Posts Tagged ‘CSX Greenwich Subdivision’

Circle Trip of Reservoirs and Railroads

June 5, 2018

My original plan for railfanning on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend was to drive down to New London and “recreate” a memorable Akron Railroad Club outing of 2006.

I remember that outing for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that it was billed as a trip to Greenwich but started out in New London because that is where Marty Surdyk wanted it to begin.

We did get to Greenwich, eventually, but not until mid to late afternoon.

I had never been to either location so I had to rely on Marty for directions on getting there.

My memories from that day include seeing the CSX executive train headed westbound through Greenwich, seeing a caboose on an eastbound manifest freight at New London and catching a BNSF warbonnet leading a train at New London.

There was also the emphatic manner in which the late Tim Krogg suggested that it was time to get some bleeping lunch and how Peter Bowler schooled us in how a flock of buzzards is known as a kettle.

I enjoyed that outing so much that I suggested in 2013 that we do it again. It was scheduled, but I was the only person who showed up.

As I was heading west on Interstate 480 I decided to modify my plans.

I would make this a reservoir circle trip with stops in Wellington, New London and Attica. By day’s end I wanted to have photographs of trains and water at four reservoirs, three of them located above ground.

This would hinge, of course, on the cooperation of CSX, which since the onset of scheduled precision railroading has reduced the number of trains it operates. Those that do run tend to be much longer.

Sure enough, CSX was dead when I arrived in Wellington. I would wait 45 minutes before finally hearing an eastbound stack train calling signals on the radio.

Making images of an above-ground reservoir and trains is a challenge because of the distance between the shoreline and the tracks.

If you feature the shoreline that is closet to the rails, you have to use a wide-angle lens, which guarantees you’ll only get a portion of the water. In proportion to the scene the train will be small.

The latter doesn’t bother me but it does some railfan photographers.

You can also try to shoot across the water with a telephoto lens but you might not get the train. Remember, these are above ground reservoirs.

My first catch of the day in Wellington was an eastbound stack train with a pair of BNSF locomotives running elephant style. Not bad.

It was late morning so I decided to move on to New London. But as I was walking toward my car I heard the westbound Q163 stack train calling signals and decided to wait for it.

I tried a different angle, going for the north shoreline that is perpendicular to the tracks. The downside of this view is that I could get very little of the train into the image. Interestingly, the Q163 also had BNSF motive power.

I arrived in New London during another CSX lull that also lasted about 45 minutes.

I could hear other CSX trains on the radio, but nothing that would be coming through New London.

I also heard a Wheeling & Lake Erie train get track authority from Hartland to Spencer, meaning I would have seen it had I stayed in Wellington.

I finally got a train just before noon, an eastbound crude oil train with three BNSF units.

Hmmmm. I’m starting to see a pattern here. Did BNSF buy CSX and I didn’t know about it? Fat chance of that.

My idea was to shoot this train in the same manner that I did the Q163 at Wellington. It would have worked had I been paying more attention to the water and less to the locomotives.

I managed to create an image that didn’t show any of the water.

That would not be the case with the next train, a W&LE train off the Carey
Subdivision carrying stone in gondola cars and a few covered hoppers.

I heard this train get permission from the IP dispatcher in Jacksonville to enter CSX track at Greenwich at GN Tower.

At the time time, I thought this was fantastic news. I would be getting a Wheeling train after all.

Yet when the train showed up, it’s locomotives were both running long hood forward.

At least I got some water in this image and the lead unit is a former BNSF locomotive still in its BNSF colors. That sort of kept my BNSF motive power streak alive.

That streak was snapped when the Q348 showed up with CSX motive power. It stopped at CP 47 to allow the Q008 to pass.

I got the Q008 passing the manifest freight and some water.

The chatter on the radio indicated that more trains were coming, including the Q010 so I stayed a little longer at New London.

That paid off when a westbound auto rack train came past with a CREX (Citirail) ES44AC in the lead.

I’ve always like the color scheme of these Citirail units, but I’ve seldom been able to catch them leading a train.

The trailing unit of the auto rack train, by the way, was, you guessed it, a BNSF unit, which would be the final binsiff I would see on this day.

After the passage of the Q010, I set out for Attica but distractions along the way kept me from getting to the Attica reservoirs until late afternoon.

First, I stopped in Greenwich to photograph an eastbound CSX auto rack train whose headlight I saw in the distance as I crossed the Mt. Victory Subdivision tracks on U.S. Route 224.

Upon crossing the Sandusky District tracks of Norfolk Southern in Attica, I saw the rear of an eastbound and decided to check it out.

It turned out to be a grain train with three Canadian National units for motive power that I wound up chasing to Bucyrus where I got it going around the connection to the Fort Wayne Line.

I made further stops near Chatfield to photograph across a field a stopped eastbound NS manifest freight and to make some non-rail photographs in Chatfield of a hardware store that is going out of business.

By the time I got to the lower Attica reservoir, the Sandusky District had been turned into a parking lot because of a malfunctioning switch at Colsan in Bucyrus.

I waited a while before catching the eastbound 188 passing the reservoir, which had surprisingly smooth water for a windy day. That yielded a nice reflection image.

I had heard the 20E calling signals and thought I’d get it at the upper Attica reservoir a short distance away.

The dispatcher had told the 188 to stop at County Line Road and maybe the 20E would stop behind it.

I drove up to the top of the upper Attica reservoir, but there was no 20E. It was getting late and I didn’t want to get home too late, so I decided to forgo getting an image from my fourth reservoir of the day.

Although I looked, I never did see the 20E. Either the train I photographed at the lower Attica reservoir had been the 20E or it slipped past me as I was driving through Attica.




One August Day in New London

December 28, 2017

The weather wasn’t the greatest. Mostly cloudy skies and the threat of rain hung over us although the wet stuff didn’t come until later in the day.

I was out with fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and we didn’t have any concrete objective other than to get out and photograph some trains.

We headed out on the CSX Greenwich Subdivision and eventually would work our way west to the Sandusky District of Norfolk Southern.

It had been six years since I had been on the bridge in New London carrying Biglow Parkway over the CSX tracks. The last time I’d been here I was making photographs with slide film.

As I reported in an earlier post this year, we found that someone had cut holes in the fence on  the north side of the bridge. We used those to our advantage.

CSX was single tracking west of CP 47, where the Wheeling & Lake Erie tracks join CSX on the north side of New London. There is also a set of crossover switches there.

We would see four trains pass through CP 47 before we moved on after about an hour. First up was the Q158 which was closely followed by the Q166. The latter was to meet a westbound stack train waiting north of CP 47.

After the Q166 cleared the interlocking plant, the westbound stacker, whose symbol I didn’t record, crossed over from Track 2 to Track 1 to continue its westbound trek.

Shortly after the westbound stack train cleared the crossovers, I spotted a westbound headlight in the distance.

It was manifest freight whose symbol I also didn’t record or understand but it might have been the Q363. It had a long string of auto racks on the rear and I had earlier seen the Q363 with such a consist.

It took the Q363 quite a while to get to CP 47. It, too, crossed over from Track 2 to Track 1.

There didn’t seem to be any more traffic in the vicinity, so after the last of the auto rack cars had cleared the crossovers, we moved on. Four trains in an hour isn’t too bad these days when railfanning CSX.

CP 166 comes through the interlocking with an assortment of Canadian Pacific motive power.

Q166 is about to meet a westbound stack train waiting north of the westbound home signals for CP 47 at New London.

Here comes the Q363. The track veering off to the right is the Wheeling & Lake Erie. It used to be the Akron, Canton & Youngstown line to Cary and it used to cross the New York Central here at a diamond known as Hiles.

Long strings of auto rack cars appended to manifest freights has become a standard procedure in the E. Hunter Harrison era.



A Railfan Photographer Was Here

September 20, 2017

Earlier this year I was out with fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler on a Sunday photo outing.

He had not been to the New London area for several years so we headed down that way.

One of our stops was the Biglow Parkway bride over the CSX Greenwich Subdivision tracks.

Although I’ve been in New London a few times in recent years, it has been more than a two since I’ve been on Biglow Parkway bridge.

There are high fences on both sides of the bridge, each with small chain link fencing.

On the north side of the bridge, though, someone had cut three holes to create portholes.

I presume it was a railfan photographer who did this and I don’t know how long these holes have been there.

But I took advantage of them to photograph three CSX trains.

Reminder of a Past ARRC Outing

May 30, 2017

Westbound CSX manifest freight lumbers beneath the eastbound home signals for CP 37 and the water tower in Wellington.

Wellington is one of those places that is not that far away yet far enough that I don’t get there that often.

It is closer than Bellevue, Fostoria or Marion, but not as close to my home as Berea and Olmsted Falls.

Sometimes you just don’t have a good reason for neglecting to spend more time at a place that you really like.

I recently spent a few hours in Wellington and as I sat at the Lorain County Fairgrounds on the west side of the CSX Greenwich Subdivision I was reminded of the one and only Akron Railroad Club outing to Wellington during my time in the club.

That day was not necessarily the best or most exciting ARRC outing I’ve attended over the years, but I still remember it fondly.

It occurred on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009. I no longer remember why we chose to go to Wellington. Maybe at the time we were making an effort to visit what the Bulletin termed secondary hotspots in Northeast Ohio.

The report in the Bulletin indicated that 10 members showed up during the day and 22 CSX trains passed through. The W&LE sent just one train through town.

While sitting in Wellington recently I thought about some of the things that have changed since that 2009 outing.

I was using slide film exclusively then but have since switched to digital photography. Five of the 10 who attended no longer belong to the ARRC with Richard Jacobs among them having passed away.

Marty Surdyk was driving a Dodge Nitro then, but has since downsized to a smaller Jeep Patriot, I think it is.

Despite logging 22 CSX trains, I only made and/or saved eight 10 slides of CSX trains from that day, one of which is strikingly similar to the image that accompanies this article.

I had forgotten until I looked up the report of the outing published in the October 2009 Bulletin that Marty, myself and Rick Houck piled into the Nitro and chased the W&LE hopper train, getting it three times.

We speculated that it was a coke train that the Wheeling had picked up in Toledo from Canadian National. At the time, the W&LE was hauling coke that CN forwarded to Detroit.

I also had forgotten that when the outing began that morning a heavy rain was falling and that kept us in town rather than climbing the reservoir on the east side of the CSX tracks.

That also might explain why I have so few images from that day of CSX action.

The Bulletin report said we had lunch at Subway — where else? — and that by afternoon the skies had turned mostly sunny.

The report ended with the proclamation, “Let’s do it again, soon!” But that hasn’t happened and it probably won’t occur again as an ARRC activity.

Yet that won’t stop me from paying a return visit sooner rather than later. There are more memories there waiting to be made.

The Red Grain Elevator of Wellington

May 19, 2017

A certain member of the Akron Railroad Club is known for his passion for photographing trains and grain elevators.

I know that in particular he likes the red grain facility in Wellington alongside the Greenwich Subdivision of CSX.

It makes for a dramatic  image in late afternoon sunlight. From what I can see, the facility is no longer served by rail.

I didn’t go there on a recent outing just to capture the red grain elevator. As much as anything I went there because Wellington wasn’t being covered  by clouds.

CSX cooperated beautifully by sending a pair of westbounds through town, a stack train and an ethanol train.

The ethanol train shown at top was the second of the pair and I tend to like that image the best of the two.

Stumbling Into a Photograph

May 11, 2017

Nothing about this photograph was planned. At the time that it was made, I was chasing after a Wheeling & Lake Erie train that was leaving the siding at Hiles east of New London.

The case began at the northwest parking lot for the New London reservoir. You can sit there and watch trains on the CSX Greenwich Subdivision.

With a good antenna and radio you can also pick up radio transmissions on the W&LE frequency.

And so that was how I learned that a tank train I had seen earlier in the day in the Hiles siding was reading to go east.

I wasn’t sure that I could catch that train before it got to Spencer. I started to move, then sat back down. There is too much distance.

A moment later I began having second thoughts. The train will be accelerating from a standing start. It won’t be moving all that fast. In a worse case scenario I can catch it at Spencer.

So I drove out of the parking lot and on the spur of the moment decided to take a road that would go south of New London, which I thought would save time as opposed to going through town.

I had been on the road earlier that day when I had a false start trying to chase that Wheeling tank train. In that case, the conversation I heard on the radio was not the crew of the tank train.

I’m racing along eastward on a road I don’t know well but had been on earlier in the day. I make a left turn on a road that I think will lead me to Ohio Route 162.

It did, but it wasn’t the road I wanted. I turned on Chenango Road when what I really needed was Butler Road.

Chenango Road crosses the W&LE tracks, but by the time I reached them the tank train was gone. I also realized that I had the wrong road.

OK, I thought, I’ll go north a short distance and then turn east. Except that there were no crossroads.

Maybe there would be one just beyond the CSX crossing. As I was crossing the CSX tracks, I looked to my right and saw the headlight of a westbound train. That gave me a jolt.

Just as or just after I cleared the tracks, the gates started to come down. That gave me another jolt.

At that point instinct and experience kicked in. Something told me I could get a photograph of this train.

There was a dirt road to the right. I pulled in, grabbed my camera and headed for an opening near the tracks.

There was no time to think through the shot. I spotted a puddle and instinct and experience kicked in again.

In retrospect had I been standing back a little further I might have been able to capture the ditch lights and locomotive nose in the heart of the puddle rather than on the edges.

I also had the misfortune of photographing as a cloud blocked the sun. It was one of five times when that happened.

This, like most of the photographs that I made on this day, turned out to be less than ideal. It was that kind of a day.

But at least I didn’t come away from this photo op empty handed as I had earlier when just as I was catching up to the head end of an eastbound stack train on the New Castle Subdivision, I ran out of highway because U.S. 224 was closed for construction east of Nova.

Both Sides Now

May 9, 2017

I look at this photograph and I think of that Joni Mitchell song Both Sides Now. She sings about how clouds can be rows and flows of angel hair and ice castles in the air.

Clouds can add beauty and drama to an image, but they can also, as the second stanza of Both Sides Now reminds us, block the sun.

And so it was as CSX eastbound intermodal train Q010 came along as I stood atop the reservoir at New London.

My objective in making this image was clouds. I got the clouds all right, but at the crucial moment one of them blocked the sun.

Anyone who has spent time trackside has seen clouds from both sides. It is sometimes called getting cloud skunked.

I made the photograph anyway even though the train was in the shadows.

Of course, shadows can be a wonderful thing, too. But like clouds, they, too, are multifaceted. They can be your friend or they can be your adversary. Sometimes they are both at the same time.

So this image didn’t work out as I had planned, but at least I got some nice clouds.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

New Signals Set for Shelby Diamond

March 21, 2016

New block signals have been placed at the diamonds in Shelby where the CSX Greenwich Subdivision (former Big Four) crosses the Ashland Railway (former Baltimore & Ohio).

A field report said that the signals are in place but bags are still over the signal heads.

They are slated to replace color position light signals on the Ashland and former New York Central-style signals on CSX.

Seeking the New Normal on CSX in Greenwich

March 5, 2016
Eastbound Q015 rattles the diamonds at Boyd in Greenwich as it rolls out onto the New Castle Subdivision in Greenwich.

Eastbound Q015 rattles the diamonds at Boyd in Greenwich as it rolls out onto the New Castle Subdivision in Greenwich.

I recently went to Greenwich because I hadn’t been there for quite some time but also to check out how busy CSX is or isn’t these days.

During my recent outings in Berea, it has seemed as though the number of trains on CSX is down.

Greenwich is as busy a CSX hotspot as you’ll find in Northeast Ohio. You’ll see all of the traffic that passes through Berea as well as all of the traffic that passes through Akron.

I arrived in Greenwich in late morning on a Sunday and was surprised to find that I was the only railfan there.

The first hour was pretty quiet with the only trains being a pair of intermodals, one in each direction, on the Greenwich Subdivision.

Although there seemed to be fairly steady radio transmissions, Greenwich didn’t have the feel of activity as it has in the past.

The Willard Subdivision west of Greenwich is known for having trains stacked up waiting to get into the yard.

Nothing I heard on the radio indicated that that was the case on this day.

The IP dispatcher didn’t seem to be facing any “crisis” situations as has often been the case in the past.

Listening to the radio in Greenwich can be deceptive. If you have a good antenna you’ll hear discussions involving trains in the yard and operating west of Willard.

Many of those trains have either already passed through Greenwich or won’t be arriving for a good hour or more.

I had brought along the most recent issue of Trains and had plenty of time to read it.

The news section had stories about the changing nature of railroad freight traffic, including assertions that the future lies with intermodal.

So perhaps it was noteworthy that of the 17 trains that I saw, eight of them were intermodal trains.

Traffic began picking up about mid afternoon and at times the Greenwich of today resembled the Greenwich of yore.

A few railfans drifted in and out of town, stopping for a while to watch trains.

Things seemed to return to “normal” when two westbounds became stacked up east of town on the New Castle Subdivision.

A Q263 sat for a while at the home signals for CP54, a.k.a. Boyd, waiting for a pair of trains to come up the single-track Mt. Victory Subdivision from Crestline.

And it wouldn’t be a day in Greenwich without at least one problem bothering the dispatcher.

A Q163 arrived on the Willard Sub with an hour left to work and a bad order car to set out. There was quite a bit of chatter about that, primarily involving how far west the train would go before getting a new crew.

Aside from the eight intermodal trains, the day’s count included a crude oil train, two auto rack trains, one coke train, three manifest freights and two Wheeling & Lake Erie trains.

It has been quite a while since I’ve seen a coal train on CSX in Northeast Ohio. Maybe that traffic has dried up. Do any more Power River Basin coal trains still run on CSX through Northeast Ohio?

All in all, it had been a good outing from a railfanning perspective with most of the traffic coming in the final two hours of my five-and-a-half-hour day.

I haven’t kept records of how many trains I’ve seen in Greenwich during past outings so I can’t draw any definitive conclusions about CSX traffic being significantly down.

Still, I came away with the feeling that things are not quite what they used to be. What I observed on Sunday seems to be the new normal for CSX in our region.

There remain many trains to watch and photograph, but not quite as many of them as there used to be.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Here comes the Q163 off the Greenwich Sub and onto the long connection in Greenwich.

Here comes the Q163 off the Greenwich Sub and onto the long connection in Greenwich.

There are still a few crude oil trains left to see, including this eastbound.

There are still a few crude oil trains left to see, including this eastbound.

The head end of the Q010 is passing the tail end of the Q113 on the connecting tracks in Greenwich.

The head end of the Q010 is passing the tail end of the Q113 on the connecting tracks in Greenwich.

That's quite a colorful motive power consist that the Q004 has. The dominant color is red.

That’s quite a colorful motive power consist that the Q004 has. The dominant color is red.

The Q375 was able to highball on through Greenwich without waiting. It is shown passing the home signals for Boyd on the New Castle Sub.

The Q375 was able to highball on through Greenwich without waiting. It is shown passing the home signals for Boyd on the New Castle Sub.

I don't know if that rail is old or new, but it sure looks rusty. The Q263 is headed onto the single track toward Crestline.

I don’t know if that rail is old or new, but it sure looks rusty. The Q263 is headed onto the single track toward Crestline.

The L017 is taking the long connection today off the Greenwich Sub.

The L017 is taking the long connection today off the Greenwich Sub.

The K182 had to wait awhile east of Greenwich before getting a signal at Boyd. The coke train is shown in the growing shadows of late afternoon transitioning from the New Castle Sub to the Willard Sub.

The K182 had to wait awhile east of Greenwich before getting a signal at Boyd. The coke train is shown in the growing shadows of late afternoon transitioning from the New Castle Sub to the Willard Sub.

The Little Guys Wins One in Greenwich

March 3, 2016

Feb28 Greenwich 01-x

Regional and short-line railroads that have trackage rights on a busy Class 1 mainline are not always a top priority on someone else’s property.

No one knows that better than the Wheeling & Lake Erie, which must use CSX tracks to get between CP47 in New London on the CSX Greenwich Subdivision and GN Tower in Greenwich on the Willard Subdivision, where the W&LE line to Carey diverges.

So when I heard a W&LE train key up the CSX IG dispatcher last Sunday to get permission to enter the Greenwich Sub at New London, I expected the Wheeling train would have a long wait.

The dispatcher, though, seemed to indicate that the wait would be short. “Watch for a signal” after a UPS train passed by. That would be the Q010, which was already through Greenwich.

Not long after that, though, what had been a relatively quiet Greenwich Sub sprang to life with a parade of eastbound traffic, including the Q008, Q004 and L382.

Also in the mix was a Q263, which pulled up and stopped at the home signal for the connecting tracks from the Greenwich Sub to the Willard Sub.

The Q263 had to wait for the Q008 and an auto rack train to come up the single-track Mt. Victory Sub from Crestline.

It had been more than two hours since I had heard the Wheeling train talking with the CSX dispatcher and it was getting to be late afternoon when I finally heard the W&LE 6354 calling signals as it made its way west on the Greenwich Sub.

The Q353 was still waiting and as I saw the headlight of the W&LE train come into view I expected to see it stop next to the CSX train.

But it kept going and went around the Q353. Was the W&LE getting dispatching priority?

Well, maybe not. The Q263 still had to wait a while longer for an auto rack train to come up from Crestline and go east on the New Castle Sub.

The auto rack train reached Greenwich 16 minutes after the Wheeling train took the short connection to the Willard Sub. So either the dispatcher or a computer decided that a 36-car Wheeling train could move on through quick enough not to delay any CSX trains.

Still, I’d like to think that seeing a W&LE train go around a CSX train was a victory for the little guy for once.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders