Fort Wayne Line Memories

An eastbound Conrail RoadRailer train approaches the diamonds with the Indianapolis Line in Crestline on Sept. 12, 1998.

The news that Norfolk Southern plans to reduce the infrastructure of its Fort Wayne Line between Alliance and Crestline brought back a lot of memories of the trains I over the years on that route.

That sent me into my photo collection where I discovered I had a surprisingly wide variety of trains and types of motive power.

I say surprising because the Fort Wayne Line has not often been a place where I’ve spent a lot of time, particularly west of Alliance.

East of Alliance the Fort Wayne Line is a busy railroad hosting a extensive assortment of NS traffic operating between the Midwest and East Coast.

But west of Alliance is another story. It was a moderately busy place in the Conrail era because traffic coming east from Columbus, Indianapolis and St. Louis joined the Fort Wayne Line at Crestline.

But after NS and CSX split Conrail, traffic on the Fort Wayne line plummeted.

It wasn’t always that way. The Fort Wayne Line was a principal freight and passenger artery to Chicago for the Pennsylvania Railroad, hosting many of the railroad’s Blue Ribbon fleet passenger trains.

Conrail downgraded the Fort Wayne Line west of Crestline in the late 1980s, a move that sent Amtrak’s Broadway Limited and Capitol Limited onto other routes in November 1990.

I first experienced the Fort Wayne Line on June 12, 1995, during the Orrville Railroad Days festival.

Conrail would send a locomotive to display and you could visit the cab.

The Orrville Railroad Heritage Society would operate track cars and a passenger train on a siding that was the original Wheeling & Erie mainline before the Orrville bypass was constructed.

You could count on seeing a few Conrail freights pass during the late morning hours.

I got lucky during the June 1998 festival and caught the rear head end of an eastbound W&LE train passing over the top of the rear of an eastbound Conrail manifest freight on the west side of Orrville.

I got even luckier by scoring cab rides twice in the battered F unit the ORHS used to pull the excursion train during that era.

During the final years of Conrail I got out with Dan Davidson to railfan the Fort Wayne Line and we nabbed some good photographs of Big Blue in Crestline and Orrville.

The railroad days festival later moved to August and one year the Akron Railroad Club had a table at a train show held in a pole barn owned by a lumber company.

By then NS owned the Fort Wayne Line and trains were far fewer in number so my forays there were limited to outings when I knew something out of the ordinary was coming.

The Fort Wayne Line was among the favorites of the late ARRC member Richard Jacobs, who lived not far from in Apple Creek.

Jake was active in the ORHS and spent a lot of time in Orrville. He therefore knew when the locals could be expected to arrive.

Jake and I twice photographed the NS locals in Orrville and caught an R.J. Corman train on the Fort Wayne Line once.

Corman uses the Fort Wayne Line to reach its isolated operation in Wooster, a remnant of a former Baltimore & Ohio secondary line, where it serves a Frito Lay plant.

Fellow ARRC member Paul Woodring and I also caught the NS local in Orrville in June 2008 when it had a caboose. Or should I say it had a shoving platform?

Paul and I would railfan the Fort Wayne Line four years later when we chased a ferry move of Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765.

We picked up the chase in Massillon where I recreated a scene that the late ARRC member Robert Redmond had made decades earlier of a westbound PRR steam train coming off the fabled curved bridge over the Tuscarawas River.

Getting the NKP 765 in the same location was tough because by the time it arrived I was photographing right into the sun. But I got the shot.

We later captured the 765 east of Mansfield and at North Robinson passing a pair of classic Pennsy position light signals.

I photographed a number of noteworthy visitors to the Fort Wayne Line over the years.

There was the NS executive train on April 30, 2011, as it made its way to the Kentucky Derby with the F units that have since been sold.

I chased it with Roger Durfee, getting it at Maximo and Orrville.

Then there was Bennett Levin’s Pennsylvania Railroad E8A Nos. 5711 and 5809, which were headed back to Philadelphia after pulling a private car special during the Dennison railroad festival on the Ohio Central in August 2004.

And there was the time during the 2016 ARRC picnic in Warwick Park in Clinton when we learned that the NS Pennsylvania Railroad heritage locomotive was leading eastbound manifest freight 12V.

We followed its progress on social media throughout the day and several of us headed for Massillon in late afternoon to get it.

I chose to catch NS 8102 splitting the PRR position light signals at CP Mace. It just might be my favorite Fort Wayne Line photograph made west of Alliance.

NS increased its use of the Fort Wayne Line around 2014 by diverting some crude oil and ethanol trains that had been using the Chicago Line.

Thinking there might be enough increased traffic to make a day outing worthwhile I drove to Orrville one Saturday morning on a photo safari.

The day got off to a promising start when an eastbound crude oil train with helpers on the rear came through shortly after I arrived.

I heard the crew of that train talking on the radio to another train, which I presumed was in Massillon meeting the tanker train at CP Mace, where the Fort Wayne Line becomes single track to Orrville.

However, it would be an hour before that westbound, a coal train, showed up.

Once it passed through it would be four hours before another train came along, an eastbound crude oil train.

It was a good thing I brought plenty of magazines to read.

None of the four regular manifest freights that use the Fort Wayne Line through Orrville showed up during my time there on this day.

My last photo outing to the Fort Wayne Line was more productive. On Sept. 3, 2016, Adam Barr and I had gone to Alliance to railfan but got word that the Southern heritage unit was leading a westbound coal train over the Fort Wayne Line and would meet the 64T at Mace.

The 64T was being led by a Union Pacific unit and had the Erie heritage unit trailing.

We drove over there and caught both trains as planned. A bonus was a northbound R.J. Corman train waiting to cross at Mace.

It couldn’t get much better than that.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

You could always count on seeing some Conrail action in late morning in June during the Orrville Railroad Days festival. In a view made from Orr Tower a westbound RoadRailer comes through town.

The late Richard Jacobs and I caught the NS local working in Orrville on a couple of occasions including November 2010 when it was backing off the Fort Wayne Line and onto a remnant of the former Cleveland, Akron & Columbus line.

En route to see the thoroughbreds run in the Kentucky Derby, another thoroughbred strikes a classic pose in Maximo on April 30, 2011.

A touch of the Pennsy passes a former PRR passenger station in Orrville as Bennett Levin’s E8A locomotives return to Philadelphia.

It may be trailing but at least I caught the Erie Railroad heritage locomotive at CP Mace.

This just might be my favorite photograph that I’ve made on the Fort Wayne Line. The Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit leads the 12V at CP Mace in Massillon.

The lighting was tough but I managed to recreate with Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 an image similar to one made of a Pennsy steam locomotive by Bob Redmond leading a train west from the curved bridge in Massillon.

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2 Responses to “Fort Wayne Line Memories”

  1. DRParsons Says:

    These are great pics! Thank you so much!

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