I got an email this week from fellow Akron Railroad Club member Paul Woodring letting me know that the speed limit on Riverview Road through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park fell to 35 mph on April 4.
Although a new state law mandated the change, a story in the Akron Beacon Journal said the lower speed limit was requested by Summit County engineer Al Brubaker.
He told the Beacon Journal he wanted the speed limit lowered for safety reasons due to joggers, bicyclists and pedestrians mingling on “curvy and hilly” highways with motor vehicles.
“While drivers, riders and pedestrians will still need to use common care and caution within the park, at least we will now be able to post the county’s park roads at a more reasonable speed limit,” Brubaker said in a statement.
As Paul sees it, though, the slower speed limit makes it difficult if not impossible to chase steam trains on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
Before the recent change, Riverview Road had a myriad of speed limits. From north to south it was 25 mph from Pleasant Valley Road to Ohio Route 82, 35 mph to the Cuyahoga-Summit county line, 40 mph to Peninsula, 35 mph in Peninsula to Ohio Route 303, 25 mph to the Peninsula border, 35 mph to just north of the diagonal crossing of the CVSR tracks, and 45 mph to Cuyahoga Falls where the speed limit again dropped to 35 mph.
The speed limit will be dropping on other roads in the CVNP, but Riverview is of special interest to railroad photographers because it is parallel with the CVSR tracks.
I have chased Nickel Plate Road No. 765 and Ohio Central No. 1293 on Riverview Road, but found plenty of other obstacles other than the speed limit to chasing a steam train on the CVSR.
Most notable among them is the traffic light at Riverview and Route 303 where traffic backs up when the chase is on. I’ve missed out on more than one photograph because I got hung up at that signal.
It also can be difficult to catch up with a steam train on the CVSR if you photograph it in Peninsula. The weather is usually nice in September and the town is crowded with tourists.
Finding a parking space is tough and navigating your way out of town after getting your photographs is time-consuming due to traffic. I’ve missed the photo runbys at Boston Mill because it took so long to get out of Peninsula.
Some of the photo locations that I favor require some walking to get in and out. That often means being one and done with that particular trip of the steam train.
The lower speed limits are not going to change my strategy for photographing NKP 765 – or whatever number it operates with this year – if it comes back to the CVSR in September.
I’ll determine my photo locations for the day and travel on Riverside when the train is doing its photo runbys at Boston Mill or sitting in the station where trips begin and end. In short, it requires realistic planning and not being so reactive.
Anyone who has chased a steam train has stories to tell about photographers who drove recklessly to get to their next photo op, putting not only themselves at risk of injury but other photographers and motorists who were not there to chase a train.
I also remember a time when I was standing by the CVSR tracks near the Valley Picnic area.
I thought it odd that there was little traffic on Riverview going the direction of the train.
As the train came into view I could see why. A vehicle with a guy making video was pacing the steam locomotive and traffic was backed up behind him.
It doesn’t matter what the speed limit is when someone is behaving like that.