Posts Tagged ‘Grain trains’

Sitting at Milepost 1

September 23, 2021

It’s a Saturday morning and I’ve found this R.J. Corman grain train sitting south of Ansonia, Ohio, awaiting a crew.

Rebuilt GP16 No. 1832 has yet to couple onto the cars, which were delivered to the Corman by CSX. All of the covered hoppers have CSX reporting marks and lettering.

The grain is bound for an ethanol plant located near Greenville. The track on which the train is sitting is the longest segment of the former Cincinnati Northern that is still in existence.

Once part of the Big Four system, the CN ran from Franklin, Ohio, north of Cincinnati, to Jackson, Michigan.

A few short segments of the CN are still used to serve shippers in various locations in Ohio and Michigan.

Note that on the Corman this is milepost 1. During the Big Four days Ansonia was milepost 151 on the CN.

The grain in this train will take a short surviving segment of the former Pan Handle (Pennsylvania Railroad) Columbus-Logasnport, Indiana, line to reach the ethanol plant. Most of that ex-PRR route has been abandoned, too.

No. 1832 began life as a GP7 built in March 1951 for the Seaboard Air Line. It served for a time on the CSX motive power roster before being acquired by the Corman and assigned to the Western Ohio Line.

The corn in the adjacent field will soon be ready for harvest. Perhaps someday it will these rails to Greenville to be processed into ethanol.

There Was Still Some Fall Color

November 30, 2020

I wasn’t expecting to find any colorful fall foliage when I set out in mid November to chase trains on the Champaign Subdivision of Canadian National in east central Illinois.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find some maple trees still showing off their October best.

Better yet they formed a line of fall foliage along the former Illinois Central mainline.

Shown above is a southbound grain train passing through Pesotum, Illinois.

I Had Forgotten How Good This Day Had Been

May 23, 2020

A three-way meet in Olmsted Falls with an eastbound Norfolk Stack train, a very Lake Shore Limited and a tied down grain train with Canadian Pacific power was one of the highlights of my outing of Aug. 30, 2014.

It can be a quite pleasing feeling when going through old photographs and discovering an image you forgot you had.

I recently discovered not only images I had forgotten having made but a day-long outing that in retrospect must have seemed like one of those days where everything was going right.

And it occurred less than six years ago. So how could I have forgotten it?

I’ll answer that question later but on Aug. 30, 2014, I photographed 18 trains and saw locomotives of every Class 1 railroad except Canadian National.

The day began in Olmsted Falls just after 8 a.m. where I found a grain train sitting in the Berea siding west of Mapleway Drive with a Canadian Pacific leader.

There was no crew on board and the train probably needed a Norfolk Southern unit equipped with a cab signal apparatus.

In case you’ve forgotten, summer 2014 was the year NS implemented a new computer program in its dispatching system that tied the Chicago Line into knots for several weeks.

Mainline tracks between Cleveland and Chicago were blocked with trains whose crews had outlawed.

It was so bad that Amtrak in daylight became a regular occurrence in Northeast Ohio.

Indeed, I twice in one week photographed the eastbound Capitol Limited in mid morning. No. 30 is scheduled to arrive in Cleveland at 1:45 a.m., well before daybreak.

I’ve long since forgotten what plans I had for railfanning on Aug. 30, but I began the day in Olmsted Falls because the eastbound Lake Shore Limited was running more than five hours behind schedule.

Amtrak No. 48 would not reach Olmsted Falls until shortly before 11 a.m. By then NS had sent eight trains through the Falls of which four were westbounds.

An interesting fact I discovered upon reviewing the photos of the 11 Chicago Line trains I photographed that morning is that all but two of them were running on Track 1.

The NS dispatcher sent four trains west on Track 1 between 8:15 a.m. and 9:22 a.m. Three trains went east on the same track through Olmsted Falls between 9:38 a.m. and 10:05 a.m.

It must have been a challenge getting those trains out of each other’s way west of Cleveland.

An eastbound stack train at 10:50 a.m. was the first train to use Track 2 during the time I was there.

Two minutes after it arrived came the eastbound Lake Shore Limited on Track 1.

Running right behind the stacker on Track 2 was an eastbound coal train, which turned out to be the last NS train I saw.

The 10 NS trains I photographed included six stack trains, two tank car trains, a coal train and the grain train that never turned a wheel during my time in the Falls.

After the coal train cleared I headed for Wellington where CSX was equally as busy.

Between 12:15 p.m. and 12:47 p.m. I photographed five trains, two eastbounds and three westbounds.

It was an interesting mix of traffic that included an eastbound manifest freight, an eastbound auto rack train, the westbound trash containers train, the westbound Union Pacific-CSX “salad shooter” reefer train and a westbound grain train.

The reefer train had its customary three UP units, but of particular interest was the Southern Belle of Kansas City Southern leading the trash train.

Sometime after 1:30 p.m. I decided to head for New London. On the drive there, I spotted a Wheeling & Lake Erie train tied down just west of the grade crossing on Ohio Route 162 east of New London on the Carey Subdivision.

The lead unit of the eastbound W&LE train was a former KCS SD40 still wearing its KCS colors but with small W&LE markings.

The trailing unit was painted in Wheeling colors but lettered for the Denver & Rio Grande Western.

I don’t remember hanging out in New London but I presume that I did. Yet I didn’t photograph any trains there, which suggests that CSX might have died for the afternoon.

Whatever the case, I decided at some point to head east and wound up on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad where I photographed the last southbound train of the day arriving in Peninsula.

On the south end of the train was that LTEX leased unit that everyone loved to hate, GP15 No. 1420 in its solid black livery. On the north end was CVSR 1822, an Alco RS18u.

I photographed the train leaving and then headed home, having had quite a day with my camera.

OK, why did this become a “lost” memory given the diversity of what I captured with megapixels.

A number of reasons come to mind. Notice that I saw virtually no trains for most of the afternoon. I tend to evaluate the success of an outing by how it ends more than how it begins.

If the day ends with a flourish I tend to remember it as being successful. It is ends with little I tend to think that it could have been better.

Another factor was that August 2014 was a busy and eventful month for me and that might explain why this outing got lost in a lot of other memories.

Finally, days like the one I had on Aug. 30 used to be fairly common in Northeast Ohio when rail traffic was heavier.

A Kansas City Southern Belle might not have been a common sight in NEO back then — and still isn’t — but UP, BNSF and CP units were.

When you live in a place that has a high level of freight traffic it is easy to get somewhat jaded about it. It will always be there, right?

Yet five years later changes in railroad operating patterns have made outings like this less common.

There are fewer trains even though NS and CSX mainlines through Cleveland still host a lot of trains and can have busy spells. The “salad shooter” is now gone and the nature of and the overall level of rail traffic is not what it was five years ago.

Given my current circumstances how I long for a day today like the one I had on Aug. 30.

If there is a lesson to be drawn from this story it would be to appreciate what you have when you have it and learn to make the best of the opportunities that do present themselves in the here and now. They won’t always be there.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Many of the photographs that I made in Olmsted Falls on this day revolved around the grain train and its CP leader. In the distance a stack train heads west.

BNSF and NS units combined to wheel a westbound container train through Olmsted Falls.

NS units created a BNSF sandwich in the motive power consist of this eastbound tank car train.

A pretty lady leads an ugly train at Wellington. Southern Belles were a prized catch whenever I was trackside anywhere in Northeast Ohio.

The “salad shooter” makes an appearance in Wellington with its customary Union Pacific motive power consist.

Fresh lumber was among the many commodities being toted by this eastbound CSX manifest freight past the reservoir in Wellington.

Although it’s a Wheeling & Lake Erie unit, this SD40 still wore its KCS colors and thus made it a KCS two-fer type of day. It is sitting at the distant signal for Hiles near New London.

CVSR 1822 will be leading when this train comes back through Peninsula more than an hour from now.

Country Crossing

November 5, 2019

The fact that there are cross bucks and not flashing lights and gates says something about the level of train traffic here.

It is located north of Greencastle, Indiana, on the CSX Monon Subdivision, which is named for the former Monon Railroad.

The ex-Monon in this area doesn’t see much traffic and catching this northbound grain train was a stroke of good fortune.

We had heard it headed east on the St. Louis Line and get permission to enter the Monon Sub at Greencastle en route to a grain facility at Roachdale, Indiana.

Notice the pickup truck waiting on the other side to get across. The scene is the essence of rural life and the railroad.

It won’t be long before the corn in that field behind the truck might be traveling on these rails en route to some distant market.

Getting Lucky in Graytown

October 18, 2016

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One in a periodic series of images I made last summer.

I had never been to Graytown until last July. I knew of it because Marty Surdyk has photographed there a few times.

You might have guessed by now that Marty knows of Graytown because it has a large grain elevator on the north side of the Norfolk Southern Chicago Line.

My fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and I were in Graytown to get the elevator and a westbound auto rack train. That image is featured in another post.

During our time in Graytown, we caught a couple of eastbounds, one of which is shown passing the westbound auto rack train in the top photo.

The second train, which had Union Pacific motive power, was a grain train that later headed down the Toledo District at Oak Harbor.

We got lucky and were able to get the grain train passing the Luckey Farmers Inc. facility located across the road from the grain elevator.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

U.S. Railroads Are Also Losing Grain Traffic

February 25, 2016

Add grain to the list of commodities that railroads aren’t hauling as much of anymore. But unlike coal the falloff in grain traffic is due to increasing levels of grain being hauled by trucks or coming from foreign lands.

Grain traffic is still a substantial market for railroads and in 2014 U.S. railroads carried 140 tons of grain.

train image2But bulk grain shipments to Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Northwest ports are falling as U.S. wheat continue to lose world market share.

The railroad share of grain hauling has declined by about 50 percent since 1980.

Last year U.S. railroads hauled 1.1 million carloads of grain, which the Association of American Railroads said is an increase of 3.4 percent over 2014. Nonetheless, grain traffic thus far in 2016 has fallen more than 4 percent.

“Our export volume is really taking a dip with the strong dollar and especially with the Argentine peso being devalued,” Randy Gordon, president of the National Grain and Feed Association, told Trains magazine. “These markets all basically trade in U.S. dollars.”

Argentina President Mauricio Macri ended export taxes on corn and wheat and let the peso float free from the official rate of fewer than 10 pesos to the U.S. dollar.

With the exchange rate of the peso now more than 15-1, Argentine products are now a better deal and buyers have taken notice.

Truckers, though, are not necessarily hauling grain to the Gulf or the Pacific Northwest for export.

Doug Story, vice president of agricultural marketing for regional rail operator Watco Companies, said the increase in the trucking of grains has been in local hauls.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 reported trucks had captured market share away from railroads in corn grown for ethanol and soybeans hauled to biodiesel manufacturers.

USDA said that those industries usually are located close to farms with 90 percent of ethanol production situated within 50 miles of corn-producing areas.

Trains reported that although the ongoing concentration of animal feeding operations tends to favor railroads, an increasing portion of that market has gone to “dried distiller grain with solubles,” a by-product of ethanol production that can be hauled by truck.

However, Watco’s Story said there is “nothing crazy or outlandish with what’s going on here. It’s just market conditions, the value of our commodities relative to the rest of the world, and the strength of the dollar.”

When the market does turn, Story said, “the positive thing is we’re coming off a good harvest, and so we’re sitting on a tremendous supply for when the market is going to turn and allow product to move.”

Although not good news for railroad revenues, the downturn in coal and crude oil traffic has benefited the movement of grain by rail because track capacity is not as jammed as it was following the harvests of 2013 and 2014.

Add that to a brutal winter and moving grain by rail became a major challenge during those years.

“Virtually across the board they reported very few if any shipper issues,” Gordon said of last fall’s harvest and haul.

“Car availability is fine,” Story says. “If you look today at the Class 1s and how they’re moving [unit train grain] shuttles, they’re probably moving as fast as ever.”

Atop the Wellington Reservoir on a Winter Day

March 22, 2015

The Lorain Country fairgrounds and the tail of the grain train on the connection track looms behind the motive power of that train in Wellington.

The Lorain Country fairgrounds and the tail of the grain train on the connection track looms behind the motive power of that train in Wellington.

It wasn’t an easy climb to get to the top of the reservoir at Wellington. That’s because I approached it from the north side where there was still plenty of snow.

On the west side much of the snow had melted. Want to guess which side I used to get down?

I’ve always enjoyed the view from the top of the reservoir that if affords of the CSX Greenwich Subdivision tracks. Trains almost look like HO models as they trundle past.

I spent around a hour atop the reservoir on a recent Sunday. It was midday and but the light favored westbound trains. I did get one westbound, but I also saw three eastbounds.

A grain train with CSX motive power was sitting on the connection between CSX and the Wheeling & Lake Erie that loops around the Lorain Country Fairgrounds. There was no crew aboard and who knows when that train would be moved.

On this day, the reservoir was still frozen and I saw at least one guy ice fishing. A couple of men and a boy walked across the ice in the distance, appearing to look for a place to go ice fishing.

I had other locations in mind to visit, so my visit was not long. I’ll be back, I’m sure, in the spring.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

An eastbound manifest freight catches up to the grain train parked on the W&LE connection track.

An eastbound manifest freight catches up to the grain train parked on the W&LE connection track.

There is no harness racing today at the racetrack at the Lorain Country Fairgrounds. August and the fair are still a ways off.

There is no harness racing today at the racetrack at the Lorain Country Fairgrounds. August and the fair are still a ways off.

The only westbound to come past during my visit was this ethanol train with a Norfolk Southern leader. It is the first NS locomotive I've seen on a CSX train at Wellington.

The only westbound to come past during my visit was this ethanol train with a Norfolk Southern leader. It is the first NS locomotive I’ve seen on a CSX train at Wellington.

A closer view of the westbound ethanol train showed that it  had a Canadian National unit lettered for Illinois Central beneath the cab window. But this was never an IC locomotive.

A closer view of the westbound ethanol train showed that it had a Canadian National unit lettered for Illinois Central beneath the cab window. But this was never an IC locomotive.

Winding Line of Covered Hopper Cars in Ohio

March 10, 2015

Winding hopper cars

It is common to see photographs of trains winding around in mountainous areas, particularly in the Western United States.

But such views in Ohio are unusual because most railroad lines here are pretty much straight due to the flat terrain. So I was struck by the sight that I saw atop the reservoir in Wellington on Sunday.

A grain train with CSX motive power was parked on the connecting track between CSX and the Wheeling & Lake Erie. This track loops around the Lorain County Fairgrounds.

The grain train, which did not have a crew on board, was waiting to get onto CSX. In the image above, the view is looking northwestward.

The motive power is just out of sight to the right and the tail end of the train is visible in the distance.

This is the first time I’ve seen a grain train on this connecting track. I wonder if interchanging grain trains with CSX is a recent development for the W&LE.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

‘Tis Getting to be the Season for Grain Trains

September 13, 2014

Norfolk Southern train 42R has a solid consist of covered hopper cars as it cruises through Brady Lake.

Norfolk Southern train 42R has a solid consist of covered hopper cars as it cruises through Brady Lake.

The first official day of fall isn’t here yet but already one harbinger of autumn has begun to show up on Norfolk Southern. I spotted two grain trains on back-to-back days during recent outings.

Grain, of course, is shipped year around, but we most associate its transport with the harvest season that gets underway in earnest in the fall. Soon, farmers will be in their fields to reap corn, soybeans and other grains, and will be trucking their bounty to market.

Some media reports say that there will be a record harvest this year, which is going to put pressure on the railroads to move the grain. Already there has been discontent in North Dakota and Canada over the lack of availability of covered hopper cars to move grain sitting in storage facilities.

Although Northeast Ohio is not a huge grain producing region, we can expect to see more trains such as these rolling through our region.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

On another day, a train of covered hopper cars is parked in the Berea siding just west of Mapleway Drive in Olmsted Falls, with its Canadian Pacific leader basking in the sunlight. CP is a major hauler of grain in North Dakota over former Soo Line routes.

On another day, a train of covered hopper cars is parked in the Berea siding just west of Mapleway Drive in Olmsted Falls, with its Canadian Pacific leader basking in the sunlight. CP is a major hauler of grain in North Dakota over former Soo Line routes.

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