Posts Tagged ‘Brady Lake Ohio’

One Early January Day at Brady Lake

January 20, 2022

It was a typical Northeast Ohio early January day in 2012, the kind that features clouds and sun that at times is more sun than clouds and then a few minutes later more clouds than sun.

Such days can make photography tricky and yet rewarding at the same time due to low sun angles that creates warm light all day when you can get sun breaking through around the clouds.

I ventured down to Towner’s Woods Park in Brady Lake, one of my favorite hang out spots because you can park next to the Cleveland Line of Norfolk Southern.

It’s not the greatest location to photograph NS operations due to the tracks lying in a cut and the trees on both side providing obstructions.

But in the winter when the leaves are off you can get some decent if not good images.

The former Erie Railroad mainline that once extended between Chicago and New York also borders the park, but being a Sunday I knew there would be no rail traffic on that line.

The ex-Erie tracks here are now owned by Portage County and used by the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway, which only operates on this segment of the ex-Erie on weekdays and even then it doesn’t always go to Ravenna and thus past Brady Lake.

A snow storm had swept through a few days earlier but by now most of the snow had melted. There remained some accumulation in areas that spend most of the day in shade or had seen heavier accumulations.

I photographed a few NS trains and at one point ventured into Kent where I captured an eastbound empty CSX hopper train as I stood on the West Main Street Bridge.

But most of my photographic endeavors on this day were devoted to railroad infrastructure images in winter.

Winter is a good time to photograph Brady Lake Tower, seen in the top image above.

I say that because during much of the year leaves block a clear view of the tower from the railroad side.

You can get all the unobstructed views you want from three sides of the tower from within Towner’s Woods Park, but if you want to create a view of the tower as passing railroaders saw it you have to wait until winter.

Even then you still have to contend with tree trunks creating “noise” in your photographs.

The tower was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1928 to control a set of crossovers and the flying junction here with the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh.

The latter extended from Brady Lake to Marcy in Cleveland. It was 50-50 owned by the PRR and the New York Central but used by the latter to move freight between Cleveland and Youngstown.

East of Brady Lake the NYC used the PRR to Ravenna and then the Baltimore & Ohio to Youngstown.

The former LE&P was mostly taken out of service not long after the creation of Penn Central.

As for Brady Lake Tower, it was taken out of service on May 14, 1966, but the interlocking plant remained intact with the tower was used as an emergency block station through 1969 and possibly sometime into 1970.

Because it is located on park land its future is assured.

The ex-Erie tracks also got much of my attention. There used to be a double track mainline here but one of the tracks was lifted in the Conrail era when this line was downgraded to become the Freedom Secondary.

I thought on this day as I have thought often while walking the Portage Hike and Bike trail about what it must have been like in the late 1960s or early 1970s when Erie Lackawanna freight trains with their colorful locomotives lumbered through here.

Oh, how I wish I could go back in time and enjoy that.

But the trail is built on former Erie right of way and didn’t exist during the EL years.

The second of the four images is looking railroad eastward to a curve after the Erie tracks crossed over the Pennsy on a plate girder bridge that can be partly seen at right.

About where the tracks curve is the site of the original Cleveland & Pittsburgh right of way, which built the line between its namesake cities and today is the NS Cleveland Line.

However, in the early 20th Century the Pennsy rebuilt the line to eliminate grade crossings and shifted the tracks slightly to the south.

The Erie used the now vacated C&P right of way between Brady Lake and Ravenna.

What got my attention in this scene is the lone pole that once supported the Erie code lines that still stands but without any wires. And note the lone tree to the left that still has its leaves, albeit rust colored.

The third and fourth images are looking railroad westbound toward Kent on the other side of Ravenna Road.

There is still some snow accumulation in a shady spot. Perhaps the snow was deeper here because it had drifted. That grade crossing up ahead is Lake Rockwell Road.

I was struck by the pattern the melting snow made on the tracks, still clinging to the ties but gone on the ballast.

Most of the infrastructure that once supported the Erie and later the EL is gone.

I’ve seen a few photographs of what it used to look like here, including an image made by the late Robert Redmond of a steam train passing a semaphore signal near Ravenna Road. I’ve found the concrete base for that signal.

In my mind at least, the EL sent some ghost trains past as I walked along the adjacent trail. That and seeing the occasional photograph made during Erie or EL days is as close as I’ll ever come to experiencing what it must have been like here in days past.

Article by Craig Sanders

Brady Lake Tower Two for Tuesday

January 11, 2022

Over the years Brady Lake has been a favorite hang out of mine to watch Norfolk Southern trains on the Cleveland Line. On occasion I’ve also caught an Akron Barberton Cluster Railway train here, too.

Towner’s Woods Park is located next to the tracks and has plenty of parking. The park also features a former Pennsylvania Railroad interlocking tower, which the PRR named Brady’s Lake.

At one time, the tower controlled switches and signals for the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh line to Cleveland that diverged here.

The LE&P is nearly all gone today and there are few signs by the tower that it ever existed. Portions of it are a hike and bike trail.

The top image was made on Nov. 4, 2005, and shows NS westbound manifest freight 15K passing the tower, which is shrouded by colorful fall foliage.

The bottom image was made on Feb. 1, 2000. The tower is easier to see with the leaves off the trees but remains somewhat obscured by tree branches and trunks.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

First Look at the NS F Units

July 18, 2020

I don’t recall when I first became aware of the plans of Norfolk Southern to buy a fleet of F units and rebuild them for use with its executive train.

However, I do recall reading about the locomotives as I sat in my car at Cassandra, Pennsylvania, on an October morning in 2007.

It was my first visit to Cassandra and at that moment traffic was in a lull.

Although I knew it was highly unlikely, I thought maybe NS will send those fancy looking F units out on a test run and I’ll get to photograph them.

Cassandra is not that far from Altoona, where the F units were based. Such are the trackside fantasies of railfans.

In reality, I didn’t get to see the NS executive units for eight more months.

My opportunity finally came in June 2008 at Brady Lake when the executive train came up the Cleveland Line en route to Bellevue.

It was being sent there to help celebrate the retirement of an NS executive who had begun his career in Bellvue.

The F units and its train would park by the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum and I would be among the hundreds — maybe it was thousands — who turned out to see and photograph them.

But that was a few days away as I stood next to the old Erie Railroad bridge spanning the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline at Brady Lake.

A headlight to the east was my clue to get my camera ready.

The F units were well received by railfans in part because they were different.

In a sea of wide cab locomotives that all looked the same the NS F units provided a welcome contrast.

It also helped that the units wore a classic looking livery that hearkened back to the “tuxedo” look that once adorned the Southern Railway F units.

As the executive train came into my viewfinder I was impressed with what I saw.

You can’t really appreciate what you’re seeing as you’re photographing it. If stop to admire a moving train you’ll miss getting the photographs you want.

My recollection is that the day I got my first in-person look at the F units was a cloudy one. I was using slide film and worried that there wasn’t enough light for a good exposure of a train doing track speed.

The conditions may not have been ideal, yet there was just enough light and with some Photoshop work on the scanned images they don’t look too bad.

As I wrote in a post last November I only was able to photograph the F units 12 times before NS sold them.

It would have been nice to have captured them a few more times, but life has a way of intervening and limiting your opportunities.

My first photographs of the NS F units were not my best images of them but I find these images to be satisfactory. There is something about a first that makes it special.

NS OAR Train Passes Through NEO

August 22, 2018

On Sunday the Norfolk Southern OAR Operation Awareness and Response train cane through Northeast Ohio. I caught it at Brady Lake.

Photograph by Todd Dillon

And Then the Rain Came

June 1, 2018

It was just about to call it a day and head home to watch the Preakness Stakes on television. Could Justify win the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown?

He could and he did amid foggy and rainy conditions in Baltimore.

But first I wanted to get one more train on the Cleveland Line of Norfolk Southern.

The bridge carrying Ravenna Road over the NS tracks in Brady Lake has been closed since last December after the Portage County Engineer’s Office determined that it is structurally unsafe for vehicular traffic.

But those using the Portage Hike and Bike Trail can still use the bridge and so can railfans.

An eastbound empty hopper train had pulled up and stopped and my hunch was that it was waiting for traffic at CP 86.

Sure enough, an eastbound intermodal train came past, probably the 24M.

But before the intermodal train got to my position, rain began falling and it kept increasing in intensity.

I got my photograph and ran for my car just before a deluge let loose. It was time to head home.

The Mystery of Brady Lake Tower

October 11, 2016

It has been 50 years since the Brady Lake Tower operator routinely watched over the tracks from these windows.

It has been 50 years since the Brady Lake Tower operator routinely watched over the tracks from these windows.

Curiosity as much as anything motivated me to venture to the 40th anniversary celebration of Towner’s Wood Park in Portage County.

For years I’ve made the park a place to hang out and watch Norfolk Southern trains pass by on the adjacent Cleveland Line.

Looming over the park is the former Brady Lake Tower – once known as Brady’s Lake Tower – that was operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The tower controlled the junction of the east end of the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh with the Pennsy.

There has always been an air of mystery about Brady Lake Tower. I had never been inside of it and long wondered what there was to see. The answer turned out to be “not much.”

For the 40th anniversary event, the park district converted the bottom floor of the concrete tower into a makeshift exhibit area.

There was poster about railroads, but much of the information was about nature.

The second story of Brady Lake Tower looks like a wreck. The Park District uses it for storage of all manner of things.

There are holes in the ceiling and no trace of anything that was associated with the railroad other than the structure itself.

I wasn’t expecting to find the interlocking machine, the operator’s desk, or clipboards containing railroad bulletins and orders hanging on the wall that had been left behind.

Those have long since been removed.

There were a few reminders of the railroad on the first floor, but those were obvious only if you knew what you were looking at.

You had to use your imagination to “see” the railroad presence on the top floor.

Photographs of the interior of Brady Lake Tower are rare or nonexistent. There are some images of the exterior, including a photo made by Paul Geiger that is published on Page 100 of Volume 12 of the Pennsylvania Railroad Facilities series by Morning Sun books.

We know that the original Cleveland & Pittsburgh ran through what is now the parking lot at Tower’s Woods.

The C&P was a single-track railroad that crossed the predecessor of the Erie Railroad at grade at Brady Lake.

When the PRR rebuilt its line in the early 1900s, the tracks were shifted to their current alignment and at least a portion of the former right of way between Brady Lake and Ravenna was sold to the Erie.

The rebuilding gave the Pennsy a better grade for its ore trains and slightly shortened the distance between Hudson and Ravenna.

The Pennsy facilities book reports that Brady Lake was removed from service on May 14, 1966, but kept intact to “be placed in service by train order or general order.” By 1970, its interlocking capability had been removed.

We don’t know for certain when Brady Lake Tower was built. A PRR track diagram from 1965 has the notation “built (or rebuilt) 1928.”

The LE&P opened in 1911. Could the tower have been built then? Or was it built earlier?

I’ve heard various speculations from railroad historians on that point but my visit Saturday yielded no new hard information about the origin of Brady Lake Tower.

I enjoyed my visit to the tower. One of the speakers said the bottom floor might be converted to a light food service facility that is open part time to sell snacks and beverages.

Towner’s Woods is the most popular park in the Portage Park District network and strategically located on the Portage Hike and Bike Trail.

So Brady Lake Tower seems assured to have a long continued life.

But as for when that life began as a railroad facility, some mysteries, it seems, might never be solved.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

A view from a window of the operator's bay of the Norfolk Southern tracks. The trees weren't there back when this was an active tower.

A view from a window of the operator’s bay of the Norfolk Southern tracks. The trees weren’t there back when this was an active tower.

To say the least, the second floor of Brady Lake Tower is cluttered. The view is looking toward where the operator's desk probably sat.

To say the least, the second floor of Brady Lake Tower is cluttered.
The view is looking toward where the operator’s desk probably sat.

Roger Durfee records the railroad exhibit on the first floor of Brady Lake Tower with his cell phone.

Roger Durfee records the railroad exhibit on the first floor of Brady Lake Tower with his cell phone.

Bruce Dzeda gives a presentation of the railroads that passed through Brady Lake.

Bruce Dzeda gives a presentation of the railroads that passed through Brady Lake.

Brady Lake Tower to be Open Oct. 8

September 29, 2016

The Portage Parks Council will hold an open house on Oct. 8 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s former Brady Lake Tower, which now sits in Towner’s Woods Park

PRRBruce Dzeda, author of Railroad Town: Kent the Erie Railroad, will speak during the event on the railroads that served the Brady Lake region.

The tower is not normally open to the public.

Built in 1928 and known until 1957 as Brady’s Lake Tower, the structure was a block and interlocking facility at the eastern terminus of the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh, which was used by the New York Central.

The LE&P diverged from the PRR at Brady Lake and ran westward to Marcy in Cleveland. NYC trains used trackage rights on the PRR and Baltimore & Ohio to access Youngstown.

Declining traffic on the LE&P led to Brady Lake Tower being closed in 1966, but it was kept as an emergency block station through 1970.

Use Your Imagination and What do You See?

May 18, 2016

Train Order Hook

Suppose that someone asked you describe what you see in this image. Most people would see the railroad tracks, snow and the bare trees.

A few railfans, though, might see something else. See that falling tree that appears to be propped up by a utility pole? Do the branches at the end look sort of like a Y-shaped train order fork?

At one time, train crews might have picked up train orders here. Behind me is Brady Lake Tower, which controlled the switches and signals for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie line that diverged here and ran to Marcy in Cleveland.

That was during the days of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central. At one time there used to be a signal bridge just beyond this fallen tree that held the home signal for eastbound trains at Brady Lake Tower.

There is a photo of it that appears on Page 101 of Volume 12 of the Pennsylvania Railroad Facilities in Color series published by Morning Sun Books.

That signal bridge and the LE&P are long gone, abandoned by Penn Central years ago. A few traces of the LE&P are left if you know where to look.

And if you use your imagination, you can see a train order hoop hanging out toward Track No. 1 of the Cleveland Line.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Railroads and Bridges in Brady Lake

April 19, 2016

Brady Bridges1-x

Brady Bridges2-x

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Brady Bridges4-x

I was in Brady Lake awhile back and had time after going for a walk to wait for some Norfolk Southern action.

I parked at Towner’s Woods and waited, my scanner tuned to the NS road channel. Photographing here is tough because of fences and trees.

One of the few open views is from the former Erie Railroad bridge over the NS tracks. There is an open area next to the bridge that affords a view of westbound trains on the Cleveland Line.

I’ve photographed here before, but it has been quite some times since I did it. Once you hear the detector at Rootstown go off, there is time to walk over and get into position.

After getting a westbound stack train, I set my sights on another view that would show trains passing beneath the old Erie bridge.

There is an access road that leads from the Portage Hike and Bike trail toward the NS tracks. I used a zoom lens to make some of the images you see here of another westbound intermodal train.

I’d been down here at least once before, but my memory is that I photographed the rear of an eastbound RoadRailer train. But this time I caught a westbound train. Then it was time to move on.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Spending Time on the NS Cleveland Line

March 12, 2016

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Some of my more memorable early-in-the-year outings have been on days when it still looked like winter but felt like the onset of spring.

There is some residual snow still on the ground in places to add a touch of winter to your photographs.

Typically, those days fall in March, but Northeast Ohio this year experienced a rare spring-like day in the middle of February.

The skies were mostly sunny and the temperatures soared into the high 50s. I heard bird singing and the air just had a feel of spring about it as I left home.

I thought about traveling to some distant hot spot such as Alliance, Bellevue, Conneaut or Marion, but elected to stay close to home.

One of my stops was at Towner’s Woods Park in Brady Lake. It’s a place where I’ve enjoyed hanging out on similar days in past years when the weather was transitioning from winter into spring.

I was surprised at how much snow was still piled up along the edge of the Norfolk Southern right of way. But that snow was in the shade and would take a while to melt.

I passed the time reading the latest issue of Trains magazine while monitoring a mostly silent scanner.

After a while, the detector at Rootstown went off, announcing the approach of a westbound.

Not long after that, I got an eastbound stack train. Another eastbound intermodal train followed shortly behind, but I was unable to photograph it because I didn’t have enough warning.

For eastbound traffic, you have to hope that you hear the crew call the signal at CP 94 in Hudson.

Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. Otherwise, your only other option is to stand on the bridge over the tracks and wait.

My time along NS was relatively brief. I wanted to walk the Portage Hike and Bike trail and, maybe, get some CSX New Castle Subdivision action.

It turned out to be a good all-around day to be out and about.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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