Railroads: CSX (former Big Four) and Wheeling & Lake Erie
Traffic: CSX has between 50 and 60 trains a day, many of them intermodal trains, but there is a good mix of manifest, grain, auto rack and coal trains. The W&LE has around eight trains a day.
Radio Frequencies: CSX 160.860 (road), 160.485 (dispatcher); W&LE 161.025 (road and dispatcher)
Highlights: Located at the intersection of Ohio Routes 60 and 162 in the far southeast corner of Huron County, New London offers busy mainline railroading and regional railroading in a small town setting. There are a variety of locations and angles for the photographers in and outside of town.
The primary action is CSX, which uses the former Big Four (New York Central) line that once ran between Cleveland and St. Louis. Today this route is part of the CSX artery between the East Coast and the Midwest. Most trains turn onto or off the ex-Big Four at Greenwich, using a former Baltimore & Ohio route to and from Chicago.
W&LE trains operate on CSX trackage rights through New London. At one time, the Wheeling came through town on the former Akron, Canton & Youngstown route to Carey, Ohio. However, the ex-AC&Y was removed several years ago in favor of trackage rights. W&LE trains get onto CSX tracks northeast of town at CP47, adjacent to the former NYC-AC&Y crossing called Hiles. Some W&LE trains continue on CSX to Willard while other trains get back on Wheeling (ex-AC&Y) rails at Greenwich.
CSX traffic tends to be oriented toward intermodal trains and manifest freights. The Wheeling has a daily manifest freight to and from Willard, a coke train that runs through on CSX to Detroit and stone and grain trains that originate on the ex-AC&Y west of Greenwich.
On CSX, W&LE trains operate with Z symbols. Usually, a westbound Wheeling train will contact the CSX IF dispatcher in Indianapolis for permission to come onto CSX. If CSX is busy, the Wheeling train may have to wait a while. In some instances, the W&LE Willard trains have to wait at New London for a track to open in the yard at Willard.
As for railfanning and photography locations, Chenango Road northeast of New London crosses both railroads. Wheeling trains waiting to get onto CSX sometimes stop just east of the crossing. On the CSX mainline, a red barn adjacent to the crossing makes a nice photo prop for westbound trains in the morning and trains in either direction in the afternoon.
On the edge of town, an overpass on Bigelow Parkway crosses the CSX tracks at CP47. There is a nice shot to be had of westbound W&LE tracks approaching the junction. The CSX mainline here is a straight shot in both directions, which makes for some nice head-on image making. But be advised that the bridge has a fence, which means you’ll have to shoot from the side of the fence, over the top of the fence, or through the fence if you have a telephoto lens.
In town, there is parking on the north side of the tracks just east of the grade crossing with Ohio Route 60. There are some small grain silos and large trees here to use as photo props. Another prop is the former NYC freight house, which still has a NYC sign attached. Somewhat obscuring the sign, though, is a former Pennsylvania Railroad boxcar.
Southwest of town, a favorite railfan hangout is the above ground reservoir on the southside of the tracks. There is a small parking lot adjacent to the reservoir next to the crossing of the CSX tracks with Greenwich East Town Line Road. Photographers who climb to the top of the reservoir are rewarded with largely unobstructed views in both directions, save for some trees along the railroad right of way.
Although there are good photographs to be had of trains at the reservoir at all times of the day, the idea light occurs in the morning, particularly if you on top of the reservoir. But by repositioning yourself at ground level in the afternoon, you can still get some nice images, particularly at trackside.
Trains call signals on CSX, which is a good way to know of approaching traffic. There is a detector at LaGrange (MP 32.3) which you might be able to pick up atop the reservoir or the Bigelow Parkway bridge, but might miss at ground level. The detector at MP 50 is of less use because by the time it activates, trains are on top of you at the reservoir.
The New London reservoir is within a mile or two of the aforementioned ex-B&O route. The train horns you hear might be a train on that route. If you know where to look while atop the reservoir you can see the trains on the former B&O from a distance. If you wish to photograph those trains, you might head to a nearby crossing on Township Road 1461.
To reach this crossing, go south on Greenwich East Town Line Road to the south edge of the reservoir and turn left onto Town Line Road. The first right turn off Town Line Road is Township Road 1461, which is a gravel road. The crossing of the B&O has much to recommend it. The tracks come out of a curve to the east and just west of the crossing are a pair of color position light signals. In the fall, there is some nice foliage here on both sides of the tracks.
CSX trains on the former B&O call signals on road channel 160.230. The dispatcher channel is 160.320. Radio traffic on these frequencies can be easily picked up at the New London Reservoir. By listening to what signals eastbound trains call at Greenwich, you usually can discern if the train is headed for the ex-Big Four or the ex-B&O. If you hear a train on track No. 2 call a clear signal at Boyd (the crossing in Greenwhich of the ex-B&O and ex-NYC), it is headed for the ex-B&O toward Akron.
W&LE trains call signals while on CSX, but another way to know of Wheeling traffic is to monitor that road’s radio channel to listen for trains receiving or releasing track warrants.
Food and Beverages: There is a McDonalds restaurant in downtown New London on the south side of Ohio Route 162 and a Subway shop inside the Marathon gas station/convenience store just west of the CSX crossing with Route 60. Both have dining areas with the Subway featuring railroad photographs taken by a former Hiles Tower operator. The tracks are visible from the McDonalds dining room so you won’t miss any action.