Posts Tagged ‘Railfanning in Greenwich Ohio’

ARRC Memorial Day Weekend Memories

May 27, 2019

Although The May meeting of the Akron Railroad Club meeting almost always is on the Friday leading into the Memorial Day weekend, the club has generally avoided having outings near or on holidays.

It made an exception in 2006. Even though I was in my second year as president then, I don’t recall why we chose the holiday weekend that year for an outing.

The plan was to go to Greenwich, but Marty Surdyk said he would spend the first part of the day at the above ground reservoir in nearby New London.

I’d never been there at the time so I and several others followed his lead and met there in the morning.

Most of the group spent a few hours atop the reservoir, which offers a nice panoramic view of CSX trains on what it today is known as the Greenwich Subdivision.

It can be fun and even instructive to look back at images you made during long-ago photo expeditions to see how much things have changed.

Consider the top photograph of an eastbound passing the reservoir. Note how new the BNSF “War Bonnet” looks. Yet, it had been in service for nine years when this image was made.

Your long ago photographs can also show what hasn’t changed in the intervening years, including the basic Norfolk Southern locomotive livery as seen in the trailing unit behind BNSF 757.

If you’ve seen a War Bonnet, you know that the paint has badly faded on many of them and BNSF has shown no inclination to give them a touch up or refreshing.

The middle image shows a surprise sighting of a caboose still wearing Chessie System colors but with CSX markings along with a liberal amount of graffiti. It was also on the rear of a westbound and we weren’t sure where it was going or why it was traveling there.

By mid afternoon the New London contingent had relocated to Greenwich to join the ARRC members who had spent all day there.

We were watching an oncoming westbound on the former Big Four, which had a signal for a straight move onto what is today the Mt. Victory Subdivision.

Marty was looking at the train through a telephoto lens and proclaimed, “that looks like an F40.”

I didn’t believe him at first. What would a passenger unit be doing pulling a train on a holiday weekend?

But he was correct. CSX F40PH 9992 was pulling three passenger cars from the railroad’s executive fleet.

We speculated that the train was bound for Indianapolis to pick up VIPs attending the Indianapolis 500, which was held that day.

The train had a theater car on the rear but the shades were pulled over the windows, suggesting the train did not have any passengers.

It would be the first and thus far only time that I’ve spotted the CSX executive train.

No. 9992 was built by EMD in August 1981 as Amtrak No. 390. A review of my trip logs shows I’ve ridden behind it twice on Amtrak.

It was on the point of the San Francisco Zephyr when I rode it from Chicago to Denver in October 1981, when it was about two months old. It also led the Cardinal in April 1990 on a trip I rode from Chicago to Indianapolis.

Not too long after the passage of the passenger train, the ARRC outing in Greenwich came to a close. I don’t recall us going anywhere to have dinner together as some guys typically have done at the conclusion of a longest day outing.

And that’s the way it was on May 28, 2006, which has turned out to be the last time the ARRC held an outing in New London or Greenwich.

Circle Trip of Reservoirs and Railroads

June 5, 2018


My original plan for railfanning on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend was to drive down to New London and “recreate” a memorable Akron Railroad Club outing of 2006.

I remember that outing for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that it was billed as a trip to Greenwich but started out in New London because that is where Marty Surdyk wanted it to begin.

We did get to Greenwich, eventually, but not until mid to late afternoon.

I had never been to either location so I had to rely on Marty for directions on getting there.

My memories from that day include seeing the CSX executive train headed westbound through Greenwich, seeing a caboose on an eastbound manifest freight at New London and catching a BNSF warbonnet leading a train at New London.

There was also the emphatic manner in which the late Tim Krogg suggested that it was time to get some bleeping lunch and how Peter Bowler schooled us in how a flock of buzzards is known as a kettle.

I enjoyed that outing so much that I suggested in 2013 that we do it again. It was scheduled, but I was the only person who showed up.

As I was heading west on Interstate 480 I decided to modify my plans.

I would make this a reservoir circle trip with stops in Wellington, New London and Attica. By day’s end I wanted to have photographs of trains and water at four reservoirs, three of them located above ground.

This would hinge, of course, on the cooperation of CSX, which since the onset of scheduled precision railroading has reduced the number of trains it operates. Those that do run tend to be much longer.

Sure enough, CSX was dead when I arrived in Wellington. I would wait 45 minutes before finally hearing an eastbound stack train calling signals on the radio.

Making images of an above-ground reservoir and trains is a challenge because of the distance between the shoreline and the tracks.

If you feature the shoreline that is closet to the rails, you have to use a wide-angle lens, which guarantees you’ll only get a portion of the water. In proportion to the scene the train will be small.

The latter doesn’t bother me but it does some railfan photographers.

You can also try to shoot across the water with a telephoto lens but you might not get the train. Remember, these are above ground reservoirs.

My first catch of the day in Wellington was an eastbound stack train with a pair of BNSF locomotives running elephant style. Not bad.

It was late morning so I decided to move on to New London. But as I was walking toward my car I heard the westbound Q163 stack train calling signals and decided to wait for it.

I tried a different angle, going for the north shoreline that is perpendicular to the tracks. The downside of this view is that I could get very little of the train into the image. Interestingly, the Q163 also had BNSF motive power.

I arrived in New London during another CSX lull that also lasted about 45 minutes.

I could hear other CSX trains on the radio, but nothing that would be coming through New London.

I also heard a Wheeling & Lake Erie train get track authority from Hartland to Spencer, meaning I would have seen it had I stayed in Wellington.

I finally got a train just before noon, an eastbound crude oil train with three BNSF units.

Hmmmm. I’m starting to see a pattern here. Did BNSF buy CSX and I didn’t know about it? Fat chance of that.

My idea was to shoot this train in the same manner that I did the Q163 at Wellington. It would have worked had I been paying more attention to the water and less to the locomotives.

I managed to create an image that didn’t show any of the water.

That would not be the case with the next train, a W&LE train off the Carey
Subdivision carrying stone in gondola cars and a few covered hoppers.

I heard this train get permission from the IP dispatcher in Jacksonville to enter CSX track at Greenwich at GN Tower.

At the time time, I thought this was fantastic news. I would be getting a Wheeling train after all.

Yet when the train showed up, it’s locomotives were both running long hood forward.

At least I got some water in this image and the lead unit is a former BNSF locomotive still in its BNSF colors. That sort of kept my BNSF motive power streak alive.

That streak was snapped when the Q348 showed up with CSX motive power. It stopped at CP 47 to allow the Q008 to pass.

I got the Q008 passing the manifest freight and some water.

The chatter on the radio indicated that more trains were coming, including the Q010 so I stayed a little longer at New London.

That paid off when a westbound auto rack train came past with a CREX (Citirail) ES44AC in the lead.

I’ve always like the color scheme of these Citirail units, but I’ve seldom been able to catch them leading a train.

The trailing unit of the auto rack train, by the way, was, you guessed it, a BNSF unit, which would be the final binsiff I would see on this day.

After the passage of the Q010, I set out for Attica but distractions along the way kept me from getting to the Attica reservoirs until late afternoon.

First, I stopped in Greenwich to photograph an eastbound CSX auto rack train whose headlight I saw in the distance as I crossed the Mt. Victory Subdivision tracks on U.S. Route 224.

Upon crossing the Sandusky District tracks of Norfolk Southern in Attica, I saw the rear of an eastbound and decided to check it out.

It turned out to be a grain train with three Canadian National units for motive power that I wound up chasing to Bucyrus where I got it going around the connection to the Fort Wayne Line.

I made further stops near Chatfield to photograph across a field a stopped eastbound NS manifest freight and to make some non-rail photographs in Chatfield of a hardware store that is going out of business.

By the time I got to the lower Attica reservoir, the Sandusky District had been turned into a parking lot because of a malfunctioning switch at Colsan in Bucyrus.

I waited a while before catching the eastbound 188 passing the reservoir, which had surprisingly smooth water for a windy day. That yielded a nice reflection image.

I had heard the 20E calling signals and thought I’d get it at the upper Attica reservoir a short distance away.

The dispatcher had told the 188 to stop at County Line Road and maybe the 20E would stop behind it.

I drove up to the top of the upper Attica reservoir, but there was no 20E. It was getting late and I didn’t want to get home too late, so I decided to forgo getting an image from my fourth reservoir of the day.

Although I looked, I never did see the 20E. Either the train I photographed at the lower Attica reservoir had been the 20E or it slipped past me as I was driving through Attica.

 

 

Competitors and Partners

June 13, 2017

I recently read a quotation from a railroad trade group official to the effect that trucks are among the strongest competitors for railroads and at the same time one of their best partners.

Trucks have taken away large quantities of business from railroads over the years and yet given large amounts of business in return.

Shown is CSX eastbound train Q226 on the Mt. Victory Subdivision in Greenwich.

I heard it coming and was looking for a location to photograph it before it went into the connection to the New Castle Sub to head toward Akron and Youngstown.

Framing the lead locomotive with a fleet of trailers sitting near the tracks was a last-minute decision.

10 Years Ago Today Was a Most Memorable ARRC Photography Outing to New London, Greenwich

May 28, 2016
"That looks like an F40." And it was, leading the CSX executive train at Greenwich on May 28, 2006.

“That looks like an F40.” And it was, leading the CSX executive train at Greenwich on May 28, 2006.

Ten years ago today several members of the Akron Railroad Club gathered for what was one of my top five outings in the nearly 13 years I’ve been in the club.

It was a trip to New London and Greenwich that was ideal because of its good weather, diverse mixture of trains and a few pleasant surprises.

When the idea was mentioned during a club meeting about holding a Memorial Day Weekend outing, club members initially settled on going to Greenwich.

But Marty Surdyk said he planned to spend the morning in New London at the above-ground reservoir there and would go to Greenwich in the afternoon.

At the time, I had never railfanned in either location so I followed Marty’s lead and began the day at the reservoir.

CSX traffic was steady throughout the morning. Most members who participated in the outing began in New London, although a few spent all day in Greenwich.

At one point a flock of vulture was flying above us, which as you might expect led to some joking. We learned from Peter Bowler that a group of such birds is known as a “kettle.” I’ve yet to hear that term used since that day.

In putting together my program for the ARRC 80th anniversary event I had a chance to review my photos from that day and had forgotten that among other things we saw a caboose on the rear of an eastbound train.

Another train featured a BNSF warbonnet with its motive power running mates consisting of a Norfolk Southern unit and a TFM locomotive.

Most of our group at New London spent their time atop the reservoir or at its base.

Tim Krogg was one of those who spent the morning down below and about 1 p.m. he started getting impatient.

“When are we going to get some (expletive) lunch?” he bellowed up at us.

With that we descended to ground level and headed into town to McDonalds’s, where we could eat and keep an eye on the CSX mainline.

After lunch, we went back to the reservoir but shortly thereafter decided to head for Greenwich.

I didn’t know how to get there so Marty said, “follow me.” I did and the route he took was one dusty road after another.

In Greenwich we continued to have good luck and even caught an eastbound Wheeling & Lake Erie manifest freight with GP35 No. 2662 in the lead, one of the railroad’s two “Kodachrome” or “painted ladies” locomotives.

But the sighting of the day was a westbound train on CSX that went straight through toward Crestline and Galion.

We had seen a headlight and heard a symbol that no one recognized. As Marty eyed the train through his telephoto lens he said, “that looks like an F40.”

I didn’t believe it but as the train got closer it turned out to be a three-car passenger train that was, indeed, led by an F40PH.

It was my first and thus far only sighting of the CSX executive train.

We speculated it was en route to Indianapolis to pick up VIPs who had attended the Indy 500 earlier that day.

I never forgot how much I enjoyed that outing and I wanted to do it again, but it took a few years before I could get it onto the club’s schedule.

The date was set for May 26, 2013. Unlike the 2006 outing, this one was a total bust. I was the only person to show up.

As I wrote this, I thought about what made that 2006 outing so enjoyable. There were a number of reasons, most noticeably the fellowship of being with fellow rail fans. I would have enjoyed seeing and photographing those same trains had I been there by myself, but it is more enjoyable to do it in the company of other like-minded people.

It also was my first time to railfan in New London and Greenwich. Although I’ve been back to both places numerous times in the intervening years, like anything else in life once you do it several times it just doesn’t have the same excitement of discovery feel that it had the first time.

Beyond that, there are some events that seem destined to be special because of the set of circumstances that surround them and what happens during the day.

That decade ago outing in New London and Greenwich was one of those. It cannot be duplicated in quite the same way as it played out, but at least I’ll always have my memories.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

A Helm Financial, a.k.a. HLCX SD40 trails on this westbound manifest freight. No. 9039 was built in April 1970 for the Louisville & Nashville.

A Helm Financial, a.k.a. HLCX, SD40 trails on this westbound manifest freight. No. 9039 was built in April 1970 for the Louisville & Nashville.

The typical motive power on a typical CSX stack train.

The typical motive power on a typical CSX stack train.

It was just like old times, but we were still surprised to see a caboose on the rear of this eastbound CSX train.

We were still surprised to see a caboose on the rear of this eastbound CSX train even if it was battered and vandalized.

What a motive power consist this train had.

What a motive power consist this train had. That is Peter Bowler making a photograph at the far left.

It is always a good outing when you can catch a warbonnet leading a train.

It is always a good outing when you can catch a warbonnet leading a train.

Even some of the clouds seemed special.

Even some of the clouds seemed special.

A special W&LE sighting in Greenwich.

A colorful  W&LE sighting in Greenwich.

Many of us spent most of the morning atop the reservoir.

Many of us spent most of the morning atop the reservoir.

Seeking the New Normal on CSX in Greenwich

March 5, 2016
Eastbound Q015 rattles the diamonds at Boyd in Greenwich as it rolls out onto the New Castle Subdivision in Greenwich.

Eastbound Q015 rattles the diamonds at Boyd in Greenwich as it rolls out onto the New Castle Subdivision in Greenwich.

I recently went to Greenwich because I hadn’t been there for quite some time but also to check out how busy CSX is or isn’t these days.

During my recent outings in Berea, it has seemed as though the number of trains on CSX is down.

Greenwich is as busy a CSX hotspot as you’ll find in Northeast Ohio. You’ll see all of the traffic that passes through Berea as well as all of the traffic that passes through Akron.

I arrived in Greenwich in late morning on a Sunday and was surprised to find that I was the only railfan there.

The first hour was pretty quiet with the only trains being a pair of intermodals, one in each direction, on the Greenwich Subdivision.

Although there seemed to be fairly steady radio transmissions, Greenwich didn’t have the feel of activity as it has in the past.

The Willard Subdivision west of Greenwich is known for having trains stacked up waiting to get into the yard.

Nothing I heard on the radio indicated that that was the case on this day.

The IP dispatcher didn’t seem to be facing any “crisis” situations as has often been the case in the past.

Listening to the radio in Greenwich can be deceptive. If you have a good antenna you’ll hear discussions involving trains in the yard and operating west of Willard.

Many of those trains have either already passed through Greenwich or won’t be arriving for a good hour or more.

I had brought along the most recent issue of Trains and had plenty of time to read it.

The news section had stories about the changing nature of railroad freight traffic, including assertions that the future lies with intermodal.

So perhaps it was noteworthy that of the 17 trains that I saw, eight of them were intermodal trains.

Traffic began picking up about mid afternoon and at times the Greenwich of today resembled the Greenwich of yore.

A few railfans drifted in and out of town, stopping for a while to watch trains.

Things seemed to return to “normal” when two westbounds became stacked up east of town on the New Castle Subdivision.

A Q263 sat for a while at the home signals for CP54, a.k.a. Boyd, waiting for a pair of trains to come up the single-track Mt. Victory Subdivision from Crestline.

And it wouldn’t be a day in Greenwich without at least one problem bothering the dispatcher.

A Q163 arrived on the Willard Sub with an hour left to work and a bad order car to set out. There was quite a bit of chatter about that, primarily involving how far west the train would go before getting a new crew.

Aside from the eight intermodal trains, the day’s count included a crude oil train, two auto rack trains, one coke train, three manifest freights and two Wheeling & Lake Erie trains.

It has been quite a while since I’ve seen a coal train on CSX in Northeast Ohio. Maybe that traffic has dried up. Do any more Power River Basin coal trains still run on CSX through Northeast Ohio?

All in all, it had been a good outing from a railfanning perspective with most of the traffic coming in the final two hours of my five-and-a-half-hour day.

I haven’t kept records of how many trains I’ve seen in Greenwich during past outings so I can’t draw any definitive conclusions about CSX traffic being significantly down.

Still, I came away with the feeling that things are not quite what they used to be. What I observed on Sunday seems to be the new normal for CSX in our region.

There remain many trains to watch and photograph, but not quite as many of them as there used to be.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Here comes the Q163 off the Greenwich Sub and onto the long connection in Greenwich.

Here comes the Q163 off the Greenwich Sub and onto the long connection in Greenwich.

There are still a few crude oil trains left to see, including this eastbound.

There are still a few crude oil trains left to see, including this eastbound.

The head end of the Q010 is passing the tail end of the Q113 on the connecting tracks in Greenwich.

The head end of the Q010 is passing the tail end of the Q113 on the connecting tracks in Greenwich.

That's quite a colorful motive power consist that the Q004 has. The dominant color is red.

That’s quite a colorful motive power consist that the Q004 has. The dominant color is red.

The Q375 was able to highball on through Greenwich without waiting. It is shown passing the home signals for Boyd on the New Castle Sub.

The Q375 was able to highball on through Greenwich without waiting. It is shown passing the home signals for Boyd on the New Castle Sub.

I don't know if that rail is old or new, but it sure looks rusty. The Q263 is headed onto the single track toward Crestline.

I don’t know if that rail is old or new, but it sure looks rusty. The Q263 is headed onto the single track toward Crestline.

The L017 is taking the long connection today off the Greenwich Sub.

The L017 is taking the long connection today off the Greenwich Sub.

The K182 had to wait awhile east of Greenwich before getting a signal at Boyd. The coke train is shown in the growing shadows of late afternoon transitioning from the New Castle Sub to the Willard Sub.

The K182 had to wait awhile east of Greenwich before getting a signal at Boyd. The coke train is shown in the growing shadows of late afternoon transitioning from the New Castle Sub to the Willard Sub.

The Little Guys Wins One in Greenwich

March 3, 2016

Feb28 Greenwich 01-x

Regional and short-line railroads that have trackage rights on a busy Class 1 mainline are not always a top priority on someone else’s property.

No one knows that better than the Wheeling & Lake Erie, which must use CSX tracks to get between CP47 in New London on the CSX Greenwich Subdivision and GN Tower in Greenwich on the Willard Subdivision, where the W&LE line to Carey diverges.

So when I heard a W&LE train key up the CSX IG dispatcher last Sunday to get permission to enter the Greenwich Sub at New London, I expected the Wheeling train would have a long wait.

The dispatcher, though, seemed to indicate that the wait would be short. “Watch for a signal” after a UPS train passed by. That would be the Q010, which was already through Greenwich.

Not long after that, though, what had been a relatively quiet Greenwich Sub sprang to life with a parade of eastbound traffic, including the Q008, Q004 and L382.

Also in the mix was a Q263, which pulled up and stopped at the home signal for the connecting tracks from the Greenwich Sub to the Willard Sub.

The Q263 had to wait for the Q008 and an auto rack train to come up the single-track Mt. Victory Sub from Crestline.

It had been more than two hours since I had heard the Wheeling train talking with the CSX dispatcher and it was getting to be late afternoon when I finally heard the W&LE 6354 calling signals as it made its way west on the Greenwich Sub.

The Q353 was still waiting and as I saw the headlight of the W&LE train come into view I expected to see it stop next to the CSX train.

But it kept going and went around the Q353. Was the W&LE getting dispatching priority?

Well, maybe not. The Q263 still had to wait a while longer for an auto rack train to come up from Crestline and go east on the New Castle Sub.

The auto rack train reached Greenwich 16 minutes after the Wheeling train took the short connection to the Willard Sub. So either the dispatcher or a computer decided that a 36-car Wheeling train could move on through quick enough not to delay any CSX trains.

Still, I’d like to think that seeing a W&LE train go around a CSX train was a victory for the little guy for once.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders