It took nearly all day and six years but we finally got one. A Norfolk Southern heritage locomotive led a train through Berea during the annual Akron Railroad Club Dave McKay Day outing last Saturday.
NS No. 1070, the SD70ACe that pays tribute to the Wabash Railroad, was on the point of eastbound intermodal train No. 294 through Berea at 6:19 p.m.
We had known since mid-morning that it was coming and it would be a late afternoon train.
ARRC member Todd Dillon, who did not attend the event, sent some timely texts updating us on the progress of the Wabash unit.
So knew that THE WABASH IS COMING! THE WABASH IS COMING!
But when it finally got here it caught those of us still in Berea unprepared and no one got a photograph of it.
It was but one of the highlights of the 13th McKay Day, the all-day outing in Berea on the first Saturday in April to remember the late David McKay, who served as ARRC president between 1993 and 2004.
Twelve ARRC members and guests attended the event, which featured overcast skies and chilly temperatures for most of the day.
The sun finally broke through at 5:27 p.m. With the clouds having moved out, the temperatures at last reached the 50s. If only it had been that nice in the morning.
We recorded 49 movements between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., but that comes with a couple of asterisks.
The ARRC’s newest member, Jack Norris, watched Amtrak 48, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited, pass through Berea on the Berea webcam from his home in New Jersey.
Two of the trains in the tally were ones I spotted while en route to Berea, an eastbound NS loaded coal train at CP Max and an eastbound CSX train that I could see from Interstate 480 that was waiting for permission to go through the tunnels.
That train, Q260, would cause more than its share of headaches for the first trick IG dispatcher because it went into emergency twice before reaching Collinwood Yard.
That resulted in backed-up trains and a lot of discussion over the radio about the proper procedures for inspecting a train that goes into emergency that has a load of hazardous materials.
At one point the dispatcher read on the air word for word the applicable rule from the rule book. During another conversation he said he had checked with his boss who had checked with his boss.
Some of the discussion involved whether the Q123 could pass the Q260 and if so at what speed.
Also figuring into the situation was a maintainer in a track car who was following the Q260 and doing track inspections in its wake.
Early in the day that same dispatcher had told the maintainer in one of many radio conversations they had in which the latter received track warrant authority that he (dispatcher) was going to go to his favorite brewery in Indianapolis once he finished his shift to help it celebrate its first anniversary.
Given the day he had had that beer must have tasted pretty good once he got to the bar.
In another conversation the IG dispatcher revealed that many operational changes are occurring, including the abolition of some symbol freights.
Road freights are now going to handle switching in some places, e.g., 84 Lumber in the Cleveland suburbs, rather than a local.
The road freights are also going to start handling stone trains. If I understood the dispatcher correctly, the number of classification tracks at Avon Yard west of Indianapolis is being reduced.
Such is life these days in E. Hunter Harrison land where the employees must feel that they are the hunted.
At the same time that the first trick IG dispatcher had his hands full, the first trick NS Toledo East dispatcher had a train that left Cleveland with no re-crew available in Toledo.
He advised the crew of gondola train 60S to take it easy coming toward Toledo.
Later, he said he would be putting the 60S into a siding to kill time. The crew probably would have preferred to have gotten to Toledo in due time and then gone off duty. But it didn’t work out that way.
Among the other interesting occurrences throughout the day was an involved maneuver involving the 20R picking up a new locomotive at Rockport Yard to replace a unit that was experiencing mechanical troubles.
NS sent an eastbound Herzog ballast train through Berea in the afternoon that was the subject of a lot of radio traffic.
It was a moderately good day for foreign power with BNSF locomotives showing up on two trains, Canadian National power leading a westbound CSX ethanol train and a lone Union Pacific unit trailing in the motive power consist of an NS train.
But the sighting of the day was a pair of Citirail (CREX) ES44AC units leading CSX train Q384.
As for the Wabash H unit, the plan was for four of us – Craig Sanders, Marty Surdyk, Paul Woodring and Alan Nagy – who planned to have dinner at the Berea Union Depot Taverne to go there at 5 p.m. We figured that the NS 1070 would be coming along after 6, probably closer to 6:30 p.m.
After eating we could get into position to get photographs of the first H unit to lead a train through Berea on a McKay Day.
We’ve seen heritage units on McKay Day in the past, most notably the Wabash H unit in 2014. But it had been trailing.
The plan might have worked had we gotten to the restaurant at exactly 5. But we decided to wait for the westbound CSX Q009, which didn’t arrive until 5:11. Two other NS trains also passed by and we didn’t get to the depot and seated until about 5:20.
As the Wabash unit was leading No. 294 through Berea we had just gotten up to leave. Not everyone in the party saw it.
Had anyone been really ambitious and gotten to Berea in the early hours of McKay Day he would have seen three other heritage units.
The New York Central H unit led NS train 54K through town during the darkness hours. It was reported at Amherst at 9:38 p.m. on Friday night and at Macedonia at 2:13 a.m., so it is unclear when it was in Berea.
Amtrak No. 184, the Phase IV H unit, was trailing in the motive power consist of the westbound Lake Shore Limited at 4:05 a.m.
The Virginia heritage unit must have been a nocturnal visitor leading the 17N. It was reported at Wauseon at 9:48 a.m. on Saturday and the previous report for it had been in Conway late Friday morning.