It’s a Nickel Plate steam locomotive on the former Nickel Plate Road. The 765 must have crossed this bridge countless times in the late 1940 and the 1950s.
When Peter Bowler and I arrived on Riverside Drive just east of the Painesville trestle of Norfolk Southern last Thursday morning, we nearly had the place to ourselves. Just one other railfan was parked there.
It was nearly 7:30 a.m. and had the ferry move of Nickel Plate Road 765 followed the best case scenario, it would be showing up in about a half hour to an hour.
But ferry moves seldom, if ever, follow the best case scenario.
The 765 crew had tweeted the night before that the Berkshire would be leaving Rockport Yard in Cleveland between 7 and 11 a.m.
As the morning drug on, the crowd got larger and more diverse. There were the usual railroad enthusiasm suspects as well as the proverbial daisy pickers.
Countless numbers of people stopped and asked what everyone was doing here.
A report filtered through the crowd that westbound Norfolk Southern train No. 145 had the Virginian heritage locomotive in the lead.
Then came another report around mid morning that the 765 was waiting for the 26R and the 206 to go by and it would follow them eastward.
The NS line east of Cleveland is at best moderately busy. It can go quiet for hours, but that was not the case today.
NS put by us two westbound intermodal trains and two eastbound trains, a manifest freight and an auto rack.
I chatted with fellow Akron Railroad Club members Edward Ribinskas and Jeff Troutman, both Painesville residents. I also spoke with a couple other fans I knew.
At 10:21 a.m., the 765 crew tweeted that it was leaving Rockport Yard. Maybe it would get here by 11:30, but noon was more likely.
But that wasn’t to be. There was a 23K coming westward and what the Youngstown Line dispatcher told that train was discouraging.
The 23K would be waiting in the siding at Unionville for five eastbound trains, the 26R, the 22K, the 206, the 310 and the 955.
The latter was the symbol for the NKP 765 ferry move, although that symbol was later changed to 958.
The 145 with the NS 1069 on the lead was stuck in Conneaut and would be there for a while until all of those eastbounds got out of the way. So much for seeing the Virginian H unit today.
We counted down the number of NS eastbounds passing by. As one wag commented, we would be getting a lot of “catfish” on the Painesville trestle – a slang term for an NS locomotive – and a lot of practice making photographs of where we wanted to catch the 765.
One some outings you might not get any NS trains on the trestle. On this day I got eight of ‘em.
Some photographers worried openly about the sun angles by the time the 765 showed up.
Throughout the morning, we watched the skies turn from to partly cloudy, to sun and clouds, to partly sunny and then back to clear again.
We even watched a funeral procession pass by to a nearby cemetery and spotted a guy tooling around in a vintage automobile that was a good two to three decades older than the 765.
The crowd continued to grow in numbers to the 50 to 100 range. There was the expected barking at those who the more vocal members of the photo line thought were going to get into their photos.
I heard the 958 call a clear signal at Daniels, located about five railroad signal blocks to the west. I took my place on the photo line.
Someone said the 765 had called Jackson Street and cameras were raised and/or fixed onto tripods. The long-awaited show was about to begin.
It was 1:45 p.m. Peter and I had rendezvoused near I-271 in the eastern Cleveland suburbs at 5:30 a.m. before setting out for Painesville. We could have stayed in bed longer.
Four minutes later there was smoke, the sound of a steam locomotive whistle and then a headlight on the Painesville trestle.
Six hours of waiting were about to pay off. Three minutes later, the 765 and its train were gone.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
The photo line eyes the 765 as it approaches RIverside Drive.
The passenger cars came from Norfolk Southern and various private owners.