Marcy Trestle (Cleveland)
Railroads: CSX (former New York Central)
Traffic: About 50 to 60 trains a day
Radio Frequencies: 160.860 (road), 160.800 (dispatcher)
Highlights: Located along the banks of the Cuyahoga River just south of Cleveland’s industrial flats area is a quiet park that features picnic tables, hiking and biking trails, and good fishing. What is it that the railfan can get from this bucolic spot? Well, how about photographs of CSX trains soaring high above the Cuyahoga River on a double tracked trestle that few people saw before the park opened. This is Cleveland’s hidden valley.
Access to the park area around the Marcy Bridge is off East 49th Street. From Interstate 77 exit at Grant Avenue and go west to East 49th. Make a left on East 49th and look for the sign at the entrance to the park via Whittlesy Way, which you will take you to the visitor’s center and parking lot. You must walk down to the valley floor and the obvious path is the one closest to the CSX tracks.
Upon reaching the bottom, you have the option of going north or south on the Towpath Trail. This is the towpath that mules once trod to pull canal boats along the Ohio & Erie Canal. If you are visiting in the morning hours, go south under the bridge and head for the canoe livery located a short walk away.
This will give you a nice shot looking north on the canal. This view works well with a 50-millimeter lens, but less than 100 mm. Depending on the time of year and how much vegetation you like in your photos, the area south of the bridge offers many interesting views that you can capture.
Later in the day, particularly during the summer months, the sun crosses over to the north side of the bridge by mid-afternoon. This opens a window of opportunity for the photographer.
The north side of the bridge features a large grassy area. The best place to set up shop is one of the fishing piers in the canal. There are power lines just north of the bridge that must be taken into consideration when choosing a photo spot. A wide-angle lens will let you shoot under the wires. Otherwise, you have to get back a ways from the bridge to let the wires dip under track level in your photos. Don’t let this deter you. With good afternoon lighting and plenty of CSX action you’ll soon forget the wires are there. You’ll just naturally blend them into your photo.
If there is a downside to the Marcy trestle it is that you generally don’t get much warning that a train is coming. It is downhill to the bridge from both directions so dynamic brakes whining and a rumble, sometimes not heard until the train is on the bridge, are your only warnings.
You may ask, “wouldn’t the EOT channel alert you?” Well, no, for two reasons. One is that your location on the valley floor well below track level hampers radio communication. Two is that Norfolk Southern’s busy Cleveland Line is only a short distance to the east and the EOT you might be picking up may be from an NS train. Just when you let your guard down, thinking it was an NS train, a CSX train will surprise you.
The radio-equipped visitor to Marcy trestle can monitor 160.860 for any CSX radio chatter. The IG dispatcher in Indianapolis handles this trackage. There is a detector just east of the bridge (“Marcy”), but it is too close to alert you to a westbound. The head end of the train will be on the bridge long before the detector announces its findings.
When things are normal, CSX offers a flurry of action in the morning, a midday lull, and action picking up again in the late afternoon and evening hours. Anyone who has railfanned CSX knows that at times it is difficult to find a CSX unit on a CSX train. CSX runs large numbers of lease units and foreign power is not a stranger to CSX rails.
Food and Beverages: It is best to bring a picnic lunch as there are no restaurants in the immediate area despite the site’s urban location. There are vending machines at the park visitor’s center.