Posts Tagged ‘Wheeling & Lake Erie’

New NS Train Originates on the W&LE

April 19, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

During an outing to Bellevue earlier this spring I got my first look at a new NS train that originates on the Wheeling & Lake Erie.

NS train 11Q reportedly begins its journey to Eklhart, Indiana, being made up in the yard at Hartland.

Reportedly, some of the freight being hauled by the train had been been turned over to CSX by the Wheeling before CSX service became erratic last year.

It has also been reported that the new train enables the two railroads to bypass Moorman Yard in Bellevue.

The train arrives in Bellevue on the Lake Shore Connection and halts short of Monroe Street. The W&LE power is cut off and moved away from the train.

Some time later another set of motive power comes out of the yard operating light through the mini plant and backs onto the train.

A separate crew is called to take the 11Q west of Bellevue on the former Nickel Plate Road mainline which it uses as far west as Claypool, Indiana.

There the 11Q makes a right turn and runs up the Marion Branch to Goshen, Indiana, where the Marion Branch joins the Chicago Line for the final miles into Elkhart.

In the top photo, the motive power set is coming west past the former Wheeling Tower. It is shown in the next image backing down the Lake Shore Connection toward the waiting train.

In the third image the motive power has coupled to its train and is awaiting a road crew to come out. A van will take the crew that maneuvered the units onto the train back to Moorman Yard.

In the final image, the 11Q has moved onto the New Haven Connection to reach the Fostoria District, but has halted to wait for two other trains to clear.

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Colorful Day in Berea on ARRC McKay Day

April 9, 2018

At long last Akron Railroad Club members got a Norfolk Southern heritage locomotive leading a train through Berea during the annual Dave McKay Day outing there. The Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit leads a westbound ethanol train late Saturday morning.

The long defunct Pan American World Airways used to have the tagline in its advertisements, “Pan Am makes the going great.”

The word “great” is much overused, yet it could fairly describe the 14th annual Akron Railroad Club Dave McKay Day in Berea last Saturday.

Among the more than 40 trains that at least one ARRC member observed during the event was an ethanol train with the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage locomotive on the point, another NS train led by the GoRail unit, and a CSX stack train led by a Southern Belle SD70MAC of the Kansas City Southern.

Those who got there early enough to see NS train 309 also saw a rare sighting in Berea of a Pan Am Railways locomotive, Maine Central No. 3403.

The SD40-2 was the third of three units that included Union Pacific ES44AC-H No. 8151.

It was a colorful day with more than the usual allotment of UP, Canadian National and BNSF motive power, including two trains with all BNSF motive power consists.

The day wasn’t perfect. We got hosed big time when NS intermodal train 26E passed by with a former BNSF war bonnet that was blocked from view by NS train 16T. And the weather was sunny, but quite cool.

ARRC President Craig Sanders was the first to arrive. As he rolled in at about 8:10 a.m., westbound intermodal train 23K was heading west on the NS Chicago Line.

At the far west end of the CP 194 interlocking an inbound Wheeling & Lake Erie coke train was waiting on for the 23K to clear before it could proceed off CSX Shortline Subdivision Track No. 1 to get onto NS for the journey down to Campbell Road Yard.

It has been several years since we’ve seen a W&LE train come through Berea during an ARRC McKay Day.

On the heels of the Wheeling train came an eastbound CSX ethanol train led by the day’s lone sighting of CN motive power.

CSX would go into a slumber for the next hour and a half. In the meantime, NS was busy with an eastbound fleet, including two moments when three eastbounds were side-by-side at the west end of CP 194.

Word had filtered in that two westbound NS trains, the 65N and 17N were being led by the Pennsy heritage unit and the GoRail special promotions unit respectively. Ahead of the 65N was crude oil train 67R.

They were hung up, though, by the NS eastbound parade, which had Tracks 1 and 2 tied up.

By late morning the ARRC contingent had swelled to include Vice President Todd Dillon, Ed Ribinskas and Paul Woodring. Dennis Taksar made an appearance before going off to work.

In the meantime, CSX stack train 272 lumbered through with KCS Southern Belle 3915 on the point. It was slowed by the S388 waiting ahead for westbound L163 to clear the single track through the tunnels in Cleveland.

About the time that westbound traffic got going on NS, CSX began running trains and we feared that our view of the PRR unit would be blocked.

It could have happened. As the headlight of NS 8102 bore down on Berea we saw the headlight of a westbound CSX train, the L163. The 65N got to Berea two minutes before the L163 so we were able to get clear images of the Pennsy heritage locomotive.

It is not the first time that a heritage locomotive has come through on McKay day. We saw the Wabash H unit in 2014, but it was trailing.

By early afternoon we had been joined by Rick Houck and Marty Surdyk. Rick had debated whether to come because of the cold.

They arrived in time to see the 17N with the GoRail unit go west.

NS traffic dominated the day. Of the 16 CSX trains we spotted, nine of them came through after 2 p.m. and six of them were clustered in just over an hour’s time between 3:30 p.m. and 4:40 p.m. during which NS was silent. In fact, seven of the last nine trains we logged were on CSX.

Dennis returned to the scene in late afternoon during which time Paul Emch made a short appearance while en route to the annual banquet of the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts that was being held at Tony K’s restaurant in Berea.

Former ARRC member and occasion meeting attendee Alex Buchac also made an appearance as did ex-ARRC member Richard Thompson.

Most ARRC members and former members had departed by the time NS westbound 19A came through just before 6 p.m. with two passenger cars in its consist.

Both were former Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus cars being ferried to new owners.

It was nice not just to see a Southern Belle locomotive of the Kansas City Southern, but a clean one at that. It is leading a very long CSX stack train 272.

The Wheeling & Lake Erie coke train made an early morning appearance.

Like race horses in the starting gate, three NS trains were briefly abreast at the west end of CP 194. Only the 294 in the middle was moving. Watching are the 16T at left and the M6G at right.

The GoRail special interest locomotive is on the point of the 17N.

Eastbound ethanol train K634 was the first CSX train of the day. Once it went by, CSX went into a lull lasting an hour and a half.

A Pan Am Railways SD40-2 made an appearance on NS train 309.

Another look at the colorful and varied motive power consist of NS train 309

Stack train 22K had a brace of BNSF locomotives running elephant style. This train will take the former Nickel Plate Road mainline east of Cleveland.

NS train 20R was one of four consecutive eastbounds that kept a fleet of westbound trains at bay east of CP Max on the Chicago Line.

A young railfan sits on what used to be a signal base to photograph westbound CSX train L135. BNSF motive power was plentiful during the McKay Day outing.

CSX No. 99 has the S388 rolling along through Berea, but not for long. The manifest freight would stop in a few miles to wait for the passage of the L163 through the single-track tunnels in Cleveland.

The Q391 used to be a manifest freight but now it hauls containers.

The rear of the Q166 passes the head end of Q561 by the former Big Four passenger station in Berea.

One of the locomotives pulling eastbound CSX intermodal train Q008 thinks it is an Alco or a steam locomotive as it pours out smoke. The railfan in the distance waving at the train is former ARRC member Richard Thompson.

Some Wheeling & Lake Erie in Alliance

March 9, 2018

Alliance is a Norfolk Southern town. But on a Friday afternoon before an Akron Railroad Club meeting I found a bit of the Wheeling & Lake Erie there.

Shown is one of the many W&LE hopper cars on NS train 424, which is headed toward Bayard on the original Cleveland Line.

It would not go very far. The Cleveland Line dispatcher instructed the crew to pull into the Mahoning siding and wait for a westbound.

I never saw the westbound as I had left to go have dinner and then attend the ARRC meeting.

PUCO OKs 2 Grade Crossing Projects

February 27, 2018

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has approved two grade crossing projects  in Huron and Tuscarawas counties.

The Wheeling & Lake Erie will install lights and gates at the Corwin Street grade crossing in Norwalk in Huron County.

In Tuscarawas County, the Columbus & Ohio River Railroad will install lights and gates at the West Street grade crossing in Newcomerstown.

Both projects must be finished by Nov. 21 and are being paid for in part with federal funding approved through the Ohio Rail Development Commission.

Old Enough to Be Nostalgia

February 22, 2018

Early in its history, the modern Wheeling & Lake Erie held a competition among its employees to design a locomotive livery.

The winner was a bright combination of red and gold that was applied to two GP35s, Nos. 2662 and 2679. W&LE CEO Larry Parsons often referred to them as the “painted ladies.”

Parsons believes that the best color for a locomotive is black so the red and gold look was not widely applied.

No. 2679 has since been rebuilt and repainted in the W&LE’s standard livery, but No. 2662 remains on the active roster in its red and gold appearance.

The two units are shown together in the above images in Akron on May 8, 1994.

They had led an excursion train from Bellevue into town and parked it near Summit Street.

Passengers were taken by bus to Quaker Square for dinner. I remember that it was Mother’s Day.

The two “painted ladies” are shown ready to return to Bellevue. The train was sponsored by the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum and operated under the name Bradley Memorial Limited in honor of a boy who had died far too early.

The fact that No. 2662 is still in service means the image is not yet lost history, even if it is historic.

The images also qualify as nostalgic because the W&LE no longer will agree to host excursion trains such as these.

This would be the only time that I saw the two “painted ladies” paired together on the same train.

CSX Will, First and Foremost, Protect Its Own Financial Interests in Line Sales or Leases

January 23, 2018

Many years ago when I was a college student intern at the Illinois Department of Transportation, one of my co-workers in the Bureau of Planning schooled me on what CSX is seeking to do today.

The Illinois Central Gulf Railroad was slimming down its route network much as CSX is doing today.

ICG was seeking to abandon a web of former Illinois Central Railroad branch lines in Illinois whose primary commodity handled was grain.

My fellow planner quoted officials of the ICG as saying “we’re going to get that grain one way or another.”

Even if the grain was taken away from those scores of small town grain elevators that dotted the Illinois prairie like rural skyscrapers by truck rather than in covered hopper rail cars, it had a long way to go to reach its final destination.

Those trucks leaving the elevators were not bound for a port on the Gulf of Mexico or the Mississippi or Ohio rivers.

The grain traveled by truck a relatively short distance to a regional grain facility such as the one operated by Cargil in Tuscola, Illinois, where unit trains were made up to move the grain onward toward its final destination, whether for export or domestic use.

ICG would continue to make good money hauling grain while getting rid of the expense of maintaining hundreds of miles of branch lines and paying union scales wages and benefits to the railroaders whose trains ran once a day or less on those branches.

The routes that CSX is seeking to lease or sell are not necessarily 25-mph or 10-mph branch lines in need of millions of dollars of rebuilding as was the case with many of the lines the ICG abandoned in the 1970s. Some of them, like the New Castle Sub, are significant mainlines handling much overhead traffic.

But they do cost a sizable amount of money to maintain and the CSX employees who operate the trains on those routes make Class 1 union scale wages and benefits. CSX would rather see that money wind up in the pockets of its shareholders or used for other purposes, such as buying back its stock.

Like the ICG in the 1970s, CSX will do all that it can to keep most of the business generated by its “surplus” routes while not having to pay to maintain or operate them.

CSX doesn’t do much business in Akron. What business there is could be handled by the Wheeling & Lake Erie, which already has a considerable presence in town.

But the Wheeling won’t be hauling most of that freight to its final destination. How that freight reaches its destination will come down to how those sale or lease contracts are written.

The ICG also spun off most of the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio mainline between Chicago and St. Louis to an upstart known as the Chicago, Missouri & Western.

ICG was careful to keep for itself the more financially attractive elements of the route, including ownership and operation of the track between Chicago and Joliet, Illinois.

CM&W quickly found the traffic it received from the ICG was not what it thought it had been promised.

CM&W had overpaid for the ex-GM&O and couldn’t earn enough to pay its debts and get back its investment.

There are, of course, numerous success stories in which a short line or regional leased or purchased a route from a Class 1 and was able to make a go of it due to lower labor costs and more attentive customer relations policies.

Such was the case when the late Jerry Jacobson leased some track from CSX for his Ohio Central System.

It remains to be seen how much, if any, of the New Castle Sub that CSX will be willing to part with.

Aside from whatever business there is to be had in Akron, there is considerable auto rack business at Lordstown and some business in the Youngstown area.

CSX is not going to put itself in a position where it is likely to lose most of that business to Norfolk Southern for the long haul.

We’ve seen this game played before. Route rationalization has been the modus operandi of Class 1 railroads for years. That is how the modern W&LE got started. We’re about to see it play out again.

Variety on the Wheeling & Lake Erie

December 7, 2017

 

As anyone who has ever photographed the Wheeling & Lake Erie for any length of time knows, you never know what motive power will be on the next W&LE train that you see.

W&LE has a standard livery of black and orange with its name in speed lettering, but it also stables a fleet of locomotives it has acquired from various places and those units tend to spend a lot of time in service with whatever look they came with before being painted into the standard W&LE locomotive livery.

Such was the case with this train coming into Spencer on the Hartland Subdivision. It will drop off a few cars in the yard that are headed for Medina and then get back on its train and continue the journey to Brewster.

PUCO OKs Grade Crossing Work in 5 Counties

November 28, 2017

Grade crossing improvement projects have been approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in Fulton, Hardin, Medina, Portage and Stark counties.

In Fulton County, Norfolk Southern will upgrade light and gate circuitry, including new LED lights at the South Munson Road grade crossing in Swanton.

In Hardin County, the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern will install lights and gates at the Van Atta Road/Township Road 55 grade crossing in Liberty Township.

In Medina County, the Wheeling & Lake Erie  will reconstruct the crossing surface and install new lights and gates at the Garver Road/Township Road 177 grade crossing in Chatham Township.

In Portage County, the W&LE will reconstruct the crossing surface and install new lights and gates at the Seasons Road/Township Road 157 crossing in Franklin Township.

In Stark County, the W&LE will install lights and gates at the Riverland Avenue/Township Road 298 crossing in Bethlehem Township.

The Fulton, Hardin and Portage county projects are to be completed by Aug. 21, 2018, and paid for with federal funds.

The projects in Medina and Stark counties are to be completed by Nov. 21, 2018, with PUCO and the W&LE sharing the costs of those projects.

NKP Photographer, Historian Howard Ameling Dies

October 10, 2017

Nickel Plate Road photographer and historian Howard W. Ameling died last week at age 88 after a long illness.

A retired post office employee, Mr. Ameling spent much of his life in Fremont, Ohio, which was served by two NKP predecessor railroads, the Lake Erie & Western and Wheeling & Lake Erie.

He became interested in photographing railroad operations after a visit to the Chicago Railroad Fair in 1948 and would later photograph and collect thousands of images and movies related to the NKP and its components.

He also authored numerous articles about the Nickel Plate.

Mr. Ameling was a founding member of the Nickel Plate Road Historical & Technical Society, which was organized in 1966.

The Society presented him with its first Founder’s Award. Mr. Ameling donated his collection to the society’s archives.

Mr. Ameling is survived by his wife, Dorothy, “Dot” Ameling.

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.