with what I decide.”

“Roger, Willco.”

I went about my Saturday chores and then readied myself for church. As I sat in the pew waiting for mass to start “Bellevue” kept coming to mind. So after church I texted the brother “Be ready by 7:30, destination Bellevue.”

I got a text back. “I’ll be ready.”

Our 7:30 a.m. call time found us on the road headed west to Bellevue. As we got to Norwalk the scanner was turned on. Radio chatter from Bellevue began to filter in.

A good channel to listen to is the crew bus channel. They happen to use the same frequency as the Sandusky District, 161.190.

By the time we got to town, we knew that 218 and 234 were in the picture as crews were being picked up at the hotel/dorm for these trains.

Also at this time 12V was nearly ready to leave on its trek from Bellevue to Conway Yard near Pittsburgh. The 12V operates via Mansfield on the former Conrail Ft. Wayne Line.

As we entered Bellevue the 218 was re-crewed and ready to resume its trip.

We shot through town and headed south on Ohio Route 269 bound for one of our morning southbound (timetable eastbound) shots on the Sandusky District.

The 218’s counterpart, No. 217, was the first train we saw. It was approaching Flat Rock and would be stopping for a crew change shortly.

We headed to a county road crossing that features a nice white farmhouse and bright red barn as your photo props to shoot the 218. It wasn’t long before his headlight was on the horizon.

After shooting the intermodal train here, we headed south with it. Often NS trains get delayed at the former Baltimore & Ohio diamonds at Attica Junction. Today that would be the case.

“Take it easy down to Attica, CSX has two to run, before he can take you.” was the dispatcher’s message to 218’s crew.

As we approached the crossing where Ohio Route 4 crosses CSX, an eastbound double stack was going past.

It cleared and the gates went up just long enough for a couple of cars to get across before going back down for a westbound tank train.

This gave us a chance to get ahead of the 218 and shoot it again at the grain elevator in the actual town of Attica (top photograph). After 218 passed, we doubled back north for the other two trains.

The 12V was next and we set up for it at a spot that we like with two red barns to add to the photo (photo two below). The 12V was monster today with 205 cars, four units up front and a DPU 124 cars deep.

It was plodding along at about 25 mph on the normal westbound main. Before it could clear our location, the 234 went by on the other track blocked from our view by the 12V.

About now 234’s crew was talking to the PTC desk. Something wasn’t right and they’d have to stop briefly and reset something.

This gave us just enough of a break to get ahead of both trains. We again stopped at the Attica elevator and shot both trains there (photo three below).

The 12V would be our focus for the next few shots. The lumbering monster train was not only easy to chase because of its slow speed, it had the Conrail H-Unit running third in the consist (photo four below).

Plus when it got to Bucyrus (buck-eee-rus) it would make a left turn onto the former Conrail Ft. Wayne Line.

I wanted to shoot the elevator at North Robinson between Bucyrus and Crestline.

The brother was now driving. I had to change film after shooting 12V at Attica, so he chose a county road crossing north of the end of the double track at Chatfield for our next shot.

We let the whole train go by before resuming the chase. We tried for the north end of Benson siding via Carroll Road but didn’t make it in time.

Not to panic, the Ridgeton detector showed all the wheels hot on the 125th car. That would be the covered hopper right behind the DPU.

The crew on the 12V figured out a spot in Bucyrus where they could stop and not block crossings to inspect their problem car. It was now about 11:45 a.m. so we made a quick lunch stop at a Burger King on the east side of Bucyrus.

We didn’t dawdle which proved to be a good move. When we came out of the restaurant the Sandusky District dispatcher called the 12V for a progress report.

“Conductor’s about 10 cars back heading this way, we should be on the move shortly.”

“Permission to depart from where you stand.”

We arrived at North Robinson to find two younger railfans already set up for a shot. They were from the Dayton area. Before the 12V got to us two more cars of railfans showed up.

“A lot of fans for an H-unit running third out,” I thought.

Everyone except me lined up for a shot of the 12V splitting the position light signals (photo five below). I positioned myself so I could get the grain elevator with the train.

One of the late arrivals said that the 12V would be meeting the 171 at Crestline. The latter is a Conway to Chatanooga train.

And behind the 171 was a Wheeling and Lake Erie train heading to Lima with interchange cars for the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern.

“That’s why the crowd; they’re all here to chase the W&LE. Now it all makes sense,” I thought to myself.

After shooting the 12V, I walked west of the elevator to see if there was a shot there.

Not finding anything to my liking because of too much clutter and derelict truck trailers, I chose a spot that I could get a couple of the houses in town in my photo. Again the rest of the photo line was shooting those signals.

The 171 would be held for one train on the Sandusky District before it would be let around the corner to head south for Cincinnati.

We headed to the diamonds at Colsan in Bucyrus for the 171. We were the only ones there.

If indeed the Wheeling was behind the 171 we were going to chase it west on this former Pennsylvania Railroad trackage.

This is new territory for us. Trains out on this line on weekends are few and far between.

We waited at Colsan for the headlight of the Wheeling to appear before we barreled out of town.

I didn’t want to repeat an episode we had in Indiana a few years back where we chased air for a couple of hours.

The Wheeling indeed was on the move west and would get right across the diamonds at Colsan.

An elevator on the west side of Bucyrus was our first possible shot but we couldn’t find a good angle so it was on the road to Nevada (the city in Ohio, not the state).

Here we found a nice elevator shot in town at the Main Street crossing. The Wheeling train had three units up front, a black, yellow and another black.

They were making about 25 mph on jointed rail. Forgot how good that sounds.

After shooting it here we were off heading west. Using U.S. 30 to get around Upper Sandusky (both elevators there sit along the former C&O), we stopped at Kirby.

Here we found an elevator on the south side of the tracks and a garage that was painted to look like a red barn on the north side. We could frame the train between the two. We liked it and waited a few minutes for the train (photo six below).

Forest is the next town and never having been there we didn’t know what to expect.

Turns out Forest has two elevators along the tracks. We shot at the easterly one, a classic ceramic tile structure that was painted white at one time. The peeling paint on the elevator added some character to the scene.

It was then back on the road toward Dunkirk where the Ft. Wayne Line crosses the former New York Central (Toledo & Ohio Central Western Branch), now the CSX Toledo Branch Subdivision.

Dunkirk Tower still stands at the southwest corner of the diamond. It is shootable on the north/south line, because I have done it in the past while railfanning the Toledo Branch in Conrail days.

We rolled into town to find that the tower is shootable for a northbound/southbound and eastbound. You guessed it, no westbound shot. Off to Dola we went.

Dola is the next town to the west. The elevator in town is visible from Dunkirk.

I had hoped for a better photo op there but Dola disappointed. The elevator is only accessible on the east end, so it can only be shot eastbound. Oh Well, on to Ada.

Ada is a college town, the home of Northern Ohio University. I knew from some friends that went to NOU that the depot still stands and a caboose is displayed outside of it.

As we found in the last two towns the depot was not shootable for a westbound train when the sun is as far south as it is on March 1. It might be shootable from the north side of the tracks in the summer for a westbound.

We continued two blocks further west to the grain elevator in town. It is shootable westbound (photo seven below).

Actually, there is a large open area west of it with some siding tracks that could hold grain cars when the harvest season is in progress. They also have a critter to switch the facility.

We parked the car and waited about five minutes for the W&LE to arrive. I finally got a chance to count the cars that the Wheeling had today: 96 empty sand cars, an empty trash hopper and another covered hopper not like the sand cars.

This would be our last shot of the train and of the day. It was now after 3:30 p.m. and we were due home for dinner at 6 p.m.

Lisa was making chicken paprikash and you don’t want to miss that. Using Ohio Route 235 north out of town to access U.S. 30, which is now a four-lane divided highway all the way back to Interstate 71, we made good time.

The brother drove the U.S. 30 section of highway. A gas stop and crew change at Ashland put me back at the wheel for the last miles home. We pulled into Robert’s driveway at 5:58 p.m., two minutes to the good.

What a day! We did not expect to be in Ada but we were glad we that we were.

Article by Marty Surdyk, Photos by Robert Surdyk

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