Posts Tagged ‘Olmsted Falls’

I Had Forgotten How Good This Day Had Been

May 23, 2020

A three-way meet in Olmsted Falls with an eastbound Norfolk Stack train, a very Lake Shore Limited and a tied down grain train with Canadian Pacific power was one of the highlights of my outing of Aug. 30, 2014.

It can be a quite pleasing feeling when going through old photographs and discovering an image you forgot you had.

I recently discovered not only images I had forgotten having made but a day-long outing that in retrospect must have seemed like one of those days where everything was going right.

And it occurred less than six years ago. So how could I have forgotten it?

I’ll answer that question later but on Aug. 30, 2014, I photographed 18 trains and saw locomotives of every Class 1 railroad except Canadian National.

The day began in Olmsted Falls just after 8 a.m. where I found a grain train sitting in the Berea siding west of Mapleway Drive with a Canadian Pacific leader.

There was no crew on board and the train probably needed a Norfolk Southern unit equipped with a cab signal apparatus.

In case you’ve forgotten, summer 2014 was the year NS implemented a new computer program in its dispatching system that tied the Chicago Line into knots for several weeks.

Mainline tracks between Cleveland and Chicago were blocked with trains whose crews had outlawed.

It was so bad that Amtrak in daylight became a regular occurrence in Northeast Ohio.

Indeed, I twice in one week photographed the eastbound Capitol Limited in mid morning. No. 30 is scheduled to arrive in Cleveland at 1:45 a.m., well before daybreak.

I’ve long since forgotten what plans I had for railfanning on Aug. 30, but I began the day in Olmsted Falls because the eastbound Lake Shore Limited was running more than five hours behind schedule.

Amtrak No. 48 would not reach Olmsted Falls until shortly before 11 a.m. By then NS had sent eight trains through the Falls of which four were westbounds.

An interesting fact I discovered upon reviewing the photos of the 11 Chicago Line trains I photographed that morning is that all but two of them were running on Track 1.

The NS dispatcher sent four trains west on Track 1 between 8:15 a.m. and 9:22 a.m. Three trains went east on the same track through Olmsted Falls between 9:38 a.m. and 10:05 a.m.

It must have been a challenge getting those trains out of each other’s way west of Cleveland.

An eastbound stack train at 10:50 a.m. was the first train to use Track 2 during the time I was there.

Two minutes after it arrived came the eastbound Lake Shore Limited on Track 1.

Running right behind the stacker on Track 2 was an eastbound coal train, which turned out to be the last NS train I saw.

The 10 NS trains I photographed included six stack trains, two tank car trains, a coal train and the grain train that never turned a wheel during my time in the Falls.

After the coal train cleared I headed for Wellington where CSX was equally as busy.

Between 12:15 p.m. and 12:47 p.m. I photographed five trains, two eastbounds and three westbounds.

It was an interesting mix of traffic that included an eastbound manifest freight, an eastbound auto rack train, the westbound trash containers train, the westbound Union Pacific-CSX “salad shooter” reefer train and a westbound grain train.

The reefer train had its customary three UP units, but of particular interest was the Southern Belle of Kansas City Southern leading the trash train.

Sometime after 1:30 p.m. I decided to head for New London. On the drive there, I spotted a Wheeling & Lake Erie train tied down just west of the grade crossing on Ohio Route 162 east of New London on the Carey Subdivision.

The lead unit of the eastbound W&LE train was a former KCS SD40 still wearing its KCS colors but with small W&LE markings.

The trailing unit was painted in Wheeling colors but lettered for the Denver & Rio Grande Western.

I don’t remember hanging out in New London but I presume that I did. Yet I didn’t photograph any trains there, which suggests that CSX might have died for the afternoon.

Whatever the case, I decided at some point to head east and wound up on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad where I photographed the last southbound train of the day arriving in Peninsula.

On the south end of the train was that LTEX leased unit that everyone loved to hate, GP15 No. 1420 in its solid black livery. On the north end was CVSR 1822, an Alco RS18u.

I photographed the train leaving and then headed home, having had quite a day with my camera.

OK, why did this become a “lost” memory given the diversity of what I captured with megapixels.

A number of reasons come to mind. Notice that I saw virtually no trains for most of the afternoon. I tend to evaluate the success of an outing by how it ends more than how it begins.

If the day ends with a flourish I tend to remember it as being successful. It is ends with little I tend to think that it could have been better.

Another factor was that August 2014 was a busy and eventful month for me and that might explain why this outing got lost in a lot of other memories.

Finally, days like the one I had on Aug. 30 used to be fairly common in Northeast Ohio when rail traffic was heavier.

A Kansas City Southern Belle might not have been a common sight in NEO back then — and still isn’t — but UP, BNSF and CP units were.

When you live in a place that has a high level of freight traffic it is easy to get somewhat jaded about it. It will always be there, right?

Yet five years later changes in railroad operating patterns have made outings like this less common.

There are fewer trains even though NS and CSX mainlines through Cleveland still host a lot of trains and can have busy spells. The “salad shooter” is now gone and the nature of and the overall level of rail traffic is not what it was five years ago.

Given my current circumstances how I long for a day today like the one I had on Aug. 30.

If there is a lesson to be drawn from this story it would be to appreciate what you have when you have it and learn to make the best of the opportunities that do present themselves in the here and now. They won’t always be there.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Many of the photographs that I made in Olmsted Falls on this day revolved around the grain train and its CP leader. In the distance a stack train heads west.

BNSF and NS units combined to wheel a westbound container train through Olmsted Falls.

NS units created a BNSF sandwich in the motive power consist of this eastbound tank car train.

A pretty lady leads an ugly train at Wellington. Southern Belles were a prized catch whenever I was trackside anywhere in Northeast Ohio.

The “salad shooter” makes an appearance in Wellington with its customary Union Pacific motive power consist.

Fresh lumber was among the many commodities being toted by this eastbound CSX manifest freight past the reservoir in Wellington.

Although it’s a Wheeling & Lake Erie unit, this SD40 still wore its KCS colors and thus made it a KCS two-fer type of day. It is sitting at the distant signal for Hiles near New London.

CVSR 1822 will be leading when this train comes back through Peninsula more than an hour from now.

Going Green

October 28, 2018

A lot of companies with which you do business through the mail are trying to entice you to switch to online payment of bills.

They often use the slogan “go green,” to make it seem as though paying online is environmentally sound.

It might be in the sense that it creates less paper, but I’ve always suspected that the real motivation is cost cutting.

This image of a westbound Norfolk Southern stack train rumbling through Olmsted Falls gives another meaning to the phrase “going green” as the first block of containers are all painted green.

Still Some Snow Left

March 16, 2018

There was still some snow left in Olmsted Falls when I made this image of an eastbound stack train rolling down Track No. 2 of the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

The snow that remained was primarily in area that are cast in shadows for much of the day.

I didn’t catch the train symbol but it might be train 206, which operates via the former Nickel Plate Road mainline between Cleveland and Buffalo, New York.

The 206 originates in Chicago at the 47th Street terminal and terminates in Buffalo.


My Shortest Day Outing

December 22, 2017

CSX crude oil train K048 has a pair of BNSF units and a badly faded Union Pacific motor as it passes westbound NS manifest freight 309 in Berea.

NS local B14 heads west to do some work in Olmsted Falls. It is shown passing through Berea.

It’s the westbound manifest freight 35N with a standard NS motive power consist as it slices through Olmsted Falls en route from Conway Yard near Pittsburgh to Decatur, Illinois.

For several years the Akron Railroad Club has had a tradition of holding a “longest day” outing in June, usually on a Sunday after the summer solstice.

I’ve often thought if we have a longest day outing why not have a shortest day outing.

However, the winter solstice falls in December just before Christmas when winter weather is a good possibility. The ARRC is in slumber mode for most of December.

Undeterred by that, I held a “shortest day” outing of my own on Wednesday in Berea and Olmsted Falls.

The actual winter solstice was on Thursday, but I had a doctor’s appointment that day and other plans for the afternoon.

Besides, the weather was better on Wednesday with mostly sunny skies and mild temperatures. Maybe I should have put the word “mild” in quotation marks because some might question whether temperatures in the 30s qualify as mild.

But coming on the heels of a week with temperatures in the teens and wind chills in the low single digits, it felt downright balmy outside.

I didn’t spend as much time trackside as I would on a longest day outing. I got to Berea about 10:30 a.m. just as a westbound intermodal train was passing through on Norfolk Southern.

A few minutes later an eastbound stack train came roaring through on CSX.

By the time the 11 o’clock hour arrived, I had seen five trains. Four more came past before noon.

Then things died on both railroad lines. I wouldn’t see another train until 1 p.m. By then I had shifted to Olmsted Falls, primarily because with the wind out of the north that meant aircraft landing at Cleveland Hopkins Airport would landing to the northeast.

On the rails, nothing out of the ordinary came by. It was the usual mix of intermodal trains with a couple of crude oil trains thrown in and a pair of manifest freights on NS.

Aside from a pair of BNSF units leading a CSX eastbound crude oil train, the motive power was the same old, same old. No NS heritage units were anywhere in the picture.

In all, I spotted 16 trains, although that number rises to 17 if I double count NS local B14, which I saw twice. Both times it had one locomotive and three boxcars.

I had to leave just after 3 p.m. because of an obligation at home. On the whole, it was a nice day.

Yes, Where Was Spring?

July 8, 2016
An eastbound tanker train on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern in Olmsted Falls.

An eastbound tanker train on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern in Olmsted Falls.

A meet between an eastbound grain train and a westbound stack train.

A meet between an eastbound grain train and a westbound stack train.

Yes, where was spring?

Yes, where was spring?

With some very hot and humid weather having taken hold in Northeast Ohio in the past few days, I thought I would remind everyone of how it wasn’t that long ago that snow was falling.

I was out of town on the Sunday morning in May when snow fell on Northeast Ohio and even accumulated enough on the east side to cover some of the grass.

But I was very much on hand in early April when show covered the ground. For a winter that was unusually mild, the winter of 2016 sure had a way of hanging around.

In case you’ve forgotten, here is what spring looked like earlier this year. All of the images were made in Olmsted Falls.

Photographs by Craig Sanders

That Was Close

May 24, 2016
The rear of the westbound intermodal train cleared just in time to get a clear look at the two BNSF pumpkins pulling an eastbound unit train.

The rear of the westbound intermodal train cleared just in time to get a clear look at the two BNSF pumpkins pulling an eastbound unit train.


I’m waiting for a westbound Norfolk Southern train to come through Olmsted Falls because it has a lead unit that is a little out of the ordinary.

But ahead of it is the 21Z, a hot stack train. As the head end of the stack train passed I happened to turn around, look west through my telephoto lens and spotted a flash of orange on an approaching eastbound.

It wasn’t the usual NS black and I knew it couldn’t be a heritage unit.

But would the 21Z clear in time to get a shot of whatever it was? I starting walking east hoping to get into a better position to get a shot just as the rear of the stack train cleared. I knew it was going to be close.

Luck was with me. The 21Z not only cleared, but there was enough space to get a couple of decent shots.

I didn’t catch the symbol of the eastbound, but it might have been the 68N, which an online report said was a unit train with a load of frac sand.

The consist was the type of small covered hoppers used to haul sand.

And the motive power? A pair of BNSF pumpkins. Not a bad find at all.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Record Breaking Picnic Day in Olmsted Falls

July 27, 2009
Chef Marte, a.k.a. as Marty Surdyk, has the grill hot and the burgers and dogs sizzling during the Akron Railroad Club picnic on July 26, 2009, in Olmsted Falls. Surdyk (right) is shown serving Rick Houck (left) and Rich Antibus. (Photograph by Hilary Surdyk)

Chef Marte, a.k.a. as Marty Surdyk, has the grill hot and the burgers and dogs sizzling during the Akron Railroad Club picnic on July 26, 2009, in Olmsted Falls. Surdyk (right) is shown serving Rick Houck (left) and Rich Antibus. (Photograph by Hilary Surdyk)

About 7 p.m., Marty Surdyk was getting worried. He had guaranteed that this year’s Akron Railroad Club picnic would break the record for most trains seen. But it had been a good two hours since a train had passed by the picnic site at the former New York Central station in Olmsted Falls, Ohio. The radio had been quiet.

Since 8:30 a.m. that morning 21 trains had passed by, which tied the record set a few years ago at Warwick Park in Clinton next to the CSX Chicago-Pittsburgh line. But Marty had boasted that this year’s event would break the record.

The 22nd train finally passed by about a half-hour later. For good measure, the 23rd and 24th trains also made an appearance before the picnic closed shop for the day around 9 p.m.

Twenty-nine ARRC members and their guests attended this year’s picnic for a total of 44 attendees. They feasted on 73 hamburgers and 64 hot dogs and untold numbers of chips, cookies and other picnic fare. By the time Marty, a.k.a. Chef Marte, dropped the fires from the grill, he had burned through a bag and a half of charcoal.

NS traffic was somewhat atypical during the picnic, held on Sunday, July 26., 2009. There were no coal trains and no coke trains. The eastbound RoadRailer sauntered past, but not its westbound counterpart.

As for locomotive power, it was almost exclusively of NS vintage. The only foreign unit seen was a BNSF locomotive that was a trailing unit on an ethanol train, the Z9Q, at 12:14 p.m. That same train had an NS unit in the lead and a CSX locomotive trailing.

Another CSX unit made an appearance on another ethanol train, which was the first train of the day spotted by an ARRC member. That was recorded by Rick Houck who OSed the 69Q at 8:42 a.m.

There were a number of former Conrail units still dressed in blue that came by, but none of them were lead units on this day.

A third ethanol train, the 68Q, slipped past at 1:22 p.m. Otherwise, the traffic was a steady diet of intermodal and manifest freights.  Traffic was split dead even with 12 eastbounds and 12 westbounds. Interestingly, the eastbounds dominated in the morning and the westbounds late in the day.

The Olmsted Falls depot is owned by the Cuyahoga Valley and West Shore Model Railroad club. Todd Vander Sluis did double duty, opening the station as a CV&WS member but also attending as an ARRC member.

ARRC members had the opportunity to watch the CW&WS’s model railroad in action during the day. A Wheeling & Lake Erie model SD40 with sound spent the afternoon idling at the club’s engine terminal.