Posts Tagged ‘KCS locomotives’

Remember the Leaning Tower of Nova?

December 2, 2022

Nova Tower has been gone for several years now, but in its final days it was a sought-after photo prop because it had a distinctive lean.

The tower was located on the CSX New Castle Subdivision in Nova, Ohio. It had been closed for years when the above photograph of a westbound CSX coal train was made on Oct. 17, 2010.

At one time Nova tower controlled signals and a crossover. Going back even further the Lorain, Ashland & Southern crossed the Baltimore & Ohio in Nova at grade. In B&O days it was known as VN Tower.

The tower has received minimal, if any maintenance, after its closing and it was somewhat surprising that it lasted as long as it did.

Nova Tower was razed on Nov. 22, 2013 and some of its components were moved by truck to a Utah railroad museum which said it would use them to create an interlocking tower.

Photograph by Craig Sanders

KCS on CSX Two for Tuesday

August 9, 2022

It was a sunny October Sunday in 2010. I was out with Roger Durfee and we had in mind catching some action on the CSX New Castle Subdivision.

Roger learned somehow that a westbound CSX coal train had a Kansas City Southern leader. Then, as now, KCS motive power was not unheard of in Northeast Ohio, but it wasn’t that common, either.

Roger turned his Jeep eastward and we intercepted the train at Newton Falls, seen in the top image. From there we photographed the coal train in at least three other places. Akron wasn’t one of them, probably because urban traffic would result in our not being able to keep pace with the train.

On the point was KCS AC44CW No. 4594 in the gray livery with yellow nose stripes that had been built by GE in November 1999. The trailing unit was a BNSF “pumpkin”

We chased that train to east of Greenwich, where it stopped to wait for traffic ahead to clear.

Among our other photo locations were Nova and River Corners Road west of Lodi, with the latter being seen in the bottom image above.

It was one of the longest chases of a single train that I’ve been involved with on the New Castle Sub. It also was kinda fun and made more exhilarating by bagging something that I seldom had been able to catch during my various railfan outings in Northeast Ohio.

The fall foliage we found along the tracks wasn’t too bad, either.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Belle of a Day (Part 1)

February 7, 2018

Norfolk Southern coal train 888 gains speed as it leaves the siding at PA east of Conneaut, Ohio.

I had high hopes for getting some winter weather action photographs last Sunday. The forecast called for an 80 percent chance of snow with one to three inches of accumulation.

I had visions of catching trains dashing through the snow.

It might have happened if the temperatures had managed to dip below freezing. But they hovered around 33 for most of the day and we got rain mixed with snow and no accumulation.

I was out in Lake County with fellow Akron Railroad Club members Marty Surdyk and Ed Ribinskas in a reprise of our railfanning on Super Bowl Sunday outing.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about railfanning on the day of the NFL championship game, but we’d done it before and had some good luck getting dramatic winter weather images.

However, the snow and rain mix wasn’t heavy enough to create much effect and the overcast skies made for flat light. Nonetheless, it turned out to be one Belle of a day.

We began where our past Super Bowl day outings had begun sitting next to the CSX Erie West Subdivision in Perry.

For about an hour nothing was moving and there wasn’t any chatter on the radio.

We passed the time reminiscing about past railfan outings to faraway places and listening to  Marty describe how he came to put together his program for the February ARRC meeting titled The Power of Four.

Tired of sitting and looking at air, we decided to check the signals on Norfolk Southern. The eastbound home signal  showed an approach indication, suggesting that the dispatcher intended to hold an eastbound at CP Davis and put a westbound into the siding.

Off we went toward the Painesville trestle over the Grand River, where a new bridge is under construction. Marty wanted to get an image of a train with the old and new bridges.

We didn’t make it. The eastbound, which turned out to be coal train 888, called the intermediate signal at Madison Avenue east of Painesville as we cruised westbound on Ohio Route 84.

We turned around to chase it, not sure where we could get it. We could see it at times and were pleased to see that the lead unit was a Kansas City Southern “Belle.”

That is not something you see very day in Northeast Ohio and getting this train gave our day a focus it had been lacking.

We got on Interstate 90 at Madison and motored over to North Kingsville for our first photo op with Miss Belle.

Then it was into Conneaut where we would wait for the 888 to change crews and work in the yard. This isn’t an ordinary coal train. The coal comes from West Virginia and the train picks up its symbol at Portsmouth, Ohio.

After going west on the Sandusky District, it gets onto the former Nickel Plate Road in Bellevue and takes that to Buffalo, New York.

It drops cars in Conneaut that are interchanged to CSX for delivery to Erie Coke in Erie, Pennsylvania. The remainder of the train is interchanged to the Buffalo & Pittsburgh in Buffalo.

It took awhile for the 888 to complete its work in Conneaut. In the meantime, we saw a Bessemer & Lake Erie train roll into town and that would become the focus of the latter part of our day.

The 888 called the NS Pittsburgh West Dispatcher to let him know it was ready to leave Conneaut.

The dispatcher told the crew to depart on signal indication. The 888 would be going into the siding at Woodworth to meet a westbound or get out of the way of an eastbound that had higher priority.

After photographing the 888 rumbling over ice-covered Conneaut Creek, we learned that intermodal train 206 would pass the 888 in the siding that extends from Woodworth to PA.

We quickly hatched a plan to photograph the meet at Rudd Road, which is a couple miles or so inside Pennsylvania.

Much of the property surrounding that area is state game land, but some is private property. Someone was firing weapons on that property. The sound of nearby gunshots was a little unsettling.

The 206 soon came into view, but it had just a run of the mill NS wide-cab unit.

Shortly after the 206 cleared the switch at PA, the dispatcher lined it for the 888 to come out of the siding.

On our way back to Conneaut we listened to the crew of the 888 tell the dispatcher about how the KCS unit was experiencing excessive wheel slip, in part due to the wet rails.

They agreed to put another unit online. The crew followed that up with a conversation with an NS power desk representative about the wheel slip issue.

In the meantime, we slipped back into Conneaut and waited at the Old Main Street crossing for the Canadian National train to slip out of town and the start of another chase.

Our first photo op of the KCS Southern Belle leading NS train 888 came at North Kingsville.

NS 888 crosses the icy Conneaut Creek on its way out of town.

NS intermodal train 206 (left) overtakes train 888 at PA.

The 206 splits the signals at PA.

Now it is the turn of the 888 to split the signals at PA.

Summerail and Train Watching in Marion

August 14, 2017

Summerail returned to Marion last Saturday and there are indications that it will be back there again in 2018.

Master of ceremonies Ron Flanary announced toward the end of the program that the 2018 event will be held on Aug. 11 at the Palace Theater in Marion, where it was also held in 2016.

Traditionally, Summerail has been held in Cincinnati, but was moved to Marion last year due to construction at Cincinnati Union Terminal.

The move to Marion was expected to be for just two years, but Marion does offer some advantages over Cincinnati, primarily the use of an auditorium with expansive seating.

Past sessions of Summerail have sold out weeks before the event, but the Palace Theater has enough seating to make possible walk-up sales of tickets on the day of the event.

The 22nd edition of Summerail offered 10 multi-media programs with images set to music. Each program was about 45 minutes in duration and featured digital images.

A few programs had introductory commentary and videos embedded amid the usual progression of still images.

None of the programs were presented by Northeast Ohio residents and scenes of railroading from Northeast Ohio were scarce.

I spotted several Akron Railroad Club members in Marion during the day including Peter Bowler, Ron McElrath, Mark Demaline, Jim Mastrommateo, David Mangold, Richard Antibus and Tom Fritsch.

Some of them spent their day watching trains at Marion Union Station rather than viewing the Summerail programs.

The original Norfolk Southern heritage unit led an eastbound NS coal train through Marion in late afternoon, but I missed it because its passage occurred during the last set of afternoon programs.

Some Summerail regulars have a practice of dining at a Skyline Chili restaurant in Cincinnati during the dinner break.

Although Skyline has several franchises outside of southwestern Ohio, there are none in Marion.

Railfan & Railroad magazine arranged a catered Skyline chili dinner at Marion Union Station.

Tickets were $12 with a portion of the proceeds going to the station association.

The dinner was catered by a Skyline franchise in Westerville, a Columbus suburb.

A railfan sits at the operator’s desk in AC Tower as CSX train Q007 passes by.

BNSF motive power leads an eastbound grain train on the Columbus Subdivision of CSX.

Some Summerail attendees spent part of their dinner break watching trains. An eastbound NS manifest freight passes the photo line.

CSX westbound stack train Q007 had a pair of Kansas City Southern “Belles” in the motive power consist.

As westbound Q007 passes AC Tower, NS train 234 waits in the background.

The rear of NS train 234 passes the Erie Lackawanna caboose, which sits at the site of a former Erie Railroad division headquarters building.



NS 961, a light power move from Columbus to Bellevue, passes AC Tower.

Master of ceremonies Ron Flanary introduces a program.

Dishing out the Skyline Chili.

Railfan & Railroad editor Steve Barry dives into a cheese coney in the waiting room of Marion Union Station.

If Railfans Had a Vote on Railroad Mergers, CP Red Would Crush NS Black in a Landslide

November 11, 2015

When I first heard that Canadian Pacific and Norfolk Southern were talking about a merger, I knew that railfans would be cheering it.

In a railfan’s mind, a merger in which CP is the surviving partner is fantastic news if it means replacing all of those black NS locomotives with CP’s candy apple red ones.

Depending on your perspective, NS locomotives are either ugly or utilitarian.

There are some die-hard NS fans who think that black with white markings is beautiful, but they are a minority.

Some photographers wouldn’t go trackside on the NS at all if it weren’t for the chance of catching one of its 20 plus heritage units.

Many railfans are fixated on the color of paint that a railroad uses to cover its locomotives and how it does that.

In the railfan world, BNSF is numero uno because of its bright orange-colored locomotives.

Kansas City Southern might be a close second and even first on some lists on the strength of its striking “Southern Belle” livery.

But railfans probably give BNSF the nod because its fleet has a few Santa Fe warbonnets left even if many of them are now faded and in need of a trip to the paint booth. Throw in a few surviving Burlington Northern units, including the forest green and cream Grinsteins and what is there not to like about BNSF motive power?

Canadian Pacific is right on the heels of KCS and BNSF because of the bright red shade that it uses on its locomotives. When you get a clean CP unit with new paint, it can pop in just about any weather.

Behind BNSF, CP and KCS would be Union Pacific, Canadian National and CSX. The order in which the “second round of three” falls depends on whether you like armour yellow (UP), red and black (CN), or gold and blue (CSX).

What constitutes a fan’s favorite railroad locomotive hinges on a number of things, not the least of which is what railroad runs near his home.

In Northeast Ohio, we get a steady diet of NS and CSX motive power so it doesn’t excite most fans unless it is an out-of-the-ordinary model.

Some fans favor CSX because they don’t like NS and vice versa. The reasons why they don’t like one or the other railroad are not always logical. But that is the way it is with railfans. They tend to covet what they can’t see often or at all.

Motive power pooling arrangements have made motive power from BNSF and UP common in Northeast Ohio.

CN has a small presence in Ohio and its motive power is not a rare site, either.

Since CSX agreed to handle a pair of CP intermodal trains between Chicago and Buffalo, New York, CP motive power has become a daily sight even if you can’t count on seeing it every time you are out railfanning CSX.

KCS motive power is the rarest of the Class 1 railroads to find in Northeast Ohio.

But KCS and CSX have a run-through intermodal train that terminates in Marion, so you can find KCS motive power there.

Much needs to happen before the CP and NS merger is consummated. The talks are preliminary and an announcement that two plan to merge will likely trigger an upheaval in the Class 1 railroad world.

Things could even play out that NS will remain independent or merge with someone else.

If it comes about, the new CP-NS will need to decide what the company will be named and what look it will give its locomotives.

The company might opt for a look that is different from what both railroads favor now.

CP long has used a beaver in its herald over the years, although of late the beaver has gone into hibernation in favor of a stylized letters C and P logo. From Day 1, NS has placed a horse on its herald.

Black might drown out red and the horse might trample the beaver. In short, the locomotives of the merged CP-NS might look more like current NS motive power than current CP locomotives.

Whatever look the company adopts, it will take several years for the old look to fade away.

As it is, there is reason to think that whether CP buys NS or NS opts to dance with another partner at the merger ball, the NS as we know it now is likely to become a thing of the past sooner rather than later.

That probably was going to happen due to the retirement this year of Charles “Wick” Moorman as president, CEO and chairman.

Moorman was unabashed railfan and it was his support that made the heritages units possible as well as the 21st Century Steam program and a modest program of repainting a handful of locomotives into the livery of the company that bought them way back when.

We still don’t know how supportive that NS head James Squires is about such things as heritage units, steam excursions and executive trains pulled by F units.

Money and not the desires of railfans is going to determine the course that NS takes over the next few years, including whether its survives as a stand-alone company or is swallowed in a merger.

And if railfans ever get the chance to vote on the fate of NS, CP red is going to win in a landslide over NS black.

Commentary by Craig Sanders