Posts Tagged ‘Railfanning in Berea Ohio’

Trying Something Different in Berea

February 27, 2018

I’ve been going to Berea to watch trains for more than 20 years. I’ve pretty much exhausted about every photo angle I can think of short of trespassing on railroad property.

About the only thing new to get in Berea is to catch a particular locomotive or rail car that I haven’t photographed there before. Or so I thought.

While in Berea not long ago on a rare sunny winter day, I had the idea of photographing trains splitting the signals that have been installed within the past couple of years.

In the top image, eastbound Norfolk Southern intermodal train 206 has a Canadian National unit leading. Although not visible, the trailing unit belongs to Union Pacific.

In the middle image, westbound NS manifest freight 309 is framed by the signals on the Toledo connection between NS and CSX. Behind the lead unit is the Wabash heritage unit.

The bottom images shows a westbound NS stack train framed by several signals, including the westbound home signals for CP 194 on the Chicago Line.


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.

Changing of the Motive Power Liveries

October 20, 2017

It is August 2001 and Amtrak’s eastbound Pennsylvanian is rolling through Berea just after 1 p.m.

It is an era when there was a daytime passenger train through Berea that wasn’t running several hours off schedule.

The Pennsylvanian carried a lot of head-end cars, which carried mail and express shipments that were supposed to enable it to pay for itself.

But on this day my attention is on the motive power consist. The Phase V look of power blue and gray with a red stripe was introduced in 1999 on AEM-7 electric motors.

But in time it migrated to the P42DC fleet that began showing up fall 1996.

Powering the Pennsylvanian is P42DC No. 180 wearing the then new to me Phase V look. Trailing it is P42DC No. 54 modeling the modified Phase III appearance.

The P42 fleet featured a deeper shade of red than that applied to previous locomotive wearing the Phase III scheme. It also has a deeper shade of blue with both seeking to more closely mimic the colors of the American flag.

Soon all of the P42 fleet would be wearing Phase V colors. You have to wonder when Amtrak will again gives its motive power fleet a new look.

Beaver in Berea

September 6, 2017

Back in February Canadian Pacific announced that it was bringing back its beaver herald although it wasn’t until July that the modified logo began appearing on  locomotives.

CP used the beaver herald, which features a beaver, a maple leaf, a shield, the company name and the date of the railroad’s incorporation, previously, but dropped it for a more contemporary look.

The beaver has a long tradition at CP, having first been used on a company herald in 1886.

Here in the states we might think of the maple leaf as symbolic of Canada, but the beaver is our northern neighbor’s official symbol of sovereignty.

Between 1886 and 1929, the beaver appeared on four renditions of the CP herald, which featured a shield as its dominant element. In three of those iterations, the beaver appeared atop the shield.

The beaver went on hiatus between 1929 and 1946 when the CP herald was, again, shaped like a shield but featured the slogan “World’s Greatest Travel System.”

In 1946, CP brought the beaver back and it sat atop the shield through three generations of heralds. In 1968, CP decided to give itself a more “progressive look” and adopted a triangle C logo.

Other heralds would follow including one that featured the Canadian and U.S. flags. That was an effort to show that CP was a North American railroad and not just a Canadian one.

To celebrate its independent status, which included resuming use of the name Canadian Pacific Railways, CP resurrected the beaver and shield in 1997 in a bid to give itself a retro look.

Some corporations can only sit still with their image for a few years, so the beaver was put out to marsh in 2007.

CP adopted a minimalist approach with only its name “Canadian Pacific” appearing in its herald. Things got even more concise in 2012 when the herald became simply the letters CP.

Now the beaver, the maple leaf and the shield are back. Unlike the most recent beaver herald, the current logo does not feature solid gold shading in the shield. Instead, the shield has horizontal stripes.

The latest version of the beaver herald is expected to become widespread as CP ramps up a program to repaint its locomotive fleet. The herald will also adorn rebuilt locomotives.

AC400CW No. 9817 wore the previous beaver herald. It is shown leading CSX train Q166 through Berea this past Sunday sporting the new herald.

The Q166 and its counterpart, Q165, are CP run-through trains that use CSX between Chicago and Buffalo, New York.

Just over two hours after the Q166 passed by, the Q165 came rolling through Berea. It is always a good outing when you catch both CP run-through trains on the same day.

And the cherry on the top of this treat was the eastbound “salad shooter” with its usual Union Pacific motive power, shown in the bottom photo.

Yes, the Salad Shooter is Still Operating

June 10, 2017

I’m not sure why I wondered if CSX train Q090 is still operating. But in the wake of the E. Hunter Harrison takeover of the railroad this year the operating plan is in state of flux.

Known to some as the “salad shooter,” Q090 is an interchange train that CSX receives from Union Pacific in Chicago and which carries perishable produce for a warehouse located near Albany, New York.

It doesn’t operate every day, last I knew. I’ve seen it here and there, but I can’t remember the last time that I caught it. It has been several months and it might even have been more than a year ago.

But there it was racing through Berea with nothing slowing it down.

Despite its Union Pacific motive power — which has long been standard for the train — I didn’t recognize it at first. It used to be a string of solid white reefers, but that wasn’t the case on this day.

Toward the front of the train was a collection of what appeared to be standard boxcars so I thought it was just another manifest freight.

But then the consist quickly evolved into those white reefers and I later learned in a radio transmission that this was the Q090.

Somewhere in the not too distant past the train became a section from California and a section from the Pacific Northwest, Washington State, I believe. That might account for the mixed appearance.

All I can say is, “where ya been salad shooter? I sure have missed you.”

It’s a Coal Train!

June 9, 2017

CSX was in the midst of a flurry of traffic. Between 7 and 8 p.m. it put five trains through Berea, including something I haven’t seen in a long time.

I was looking through my telephoto lens at this approaching eastbound, the last of the five trains that also included two westbound stack trains, a westbound auto rack train and an eastbound manifest train when I noticed that this was a coal train.

The decline of coal traffic at CSX and Norfolk Southern has been well documented by various sources and in recent years coal trains seem to have become scarce in Northeast Ohio.

I’ve seen a few coal trains on NS, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a coal train on CSX. And this wasn’t a Powder River Basin coal train, but something that likely came up from West Virginia.

Maybe coal trains are not extinct on CSX through Cleveland and I just haven’t been trackside when they came through.

I have no idea as to the destination of this coal, but there must be a power plant somewhere east of here that still burns the black diamonds.

Not Uncommon But Still Pleasing to See

May 23, 2017

BNSF locomotives are not a rare sighting in Northeast Ohio, but not necessarily an everyday one, either. Like many people, I like their bright orange color.

So when this westbound CSX manifest freight came through Berea recently with a “pumpkin” on the nose, my camera was out.

As a bonus, the trailing unit was Union Pacific. I would have photographed it, too, had it been leading instead of the BNSF unit.

Note the passing Norfolk Southern intermodal train off to the left.

Wabash H Unit, Citirail Locomotives Highlight 13th ARRC Dave McKay Day Outing in Berea

April 3, 2017

Late day sun illuminates the nose of a westbound CSX auto rack train during the waning hours of the annual Dave McKay Day in Berea.

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.


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.

CSX intermodal train Q009 passes the marker honoring Dave McKay in Berea.

A westbound ethanol train on CSX had a pair of Canadian National locomotives.

Looking like a giant candy cane, the Herzog ballast train slowly makes it way eastward through Berea on Norfolk Southern tracks.

Pair of Canadians in Berea

March 3, 2017



Motive power from Canadian National and Canadian Pacific is not rare in Berea, but it is not a given, either.

CP has a pair of run-through trains that use CSX between Chicago and Buffalo, New York, and it is not unusual to see them in Berea during daylight hours.

Given how the North American Class I railroads share motive power, seeing a CN unit is not an unusual thing on either CSX or Norfolk Southern.

But what was a out of the ordinary during a recent railfanning outing in Berea was seeing two westbound NS trains with Canadian motive power on the lead as shown above.

Photographs by Craig Sanders

How Soon We Forget What Might Have Been

March 2, 2017


It was about this time a year ago that E. Hunter Harrison and Canadian Pacific were making a play to acquire Norfolk Southern.

Harrison came at NS hard, but came up short. The NS board of directors opposed the merger and Harrison ran into a buzz saw of opposition from shippers, labor unions and political figures.

The time was not ripe to institute what some see coming as the final round of Class 1 mergers in North America.

Since failing to acquire NS, Harrison has retired (again) and the financier Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital has also left the CP board.

Now Harrison has teamed up with hedge fund Mantle Ridge to try to shakeup CSX management and install Harrison  as CEO.

While railfanning in Berea back in November I photographed a CP unit trailing on a westbound NS train as a reminder of what might have been had Harrison prevailed.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders