Posts Tagged ‘heritage units’

It Was Dark, But I Got My H Unit Leading

January 23, 2017
It took more than four years, but I finally got the Lehigh Valley heritage unit leading a train.

It took more than four years, but I finally got the Lehigh Valley heritage unit leading a train.

It wasn’t the most ideal of conditions to be photographing a train, even with a digital camera. But this wasn’t just any train that was coming.

OK, so a stack train is any train. But on the point was Norfolk Southern No. 8104, the Lehigh Valley heritage locomotive.

I’ve only seen the 8104 once and that was more than four years ago. And it was trailing.

The light was good then, but, you know, trail equals fail.

The Lehigh Valley H unit has not been a frequent visitor to Northeast Ohio. It got stuck in service down in the West Virginia and Virginia and took a long time to escape.

So when word came that the 8104 was leading a westbound 25Z, off to Olmsted Falls I went.

It was almost 5:30 p.m. when the 25Z showed up. It was cloudy and the sun was setting.

There was barely enough light to record anything. I shot at f3.5 at 1/500th of a second at ISO 6400 and at one full f stop over.

That netted a grainy, though usable image. But, hey, I finally got on the lead a heritage unit that had eluded me since June 2012.

As I processed my images in preparation for this post, I also came to appreciate how the conditions enable me to create some mood and effects that don’t exist in broad daylight.

Given a choice, I would rather have had ideal lighting when the 8104 showed up. But sometimes making do with what you have can yield some surprisingly pleasing images.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The 25Z with the Lehigh Valley heritage locomotive on the point was following the 25T and the 21Q as it left town. It is shown passing the depot in Olmsted Falls.

The 25Z with the Lehigh Valley heritage locomotive on the point was following the 25T and the 21Q as it left town. It is shown passing the depot in Olmsted Falls.

Hard on the heels of the 25Z was a westbound manifest freight whose headlight can be seen in the distance on Track No. 2. The 25Z was on Track No 1. In an hour's time, NS sent six westbound trains through Olmsted Falls.

Hard on the heels of the 25Z was a westbound manifest freight whose headlight can be seen in the distance on Track No. 2. The 25Z was on Track No 1. In an hour’s time, NS sent six westbound trains through Olmsted Falls.

The containers of NS train 25Z catch the last rays of daylight as the train heads into the sunset.

The containers of NS train 25Z catch the last rays of daylight as the train heads into the sunset.

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SP Heritage Unit Does the Mon Valley

March 24, 2013

On Friday night the Southern Pacific heritage locomotive of Union Pacific came through Cleveland. Saturday morning found it sitting at Shire Oaks, Pa., waiting to take its train to Bailey Mine.

We burned rubber to Pittsburgh and looked for the NS Interstate heritage unit which was reportedly sitting at Conway.

Not finding anything there, we continued to Shire Oaks. At the south end of the yard was the SP heritage unit trailing a four-unit consist.

After an hour, he was rolling south to Bailey Mine with NS train N22. After getting some decent sunlight shots we proceeded to West Brownsville. A northbound CSX train then a southbound NS went through before our train showed up.

No less than three cars cut in front of the train on the street running trackage there, with one of them cutting it very close. We chased further south, catching him again at Clarksville in some sweet light. We caught him once again before the light started to give out and we headed for home.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

New App Helps Land NS Heritage Unit

September 10, 2012

I bagged Norfolk Southern’s  Norfolk & Western heritage locomotive this weekend and here are some pictures and a story.

Using a new app that will tell you what NS heritage units are within a certain radius from where you are at (say 100 miles), we were able to chase down and get the N&W 8103 on Saturday.

The app said that it had been spotted at Sandusky about two hours earlier, the time being 1 p.m.). So we loaded up and went to find it.

We checked to no avail several logical places, including the north end of the yard, the docks and the former New York Central local yard.

We then checked the south end of the former Pennsylvania Railroad yards and found the 8103 sitting out in the open. It was a successful trip using Internet reports.

However, not all Internet reports can be trusted. The same app also said that the Lackawanna heritage locomotive was on the former Nickel Plate Road in Pennsylvania heading to Buffalo.

If true it would have traversed Cleveland about 9 a.m., yet there were no sightings or reports here.

Well that was because the Lackawanna unit was sitting at Roanoke. Va., Somone had misposted its location, which they corrected later, but such is the problem with Intenet posts.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Labor Day Weekend Heritage Hunt Yields 2 Units

September 4, 2012

I went down to southern West Virginia on Labor Day weekend because a large concentration of Norfolk Southern 30th anniversary heritage locomotives were reported to be in that area.

On Friday night, we drove to Ashland, Ky., and spent the night there. Saturday morning found us traveling to Kenova, W.Va., because a heitage unit had been spotted there. But we didn’t find anything.

We continued following the former Norfolk & Western main eastward. We found a giant mainline coal dock about 20 miles east and set up for a photo. Surely a train would pass, but after two hours of waiting nothing did.

The website Trainorders.com had a report of the Savannah & Atlanta engine going through Columbus, Ohio, about 7 a.m. with an empty coal train bound for Williamson W.Va. But we didn’t know exactly where it was.

Following the line further east we found a nice sun-lighted tunnel, No. 7 I believe. This would make a nice photo if we had a train, but the signals were solid red.

As we were about to leave the signal turned green. After a short wait, a train appeared with the S&A unit leading.

We chased it into Williamson, catching it several times.

We then moved on to Bluefield. However, we got completely lost – there was no cell phone or GPS reception in the mountains – and the Delorme atlas wasn’t much help either. We arrived  after dark.

In the meantime, we found out that had we stayed home we could have gotten the Monongahela heritage locomotive that was going through Cleveland on Saturday morning.

On Sunday morning, we talked to a couple of railfans who said that NS heritage unit 8114 (original Norfolk Southern) was working helper service on the other side of the yard.

Alas, we didn’t find it either. They also told us that the Lehigh Valley heritage locomotive had gone west during the night heading for Ohio.

Striking out again, we headed for Roanoke, Va., where some other heritage units had been reported to be.

Again, we found no heritage units; they were in the shops for repairs.

We did visit the Virginia Transportation Museum where the N&W 1776 Bicentennial and an Alco C630 high hood had been recently repainted. So the trip here was not a complete loss.

On the drive home, we heard more reports of 8114 at Bluefield, but we still missed it.

On Monday back in Cleveland, the Central of Georgia (NS 8101) came west on the 11V, which we did get at Olmsted Falls.

So I ended up with two heritage locomotives for the weekend although I had hoped for more. Nonetheless, while we were lost on Saturday, we did find some scenic coal branches that were not being used over the weekend. It was like being adrift in the ocean surrounded by water but with nothing to drink.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Some Good Luck in Friday the 13th

July 15, 2012

On Friday, July the 13th, I heard that the Reading and Lehigh Valley heritage locomotives of Norfolk Southern had tied up at Bellevue early that morning with a coal train of 865 empties that had come in from Detroit.

I got off work early and headed there to try and catch them. I didn’t have my computer and nobody that I called seemed to know anything so took a chance. Of course they weren’t there when I arrived.

I drove south to Marion hoping that I wasn’t too far behind the train with the heritage units. I got a couple northbound (railroad westbound) NS freights but saw no sign of a coal train.

Upon reaching Marion I was told by some railfans from Indiana (also searching for heritage power) that the 865 went west to Ft Wayne and then Muncie. I learned later that I had missed them by about an hour and that they went to Chicago where they headed a train bound for the Power River basin.

Bummed out, I headed east and followed the old Big Four/Erie line. After crossing U.S. 23, I caught a light Kansas City Southern power move. It was picking up a stack train at the Marion Industrial Center.

After getting this and some plant switchers, I continued east.

I didn’t get any activity at Galion but I did get pictures of the Erie bridge over Rt 309 at Ontario. This served a now closed GM plant. Look closely there is a small Erie diamond logo still showing.

My last photographs were of the only freight car painted for the ill fated Southern Pacific-CSX merger. SPSX 30034 was sitting outside a plant at Mansfield.

OK, there was no SP-CSX merger but I made you look).

All in all it was not a bad Friday the 13th.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

The Monongahela Lives On

June 17, 2012

A couple of Monongahela Railway cabooses are still used in work train service. Shown is one of them in the street at West Brownsville, Pa., on June 13, 2012.

The Monongahela Railway disappeared into Conrail in 1993, but it has been given a new sliver of life with the painting of a Norfolk Southern 30th anniversary heritage locomotive in Mon colors.

Although Mon locomotives vanished years ago, not so a pair of Mon cabooses that are still used in work train service on former Mon lines. I caught one of them on Tuesday, June 13, 2012, running down the street in West Brownsville, Pa.

I was there in hopes of catching two NS heritage units that were known to leading a coal train loading at Bailey mine on the former Monongahela Manor Branch. The first train that we saw was a southboud work train.

We didn’t know this bay window caboose was on the end, so it was a pleasant surprise, a sort of heritage piece of rolling stock.

And, yes, we caught the heritage units in the street, too. See the post below.

Photographs by Craig Sanders

The Monongahela logo is still visible on the side of this Mon caboose.

The first vehicle “tailgating” the Norfolk Southern work train at West Brownsville is an NS MOW truck.

Breaking Even or Better in New Haven

June 3, 2012

Knowing that the New York Central and Savannah & Atlanta heritage locomotives had been released Friday and that Saturday morning they had been moved to Ft. Wayne, Ind.,  had to try and catch them. Upon getting word that they were likely sitting in Ft. Wayne still, I made a mad dash over there.

The old Nickel Plate Road yard in New Haven, Ind., is very accessible as opposed to say, Conway or even Bellevue. A public street runs right beside the south side of the New Haven yard, including engine facilities and car shops. I felt that I would have a good chance of getting photos.

Well, Murphy’s railfan law applied as Norfolk Southern had parked the heritage units behind a building with no chance of getting any pictures while they were sitting there.

I did find a freshly painted NS caboose in a new paint scheme, but after driving three hours straight from Berea I really wanted those units. I was so near, yet so far.

So, I waited at the local railfan park and watched a steady stream of trains. New Haven is the junction of the Nickel Plate and Wabash mainlines so a lot of trains go through.

Finally, at about 5 p.m., an NS crew moved the units into the open. The light wasn’t great by this time but it was a reasonably clear photo.

The entire railfan park emptied to take pictures much like a pack of wolves with a wounded animal. I waited until dusk, hoping they would be put on an eastbound train, which would have given a much better sun angle. But Murphy’s railfan law struck again and I had no such luck.

To put it in gambling terms, I didn’t hit the big jackpot I wanted but I didn’t go home broke, either. I’d say I was even or slightly ahead.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Bagging My First NS Heritage Unit

May 14, 2012

The shot of the day was from the Miami Street overpass in Toledo. The 414 with NS 8114 is moving forward on Track 2 before backing into the Stanley Secondary.

For more than a month, railfan photographers have been salivating at the prospect of catching the Norfolk Southern 30th anniversary heritage locomotives that have been rolling out of shops at the rate of about one per week.

Photographs of NS heritage units have been plastered all over the Internet and tales of catching one of the prized locomotives have dominated many trackside conversations.

But work obligations had me chained to my desk for nearly as long as the heritage units had been plying the rails. “When will I get to see, let along photograph, my first heritage unit?” I often wondered as I saw photo after photo of locomotives celebrating the memory of such railroads as the Pennsylvania, Nickel Plate Road, Conrail and Norfolk & Western, among others.

“Which of these would be the first that I would see?”

My work obligations finally began easing late last week and I vowed that I’d get out over the weekend to bag an NS heritage unit.

Fellow ARRC member Roger Durfee told me on Friday night that the Norfolk Southern heritage unit was at Mingo Junction and we made plans to go see it Saturday morning.

But that idea evaporated due to cloudy skies.

Roger tracks the location of the NS heritage units more closely than many people keep tabs on their stock portfolios. He thought there was a chance that one of the units might make it to Northeast Ohio by Sunday afternoon.

When I called him Sunday morning about 9 a.m. to see what he knew, it was the proverbial bad news-good news-bad news situation.

The bad news was that it was unlikely that any heritage units east of Ohio would make their way here on Sunday.

The good news was that the Norfolk Southern heritage unit had reached Cleveland during the night and would be going west to Toledo on a coke train.

The bad news was that I was tied up with obligations at home through late morning. Roger said I could ride with him on the chase, but would I have time to catch up with him before NS 8114 left town? Things didn’t look too promising.

I finished my domestic obligations and called Roger. The new crew of the coke train, the 414, was not yet on the train, so it would not be leaving just yet. The crew could show up at any minute, though, and the train could charge westward shortly thereafter. Or maybe not.

I began racing toward Roger’s location near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Roger said he’d call me if the train began moving. I eyed my cell phone warily as I glided westward on I-480.

As I approached the exit for the airport, I got some good news. There in bright sunshine was the Norfolk Southern heritage unit in its brilliant orange, yellow and black sitting just north of the Ohio Route 237 ramp leading off I-480 toward the airport.

Maybe this thing will work out after all. At least I got to see it.

The train began moving as I neared Roger’s position. A coke train doesn’t exactly accelerate like a jack rabbit from a standing stop, so I was able to park, get my camera out and get into position.

Let the record show that I got my first photograph of an NS heritage unit at 11:10 a.m. on Sunday, May 13.

Chasing this train would be a challenge. There was no rail traffic ahead of it. Roger figured – correctly – that the crew could taste a short day of maybe three hours before going off duty. It had plenty of incentive to keep the throttle open.

And that is what happened. The lumbering train picked up speed and kept rolling along.

The Toledo East dispatcher offered a glimmer of hope that maybe this would not be the straight shot to Toledo that the crew wanted.

Signal problems near Fairlane had her single-tracking while a maintainer worked to resolve the issues. If the maintainer didn’t clear up by the time the 414 got there, it would have to wait for three eastbounds.

It was what we wanted to hear, but shortly thereafter the maintainer released his track authority and only a grade crossing protection order would slow the coke train’s progress.

Some deft driving by Roger got us ahead of the 414. We figured to make our first intermediate photo stop near Bay Bridge west of Sandusky.

We almost squandered that opportunity. Roger wasn’t sure what road to take to find the spot he wanted to photograph near Gypsum. We didn’t have a DeLorme atlas or a GPS.

We wandered around a bit, keeping an ear on the radio. We did not hear the 414 calling signals. That turned out to be because the NS 8114 didn’t have the greatest radio.

As we made our way down a private road near CP 253, we saw a headlight bearing down on us a short distance to the east as we crossed the tracks. “Where did that come from?”

We had just enough time to bail out, set up and fire away.

We got back to Route 2 and continued the chase. Exiting onto Ohio Route 163, we barreled toward Oak Harbor.

The highway and railroad tracks were within sight of each other for much of this section, so we knew we had caught and passed the 414.

But we also knew that we weren’t that far ahead of it, either. Roger suggested finding a place for an across the field shot, but we couldn’t find anything that was open enough.

Traffic and red lights slowed our progress through Oak Harbor. There was no chance of getting a photograph here.

Indeed, the 414 had gotten ahead of us again. We set our sights on Millbury.

We could hear a stack train, the 21G, calling signals behind the 414. On another day that would have been good news because the stacker was gaining on the coke train.

The dispatcher noticed that, too, but told the 21G that she couldn’t run him around the 414 because there was a steady stream of eastbound traffic ahead on Track 2.

The 414 crew must have sensed its clear path into Toledo because it kept highballing along as though it was Amtrak’s Capitol Limited.

We made Millbury and barely had enough time to get out and shoot at a grade crossing.

Catching the 414 at Vickers seemed out of the question, so Roger made contact with his friend Michael Harding. We met on the road and Harding led us to the Miami Street overpass in Toledo.

As it turned out, the 414 got delayed at Vickers, enabling what I am sure was a good crowd of photographers to get good photos.

Earlier in the journey, the crew of the 414 had told the Toledo East dispatcher that it was a celebrity train today. She didn’t know what that meant.

So the crew explained that it had one of the new NS heritage units and photographers were out taking its picture.

As we were driving through Toledo, we heard the 414 declare an emergency. As it was starting to move at Vickers, it lost its air.

The Toledo Yard dispatcher had informed the 414 that it would be crossing over from 1 track to 2 track and then backing into the Stanley Secondary.

We set up on the Miami Street bridge and waited. I had never railfanned in Toledo before, so I made the most of the wait by photographing an eastbound manifest freight crossing the Maumee River on the swing bridge.

By now the last of the clouds that had cast a pall over Toledo earlier in the day were moving out and we saw clear skies to the west.

That eastbound manifest freight momentarily kept the 414 from moving ahead, which meant the 21G had to cool its heels as well. A northbound CSX train crossing NS at Vickers on the former Toledo Terminal also figured into the traffic flow.

The traffic cleared, the 414 had its air back and everything began unfolding as intended. For a brief moment we thought we might get a side-by-side shot of the NS 8114 and the head end of the 21G.

But it was not to be. The 414’s head end was well ahead of the stack train by the time the 21G arrived at our location.

The crew of the 414 tied the train down after putting it into the Stanley Secondary.

It was still mid afternoon and Roger wanted to wait until about 5 p.m. when the side lighting on the 8114 would be nice.

We killed time by photographing from the Route 795 overpass a Canadian National train creeping into CSX’s Stanley Yard.

Then we went out to Vickers, which Roger had assured me is one of the busiest rail junctions in Ohio. A CSX northbound was crossing as we arrived, but over the next hour or so the place was quiet. There wasn’t even a peep on the NS road channel.

We had started to make our way back to the Stanley Secondary when we spotted a headlight on CSX. It was a southbound stack train and it would have to wait for NS trains in each direction.

After that flurry, we got the static shots of the 8114 that we wanted.

The CN train we had shot earlier at Stanley Yard was ready to go back to Lang Yard so we waited near Vickers to shoot what would be our last train of the day.

The attraction on this train wasn’t the two generally filthy CN units up front, but the third unit, a BC Rail locomotive.

And with that we headed toward Cleveland. Toledo seems like a nice railroad town. I ought to get back there sometime soon.

Article by Craig Sanders

Photographs by Roger Durfee

What a beauty it was in the sunlight.

We almost missed getting this shot at Millbury.

The view from the Miami Street overpass in Toledo was the best of the day.

From here the 414 backed up into the Stanley Secondary. This gave us two opportunities to shoot the NS 8114.

On the Stanley Secondary in late afternoon light.