Posts Tagged ‘Norfolk Southern’

There Goes the Circus Train for Good

January 15, 2017

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I only caught the circus train once. That occurred on Nov. 5, 2011, during a railfanning excursion to Pittsburgh. We didn’t know it was there and happened to just see it.

It was sitting in Norfolk Southern’s Island Avenue Yard (shown above) so I made a few images and then we moved on. I haven’t seen it since.

on-photography-newNow, it turns out that is likely to be the only time that I photograph the circus train.

Citing diminished ticket sales and high operating costs, Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus announced on Saturday (Jan.14) that it is ending its traveling circus shows in May.

Some railroad photographers treated the circus train like an NS heritage unit.

When it was on the move, social media would light up with reports of its sighting.

There are three circus trains still operating. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey has two trains, named red and blue, that crisscross the country. James E. Strates Shows also has a train.

But it was the Ringling trains that were best known among railfans.

Although the circus train was a regular visitor in Northeast Ohio, catching it wasn’t always easy.

Typically, the train would load after the last performance in a given city and then depart for the next stop on the circuit.

Often, the circus train would pass through our area in the dark, which is one reason why I never made an effort to catch it.

I have a great interest in passenger trains, but the circus train just never had much appeal to me.

It operated with run-of-the-mill freight locomotives and being a very long train and I was never sure how to get an image that would show more than a few cars.

It would have been a nice catch, but was never very high on my “to do” or “wish” lists.

In looking at a couple chat lists to gauge the railfan community’s reaction to the news of the end of the Ringling circus, I found the expected anguished cries of “no, it can’t be” mixed among nostalgic memories of having seen the circus as a kid.

I don’t remember ever seeing a Ringling Bros circus. My hometown in east central Illinois was too small for Ringling to play.

I do have a memory of going to a smaller circus and being disappointed. Maybe that colored my attitude toward chasing the circus train in recent years.

I’ve never had any interest as an adult in seeing the circus and it is just one more thing whose time seems to have passed.

Will the circus train be missed? Maybe, but I wonder how many railfans saying “oh, no” have actually chased the circus train.

It seems to be a situation similar to the decline of passenger trains in the 1960s. The number of people decrying the loss of intercity rail passenger service was far greater than the number who rode the trains.

Losing something that has always been there tends to evoke an emotional response in many. And so it seems to be with the circus train.

Swanton Yard Project Tops NS Capital Plans

January 11, 2017

Norfolk Southern said this week it expects to continue spending for infrastructure maintenance this year at the about the same level as last year even as it reduces how much it invests in capacity expansion.

NS logo 1The largest 2017 NS capital project is the construction of a staging yard in Swanton, Ohio, along the Chicago Line. NS also plans to expand yards in Fostoria, Ohio, and Whiting, Indiana.

Speaking to the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association convention, David Becker, NS chief engineer for design and construction, cited two “super projects” that will increase capacity.

Those include the Piedmont Improvement Program, which is being undertaken in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and a project in Virginia being undertaken with that state’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

The $520 million Piedmont project involves laying more than 40 miles of second main track.

Other work set for 2017 includes a  $70 million project to replace the Genesee River bridge in Portageville, New York, and replacing 262.7 miles of dual rail and 187.3 of single rail.

Becker said NS will replace 2.35 million crossties and surface rails with 2.32 million tons of ballast. Both figures are approximately the same as what the railroad did in 2016.

NS Rescues Passenger Car Set to be Scrapped

January 11, 2017

A rail passenger car in danger of being scrapped will instead become part of the NS office and technology car fleet.

NS logo 2NS car 35 will be rebuilt in Roanoke, Virginia, after the railroad acquired it from the Central Maine & Quebec.

Pullman built the car in 1926 for Pullman Director George F. Baker.

Baker held a large amount of stock in the Delaware Lackawanna & Western, so the car because a DL&W office car after Banker died in 1937.

The car was sold to a private party in 1968 and twice damaged by vandals before it was moved to Vermont.

Later winding up on the former Bangor & Aroostook, the car was owned by the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic before being inherited by the CM&Q, which said it would scrap the car unless it was moved.

An Hour or So at East Conway

January 7, 2017
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Three trains came out of Conway Yard and then backed up to switch tracks during my time there.

The title of this post notwithstanding, I don’t know how much time I spent at East Conway near Pittsburgh in early December.

Hanging out there was not on our agenda when my friend Adam and I ventured toward Pittsburgh. It just sort of happened.

We thought we might be able to catch westbound train 21Q, which was being led by the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage locomotive.

Earlier in the year we had caught the New York Central H unit at East Conway. Given that the PRR and NYC merged in  1968 to form Penn Central, there was a certain symmetry to photographing the PRR and NYC heritage locomotives in the same place in the same year.

As it turned out, we spent more time at East Conway than expected. The 21Q had to wait for a new crew to arrive and there was opposing traffic coming in and out of Conway Yard.

We had been told by local railfans on another trip to Pittsburgh that it is all right to hang out on the bridge over the East Conway interlocking.

The bridge carries a street into the yard and, we were told, it is a public street.

I’m not sure about that, but during the two times that we spent on that bridge in 2016 no one from NS told us to leave and there were always a number of locals there making photographs.

NS has installed security cameras on the bridge, although that may have more to do with checking who and what is coming in and out of the yard.

Getting images of Conway Yard from this bridge had been on my “to do” list for some time.

So everything seemed to work out during this visit. It would have been nice had it not been overcast, but I can live with that.

Now that I’ve made numerous images at the East Conway bridge, I’m not sure I’m all that motivated to go back there except, perhaps, to photograph something specific, like say, the Penn Central heritage unit. I’ve pretty much documented operations there.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Four movements at one time at East Conway.

Four movements at one time at East Conway.

A light power move comes out of the yard for head room.

A light power move comes out of the yard for head room.

Keeping watch ahead for a light power move returning to the yard.

Keeping watch ahead for a light power move returning to the yard.

Keeping watch from a gondola as a manifest freight backs up at East Conway.

Keeping watch from a gondola as a manifest freight backs up at East Conway.

An eastbound stack train has a new crew and is ready to go east.

An eastbound stack train has a new crew and is ready to go east.

An eastbound stack train passes a manifest freight backing into Conway.

An eastbound stack train passes a manifest freight backing into Conway.

N&W 611 Makes Ferry Move to North Carolina

January 7, 2017

The first trip under steam of 2017 of Norfolk & Western No. 611 occurred on Friday when the J class locomotive left Roanoke, Virginia, for North Carolina.

Fire up 611The 4-8-4 left the home of its owner, the Virginia Museum of Transportation, to travel to the North Carolina transportation Museum for overhaul work.

No. 611 is scheduled to pull public excursions over Norfolk Southern tracks in April and May in North Carolina and Virginia.

The ferry move followed the former Virginian Railway to a connection at Hurt, Virginia, to a former Southern Railway route.

The consist of the train included an auxiliary water car, two tool cars, and a gondola.

The April trips will depart from the North Carolina cities of Spencer and Greensboro while the May excursions will depart from the Virginia cities of Lynchburg and Roanoke. Tickets will go on sale at noon on Jan. 12 at www.fireup611.org.

PUCO Approves 4 Grade Crossing Upgrades

January 4, 2017

Four grade crossing improvement projects recently were approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

PUCOIAll involve the installation of lights and roadway gates for grade crossings in three counties. The work must be completed by Sept. 21.
Funding is being provided by the federal government. The railroads and crossings involved are:

CSX at Fisher Road in Columbus, the Columbus & Ohio River Railroad at Woodlawn Avenue in Cambridge, and Norfolk Southern at Albany and Washington streets in Dayton.

New Year’s Day Chase

January 3, 2017

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New Year’s Day was bright and sunny and fairly warm at 45 degrees. Norfolk Southern helped by running a full compliment of trains.

One of these was symbol 054, a high wide train with a Schnabel car carrying a $50 million generator for a power plant in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.

I caught it at Hudson and gave chase catching it eight more times before calling it a day. The other places were Brady Lake (twice) Ravenna, Rootstown (after getting lunch), Atwater (also twice) Limaville and, finally, Alliance.

Now normally this would be an impossible feat but two things helped immensely.

One was a 10 mph speed limit and the other was frequent stops for other trains. For instance, it took 30 minutes to travel between just Hudson and Brady Lake and another two hours to reach Alliance.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

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New NS Eco Power Rolls Through Area

December 30, 2016

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Thursday started out gloomy and overcast but by afternoon the sun had come out. I was Railfaning Norfolk Southern at Hudson and caught a few trains.

About 3 p.m. I got word that 15N had left Conway with a brand new eco set in its consist. I figured it would take about two hours to reach me which by then would be dark.

I decided to relocate to Rootstown, which would put me 20 minutes closer to the train. I got a few more trains while waiting but the shadows were creeping in.

At 4:28 p.m. the train arrived and I was able to get a few sunlight photos. In the few minutes it took the train to pass me the sun dipped behind the clouds. Talk about cutting it close.

Article and Photograps by Todd Dillon

NS Marathon: Day in Olmsted Falls (2)

December 27, 2016
This was the only "foreign power" that I saw all day leading an NS train. I wound up seeing CSX after all.

This was the only “foreign power” that I saw all day leading an NS train. I wound up seeing CSX after all.

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

The downside to spending so much time railfanning in one location is that you might lack the motivation to move on.

Last July, I spent the morning in Olmsted Falls next to the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern. My plan was to drive to Berea about noon so that I could catch some CSX action. I wouldn’t miss anything on NS.

But as noon drew near, I found myself putting off heading for Berea. In part that was because I wanted to photograph aircraft landing at nearby Cleveland Hopkins International Airport where making their final approaches over the Falls. I was enjoying photographing aircraft about as much as I was photographing trains.

In looking back at my 2016 railfan activities, I’ve probably spent more time with NS than with CSX. In part that is due to the erratic nature of CSX traffic these days.

An operating plan implanted within the past year has sought to have regular trains leave on a schedule of something like every 26 hours rather than every 24 hours.

Some symbol freights have been combined, others abolished and trains have become much longer.

During my times in Berea this year, it has seemed as though NS traffic – though still subject to lull periods – has been steadier than CSX traffic.

But I haven’t conducted any empirical studies of that so at best I am conveying an impression than a conclusion based on hard evidence.

On this July day, NS did go through some long lulls during the afternoon hours, particularly in late afternoon. But it didn’t seem so empty because I had airplanes to watch.

I kept putting off my time to relocate to Berea until a car pulled in that didn’t look familiar, but the driver did.

It was Marty Surdyk and his brother Robert. The car belonged to the girlfriend of Marty’s brother John.

Once Marty arrived, my plans to move over to Berea vanished because we started visiting and talking trains.

The model railroad club housed in the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern depot in Olmsted Falls was open and Marty and I spent some time talking with club members and checking out their HO scale layout.

That also effective ended my keeping a log of the trains that we saw because my log book was in my camera bag, which was in my car on the other side of the tracks.

There was shade next to the depot, but not in the parking lot on the north side of the tracks.

The afternoon traffic mix was not as diverse as it had been earlier in the day.

Intermodal trains predominated, but there were two auto rack trains, a couple of tanker trains and a couple of manifest freights.

The auto rack train was a one hit wonder with a CSX locomotive. It might have been the CSX train that uses NS trackage rights between Cleveland and Toledo.

It would be the only train I would see all day that did not have an NS unit leading.

Marty had to take Robert home around 5 or 5:30 p.m. but said he’d be back for the evening.

We ended up sticking around until just after 8 p.m. As luck would have it, the only trains we caught after 5:30 were westbounds.

That was a good thing because the light favored westbounds over eastbounds.

By 8 p.m. the shadows were growing long and I began thinking about getting home to fix dinner.

And so ended my all-day NS marathon in Olmsted Falls. I probably won’t be doing anything like that again until next year’s Dave McKay Day in early April.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Going green with a bit of orange thrown in.

Going green with a bit of orange thrown in.

After sitting in the Berea siding for quite a while, this train got a new crew and headed westward.

After sitting in the Berea siding for quite a while, this train got a new crew and headed westward.

I've always enjoyed stack trains of a nearly uniform consist. All of this train fit into the frame.

I’ve always enjoyed stack trains of a nearly uniform consist. All of this train fit into the frame.

I'm pretty sure this was an NS auto rack train.

I’m pretty sure this was an NS auto rack train.

Train L13 came in from Bellevue running light. Between the time it arrived and departed nearly two hours later, just one train would pass by.

Train L13 came in from Bellevue running light. Between the time it arrived and departed nearly two hours later, just one train would pass by.

Train L13 had a cut of brand new tank cars.

Train L13 had a cut of brand new tank cars.

Bellevue-bound L13 passes the Olmsted Falls depot.

Bellevue-bound L13 passes the Olmsted Falls depot.

I had a pair of tanker trains in the morning and another pair in the late afternoon.

I had a pair of tanker trains in the morning and another pair in the late afternoon.

I managed to work in a landing plane at Hopkins passing over this westbound tanker train. And I got the sun in the image to boot.

I managed to work in a landing plane at Hopkins passing over this westbound tanker train. And I got the sun in the image to boot.

A Union Pacific until in trailing in this consist was the only Western Class 1 unit I saw.

A Union Pacific until that is trailing in this consist was the only Western Class 1 unit I saw.

The late day light was really sweet.

The late day light was really sweet.

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.