Posts Tagged ‘Norfolk Southern’

NS Marathon: A Day in Olmsted Falls (1)

December 26, 2016
When you are out all day in one spot you look for ways to get creative by trying things such as shooting a train through a fence.

When you are out all day in one spot you look for ways to get creative by trying things such as shooting a train through a fence.

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

There are some days when you just want to camp out in one location along a busy railroad line and let the trains come to you.

I had one of those days last July. My plan was to spend the morning at Olmsted Falls and move onto Berea in early afternoon.

It would not quite work out that way and I wound up staying in the Falls all day.

Berea has more traffic, but I’ve always felt Olmsted Falls was a better place to railfan because you can hang out on either side of the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

Berea has two railroads whereas Olmsted Falls has one, but NS alone provide enough traffic throughout the day to keep things interesting.

I also wanted to spend a day in one place to get a sense of the NS traffic flow these days.

With traffic generally down this year, railroads have been seeking to cut costs by operating longer and fewer trains.

That trend seems more pronounced on CSX but NS has not been immune from it.

Coal and crude oil traffic in particular has fallen off on both railroads and there have been some days this year when I spent hours railfanning and didn’t see a coal and/or oil train.

On this particular day, though, I would see pretty much all of the traffic that NS operates.

I tried to keep a log of all of the trains I saw, but gave that up after logging 21 trains.

I’ll have more to say about that in the second part of this report.

The weather was sunny skies and warm temperatures. It was in many ways an ideal day to be trackside.

I didn’t see much in way of motive power that was out of the ordinary. No NS heritage units came past, whether leading or trailing.

Foreign power was, in general, scarce. What little foreign power there was was trailing.

The busiest time on NS was during the morning hours. It was quite busy shortly after I arrived around 8:30 a.m.

As a bonus, aircraft landing at nearby Cleveland Hopkins International Airport were landing to the northeast, meaning they made their final approach over Olmsted Falls.

I spent a fair amount of time between trains photographing landing jetliners.

Accompanying this report are some of my best images made between my arrival and early afternoon.

Articles and Photographs by Craig Sanders

My first train of the day was a westbound auto rack.

My first train of the day was a westbound auto rack.

Most eastbound trains were on Track No. 1

Most eastbound trains were on Track No. 1

Some tank trains have all black car . . .

Some tank trains have all black cars . . .

 . . . and some are all white.

. . . and some are all white.

Trying to capture a sense of place.

Trying to capture a sense of place.

One of the few meets that I witnessed during the day.

One of the few meets that I witnessed during the day.

This eastbound manifest freight would be the only one I would photograph at a location other than near the depot.

This eastbound manifest freight would be the only one I would photograph at a location other than near the depot.

It Must Have Been Serendipity

December 24, 2016




On the day of the Akron Railroad Club’s end of the year dinner, I spent the morning in Pittsburgh with my friend Adam.

We were driving down the main drag of New Brighton, Pennsylvania, when I spotted something on the Fort Wayne Line of Norfolk Southern that I wanted to check out.

I had seen a Conrail caboose sitting on a siding attached to a work train. There was no locomotive with the train so it probably was sitting there for the weekend.

What a coincidence that on the day that I would be attending a program that evening about Conrail I would see a piece of Conrail.

It has been 17 years since Big Blue became a fallen flag, but traces of it still abound.

A Few From a Late Year Outing in Berea

December 23, 2016

A railfan is in position at right to get a photograph of a westbound CSX intermodal train.

I took my camera with during a late November outing in Berea, even though I wasn’t expecting to photograph all that much.

There were no Norfolk Southern heritage units that were likely to come through when I was there and nothing out of the ordinary came past on CSX. Yet it was a mostly sunny day so I kept my camera nearby just in case I saw something interesting.

It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the railroads didn’t seem to be quite back to their normal operations. All of the trains that I saw on CSX were intermodal trains.

But with CSX the way it is these days who can say what is normal. Nonetheless, on a typical day in Berea, CSX can be expected to send through at least a handful of manifest freights.

But none operated on this Sunday afternoon when I was around.

Although NS had a more diverse traffic mix, most of its offerings also were intermodal trains. The most unusual sight that I saw on NS was a tanker train with its lead unit running long hood forward.

The train had arrived at CP Max near Rockport Yard with three units, but the lead unit was cut off because the power desk needed to assign it to a train that needed cab signal leader.

I don’t know if there was any discussion about running a westbound train with a lead unit whose cab faced east. I just know what I saw when the train came through Berea.

With the sun low in the sky, I decided to stick it out until sunset. I was hoping to get a westbound on CSX with low light on the nose of the lead unit.

As the day got late, things starting falling into place to get the image I wanted.

The sunlight reflection on a signal box indicated that the lighting was just what I wanted. To the east I could see the headlight of an approaching intermodal train.

But clouds were gathering to the west and by the time the CSX train arrived, the sunlight was heavily filtered and I was unable to get the image as I had wanted it. I would been able to get it had the train had arrived a couple minutes earlier. Maybe next time.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

There seemed to be a lot of locomotives on this train.

There seemed to be a lot of locomotives on this train.

I got the train, but the lighting was not as ideal as it had been a few minutes later.

I got the train, but the lighting was not as ideal as it had been a few minutes later. The filthy nose didn’t help matters, either.

Chasing the setting sun on CSX in Berea.

Chasing the setting sun on CSX in Berea.


N&W 611 To Pull Excursions in Spring 2017

December 22, 2016

Steam will return to Norfolk Southern rails in 2017. The Virginia Museum of Transportation said its Norfolk & Western Class J 4-8-4 No. 611 will pull excursions in Virginia and North Carolina in April and May with additional trips possible.

Fire up 611Tickets will go on sale in January for the excursions that will include:

• From Greensboro, North Carolina, to Roanoke, Virginia, via the former Southern Railway main line to Altavista, Virginia, and the former Virginian into Roanoke on April 22 to 23.

• Lynchburg, Virginia, to Petersburg, Virginia, on May 6 and 7.

• Roanoke to Lynchburg on May 27, 28, and 29 with trips up the Blue Ridge grade in the morning and up Christiansburg grade in the afternoon.

The 611 is slated to run on Jan. 6 from Roanoke to the North Carolina Transportation Museum where it will receive its annual maintenance.

I Wasn’t Sure What to Expect

December 21, 2016



One in a periodic series of images I made last summer

Peter Bowler had a vision that I was having a hard time grasping. He wanted to get a Norfolk Southern train or two crossing Sandusky Bay west of Sandusky in early morning light.

But to get the image that he wanted would require having to leave very early in the morning, like 4 a.m. I wasn’t enthusiastic about that.

We instead drove to Toledo with the idea of getting a train crossing the Maumee River. Alas, the bridge over the NS tracks carrying Miami Street was closed due to construction.

So we wound up at Sandusky Bay to try the photograph what Peter had originally envisioned.

I’ve been to Sandusky Bay a few times, but don’t know the territory that well. I got it in my head that we would standing almost next to the tracks and shooting an eastbound train coming toward us.

But that wasn’t what Peter had in mind and there probably isn’t a place to to that without trespassing on railroad or private property.

Instead, we found ourselves on an old road that juts into the bay and is used for fishing. It can also be used for photographing trains if you have a good telephoto lens.

By the time we got to the bay, the lighting conditions were pretty brutal. We were looking almost right into the late morning sun.

I immediately understood why Peter initially had said we’d have to leave so early.

So I did what I always do, which is the best I can with what I have to work with. It didn’t yield any spectacular images, but it did result in a keeper or two.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

One UPS Conveyance Approaches Another

December 20, 2016


UPS is one of America’s foremost shippers by rail. How formidable?

Consider that every day UPS ships more than 1 million containers and trailers by rail at a cost of $1 billion a year. That translates to 6 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

Those trailers and containers hold packages, which is the backbone of the UPS business. In 2015, it delivered 4.7 billion packages and documents.

Some of those items moved by rail and many, if not most, reached their destination aboard a package car, such as the one show here near Oak Harbor.

The vehicle is about to cross the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern, which is critical artery used by UPS in shipping containers and trailers by rail.

Could some of the packages and documents aboard this package car have traveled the rails that they are about to cross?

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

CSX To Shut Down on Christmas Eve

December 20, 2016

CSX said this week that it will shut down operations on Christmas Eve and reopen on Dec. 26.

CSX logo 1In a customer service advisory, CSX said operations will cease at 3 p.m. on Dec. 24 and resume at 7 a.m. on Dec. 26.

That is similar to a shutdown announced last week by Norfolk Southern, which plans to shut down on Dec. 24 remain idle until Dec. 27. NS has said that it will “not accept trains at interchanges” during the days that it is closed.

Trains magazine observed that also other Class I and regional railroads are scaling back operations on non-essential route, none are planning complete shutdowns as are NS and CSX.

Amtrak and commuter trains that use CSX and NS are not expected to be adversely affected by the holiday service closures.

NS Crews Will All Be Home for Christmas

December 14, 2016

Norfolk Southern said this week that it will cease hauling freight between Christmas Eve and Dec. 27.

NS logo 2In a service advisory sent to shippers, NS said it will halt operations at 3 p.m. on Dec. 24 and resume them at 7 a.m. on  Dec. 27.

However, NS employees will working on New Year’s Day when operations with run as usual with the exception of some yard jobs that will be idled.

Trains magazine observed that such a total shutdown such as the one that NS is planning is rare. Citing BSNF as an example, the magazine said that railroads might slow their operations on Christmas but will run some trains.

An Unexpected and Pleasant Surprise

December 12, 2016




Railfans go to great lengths to determine when something special is coming down the tracks that they want to photograph.

They’ve set up Facebook pages, online chat lists, websites and texting networks.

Yet there will always be a place for dumb luck in getting something out of the ordinary.

Such was the case during a recent trip to Pittsburgh. We had set up at California Avenue to get Norfolk Southern train 21Q as it came across the OC bridge on the Mon Line.

Leading the 21Q was the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit, a fact we had learned about through the website

We had only been there a few minutes when a coal train came rumbling out onto the bridge.

The trailing unit of the coal train was DC to AC conversion No. 4004. There are thus far only a handful of these conversion locomotives in revenue service wearing one of the special liveries that NS designed for them.

No. 4004 features the a black nose, gray body and blue lighting accent stripes. Yes, it would have been nice it had been leading, but I was still quite pleased to get it as it was.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Pair of Pennsy Keystones

December 6, 2016
It's a Pennsylvania Railroad keystone rolling over the top of another Pennsy keystone in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. NS No. 8102 is leading westbound stack train 21Q.

It’s one Pennsylvania Railroad keystone rolling over the top of another Pennsy keystone in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. NS No. 8102 is leading westbound stack train 21Q, which is passing an eastbound stack train on the Fort Wayne Line.

Last Saturday my friend Adam Barr and I headed for Pittsburgh for a morning of railfanning Norfolk Southern in the steel city.

We had been in town about a half-hour when an an online report popped up that the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit was headed west past Manor, Pennsylvania, with a load of sea cans. That turned out to be stack train 21Q.

Manor is east of the Pittsburgh where the Pennsylvania Turnpike crosses over the NS Pittsburgh line between Pittsburgh and Altoona, Pennsylvania.

We headed for California Avenue with the idea of getting an image of the locomotive paying tribute to the PRR on a structure that was built by the PRR, the Ohio Connecting Bridge that today carries the NS Mon Line.

When I think of railroads in Pittsburgh, structures such as this come to mind. I also think of the former Pennsylvania Railroad.

We were able to get ahead of the train and catch it at CP Leets in Leetsdale. Although I had my scanner on, we didn’t get any warning of the train approaching because I didn’t pick it up calling any signals.

Our “heads up” was another railfan bolting from his car and running toward the bridge over the tracks that carries a road leading into an industrial park. I was barely able to get the shot I wanted of the Pennsy heritage unit passing former Pennsy position light signals.

We weren’t sure if we could beat the 21Q to East Conway because it was moving along at a good clip. But it turned out the stacker would have a long wait there because of traffic working in Conway Yard that needed to come out to East Conway for head room as well as the need for the 21Q to change crews.

Our last photo op of the 21Q was planned for the bridge over the Beaver River in Beaver Falls. But things did not go according to plan because Adam, who was driving, could not find a parking spot in a timely manner.

He dropped me off at the east end of the sidewalk of the bridge and I walked as fast as I could toward the river. I wouldn’t make it.

The 21Q had already called the signal at the Brighton and I could see its headlight illuminating the sides of the containers of an eastbound stack train that was slowly making its way toward Conway.

I noticed the Fort Wayne Line bridge had an old, but faded Pennsylvania Railroad keystone and decided to make that the focal point of my last photograph of NS 8102, thus ending my chase of the 21Q with an image of a pair of Pennsy keystones.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders


Coming at you on the OC bridge.


When I think of Pittsburgh I think of massive bridges and the Pennsylvania Railroad. This is as close as I can come to recreating the golden age of the PRR in the steel city.


For the second time in 2016, I caught the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage locomotive passing by former PRR position light signals.


With a new crew on board, the 21Q gets underway at East Conway.


A roster-type shot at East Conway of NS 8102.