Railfanning the Former LE&W in Indiana

I took a trip to Indiana last weekend and the focus was to railfan the old Lake Erie & Western lines.

The LE&W was a typical Midwestern Granger railroad that ran between Sandusky, Ohio, and Peoria, Illinois.

It has had an interesting history as its owners the Seney Syndicate first built the Nickel Plate Road between Chicago and Buffalo in an attempt to bypass the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern at Sandusky, which treated them unfairly for eastbound traffic.

Unfortunately, the LE&W was so expensive that in order to pay for its construction the Seney Syndicate had to sell the NKP to the LS&MS (New York Central).

Next they built the Northern Ohio, which stretched between Delphos and Akron.

This was moderately successful and would eventually be sold to the Akron, Canton & Youngstown.

Eventually the Seney Syndicate dissolved and the LE&W was sold to the NYC in 1900.

The NYC operated it as part of their Big Four Lines although it did not merge it into the NYC System.

In 1922 the LE&W was sold and merged into the Nickel Plate Road and became the Lake Erie and Western District.

It then became part of the Norfolk & Western in 1964 and Norfolk Southern in 1982.

Since then parts of the line have been abandoned or sold to short lines although NS retains much of the route.

The line between Fort Wayne and New Castle, Indiana, is a major mainline for NS – the New Castle District – but was considered a branch line for most of its existence.

The rest of the trackage that NS operates is of either secondary or branch line status.

This leads me to the top photograph, which was made at the former LE&W station at Tipton, Indiana.

It was built during NYC ownership and is built to their standard station design.

NS train 123 is passing it and is one of the few road trains to use this part of the route.

The bottom photograph shows the former LE&W yard in Lafayette.

It’s a simple picture showing the yard and an engine switching but there’s a lot going on.

In the background is a grain mill-type plant, Carghill I think, that is typical of many such plants throughout the Midwest.

The engine itself has a history with the line starting life as N&W 1635, an SD40-2 purchased in 1973.

Today it still retains its high short hood, which is getting rare these days.

The many auto rack cars in the background are for a Subaru factory across the road. The former mainline of the LE&W is at left.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

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