The signal indication at the north end of the double track at Karen near Adamsville indicated that the train I thought I had missed had not yet arrived. But I didn’t know that at the time.
It was not one of my better railfanning days, although it didn’t start off too badly.
I arrived in Conneaut around 8:30 a.m. to await the arrival of a Canadian National (nee Bessemer & Lake Erie train).
I had a particular photo location in mind for the outbound train, which I knew from previous outings would depart Conneaut in late morning or early afternoon.
Around 9 a.m. I thought I heard a locomotive horn to the south. The CN train was about to arrive. Or so I thought.
I stood on the bridge carrying Old Main Street over Conneaut Creek and waited. But no train arrived.
After about 15 minutes I gave up and went back to my car. It sure had sounded like the horn of an Illinois Central SD70.
The scanner was silent. An eastbound had departed town on Norfolk Southern shortly before my arrival. But otherwise, nothing was moving on either NS or CN.
I heard a few CSX trains on the radio and saw them through the trees. That is to be expected as CSX is by far the busiest rail line in Conneaut.
About 11:30 a.m. I concluded that CN wasn’t working today in Conneaut.
I drove over by the museum in the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern station and parked across the CSX tracks at the Conneaut Historical Society. At least trains were moving on CSX.
In early afternoon, the NS channel came to life and I decided to go back over to Old Main Street to get an NS train crossing the trestle over Conneaut Creek.
Just as I was arriving, a CN truck made its way along the tracks toward the yard. Maybe there would be a train today, after all.
Around that time I realized that although I had unlocked the CN radio channel on my scanner, I had not unlocked the bank on which it was located. All morning my scanner had not been scanning the bank with the CN frequency.
Shortly after I unlocked Bank 3, I heard some chatter on the CN channel, which I thought was a train trying to tone up the dispatcher.
It actually was a train calling the Conneaut yardmaster. I didn’t quite understand all of what they were talking about, but apparently the crew left something behind by mistake.
Then the yardmaster said, “you guys did a good job up here today” and something about reporting them having left Conneaut.
Then it dawned on me. The CN truck was going back to the yard because it had done a roll by inspection of a departing train.
That sent me scurrying to find that train. I didn’t see anything at Pond Road and didn’t see anything on the roads that parallel the ex-B&LE en route to Albion. But not all sections of the B&LE can be seen from nearby roads.
As I came into Albion I heard the train I was chasing say something about milepost 120. That is beyond Albion. So off I went barreling down Pennsylvania Route 18.
I heard the crew say something about another milepost but the transmission was faint. They were getting well ahead of me and out of radio range.
I heard the dispatcher talking with the train to clear up the track warrant for authority between Conneaut and Albion. But I couldn’t pick out the crew’s end of the conversation.
As I reached the outskirts of Conneaut Lake, I heard the detector go off at MP 117. That must be the Hartstown detector and the CN train must be well ahead of me.
My only chance to get it would be at Sandy. The Conneaut yardmaster had told the train that the re-crew wasn’t on duty until 7 p.m., so the outbound crew would tie ‘er down. I’ve seen that done at Sandy, which is located at KO Road.
I could see from the highway that no train was sitting at Sandy. The re-crew apparently would be at Kremis.
I was thoroughly disgusted with myself. I had missed the train I wanted because I had failed to unlock a bank of channels on my scanner.
Had I been scanning the CN frequency, I would have heard the train working in the yard and stayed put until it left.
I began heading back toward Conneaut and as an afterthought, turned onto Atlantic Road and drove east to look at the signal at Karen, the north end of the double track near Adamsville.
It displayed a green over amber indication, which on CN means limited clear. Could it be that the train I was seeking had not yet arrived? Could it be the reason the radio transmission had gotten weaker was because I was outrunning the train and not the other way around?
There were some yellow flowering plants along the right of way, so I parked and got out to photograph those. At least I would have something. How nice it would look with a train here.
I didn’t know what to make of that signal indication. It could be a train that might not come along for hours. Should I wait to see what happens?
It wasn’t long before I heard the Hartstown detector go off. The earlier detector I had heard was just beyond Albion and the Hartstown detector is near milepost 97 not milepost 117.
Shortly thereafter I saw a headlight in the distance belonging to IC 1018. The motive power consist had two other IC SD70s.
I was pleased with the images I was able to get of the flowering plants and the train that I was sure I had missed.
The events of that day provided two object lessons for future railfanning trips. First, double check to make sure you are scanning all of the radio channels you mean to scan.
Second, study the route you are chasing before setting out. I had a CN employee timetable page for the ex-B&LE, but it is not safe to study a timetable while driving.
Had I known the milepost locations of the detectors I would have realized that I was ahead of the train not trailing it. I also need to do some more fieldwork of the ex-B&LE to learn where there are roads from which the signals can be viewed.
I still don’t know when the CN train came into Conneaut. It might have been while I was off railfanning CSX or filling up my car. Maybe it arrived in Conneaut before I did.
I didn’t get the image I had wanted to make, but I’ll take what I was able to get.
You can be sure that next time I have a free weekend and good weather I’m heading to Conneaut to do a makeup outing.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
Never was I more pleased to see the IC “death star” through my telephoto lens than I was on this day as the train rolled past Adamsville, Pennsylvania.
About to cross Atlantic Road.
They’re probably weeds, but they sure added a touch of color to this spring image near Adamsville, Pennsylvania, on the former B&LE
The trio of IC SD70s and their train are about to diverge onto Main No. 2 at Karen.