2013 Outing in Vermilion
We spent most of the day in Vermilion, Ohio, but New Jersey was on our mind. That’s because Norfolk Southern had a crew called for 10 a.m. in Buffalo, N.Y., to take train 297 west. On the point would be No. 1071, the New Jersey Central heritage unit.
Maybe, just maybe, the Akron Railroad Club would break the jinx and see an NS heritage unit during a club outing close to home.
The day began in the upper parking lot of the Vermilion River boat launch area. Marty Surdyk and Tim Krogg arrived at 9:25 a.m. and I got there at 9:45. Todd Vander Sluis was just behind me in arriving.
Marty had heard from Richard Thompson about the 287 and he figured that in a best case scenario it would pass through Vermillion no earlier than 2 p.m. and more likely in the late afternoon hours.
We made our way down to water level and spent the morning at a picnic table watching and photographing NS trains crossing over the river. We also saw a steady parade of boats on this beautiful sunny summer Sunday.
Alas, NS sent six westbound trains past before we finally got an eastbound. What’s the big deal you ask? The light favored eastbounds.
We finally got an eastbound at 11:43, by which time the sun was high in the sky.
In the meantime we had been joined by Rick Houck. Later in the day Marty’s brother Robert, his nephew Henry and the latter’s son, The Griff, also joined us.
After waiting just over an hour for another eastbound, we headed off to lunch at Subway.
We had been tracking the progress of the 287 and it was due for a crew change at Conneaut just after 1 p.m.
Our thinking was that we would seek to photograph this train in late day light west of Vermilion. After dropping Tim off at the boat launch area, Marty, Todd and myself set out to photograph the 145 and to scout photo locations for the 287.
We barely managed to get to a grade crossing to catch the 145 and shortly thereafter we caught another manifest freight on the Chicago Line.
We then returned to town and set up camp at the Vermilion railfan platform at Victory Park. It is a nice setup and a good place to spend an afternoon watching trains.
Field reports had the 287 getting closer to Cleveland as it passed Madison, Mentor, Eastlake and Wickfliffe.
We decided that we’d be proactive and go to the train rather than sitting around waiting for the train come to us. We had heard that the train would be working at Fairlane Yard, which suggested it would take the Chicago Line west of Cleveland.
We had a plan to go to Amherst and photograph the “Jersey Girl” from the Jackson Street overpass.
But what if the 287 took the former Nickel Plate Road route west from Cleveland?
Indeed that is what happened. But we had a heads up on that and decided to meet the train at Miller Road in Avon Lake.
We retrieved Tim from the river side and barreled eastward on Ohio Route 2.We got to the Miller Road crossing a few minutes before the 287 showed up.
Arriving just after us were fellow ARRC members Roger Durfee and Todd Dillon.
Marty had parked on the wrong side of the tracks and that cost us some photo opportunities. Yes, we got the shot at Miller Road, but had no chance to get westward ahead of the train right away.
And this was one l-l-l-l-o-o-o-o-n-n-n-g-g-g-g train.
It had around 100 empty auto racks and stopped four times as the conductor had to hand throw the switches.
When it finally cleared, we dashed across the tracks and got into Marty’s jeep. Instead of turning left, he decided to go right and for the next 15 minutes or so we toured various western Cleveland suburbs in search of Harris Road, where there is a grade crossing at the west end of the yard.
We finally found Harris Road but were on the wrong side of the crossing. We decided to go to the other side.
Marty could have taken a direct route to the road leading to an overpass over the tracks, but he elected instead to do some more suburban sightseeing.
We finally got to the other side of the crossing on Harris Road, but the railfans had decided to move on to Lake Breeze Road. The head end of the 287 was just short of this crossing.
We arrived at Lake Breeze to find a crowd of about 20 railfans milling about. The NS crew planned to pull ahead and cut the train, but it had to wait for a switch to time out before it could be unlocked and thrown.
There was much socializing going on and we even posed for a couple of group shots.
Finally, the CNJ unit and its train moved forward, we got some more photographs and then it was back to the Vermilion railfan park.
We arrived just in time to see Rick leaving. I don’t think he saw us. Apparently he had given up on us returning or he needed to head for home.
NS planned to run the 287’s power light to Bellevue so maybe we’d see the CNJ unit again. And maybe not.
We photographed a pair of westbounds in downtown Vermilion. By now people were gathering at Victory Park for a Sunday evening concert.
It was getting close to 7 p.m. and there didn’t seem to be any more westbounds in the offing so we decided to call it a day and have dinner at the nearby Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant.
After eating, we were standing in the parking lot about 8:30 p.m. and what came by but the CNJ unit and its traveling companion.
By now there was little light left. Good thing we decided to go find it earlier.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders