On Sunday, Dec. 30, I met up with fellow Akron Railroad Club member Roger Durfee and we went out in his jeep to do some winter photography in Northeast Ohio.
The chase began with a drive past Brittain Yard in Akron. Nothing was stirring on the Wheeling & Lake Erie, so we decided to mosey north along the W&LE’s Cleveland Subdivision to see if there was evidence of a train having passed. The indentations in the snow at the grade crossings indicated that there something had rolled over these rails not too long ago.
We heard a westbound CSX train on the scanner and decided to hot foot it for the bridge carrying Middlebury Road over the CSX New Castle Subdivision. This is the Chicago-Pittsburgh mainline of the former B&O.
As luck would have it, the last car on the train was a boxcar. While processing this image this morning in Photoshop, I discovered that it looked virtually the same in black and white as it did in color. So I left it in B&W.
After the passage of the l-o-n-g westbound CSX manifest freight, we resumed our hunt for the W&LE train. It seemed too early in the day for that train to have left Akron for Falls Junction in Glenwillow, but this was the day before the day before a holiday and perhaps schedules were all out of whack.
The CSX road channel came to life again and we heard a train calling a signal at Kent. RAD wasn’t sure if we had enough time to get back to the Middlebury Road bridge, but he gave it a shot. Call the “race” a tie.
I jumped out as we got to the crest of the bridge, which is located coming out of a curve if you are headed southward. I got a going away shot of the intermodal train as it approached a clear signal at CP 120, which is a set of crossovers that have been installed in the past year as part of the upgrade of the New Castle Sub to handle double stack container trains. That work hasn’t been completed yet.
As we were approaching the bridge, he had heard another train call an approach signal east of Kent. This meant there was a third westbound in the picture. We stayed put until the passage of that train.
The third of the flurry of westbounds was also an intermodal train. Both intermodal trains had long strings of empty spine or well cars.
With CSX going quiet again, we resumed the search for the elusive W&LE train. As we headed north (again) we heard the W&LE dispatcher talking to a track car. We also heard the dispatcher talk with the crew of a train, saying that the bus would be a little late in getting to them.
That suggested that the train to Falls Junction had, indeed, gone north early today and that the crew would be picked up and returned to Brewster. More than likely, it also meant that the W&LE train would be sitting at or near Falls Junction.
Roger decided to take Ohio Route 43 north and as we crossed the Norfolk Southern tracks in Twin Lakes, we spotted an eastbound manifest freight on the Cleveland Line.
After capturing the NS train, we continued the search for the Wheeling, figuring that perhaps it would be parked next to the depot at Glenwillow, which is undergoing a restoration. We zig- zagged our way along the tracks, stopping a couple of times to get some winter shots. It was snowing heavier the farther north we went as we got into the fringes of the Lake Erie snowbelt east of Cleveland.
The W&LE train wasn’t at the Glenwillow depot. But we did find it parked in an industrial park that the W&LE serves that is located on the remains of the Chagrin Falls branch.
After capturing the Wheeling train on megapixels, we returned to Falls Junction to get a few shots of the Cleveland Commercial Railroad power spending the weekend snoozing in the snow. The CCR usually does not operate on weekends.
It was nearly noontime. We headed back south, stopping at a Steak and Shake at Streetsboro to get some sandwiches to go. We ate them while sitting next to the NS tracks at Towner’s Woods Park.
The radio was quiet. After about an hour, we heard some scratchy transmissions on both the CSX and NS road channels. Much to our surprise and dismay, a westbound NS train suddenly appeared. But the element of surprise caught us off guard and we didn’t get any photos. Usually, you can hear the Rootstown detector go off from here, which provides plenty of warning to get into position. But not today for some reason.
Maybe that wasn’t a bad thing. The trailing unit was one of the few original Conrail locomotives still on NS. Roger said had we missed that train with the Conrail unit in the lead he would have been upset.
We moved into Kent and took up watch on the Main Street bridge. We got two eastbound trains before calling it quits for the day. The lighting conditions were horrible with heavy overcast. It had long since stopped snowing. Still we were pleased with our results for the day.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders