Posts Tagged ‘Conneaut Creek’

Over and Under in Conneaut

April 9, 2023

John Woodworth and I saw this eastbound Penn Central freight crossing Conneaut Creek in Conneaut on Sept.22, 1968. Below the bridge is a Bessemer & Lake Erie coal train.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Bessemer Memories

January 4, 2021

For the longest time the Bessemer & Lake Erie maintained its identity even after the Canadian National takeover in 2004.

During my many visits to the B&LE I was greeted with the Bessemer orange such as the image on top that I made on July 6, 2007.

However on Aug. 20, 2001, a strange but more than welcome visitor appeared.

The Bennett Levin Pennsylvania Railroad E8A locomotives pulled a private car excursion over the Bessemer. That train had arrived in Erie, Pennsylvania, the previous day

On Monday, Aug. 20, 2001, the special departed Erie on CSX and got onto the Bessemer for a rare mileage trip and is shown above in a view made from the U.S. Route 20 bridge in Conneaut as the train snakes along Conneaut Creek and passes beneath the Nickel Plate trestle.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

RoadRailer Rambles

July 19, 2020

An eastbound Norfolk Southern RoadRailer train passes through downtown Cleveland on Aug. 6, 1989.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s the Norfolk Southern RoadRailer was sort of the in thing as the heritage units are currently.

I was never able to see the Conrail or Union Pacific RoadRailers and missed an opportunity to see the CSX rendition. We were set up in Kentucky to catch the CSX RoadRailer train led by the F-units but it was out of service on this day.

However I did have good luck with NS and  here are some of my favorite catches.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Crossing the Grand River in Painesville on April 16, 1989.

Soaring over Conneaut Creek and the Bessemer & Lake Erie tracks in Conneaut on April 16, 1989.

In Bellevue on April 30, 1989.

In April 1989 the former Nickel Plate still crossed the former Wheeling & Lake Erie in Bellevue on a diamond.

At Spring City, Tennessee, on June 28, 1989.

Going into the siding at Conneaut on Aug. 12, 1989, as a westbound steam special waits.

1985 Highlights: More Detours, Catching N&W 611

May 10, 2020

Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited crosses Conneaut Creek on a trestle built decades earlier by the Nickel Plate Road.

On Sunday April 14, 1985, Marty Surdyk and his brother Robert picked me up and we headed out to see the progress of building the new bridge carrying the Conrail tracks over Elk Creek in Lake City, Pennsylvania.

We caught the westbound Lake Shore Limited on the Conneaut Creek trestle and had plenty of time to get to North Main Street in Kingsville to get No. 49 at the sweeping curve back on Conrail tracks.

We went to Lake City to investigate the bridge repair from track level and then moved on to Manchester Road to photograph some more Conrail and Norfolk Southern trains.

More than three months later, Marty and Robert picked me up for another trip east to check out the Conrail bridge at Lake City.

We knew there would be a bonus today. Norfolk & Western No. 611 was pulling a Buffalo to Erie excursion and the train would go beyond Erie to be turned.

That meant it would be steaming west on the Swanville trestle.

At Wallace Junction the 611 and its train got on the Bessemer & Lake Erie to go to Albion to turn on the wye there for its return to Erie then Buffalo.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Amtrak Train 49 heads around a curve near Kingsville after getting back on its regular route via Conrail.

Work continues in mid April 1985 on building the new bridge carrying Conrail over Elk Creek in Lake City, Pennsylvania.

This and the next two images were made at Manchester Road in April 1985. A Conrail westbound waits for an NS train to clear the single track.

The rebuilt bridge on Conrail and the fill around it as seen from the north side.

Looking north from track level at Elk Creek.

N&W 611 steams westbound over the Swanville 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.

Belle of a Day (Part 2)

February 8, 2018

Two of the four former Bessemer & Lake Erie locomotives assigned to the Bessemer Subdivision of Canadian National team up to help assemble an iron ore train in Conneaut.

We were sitting in Marty Surdy’s Jeep waiting for Norfolk Southern train 888 to finish its work in the yard at Conneaut and resume its trek to Buffalo, New York.

From the back seat Ed Ribinskas said he thought he heard locomotive horns behind us. We were facing northward.

I stepped out of the vehicle and heard what sounded like the faint sound of a horn similar to those used by Bessemer & Lake Erie and Illinois Central locomotives. It didn’t sound like anything I’ve heard on NS or CSX.

I got back in the Jeep, feeling hopeful that a Canadian National train was headed our way on the former B&LE.

Several minutes later Ed said, “we’ve got something on the Bessemer.” He had heard the crossing gates for the Old Main Street crossing activate.

We scrambled to get into position to get a photograph. As the train rounded a curve south of the crossing I noticed the lead locomotive had an orange face.

Four former B&LE locomotives still wearing their original colors and markings are assigned to CN’s ex-B&LE property.

Leading the way into town was SD40T-3 No. 905 with a pair of ex-Illinois Central SD70s trailing, Nos. 1034 and 1038.

I always get excited at seeing IC motive power, but I had even more reason to want to photograph this train.

About three weeks earlier I had been in Conneaut with fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler when a CN train with IC 1038 on the point came out of the yard.

However, I missed an opportunity to photograph it across frozen Conneaut Creek. Today I was going to get a second chance at that.

We spent much of our time while the CN train was working in the yard chasing NS 888, which had a Kansas City Southern “Belle” on the lead. Once we returned to Conneaut after getting our last image of the 888, it didn’t take long for the CN train to come out.

After spotting its headlight, we made a mad scramble for the highway bridge over Conneaut Creek.

However, IC 1038 was not on the lead. The crew had added SD38AC No. 867 to the motive power consist and it was leading. I’ve seen the 867 and the 905 on the former Bessemer property over the past few years, but never in the same locomotive consist.

What we had was a Bessmer “sandwich” and there would be no IC SD70 leading the train out of town. But getting an ex-B&LE on the lead coming and going in Conneaut is an oddity these days.

The train came out far enough to block the grade crossing for a short time before backing up to clear. The radio silence indicated that the crew was done assembling its train and the conductor was making his way to the head end.

We talked about where to photograph the departing train and settled on getting it near Welton Road in the middle of a horseshoe-shaped curve.

After getting the train there Marty suggested trying again at Pond Road in Pennsylvania. That plan was complicated when we wound up on a dead end street trying to find our way back to U.S. 20.

That wasted time would cost us the photo op at Pond Road. The locomotives were going across the road as we approached from a half mile away.

Plan B was to get it along Old Albion Road just east of U.S. 6N. The good news was that we got there with time to spare. The bad news was that Marty took one look at the site and decided there was too much brush along the right of way.

We fell back on Plan C, which was to look on the fly for a road that would lead to the tracks. The first one we tried ended instead at someone’s home.

Reversing course, we made our way back to Old Albion Road and continued eastward.

Although we didn’t stop to inspect it, we noted where the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Erie & Pittsburgh branch crossed the road. Just to the south is a through-truss bridge over the West Branch of Conneaut Creek.

I made a mental note to come back here someday on a railroad archaeology expedition.

We rolled into Albion and after Marty got his bearings we set up at a popular railfan photography location at the Albion Mill.

The tracks come around a curve here become single track. There still stands a pair of searchlight signals.

Four other fans were already there, including former ARRC junior members John Puda and Cody Zamostny.

It was from them that we learned of the head-on collision earlier that day between Amtrak’s Silver Star and a parked CSX auto rack train in South Carolina that killed two Amtrak crew members.

Having gone this far into Pennsylvania, we were pretty much committed to chasing the CN train further south. It was getting to be late afternoon and there wasn’t enough time to go back to Conneaut to seek trains on NS or CSX.

It had been several years since Marty had chased a train south of Albion on the former Bessemer, but he was able to navigate the territory just fine.

We set up at the feed mill in Conneautville for our next photo op and then headed for Hartstown.

Marty wasn’t sure if he remembered his short cut to avoid the traffic in Conneaut Lake, but it came back to him once he got there.

We drove past the shuttered for the winter Conneaut Lake amusement park, which triggered some reminiscing about the days when Grand Trunk Western 2-8-2 No. 4070 pulled excursion trains for a short distance on a B&LE branch that ended at the park.

That branch came off another branch that once went to Meadville, Pennsylvania. Both branches are long gone.

Ed and Marty had seen the Conneaut Lake steam operation, which ran in 1973 and 1974, but I knew little about it until I started doing research for my Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad book.

The 4070 would go on to run for several years on the CVSR back when it was known as the Cuyahoga Valley Line.

Marty said that photographs of the 4070 in action on the B&LE branch to Conneaut Lake will be part of the July ARRC program to be presented by Bob Todten.

We arrived at the U.S. 322 bridge over the CN tracks at Hartstown and it would be our last photo op of the day.

It took a little longer than I expected for the southbound iron ore train to come into sight.

We got our photos and headed west for Ohio on U.S. 322, taking it to Ohio Route 11 and then back to Lake County on Interstate 90.

Along the way we observed the remains of a former railroad right of way that turned out to be a New York Central branch that once ran from Andover, Ohio, to Oil City, Pennsylvania.

Somewhere in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, we again crossed the former PRR’s E&P right of way.

Back in Ohio we crossed a former NYC line that ran between Carson and Latimer.

Through the late 1950s this line had a nightly passenger train conveying through sleepers between Pittsburgh and Buffalo, Toronto and Albany, New York.

Seeing the remnants of these abandoned lines, even if briefly, just whetted my appetite further for a railroad archaeology trip in early spring before the trees leaf out.

We watched the Horseshoe Curve website camera while eating pizza at Ed’s dining room table.

Then we ran some trains on Ed’s HO layout in the basement before heading home and catching the second half of the Super Bowl.

SD40T-3 No. 905 leads a Canadian National train into Conneaut.

A wider perspective of the iron ore train along the ice-covered waters of Conneaut Creek.

The crew has finished assembling its train and the engineer is waiting for the conductor to come up to head end before leaving town. First of a two-shot sequence made at the Old Main Street grade crossing.

Crossing Conneaut Creek as the CN iron ore train approaches the apex of a horseshoe-shaped curve.

The traditional rounding the curve image in Albion in a two-shot sequence. It has been a few years since I’ve caught a locomotive with an orange face coming at me here.

Coming into Conneautville at a location we’ve photographed at many time before.

At the end of the siding in Conneautville.

The CN iron ore train comes into Hartstown. At last I got photographs that say “it’s winter.”

The last photograph of most enjoyable day and chase.



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.

I See the IC

December 19, 2017

One of my primary motivations for going to Conneaut to railfan is the hope of catching a Canadian National train on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie. Of course, my objective in doing that is getting the former Illinois Central SD70 locomotives that have been assigned to the route since March 2015.

Since the IC units have been assigned to the ex-B&LE, every train I’ve spotted on the line has had IC motive power.

The IC units are not always leading. Much of the time, the motive power consist includes at least one engine painted in CN colors and markings.

On a rare occasion, there has been a unit still wearing its B&LE colors and markings. I’ve also seen pure IC motive power consists.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I was sitting by the Main Street crossing monitoring the rail traffic on Norfolk Southern.

Then the gates started coming down on the B&LE tracks at the Main Street crossing. The incoming train had CN 5422 leading and IC 1034 and IC 1018 trailing.

That was good news. It would mean IC power would be leading when the train came out of the yard heading south.

Last September, the last time I caught a B&LE train, there had been a CN unit leading southbound.

I didn’t chase this train out of town. I photographed it from the east bank of Conneaut Creek, from the Main Street crossing, and from the U.S. 20 bridge. That was enough for this day.

More Conneaut Doings

December 12, 2017

NS eastbound manifest freight 316 has a pair of Union Pacific locomotives in charge as it crosses Conneaut Creek in a view made from the U.S. 20 bridge.

In a recent post I described a recent Sunday afternoon catching a Canadian National train in Conneaut on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie. CN wasn’t the only operations that I observed and photographed.

Traffic on Norfolk Southern was slow for most of the morning with nothing running. Things began picking up before noon when the 22K showed up followed by the 206, the 098 and the 316.

I never saw or heard of a westbound on NS during my time in Conneaut.

I spent most of the morning on CSX where traffic was heavy after I arrived with four trains coming through in the first hour that I was there.

I was surprised that none of the CSX trains I saw were intermodals. Once NS got into action, I moved away from the CSX tracks.

After the CN train showed up around 1 p.m., the likelihood of my going back trackside along the CSX Erie West Subdivision became minimal.

Here are some highlights of what I saw on NS and CSX on this day.

It’s the eastbound stack train 22K.

NS train 206 has one of the DC to AC conversion units on the point today.

Can you guess which way the 098 is going? It is headed for work in Pennsylvania.

A two-image sequence of a westbound CSX crude oil train.

A westbound CSX manifest freight passes the former New York Central freight house, which is now owned by the Conneaut Historical Society.

CSX eastbound auto rack train Q254 passes the Conneaut water tank.

Reflections in Conneaut

December 5, 2017

Illinois Central SD70 No. 1018 and its running mates are reflected in the relatively calm water of Conneaut Creek.

One of the challenges of railroad photography is finding new ways to portray something you’ve already captured a dozen or more times.

Even then it might not be that you are doing something new as much as putting a new twist on something you’ve done before.

I ended up doing that during a visit last Sunday to Conneaut. My objective in going there was the same as it always is: Capture all three railroads that come into town.

But I also wanted to do something I hadn’t done in awhile. I recently showed some images of Norfolk Southern trains crossing the trestle that I had made in November 2005.

During that outing, fellow Akron Railroad Club member Ed Ribinskas and I had stood fairly close to the trestle carrying the former Nickel Plate Road tracks over Conneaut Creek.

I’ve been to Conneaut dozens of times since then, but seldom have I stood near the trestle. All other times I photographed from a distance with a telephoto lens.

I did that this past Sunday, too, but for the passage of eastbound NS intermodal train No. 206 I got close to the trestle.

The lighting conditions last Sunday were similar to what we had had during that 2005 outing. Both were sunny days with low sun angles that produced a warm feeling.

I created an image of the NS motive power crossing the bridge that was similar to the work that I did in 2005.

But after photographing the NS motive power, I noticed that the train was being reflected in the relatively calm water of Conneaut Creek.

I had to step back to fit the train and its reflection into the frame. The results are shown below.

I also created some reflection images when the Canadian National taconite pellets train came out of the yard later that day on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie. Those results can be see above and below.

The reflections are not as pronounced as they were with NS 206 and its containers and trailers, yet still pleasing.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve used Conneaut Creek as a mirror. It was the first time I’ve done it since the ex-ICRR locomotives showed up in 2015 and it was the first time I’ve focused on reflection photography from the NS trestle in this manner.