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.