They Might Have Been Surprised But I Wasn’t

My one and thus far only catch of the Central of Georgia heritage locomotive came in March 2015

Early Monday morning I opened my new email folder expecting to find a message from Edward Ribinskas containing a photograph of the Central of Georgia heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern passing through Berea.

Ed had told me of his plans to attend a Frontier League baseball game in Avon Lake on Sunday afternoon with Marty Surdyk. They had planned to railfan in Berea before going to the game.

Catching the NS 8101 may have surprised Ed and Marty, but it didn’t surprise me.

On Saturday evening I had checked HeritageUnits.com to see if anything was setting up to come through Berea Sunday morning that they might catch.

I noticed an 11N with the NS 8101 was making its way across Pennsylvania en route to Sterling Heights, Michigan, from Doremus, New Jersey.

On Sunday morning I checked HU.com again to see how far west the 8101 had been reported.

The latest report was in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, at 10:54 p.m. on Saturday. Had the 8101 been leading an intermodal train it more than likely would have been through Northeast Ohio hours before Marty and Ed arrived in Berea.

But the 11N works Conway Yard near Pittsburgh and manifest and bulk commodity trains don’t always move expeditiously, sometimes getting held for long periods of time for higher priority traffic and/or a new crew.

On Sunday afternoon I checked HU.com and found the 11N was reported at Berea at 11:05 a.m. or 11:07 a.m., depending on whose report you want to believe.

That would have been within the window of when I expected Ed and Marty to be in Berea; hence I was looking for Ed to send a photo of the 8101.

The two of them also caught DC to AC conversion unit 4000, one of the “Blue Brothers” locomotives that are so named because of a blue and gray livery.

You may recall reading in Ed’s report as well as a post Marty had written about his formula for having railfan success that getting the 8101 on Sunday morning completed Marty’s collection of photographs of all 20 NS heritage units.

Marty is correct in saying that success in catching out of the ordinary trains and locomotives hinges in part in doing your homework. Likewise, he is correct in saying that there is a lot of luck involved in being in the right place at the right time to catch something.

Neither Ed nor Marty indicated it they checked HU.com before heading for Berea on Sunday. If they had they might have found out as I did that there was a chance they might see the Central of Georgia H unit.

I say might because the latest report on HU.com before they actually saw the 8101 was the previous evening in Johnstown. If anyone saw it in Alliance and anywhere else east of Cleveland, they didn’t report it.

Likewise, the most recent report on NS 4000 was at Rochester, Pennsylvania, at 8:19 p.m. on Saturday.

Relying on HU.com or other online reports, e.g., Facebook, sometimes can only take you so far in determining what lies down the tracks that is headed your way.

That means Marty is also correct in saying that above all you need to be there if you want to catch something out of the ordinary or, sometimes, anything at all.

By coincidence the Central of Georgia H unit was the last one I needed to complete my check list of NS heritage units. When I finally photographed the 8101 on March 12, 2015, in Olmsted Falls, it was not the first time I had seen it.

I had seen it at least once but had not been in a position to get a photograph. One of those sightings occurred as I drove east on Chester Avenue in Cleveland and it passed in front of me on the Cleveland Line bridge over the street.

Although I’ve forgotten the details I have a hazy memory of having had a few near misses in getting NS 8101 in the weeks and months leading up to finally bagging it.

Alas, I haven’t seen or photographed the 8101 since then.

While researching this article I noticed that had Ed and Marty gone back to Berea or even to Olmsted Falls after the baseball game they could have caught the Monongahela H unit, which came west leading the 25Z.

It was reported at Berea at 7:23 p.m. but that probably was too late for them to still be trackside.

At some point you just have to call it a day, move on to other things, and hope that luck is still with you next time you are trackside.

We all need to remind ourselves from time to time that railfanning for most of us is a hobby and not a job with all of the pressures and demands that come with it. I have met railroad photographers who make rail photography into something akin to work.

They come back with some spectacular images that we all admire and enjoy. Maybe we even wish we could have gotten that image. You could have if you had been willing to do the work required to get it.

Yet is going to work the reason why you go trackside? For some the answer is yes.

As for Ed and Marty, I have a hunch that even if their Sunday in Berea had been just another routine day and the NS 8101 and NS 4000 had never come along they still would have enjoyed themselves and not been greatly disappointed about the two that got away.

Article by Craig Sanders

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