Posts Tagged ‘Railfanning in Berea Ohio’

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

BE tower April 2-x

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

Berea snow

Berea snow2

Berea snow3

Berea snow4

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:

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.

‘McKay Day’ at Berea is this Saturday

March 30, 2016

The Akron Railroad Club’s 12th annual Dave McKay Day will be held in Berea on Saturday, April 2.

The outing is held in memory of the ARRC’s longest-serving president. McKay served as president for 12 years before stepping down in December 2004.

ARRC logoAs always, ARRC members, guests and friends are invited to spend the day in Berea watching the action on the Norfolk Southern and CSX mainlines.

We can expect to see a diverse mixture of traffic on both railroads, including intermodal, automotive, manifest, minerals and tank car trains carrying crude oil or ethanol.

The trains of both railroads sometimes feature locomotives from other railroads, particularly BNSF, Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific and Canadian National.

CP has a pair of run-through trains between Chicago and Buffalo, New York, that use CSX tracks. At least one of those might pass through during our time in Berea.

The outing begins when the first member arrives and ends when the last person leaves.

It will be early April so who knows what kind of weather we will have. Past McKay Days have featured everything from shirt sleeve temperatures to heavy snow.

A few members have been having dinner at the end of the day at the Berea Union Depot Taverne. That tradition will continue this year.

Parking is available in the far west end of the restaurant parking lot or across Depot Street on private property owned by railfan Ed Gibbs.

The radio frequencies in use by trains in Berea are 161.070 and 160.980 on NS and 160.800 and 160.860 on CSX.

Colorful Sunset in Berea

March 18, 2016

Berea sunset1-x

By the time I got to Berea, the light of day had begun to rapidly diminish. I had just over two hours to kill before going to the meeting of the Railroad Enthusiasts and had brought my camera along.

You just never know what you might see that you’ll want to photograph.

The skies had been a mixture of blue and clouds, which would turn out to be an advantage as the last rays of light peaked over the horizon.

Getting the most colorful images during a sunset is a combination of art and science, but one key is to understand that those vivid colors are going to be very short-lived.

Nearly as soon as nature puts on a display of brilliant colors, they are taken away. You better move fast and you better have some luck if you hope to juxtapose a sunset with a moving train.

I caught a little of everything during my time in Berea with the help of a westbound CSX auto rack train.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The lead unit of a westbound CSX auto rack train.

The lead unit of a westbound CSX auto rack train.

A "fiery" auto rack. The effect is created by sunlight coming through crevices and openings.

A “fiery” auto rack. The effect is created by sunlight coming through crevices and openings.

Chasing the setting sun toward the Greenwich Subdivision of CSX.

Chasing the setting sun toward the Greenwich Subdivision of CSX.

Compare and contrast this image with the one below. The colors of a sunset can vary in the span of a few minutes.

Compare and contrast this image with the one below. The colors of a sunset can vary in the span of a few minutes.

Berea sunset6-x

Not So Super Bowl Sunday Outing in Berea

February 15, 2016
The catch of the day was a CSX leader and a Citirail trailing unit on a westbound on NS.

The catch of the day was a CSX leader and a Citirail trailing unit on a westbound on NS.

Trying to get artistic with an eastbound CSX intermodal train.

Trying to get artistic with an eastbound CSX intermodal train.

The first train of the day for me featured a Union Pacific trailing unit and some interesting side lighting.

The first train of the day for me featured a Union Pacific trailing unit and some interesting side lighting.

The only train on CSX that I saw that wasn't toting containers or trailers.

The only train on CSX that I saw that wasn’t toting containers or trailers.

I’ve had an unofficial practice of spending part of Super Bowl Sunday on a railfanning expedition.

The idea came to me while reading an article in the Akron Railroad Club Bulletin that had been written by Marty Surdyk about a Super Bowl Sunday escapade that he went on with his brother Robert.

It might have been back in the Conrail days, it was that long ago.

I don’t know why, but the idea of railfanning on Super Bowl Sunday sounded interesting to me. Maybe it is because Super Bowl Sunday is an unofficial holiday in and of itself.

I also don’t know remember the first time that I actually railfanned on Super Bowl Sunday.

For a couple of years, Marty, Ed Ribinskas and I railfanned in Lake County on Super Bowl Sunday.

You will hear about one of those outings during the program being given by Marty at the February ARRC meeting. That day was special because of unusual winter conditions and remains one of Marty’s favorite outings.

The three of us couldn’t get together for this year’s Super Bowl because of schedule conflicts.

So I went solo to Berea. I wasn’t expecting anything special and the outing matched my expectations. The weather was nice, being cool with sun and clouds.

The most unusual movement – if you can call it that – was a westbound train on Norfolk Southern with a CSX leader and a Citirail trailing unit.

I seldom get to see Citirail units, which are among the most attractive lease units on the market.

I know there is or was a CSX train that uses NS between Cleveland and Toledo. Maybe this was that train or maybe it was an NS train with CSX power.

Otherwise, the offerings were pretty much what you would expect to see during an afternoon at Berea on any given Sunday.

CSX traffic was sporadic and most of it was intermodal trains with a crude oil train thrown into the mix. CSX just doesn’t seem to be running as many trains as it once did.

NS traffic provided to be more steady and diverse. So NS is still NS when it comes to traffic.

It may not have been the most interesting outing I’ve had, but at least I had a better day than did Cam Newton.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Sunset on the Penn Central (H Unit That is)

February 14, 2016


It was getting to be almost 6 p.m. and we had a banquet to get to. The cocktail hour would be starting in less than 15 minutes. The sunlight was fast slipping away.

But we also more important business to finish first. Norfolk Southern No. 1073 was leading a westbound crude oil tankers train through Cleveland and were were not going to miss it.

It has been several months since I’ve caught an NS heritage unit.

The cocktail hour for the annual dinner of the Forest City Division-Railroad Enthusiasts at Tony K’s restaurant in Berea could wait. The Penn Central heritage unit was coming.

As it turned out, there was just enough light to get a decent image. In fact, it was more than decent with the last rays of sunlight illuminating a billowing cumulus cloud in the background.

Train 65K has a clear signal on track No. 1 at CP 194, which most know as Berea. Despite temperatures in the teens and a wind chill that made it feel much colder, a small group of fans lined the NS Chicago Line tracks on both sides.

This made my friend, Adam Barr, and I two for two in getting NS heritage units on the day of the RRE banquet. Last year we caught the Central of New Jersey heritage unit in a snowstorm in Vermilion.

The engineer sounded the horn in greeting us as the train passed by. Then it was off to the banquet and a glass of Columbus Brewing Company IPA to go along with the tales we told of how we got the PC H unit.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Consolation Prize? Not Quite, but Maybe

February 8, 2016

CP at Berea

There’s a story behind this photograph of Canadian National No. 8896 leading CSX train Q165 westward through Berea that is not obvious from looking at the image. But that is true of most back stories.

The story began about two weeks earlier. It was mostly sunny day and I wanted to watch trains.

I had not been railfanning in more than a month. I initially went to Olmsted Falls where the most exciting thing I saw was one locomotive pulling one boxcar.

The plan was to spend some time in the Falls and then bop over to Berea to catch some more NS and some CSX.

I pulled into the lots used by railfans by Berea Union Depot Taverne. I got out of my car and got back in on the passenger side.

I had scarcely settled into my seat when I heard the rumble of an approaching locomotive. It was westbound Q165 and the CP unit on the lead gleamed nice and bright in the winter sunlight.

I grabbed my camera, but it was too late to even get a shot through the window, let along to get out of the car for a grab shot.

If only I had looked down the tracks to see if there was an eastbound on CSX. Woulda, coulda, shoulda but I didn’t. I spent the rest of the day beating myself up over that missed photo.

It wasn’t long before clouds began rolling in and that nice sunlight vanished. By the time CSX ran another westbound through Berea the skies had turned cloudy.

That was then and this is now. Fellow Akron Railroad Club members Marty Surdyk, Ed Ribinskas and I decided to get together for lunch on a Sunday afternoon at the BUDT.

Afterwards we hung around for a while to watch trains.

With heavy overcast skies it was not a good day to make photographs although I had my camera next to me.

It was about time to head home when Marty said he wanted to check out the Dave McKay plaque. We got out to walk down there and on a whim I went back to get my camera.

This time I did look down the CSX tracks and did see a train coming. I wasn’t inclined to photograph it given the low light.

But as the headlight got closer I zoomed out my telephone lens to take a look. The nose was all red. It was the Q165 and it had two CP units in the motive power consist.

Had it been a CSX locomotive or a rent-a-wreck I probably would have put down my camera. But the memory of missing the last CP locomotive in Berea that I had seen was still fresh in my mind.

This time I was ready. The image is not as good as what I could have made two weeks earlier in the bright sunlight.

But who knows? Someday I might look at this image and it will bring back fond memories. That’s the nice thing about photographs. How you feel about them today is not necessarily how you will feel about them months or even years from now.

For now it will be a reminder to always look down the track when you arrive at a photo location because you never know what might be bearing down on you.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders


A Little of the Bay State in Berea

January 29, 2016

NBTA 2000 (MP40PH-3C) at Berea

I was sitting in Berea one day last fall when a westbound CSX train approached. As usual, I looked at the lead locomotive, saw that it was a CSX unit and sat back in my seat.

Then the train got closer and I spotted something looking very foreign trailing in the motive power consist.

It was Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority HSP-46 No. 2000. If that model designation seems foreign to you, it was to me, too.

An HSP-46 is a 4,650 horsepower, four-axle locomotive built by MotivePower, Inc., for commuter train service. That means that we won’t be seeing those units very often in Northeast Ohio.

The locomotives are EPA Tier 3 compliant and MBTA was the launch customer. The first HSP-46 to arrive on the property, No. 2001, was delivered to MBTA on Oct. 24, 2013, for testing and training.

No. 2001 began revenue service on April 16, 2014.

So what was No. 2000 doing going westbound and away from Boston? I will never know for sure, but MotivePower is based in Boise, Idaho, and I can only speculate that No. 2000 was headed there to have addressed a mechanical issue.

What I do know is that I could have made a better photo of No. 2000. By the time I realized that this CSX train had something unusual in its motive power consist, it was too late to get out of my car and step back to get in a better position.

So the angle of this image is not what I would have liked. But I still managed to come away with something and something is almost always better than nothing.

Photograph and Article by Craig Sanders