Posts Tagged ‘Railfanning in Berea Ohio’

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.

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.

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

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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

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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

A Few From a Late Year Outing in Berea

December 23, 2016
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A railfan is in position at right to get a photograph of a westbound CSX intermodal train.

I took my camera with during a late November outing in Berea, even though I wasn’t expecting to photograph all that much.

There were no Norfolk Southern heritage units that were likely to come through when I was there and nothing out of the ordinary came past on CSX. Yet it was a mostly sunny day so I kept my camera nearby just in case I saw something interesting.

It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the railroads didn’t seem to be quite back to their normal operations. All of the trains that I saw on CSX were intermodal trains.

But with CSX the way it is these days who can say what is normal. Nonetheless, on a typical day in Berea, CSX can be expected to send through at least a handful of manifest freights.

But none operated on this Sunday afternoon when I was around.

Although NS had a more diverse traffic mix, most of its offerings also were intermodal trains. The most unusual sight that I saw on NS was a tanker train with its lead unit running long hood forward.

The train had arrived at CP Max near Rockport Yard with three units, but the lead unit was cut off because the power desk needed to assign it to a train that needed cab signal leader.

I don’t know if there was any discussion about running a westbound train with a lead unit whose cab faced east. I just know what I saw when the train came through Berea.

With the sun low in the sky, I decided to stick it out until sunset. I was hoping to get a westbound on CSX with low light on the nose of the lead unit.

As the day got late, things starting falling into place to get the image I wanted.

The sunlight reflection on a signal box indicated that the lighting was just what I wanted. To the east I could see the headlight of an approaching intermodal train.

But clouds were gathering to the west and by the time the CSX train arrived, the sunlight was heavily filtered and I was unable to get the image as I had wanted it. I would been able to get it had the train had arrived a couple minutes earlier. Maybe next time.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

There seemed to be a lot of locomotives on this train.

There seemed to be a lot of locomotives on this train.

I got the train, but the lighting was not as ideal as it had been a few minutes later.

I got the train, but the lighting was not as ideal as it had been a few minutes later. The filthy nose didn’t help matters, either.

Chasing the setting sun on CSX in Berea.

Chasing the setting sun on CSX in Berea.

 

I Just Felt Like Shooting a CP Unit

October 14, 2016

 

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I don’t know why, but I just felt like photographing this Canadian Pacific locomotive at Berea.

It’s not leading and there is nothing special about this unit. But it was the first thing I saw when I arrived to spend a few hours on a Sunday morning.

It was a day of sun and clouds and sometimes you got the sun and sometimes you didn’t. Also shown is the eastbound Q158 and the eastbound Q090. In both instances I tried to emphasize the clouds and sky, which were nice on Sunday.

The Q090 is a train that I haven’t seen for awhile. It was also the first time I’d seen it since UP and CSX began teaming up to offer express produce service from Washington State.

Photographs by Craig Sanders

But It Sure Looks Pretty

October 10, 2016
There was no getting blocked by CSX this time as the Virginian heritage locomotive passes through Berea.

There was no getting blocked by CSX this time as the Virginian heritage locomotive passes through Berea as had happened three years ago.

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The engineer of Norfolk Southern train 15J wasn’t all that pleased with her lead locomotive.

She was exchanging greetings with a crew member on an eastbound train as they passed between CP Max and Berea.

The lead unit on the 15J wasn’t pulling as well as she would have liked and there had been a problem with the horn.

“But it sure looks pretty,” she said after listing the engine’s shortcomings.

Indeed it did for it was NS No. 1069, the Virginian heritage unit wearing its bright yellow and black livery that has prompted some wags to call it the bumble bee.

The 1069 and a trailing unit passed through Berea on late Sunday morning.

I had expected to see the Virginian working solo because the engineer had made reference to having a one unit wonder. Maybe the trailing unit was off line.

It was the second time that I’ve seen No. 1069 at Berea. The first sighting occurred on Oct. 5, 2013, and I had dashed over from the Great Berea Train Show to catch it despite rainy and cloudy conditions.

Yes, I saw the 1069, but it was obscured by a passing CSX intermodal train. And the 1069 was trailing.

I also got blocked this time, too. CSX train Q158 — also an intermodal train — was bearing down on Berea as the 15J approached.

But this time there was enough separation to get clear images of the 1069.

Interestingly, I’ve seen a handful of NS heritage units in Berea, but the 1069 is the first one I’ve bagged that was leading. All the others had been trailing. There was no failing this time.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

So Where Was Quality Control?

May 28, 2016

Different numbers

It’s pretty obvious that the number boards are not the same on this CSX C40-8 as it led the Q113 through Berea.

One number is much larger than the other. My guess is that the number with the larger numerals is original while the smaller numerals are more modern.

No. 7583 has been around the CSX system for awhile, having been built by General Electric in September 1989. It probably has been through Berea numerous times. Maybe this is not the first time I’ve seen it or even photographed it.

I didn’t notice the difference in the number boards until I was looking at my photographs after having downloaded them.

I think I know what happened here. The shop needed to get the 7583 back on the road and a foreman said to put on whatever numerals were available. So long as the numbers on the right and left matched, the unit was good to go.

Perhaps some day No. 7583 will have matching number boards. But given all of the things that need the attention of the mechanical department, that is probably not high on the priority list.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Different From All The Others

May 27, 2016

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I made this photograph because I liked the contrast of the direct early morning sunlight on BE Tower with the dark clouds behind it.

It is a Saturday morning on the Akron Railroad Club’s annual Dave McKay Day last April. I had walked down to the area east of the former Big Four depot, which is now a restaurant, to photograph an eastbound CSX train passing the station.

The sun was in and out of the clouds. As I was about to get back to my car, it popped out again and I just had to make this image.

I’ve seen and photographed BE Tower dozens of times over the years, but there was something about this image that made it different than all of the others.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

What McKay Day Could Have Looked Like

April 10, 2016

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When I raised the prospect at the March meeting of the Akron Railroad Club of seeing snow on the April 2 Dave McKay Day in Berea, some in the audience grimaced. It was as though they thought I was jinxing the event.

In fact, there was snow on McKay Day, although it didn’t arrive until the mid-afternoon hours.

We were fortunate, though, that our outing in Berea was on April 2 and not April 9.

I spent a few hours in Berea on Saturday and not only was there snow on the ground and in the air, but the temperatures were in the high 20s.

It might have been chilly on McKay Day, but it was downright cold the Saturday following.

There has been snow and even heavy snow on McKay Day before, most notably during the first one and during a subsequent outing. But recent years have seen early April being dry and even pleasantly warm.

But not this year, though. Here are a few scenes of what might have been had the ARRC annual outing in Berea been the second Saturday in April this year.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Changing Weather, Trains, Dave Mangold Kept Attendees of 2016 ARRC McKay Day Entertained

April 4, 2016
There was plenty of blue sky as the 2016 Dave McKay Day got underway on Saturday. Shown is CSX westbound manifest freight Q381.

There was plenty of blue sky as the 2016 Dave McKay Day got underway on Saturday. Shown is CSX westbound manifest freight Q381.

Between the ever-changing weather conditions and David Mangold’s late afternoon radio show, the three Akron Railroad Club members who ventured to Berea on Saturday, April 2 for the 12th annual Dave McKay Day had plenty to entertain them.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I counted 54 train movements through the interlocking plant during my nearly 12 hours in Berea.

I arrived around 8:30 a.m. just after the eastbound 34N of Norfolk Southern had cleared. At the time, there was plenty of blue sky overhead, particularly to the north and east.

Sun and clouds would be the rule for the next six hours, just as the forecast I had read online had predicted.

But when the weather turned, it did so quickly. First came intermittent snow showers followed by partial clearing. Then the clouds rolled back in with a vengeance and overcast skies rules as rain moved in.

It was about then that Paul Woodring, Todd Dillon and I decided it was time for dinner at the Berea Union Depot Taverne.

Dinner was good. Todd and Paul had the chicken Parmesan special while I opted for the horseradish crusted salmon.

Ten trains passed by as we ate dinner, including the CSX trash trains in each direction just a few minutes apart.

The train traffic for the day was higher than I had expected given how traffic on CSX seems to be down these days.

CSX ran a number of monster-sized manifest freights and intermodal trains. The Q393 had more than 800 axles, according to the Columbia detector, and was following a 13,000-foot stack train.

All told, I spotted 22 CSX trains during the day to go with 32 NS trains.

The day’s lineup was varied and included about everything you could expect to see in Berea on any given day.

The motive power, though, was mostly home grown with fewer “foreign” units than you might hope to see.

The only train with a “foreign power” leader was the Q166, which had a pair of Canadian Pacific units pulling. But Q166 is a CP run-through train that uses CSX tracks between Chicago and Buffalo, New York, so CP power is the norm on that train.

We did see, though, units of BNSF, Union Pacific and Canadian National.

No NS heritage units made an appearance, but we did catch the GoRail unit, which was the second locomotive on the 20R.

Prior to any ARRC member arriving in Berea, the Savannah & Atlanta heritage unit had led an eastbound through at 2:21 a.m. Amtrak’s phase III heritage unit, No. 145, led the eastbound Lake Shore Limited through before dawn.

Had any of us stayed until 10 p.m., we would have seen Soo Line 6026 on a CSX westbound, albeit trailing.

We did see, though, as we ate dinner the NS 889, an RPU6D slug, which was in the motive power consist of the westbound 15K.

Another interesting sight was an eastbound light power move. The second of the two units had visible damage to the lower portion of its nose from having hit something.

Traffic was heaviest before 1:30 p.m., with 27 movements. The longest lull was 53 minutes in early afternoon.

Off the rails, a guy was in Berea with locomotive horns attached to the bed of his pick-up truck that he seemed to enjoy blowing every so often.

Then there was the guy who pulled in with a fancy SUV who set up a camera on a tripod. When the wind kicked up he took refuge in his vehicle.

I watched in horror as the lightweight tripod blew over and landed camera first on the concrete edge of the parking lot. I saw him pick it up in two pieces and shortly thereafter he left.

I’ll give the guy credit for keeping his cool when he realized what had happened. Most guys, myself included, would have cursed and done so rather loudly once we spotted the broken camera.

As for Dave’s radio show, he was the assigned hogger for the 16G, which arrived in Berea siding around 2:30 p.m.

The Cleveland Terminal dispatcher told the inbound crew that the replacement crew would go on duty at 3 p.m. By the time that crew arrived at its train, it was late afternoon.

No sooner had the engineer and conductor settled in, we heard a familiar voice over the radio. It was Dave informing the dispatcher that the lead unit of the 16G lacked cab signals.

Dave also was unable to log into the computer on board one of the units, which necessitated the first of multiple radio conversations he had with the NS help desk.

The person at the help desk suggested that Dave’s password had expired. The guy was able to enter Dave’s login and determine that, well, the password had not expired and he couldn’t explain why Dave was having trouble logging in. Dave tried it again and it must have worked.

Having determined that the cab signals in the second unit were working, Dave and the dispatcher discussed making a spin move to turn the power because the nose of the second unit was facing west. The spin move could have been done at Rockport but a train was occupying one of the needed tracks.

The dispatcher suggested taking the power to the Knob and turning it there. Shortly after Dave agreed to do that, a voice came over the radio saying, “you’ll need bulletin orders for that, David.”

The dispatcher agreed to have them printed and Dave and his conductor would pick them up at the tower in Rockport. We subsequently learned which printer in the tower would be used to print the bulletins.

The 16G had a third unit, but it apparently was dead in tow. In another conversation that Dave had with the help desk, we learned that one of Dave’s units was a type 5. It was the first time I’d heard an NS crew member ask about locomotive type.

It apparently had to do with horsepower or pulling capacity because Dave quipped that he would need every ounce of power the units could muster to get the 16G to Conway.

Wait! There’s more. Dave also reported to the help desk seeing oil on the walkway of one of the units. He didn’t see leaking oil, but suggested that Conway repair the locomotive on Sunday.

The help desk guy asked Dave to tag the unit, which Dave agreed to do.

Because they were cutting power away from the train, the conductor had to set 10 handbrakes. Unfortunately for him, it was raining as he did it.

He and Dave had a few conversations about the air, but I don’t remember the details.

We were awaiting our dinner order when Dave came past bound for the Knob. We had finished and were about to leave when he came back west an hour later.

None of us wanted to stick around to watch Dave finally left Berea siding for Conway. We’re sure, though, that he would have a long day and cashed it in for some overtime.

To view the trains list for the day, click on the following:

https://akronrrclub.wordpress.com/about/activities/2016-dave-mckay-day-in-berea/

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

A clear signal for CSX No. 359 in Berea. The weather in the morning and early afternoon was a mixture of sun and clouds.

A clear signal for CSX No. 359 in Berea. The weather in the morning and early afternoon was a mixture of sun and clouds.

The trailing Canadian Pacific unit is smoking it up a bit as the Q166 charges through Berea.

The trailing Canadian Pacific unit is smoking it up as the Q166 charges through Berea.

Its a coal train. You don't see many of those these days.

Its a coal train. You don’t see many of those these days.

The NS GoRail unit made an appearance in the motive power consist of the 20R. It was a close as we got to bagging a heritage unit.

The NS GoRail unit made an appearance in the motive power consist of the 20R. It was as close as we got to bagging a heritage unit.

Yes, that is snow falling as the NS 20E rolls through Berea during a snow shower around 3:30 p.m.

Yes, that is snow falling as the NS 20E rolls through Berea during a snow shower around 3:30 p.m.

The third unit of the eastbound Q356 is a former Union Pacific locomotive how shown as NWIX 1861.

The third unit of the eastbound Q356 is a former Union Pacific locomotive now shown as being NWIX 1861. It was our sole rent-a-wreck sighting of the day.

We don't know what they hit, but it needs to be repaired ASAP.

We don’t know what it hit, but it needs to be repaired ASAP.