Posts Tagged ‘NS Ashtabula Harbor Yard’

Ashtabula Seeking to Save Coal Conveyor

May 6, 2021

Ashtabula and Norfolk Southern are expected to reach an agreement on the sale of a coal conveyor belt and bridge in the city’s harbor that will enable preservation of the structure.

The Ashtabula City Council earlier this week authorized City Manager Jim Timonere to enter into agreements with NS and the Ashtabula River Foundation to buy the conveyor belt and bridge, lease the land it’s situated on, and sublease the land to one or more appropriate entities to maintain the structure at minimal expense to the city. 

The city has limited at $10,000 how much it will spend, although that figure could be revised upward with city council approval.

The River Foundation will be responsible for maintenance of the structure with Timonere saying that only the cost of survey work will come from city funds.

The conveyor belt is located in NS Harbor Yard, which has been inactive in recent years after the railroad shifted its work to Sandusky. That move, announced in December 2015, led to 20 job cuts in Ashtabula.

Timonere has been discussing with NS the future of the coal conveyor for the past two years.

The Ashtabula Harbor coal pier primarily served the thermal coal market, trans-loading coal from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Canada and other U.S. destinations.

When Coal Still Ruled at Ashtabula Harbor

November 1, 2020

I was looking for something else when I ran across this image made in Ashtabula Harbor yard eight years ago.

The view is looking south at the rear of a coal train that is stretching out for what seems to be miles.

If you look carefully you will see the Illinois Terminal heritage locomotive in the distance. It’s bright green color should make it easy to spot.

It was a different time then. Coal trains were far more common than they are now, which is probably why I made this image and then promptly forgot about it. It had not been a highlight of the day.

Eight years later Norfolk Southern doesn’t carry as much coal as it did then. It has in recent years shifted coal away from Ashtabula Harbor in favor of Sandusky.

It has been quite a while since I last saw the harbor yard in Ashtabula so I’m not sure what use is made of it today.

NS still runs trains through Ashtabula on its Lake Erie District, the former Nickel Plate Road mainline to Buffalo, New York.

Maybe some coal still moves through town on NS or CSX. Yet that traffic must be a shadow of what it once was.

Dodging and Using Clouds in Ashtabula

December 31, 2015

There wasn't much going on in the harbor yard of Norfolk Southern in Ashtabula on this Sunday in November.

There wasn’t much going on in the harbor yard of Norfolk Southern in Ashtabula on this Sunday in November.

What is it with clouds whenever I visit Ashtabula? The past two times that I’ve been there the clouds played a significant role in my photography.

I don’t get to Ashtabula often and it it just happened that I made two visit there less than a month apart this past fall.

The first visit wasn’t quite planned. Fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and I had ventured out to Lake County hoping to photograph the Baltimore & Ohio inspired livery on the switcher of the Grand River Railway.

But it was a Sunday and the switcher was locked behind a fence with no chance of getting a clear view.

So we started making our way toward Ashtabula. On this day, though, at least there was some sun.

Our first destination was the harbor yard of Norfolk Southern. There wasn’t anything going on there, but we walked out on the bridge over the yard anyway to photograph what we could find.

The nice thing about a slumbering yard is that we could afford to wait for the sun to find a hole in the clouds and then get our photographs without missing anything.

Then it was on to the bridge carrying the NS Cleveland-Buffalo line over the Ashtabula River, which Peter had never photographed.

There is a closed wooden street bridge on Topper Avenue that offers a view of the NS Ashtabula River trestle. I had not been there in a few years and wondered if the wood bridge was still there.

It took some trial and error to find it, but we were pleased to see that the wood bridge still exists and continues to be used as a walkway.

Alas, there were no NS trains near Ashtabula on the former Nickel Plate Road during our stay. There was an eastbound in Conneaut, but that train was already through Ashtabula.

We made a mental note to come back to Ashtabula and stake out the bridge during the morning hours when the lighting would be better and, presumably, rail traffic more plentiful.

That opportunity came on the day of the ARRC end of the year dinner. The weather forecast was promising. There would be mostly sunny skies.

But that had changed by Friday night when I watched a weather report on a Cleveland TV station. The good news was that a high pressure system would be over Ohio on Saturday. The bad new was that it had stalled, thus allowing low-lying clouds to fill in until the system began moving eastward.

As we drove to Ashtabula on Saturday morning, the clouds dutifully filled the sky just as the forecaster had predicted that they would. By the time we got to the bridge, the skies were overcast.

As it turned out, that didn’t matter. Once again, I heard on the radio a pair of eastbound trains at Conneaut, which wasn’t doing us any good.

The dispatcher talked about a westbound, the 205, that was somewhere in Pennsylvania. But we needed eastbounds.

We checked out a grade crossing in Ashtabula at which to photograph the 205. The photos that I made there are so mediocre that I didn’t bother posting them.

Somewhere behind the 205 was the 145, so we drove to Conneaut to intercept it. I also hoped to catch the outbound train on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie. But the B&LE road channel was quiet so maybe that train wasn’t running today.

My photos of the westbound in Conneaut were OK because the clouds there were not as thick as they had been in Ashtabula.

With the B&LE quiet we elected to return to Ashtabula and give the bridge one more chance.

We had not been there long when I heard an eastbound calling signals on the radio. It turned out to be the 206.

The images I made are all right, yet not what I had hoped to get. We need to make a return trip to Ashtabula on a day when a high pressure system is moving the clouds out, not enticing them to form.

We photographed the 206 and began making out way back west, swinging past the Grand River Railway. Once again, the switcher was locked behind closed gates.

At last the high pressure system was starting to move on and the clouds were breaking up.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Those gale-force winds blowing in off Lake Erie were downright cold.

Those gale-force winds blowing in off Lake Erie were downright cold.

A pair of Union Pacific locomotive await their next assignment.

A pair of Union Pacific locomotive await their next assignment.

Yeah, the clouds blocked the sun a lot, but they also helped to add some visual interest to the scene.

Yeah, the clouds blocked the sun a lot, but they also helped to add some visual interest to the scene.

The 206 crosses the trestle over the Ashtabula River. I like the image I made, but it only whetted my appetite to get another train on a day with better light.

The 206 crosses the trestle over the Ashtabula River. I like the image I made, but it only whetted my appetite to get another train on a day with better light.

The time to make this shot is in the late fall, winter or early spring when there aren't many, if any, leaves on the trees.

The time to make this shot is in the late fall, winter or early spring when there aren’t many, if any, leaves on the trees.

The fence on the bridge in Ashtabula isn't that high, but watch out for the vines growing on the top of it.

The fence on the bridge in Ashtabula isn’t that high, but watch out for the vines growing on the top of it.

Rounding the curve in Ashtabula on the way east with UPS trailers on NS train 206.

Rounding the curve in Ashtabula on the way east with UPS trailers on NS train 206.

Although the clouds were starting to move out, there were still plenty of them as NS train 145 slowly ambles into Conneaut for a crew change.

Although the clouds were starting to move out, there were still plenty of them as NS train 145 slowly ambles into Conneaut for a crew change.

 

NS to Idle Coal Pier in Ashtabula

December 23, 2015

Norfolk Southern will shutter its coal dock in Ashtabula and shift its work to a similar facility that it operates in Sandusky.

The Ashtabula docks will continue to be open through May 2016 when all coal inventories are expected to have been transloaded.

NS said it would keep the Ashtabula docks idle and reopen them as business needs warrant it.

Coal traffic on NS has fallen by 16 percent this year through the end of the third quarter.

“Norfolk Southern is committed to providing shippers with an efficient transportation network, and we are actively addressing the industry-wide decline in coal volumes by streamlining operations and positioning our railroad for long-term success,” said David Lawson, NS vice president for coal marketing in a news release.

The consolidation will result in 21 job positions being cut. Earlier this month, NS furloughed 13 employees in Ashtabula.

NS said that employees affected by the Ashtabula shutdown can apply for other positions within the company.

The railroad will continue to employ six workers in Ashtabula to oversee security and environmental systems.

The former Conrail facility in Ashtabula primarily serves the thermal coal market and receives coal from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia that is transloaded onto boats destined for points in Canada and the United States via Lake Erie.

CSX also has rights to use the Ashtabula dock. It accesses the dock through trackage rights on a portion of the NS Youngstown Line.

“Coal has been – and continues to be – a significant part of Norfolk Southern’s heritage of service and success,” said Mike Wheeler, NS senior vice president operations, in the news release. “Our customers depend on us to provide a high-performing, 21st Century transportation option that is safe, efficient, and reliable. Norfolk Southern is adapting to evolving market conditions by realizing efficiencies and optimizing our infrastructure to support long-term growth.”

It is not clear what effect the idling of the Ashtabula coal pier will have on the railroad’s Youngstown Line. The route feeds directly into the pier although it also has connecting tracks in Ashtabula with the Cleveland-Buffalo route of NS.

Traffic on the line north of Youngstown, which is already sparse, may become even thinner.

NS said that it employs 3,700 people in Ohio and has 2,200 miles of track in the state.

Windy, Cold Day at NS Ashtabula Harbor Yard

November 24, 2015

Nothing was moving on a windy Sunday afternoon when we visited the Ashtabula Harbor Yard of Norfolk Southern.

Nothing was moving on a windy Sunday afternoon when we visited the Ashtabula Harbor Yard of Norfolk Southern.

Man was it windy up there. And cold, too.

We were standing on the bridge that spans Ashtabula Harbor Yard of Norfolk Southern. On nearby Lake Erie, the gales of November were whipping up water in giant waves and splashing it with great force against the harbor breakwater walls.

The yard had the look of a facility that isn’t terribly busy these days. Recent news reports have stated that coal traffic on NS is down.

Falling coal revenues have hurt the railroad’s bottom line and are said by some to have played a role in Canadian Pacific’s bid to buy NS.

But I wasn’t thinking about stock prices or coal traffic revenues as I fought to say warm against the howling winds.

More to the point, fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and I were watching the clouds and waiting for creases and openings for the sun to pop through and light up the yard.

I wasn’t aware until this day that railfans have opened a few unofficial camera ports in the chain line fence on the north side of the bridge where the sidewalk is.

We got our photographs and then headed out in search of dramatic photographs along the Lake Erie shore of the wave action.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

If you were patient, it was a good day for capturing cloud patterns to add some interest to your photographs.

If you were patient, it was a good day for capturing cloud patterns to add some interest to your photographs.

Some of the tracks in the yard were empty and open spaces show where tracks used to be.

Some of the tracks in the yard were empty and open spaces show where tracks used to be.

A pair of Union Pacific locomotives sit idle between road assignments.

A pair of Union Pacific locomotives sit idle between road assignments.

Ashtabula 3-x

The Ashtabula lighthouse still stands guard at the entrance to the harbor. Our efforts to find a way to get closer to it proved to be fruitless.

December Saturday in Ashtabula

December 28, 2012

We went to Ashtabula last Saturday (Dec. 22) in search of the Penn Central heritage locomotive.. Upon arriving at the Norfolk Southern yard we found it parked where it was not very accessible. I got some long range shots but no close ups.

Disappointed, we headed to the CSX diamonds. On the way we heard a CSX train calling for yarding instructions.

Arriving at the CSX yard, we saw the empty coal train taking the connection for the docks. We quickly did a u-turn and went back to the NS yard.

The CSX train went thru the yard and looped the entire train. It then headed south past the drawbridge to yard the train.

The yard is not very big and will not hold a standard unit train on a single track. Trains must cut in half on two tracks in order to fit.

This made for some interesting photos of the backup move. Next we finished out the day with some mainline action where the OD tower once stood.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

IT Heritage Unit Relaxes in Ashtabula

October 13, 2012

Norfolk Southern No. 1072, the Illinois Terminal heritage locomotive, has made its way back to Northeast Ohio. It was a trailing unit on a train that passed through Cleveland around 5:30 p.m. on Friday evening on the former Nickel Plate Road en route to Ashtabula.

Saturday found the 1072 still sitting in Ashtabula. It wasn’t in a great location for photography, but it was visible. Here are a pair of photos of it on Saturday afternoon.

Photographs by Craig Sanders