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:
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.
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.
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.
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 it hit, but it needs to be repaired ASAP.