Posts Tagged ‘Railfanning in Berea Ohio’

They Might Have Been Surprised But I Wasn’t

August 24, 2021

My one and thus far only catch of the Central of Georgia heritage locomotive came in March 2015

Early Monday morning I opened my new email folder expecting to find a message from Edward Ribinskas containing a photograph of the Central of Georgia heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern passing through Berea.

Ed had told me of his plans to attend a Frontier League baseball game in Avon Lake on Sunday afternoon with Marty Surdyk. They had planned to railfan in Berea before going to the game.

Catching the NS 8101 may have surprised Ed and Marty, but it didn’t surprise me.

On Saturday evening I had checked HeritageUnits.com to see if anything was setting up to come through Berea Sunday morning that they might catch.

I noticed an 11N with the NS 8101 was making its way across Pennsylvania en route to Sterling Heights, Michigan, from Doremus, New Jersey.

On Sunday morning I checked HU.com again to see how far west the 8101 had been reported.

The latest report was in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, at 10:54 p.m. on Saturday. Had the 8101 been leading an intermodal train it more than likely would have been through Northeast Ohio hours before Marty and Ed arrived in Berea.

But the 11N works Conway Yard near Pittsburgh and manifest and bulk commodity trains don’t always move expeditiously, sometimes getting held for long periods of time for higher priority traffic and/or a new crew.

On Sunday afternoon I checked HU.com and found the 11N was reported at Berea at 11:05 a.m. or 11:07 a.m., depending on whose report you want to believe.

That would have been within the window of when I expected Ed and Marty to be in Berea; hence I was looking for Ed to send a photo of the 8101.

The two of them also caught DC to AC conversion unit 4000, one of the “Blue Brothers” locomotives that are so named because of a blue and gray livery.

You may recall reading in Ed’s report as well as a post Marty had written about his formula for having railfan success that getting the 8101 on Sunday morning completed Marty’s collection of photographs of all 20 NS heritage units.

Marty is correct in saying that success in catching out of the ordinary trains and locomotives hinges in part in doing your homework. Likewise, he is correct in saying that there is a lot of luck involved in being in the right place at the right time to catch something.

Neither Ed nor Marty indicated it they checked HU.com before heading for Berea on Sunday. If they had they might have found out as I did that there was a chance they might see the Central of Georgia H unit.

I say might because the latest report on HU.com before they actually saw the 8101 was the previous evening in Johnstown. If anyone saw it in Alliance and anywhere else east of Cleveland, they didn’t report it.

Likewise, the most recent report on NS 4000 was at Rochester, Pennsylvania, at 8:19 p.m. on Saturday.

Relying on HU.com or other online reports, e.g., Facebook, sometimes can only take you so far in determining what lies down the tracks that is headed your way.

That means Marty is also correct in saying that above all you need to be there if you want to catch something out of the ordinary or, sometimes, anything at all.

By coincidence the Central of Georgia H unit was the last one I needed to complete my check list of NS heritage units. When I finally photographed the 8101 on March 12, 2015, in Olmsted Falls, it was not the first time I had seen it.

I had seen it at least once but had not been in a position to get a photograph. One of those sightings occurred as I drove east on Chester Avenue in Cleveland and it passed in front of me on the Cleveland Line bridge over the street.

Although I’ve forgotten the details I have a hazy memory of having had a few near misses in getting NS 8101 in the weeks and months leading up to finally bagging it.

Alas, I haven’t seen or photographed the 8101 since then.

While researching this article I noticed that had Ed and Marty gone back to Berea or even to Olmsted Falls after the baseball game they could have caught the Monongahela H unit, which came west leading the 25Z.

It was reported at Berea at 7:23 p.m. but that probably was too late for them to still be trackside.

At some point you just have to call it a day, move on to other things, and hope that luck is still with you next time you are trackside.

We all need to remind ourselves from time to time that railfanning for most of us is a hobby and not a job with all of the pressures and demands that come with it. I have met railroad photographers who make rail photography into something akin to work.

They come back with some spectacular images that we all admire and enjoy. Maybe we even wish we could have gotten that image. You could have if you had been willing to do the work required to get it.

Yet is going to work the reason why you go trackside? For some the answer is yes.

As for Ed and Marty, I have a hunch that even if their Sunday in Berea had been just another routine day and the NS 8101 and NS 4000 had never come along they still would have enjoyed themselves and not been greatly disappointed about the two that got away.

Article by Craig Sanders

Getting Lucky (Twice) in Berea

August 23, 2021

I was able to witness Marty Surdyk’s completion of his Norfolk heritage units photo collection when he caught No. 20, the Central of Georgia No. 8101, in Berea on Sunday.

It was leading train 11N, which operates from Doremus, New Jersey, to Sterling Heights, Michigan, in the Detroit area.

The 11N came through shortly after 11 a.m.

We also were able to get DC to AC conversion unit 4000, one of the NS “Blues Brothers.”

It was the second unit of the motive power consist of the 13Q, a Conway to Elkhart manifest freight that operates via Bellevue and Fort Wayne.

The 13Q preceeded the 11N by about 20 minutes.

As Marty indicated in his article, we were in Berea on late Sunday morning before watching a Frontier League baseball game in Avon Lake.

The Crushers center fielder was Shawon Dunston Jr. You may remember his father played shortstop with the Chicago Cubs from 1985-1995. 

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

The Winning Formula for Successful Railfanning

August 23, 2021

I have a formula for any successful railfan trip.

You begin with preparation. Study maps, magazine articles, rail photo sites, and employee timetable, where applicable.

Learn when the trains run. Learn where the good photo spots are. Learn the radio frequencies. Learn the mileposts, so if you hear a detector go off, you know where the train is. Learn, Learn Learn.

This accounts for 50 percent of the formula.

Next you have to get there. All this prep work is no good if you’re sitting at home in your LazyBoy watching reruns of Leave It To Beaver.

Be There, Be There, Be There.

This is 25 percent of the formula.

Then there is the dumb luck factor. You’re in the right place at the right time and something goes by that you weren’t expecting.

You come across a train on an obscure short line or run into a heritage unit that you didn’t know was coming.

The usually nocturnal train or trains are running hours late and your train count soars to a level you weren’t expecting. Luck can work the other way also, that why it’s LUCK.

Better to be Lucky than good sometimes.

Luck accounts for 25 percent of the formula.

Sunday was a good example of the luck factor. Eddie and I were at Berea killing time before heading to Avon Lake for the Lake Erie Crushers baseball game against the Washington (Pennsylvania) Wild Thing.

The Crushers lost 4-2. But while at Berea Norfolk Southern train 11N went west with the Central of Georgia heritage unit on the lead.

It is the last of the 20 original H units that I needed to complete my collection. We had no idea it was coming.

So to recap, 50 percent of successful railfanning comes from preparation; 25 percent of successful railfanning comes from being there; 25 percent of successful railfanning comes from dumb luck.

Article by Marty Surdyk

ARRC Shifts McKay Day Event to Sunday

May 28, 2021

With rain likely on Saturday, the Akron Railroad Club has chosen to move its annual Dave McKay Day outing in Berea to Sunday.

ARRC President Todd Dillion noted that the forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of rain on Saturday.

Attendees are asked to park at the far west end of the Berea Depot Bar and Restaurant parking lot at 30 Depot Street just west of Front Street.

As always the event begins when the first person arrives and ends when the last one leaves. Attendees are encouraged to bring a lawn chair.

McKay Day is held in memory of the late David McKay, who served as ARRC president 1993-2004.

Busy Morning at Berea During RRE Turkey Shoot

December 8, 2020

As I pulled into the parking lot at Berea on Thanksgiving morning across from BE Tower the clock in my Jeep read 6:33 a.m.

Why was I up so early on a holiday morning? Some traditions must go on no matter what is trying to impede them. 

Since the 1970s members of the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts group in Cleveland have been meeting in Berea on Thanksgiving morning for the annual turkey shoot.

In past years they would meet for breakfast at Bob’s Big Boy restaurant and spend the morning photographing trains in Berea.

I came directly to Berea from home due to some scratching on the CSX radio channel. They might have a train to run.

Turns out they didn’t. It must have been the train working at Parma Yard that I heard as I headed out to the car from my apartment.

Today was one of those days; it was heavily overcast with a light mist coming down.

There would be no daybreak, no dawning of a new day. Days like this just happen.

The scanner was quiet, almost too quiet. Hunger drove me over to a nearby Dunkin Donuts for a trip through the drive through.

A bacon, egg and cheese bagel, and two frosted donuts would have to suffice until our turkey day feast at 1 p.m.

The quiet was briefly broken by the passing of a hi-rail truck on NS Track No. 1.

Then the NS Toledo East channel began to scratch. This could be a train coming.

As the radio signal got stronger, it sounded like “2014, clear, 200, two east.”

Something was coming, but I just was not sure what.

After the eastbound called “clear, 195, two east,” the Cleveland East Dispatcher cleared up things.

The train was 24Z and was going to be held for a couple of minutes at CP Max for the hi-railer to clear up at CP Drawbridge in downtown Cleveland.

The 24Z would go over to No. 1 track at CP Max. The dispatcher also mentioned that 11N and 414 were at the drawbridge patiently waiting for 24Z to pass.

Also about now 15N radioed in for permission into Rockport Yard. The yardmaster gave them yarding instructions. There would be action today.

The 24Z behind NS 4352 plus four other units glided past at 7:39 a.m.

The 11N, a solid auto rack train was next at 8:13 a.m. behind NS 2766 doing it solo.

A few minutes behind 11N was loaded coke train 414 behind NS 1207 plus one. They were OSed at 8:37 a.m.

CSX finally came to life with the passing of a K Train. This solid train of tankers carrying 1267 placards, which is crude oil if I’m not mistaken, passed by westbound at 8:58 a.m. behind CSX 35 plus one.

The 9 o’clock hour was led off by a CSX eastbound at 9:14 a.m. Q158 with double stacks was led by CSX 3185 plus one.

Fifteen minutes behind the stacker was CSX auto rack train Q204, which was lead by CSX 5359 plus one.

The latter minutes of the 9 o’clock hour saw a flurry of action on both lines.

 It began with Q634, a manifest freight eastbound. As it lumbered by, seemingly forever, CSX ran Q517 west on the other track.

While this was happening NS 15N was heading west with a huge consist.

On the other side of the 15N a westbound NS intermodel train went by. It was not quite four at a time, but close.

For those keeping score, Q634 had CSX 3224 plus one. Q517 had what sounded like CSX 809 as its leader. I didn’t catch the engine number as it went by or catch the engine numbers for 15N or the intermodal.

All this happened in a seven-minute stretch from 9:43 to 9:50 a.m. It would take until 10:13 a.m for the next train to go by, another CSX K train with 1267 on the tanks.

This one was lead by BNSF 5846 solo on the lead and Canadian Pacifuc 8145 solo on the rear.

Ten minutes later NS 21Z passed behind 4263 plus one. The 15N was being held at CP 197 for 21Z and the earlier intermodal that passed it as it came past BE Tower.

The 15N crew radioed in for a “how long we going to be here? We’ve got Olmsted Falls completely blocked.”

I’m not sure where their head end was, but the last few cars were still in the interlocking at BE.

“”You’ll go west after 21Z. Recrew at Fairlane.”

A very short and inefficient 26E was next at 10:31 a.m. with 8085 plus one. Ten minutes behind them was I2K, a second section of 22K, which rolled by behind NS 4111 plus one.

I had 11 a.m. pegged as my departure time, but scratching on the CSX radio channel as the bells at St. Adelbert’s Church sounded the hour kept me there for a few more minutes.

CSX has another K Train, tankers with 1267 placards, the third one of the day. This one was led by CSX 5378 plus one. It was OSed at 11:08 a.m.

There was more action in the pipeline with NS 309 working Rockport. Akron Railroad Club president Todd Dillon texted me that NS had an oil train coming west at Hudson where he was hanging out.

But it was now time for me to leave. Attendance at this year’s turkey shoot was down from previous years, which is not surprising due to the virus concerns.

Yet it was still an enjoyable morning of train watching at a busy location. Let’s hope for better times next year.

Article by Marty Surdyk

RRE Cancels November Meeting, Will Still Hold Turkey Shoot

November 10, 2020

The Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts in Cleveland has canceled its November meeting, which was to have been held on Friday (Nov. 13).

The RRE will, though, hold its annual “turkey shoot” in Berea on Thanksgiving morning (Nov. 26).

Members and guests will gather at the west end of the Berea Union Station Restaurant for a morning of train watching.

There will be an optional breakfast get together at the Dunkin Donuts, 789 Front St., in Berea, which opens at 5 a.m.

The RRE event will begin around 7 a.m. and last until the last person heads home to eat Thanksgiving dinner.

The Thanksgiving outing was started by Mark Demaline and Bob Todten in 1975.

Classic Berea Image

August 26, 2020

The wayback machine has been set to Oct. 1, 2005, which doesn’t sound like it was all that long ago but it’s been almost 15 years.

Norfolk Southern has been the owner of the former Conrail Chicago Line for six years but some motive power in its original CR blue is still there to be seen and photographed.

Such is the case with NS 6741 leading a westbound past Berea Tower in a classic pose that photographers are still able to get.

BE Tower still stands but the signals shown here have been replaced.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Berea Train Watching to be Featured on WVIZ

August 6, 2020

Train watching in Berea will be the subject of a program set to air on Friday night on WVIZ-TV in Cleveland during the program Applause.

It will be the second time this year that Berea has been featured. An earlier story was broadcast in May by National Public Radio affiliate WCPN-FM and rebroadcast on Wednesday.

The earlier story featured the views of railfan  Joe Kurilec and indicated that Berea is one of the most popular railfanning site in the country because mainlines of CSX and Norfolk Southern pass each other there.

Kirlec said in the story that he grew up along the former Nickel Plate Road tracks along West 27th Street in Cleveland and his grandmother would taken him down to the tracks when he was a child to watch trains.

The story noted that most railfans park at the far west end of the parking lot for a restaurant now housed in the former Big Four depot in Berea.

The story said as many as 100 trains a day pass through Berea, a figure that is dated given that the number of trains operated by Class 1 railroads has fallen during following the onset of the precision scheduled railroading operating model combined with the COVID-19 pandemic that has depressed rail freight traffic.

The ‘Unofficial’ McKay Day

May 4, 2020

Q166 appears with its customary Canadian Pacific motive power.

Jason Worcester (standing), Dennis Taksar and Alex Bruchac watch the reduced rail action in Berea.

Alex Bruchac takes it easy as a westbound CSX train approaches in Berea.

This year’s Dave McKay Day event in Berea was officially cancelled, but unofficially it was a success. Six current and former members attended.

At least that’s who I saw; it’s possible there were others.

In attendance were Todd Dillon, Brian Szemon Alex Bruchec, Dennis Taksar, Jason Worcester and Richard Thompson.

There were many others there as well whether they knew it was Dave McKay day or not.

The parking lots were full as it turned out to be a pretty nice day although a bit windy with a high of 73 degrees.

We ended up with about 24 trains that we either saw or knew about.

Two Norfolk Southern heritage paint units and an Operation Lifesaver went by but in true club tradition we missed them all.

The Erie on the 15N arrived at 8:15 a.m. and the Central of Georgia was on 14N, which went by during lunch break.

An Operation Lifesaver unit was on 24Z which also went by before anyone arrived.

That left the most interesting power on CSX trains Q166 and Q165 which are the Canadian Pacific run-through trains.

The Q166 had CP power while Q165 had CP and Union Pacific power.

Two oil or ethanol trains 66Z and 66J, which would have run on the Fort Wayne Line a couple weeks ago but now run through Bellevue and Cleveland, added to the train count.

Missing from the train count was 22K which now takes the connection at Vermillion and bypasses Berea.

We left around 5 p.m. as there was only one westbound train on both NS and CSX which were still east of Cleveland.

On Sunday morning I returned for a few hours and got six NS and one CSX train.

In summary traffic levels are way down from previous years.

Part of this is due to the precision scheduled railroading operating model that favors longer and fewer trains, but part is the downturn in the economy with rail freight traffic levels dropping 30 percent or more in the first quarter.

A couple trains were huge. NS Train 310, for example, had two mid train DPUs and was basically two full-length trains combined.

The lone CSX train on Sunday morning was an empty tank and grain train combined.

Had these trains run separately, which they easily could have been, the train count would have increased.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

15 Years of McKay Day Memories

May 2, 2020

Marty Surdyk photographs a westbound Norfolk Southern manifest freight during the 2013 Akron Railroad Club Dave McKay Day in Berea.

More than likely I first met the late David McKay in Berea. I didn’t know him by name then, only as a guy who would show up on Saturday morning with another fellow who needed assistance in moving.

I don’t know if we ever were formally introduced, but in time we got to know each other and would talk between watching trains go by.

He sometimes would talk about a railroad club to which he belonged in Akron and that got me to thinking it might be fun to join that group.

Little did I know at the time that I would one day succeed Dave as president of the Akron Railroad Club.

Dave died in late 2004 after serving as ARRC president for 12 years, which at the time the the longest tenure of anyone to hold the office since the club evolved into the ARRC in the late 1940s.

Since 2005 ARRC has held an annual outing known as Dave McKay Day in Berea. Until the 2019 event it was held on the first Saturday in April.

The weather in Northeast Ohio in early April can be quite varied ranging from from summer-like weather with temperatures in the low 80s to January conditions with heavy snow and cold. Sometimes the weather can change rapidly on a single day.

So in 2019 the club changed McKay Day to early May. This year’s event, though, was called off due to the social distancing restricting imposed by the State of Ohio during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was to have been held today although at least one ARRC member plans to still railfan in Berea in an unofficial celebration of McKay Day.

In looking back at 15 years of McKay Day outings, one constant has been that the two railroads lines that pass through Berea have always been owned by Norfolk Southern and CSX and you could count on seeing a high volume of traffic, long lulls notwithstanding.

You also could count on a variety of traffic although in some years the motive power was a steady progression of NS and CSX units.

For this report I drew on my own memories of McKay days supplemented by the reports published in the ARRC Bulletin.

I chose one photograph for each year to represent that year’s event in some manner while collectively providing an overview of what we saw over the past 15 years.

April 2, 2005

The inaugural McKay Day was less a railfan outing than a celebration of the release of Dave’s book, Trackside Around Cleveland 1965-1979 with Dave McKay.

The book had been printed shortly before Dave’s death on Dec. 27, 2004, the same month he retired as president of the ARRC, a post he had held since 1993.

But Dave never saw a copy of his book, which was published by Morning Sun Books and printed shortly before his death.

The event was held in a restored rail car that is part of the restaurant housed in Berea’s former Big Four passenger station.

The 80 to 100 attendees ate hors d’oeuvres and a cake decorated for the occasion.

Those who had ordered Dave’s book or bought it at the event received a copy with a memorial edition sticker affixed to the first page that contained a facsimile of Dave’s signature.

Some of the proceeds from books sales went toward the expense of the McKay bronze memorial plaque that sits near the tree where Dave used to set up a folding chair on weekends to watch and photograph trains in Berea.

Between four to six inches of snow fell during the inaugural McKay event and I didn’t make any photographs that day so my representative image shows the first day sticker in my copy of Dave’s book.

April 4, 2006

The first McKay Day to be billed as a railfanning event drew 17 participants who saw 66 trains over 12 hours. The rule established that day as to the train count was that so long as someone saw a train in Berea it counted. That rule was later expanded to include trains seen outside of Berea provided the train would pass through the Berea interlocking or had already done so.

It was not a good day for photography. Although the temperature was in the low 50s, the skies were cloudy and there was a brisk wind.

My image for that day shows an eastbound coal train on CSX with Union Pacific motive power. Looking for foreign power would be a pursuit of every McKay Day and in the early 2000s coal trains were still a common sight.

April 7, 2007

It snowed again. Those who braved the winter conditions saw 49 trains in 10 hours. My highlight of that day is Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited passing BE tower in an image I made from the Front Street grade crossing of the NS Chicago Line. No. 48’s appearance surprised us but I was ready for it. It would be the only McKay Day in which Amtrak made an appearance while an ARRC member was present.

April 5, 2008

At last we had good weather with the temperature topping out at 58 degrees. The day began with fog but it eventually burned off. Between 6:45 a.m. and 9:05 p.m. we logged 70 trains.

My image for that year is a crowd standing near the McKay memorial watching an eastbound CSX train pulled by a motive power consist that included two NS units. It wasn’t a common sight then or now in Berea to see motive power of the other railroad on “enemy” tracks.

The report in the Bulletin said 17 ARRC members attended with some bringing friends and family members as can be seen here.

April 4, 2009

It was sunny although quite cool when the day began. By the afternoon it had turned pleasant. There were 18 ARRC members on hand and counting their friends and family members total attendance was 35. These were the halcyon days for the McKay event as far as attendance. Shown is a westbound on NS passing BE tower with a BNSF leader. The NS Cleveland terminal banner on the side of the tower has a photograph made by ARRC members and then NS conductor Roger Durfee. The train log showed 45 trains that day.

April 3, 2010

This was a memorable McKay Day for me because it was only the second time I had been able to get out and photograph railroad operations. In January I had had retina surgery on my left eye and the recovery precluded railfaning for a couple months.

The day began sunny and the high temperature reached the low 80s.

Construction of the Front Street bridges over the NS and CSX tracks was underway and those of us who were there in the morning spent our time on the bridge.

However, in late afternoon a front moved through and the temperatures dropped into the low 60s in short order. It was a busy day on the railroad though and we logged 67 trains.

A highlight of the day was ARRC member and then NS locomotive engineer David Mangold getting called to take train 15N west from Rockport yard.

Seven of us gathered in Olmsted Falls to watch Dave go past as he gave us plenty of horn and bell.

My image for the day shows a westbound CSX tank car train that I made from the Front Street bridge because of how much I enjoyed being able to hang out there.

April 2, 2011

It was another busy day with 71 trains logged over 15 hours. Former ARRC member Tony Dannemiller was at the throttle of an eastbound CSX train that came through during the afternoon. Otherwise there weren’t that many highlights that day.

Even my chosen image of a westbound NS train passing beneath the new signals by BE tower is pretty ho hum. Yet it features the new signals that NS had installed to replaced the venerable Type G signal heads that dated to the New York Central days.

I remember enjoying dinner at a Mexican restaurant that used to operate on Front Street with some of the guys, including Alex Bruchac.

April 7, 2012

The weather was pleasant with sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s. The 16 attendees logged 49 trains, which was probably lower than the previous two years because guys were not arriving as early or staying as late. Few of the trains we saw on this day had foreign power leading. It was my first McKay Day after switching to digital photography and my image for the day was made on the Front Street bridge of an eastbound CSX stack train in good morning light passing the Berea station, which would be the site of many an enjoyable dinner during future McKay Days.

April 6, 2013

It was the first McKay Day after NS created its heritage units fleet. We didn’t see any NS heritage locomotives, but we did meet one of the co-founders of the website Heritageunits.com. He was there with a large video camera. The ARRC Bulletin described the trains we saw as work-a-day CSX and NS because we only saw two sets of foreign power all day.

It was a busy day, though, with 62 trains logged between 8 a.m. and midnight.

In looking at my images there wasn’t much that caught my eye and it didn’t help that the weather alternated between cloudy and sunny.

I chose an image of the conductor of a westbound CSX train watching the assembled railfans.

That evening some of us had dinner at the restaurant in the Berea Big Four station, a tradition that continued for a few more years.

April 5, 2014

It would be the first of three McKays days to feature the NS Wabash heritage unit. This year it was a trailing unit on NS train 15N and it would be the only time that anyone photographed it.

It was the first McKay Day at which I was the first to arrive and among the last to leave. The 15 attendees logged 65 trains between 8 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.

The image for this year is a Wheeling & Lake Erie train transitioning from CSX to NS in Berea. In the early years of McKay Day the W&LE train to Campbell Road yard on NS was a regular, but by now sightings of it had become scarce.

April 4, 2015

The good news is that the Wabash H unit made an encore performance. Better yet it was the leader on crude oil train 67W.

The bad news is that it was almost dark when it came through and no one got a photograph. We only saw it while having dinner at The Station restaurant.

We logged 69 trains during the day. The Bulletin report said the record was 74, but in going through the newsletter year by year I was unable to verify what year that was. If anything that number appears to be a case of faulty memory.

It was sunny but chilly and it became windy late in the afternoon.

There was a range of foreign power to see, including units of Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, BNSF, Union Pacific and Kansas City Southern.

I chose one of those trains, an eastbound tanker train on CSX led by BNSF power, as the image for that year’s event.

At one point we could see headlights of three westbound trains at the same time split between NS and CSX.

A Loram railgrinder came through on CSX and we saw 13 trains while having dinner.

April 2, 2016

The day’s highlight was the Dave Mangold show on the NS road channel.

Dave was called to recrew a 16G and take it from the Berea siding, where it was tied down, to Conway Yard near Pittsburgh.

As soon as Dave got into the cab of the lead unit he reported it lacked operating cab signals.

It would be the first of many lengthy discussions Dave would have with the dispatcher and the NS trouble desk in Atlanta.

Among other things Dave discussed his problems logging into the computer on the second unit, which did have functioning cab signals, and oil seeping out onto the walkway of another unit.

There was also a lot of discussion about how Dave would take cut the motive power away from the train, take it down to the Knob and spin it on the wye there before returning to Berea and tying back onto his train.

All of this started in late afternoon and by the time we left that evening Dave still had not left town.

Only three people showed up, perhaps because of the unpleasant weather which was as varied as any McKay Day.

The morning was sun and clouds conditions but by afternoon intermittent snow showers had moved in followed by partial clearing and then overcast skies.

During dinner with Todd Dillon and Paul Woodring at the Berea station restaurant we saw 10 of the 54 trains that I logged for the day.

There were no heritage units sighted, but we did see the NS GoRail unit.

My image from this day shows a westbound CSX train with a clear signal while up ahead the skies look ominous in a bit of foreshadowing of what was to come.

Another memorable event from the day involved a guy who was not part of our group. He had set up his camera on a tripod next to his vehicle.

As he sat in the vehicle gust of wind blew the tripod over and it landed on the ground camera first, breaking the camera into two pieces. He left shortly after that happened.

April 1, 2017.

Once again the NS Wabash heritage unit showed up and once again no one got a photograph of it.

It was leading NS Train 394 and we knew it was coming but when it got to us it caught us by surprise.

We might have gotten photographs of NS 1070 had we gone to dinner at the Berea station restaurant when we had planned and not tarried to get a photograph of a westbound CSX train.

By the time NS 294 arrived at 6:19 p.m. we were getting up from the dinner table and not everyone even saw it.

Attendance was 12 and we logged 49 trains between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The day was overcast and chilly until the sun broke through about 5:30 p.m.

This was the first McKay Day after E. Hunter Harrison had taken over CSX and implemented the precision scheduled railroading model.

That was the subject of some conversation between a CSX dispatcher and trains crew during the morning.

That same dispatcher also read a pertinent passage over the radio word for word from the CSX rule book regarding inspecting a train carrying hazardous materials after said train went into emergency twice while en route to Collinwood Yard on the Short Line.

Part of the discussion involved whether an eastbound intermodal train on another track could pass the train at restricted speed or even at all.

The dispatcher said he had checked with his boss who in turn had checked with his boss.

The image of that day’s event shows a westbound CSX auto rack train after dinner. Where was that good weather earlier when we needed it.

April 7, 2018

From the perspective of diversity of traffic, this was easily my favorite McKay Day.

During a day that was sunny but cool, we logged more than 40 trains – I didn’t get a firm count – and saw the NS GoRail unit leading the 17N, the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit leading the 65N and a Southern Belle of Kansas City Southern leading CSX Q272.

I also saw the W&LE train and a Pan Am Railways SD40-2 in the motive power consist of NS Train 309.

Any of those would have made a good image for the day, but I chose an image of three NS eastbounds at the west end of the CP194 interlocking plant. They are, left to right, the 16T, 294 and M6G.

Getting the Pennsy H unit was not without some drama. As it approached on the Lake Front line we could see a westbound headlight on CSX.

The PRR H unit and its train beat the CSX train into Berea by just two minutes.

We got hosed from photographing a BNSF warbonnet on an NS train when it was blocked by another NS train coming through Berea as the same time.

The tradition of eating dinner at the Berea station restaurant ended this year, in part because the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts was having its annual banquet on this night at Tony K’s restaurant in Berea.

Before I headed for Tony K’s I saw two former Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus train cars pass through on a westbound NS manifest freight. It was that kind of day where there was much to see.

There were 10 attendees, some of them members of both ARRC and the RRE.

May 4, 2019

Thinking the weather in early May would be more favorable then early April, the ARRC officers moved McKay day to the first Saturday in May.

As it turned out the weather on the first Saturday in April was better than the foggy and overcast conditions of the first Saturday in May.

There were six in attendance and no one stayed beyond mid afternoon. Also ending was the tradition of keeping a train log.

I only made a handful of photographs and spent more time watching than photographing trains.

My image for the day is CSX train Q020 coming out of the fog shortly before 8 a.m.

Summary

As I was compiling information for this report I was reminded of how many ARRC members are now deceased, those who have since left the club and those who attended McKay Day in some years but have since stopped coming.

It used to be standard operating procedure to take a group photograph at the McKay memorial in the afternoon, but we last did that in 2015 and even then there were just four people in the photograph, two of whom were former members.

Although the event is described as way to remember Dave, in truth we seldom talked about him during the the day named for him.

I wonder how many current active ARRC members knew Dave, who conducted his last ARRC meeting in November 2004 and died about a month later.

Looking at my photographs over a 15-year span also reminded me that although the railroads are the same their operations have changed.

There are fewer trains now and both railroads are mingling traffic that used to operate in single-commodity trains.

Some commodities are seen far less often now, coal most notably but even crude oil shipments aren’t what they used to be due to market changes.

It wasn’t just the trains we saw that I remember from McKay days, though. It was the people we met and the conversations and camaraderie that we shared between trains.

McKay Day was typically the ARRC’s first railfan event of the year and it felt good to get out regardless of the weather.

It was not unlike opening day in baseball, a day of optimism that anything this year is possible even if it’s not always likely.

At one time or another McKay Day featured everything on rails you could expect to see in Berea.

Had he been able to join us I’m sure Dave would have enjoyed it.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders