Posts Tagged ‘Conneaut Creek trestle’

Over and Under in Conneaut

March 26, 2018

The Canadian National line to Conneaut has but two trains a day under normal circumstances. Traffic on Norfolk Southern’s Lake Erie District is higher, but modest.

That makes getting on over-under image of locomotives of both railroads on the east side of town a major challenge. A lot of things have to happen just right to get it.

I almost won the over-under jackpot last September. The CN train was being assembled in its yard and doing back and forth moves beneath the NS bridge over the former Bessemer & Lake Erie.

The bad news was that by the time the NS train came out on the trestle over Conneaut Creek and the CN tracks, the motive power for the CN train was gone.

The good news is that I was able to get the cars of the respective trains on the over-under. So,  you could say I got somewhat lucky.

I like the contrast between the shipments. On top on NS are a pair of high-priority UPS trailers while below on CN are hoppers filled with iron ore pellets.

Now I wonder which freight has the highest profit margin. It might not be the UPS trailer.


Carrying the Coal In Conneaut

March 14, 2018

Norfolk Southern train symbol 888 crosses Conenaut Creek and the former Bessemer & Lake Erie tracks in Conneaut on an early fall day. The train has a full load of coal bound for a power plant somewhere out East.

Information I found on line indicated that the coal is mined in West Virginia and that symbol 888 originates at Portsmouth, Ohio.

Train 888 then ventures via Bellevue and Cleveland and sets off some of its loads in Conneaut to be interchanged to CSX for forwarding to Erie Coke in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The rest of the train goes to Buffalo, New York, and is handed off to the Buffalo & Pittsburgh. I’m not sure where the B&P takes the coal.

Belle of a Day (Part 1)

February 7, 2018

Norfolk Southern coal train 888 gains speed as it leaves the siding at PA east of Conneaut, Ohio.

I had high hopes for getting some winter weather action photographs last Sunday. The forecast called for an 80 percent chance of snow with one to three inches of accumulation.

I had visions of catching trains dashing through the snow.

It might have happened if the temperatures had managed to dip below freezing. But they hovered around 33 for most of the day and we got rain mixed with snow and no accumulation.

I was out in Lake County with fellow Akron Railroad Club members Marty Surdyk and Ed Ribinskas in a reprise of our railfanning on Super Bowl Sunday outing.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about railfanning on the day of the NFL championship game, but we’d done it before and had some good luck getting dramatic winter weather images.

However, the snow and rain mix wasn’t heavy enough to create much effect and the overcast skies made for flat light. Nonetheless, it turned out to be one Belle of a day.

We began where our past Super Bowl day outings had begun sitting next to the CSX Erie West Subdivision in Perry.

For about an hour nothing was moving and there wasn’t any chatter on the radio.

We passed the time reminiscing about past railfan outings to faraway places and listening to  Marty describe how he came to put together his program for the February ARRC meeting titled The Power of Four.

Tired of sitting and looking at air, we decided to check the signals on Norfolk Southern. The eastbound home signal  showed an approach indication, suggesting that the dispatcher intended to hold an eastbound at CP Davis and put a westbound into the siding.

Off we went toward the Painesville trestle over the Grand River, where a new bridge is under construction. Marty wanted to get an image of a train with the old and new bridges.

We didn’t make it. The eastbound, which turned out to be coal train 888, called the intermediate signal at Madison Avenue east of Painesville as we cruised westbound on Ohio Route 84.

We turned around to chase it, not sure where we could get it. We could see it at times and were pleased to see that the lead unit was a Kansas City Southern “Belle.”

That is not something you see very day in Northeast Ohio and getting this train gave our day a focus it had been lacking.

We got on Interstate 90 at Madison and motored over to North Kingsville for our first photo op with Miss Belle.

Then it was into Conneaut where we would wait for the 888 to change crews and work in the yard. This isn’t an ordinary coal train. The coal comes from West Virginia and the train picks up its symbol at Portsmouth, Ohio.

After going west on the Sandusky District, it gets onto the former Nickel Plate Road in Bellevue and takes that to Buffalo, New York.

It drops cars in Conneaut that are interchanged to CSX for delivery to Erie Coke in Erie, Pennsylvania. The remainder of the train is interchanged to the Buffalo & Pittsburgh in Buffalo.

It took awhile for the 888 to complete its work in Conneaut. In the meantime, we saw a Bessemer & Lake Erie train roll into town and that would become the focus of the latter part of our day.

The 888 called the NS Pittsburgh West Dispatcher to let him know it was ready to leave Conneaut.

The dispatcher told the crew to depart on signal indication. The 888 would be going into the siding at Woodworth to meet a westbound or get out of the way of an eastbound that had higher priority.

After photographing the 888 rumbling over ice-covered Conneaut Creek, we learned that intermodal train 206 would pass the 888 in the siding that extends from Woodworth to PA.

We quickly hatched a plan to photograph the meet at Rudd Road, which is a couple miles or so inside Pennsylvania.

Much of the property surrounding that area is state game land, but some is private property. Someone was firing weapons on that property. The sound of nearby gunshots was a little unsettling.

The 206 soon came into view, but it had just a run of the mill NS wide-cab unit.

Shortly after the 206 cleared the switch at PA, the dispatcher lined it for the 888 to come out of the siding.

On our way back to Conneaut we listened to the crew of the 888 tell the dispatcher about how the KCS unit was experiencing excessive wheel slip, in part due to the wet rails.

They agreed to put another unit online. The crew followed that up with a conversation with an NS power desk representative about the wheel slip issue.

In the meantime, we slipped back into Conneaut and waited at the Old Main Street crossing for the Canadian National train to slip out of town and the start of another chase.

Our first photo op of the KCS Southern Belle leading NS train 888 came at North Kingsville.

NS 888 crosses the icy Conneaut Creek on its way out of town.

NS intermodal train 206 (left) overtakes train 888 at PA.

The 206 splits the signals at PA.

Now it is the turn of the 888 to split the signals at PA.

Fishing for the NKP Heritage Unit

September 12, 2017

I was in Conneaut last Sunday when Norfolk Southern delivered a surprise.

NS 8100, the Nickel Plate Road heritage locomotive, was leading Bellevue to Buffalo train No. 316.

The 316 had work to do in the yard, so I had the opportunity to capture it in two places, one of which is the NKP-built trestle over Conneaut Creek.

A bonus for that image was a fisherman wading in the creek to cast his line as the 8100 rumbled over.

I made it a point to get 8100 with the NKP era block signals still standing west of Chestnut Street.

They won’t be there much longer. New signals have been put up and are waiting to be placed into service.

Vestiges of the Nickel Plate are falling by the wayside. Even the NKP trestles are being replaced, although if NS has long plans to replace the bridge in Conneaut it is likely to be awhile.

Nickel Plate Road 759 at Conneaut

July 17, 2017

Before Nickel Plate Road 765 was restored, there was NKP 759. Here NKP 759 is heading eastbound over the Norfolk & Western (ex-NKP) trestle in Conneaut on Sept. 8, 1968. This was her first excursion after rebuilding in 1968.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

IC, CP and an All Day Wait for NS 1074

May 6, 2017

Achieving my first objective of the day was easy. A Canadian National train with three Illinois Central locomotives showed up shortly after I arrived in Conneaut.

Last Sunday didn’t get off to a good start. I got up later than I expected or wanted.

I had toyed with the idea of leaving at 5 a.m. and trying to catch the eastbound Lake Shore Limited in Conneaut or North East, Pennsylvania.

But with the weather looking iffy, I didn’t want to get an early start only to have mostly cloudy skies. Catching No. 48 can wait for a better day.

Shortly before 7 a.m. someone posted on that the Lackawanna heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern was leading the 14M at Wampum, Pennsylvania.

A quick online check of NS train symbols showed the 14M to be a Conway to Buffalo, New York, train.

How long would it take to get to Conneaut? I figured it to be a manifest freight that might work in Youngstown and even in Conneaut. Somewhere along the way it would need to change crews.

I didn’t get away until about 8:30. As I drove on I-90 past Carson Yard on the NS Youngstown Line south of Ashtabula I looked to see if the 14M was there. It wasn’t.

Once in Conneaut I headed north on Mill Street but nothing was sitting in the yard other than the usual yard power.

I got stopped at the CSX crossing by an eastbound ballast train. I parked in the lot for the Conneaut Historical Society across from the CSX Erie West Subdivision tracks.

I had three objectives for the day. Catch a train on Canadian National – the former Bessemer & Lake Erie – get the 14M and bag a pair of those Citirail units that CSX has been leasing of late.

There was no guarantee the Bessemer would be operating today from Conneaut, but there was  a good chance that it would and that it would have Illinois Central motive power.

The 14M looked like a good bet but bagging the Citirail units would be a long shot.

I set up my antenna, checked the frequencies on my scanner and waited. Less than two minutes later I heard a transmission on the B&LE channel. A train was working in the yard.

Over to the Main Street crossing I went. The B&LE channel got quiet for about 10 to 15 minutes before the switching moves resumed.

By now NS 316 had arrived in town and was working the yard. In the process they discovered they had a loaded car destined for Bellevue. Should they leave it in Conneaut or take it to Buffalo?

“Take it with you,” was the response of the Youngstown Line dispatcher.

It was getting to be late morning when Illinois Central 1034 and two sister IC units came out of the yard and poked their noses out beyond the NS trestle over Conneaut Creek.

The crew was wrapping up putting together its train. I was hoping to get the lead unit of the NS 316 crossing the trestle above IC 1034, but it was not to be.

The CN train had left town by the time the 316 ambled eastbound with Canadian Pacific No. 8917 on the point.

Under normal circumstances, I would have chased the CN train into Pennsylvania. But today I still had unfinished business. I returned to the historical society parking lot next to the CSX tracks.

It was about noon when I heard the Youngstown Line dispatcher make radio contact with the 14M.

The discussion occurred on the Youngstown Line frequency so 14M still had yet to reach Ashtabula.

Eastbound traffic on the former Nickel Plate Road mainline through Ashtabula was heavy, so the dispatcher agreed to recrew the 14M at Carson.

In the eastbound parade were intermodal trains 22K and 206 along with auto rack train 28N.

I didn’t bother to seek out the 22K or 206. Instead I focused on CSX for awhile.

An eastbound rail train came through around 12:30 p.m. that was followed by an eastbound stack train.

Shortly thereafter, a westbound monster freight, the Q393, slowly made its way through town with all 15,000 feet of it making all of 30 mph.

Welcome to the world of E. Hunter Harrison’s precision scheduled railroading.

I later heard the IH dispatcher tell another train he would do his best to get that train around the Q393, but it would be difficult.

Around 1:38 p.m. the Youngstown Line dispatcher talked with the 14M again. The new crew was on board and the train was on the move.

It must have moved slowly because by mid-afternoon it still wasn’t out of Ashtabula. It would follow train 310.

In the meantime, another story began playing out on NS. I had heard the dispatcher periodically tell the crew of westbound 287, an auto rack train, that it would be waiting in yet another siding for yet another eastbound.

The 287 must have been in and out of every siding between here and Buffalo.

Around 3 p.m. the dispatcher told the 287 it would have to go into the siding at PA for the 310 and the 14M. The latter was just now coming around the Buffalo connection in Ashtabula.

The 287 crew reminded the dispatcher it had been on duty since 5 a.m. But his brushed that aside saying they needed to take that up with the first trick dispatcher who was on duty “when that baby was born.”

I also learned that the 14M would be dropping off a locomotive at Conneaut. Less than 15 minutes later the dispatcher, his supervisor or the NS computer program that makes train dispatching decisions had a change of heart.

The 287 would come into Conneaut for a recrew. But the new crew would have the same experience the old crew old had, having to wait for opposing traffic. In this case it would mean waiting at the west end of Parish siding for the 310 and 14M.

It was getting to be late afternoon and I was getting impatient. Where was the 14M?

I decided to go look for it. I drove out to Parish Road on the west side of Conneaut, parked and walked up onto the bridge.

But there was no sign of the 14M and the signal at the west end of the yard for eastbounds was red. A CSX westbound passed by but I didn’t pay it much mind.

I noticed that the connecting track from NS to CSX, which I’ve been told was put in during the Conrail era and once hosted a detour of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, is still in place, but overgrown with weeds.

NS has altered the switch so that it now appears to act as a derail yet it is no longer possible to move a train into the connection track to CSX.

As I waited for the 14M, a large bank of clouds moved in and covered the sun. It had been sun and clouds for most of the day, but the weather was taking a turn.

I was about to give up and go back into town when I heard a horn to the west. Maybe that was the 14M.

Soon a headlight popped up on the horizon. The signal at the west end of the yard was still red and the train was moving slowly.

A glimpse through my telephoto lens confirmed that the Lackawanna H unit was on the point.

The 14M stopped but it didn’t last long because the signal turned to an approach indication.

I got my photographs and drove back to the historical society. Shortly after arriving, the heavens opened and we had an intense, although brief, shower that produced small hail pellets.

I listened to the 14M on the radio as it worked in the Conneaut Yard. During the process I got a CSX westbound freight that was a mere 300 plus axles. I guess those cars wouldn’t fit on the Q393.

By now it was apparent I wasn’t going to get any Citirail units leading on CSX today.

The 14M finished its work and I drove over to the Main Street crossing of the B&LE to photograph NS 1074 on the trestle over Conneaut Creek.

It was nearly 5:30 p.m. and I needed to head for home. It had taken all day, but I had finally got a heritage unit, the first one I’ve photographed since January.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Looks like it is going to be a nice spring day.

IC 1034 and its train will be leaving town shortly.

Looking west down Main Street.

NS train 316 had a Canadian Pacific leader and a loaded car that was supposed to have been routed to Bellevue.

The W021 has a load of rail bound for some eastern work site.

The ATVs racing along side this eastbound CSX stack train were not part of the original plan for making this image.

Trying to show Q017 along with a pair of flowering trees.

The crew of NS train 287 was relieved to hear the dispatcher say there had been a change of plans and they would come into Conneaut sooner rather than later.

A black locomotive and a bright red garage.

At last the 14M is approaching Conneaut with the feature attraction of the day on NS.

Coming into Conneaut on an approach.

After the rain came a short by today’s CSX standards manifest freight.

The last image of the day was one I waited several hours to get.

Some Recent Conneaut Doings

August 19, 2016
An eastbound CSX stack train passes by the water tower in Conneaut. The town name on the tank could use a touch up.

An eastbound CSX stack train passes by the water tower in Conneaut. The town name on the tank could use a touch up.

I’ve made a few trips to  Conneaut this summer in search of action on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie. But while killing time waiting on the B&LE, I’ve also photographed CSX and Norfolk Southern activity.

Of the two, the NS is easier to get because I can stake out the B&LE and see NS trains crossing Conneaut Creek at the same time. To get CSX means having to be away from the Bessemer tracks.

But CSX is also far busier than NS so there is a greater chance of getting a train on CSX. Presented here are a number of photographs made in Conneaut during the past few months.

Photographs by Craig Sanders

NS train 145 is running light today, really light.

NS train 145 is running light today, really light.

Now there is something you don't see every day. A Feromex unit is part of the motive power consist of a westbound NS auto rack train.

Now there is something you don’t see every day. A Feromex unit is part of the motive power consist of a westbound NS auto rack train.

Catching an eastbound manifest freight coming off the east end of the trestle over Conneaut Creek.

Catching an eastbound manifest freight coming off the east end of the trestle over Conneaut Creek.

This eastbound was relatively short as it goes into the siding to await a meet.

This eastbound was relatively short as it goes into the siding to await a meet.

The rear car of the NS train had paper strung over it.

The rear car of the NS train had paper strung over it.

Another eastbound on NS crossing the B&LE and Conneaut Creek.

Eastbound train 206 on NS crossing the B&LE and Conneaut Creek.

CSX locomotives are smoking it up while leading a westbound tanker train past a house overlooking the tracks. I wonder if the guy who owns it is a railfan.

CSX locomotives are smoking it up while leading a westbound tanker train past a house overlooking the tracks. I wonder if the guy who owns it is a railfan.

A Couple in Conneaut

July 22, 2016
CSX westbound Q393 has a BNSF unit on the point as it passes the Conneaut Hstorical Railroad Museum.

CSX westbound Q393 has a BNSF unit on the point as it passes the Conneaut Hstorical Railroad Museum.

The 22K soars over Conneaut Creek.

The 22K soars over Conneaut Creek.

On some days you wind up seeing more trains than you photograph. Maybe you are out of position too often or you can’t get to where you want to be in time to get the photograph that you want.

I had one of those days in early May in Conneaut. But I didn’t come away empty handed, either. Here are a couple images that I was able to make.

Photographs by Craig Sanders

One Objective Achieved, But a Long String is Broken on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie

October 12, 2015

B&LE IC units-x

B&LE IC units02-x

Ever since Canadian National assigned former Illinois Central SD70 locomotives to the Bessemer Subdivision, I’ve been hoping to see a motive power consist of all ex-IC power.

At least once it has happened because I saw a photo of three IC units strung together and pulling a train on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie.

Of course, achieving that objective would come at a cost. It would mean ending my streak of every train I’ve seen and photographed on the ex-B&LE having at least one Bessemer locomotive in the consist.

It happened last month in a quite unexpected manner. I was on the U.S. Route 20 bridge in Conneaut awaiting the arrival of the Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive No. 765 during its ferry move from Buffalo, New York, to Bellevue.

I figured that the odds of catching a train on the Bessemer were remote. The morning train had probably left for Greenville and point south already.

Sometimes a train comes up to Conneaut in the afternoon, but getting one probably was too much to hope for.

But as we waited for the 765 to arrive, we heard and felt the rumble of diesel prime movers.

That can’t be a train on Norfolk Southern or CSX because those tracks are too far away.

It was a train on the Bessemer. In point of fact, it was a light power move of three ex-IC SD70s, Nos. 1018, 1038 and 1034.

I hate to sound greedy, but what if they had shown up 20 minutes later when the 765 was going over the trestle that spans Conneaut Creek and the B&LE tracks? Or if the 765 had been 20 minutes earlier?

It wasn’t to be and I’ll be more than happy to take three IC locomotives strung together under any circumstances.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The 765 National Parks Tour Ferry Move

September 13, 2015
Nickel Plate Road No. 765 crosses the trestle over Conneaut Creek and the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad. Just 20 minutes earlier, a light power move on the ex-B&LE had cruised into Conneaut. If only it had been later or the 765 had been earlier.

Nickel Plate Road No. 765 crosses the trestle over Conneaut Creek and the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad. Just 20 minutes earlier, a light power move on the ex-B&LE had cruised into Conneaut. If only it had been later or the 765 had been earlier.

Dawn came near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border as we motored eastward on Interstate 90 in search of steam.

Nickel Plate Road No. 765 would be making a 250-mile jaunt over its ancestral route from Buffalo, New York, to Bellevue as part of the third leg of a ferry move from Steamtown National Historic Site to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

No one suggested it out loud, but it could have been dubbed the National Parks tour because the 765 was going from one facility operated by the National Park Service to another.

I picked up fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler at a shopping center in Cleveland’s eastern suburbs and we set out for Westfield, New York, with a planned stop at Bort Road in North East, Pennsylvania, to catch Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited.

As it turned out, No. 48 was running an hour late, which worked to our advantage because the lighting was much better when it arrived than it would have been had the train been on time.

There were still mostly clear skies as No. 48 came past, but that was about to change.

During our time at Bort Road we also caught three Norfolk Southern trains versus one CSX train. CSX was single-tracking due to a tie replacement program and trains were backed up.

By the time we reached Westfield, there was still no word from the 765 crew on its Twitter feed as to when they would be leaving Buffalo.

Thanks in part to delays incurred leaving Scranton on Canadian Pacific the day before, the 765 had not reached Buffalo until about 4 a.m. So they were not going to get an early morning start westward out of Buffalo on this day.

We had plenty of time to top off my car’s fuel tank and eat breakfast at the Main Street diner in Westfield.

I highly recommend it. They have some of the best toast I’ve ever had. It is made with homemade whole wheat bread. My Italian sausage omelet with home fries wasn’t too shabby either.

From what we could determine, the original section of the diner used to be a railroad car. A couple of railroad switch lanterns also was part of the decor.

Our objective was to get the 765 crossing the trestle over Chautauqua Creek on the west side of town. After breakfast, we found the trestle and settled in for a long wait.

Shortly after we arrived, NS 316, an eastbound NS manifest freight, went past with two CP units on the point. We had seen this same train at Bort Road more than an hour earlier.

The 316 would turn out to be the last train that we photographed on this day in sunlight as the clouds closed in shortly after we saw it at Bort Road. My guess is that it was held at Ripley, New York, for westbound train 145.

A maintenance gang also had the railroad tied up and would figure in a delay that the 765 would incur later.

The Youngstown Line dispatcher had told the foreman of the gang that he and his crew had to be in the siding near Brocton by 12:30 p.m. They didn’t quite make it and the 765 got held in Dunkirk.

As we were eating breakfast, it began raining. Although the rain had stopped by the time the 765 show up, it was cloudy the rest of the day with occasional breaks in the clouds. None of those came when the 765 was around.

The plan was to try to beat the 765 and its train to the Gulf Road crossing near North East after getting our photographs in Westfield.

Just east of Gulf Road the NS tracks cross Twentymile Creek on a trestle. Getting the 765 on bridges was our theme of the day.

The good news was that we did get to Gulf Road ahead of the 765. The bad news is that the crossing gates were coming down as we arrived.

We had time only to just out of the car and get some grab shots. Walking closer to the trestle was out of the question.

The third photo stop would be the trestle over Conneaut Creek. We considered getting the 765 on the trestle over Walnut Creek in Fairview, Pennsylvania, but I feared getting hung up in traffic on U.S. 20 on the drive to Conneaut.

One of my priorities for the day was to get the 765 crossing Conneaut Creek in a view from the U.S. 20 bridge. Peter and I were the only photographers who attempted that shot.

While waiting for the 765 to show up, we got a bonus when a light power move on the Bessemer & Lake Erie came into town with three Illinois Central SD70s in the consist.

After making some images of the 765 during its service stop in Conneaut Yard, we made our way west to the final photo op of the day in Painesville.

I wanted to get an image along the Grand River of the train crossing the trestle. I’ve seen many images taken from river level of trains on the trestle and getting that shot has been on my “to do” list for a long time.

Two factors worked against doing that image on this day. First, the gray sky would not offer much contrast. Second, I didn’t want to walk past some poison ivy plants on the trail to the river because I was wearing shorts.

I also wasn’t keen on the alternate route along the river’s edge through the mud and the large rocks. So we set up at the west edge of the trestle in town.

The 765 was nearly within sight when a Painesville police officer came along and moved us away from the end of the bridge.

I wish I had had more time to consider alternative locations, but that wasn’t to be. I did the best I could with the impromptu location that I chose.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The first of a three-shot sequence crossing the trestle over Chautauqua Creek in Westfield, New York.

The first of a three-shot sequence crossing the trestle over Chautauqua Creek in Westfield, New York.

765 in Westfield02-x

765 in Westfield03-x

Blowing the whistle for the Gulf Road crossing.

Blowing the whistle for the Gulf Road crossing.

The 765 took it slow crossing the Painesville trestle over the Grand River.

The 765 took it slow crossing the Painesville trestle over the Grand River.

Cruising at Painesville.

Cruising at Painesville.

The 765 crew waves to onlookers in Painesville. An online report said that Doyle McCormick would be at the throttle of the 765 as it left Conneaut.

The 765 crew waves to onlookers in Painesville. An online report said that Doyle McCormick would be at the throttle of the 765 as it left Conneaut.