Where RoadRailers Still Roam

There was a time when RoadRailer trains were a common sight in Northeast Ohio. But in September 2015 Norfolk Southern announced it would restructure its Triple Crown truck/rail service division.

The result was that RoadRailer service ended on all routes except Detroit-Kansas City over the former Wabash mainline via Fort Wayne and Lafayette, Indiana; and Decatur and Springfield, Illinois.

Although I’ve photographed trains on the ex-Wabash a few times in the past year, I had never caught a RoadRailer until last weekend.

Like so many photo opportunities, this one came while I was chasing after something else.

My objective was to capture eastbound east of Tolono, Illinois, stack train 20T, a Kansas City to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, train that passes through Cleveland.

But as I crossed the NS Lafayette District tracks, I spotted a headlight to the east on the single track of a westbound. The 20T would be meeting that westbound at the east end of the Tolono siding.

So i waited there at a grade crossing and as the westbound came into closer view I noticed that it had a Union Pacific solo leader and was the RoadRailer, which operates as Train 255 and departs Detroit’s Oakwood Yard daily except Monday.

The lone RoadRailer service left in the United States hauls auto parts. In its 2015 announcement, NS said the Detroit-Kansas City route would continue indefinitely. That was more than five years ago.

The RoadRailer I saw dashing across the Illinois prairie didn’t look any different than the numerous RoadRailer trains I’ve photographed in years past in Ohio.

If anything, it was good to see an old friend and that he was still the same as I remembered him to be.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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