Olmsted Falls (Cleveland)
Railroads: Norfolk Southern (former New York Central)
Traffic: The NS Chicago line typically sees 50 to 60 trains a day, many of them intermodal trains. There are also manifest freights, and coal and unit trains. Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited use this route, but are scheduled through during the night or, in the case of the eastbound Lake Shore Limited, around dawn.
Radio Frequencies: 160.980 (NS road and dispatcher west of Berea), 161.070 (road and dispatcher east of Berea)
Highlights: Why railfan at Olmsted Falls which has one busy mainline when Berea a couple of miles to the east features two busy mainline railroads? For starters, at Olmsted Falls there are grassy areas from which to view and photograph trains on each side of the three tracks. The NS Chicago line comes through Olmsted Falls on a long tangent, making it easier to photograph trains here than in Berea because you can get closer to the action and switch sides as the lighting conditions change.
The long straightaway is ideal for telephoto shots, but if you want to use a wide-angle lens, the picturesque ex-NYC depot and a former Pennsylvania Railroad caboose on static display make good photo props. The Cuyahoga Valley and West Shore model railroad club owns the depot. With some creativity, you can also use trees, vegetation, crossing gates, a former grain elevator, and fence posts to frame the trains.
Olmsted Falls has a few other features to recommend it. There is a city park adjacent to the NS tracks on the north side that stretches between Brookside Drive and Mapleway Drive. The park has a gravel parking lot, a few large trees, and benches and tables.
Finally, because Olmsted Falls attracts fewer railfans, it is a “quieter” place to railfan than Berea, which can be quite crowded on weekends.
The aforementioned model railroad club appears not to mind if non-members sit on its benches to watch trains, particularly if club members are not meeting or having an event there. Nonetheless, it might be wise to park in the gravel lot across the tracks in the city park rather than in the club’s paved lot.
There are three ways to be forewarned of approaching trains at Olmsted Falls. Block signals are visible from the depot/park. The intermediate signals at milepost 195 to the east and the signals at CP 197 to the west are approach lit. With numerous grade crossings in Olmsted Falls you are sure to hear horns blaring before a train arrives.
But the best way to know of approaching traffic is to monitor your scanner for approaching trains calling signal indications over the radio. For westbound trains, listen on 161.070. You will hear trains calling signals as far away as CP Max (formerly CP 190). Eastbound trains can be heard on 160.980 as far away as CP207 in Elyria, although you are more likely to hear trains call signals at CP 203.
Sometimes the Toledo East dispatcher talks to eastbounds about plans to hold them for other traffic or to have them cross over somewhere. The same holds true with the Cleveland Terminal dispatcher to the east. The dispatcher territories and radio frequencies change at the west end of the Berea interlocking (CP 194).
Trains usually move quickly through Olmsted Falls, but eastbounds on the Berea siding loaf along at a much more leisurely pace. Traffic can be quite heavy at times on the NS Chicago line with its steady parade of intermodal, merchandise and coal trains.
Most trains have Norfolk Southern locomotives on the point, but trains bound for or coming off the former Nickel Plate Road route east of Cleveland sometimes have foreign power up front. On occasion, an eastbound train arrives on the Berea siding with foreign power in the lead, but an NS unit is added at Berea if the train will be using the cab-signal equipped Cleveland Line.
In an oddity, the street on the north side of the tracks is North Depot Street. But the station itself is actually on Garfield Avenue south of the tracks.
Food and Beverages: There are various restaurants in the vicinity of Great Northern Mall, about two miles to the north. Other offerings can be found on Bagley Road to the south.
Notable: If you enjoy watching aircraft, the final approach path for the main runways at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport goes right over the depot and the park. Plane watching tends to be best when aircraft are landing to the northeast on runways 6 right and 6 left. But even when runways 24 right and 24 left are in use, many departing planes overfly Olmsted Falls. The control tower frequencies are 120.9 and 124.5.