Posts Tagged ‘Railfanning at Sterling Ohio’

Searching for Ghosts of the Erie in Sterling

July 31, 2017

A westbound CSX auto rack train with Union Pacific and BNSF motive power rattles the windows as it passes through Sterling on the New Castle Subdivision.

I can’t help but be reminded of the late Richard Jacobs when I am in or think about Sterling.

It was the last place I saw Jake alive and during the final years of his life he often hung out at Sterling and photographed CSX operations on the New Castle Subdivision.

Jake’s last posting to the Akron Railroad Club blog was about an outing to Sterling in March 2015. He died of cancer the following June.

It was an article written by fellow ARRC officer Marty Surdyk, though, that prompted me to visit Sterling on a Saturday afternoon in early July.

He had written about Sterling in the ARRC Bulletin after he and his brother Robert swung past there earlier this year.

Marty made a few observations about railfanning in Sterling these days, including how it has changed from the old days when RU Tower still guarded the crossing of the Erie Lackawanna (nee Erie) and Baltimore & Ohio mainlines.

The tower is long gone and so is the EL. But Wayne County has converted 6.75 miles of the former Erie right of way between Creston and Rittman into an asphalt hiking and biking trail.

Just off Kauffman Avenue in Sterling is a parking lot for the trail and a former B&O freight house that long-range plans call for converting into a museum.

The trail runs parallel with the CSX line and I wanted to check it out.

So I parked at the station and started walking westward with my camera over my shoulder.

Marty’s article had spoken about there being an opening to photograph trains passing beneath the eastbound home signals for the interlocking.

You have to walk off the trail a short distance, but the view is reasonably open.

CSX crosses Chippewa Creek here and the view from the trail is open, but rather tight.

I walked for about a mile and a half west from Sterling and most of the time a wall of trees obscured the view of the CSX tracks.

There are a few open areas, but only at the grade crossings can you get any significant open space to work with in making photographs.

The first of those is at Eby Road, which has crossing gates protecting the CSX tracks. If you know of a train coming you can stand by the side of the road and have fairly open views.

There are three tracks here one of which is a siding used to store cars although this may be a block swapping location.

Likewise, there are open views at Jordan Road, which is about a half-mile to a mile west.

Here the trail jogs slightly and there are remnants of ballast for the EL tracks. The jog is made to avoid an access road leading to private property.

A short distance west of Jordan Road the trail veers away from the CSX New Castle Sub as it nears Creston.

It is in this vicinity that you can see the Wheeling & Lake Erie’s Brewster Subdivision to the south

I came upon a few other remnants of the Erie during my hike, including a milepost, a whistle post and the concrete foundation of what might have been a signal base. There were also discarded cross ties in various places.

The trail is level and easy to walk. I wished, though, that I had a much smaller and lighter point and shoot digital camera rather than my DSLR.

Marty mentioned various places to eat in Creston. There is also Bradley’s in Sterling and a restaurant in Creston in the former Erie depot in Rittman.

I will have to check out the latter. The last time I saw the ex-Erie depot in Rittman there were still tracks in front of it.

The Akron Barberton Cluster Railway serves a customer in Rittman and operates on the ex-Erie between there and Barberton.

Once you’re done hiking or biking, you can always hang out in the trailhead parking lot in Sterling and wait for trains to come to you on CSX.

One thing hasn’t changed. Traffic on the New Castle Sub remains hit and miss. I spotted four trains in Sterling during my time there, three of them westbounds.

But during the last hour and a half that I was there nothing came past or seemed to be imminent.

If you are out on the trail you might not have much advance warning of an approaching train and will have to hustle to find an opening in the trees to watch and/or photograph it.

Plans are to make into former freight station into a museum.

Joggers and bikers are 225 miles from Salamanca, New York.

Something the railroad left behind when pulling up the tracks.

A remnant of CSX stands outside the former B&O freight station in Sterling.

A trio of silos between a pair of tank cars.

If a CSX train comes as you’re out on the trail you might have to hustle to get to an open area to watch it.

Looking west at Eby Road.

An eastbound manifest freight passes a cut of cars in the siding as it approaches Eby Road.

All Gone in Sterling Now

July 19, 2017

Here’s another piece of Northeast Ohio history. Baltimore & Ohio 7593 and 4046 lead an eastbound train through Sterling in November 1981. The tower, signal and pole line are all gone now.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

 

Changes in Railfanning in Sterling

May 25, 2017

Many moons ago, I wrote a hot spot report for the Akron Railroad Club Bulletin on Sterling.  Much has changed since then and I thought an update was in order.

Sterling for the newcomers is a spot on the former Baltimore & Ohio, now the CSX New Castle Subdivision, where the CL&W Sub turns off and heads to Cleveland and Lorain via Lester.

CSX is trying to stop using the CL&W from Sterling to Lester, servicing Lorain and the yard at West Third Street in Cleveland via their ex-Conrail trackage in Cleveland.

Sterling has lost a couple of trains due to this change, but that is nothing new for fans of the New Castle Sub.

CSX has been adding and subtracting trains on this line for many years. It always seems to be in a state of flux. What has changed the most since I wrote the last article is where you hang out to watch trains at Sterling and what photo spots have come and gone.

Sterling is at MP 155.5 of the New Castle Sub. Besides the junction with the CL&W, the B&O used to cross the Erie at a sharp-angled diamond that was guarded by RU tower. The tower sat between the mains west of the diamonds.

Visiting railfans used to gather in the dirt/gravel area across the B&O from where the tower used to be. The driveway into the gravel area looped around and headed back out to the street.

This led the Sterling railfan group to call themselves the “Sterling Loop.”

Today, the visiting railfan will find a paved parking lot for the hiking and biking trail that is on the former right-of-way of the Erie on the southwest side of the Kauffman Avenue crossing with CSX.

This spot allows for good side views of passing CSX trains. No signals are visible at this spot, so to get advance warning of a train, you will have to monitor the scanner.

CSX still uses 160.230 (road channel) and 160.320 (dispatcher channel) for communications on the New Castle Sub.

The signals that are facing away from you at the parking lot can be shot with a westbound by walking a short ways west on the former Erie and looking for the clearing just after the bridge over Chippewa Creek.

I haven’t actually done a photo here yet, but a normal to wide-angle lens should work.

If you like to hike/bike, the trail continues west to Creston, where the tracks of the Wheeling & Lake Erie come up next to CSX.

To the east, the trail stays close to CSX as far as the outskirts of Rittman.

While Sterling is not as busy as Greenwich or other CSX hot spots, it can provide some quality time trackside. Plus you could use it as a starting point for a W&LE chase if you get wind of an imminent move on that railroad.

On weekends, for food it may be best to head for Creston, which is a short drive or bike ride from Sterling.

Creston has a Subway sandwich shop in the Circle K convenience store and gas station just south on Ohio Route 3 from the downtown area.

Article by Marty Surdyk

Railroading as It Once Was: Just Another Day at RU Tower in Sterling on the Erie Lackawanna

January 25, 2017

el-3602

It’s just another normal hot August 1975 afternoon in Sterling. The Erie Lackawanna was doing its normal thing, too, as this eastbound train blasts past RU tower making a run for Wadsworth hill. In a few short miles it would be down to a crawl as gravity worked its magic.

Photograph by Roger Durfee

Railroading as It Once Was: Getting a Roll by From Operator Laird at RU Tower in Sterling

November 30, 2016

sterling

In August 1977 Conrail was still running a handful of trains on the former Erie Lackawanna west of Akron. Still wearing its Reading Lines colors but patched for “CR,” this eastbound freighter is passing RU tower in Sterling and getting a roll by from operator Charlie Laird. There is a slow order over the Chessie diamonds just ahead. The tower and the former EL were removed many years ago.

Article and Photograph by Roger Durfee

Railroading as it Once Was: Hooping Up Train Orders With an ‘Iron Man’ in Sterling in the EL

May 26, 2016

EL at Sterling

One of my favorite hang outs during my “formative years” was Sterling.

The Erie Lackawanna and Baltimore & Ohio mains crossed each other and traffic was always plentiful.

The tower had friendly operators who were willing to explain railroad operations to a novice including what the “iron man” was.

In this 1975 photo of Second NY100, the engineer is leaning out of the window to grab his “19s” on the fly.

The 19 orders were how such things as slow orders and meets were relayed to a train and were typed out on a thin onion skin-type paper.

The rear end crew would also pick up a copy the same way. The iron man is the tall pole that the operator could string the orders on in lieu of standing next to the train and hooping them up. This was everyday railroading back then, but it’s basically a lost art these days.

Article and Photograph by Roger Durfee

Too Late for Jake, but At Last a Train in Sterling

July 1, 2015
Richard Jacobs pauses just before returning to the nursing home after the last railfan outing of his life. He would die nearly two weeks later.

Richard Jacobs pauses just before returning to the nursing home after the last railfan outing of his life. He would die nearly two weeks later.

A westbound manifest freight cruises through Sterling on a late Sunday afternoon on the day of Richard Jacob's funeral.

A westbound manifest freight cruises through Sterling on a late Sunday afternoon on the day of Richard Jacobs’ funeral.

Richard Jacobs wanted one last outing in Sterling. It would not be an easy one to arrange.

Cancer was eating away at his body and he could not move on his own. Nonetheless, he arranged for a specially-fitted van to take him to Sterling on a Wednesday for one more outing with the Loopers, as the group that gathers there weekly calls themselves.

He made sure that I knew about his planned outing and I said I would be there.

Given Jake’s condition, it wasn’t a sure thing that he would be able to make it. The date was set for Wednesday, June 10.

As that date approached, Jake wasn’t sure that things were going to go off as planned. He had grand plans. He would show his Colorado program — the same one he had planned to show to the Akron Railroad Club at its June 26 meeting — on the patio at Bradley’s restaurant.

Jake and the Loopers always went to Bradley’s for dinner on Wednesday nights.

On the day of the event I called Jake to make sure that everything was still on. It was, but his arrival time had been moved back.

We sat or stood around for what seemed an awfully long time. Where was Jake? It was getting to be 4 p.m.

Then word came that Jake was over at Bradley’s, but he had gotten sick right after he arrived. It was unclear if he would be coming over to visit the Loopers or going back to the nursing home.

Finally, around 4:30, the word got out that Jake’s grandson Rob, would roll him over from Bradley’s. About 10 minutes later I could see Jake being wheeled through the parking lot for the hike and bike trail that is located on the former Erie Railroad right of way.

Jake came over and the visiting began. I was planning to make a photograph of him with a CSX train passing in the background.

But there was a problem. CSX traffic had been halted for hours due to a maintenance of way window. It was ending, but the workers still had odds and ends to clean up.

I could hear trains nearby talking on the radio, but nothing came through Sterling.

At 6 p.m. the van arrived to take Jake back to the nursing home. There would be no slide show and Jake probably wasn’t physically able to do that anyway.

But, worse, there would be no last train for Jake to photograph and watch. I look one last photo of Jake with the CSX tracks in the background. Jake joked with me that I could use Photoshop to add a train to make it look like one came by. But I didn’t.

The next day Jake called to say that shortly after we both left that the trains began running almost non-stop.

Thirteen days later, Jake died. His funeral was this past Sunday and I stopped in Sterling on my way back home. I wanted to get that train that had eluded Jake and I both during his last outing.

Jake saw and photographed countless trains during his lifetime, starting at the age of 9 and continuing until two months before he died at age 83.

Therein lies an important lesson. Never stop watching or photographing trains if it gives you pleasure in life. Someday the trains may not come anymore for you and there won’t be a tomorrow to see another one.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

CSX Traffic Was Sparse in Sterling

March 24, 2015
CSX double stack hotshot Q016 is eastbound at Sterling.

CSX double stack hotshot Q016 is eastbound at Sterling.

CSX westbound coal train T410 for Duke Power is westbound at Kauffman Avenue in Sterling.

CSX westbound coal train T410 for Duke Power is westbound at Kauffman Avenue in Sterling.

CSX empty oil train K059 is westbound at Sterling.

CSX empty oil train K059 is westbound at Sterling.

On Wednesday, March 18, several of the Loop railfans gathered trackside at Sterling. CSX train activity was sparse.

Eastbound Q016 entered the interlocking at 4:07 p.m. That train is an eastbound double stack intermodal pulled by CSX 5479 and 5455.

The next two trains were westbounds. CSX coal train T410 for Duke Power went over Kauffman Avenue at 6:39 p.m. It was followed by CSX empty oil train K059 at 6:55 pm.

I had to boost the ISO for the last two photos. All got quiet again, so I headed for home.

Article and Photographs by Richard Jacobs

Beating Winter Blues at Sterling with Sun, CSX

March 14, 2015
Lot's of power! CSX westbound Q355 crosses Kauffman Avenue in Sterling.

Lot’s of power! CSX westbound Q355 crosses Kauffman Avenue in Sterling.

It has been a long hard winter for me. I’ve had bronchitis for three months, since Thanksgiving, and extreme shortness of breath. With the snow and cold weather, I mostly have been hibernating like an old bear.

On Wednesday, March 11 we had a special gathering of Loop railfans at Sterling. It was a rare opportunity to get all nine members there.

Luckily, at 3 p.m. the sun was out and the temperature was close to 50. CSX cooperated by running a number of trains in the sunshine.

There were several westbounds running into the sun. The first was Q355, a manifest freight with seven engines on the head end. The westbounds also included intermodals Q015 and Q137, and auto rack train Q299.

Q641, the Buffalo, N.Y. , to Cumberland, Md., train, came down the CL&W Sub and went east on the New Castle Sub, the mainline, at 6:07 p.m. after we had chowed down at Bradley’s.

That train carries trash cars from the Buffalo area for LaFarge, Ohio, near Lordstown. The setout of trash cars there is the reason that Q640/641 uses the CL&W.

The last train of the day was Q296 eastbound out of the setting sun. It was led by Canadian Pacific No. 9655 at 6:17p.m.

We then left for home as the train activity had quieted down. It was a welcome cabin fever reliever on a sunny afternoon.

Article and Photographs by Richard Jacobs

CSX/UP units lead intermodal hotshot Q015 westbound at Sterling.

CSX/UP units lead intermodal hotshot Q015 westbound at Sterling.

Westbound CSX Q137 passes over Kauffman Avenue in Sterling.

Westbound CSX Q137 passes over Kauffman Avenue in Sterling.

CSX eastbound Q647 enters Sterling.

CSX eastbound Q647 enters Sterling.

CSX auto rack Q299 is westbound at Sterling.

CSX auto rack Q299 is westbound at Sterling.

CSX 833/8785 lead Q641 off the CL&W Sub.

CSX 833/8785 lead Q641 off the CL&W Sub.

CSX Q641, Buffalo to Cumberland, is eastbound off the CL&W Sub.

CSX Q641, Buffalo to Cumberland, is eastbound off the CL&W Sub.

Trash cars on CSX Q641.

Trash cars on CSX Q641.

Lumber cars on CSX Q641.

Lumber cars on CSX Q641.

CP power leads an eastbound auto rack train into Sterling at sunset.

CP power leads an eastbound auto rack train into Sterling at sunset.

CP power led by 9655 is hauling a CSX auto rack train Q296 eastbound at Sterling.

CP power led by 9655 is hauling a CSX auto rack train Q296 eastbound at Sterling.

 

 

Sterling Crossover Work Completed

August 8, 2013
CSX eastbound auto rack train Q296 speeds through the newly installed Sterling crossovers on Wednesday. Two maintainers are busy as usual.

CSX eastbound auto rack train Q296 speeds through the newly installed Sterling crossovers on Wednesday. Two maintainers are busy as usual.

CSX road slug No. 2246 leads a welded rail train through the newly installed Sterling crossovers.

CSX road slug No. 2246 leads a welded rail train through the newly installed Sterling crossovers.

When visiting Sterling on Wednesday, Aug. 7, I found the CSX New Castle line was back in business. The new crossover work had been completed on Tuesday and all the trains held back for the past three days ran at track speed through Sterling.

I arrived about 11:30 a.m. and soon the D740 Lester to Willard local ran west off the CL&W Subdivision.

That was followed by five more trains before a heavy downpour descended on Sterling. Q138 ran during the deluge.

After the rain subsided, seven more trains ran by. A welded rail train used the new crossovers to go from Track No. 2 to Track No. 1 and then west (compass north) on the CL&W sub.

We left the County Line Trail trackside site at 8 p.m. after having seen more CSX traffic than is typical for a Wednesday.

Article and Photographs by Richard Jacobs