Trains (and Rain) at ARRC Longest Day Outing in Fostoria

A CSX train passes F Tower as it rounds the connection to go north in Fostoria on June 21, 2015. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

June 27, 2021, was a much anticipated day.

It was the Akron Railroad Club’s longest Day outing to Fostoria to visit the “iron rriangle.”

My day began at 6 a.m. with loading my Jeep being out the door at 6:20 a.m. I was five minutes behind schedule, no big deal.

Traffic on Interstate 480 and the Ohio Turnpike was light as usual on a Sunday morning. With one pit stop at a rest area and a trip through the drive thru at McDonald’s in Fremont, I was in Fostoria at 8:15 a.m.

I was surprised to find myself as the only one there. I picked out a picnic table with a view of all three mains and made quick work of breakfast.

The radio began to scratch, a train was nearing. It turned out to be Norfolk Southern intermodel 234.

NS 7600 was in charge of a trio of horses. As 234 cleared, a CSX train was lined from the south on the former Chesapeake & Ohio to east on the former Baltimore  & Ohio. This was auto rack train Q214 behind a pair of locos lead by CSX 7793.

A few minutes later NS intermodel 218 was heard entering town. I lined up my shot only to say “that’s not 218, those are coil steel cars.” NS 7691 with two trailing units passed with coil steel cars extended as far as you could see.

Sixty-one cars deep the intermodal freight that 218 would normally carry was finally coming by.

“Strange” I thought to myself.

What was even stranger was the fact that 218 stopped east of town and set out the 61 coil steel cars in the “new yard.”

Those coil cars are heading to Pro-Tec Steel in Leipsic via NS local L70 as we’ll see later.

About a half hour passed with no action. The next train at 9:29 a.m. was a CSX northbound loaded coal train. The symbol sounded like U506.

It was making track speed through the interlockings and coal dust was flying off the cars as each set of wheels pounded the diamonds. The U506 was heading to the Toledo Docks where the coal will be loaded into a lake freighter.

Next up was NS local L70. They were heading to the steel plant in Leipsic with a cut of 46 coil steel cars. For power they had NS 3067 and NS 6338.

The cars that 218 set out will most likely go to Leipsic on Monday’s L70. There must have been a shortage of cars for the plant if they used a hot intermodel train to get them to Fostoria.         

Just after 10:30 a.m. a CSX eastbound turned north on the C&O. It had CSX 771 up front with three other units trailing.

This was a mixed freight. I have no idea what the symbol was; couldn’t understand a word they were saying on the radio.

Twenty minutes later, we had the first sighting of a DPU. CSX Q203 had CSX 3286 up front and CSX763 about a third of the way back on a long train of auto racks. They went from south to west.

At 11:24 a.m. NS got back into the act with the passing of westbound intermodel 217.  He had a bit of a saga trying to get through town. The detector east of town at MP 275.4 reported hot wheel, axle 26 on the fireman’s side.

The CSX dispatcher had them lined across the diamonds, but they stopped before accepting the signal at the C&O diamond to check the hot wheel.

The CSX dispatcher wanted his railroad back to run a couple of his own trains. He gave the NS train the diamonds because they were short and moving right along. After some three-way radio conversations among the CSX dispatcher, the NS trainmaster and the 217’s crew, it was decided the 217 would proceed through town and then stop and inspect the hot wheel.

CSX indeed had trains to run. For the next hour, six CSX trains passed. Leading the way was Q166, the CP run-through. CP 8724 was leading with CP 7044 in the middle. They go straight east on the former B&O.

Right on the heels of Q166 was CSX double stack Q158. It was lead by CSX 63 and one additional unit.

Southbound empty hopper train U501 went south a few minutes after Q158 cleared.

Next up was CSX westbound doubles tack Q157. It had CSX 3011 up front with CSX 3067 splitting the double stacks from a cut of auto racks.

One of the hottest trains on the railroad, CSX Q010 was next, heading east on the B&O at 12:16 p.m. He had CSX 817 and one additional unit up front with CSX 3223 in the middle.

CSX Q150 ended the flurry as it went from east to north. Its destination is Detroit.  It was lead by CSX 423 and one additional unit.

While the CSX flurry was going on NS had a train that had worked in the yard for a while and was ready to head west. The 13Q had called their dispatcher and wanted an update as to when they were going to be moving west.

“CSX says he’ll take you as soon as a window opens up for you.”

When 13Q finally got the signal to proceed, we found out why CSX was reluctant to take the train across their diamonds. The 13Q was HUGE. Coming out the yard onto the main at restricted speed it went by for 25 minutes!

It only held up one CSX train. The Q151 was coming south and looking to go west toward North Baltimore.

As Q151 cleared the skies were darkening and rain looked imminent. I went into the restroom and then was hoping to make it back to the Jeep before the rains hit. No luck.

The skies opened up and a huge downpour was underway. Inside the restroom it sounded like someone pounding on the door. I stayed put until the rain let up a bit and I made a dash out the door to the other side of the building out of the wind and rain.

Interestingly, both CSX and NS at this time had gone quiet. It was radio silence for now.

When the rain finally let up enough that I could head to the Jeep, I decided now might be a good time for lunch. It was about 1:45 p.m. and my snacks that I brought with me can only hold you so long.

It was off to Arby’s, the closest fast food to the park. I was back in no time; no line at the drive thru at this time of the afternoon.

I ate in the car. It was still radio silence. They couldn’t be done running trains for the day, could they?

It was an hour and a half between trains. CSX Q358 finally broke the dry spell (trains not rain) at 2:44 p.m. as it passed behind CSX 5467 and one additional.

NS was next with the return of local L70 about ten minutes behind the Q358. It was only a few more minutes when a northbound CSX grain train came past on the C&O. It carried symbol G326 and was lead by CSX 384.

About 45 minutes passed before our next move. This was an ethanol train that came into town eastbound and turned south on the C&O. It was lead by a pair of CP GE’s. The leader was CP 8957.

CSX was next, as they took out the trash, sort of. Earlier in the day CSX 5329 running as local H792 tied on to some garbage cars and headed south to the garbage dump. They set out the cut that they took down and came back with 75 empties. They took the empties around the southeast wye and left them in the B&O east siding.

While they did this CSX Q169 double stacker came by westbound. CSX 9010 was today’s leader of a short train.

Q635 was approaching on Main 2 with more garbage cars to set out for the dump south of town. The H792 returned light to the yard on the C&O side to wait for Q635’s set out. They would take them south before calling it a day.

Q635 had CSX 3266 up front. It had garbage cars up front, some mixed freight in the middle and more garbage on the rear.

While they tied up the southeast connection to make their set out, CSX Q201 came around the northwest connection traveling from south to west. It had CSX 47 doing a solo.

It was now after 6 p.m. Several more cars of fans were arriving. The big news of the day was CSX Q016 had CSX 3194 on the lead.

CSX 3194 is painted up in a blue and black scheme to “Honor Our Law Enforcement.”

I wondered if it would make it before dark. It had left Chicago in late morning and they had to change crews at North Baltimore. All we could do was wait and see.

CSX Q555 was next. This is a Collinwood to Cincinnati train. It had CSX 409 and 888 up front pulling a cut of steel slabs followed by some mixed freight.

On the heels of the Q555 was coke train K182. It had CSX 354 and 562 up front.

With the diamonds clear of CSX action, the CSX dispatcher let NS have the rails for one each way. The 15Q behind NS 3618 passed at 7:06 p.m. As his last cars were disappearing around the curve on their way out of town, NS 12Q came into view with four ponies up from with NS 1142 as the leader.

My last train of the day was CSX Q370 at 7:26 p.m. This mixed freight was lead by CSX 988 and CSX 110.

I didn’t leave at this point. I stayed at the park until 8:45 p.m. hoping to catch the CSX 3194 before dark. I also was concerned about the prospects of finding something to eat this late in the day. Some restaurants have been closing earlier than usual due to the shortage of workers.

I missed the CSX 3194 by about a half hour. It went by about 9:15. I watched the play back of the action from Sunday on the Fostoria Rail Cam Monday morning before leaving for work. I also missed one westbound intermodel on CSX that passed just before the CSX 3194 came by.

Oh, well, maybe next time, when things get more back to normal.

For those keeping score with me, I totaled 30 movements in 12 and a half hours. The only foreign power leading were the CPs on Q166 and the ethanol train.

I was surprised to see as much action on the C&O south of Fostoria as I did. The last time I spent a day at Marion, my train count on the C&O was zero.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s Longest Day. Where are we headed?

Article by Marty Surdyk

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