Posts Tagged ‘Railfanning the Wheeling & Lake Erie’

Bonus Time in Bellevue

August 15, 2017

The 5413 has a pair of mismatched number boards as it leads its train out of Moorman Yard on Norfolk Southern.

Whenever I go to Bellevue I figure that if I get any Wheeling & Lake Erie trains it’s a bonus.

I go to Bellevue to see Norfolk Southern and if the W&LE comes into or leaves town that is value added to my day.

Such was the case during a recent visit in which my W&LE bonus time began in Monroeville when I spotted the railroad’s business car sitting on a siding.

A few more miles down the road revealed a WE train sitting at Yeomans with its locomotives pointed eastward.

I wasn’t there when this train showed up and when I left town about 9 p.m, that night this train was still sitting where I had last seen it.

There would be yet one more W&LE bonus to be had in Bellevue. The job that interchanges with NS in Moorman Yard came out on the Brewster connection with a former Denver & Rio Grande Western SD40T-2 leading.

I doubt that anyone ever tires of seeing the Rio Grande on the Wheeling, particularly when one is leading or if two of them are paired together.

A closer view of the 5413 and its mismatched number boards as it rumbles onto the Brewster connection.

Stripes on the noses of W&LE 4000 and 6997.

A tunnel motor and a corn field.

Near Ohio Route 4 and sitting beside the trail built on the former New York Central right of way.

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Waiting and Waiting

June 28, 2017

Railroads spend a lot of time waiting, often to get permission from a dispatcher or yardmaster to move ahead.

If you work for the Wheeling & Lake Erie, it is almost a given that you’ll spend time waiting in Bellevue for Norfolk Southern to give the OK to move onto NS tracks.

With NS owning most of the trackage in Bellevue and with NS trains often coming and going, the Wheeling doesn’t have the highest priority.

During the Akron Railroad Club’s longest day outing in Bellevue last Sunday, the W&LE job that interchanges at Moorman yard arrived a little after 8:30 a.m.

It then sat on the Brewster connection for the next three hours.

Finally, shortly after 11:30, the Bellevue dispatcher lined the signal for the Wheeling to enter the mini plant and proceed eastward into the yard.

The motive power consist of the W&LE train included a pair of green, silver and black FURX sD40-2s that were numbered consecutively 6986 and 6987.

The third unit was “tiger stripe” 6351, which once starred as an Allegheny and West Virginia locomotive in the movie Unstoppable.

Changes in Railfanning in Sterling

May 25, 2017

Many moons ago, I wrote a hot spot report for the Akron Railroad Club Bulletin on Sterling.  Much has changed since then and I thought an update was in order.

Sterling for the newcomers is a spot on the former Baltimore & Ohio, now the CSX New Castle Subdivision, where the CL&W Sub turns off and heads to Cleveland and Lorain via Lester.

CSX is trying to stop using the CL&W from Sterling to Lester, servicing Lorain and the yard at West Third Street in Cleveland via their ex-Conrail trackage in Cleveland.

Sterling has lost a couple of trains due to this change, but that is nothing new for fans of the New Castle Sub.

CSX has been adding and subtracting trains on this line for many years. It always seems to be in a state of flux. What has changed the most since I wrote the last article is where you hang out to watch trains at Sterling and what photo spots have come and gone.

Sterling is at MP 155.5 of the New Castle Sub. Besides the junction with the CL&W, the B&O used to cross the Erie at a sharp-angled diamond that was guarded by RU tower. The tower sat between the mains west of the diamonds.

Visiting railfans used to gather in the dirt/gravel area across the B&O from where the tower used to be. The driveway into the gravel area looped around and headed back out to the street.

This led the Sterling railfan group to call themselves the “Sterling Loop.”

Today, the visiting railfan will find a paved parking lot for the hiking and biking trail that is on the former right-of-way of the Erie on the southwest side of the Kauffman Avenue crossing with CSX.

This spot allows for good side views of passing CSX trains. No signals are visible at this spot, so to get advance warning of a train, you will have to monitor the scanner.

CSX still uses 160.230 (road channel) and 160.320 (dispatcher channel) for communications on the New Castle Sub.

The signals that are facing away from you at the parking lot can be shot with a westbound by walking a short ways west on the former Erie and looking for the clearing just after the bridge over Chippewa Creek.

I haven’t actually done a photo here yet, but a normal to wide-angle lens should work.

If you like to hike/bike, the trail continues west to Creston, where the tracks of the Wheeling & Lake Erie come up next to CSX.

To the east, the trail stays close to CSX as far as the outskirts of Rittman.

While Sterling is not as busy as Greenwich or other CSX hot spots, it can provide some quality time trackside. Plus you could use it as a starting point for a W&LE chase if you get wind of an imminent move on that railroad.

On weekends, for food it may be best to head for Creston, which is a short drive or bike ride from Sterling.

Creston has a Subway sandwich shop in the Circle K convenience store and gas station just south on Ohio Route 3 from the downtown area.

Article by Marty Surdyk

Getting Lucky on a W&LE Chase

May 24, 2017

On May 7, Rich Antibus and I heard on the scanner that the Wheeling & Lake Erie train 561 crew had engine No. 200, the Ohio Bicentennial unit.

The crew indicated to the dispatcher that they had seven loads and engine No. 101, the Pittsburgh & West Virginia tribute unit, on the other end of the train.

Both engines are GP35-3s. Armed with this new information, the dispatcher gave the 101 a track warrant on the Cleveland Subdivision from Mogadore to milepost 52 at Middlebranch.

The 561 was headed down to the Essroc Cement Facility in Middlebranch to switch them out.

Rich and I first caught up with the 561 at Skelton Road in Mogadore, which is a very tight shot.

The chase was easy from here as the train is limited to 10 mph on the Cleveland Sub.

We got it again at Waterloo Road., which is old U.S. Route 224, in Suffield. A large friendly yellow dog named Brutus always comes out to see us when we photograph here.

Our next spot was Wingfoot Lake with the Goodyear Blimp in the background. The blimp was unable to fly today due to the high winds.

Next we drove behind a storage facility north of Hartville, then it was on to the Hartville Fire Station, which is located south of town.

We did an across-the-field shot in Middlebranch before the 561 reached its destination.

This move of the 561 was a bit unusual in that the 261 road train from Brewster usually switches the plant on its way to Akron. The 561 crew only comes down here on days that the 261 doesn’t run.

While the 561 crew switched the plant, we contemplated our shots for the return trip. The 101 would lead going back to Akron.

Both of us agreed we were quite lucky to find the 561 going south this day. We’d never seen anything like this before.

Having swapped out the seven loads for seven empties, the 561 was now ready to head back to Akron.

We shot it on the siding into the plant, dodging clouds to do so. From here it was back to the Hartville Fire Station, then again to the storage units north of town.

We were going to go back to Waterloo Road but thought the light might be better at Mogadore Road, so we opted to downtown Mogadore.

We barely beat the train to our favorite spot at Die-Gem Way at the east end Brittain Yard.

By now both of us were low on film. Rich did expose a few pixels today, but he still shoots some film.

This would be the only train we would see on this day, but the effort was worth it. A move that was new to us and the chance to see the W&LE serving a customer was a good day. We hope for many more to come.

Article by Jim Mastromatteo

Cloud over the Wheeling & Lake Erie

May 16, 2017

Sure, I like the Wheeling & Lake Erie lead locomotive in this scene. For that matter I like the varied motive power consist of this eastbound tank car train on the Brewster Subdivision southeast of Spencer.

And I like the surrounding fields that give a sense of place.

Yet what I like the most about this image is that big old cloud hovering over the train.

I had been dodging clouds all day during this outing and for once the clouds cooperated by not blocking the sun.

Making Tough Photo Selections

May 12, 2017

One of the toughest choices for me when putting together a presentation is sometimes choosing between two similar images.

Such was the case with the two images shown above of the same Wheeling & Lake Erie train made in the same location just seconds apart. I was standing by the Old Mill Road grade crossing southeast of Spencer.

The images are shown in sequence top to bottom. Both images have much in common even if their compositions are slightly different.

In the top image, what attracts me are the three poles to the right of the lead locomotive. Pole lines are rapidly vanishing from American railroads and these three poles are all that is left of a pole line along the Brewster Subdivision of the Wheeling.

So the poles add a nostalgic touch missing from the bottom image, which shows just one pole. One pole does not a pole line make.

I also like how the top image is more reflective of the rule of thirds than the bottom image. That because the focal point of the image — the nose of the lead locomotive — is near one of the intersecting points rather than in the center as is the case with the lower image.

One advantage of the top image is also one of its weaknesses. There is an unofficial “rule” in railroad photography about showing some of the track head of a train in order to give a sense of movement and direction.

Yet you don’t want to show too much track, which may be a downside of the top image. However, this is where the three poles help salvage this image by filling what otherwise would be dead space that provides no useful purpose.

The advantage that the bottom image has over the top photo is that the train is more prominent. For many railfans, the photograph is all about the train and the surrounding environment is extraneous clutter.

The bottom image also makes better use of the trees on both sides of the tracks as a framing device, enhancing the effect of the train coming out of “hole” in the forest.

The W&LE speed lettering is more visible in the bottom image although not readable.

However, the budding trees to the right of the train that proclaims “spring” is more prominent in the top image than in the bottom.

I like both of these images, but if I had to choose just one of them to put in a presentation I would probably go with the bottom image if the audience is mostly railfans.

In my experience, railfans tend to favor trains even if many of them like a good image showing the train in an environment.

Neither Flipping nor Flopping in Bellevue

April 28, 2017

Of course the highlight of the day, or any day for that matter, for me is catching an Illinois Central unit. It is leading train W08 on the Toledo District into the mini plant.

OK, so what did my trip to Bellevue in early April have in common with Marty Surdyk’s venture there last winter that he wrote about this week in the Akron Railroad Club Bulletin and the ARRC blog?

Actually, very little. The soles on both of my shoes stayed firmed in place and I did not do any flipping or flopping while waiting for trains. I’m still laughing about that story.

I didn’t get any NS heritage units as Marty did in catching the Lehigh Valley H unit on northbound train No. 174.

But I did chase No. 194 southward (railroad eastbound) and my catch of the day was a former Illinois Central SD70 leading a train into town on the Toledo District.

I posted a photograph earlier of the IC unit along with a few other highlights of my day, so here are a few more images from my day in Belleveue, which also involved a chase down the Sandusky District.

The first train that I saw was a monster Wheeling & Lake Erie manifest freight sitting outside of town.

A railfan who goes by the screen name of Camcorder Sam on Trainorders.com, said that the W&LE didn’t come into Bellevue on Saturday so the Sunday train was extra long.

I would get it creeping around the Brewster Connection at Center Street.

If it wasn’t such a great day for heritage locomotives, it was a good day for western foreign power. Two trains had Union Pacific power sets leading them. BNSF power led the 44G, a grain train that came in on the Fostoria District and west south on the Sandusky District.

The crew putting together the 12V had the mini plant tied up for a good half-hour to 45 minutes, causing three trains to have to sit and wait before they could leave town or come into town.

The dispatcher used a term to describe this that I’ve never heard before. It sound like “shopping” but it could have been “chopping.” Whatever work it was had an “op” sound to it.

The crew of L14 toured the mini plant as they spun their motive power set because the original lead unit had some type of issue.

ARRC members will be going to Bellevue in June for our annual longest day outing and Bellevue will be the subject of the cover story in the June ARRC eBulletin.

Just remember to wear a good pair of shoes that day.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Union Pacific No. 4012 leads train into town as another one leaves town. They are passing at Southwest Street.

A trio of UP units leads a train out of town.

The W&LE always seems to have to wait before it gets into the NS yard in Bellevue. An inbound train is shown on the Brewster Connection.

It’s all about steel wheels on steel rails. Shown are the wheels of a car on the W&LE train.

The L14 maneuvers around the Mad River Connection in the background as seen between two auto rack cars on an inbound train coming off the Fostoria District.

After spinning its power the L14 finally got underway. It is passing the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum on the Mad River Connection.

As the 12V was being assembled and had the mini plant tied up, it operated as symbol L07.

Train 194 had to wait for the 12V to finish its assembly work before it could leave town. The 12V picked up a Mansfield Crew near Flat Rock and the 194 went around and out ahead of it. The 194 is leaving Bellevue with a CSX unit tucked behind lead locomotive 2661.

The 194 had to wait for a CSX intermodal train at Attica Junction before it could resume its journey. It is shown on the south edge of Siam (Attica Junction)

The 12V saunters through Attica in a view made from the cemetery along the tracks.

Tank cars bring up the rear of NS train 188 as it crosses the Fort Wayne Line at Colson in Bucyrus. The 44G was waiting for it to clear.

 

Catching a Pair on W&LE’s Carrollton Branch

January 2, 2017
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Passing through someone’s backyard west of Robertsville.

The past two Fridays I was lucky enough to catch the Wheeling & Lake Erie local returning from Carrollton.

This branch comes from Canton and winds about 25 miles down to Carrollton to serve a couple industries. It only runs one day a week, currently on Fridays.

Branch line railroading has a charm that you don’t get on the mainline. This line is rural and very scenic and with low speeds (5-10 mph) it’s an easy chase. There is even a tunnel at Robertsville, about halfway down the line.

This is railroading in the style of the Abingdon branch made famous by O. Winston Link. I can picture a small 4-6-0 or 2-8-0 steam engine making it’s way through farms and backyards.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Passing through East Canton.

Passing through East Canton.

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Rounding a curve at East Canton.

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Approaching an old feed mill in Robertsville.

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Passing through Oneida where the W&LE’s Carrollton branch once crossed a branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad that ran to Marietta, Ohio.

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Passing through the tunnel at Robertsville. (Photograph by Matt Sell)

Tied Down on Easter Eve

April 20, 2016

WE in Bellevue

It was late in the afternoon on the Saturday before Easter. I had spent the day in Bellevue and Bucyrus, starting in the former, moving to the latter around noon and then finishing in Bellevue.

I heard the Wheeling & Lake Erie detector go off and shortly thereafter someone keyed up the remote control switches at Yeomans.

The Wheeling crew called the Bellevue dispatcher on the yard channel and asked for permission to come into town on the Lake Shore connection where they planned to tie down their train. Sure, come on in, the dispatcher said.

Getting into town wasn’t the issue for the crew, it was leaving that posed a minor problem.

The company the W&LE uses to ferry crew members had a driver who was unfamiliar with Bellevue and she couldn’t find the train.

Apparently she had either called or found a Norfolk Southern office. I learned that when the W&LE dispatcher called the Wheeling train to ask if they had been picked up yet.

No, they had not. The dispatcher asked if they had contacted the NS about getting a ride. The crew assured the dispatcher they had not.

In time, the cab driver for the Wheeling came onto the W&LE road channel and asked the crew where they were.

They had to give her directions, but she eventually found them in the usual spot where Wheeling crews stop their trains on the Lake Shore connection.

I left Bellevue not long after the Wheeling crew did, stopping on the way out to get this photo. I don’t know if a crew came on duty later to take this train to Toledo or whether it spent Easter Sunday sitting here.

Railroads operate 24/7/365, but on some holidays some moves aren’t that important. Perhaps this was one of them.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders 

Chasing a W&LE Train Out of Bellevue

April 8, 2016
A Wheeling & Lake Erie manifest freight threads its way through the switches at the mini plant in Bellevue. It is headed for the Brewster connection, which can be seen in the foreground.

A Wheeling & Lake Erie manifest freight threads its way through the switches at the mini plant in Bellevue. It is headed for the Brewster connection, which can be seen in the foreground.

The W&LE train is entering the Brewster connection and will soon be on its home rails.

The W&LE train is entering the Brewster connection and will soon be on its home rails. Note how the letter “O” has been used for the numeral zero in the number board on the left.

Crossing the West branch of the Huron River in Monroeville was my last glimpse of this train as I did not chase it any further.

Crossing the West branch of the Huron River in Monroeville was my last glimpse of this train as I did not chase it any further.

I had been in Bellevue less than an hour when I heard a Wheeling & Lake Erie train crew tell the Norfolk Southern dispatcher that it was ready to depart from the Wick Moorman Yard.

The dispatcher told them to stand by, which is another way of saying it will be a while. After a few NS movements through the mini plant, the NS dispatcher called the W&LE crew and told them their turn had come.

I walked down to the crossing of East Center Street and waited. I could see a small spec of orange in the distance and it took the train a while to work its way out of the yard.

My immediate objective was to use my longest telephoto lens to get the train weaving through the switches of the mini plant.

Then I briskly walked back to my car and headed off to Monroeville. I knew it would take time for the long train to snake its way onto the Brewster connection and out of town.

It would also need to call its own dispatcher to get a track warrant to go to Hartland.

I was able to easily get ahead of the train on the drive to Monroeville. My next objective was to get a shot of the train on the bridge over the West branch of the Huron River.

I discovered this location last year and this would be the third time that I’d worked it, all with eastbound trains.

A couple of other railfans were already in place on the bridge. It seemed to take the W&LE train longer to get to Monroeville than I had expected.

But soon there was a nearby locomotive horn and I could hear the grade crossing gates for Ohio Route 99 come on.

It was nice to see a pair of matching orange and black units. It was a long train and had a lot of tank cars. The other two fans left, but I stuck around to see the entire train cross the bridge before moving on in search of NS traffic on the Sandusky District.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders