Posts Tagged ‘Indiana’

Chasing NS and Air

October 16, 2017

The remnants of Hurricane Harvey made our plans for Labor Day Weekend easy; go west or get wet.

The brother and I decided to head for Indiana for the weekend on the Thursday prior. Kind of a late decision, but we wanted to be sure that the weather was going to be sunny wherever we went.

Our main goal was to catch some action on the Norfolk Southern’s Marion Branch. We did this a couple of years ago and had a good day.

The only catch was that besides the holiday weekend the Notre Dame football team was home on Saturday and hotels within 100 miles of South Bend were either booked or majorly expensive.

I started the hotel search at Goshen. They showed a half dozen chain motels. The first five I tried were either booked or they only had a single room.

The Hampton Inn had a single room for only $299 plus tax. For that much it better come with a hooker.

The last place in town was the Super 8. They, to my surprise, had rooms available. They were a bit more pricey than I’m used to at an “Eight Ball,” but I took it.

* * * * *

We arrived there Saturday night and were up and out the door after breakfast just after sunrise.

The first spot we staked out was the cemetery at CP 412 on the Chicago Line in Goshen. This is where the Marion Branch begins. It runs alongside the Chicago Line for 0.3 miles until it turns south through a residential neighborhood in Goshen.

The first train we saw was Amtrak No. 29. It sailed past us shortly after we arrived at the cemetery. It was followed by an empty DEEX coal train. Intermodal trains were coming east so we had plenty of action to watch and shoot.

We noticed a green signal at CP 412 for a northbound to come off the Marion Branch. The Toledo West dispatcher called the train and said it was OK to head his way.

We relocated to the residential neighborhood to shoot it. While it’s not street running, there are houses on either side that face the tracks that you can use as photo props.

After shooting the northbound, we went back to the cemetery. Amtrak No. 49 made an appearance upon our return.

Horns to the west, but not like the fast moving horns we had gotten used to, caught our attention. Could this be a Marion Branch train?

It was. A single BNSF GE was leading about 75 auto racks. They were going to make the turn south and head into the wilds of Indiana.

So were we. We shot it at the cemetery and headed out of town. Our next spot was the grain elevator at New Paris. This sits right next to Indiana Route 15; you can’t miss it.

Neither of us could understand what the crew member of the rack train was saying when calling signals. It did not get stabbed at the CSX diamonds at Milford Junction so we were off to the farm fields between Milford and Leesburg.

We shot it here with a red barn in the shot and again at the elevator at Leesburg. A northbound was in the siding here awaiting the arrival of the rack train.

But the rack train did not have a signal to proceed south. Could there be another train coming north?

There was, a junk freight led by Canadian National power showed up about an hour later. By the time the northbound came by we were firmly planted along Hickory Street in Warsaw. This is actual street running for two city blocks. Houses front the east side of the tracks while a bank and a drug store occupy the other side of the street.

After the northbound went by, we headed to a Subway about three blocks away to grab something for lunch. We figured we had time for the northbound to get to Leesburg and our southbound then had to come to us.

We saved lunch for after the passage of the rack train. We would end our chase here and wait for more action on the Marion Branch this afternoon.

We didn’t have to wait long before our quarry made its way past us.

After the last car passed, we dug our sandwiches out of the bag and began to enjoy them.

The brother said out of the blue, “wouldn’t it be great to see a train on the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern now?”

They run on the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline that the Marion Branch crosses just south of the street running.

It wasn’t a minute after he said that that we heard horns to the east. A CF&E train was approaching the diamonds.

“Holy cow?”

I was only two bites into my sandwich so I kept on eating. We were not in position to photograph the CF&E train so I settled on watching it.

The brother eats 100 times faster than I do, so he was done long before me.

“Wanna chase the CF&E?”

By now he had about a 10 minute head start on us. I glanced at the map and noticed U.S. 30 roughly follows the tracks to the west.

“If you drive so I can finish my lunch.”

We quickly changed seats and were off. I guided Robert out of town using a county road that parallels the tracks to the south for a couple of miles west to the town of Atwood. Here we would cross the tracks and pick up U.S. 30. Hopefully, it would be a quick way to get caught up to the train.

The road I picked up to get across the CF&E tracks goes under them. There was no sign of our train above as we continued on.

We accessed new U.S. 30, a four-lane divided highway, and began rolling west.

We did not see any signs of our train nor did we hear any radio chatter. But we continued on convinced that we were still behind it.

By the time we got to Grovertown, about 40 miles west of Warsaw, I had to make a pit stop. So we pulled off onto a side road that crossed the tracks to check for any signs of life.

It was obvious that nothing had been across the tracks here. The light coating of rust on the rail from rain showers on Saturday had not been disturbed.

Armed with this knowledge that we were, indeed, ahead, we began to track back. This time we used old U.S. 30, which stayed closer to the tracks, but goes through all the towns along the way.

This allowed us to check out potential photo spots just in case we did encounter the train. We saw several promising spots and made mental notes as to their whereabouts.

We found the former PRR depot in Plymouth still standing but much the worse for wear. I thought they may have stopped to switch here or to work an interchange with NS. The CF&E crosses the former Nickel Plate Road’s Michigan City branch here.

Sill no signs of a train so we continued back east, checking at Inwood, Bourbon, Etna Green and finally back at Atwood. Nothing.

“Where the heck did they go?”

We found them. After crossing the Marion Branch in Warsaw, they went about another three-quarter of a mile and pulled into a siding. The power was now shut down and the crew was long gone. We had been out chasing air. Almost two hours of chasing air. Now what?

“Back to the Marion Branch; maybe we can get something moving there.”

As bad luck would have it, nothing was moving there, either, at least for now. We trolled north looking for something moving.

At Millford Junction we stopped for a leg stretch at the first crossing west of the diamonds on CSX.

Here you can shoot a westbound with the old grain elevator in the photo.

We killed some time. Robert called home to check in, scanned the news wires for what players the Browns were cutting and signing for the upcoming season opener with Pittsburgh, and checked HeritageUnits.com in case any were in the area.

“Lehigh Valley at Goshen a little over two hours ago on 19K. Trailing.”

Wonderful. While we were chasing air the 19K had slipped by us.

About now an EOT on the radio got our attention back to the business at hand.

A headlight to the east on CSX heralded the approach of the westbound. It was a K182 coke train.

We shot it with the old elevator here at Milford Junction and began to head north toward Goshen.

“Hey! There’s an NS sitting at the home signal waiting to go south.”

The power was behind a stand of trees but we saw freight cars standing on single track. As the road got closer to the tracks, the southbound began to move.

I quickly turned around and the chase was on. When the power cleared the trees, we got a good look. A CSX dark future, an NS and the Lehigh Valley. This was the 19K.

We headed to the farm fields north of Leesburg. Since the road is on the west side of the tracks, we were able to get two views of the 19K before it reached the siding at Leesburg.

“Clear, Leesburg.”

No meets this time; they were heading right through.

We were off to Warsaw and the street running. We would make it with time to spare. The train  must be down to restricted speed before it enters the street. Even in moderate city traffic you can make it into town before the train.

After shooting the 19K here, we were still in hot pursuit. We got right out of town and after getting far enough ahead we began to look for another photo spot.

Not finding anything we liked in the countryside, we headed into Claypool. Here the Marion Branch crosses the former NKP main to Chicago. Since we weren’t sure where the 19K was headed, we could also check its routing through town. There are connections at Claypool that are used by some trains.

Claypool is not overly photogenic and the 19K was running on clear signals so we assumed, correctly, that it was heading straight through town.

We were off toward Silver Lake, the last place where you can easily follow the Marion Branch in this area.

After Silver Lake, the tracks head in a southeast direction. The road grid is north-south, east-west. You can lose some time along this stretch unless you hustle.

We made it to North Manchester ahead of the 19K. We saw a spot in town that looked good and only had to wait a minute until the train showed up.

Indiana Route 13 follows the tracks south of North Manchester to Wabash, but there was a bridge out just outside of town. We detoured around the bridge using side roads and got back to the tracks in time to see the last cars passing by.

Getting ahead was easy as the train’s speed was about 40 mph and the state highway was 55 mph. We ended up getting a shot north of Speicherville across a farm field.

The 19K is an Elkhart, Indiana, to Decatur, Illinois, manifest freight. It would use the connecting track at Wabash to access the former mainline of the Wabash Railroad for the remainder of the trip to Decatur.

We arrived at the over/under where the Marion Branch goes under the Wabash and found it shadowed in. The connection is just to the east where the two lines come up side by side.

I thought we were ahead and I still to this day think we were ahead. But we could not find the 19K anywhere. It’s like it was swallowed by a sink hole.

I have since found out that the former Wabash has a radio channel that I was not aware of that they use: 161.380. We did not have that in the scanner so we missed an important radio conversation.

Following the tracks through town to the west, we found a rural crossing and waited for a few minutes. The sun would soon be gone for the day.

We discussed what to do tomorrow. I threw out the idea of heading to Fort Wayne. Or we could head back to Goshen. The forecast for the Monday holiday was sunny in the morning with some showers moving through in the afternoon.

Back to Goshen it was. We would hang around the Marion Branch until the weather arrived then we would head home.

We arrived back at the Super 8 in Goshen to find the same gal working the desk. She gave us the same room as we had had last night.

* * * * *

I hopped out of bed when the alarm went off and looked out the window. Oh no, the weather was already upon us with dark skies to the west and blue skies to the east.

This made it easy to decide what to do today. We would head east along the Chicago Line trying to stay ahead of the weather.

Our first stop was at Ligonier, Indiana. Here a grain elevator sits on the outside of the curve that takes the tracks from an east-west alignment to a northwest-southeast alignment. The lighting was good for an eastbound.

We waited awhile and were rewarded with an eastbound mixed freight that we thought was a Canadian Pacific train. It had a CSX leading a CP.

After it passed, we continued on, our next stop being Waterloo where the former New York Central depot has been moved farther west and used as a waiting area for Amtrak passengers. We found no passengers or trains in Waterloo this morning.

Our next stop was for lunch in Stryker, Ohio. A Subway restaurant sits right next to the Main Street crossing with the Chicago Line one block east of the grain elevator and depot.

We could get NS to run only two westbounds while we were there. The shot is OK, but not as good as for the eastbound.

Our last stop for the day was at Swanton. NS is installing a staging yard for Detroit Edison coal trains here. It looks like a four-track intermodal facility because of the distance between the tracks. But it is for coal trains.

A new control point will be in service at the west end to be called CP 309.

We walked around the park that includes a former Wheeling & Lake Erie caboose before calling it a weekend and hitting the Ohio Turnpike for the miles back to Cleveland.

It was an enjoyable trip in spite of our misadventure with the CF&E. Next time it may pay to check for signs of life a little sooner before you go running off into the Indiana countryside.

Article by Marty Surdyk

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South Bend Mayor Wants South Shore Study

October 11, 2017

The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is trying to head off a proposed reroute of the South Shore Line that would pass through a residential neighborhood.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he wants to examine alternative routings for the tracks rather than putting them through the Ardmore neighborhood, where up to 40 homes could be displaced.

The proposed realignment would reduce the travel time between Chicago and South Bend by about 90 minutes from 2.5 hours.

The project is expected to cost $290 million and would also involve adding a second track between Gary and Michigan City, Indiana.

The single-track segment has been the source of delay to passenger trains meeting freight trains at passing sidings.

Other city officials have said they want to see a new alignment that will displace as few residents as possible.

Like the mayor, those officials want another alignment study in addition to the one that was done for the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District by a third party engineering firm.

Buttigieg wants the city’s redevelopment commission to hire a consulting firm to prepare three alternatives to the proposed Ardmore routing.

Among the alternatives that would be studied is using an existing freight right-of-way or revamping train stations to increase capacity.

However, the mayor acknowledged that the Ardmore alignment might still be chosen if it proves to be the most ideal.

ITM to Operate Polar Express Trains

October 2, 2017

The Indiana Transportation Museum has announced that it will operate Polar Bear Express trips this year from Kokomo, Indiana.

No dates were specified in the announcement, which noted that the excursions are part of a cooperative arrangement that ITM has reached with the cities of Kokomo and Logansport.

The announcement said ticket sales will begin on Oct. 7 and further information will be announced on the museum’s website. As of today, no information had been posted on the site.

2 South Shore Projects to Get FTA Review

September 14, 2017

The Federal Transit Administration has agreed to review two projects being undertaken by the South Shore Line.

These include the proposed West Lake Corridor and double-tracking existing South Shore tracks in Northwest Indiana.

After the review, the FTA will issue a rating that would allow the projects to proceed to the engineering segment of the agency’s capital investment grants program. To advance for further review the projects must earn a “medium high” rating.

South Shore President Michael Noland expects the West Lake project to rate a “medium high” score while expecting the double-tracking project to come in with a “high” rating.”

South Shore is seeking federal funding for 50 percent of the cost of each project.

The West Lake Corridor project cost has been put at $615 million. It involves building a 9-mile branch from the South Shore mainline that would terminate in Dyer, Indiana. Trains to and from Dyer would also serve Chicago.

The second track project involves 25 miles of now single track between Gary and Michigan City, Indiana. It is expected to cost $290 million.

Group Formed to Protest NKP Branch Abandonment

August 8, 2017

A group has formed in Hamilton County, Indiana, to seek to overturn the decision by local officials to convert parts of a former Nickel Plate Road branch line into a hiking and biking trail.

The group, known as Save the Nickel Plate, is seeking to get supporters of keeping the rail line to write to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board in opposition to approval of the line’s abandonment.

Hamilton County along with the cities of Fishers and Noblesville filed a petition with the STB on Aug. 1 to gain regulatory approval to pull up nine miles of the line between Noblesville and Indianapolis.

Through 2015 the line was used by the Indiana Fair Train and other excursions sponsored by the Indiana Transportation Museum.

The Save the Nickel Plate group has raised concerns about what it termed the lack of public input regarding the trail plan, the lack of train service, impediments to rail service caused by the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority’s suspension of rail operation, and concern for the process of selecting a new railroad operator that only runs on the northern portion of the railroad.

The group has established a website at http://www.savethenickelplate.org/

L&I To Build Overpass in Downtown Columbus, Ind.

July 8, 2017

CSX and the Louisville & Indiana Railroad will join with the city of Columbus, Indiana, and Bartholomew County to pay for an overpass to carry Indiana Route 46 over the L&I tracks in downtown Columbus.

The bridge is part of a $100 million line rehabilitation project on the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline between Indianapolis and Louisville, Kentucky.

Although the L&I owns the tracks, CSX has helped the short-line railroad pay for track upgrades.

CSX routes through trains over the line between Louisville and Indianapolis. Some CSX trains use part of the route to go from Louisville to Cincinnati, getting onto the St. Louis line of the former Baltimore & Ohio at Seymour, Indiana.

The upgrading of the L&I line is expected to be completed next year. CSX has indicated that it will increase its use of the line.

Officials said Indiana Route 46 is the primary entrance and exit for motorists and trucks heading into and out of downtown Columbus.

NICTD Makes West Short Project Changes

May 22, 2017

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District has released plans for the proposed West Lake Corridor project of the South Shore Line.

The latest plans include a layover facility at the future Hammond Gateway Station in Hammond, Indiana.

The plan also shows that the platform location and parking lot for the Munster Ridge Road Station in Munster, Indiana, has been moved so that NICTD won’t need to acquire a set of homes south of Ridge Road.

In a news release NICTD President Michael Noland said the changes were based on “extensive community input.”

The West Lake Corridor involves extending the South Shore Line 9 miles between Dyer and Hammond on a former Monon Railroad route, part of which is still used by Amtrak and CSX.

West Shore trains would connect with Metra’s Electric District Line to the north.

The project plans call for four stations and building passenger-only tracks.

Operator Sought for Indiana Rail Line

May 3, 2017

The Indiana Fairtrain may not be dead just yet, but it won’t be operating in 2017.

The Hoosier Heritage Port Authority last month approved a request for proposals for an operator of the former Nickel Plate Road branch that was used by the Fairtrain, which last ran in 2015.

The port authority owns the tracks and has appointed a five-member review committee to review the proposals, which must be submitted by June 13.

The review process will begin on July 1 and executives of the top proposals will be interviewed by the committee.

The Port Authority hopes to name an operator for the line by its July meeting but may have to call a special meeting in August to do that.

The Fairtrain has in past years been operated by the Indiana Transportation Museum, but the Port Authority refused in 2016 to renew its operating rights over the tracks in part because the line needs extensive repairs.

“I think we’ve left it pretty open for the proposers to describe what they would do to our line, how they would maintain it,” Port Authority President Mike Obergfrell said. “The other option in there is they would make lease payments in lieu of maintenance.”

Indiana Port Reaches Pact With TNW Logistics

April 13, 2017

The Perry (Indiana) County Port Authority and TNW Logistics Services have reached an agreement to expand the Tell City River Port on the Ohio River.

The port, which includes the Hoosier Southern Railroad, is expected to see the development of additional industrial park facilities and river port operations.

The Hoosier Southern connects with Norfolk Southern at Lincoln City, Indiana.

In a news release, The Dallas-based TNW said this is its first venture into Indiana.

“This is a natural fit for the expertise TNW has gained while developing our rail and multimodal logistics centers in Texas,” said TNW Corp. Chief Executive Officer Paul Treangen in a statement. “We are eager to increase business volume, create economic development opportunities and foster strong relationships with the shippers and local communities.”

The port handles barge traffic from the headwaters of the Ohio River, as well as the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico.

It has 38 acres of land with 3,300 square feet of Ohio River frontage covering more than 3,500 feet of undeveloped river frontage. Two large warehouses have more than 46,000 square feet for storage of bulk materials and 75,000 square feet of concrete and asphalt pads also are available.

Indiana Rail Facility Opens

March 24, 2017

A $2 million commercial rail cross-dock facility has opened in Washington, Indiana, with the 18,0000-square foot structure being the first rail expansion in the city in decades.

The new facility is part of a new 40,000 square feet shell building. The  $10 million project included the shell building and wastewater and electrical infrastructure.

The facility is located near the interchange of U.S. Route 50 and Interstate 69.

The cross-dock facility will allow the direct loading of semi-trailers and railroad freight cars.

It is located on the Cincinnati-St. Louis line of the former Baltimore & Ohio. CSX now owns the line, much of which is out of service in Illinois.

Officials say the cross-dock is expected to meet logistics needs and increase efficiencies for regional companies in the area, including Grain Processing Corporation and Alliance Barrier Films.

They also hope that it will encourage expansion of companies with specialty needs in transportation, logistics and distribution.