Posts Tagged ‘NS Chicago Line’

Old and New

September 18, 2018

Over the past few years Norfolk Southern and CSX have been replacing block signals that have stood for several decades with modern signals that all look alike.

Many of these older signals featured designs that associated them with a previous owner/operator of the rail line in question.

For example, the Pennsylvania Railroad and Baltimore & Ohio each had distinctive position light signals that immediately said “Pennsy” or “B&O” on their respective territories.

The Type G signal head was not necessarily unique to the New York Central, but it was commonly used by the Central in the Midwest on numerous routes.

NS has replaced most of the Type G signal heads on its Chicago Line so I was a little surprised to recently find a set of them still in use.

Shown is CP 232 in Huron, where the new signals are poised to be placed in service.

I made this image on the Akron Railroad Club’s Vermilion outing on Aug. 25 and the news signals may be in service by now and the old signals have fallen.

There were a number of NS vehicles at the scene, which suggested the cutover was imminent.

Advertisements

Short Stack

September 1, 2018

Although CSX has become well known for its long trains in the past year, all Class 1 railroads have followed a trend of longer trains.

From a management perspective, that means fewer crews, fewer locomotives and less expense. Wall Street analysts like it, too, because they are fixated on cost cutting.

Some of these monster trains approach or exceed two miles in length.

So when this stack train passed through Olmsted Falls last March on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern, it got my attention for being so short.

I was able to easily fit the entire train into my viewfinder. Apparently, NS decided that moving this cargo outweighed holding it a day to make up a longer train. There might be other explanations for why this train is so short.

But it is the exception and not the rule for traffic patterns these days.

Trying to Stay Dry on Vermilion Day

August 29, 2018

An eastbound coal train crosses the Vermilion River on the Chicago Line at about 4:30 p.m. during the Akron Railroad Club outing in Vermilion. Where was a boat on the river when we needed it?

It started with rain and ended with rain. In between we managed to see some Norfolk Southern action interspersed with long periods of waiting.

And that in a nutshell summarizes the 2018 Akron Railroad Club day in Vermilion that was attended by eight members.

As we expected, most of the action was on the Chicago Line, which boasted its usual assortment of manifests, intermodals and single commodity trains.

But the iffy weather meant that few boats were plying the Vermilion River by the boat launch that was our base of operations for much of the day.

No NS heritage units came through but the 9-1-1 unit made an appearance late in the afternoon trailing in the motive power consist of a coal train.

Two ARRC members saw it from the rail platform in downtown Vermilion, but three of us missed it because we were in Huron seeking photographs of trains passing beneath the old signal bridge with its Type G signal heads that NS is about to replace.

It took a long wait before an eastbound and westbound came through Huron.

In the meantime, we heard the Toledo East dispatcher talking to trains east of us and multiple trains coming onto the Chicago Line and turning west in Sandusky from the Sandusky District.

Those of us in Huron missed the 9-1-1 unit because its train diverged from the Chicago Line west of Vermilion and went to the Cleveland District en route to Bellevue.

The Cleveland District, which is the former Nickel Plate Road mainline, was largely quiet during the day.

As I arrived in the Vermilion area I spotted an eastbound stack train east of town on the Cleveland District.

Presumably it was either the 206 or the 22K and had taken the new connection west of Vermilion that allows eastbound trains on the Chicago Line to move onto the Cleveland District.

Otherwise, the only other train on the Cleveland District was eastbound manifest freight 210, which had one locomotive on each end, something we’d never seen on this train.

One eastbound coal train came past with BNSF motive power and a few trains had former CSX units still wearing their CSX colors.

The rain stopped around mid day and gradually the clouds moved out to afford us alternating sunny skies and conditions of sun and clouds.

But as the five of us who had dinner at Quaker Steak and Lube came out of the restaurant about 9:45 p.m. light rain was falling and continued to fall throughout my drive home. Maybe that was a fitting way to end our day.

ARRC member Todd Vander Sluis (blue shirt) watches the L13 as it passes the former passenger station in Vermilion.

ARRC member Alan Nagy gets video of westbound NS stack train 25V as it races through Vermilion. It was the last train we saw before going to dinner and then calling it a day.

The Tradition Continues

August 8, 2018

Uncle Pete lends a hand to NS train 209 on the Chicago Line in Amherst.

I have a tradition during the annual picnic of the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts in Amherst of walking to the Jackson Street bridge over the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

The picnic is always held on a Saturday and doesn’t get underway until mid afternoon, so I’m always going up to the bridge in late afternoon.

Usually, I’m joined by RRE member Jerry Jordak. This year was no exception.

We took our places on the bridge around 5 p.m. and staked it out for the next hour and a half.

The light at that time of day clearly favors westbound traffic, which is good because there is a fence on the west side of the bridge where the sidewalk is located.

Fortunately, Jackson Street is not overly busy so we are able to walk to the east edge, get our images and scurry back to the sidewalk.

NS cooperated nicely this year by sending four westbounds our way. This included a pair of stack trains, manifest freight No. 309 and auto rack train No. 287.

The 309 had a Union Pacific leader, which marked the first time I’ve landed foreign power leading a train through Amherst.

The 287 took the siding at CP 213 located just east of Jackson Street en route to Fairlane Yard.

In all the years I’ve photographed from Jackson Street I’ve never caught an NS heritage or special tribute locomotive.

The most interesting sighting we’ve made was the NS executive train in 2014.

There is still bit of heritage left in Amherst. The eastbound home signals for CP 313 still have Type G signal heads even though they now are mounted on a modern support stand.

We also spotted a former Santa Fe cover hopper car that still carried its original markings and reporting numbers.

That was an appropriate find given that the program presented later that evening by Marty Surdyk prominently featured images of Santa Fe trains in in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, California and other points.

 

There’s a Rain Coming Down

June 29, 2018

I could see the storm coming. The clouds to the northwest kept getting darker. A story was brewing in Berea.

Sure enough the storm struck, dumping a heavy rain. It came about the time that a westbound Norfolk Southern stack train passed through.

I made the photo above by rolling down a window and then getting the image.

I’ve photographed many a train in snowy conditions, but rarely when it was raining.

The rain didn’t last long and soon enough it was merely cloudy.

NS OCS Makes Northern Ohio Appearance

June 26, 2018

The executive train of Norfolk Southern is no stranger to Northeast Ohio, but its visits and few and far between enough to make getting it still a treat when the opportunity arises.

Such was the case on Sunday afternoon when operating as symbol 955 the train of A-B-B-A F units and 12 cars can through on the Cleveland Line and then the Chicago Line.

It was en route to Chicago and reportedly stayed overnight in Elkhart, Indiana, before continuing to the Windy City on Monday morning.

I intercepted it in Oak Harbor along with fellow Akron Railroad Club members Marty and Robert Surdyk.

We had been in Fostoria for the annual ARRC longest day outing and decided about 5 p.m. to head up to Oak Harbor, where the 955 came through about 7:20 p.m.

The train did not appear to have anyone aboard other than the head end crew.

Memorial Day Weekend in Indiana: Part 1

June 18, 2018

First of two parts

As Memorial Day weekend approached the brother and I exchanged ideas for how we would spend the weekend. Several good ideas came to light, but as always the weather forecast would dictate where we would wind up.

By Thursday before the holiday, it was obvious that Northern Indiana was going to be the best way to head.

We agreed that Sunday would be a freight train day and Monday would be a day of passenger trains.

Our weekend began with a late Saturday afternoon departure. We were bound for the Super 8 motel in Goshen, Indiana.

After our free breakfast on Sunday morning we were trackside at the cemetery on the west side of town before 7:30 a.m. We were there a good two minutes when 19K called a medium clear at CP412.

The 19K is a Marion Branch train, one that we chased last Labor Day weekend as part of our “chasing air” adventure.

This normally afternoon train was either really early today or this was yesterday’s train. It didn’t matter; it was a train headed in the right direction at the right time of day. We shot it from the cemetery and the chase was on.

Marion Branch trains don’t run real fast, so getting ahead was not a problem.

We had to let the entire train go by at the road crossing at the cemetery and were still ahead by the time we reached the outskirts of town.

Indiana Route 15 is the chase road south out of Goshen. Our next shot was at MP8. This is right at the New Paris elevator.

You can see from here the distant signal for the CSX diamonds at Milford Junction. The 19K was only looking at an approach.

Milford Junction is much like Attica Junction for Norfolk Southern trains on the Sandusky District in Ohio. If CSX has a train within a hundred miles, you’re not getting across.

We again had to let the entire train go by before we could resume the chase, but not to worry, it was slowing down as the last cars passed by us.

After Milford, we looked for the first county road to the left after leaving town to access Old Route 15 Road. Old 15 Road runs right next to the tracks on the west side from Milford to Leesburg.

We were easily ahead and set up for a shot that features a nice white farm house and red barn.

Again, the whole train had to pass, but they were only making 25 mph and the speed limit on the road is 50 mph.

Even without speeding we should make the grade crossing at the north end of Leesburg. Just in case, I did bend the speed limit a little and we made the crossing easily.

This is important if you want to get the Leesburg elevator shot. The road crosses over to the east side of the tracks for a couple of miles.

We got the Leesburg shot and, again, got across the tracks at the south end of Leesburg siding where the road runs out.

Our next shot would be at the street running in Warsaw. This is the earliest in the day that we’ve gotten a train in Warsaw.

The light was fabulous on this morning as the 19K tiptoed down the street and across the diamonds with the CF&E.

We decided to keep going with the 19K rather than sit on our laurels at Warsaw. Route 15 stays with the tracks to Silver Lake, then the tracks cut across to the southeast to North Manchester, where we picked up Indiana Route 13.

We found a nice spot at Rose Hill, a thriving community of four houses and not much else for our next shot.

We were off from here to North Manchester for a shot at the elevator there. The elevator is at the southern edge of town just after the tracks cross the Eel River.

Last Labor Day weekend, Route 13 had a bridge out and we had to detour around it to continue the chase. There were no detours today and we were again in hot pursuit down Route 13.

We got another shot at the fertilizer plant in Urbana and another at the grain elevator in Speicherville (pronounced Spikerville).

The town of Wabash was next. We found the over/under between the Marion Branch and the former Wabash last year, but it was shadowed in and the train never showed. I followed the same route to the over/under that we did before.

Follow Route 13 into town and after crossing the Wabash take the first street to the left and just keep going straight.

The city street turns into Lagro Road. This time we found the over/under bathed in sunshine and we had the right radio channel for the former Wabash (160.380).

The 19K was coming through the connection to the Wabash, known as the NS Huntington District.

As we set up for the shot, horns to the south got our attention. Train 368 was approaching. They stopped just short of Lagro Road where we were.

When the 19K went by overhead the two crews exchanged some chatter. It seems that 369 was coming south behind the 19K and the 368 was getting re-crewed here.

Armed with that information, we gave up on the 19K and returned to the Marion Branch between Wabash and Speicherville.

Finding a spot that could be shot in either direction depended on which train showed up first. We waited and waited . . and waited . . . and waited.

All of a sudden our eventful morning had come to a screeching halt. Lunch time was now upon us and the Subway just down the road was calling me. The sun was getting high in the sky, so we went for vittles.

After lunch we began trolling north, not sure if either train had passed; the radio was suddenly rather quiet. As we got back near North Manchester we began to pick up 368 on the radio.

It was ahead of us. We kept moving north and eventually caught up to the 368 in the siding at Claypool.

The 369 was sitting there as well and had to have been there the better part of four hours waiting for this meet.

More chatter on the radio indicated that a westbound on the former Nickel Plate Road that crosses the Marion Branch at Claypool was approaching.

Train 365 turned north on the Marion Branch. It had a single former Burlington Northern Grinstein green SD70 for its power.

We made a beeline for Warsaw and the street running. While we were on the road the Marion Branch Dispatcher indicated to the 365 that it would be holding at Leesburg for the 200 to run around them.

This made for an easy decision; we just waited at Warsaw for Train 200 and then we would head north and intercept both trains again north of Leesburg.

The 200 is a double-stack train; today it was also a one-unit wonder and not very long. That is inefficient by CSX standards, but NS plays by different rules.

After shooting the 200 in the street we were off for Leesburg, to find that the 365 was gone. Somewhere along the way the plans got changed and the run around was called off.

The 200 was now going into the siding at Leesburg for a meet with something else. Since there are no sidings between Leesburg and Goshen, it would be a while before something would come south.

About now the CSX detector at MP 155 announced a train passing it. The diamonds at Miford Junction are at about MP 166 on CSX. The train was a westbound, the Q137.

According to the detector it had over 15,000 feet of train. That’s almost three miles . . . holy cow!

We set up for its passage at the old grain elevator just west of Milford Junction. While we waited we decided that after Q137 passes we were going to head west along the former Baltimore & Ohio.

We started to do this about 10 years ago, but a line of severe thunderstorms cut our trip short as we headed through the storms to drier areas.

We left off at Nappanee, which just happens to be the next town west of Milford.

The Q137 lumbered by doing about 35 mph. We had to wait awhile for the train to clear the crossing that we were at because my Jeep was on the north side of the tracks and we had shot on the south side.

We did not see any other trains as we headed west through Nappanee. We caught up to the Q137 at Bremen.

They were stopped at a red signal looking into the headlight of an eastbound mixed freight at the Bremen crossovers.

An eastbound double stack was coming past the two trains; Q137 would cross over to Main 2 after the double stack cleared.

Before the eastbound could clear up, the dispatcher changed his mind and let another eastbound intermodal come past before turning the Q137 loose.

He also radioed a westbound that they were crossing over at Nappanee to Main 2 and they were going to follow the Q137 west.

Armed with this information, we continued scouting ahead for decent photo spots. They were few and far between in this part of Indiana.

I had heard from others that the former B&O is not very photogenic in spots, and this certainly was one of those spots.

We found the thriving metropolis of Teegarden to be about the size of Rose Hill.

The CSX right-of-way was heavily treed-in and there was no elevator or anything else worth shooting here.

We headed into Walkerton. Here the former B&O crosses the Michigan City branch of the Nickel Plate at a brick tower.

The tower is still standing and it looks surprisingly good considering it is no longer used.

The lighting for photography was right down the nose, made even worse by the westbounds being on Main 2, the south track. Had they been on Main 1 I think the shots could have turned out a little better.

We shot both westbounds here and then continued west across the Indiana countryside.

The former Grant Trunk Western diamonds at Wellsboro  were the next thing we encountered. An eastbound Canadian National train belonging to the current owner of the ex-GTW was  sitting east of town. They were working the elevator at Kingsbury.

Since it was now late afternoon and almost into evening, we decided to hang here for a while until heading north to Michigan City for the night.

We were rewarded with a CSX train each way and a westbound CN. Wellsboro is not very photogenic but we did the best we could.

As the sun began to set, we were heading north on U.S. 421 bound for a hotel in Michigan City. There is a cluster of hotels just north of the interchange of I-94 and U.S. 421.

We chose the Super 8. They had plenty of rooms and we were at the Texas Roadhouse across the parking lot having dinner a few minutes later.

Article by Marty Surdyk

Interesting Saturday on the Rails

June 11, 2018

This past Saturday brought a couple interesting trains. First the Norfolk Southern “Honoring Our Veterans” unit led 11K through northern Ohio.

I got it passing the soon to be replaced signals at Huron.

Next we went to Bellevue as there were storms approaching from the west but for a few hours we had sunny weather.

Another railfan said that a grain train was waiting south of town with a Florida East Coast engine leading.

This is one of four FEC engines currently on lease to Norfolk Southern. This train turned out to be 51Q bound for Dwight, Illinois.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Am I Allowed to Post These?

May 1, 2018

As you can clearly see, the top image features the Interstate heritage unit of Norfolk Southern. You can also clearly see that No. 8105 is trailing in the motive power consist of a westbound stack train passing through Olmsted Falls on the NS Chicago Line.

The bottom image features the Wabash heritage unit in the motive power consist of NS westbound manifest freight 309.

And you know what they say, “trail equals fail.” Maybe so but I photographed them anyway and I posted them anyway. Feel better now?

Whole Lotta Locomotives Rolling Along

April 13, 2018

Last Saturday during the annual Dave McKay Day of the Akron Railroad Club in Berea, all cameras were out as manifest freight 17N approached on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

On the point was the GoRail locomotive. But the rest of the motive power consist held some interest, too.

Immediately behind the GoRail unit was a former CSX locomotive with a line drawn through its markings. It is now a lease unit owned by a locomotive leasing company.

The motive power consist itself was out of the ordinary long, comprised of seven units. Perhaps 17N was ferrying locomotives as well as cargo.