Posts Tagged ‘railroads and winter’

Frozen Grand River

September 21, 2018

There are winter photographs and then there are winter photographs. It takes a prolonged period of very cold temperatures to freeze a river.

That was the case last January with the Grand River in Painesville. I had visited the CSX concrete arch bridge over the Grand River on a Sunday.

There was plenty of snow and even some hoarfrost on the trees along the banks, but the water was flowing freely. A few days later, the river was frozen.

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Winter Afternoon in Peninsula

January 30, 2018

It had been a while since I’d been able to get out with my camera. Car troubles and other matters had kept me at home as winter fell on Northeast Ohio in early January.

More than a week into the month, I finally got everything squared away and was able to get out of the house to go do some winter photography.

I had plans to go watch a college basketball game in Akron on a Tuesday night so I left the house early and stopped by Peninsula to see what I might find.

I knew better than to expect to catch a train on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. That operation was on hiatus until later in the month. But you can still do a lot without a train.

Several years ago I photographed the Peninsula train station during winter when it had icicles hanging on it. That was not the case on this day because the sun had melted them.

A step box on the platform had accumulated some snow and the platform area had footprints made by visitors to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Snow no longer covered the rails, but in the late day sunlight the ties on the siding were barely visible as the snow had that sunken look.

At the far north end of town sat a baggage car that had been used as a prop when the Polar Express trains were operating before Christmas. Beneath that car was bare ground.

There weren’t many people around on this day. It was still cold and winter is not a time of year when many people want to visit the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

 

No Trains Here Today

January 27, 2018

The Grand River Railway operates irregularly and probably not at all on Sundays.

So when I visited Grand River, Ohio, a while back in search of winter photographs, getting a train wasn’t on my expectation list.

We were actually hoping to find a switch engine out in the open that the GRR had been leasing, but it was nowhere to be seen near the Morton Salt Plant where the railroad stores its motive power.

But the trip wasn’t a bust because while in Grand River the town to make some images of the ice-covered Grand River the river, I liked how the snow was covering up the rails in some places.

The top image was made at a grade crossing that leads to a city park and a few private businesses. It has been a while since a train ran here.

The middle image is looking toward the street running in “downtown” Grand River. Note Pickle Bill’s restaurant on the right, whose entrance is by the tracks. Also note the boats in winter storage in the distance.

The bottom image was made from River Street, which ascends a hill alongside the tracks. The view is looking southeastward.

Difference of Four Days

January 25, 2018

The money shot of a CSX train crossing the frozen Grand River in Painesville. After making it, Peter said, “we’re done here.”

Peter Bowler and I made plans to get out on a recent Sunday for a day of winter photography.

Yes, we planned to catch some trains, but we also wanted to get some snow and ice images, particularly along the Lake Erie shore.

Our plan was to meet at 7:20 a.m. at the Golden Gate Shopping Center  just off Interstate 271 in Mayfield Heights where I’d leave my car and Peter would drive.

Things did not get off to a promising start. My hopes that Amtrak would be running late were dashed. The eastbound Lake Shore Limited was late, but not late enough.

A check of the HeritageUnits.com site didn’t show promise of catching anything out of the ordinary.

The temperature was in the middle teens as I waited for Peter to arrive. He was late because he had lost track of the time.

That didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but it would turn out to be good thing later.

He wanted to photograph a train on the CSX Erie West Subdivision crossing over the Grand River on a concrete arch bridge in Painesville.

Just after we arrived there, a westbound manifest freight led by a Canadian National unit ran by, but we didn’t have enough time to get into position to photograph it.

I got my radio out and it wasn’t long before we heard an eastbound auto rack train call a clear signal at CP 154. We weren’t sure how close that was, but it was closer than we knew.

Peter has a friend, Robert Butler, who said during a program he gave to the ARRC a few years ago that one of his principles of photograph is chance favors the prepared mind.

Had we done our homework and determined before arriving at what milepost the bridge is located we would have known that we needed to start making tracks through the snow to the bridge from our parking spot on the street as soon as we heard that train call the signal at CP 154.

But we didn’t and we missed the photograph, although I arrived in time to get a medicore image of some auto rack cars on the bridge. The motive power consist  had Union Pacific and BNSF units.

CSX then went on a hiatus and we talked about how the railfan gods must be punishing us.

We heard a Norfolk Southern train on the radio and motored over to check the status of the new bridge being built over the Grand River.

Finally, we did something right and made a nice photo of the old and new at the trestle. But as we waited for the NS train to show up, we heard a CSX train in the distance.

Back to the CSX bridge we went and waited for what seemed an interminable amount of time before the sun, the moon and the stars lined up in our favor with a westbound CSX stack train.

We had other objectives, so we headed out in search of them. This included getting ice on Lake Erie at Headlands Beach State Park.

Also on our “to do list” was Conneaut. As we came into town I heard a scratchy transmission on the Canadian National radio channel that told us the southbound train that day was by Albion, Pennsylvania. So getting something on the former Bessemer was out.

Conneaut Creek was frozen over and it would make a great shot of an NS train going over it on the trestle.

We waited for more than an hour, but heard nothing on the NS channel except a train in the yard doing some switching. We watched the shadows grow ever longer over the ice-covered river and creep up the bridge piers.

Not only had we struck out on getting CN, we also struck out on getting NS crossing a snowy river.

On the drive back to Cleveland we talked about doing a second trip to these same locations  later in the week. The ice wasn’t going to melt and more snow was predicted to fall on Monday.

Peter wanted another chance to do the CSX over the Grand River image.

The plan was to meet again at Golden Gate at 7:20 a.m., this time with me driving and Peter leaving his car in the lot.

I checked Amtrak after getting up around 5 a.m. and it running two hours late. I called Peter and he agreed to arrive at the shopping center much earlier so that we could get Amtrak Train 48.

Fortunately for us, No. 48 kept losing time as it went eastward even if the Amtrak computer kept predicting that it would make up time.

The temperature on the morning of our “do over” outing was even colder than it had been on Sunday. The wind chill was sub zero and quite nasty.

I said to Peter as we left the shopping center parking lot that we must be a couple of morons to be out in this weather before dawn chasing trains.

We wanted to get Amtrak on the Painesville bridge, but feared the shadows on the river would make it a medicore image at best. We instead got Amtrak in Geneva.

Then we backtracked west on U.S. 20 toward Painesville. When planning this trip I had wondered aloud if the Grand River might be ice covered.

On Sunday the river had been ice covered in Grand River village and at the mouth of Lake Erie. but not where Route 20 and CSX crossed it.

I had observed on Sunday ice chunks floating in the water and thought that by Thursday those might have backed up enough to create a more wintry look.

I parked, got out my radio and we waited. There was activity on NS, but CSX was silent.

About 15 minutes later a scratchy transmission on the CSX channel sent us scrambling toward the bridge. I was quite pleased to see that the river had frozen over since Sunday.

The train we had heard was a westbound manifest freight, perhaps the one we had missed earlier in the week.

It wasn’t long before an eastbound tank car train showed up with a BNSF unit on the point and a Citirail lease unit trailing.

Peter had expressed the hope of getting foreign power on the bridge and I wasn’t sure we’d get that. But there it was.

If anything we got better images four days later than we would have made on Sunday even if things had worked out.

Had we photographed the trains we had missed on Sunday, we might not have gone back to Painesville on Thursday. We would have missed the ice-covered river.

The moral of the story is not to botch your railfanning excursions in hopes that it will lead to something better. No, the lesson is that sometimes when things don’t go to according to plan it might be setting you up for something better if you stay with it.

The sole train we were able to photograph the way that we wanted on the Sunday when we first visited the bridge over the Grand River in Painesville.

A westbound crosses the Grand River four days after we first attempted to photograph here.

Running in a Winter Wonderland

January 24, 2018

When the weather in the upper Midwest turns wintry, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited often runs late.

Earlier this month Nos. 48 and 49 were running six hours or more behind schedule due to the effects of winter conditions.

Delays in turning the equipment in Chicago were given some of the blame, but winter operating conditions can also lead to frozen switches, broken rails and freight train emergencies that are not Amtrak’s fault.

If No. 48 leaves Chicago late, it likely will get even later as it rolls eastward toward New York and Boston.

On a sunny but frigid day last week when the early morning temperatures were in the low teens and the wind chill was sub zero, I braved the elements to photograph No. 48 at Geneva, Ohio, where it came through more than two hours off schedule.

It was running a few minutes behind an eastbound CSX stack train. I can only speculate that the dispatcher put the intermodal train out ahead of Amtrak because it would not be stopping in Erie, Pennsylvania, but Amtrak would be.

January Treat in Conneaut

January 23, 2018

A southbound taconite pellets train slowly makes it way out of Conneaut. The view is from the U.S. 20 bridge over the valley of Conneaut Creek.

I’ve photographed the former Bessemer & Lake Erie in Conneaut in every season except winter. Now I can cross that off my to do list.

On a cold but mostly sunny mid-January day, fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and I trekked to Conneaut with little time to spare to catch a southbound Canadian National train finishing its work in the yard and heading out of town.

I was driving and Peter was monitoring my scanner as we neared Conneaut on Interstate 90. He reported hearing a lot of chatter on the B&LE radio frequency.

That was good news because it meant the crew was either disassembling or assembling its train.

It turned out to be the latter. As we arrived at the CN grade crossing on Old Main Street, the train was coming out of the yard in its final move before stopping to wait for the conductor.

Peter jumped out and bolted for the bridge over Conneaut Creek, having in mind getting an image of the train along the ice-covered river.

I wanted to get that, too, but couldn’t get into position as fast as he could because I had to park and then gather up my camera.

I also wasted time getting an image from the west side of the tracks of the train coming out of the yard. By the time I got onto the bridge, the lead unit was past the open area and obscured by brush.

I was hoping that the crew had more work to do that would require a back-up move and I’d have a second chance at the shot I had missed.

But they were done with working in the yard. We made some images of the train sitting there and the engineer got out to fix something on the third unit as we waited to see what was next.

Down Main Street came a CN block truck and it was time to get into position for our next series of images.

Those would come from atop the U.S. 20 bridge and we got into position there just as the train began moving.

The ditch lights of the lead unit were already flashing as we scrambled into position. Days of snow plowing had left heavy snow on the bridge’s sidewalks. Even with boots on, walking through that snow and slush was like walking through heavy sand.

This vantage point yielded my favorite image of the series. Illinois Central SD70 No. 1038 is about to pass into the shadow of the bridge as the train slowly ambles into the horseshoe-shaped curve it goes around leaving town while grinding upgrade.

Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, my second favorite image was made from the other side of the bridge. It is not often that a going-away shot captures my imagination as this one did.

I’ve photographed trains from this vantage point before, but not during winter. The snow makes the bare trees and hillsides come alive in a way they don’t during the other seasons.

There is a sense of the train going somewhere as it motors its way through a river valley, even if it is a modest one.

The remainder of my images are pleasant winter photographs. IC black contrasts well with that white snow. Of course, so does CN red and, no doubt, would Bessemer orange.

This was my second favorite image of the CN train leaving Conneaut.

I missed the along the river image I wanted to get because I stopped to make this image. Maybe there will be another opportunity later this winter to get the one that got away.

Golden Light

January 18, 2018

There is golden light and then there is golden light. The golden hour is a term used by photographers to describe an hour before sunset.

Sunlight during that time tends to be warm and give objects a golden glow.

Even light in the last two to three hours of the day can be warm, particularly during the winter months when there is a low sun angle.

To take advantage of golden light at its best, you have to move fast because that light doesn’t last long. If you enjoy photographing trains you have to be lucky that one will come along during that small window of opportunity.

On this particular day that type of luck was not with us. We couldn’t get a westbound when we really needed it.

But we didn’t do too bad, either. That light looks nice on those aluminum signal standards and the train working in the yard in Ashtabula.

The vantage point is from the grade crossing of North Bend Road on the west side of Ashtabula.

One More for the Road

January 15, 2018

The daylight is sliding away fast. It’s funny how quickly the sun seems to sink. All day it’s been hanging up there in the sky and then just like that it’s gone.

You’ve been out all day chasing trains and anything else that caught your eye, but now it is time to head for home.

But you cant’ help but keep your eye on the tracks and your ear to your scanner as you drive along hoping to get just one more — one for the road. Maybe you’ll get lucky.

Fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and I were driving toward home on U.S. Route 20. Daylight was going fast.

But I had heard a train crew talking to the dispatcher about bulletin orders and the like and maybe, we could catch a westbound at the far west end of the yard along the Erie West Subdivision.

We turned down North Bend Road and much to our delight the light for a westbound was absolutely prime. We parked at a closed business and walked along the snowy road to the grade crossing.

We thought we had seen a headlight of a westbound when we had driven over the crossing, but it wasn’t what we thought it was. The train I had heard talking with the dispatch was in the yard and working.

An eastbound train was stopped on main track No. 2 for whatever reason. The eastbound signal for Track 1 displayed an approach aspect that soon went to clear. So much for getting a westbound.

To the west the sun was still hovering over the horizon, but not for long. As it set the sky turned to a brilliant orange and gold.

We spotted a headlight in the distance and it seemed to take an agonizingly long time to reach us. We were hoping to get a glint shot, but that was now out of the question.

We stayed with it and captured either the Q008 or Q010 rushing by, kicking up a little snow in its wake. It was a good way to end the day.

Late 48 at 12:35 p.m. on Consecutive Fridays

January 6, 2018

I photographed Amtrak No. 48 at the Painesville station of the former New York Central  running more than six hours late at the same time – 12:35 p.m. – on consecutive Fridays. The top image shows the eastbound Lake Shore Limited on Friday, Dec. 29. The bottom photo shows the train on Friday, Jan. 5 when the air temperature was 7 degrees.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Wolverine Train Delayed 12 Hours on Monday

January 2, 2018

Passengers aboard Wolverine Service No. 354 were delayed by 12 hours on New Year’s Day due to weather and mechanical issues.

The delays began in Chicago where the train was scheduled to depart at 6 p.m. but didn’t get out of the station until 8:25 p.m. due to mechanical issues with the locomotive.

Severe winter weather that affected a switch then delayed the train by another hour between 10:45 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. near New Buffalo, Michigan.

The train sat in Kalamazoo, where it arrived at 1 a.m., for four hours until a relief crew arrived after the original crew ran afoul of the hours of service law.

Leaving Kalamazoo at 5:30 a.m., the train then stopped at Albion two hours later where another crew took over the train. It arrived in Pontiac at 1:42 p.m. The scheduled arrival time is 1:17 a.m.

The train had about 148 passengers aboard, Amtrak said.