Posts Tagged ‘Fort Wayne line’

Forlorn and Forgotten in Crestline

March 10, 2017

x-crestline-amshack

This photograph of the Amtrak shelter in Crestline is old, very old. It was made in September 1998 and by then Amtrak had been gone from Crestline for nearly eight years.

There are some members of the Akron Railroad Club who might remember traveling to Crestline in the dead of night to catch a train.

In Amtrak’s early years, the only service in Northeast Ohio was the Chicago-New York/Washington Broadway Limited, which also stopped in Ohio at Canton and Lima.

Crestline was a crew change point, which might be why it was chosen as the passenger stop for Nos. 40/41 rather than the much larger city of Mansfield a few miles to the east.

I haven’t been back to Crestline for many years, so I can’t say for sure if the Amshack is still there.

I rather doubt it. Crest Tower has been razed and during a track realignment project conducted since the Conrail split, the Crestline Amshack may have been removed.

There is little likelihood that Amtrak will ever use the Fort Wayne Line again through this region of Ohio.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Crossing the Beaver River

February 23, 2017

beaver-river-december-3-01-x

beaver-river-december-3-02-x

The Fort Wayne Line of Norfolk Southern crosses the Beaver River in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

For those unfamiliar with the area, this is north of Conway Yard near Pittsburgh and even north of Rochester, Pennsylvania.

For those who may be wondering what motive power was pulling this westbound intermodal train, if you regularly follow this blog  you’ve seen it already.

It was the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit. Now here is the rest of the train crossing the river.

Photographs by Craig Sanders

Double PRR Heritage at Mace

July 25, 2016

PRR at Mace-x

From a train watching perspective, the highlight of the 2016 Akron Railroad Club picnic was the passage of the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit in late afternoon.

Of course, I had to drive to Massillon to see it because it was leading Norfolk Southern train 12V, a Bellevue to Conway (Pittsburgh) manifest freight that works in Mansfield and Canton en route.

I’ve only seen NS 8102 trailing and each time it was behind Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive No. 765.

So here was my chance to get it leading and get it on former Pennsy rails to boot.

I chose to set up at Cherry Road NW just south of Mace interlocking. I wanted to get it coming past the PRR position light signals there.

That called for a straight-on shot and I thought I could move over and get a three-quarter roster type shot.

But the 12V was moving faster than I expected and I couldn’t move fast enough or get set in time to get that other image.

But I’m satisfied with this one even if the lighting wasn’t the greatest. Call it a double dose of PRR heritage.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

How Things Have Changed at MACE Tower

July 7, 2016

img127HH

It is June 3, 1977, in Massillon. Conrail No. 7878 and PNC No. 1506 are westbound helpers on Conrail’s Fort Wayne line.

They are at MACE Tower on the diamonds and are crossing the Chessie System (ex-Baltimore & Ohio) line that goes to Holloway and then to the Ohio River.

MACE Tower is still an active tower. The tracks closest to the viewer are part of the Conrail yard tracks and the line that goes north to Warwick.

If you closely look around the curve, you can see the ex-Pennsylvania Railroad signal bridge and to its right a now-removed factory.

How things have changed. Trees now cover the hillside. MACE Tower, the diamonds for the crossing, one of the two lines that made up the Fort Wayne line at that time, and some of the yard tracks are gone.

The Conrail line is now Norfolk Southern while the ex-B&O line is the single track R.J. Corman line that only goes as far south as Urichsville.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas

Watching Steel Rust on the Fort Wayne Line

June 24, 2015
The first NS train through Orrville arrived a half-hour after I did. Then I had a four-hour wait for the next one.

The first NS train through Orrville arrived a half-hour after I did. Then I had a four-hour wait for the next one.

Last winter the railfan cyberspace world was abuzz with reports that Norfolk Southern was rehabilitating the tracks of the Fort Wayne Line west of Bucyrus.

This was remarkable news for a number of reasons. First, NS doesn’t own these tracks. CSX does.

Second, CSX doesn’t use this line. The Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern does.

Yes, NS does have the right under the terms of the Conrail breakup to operate as many as six trains a day west of Bucyrus, but it has seldom taken advantage of those rights.

But after the meltdown on the Chicago Line last summer, railroad officials began looking for alternative routes for some trains.

One of those alternatives was the Fort Wayne Line. Even before the Conrail breakup, this former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline in western Ohio saw little traffic.

The segment between Crestline and Alliance was moderately busy under Conrail, but once NS took it over the traffic levels dropped precipitously.

NS operates a pair of Conway-Bellevue manifest freights over the line daily. The route also sees locals out of Mansfield that operate as far east as Orrville. There are some coal trains.

But otherwise, traffic on the Fort Wayne Line is rather sparse.

As I read the reports that traffic on the Fort Wayne Line was picking up, I made a mental note that I needed to get down there this summer and see just much more traffic is using the line.

In particular, NS is routing eastbound crude oil trains over the route. I had seen posted photos taken of some of those trains, which led me to believe that they operated during daylight hours.

On the first Saturday in June, I set out for Orrville. I wasn’t expecting to see a flood of new traffic, but I was hopeful that there would be enough to make it worth the trip.

I got a later start than I wanted so it was about 10:30 a.m. when I arrived, parked next to the tracks, set up my scanner and waited.

Shortly after 11 a.m. I could hear the scratchy sound on the radio of a train calling signals.

The signal became stronger and clearer. That a train was coming a half-hour after I had arrived was a good omen.

It was a westbound coal train and it had one of those massive ex-Union Pacific SD90MACs as the second of two locomotives.

Then things got quiet, real quiet. And that was the way it was for the next four hours. That’s right, four hours.

To pass the time I read that day’s Akron Beacon Journal and the latest issue of Trains. The Fort Wayne Line has a long and colorful history and I had plenty of time to think about it.

I had expected lulls between trains, but not this long. I was about to give up for the day when I heard a scratchy sound on my scanner.

Shortly after 3:30 p.m., an eastbound oil train showed up with a set of helper units on the rear.

I was curious how far I’d be able to hear that train call signals over the radio so I stuck around and listened.

That train must have been past Massillon when I thought I heard the oil train crew speaking with the crew of another train.

Could it be that a westbound was waiting at Massillon for the oil train to pass? I decided to wait awhile longer. It was an agonizingly long wait.

I was, again, about to pack it in when I thought I heard a distant radio transmission. It took awhile but it got stronger and my earlier hunch had been right. There had been a westbound near Massillon.

That train, another coal train with an ex-UP SD90MAC in the motive power consist, finally reached Orrville at almost 4:30 p.m. After its passage, I headed home.

I’d like to give Orrville and the Fort Wayne Line another try, preferably getting there in the early morning.

It has always seemed as though more trains pass through Northeast Ohio in the morning hours than during the middle of the day.

Maybe that’s not true for the Fort Wayne Line, but I’d like to give it a try.

I’d also like to go down during the week when the locals are running and when the R.J. Corman train for Wooster comes and goes.

It may be technically accurate to say that there is more traffic on the Fort Wayne Line than there used to be.

But when the previous traffic levels were already quite thin, adding another couple of trains a day isn’t going to make that much of a difference.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The tower at Orrville used to be on the other side of the tracks and farther west. I can't remember a time when it wasn't where is is today. But my first visit to Orrville came in 1995.

The tower at Orrville used to be on the other side of the tracks and farther west. I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t where is is today. But my first visit to Orrville came in 1995.

This former Pennsy cabin car has been in display for years in Orrville, but no one has gotten around to restoring the PRR keystone and markings.

This former Pennsy cabin car has been in display for years in Orrville, but no one has gotten around to restoring the PRR keystone and markings.

After a wait of four hours I could not believe my eyes. There is training coming on the Fort Wayne Line.

After a wait of four hours I could not believe my eyes. There is training coming on the Fort Wayne Line.

The first and (only) eastbound of the day (for me at least) passes the Orrville station. The view was made from the steps of the former Orrville Tower.

The first and (only) eastbound of the day (for me at least) passes the Orrville station. The view was made from the steps of the former Orrville Tower.

What a nice surprise. There were helper locomotives on the rear of the 66W, the eastbound crude oil train.

What a nice surprise. There were helper locomotives on the rear of the 66W, the eastbound crude oil train.

Orrville is located at milespost 124 on the Fort Wayne Line. I had plenty of time to memorize this fact.

Orrville is located at milespost 124 on the Fort Wayne Line. I had plenty of time to memorize this fact.

The rear of the morning westbound coal train passes the restored Orrville depot, now the home of the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society.

The rear of the morning westbound coal train passes the restored Orrville depot, now the home of the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society.

The Incredible Shrinking Fort Wayne Line

June 8, 2009

Mergers and acquisitions can be tough on a railroad line. Many a line has been wiped off the map after being deemed surplus as a result of a merger. While that fate has not befallen the Fort Wayne line that passes through Alliance, Canton, Massillon, Orrville, Wooster and Mansfield, the former Chicago-Pittsburgh mainline of the Pennsylvania Railroad isn’t what it used to be.

After the Conrail breakup, which resulted in the Fort Wayne line east of Crestline becoming Norfolk Southern property, traffic diminished preciptiously. Now the Fort Wayne line has just one pair of daily manifest freights that travel the route daily through northeast Ohio.

Until early May, 12V and 15V operated between Columbus (Buckeye Yard) and Pittsburgh (Conway Yard), using the Sandusky District between Columbus and Bucyrus and the Fort Wayne line east of there.

But NS temporarily closed Buckeye Yard on May 4, citing the downturn in traffic resulting from the current recession. Columbus area traffic will be marshaled at Watkins Yard, a former Norfolk & Western facility on the southeast side of Columbus. NS expects to reopen Buckeye Yard once the economy and its business picks up.

The 12V and 15V now operate between Pittsburgh and Bellevue. The trains continue to use the Sandusky District and to make the turn onto and off of the Fort Wayne line at Bucyrus.

The trains also have a new schedule. The 12V is now slated for a middle of the night departure from Bellevue and should reach the Canton-Alliance area by 8 a.m. The 15V is set to leave Conway at approximately midnight with a mid-morning arrival in Bellevue. The new schedule means that the trains are less likely to operate over the Fort Wayne line west of Canton in daylight hours.

Another change in recent weeks on the Fort Wayne line was the abolition of a pair of locals that operated between Mansfield and Bellevue. Local C37 had originated at Mansfield and hauled auto parts that were made at a General Motors stamping plant near Mansfield and taken to Belleveue for forwarding to GM plants via other trains. For now, this traffic will be handled by the 12V and 15V. However, the future of the GM plant in Mansfield does not look good as the company restructures and downsizes in bankruptcy proceedings.

NS continues to opeate a local between Canton and Massillon that runs during daylight hours, and a local that originates in Mansfield and runs to Wooster before returning. This train does work in Orrville, dropping off tank cars for the J.M. Smucker plant that is located on the former Cleveland, Akron & Columbus branch on the north side of Orrville.

Otherwise the only traffic on the Fort Wayne line is the occasional coal train or load of empty cars.

Two ARRC members inspected the Fort Wayne line between Bucyrus and Upper Sandusky last Saturday.  While in Bucyrus we were told that the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern, which operates over the line west of Crestline, hopes to build traffic over the next few years and even land some bridge traffic coming out of Chicago. A connection from the Fort Wayne line to the Sandusky District in the southwest quandrant of Colsan might be built.

The CF&E was fairly quiet last weekend. The only “train” we saw was a pair of CSX locomotives that CF&E reportedly uses to haul grain trains. Those ran light from Crestline to Lima in late morning.

The Fort Wayne line is mostly a single track railroad west of Crestline and looks more like a branch line than a mainline that once hosted such fabled trains as the Broadway Limited, Pennsylvania Limited, Admiral, General, Trail Blazer and Manhattan Limited.

The line still has Pennsy style position light signals and the defect detector is  still in operation at Robinson (“Robbins”) east of Bucyrus. The train called signals over the radio as it made its way westward.

The Fort Wayne Line remains an intriguing line to photograph even if traffic is slight. The position light signals are still intact on the NS portion of the line west of Alliance. There is the famous Tuscarawas bridge at Massillon that is built on a curve. Just west of the bridge, there is nice photo vantage point of the former Mace interlocking from the bridge carrying Cherry Road NW over the tracks. Although the tower is long gone, this junction sees trains of NS, R.J. Corman and Ohio Central (using trackages rights over the Corman).

There is a nice restored depot and block tower at Orrville. At Bucyrus, work is well underway to restore the former Toledo & Ohio Central station, which is located just south of the junction of the Fort Wayne line with the NS Sandusky District. The group restoring the station has opened a souvenir shop adjacent to the T&OC depot. There is ample parking there.

Given the paucity of traffic on the Fort Wayne line, its future in the NS system would seem to be uncertain. NS probably only kept the route because of its on-line traffic at Mansfield, Wooster, Orrville, Massillon and Canton. The line certainly has little other reason to exist in NS’s eyes other than perhaps serving as a safety value or backup route for traffic moving between Bellevue and Pittsburgh that now goes via Cleveland.  At some point NS might decide that it has more to gain by turning the route over to a short line or regional railroad.

Indeed NS is doing just that this summer with a lightly used branch in Cleveland.  The former Erie line that once ran between Cleveland and Leavittsburg, Ohio, is being leased to the Cleveland Commercial Railroad on or about June 15.

The Cleveland Commercial, which currently leases a Wheeling & Lake Erie branch between Falls Junction and Cleveland, will operate the NS Randall Secondary between Broadway Avenue in Cleveland and milepost 27.5 in Aurora Township — a distance of 25 miles. Currently, the line is out of service east of Harper Road in Solon.

The agreement calls for the Cleveland Commercial to use the former Erie Van Willer Yard in Cleveland. Interchange with NS will occur on a connecting track between East 65th Street in Cleveland and Erie crossing, where the NS Cleveland line (former Pennsyslvania Railroad) crosses the former Erie route.

The Cleveland Commercial can access the Randall Secondary directly without having to use NS trackage by using a connection that passes through the Ferrous Metals scrapyard. This will enable the Cleveland Commercial to offer its customers on the Randall Secondary an interchange with the W&LE