2009 Overnighter Outing to North East, Pa.
The sun had just made its first appearance of the day, breaking out from behind a cluster of large clouds. But to the north another bank of clouds, ominous and dark, loomed over Lake Erie. Five Akron Railroad Club members stood on the wooden trestle carrying Bort Road over the CSX tracks near North East, Pennsylvania. It was unusually cool for late August and two of those there wore only T-shirts.
Then we saw it. Although it wasn’t raining, a rainbow began to fill the sky. It slowly grew until extending from horizon to horizon. Was there a pot of gold at one of the end of that rainbow and a pot ‘o trains at the other? Was this a good omen for the day?
Fortunately, the rainbow came as CSX ran a pair of trains, a stack train (Q129) headed west and a manifest freight (Q378) headed eastward. The latter would turn out to be the last train we would see that had sunlight on its nose. The clouds soon closed in and the sun found only a few breaks the rest of the day.
Even worse, rain fell periodically throughout the day. But that didn’t stop the five ARRC members who made the trek for the overnight outing, which turned into a three-state odyssey.
Rick Houck was the first to arrive in Conneaut, Ohio, the agreed upon meeting point, on last Saturday morning. Richard Thompson soon joined him later while Marty Surdyk and Tim Krogg arrived in late afternoon. This group spotted 18 trains on CSX and one on Norfolk Southern before traveling to Lake City, Pennsylvania, for dinner at the restaurant that now occupies the former New York Central depot. The group spent the night at the Super 8 motel in North East.
The next morning, they shivered in the chilly air as they set up shop on the Bort Road bridge at about 6:45 a.m. Q129 train pulled up and stopped. It was part of a three train meet that also involved Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited and Q378
ARRC president Craig Sanders joined the group shortly before 7 a.m., having left his home in Cleveland about two hours earlier.
The Amtrak train departed Erie on the money and passed beneath the ARRC group at about 7:10. Five minutes later the sun came out. It would be that kind of a day.
Just over an hour later, Rick, Marty and Tim went off for breakfast at a nearby truck stop while Craig and Rich stayed behind to photograph an westbound coal train (E960), an eastbound CSX intermodal (L112), an eastbound NS manifest freight (14M) and a westbound CSX auto rack train (Q227).
No ARRC member was trackside when an eastbound CSX ethanol train (K638) with two Canadian Pacific units passed by, although they saw it from the restaurant. They also saw an eastbound intermodal train (Q114) follow behind the K train.
After returning to Bort Road, the ARRC group was treated to a westbound CSX intermodal train (Q161) in a light rain that soon turned into a pouring rain, sending the ARRC members to their vehicle for shelter. The time of the rain was fortuitous because it coincided with CSX going into a slumber that would last more than an hour.
With the rain settled in for a while, Rick, Craig, Marty and Tim headed for Westfield, New York, to check out photo possibilities there. For the past several months, a string of idled auto rack cars had been parked on a siding next to the former NYC station in Westfield.
Those cars had been moved, which meant that photos incorporating the station with trains were now possible without obstruction from the Portage Road overpass. That is, if there had been trains to photograph. The four ARRC members stood beneath the station’s overhang and peeked into the windows of the station, which is largely vacant, although restored.
In the meantime, Rich and his friend Tim Sullivan headed into Erie to check out what was outside the General Electric locomotive plant. Rich called around noon to “OS” an eastbound CSX manifest freight (Q380) with BNSF power in the lead. In the meantime, we had caught a piece of a conversation between the CSX dispatcher and an unidentified party regarding having to hold at CP 42 for two hotshots.
We presumed that these were westbounds, but weren’t sure. We decided to stick around for at least one of the westbounds so we could get a photo from the bridge with the station in the background. We shot Q380 with the BNSF power – it had two NS units trailing – from ground level, before hiking up to the bridge to capture an eastbound auto rack train (Q268) and a westbound intermodal train (Q105).
All trains should be required to have a radio as strong as that in the lead unit of the Q268 and have an engineer or conductor who calls signals over the radio as distinctly as its crew did. We heard the Q268 calls signals as far away as North East.
We heard the second of the two “hot shots,” on the radio and thought we could get to Rogerville Road near Ripley, New York, ahead of him. We didn’t. The Q109 was passing through the crossing as we turned onto Rogerville Road. A few minutes later, Rich and Tim showed up and we caught an eastbound CSX manifest, Q390, before most of us decided to find lunch.
Most of the group patronized a Subway at the Interstate 90-U.S. 20 interchange near the Pennsylvania-New York border, but Craig did some exploring and got a sandwich at a Sheetz in Harbor Creek, Pennsylvania.
We had agreed to meet at the Lake Shore Railway Museum in North East at 2:30 p.m. Rich and his friend Tim decided to go eastward to Westfield and work their way back to the museum, which they had visited while Marty, Craig, Tim and Rick had been in Westfield earlier.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at the museum, talking with the staff and photographing the occasional CSX train. Just one NS train (309) came by during our time there. The CSX offerings included three intermodal trains, an auto rack train and a manifest freight.
Rick had to head for home shortly after the museum closed at 4. The rest of the ARRC contingent stayed until 5 p.m. before driving to Lake City and dinner at the depot. No trains came by during dinner, much to Craig’s displeasure. It was the third time he’s eaten there and all three times CSX was silent during those meals. On the other hand, when Marty, Tim, Rich and Rick ate at the restaurant on Saturday night, they saw four trains pass by during their meal.
After dinner, we lingered in the parking lot and finally CSX sent a train through, a westbound intermodal (Q115). Then it was time to head home. Despite the challenges of the weather, it had been a productive and enjoyable day.
Trains Seen (Recorded by Rich Thompson)
AUGUST 29, 2009
CONNEAUT, OHIO (12:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.)
Q268 — CSXT 7723
Q161 — CSXT 822
Q109 — CSXT 7879
Q264 — CSXT 5327
Q164 — CSXT 448
V771 — UP (CNW) 6726/UP (SP) 6358
Q386 — CSXT 4734
Q117 — CSXT 5489
Q281 — CSXT 8853
Q115 — CSXT 5267
Q377 — CSXT 201
309 — NS 8832
Q108 — CSXT 5289
Q390 — CSXT 760
LAKE CITY, PA. (7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.)
Q110 – CSXT856
Q157 – CSXT 32
Q364 – CSXT 4785
Q169 – CSXT 949
AUGUST 30, 2009
NORTH EAST, PA (BORT ROAD) (6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.)
Q159 – CSXT 129
P048 – AMTK 164
Q378 – CSXT 5375
E960 – UP (SP) 6358 / UP (CNW) 6726
L112 – CSXT 5340
14M – NS 9109
Q227 – CSXT 83
K638 – CP 8883
Q114 – CSXT 5104
Q161 – CSXT 5232
ERIE, PA (Noon to 1 p.m.)
EB COAL – UP 6734
Q380 – BNSF 5264
NORTH EAST, PA (MUSEUM)
Q268 – CSXT 407
RIPLEY, NY (1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.)
Q105 – CSXT 5422
Q109 – CSXT 895
WESTFIELD, NY (Rogerville Rd) (2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.)
Q390 – CSXT 9000
206 – NS 9791
WESTFIELD, NY (GALE ST) (3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.)
309 – NS 2752
L117 – CSXT 7919
Q264 – CSXT 394
STATE LINE, NY (3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
X093 – CSXT 8770
NORTH EAST, PA (4 p.m. to 5 p.m.)
Q164 – CSXT 5392
Q108 – CSXT 5500 “Spirit of Cincinnati”
Q351 – CSXT 5314
LAKE CITY, PA (6 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
Q115 – CSXT 75