Driving Trip - April 21, 2010

Note: click on the thumbnails for a larger image

        As some of you know, I have been looking for a photo of Huber Station, located just southeast of Findlay on the CCC&STL. I have been working on this  project off and on for almost two years and have yet to come up with a photo. Today a trip to Findlay to the library was in order to do more research, with a few stops along the way.

        The Hancock County Library didn't open until 11:00 a.m. so I was able to take a leisurely trip up Rt. 33/31/68/15 to Findlay. I was unfortunate enough to just miss Q146 coming into Buckeye, and too far behind Q122 to catch up to it. I also just missed a westbound fly through Mt. Victory at 61 mph. Another day of near-sightings had begun.

        My first stop was in Dunkirk where the CSX Toledo Branch and the CF&E Ft. Wayne Line cross. What caught my attention wasn't a train, but that the old PRR signals on the Ft. Wayne Line had been replaced with hooded signals! Another relic bites the dust! I drove over to the tower and discovered that the discarded signals were laying in the grass by the CF&E main. Not only that, but the NYC signals on the CSX side had also been replaced, but instead of being replaced with hoods, new NYC signals were installed. Go figure! As an aside, the CF&E looks to have done some very recent track work and the line looks real good again. Not 79 mph good, but I bet the 40 mph speed limit could be fudged.

        Photos of the signals and the CF&E main:

PRR main looking west

        Absolutely nothing train-wise happening with the Toledo Branch so I headed straight to the library. I didn't have the address but I did have my GPS so I looked up "libraries" under "points of interest". Guess what? The library is not in the GPS' brains! Ha! It did have the Hancock County Historical Society so I drove over there. I did not intend to go there today, but since the GPS knew where it was I decided to make a visit. By a pure stroke of luck they were open on Wednesdays but not for another 90 minutes. OK no big deal I'll come back... but where's the library? I just happen to be there when the mailman was delivering mail so he told me where it was. Five turns later I was there.

        Unfortunately I had very little information to give the reference librarian. I knew where the station was, who built it, and approximately when it closed. She said my best bet was to look at the microfilm for newspaper articles. After about 90 minutes of looking through 3+ months of newspapers I was almost dizzy from the scrolling images on the microfilm reader. At this point I decided to take the librarian's advise to go to the historical society. As an aside, I did find one article which mentioned the need for a Union Station in Findlay. There also was a "farm train" which stopped in Findlay in March 1911. The style of writing in early 1900s newspapers is rather humorous.

        After grabbing some food and taking a brief break at the park to enjoy the perfect weather, I drove over to the Hancock County Historical Society. Armed with my SPV atlas, I showed the two volunteers the location of Huber Station. One of them had heard of the location and began to search. "Let's see... I think that's in Marion Township. Says here there was a post office there at one time, and it had two postmasters." Wow - Huber actually had its own post office! He rattled off the two names of the postmasters. I wonder if the sole purpose of the post office was to service any mail moved by the railroad?

        After looking through some other papers, the volunteer stated that they did not have any catalogued photos of the station. He then proceeded to ask me a litany of questions regarding other possible resources, most of which I had already pursued. He did give me a few other ideas which I will look into as time permits. I wrote the name of the station of my card and thanked him for his time. Disappointed, I left the building.

        I had the rest of the day to myself so I decided to check out a few pieces of trackage which I had not seen before. My old SPV atlas is highlighted with all of the lines I have followed in the state of Ohio. Therefore I can tell where I have and have not been more or less. The trackage from Findlay to Arcadia on NS was not highlighted so that would start my trip. Before that, I noticed a 1863 Hancock County map in the Historical Society. It showed what would become the Findlay, Fort Wayne and Western having a shop building at East St. & Crawford St. in Findlay. This trackage is something my former coworker John and I tried to find once before. I found the intersection and the only clue that something might have been there is an old brick/stone factory type building which has had several modifications to it. Rather than a railroad structure I think it used to be a mill with rail access.

        I then headed up Rt. 12 to the former Lake Erie & Western line. Nice looking trackage for a branch line! Old NKP style signals can be found turned to the side in a few spots. The approach signal to the junction with the Fostoria District at Arcadia is still a NKP style signal. In Arcadia (which by the way got hit by a small tornado a few years ago), the line meets the NS Fostoria District at a somewhat oddball junction. From the road crossing closest to the junction it doesn't look special, but the satellite maps show how the two lines join together, then split apart into double track as they head toward Fostoria. I believe the two lines criss-crossed each other here years ago but I have not seen photos of the arrangement. The right of way is very wide from this point eastward, almost resembling an Erie RofW.

        Photo of Arcadia interlocking looking east:

        Photo of Arcadia interlocking looking west:

        While at Arcadia I was lucky enough to see NS 261 head west. By request of Engineer Chabot the train had a former Conrail unit leading, though the Leslie 3-chime whistle had been replaced with a 5-chime whistle.


        My map showed that I had not followed the NS line from Arcadia to Leipsic so I decided to head west. Thanks to a slow order, I caught up with NS 261 but then it started to accelerate, and it was obvious. I was on a parallel road, and the GPS said I was going 60 mph, yet I was not catching up to the train. Hmmmm.... Eventually I ran out of road and the train sped out of sight. Most of the pole line is still standing in this area.

        Continuing west I crossed the CSX Toledo Branch Subdivision at Mortimer. The CSX line looks like it REALLY needs some help up here. NKP signals still govern the oddball interlocking. Here NS has a lap siding just east of the diamond so it essentially works like double track but technically is two separate sidings and a main track.

        At McComb the NS line used to be bisected by a B&O line from Findlay to Deshler. The line approached from the southeast and appears to have crossed via a set of switches, though I'm not 100% sure. Several old freight buildings which paralleled the B&O main can be found on the north side of the NS main. The grain elevator in town had no cars spotted.

        At this point I realized that my map was wrong in that I had been here before. Oh well... I continued west to Leipsic. A new connector from the former DT&I line to the ethanol plant has been constructed but is not yet in service. Crossing signals are in the process of being installed as well. Should be interesting to see how much traffic CSX gets from this. As info., the old block tower and B&O signals are still standing.

        I then headed south and followed the CSX Toledo Sub. I noticed a few workers dotted along the RofW. At first it didn't sink in why they were there, but then I realized that it looked like they were installing utilities or something to the effect along the RofW. At this point it hit me that I probably should take photos of the old B&O signals when I could as it might be the last time I see them on this line.

        North absolute signal at XN Tower where ex-DT&I line splits to the left: 

        Intermediate signals at 153.5/153.6:

        Radio chatter told me that S501 was coming my way so I looked for a place to stop. Ottawa was close so I pulled into the public parking adjacent to the main. I wanted to get a nice shot of the train passing the neat brick station so I needed to switch lenses to get it right. At this point I realized that I was missing a lens cap from my telephoto lens. D'OH! Then, I heard crossing warning bells. Double D'OH! So I ran out and quickly got in position for a less than ideal grab shot. As the train went by I hit the shutter - nothing. Oops - forgot to turn the camera on! Triple D'OH! Oh well... it wouldn't have been a very good shot anyway.

        Continuing south I heard on the scanner that Q501 was ahead of S501 and had to set out a car due to a hot box. The dispatcher said the hot box reading showed that it had to be set out at the closest possible spot. So while the dispatcher and the two trains figured out how to handle the situation, I headed south to Lima.

        I've been to Lima several times before but never been to the diamond of the CF&E (ex-PRR), and RailAmerica (ex-DT&I) known as Sugar St. The DeLorme Gazetteer atlas does not give enough detail to get there, but the usually trusty GPS helped me out and I was able to get back to the diamond. PRR style signals stand on the CF&E side, and older oddball NYC-ish signals are on the RailAmerica side. The PRR signal was displaying red lights for "Stop" so I'm guessing a "Clear" indication would have vertical white lights. This would be in line with all other PRR signals along this line west of Mansfield. An interchange track sits in the southeast quadrant of the diamond.

        Sugar St. interlocking looking north on ex-DT&I: 

        Sugar St. interlocking looking east on the ex-PRR:

        Sugar St. interlocking looking west on the ex-PRR toward Lima: 

        Sugar St. interlocking with station sign: 

        Luck was on my side as a CF&E eastbound approached the diamond. After stopping at the signal, the conductor got out and walked to the doghouse near the diamond. After exchanging salutations, he told me, "I have to push the button to get across. It should clear up in about seven minutes." Sure enough in about that amount of time the engineer gave the two toots of the whistle and away they went.


        My SPV showed that I had not followed the RailAmerica line south of town (though I suspected that wasn't correct) so I continued to follow the line. Years ago I had stopped at the former diamond of the RailAmerica and the Erie line at SJ Tower, but it seems like the neighborhood has gotten a lot worse since that visit so I decided not to stop. As an aside, when I did stop the RofW was 3-4 tracks wide, of which at least two tracks were in place. I also remember there being pipes in the grass from the old block tower at the location. Today it looks like everything has been removed.

        A curiosity of my GPS is that not all rail lines show on the screen. All Class One mainlines show, but most lines operated by everyone else do not. The RailAmerica line falls into the latter category. So to assist in later railfanning trips, I saved a few "points of interest" in the GPS so that I had an idea of where the line was. Anyone else experience such an issue with their GPS not showing all rail lines?

        The line is a mixture of jointed and welded 115 lb. rail. If memory serves me correctly some of the welded rail is a relatively recent addition to the line. The old pole line is in tact for maybe half of the line. Some ballast has also been dumped in areas so it looks like some track work might be in the near future for the line. The stone is fairly small... almost reminds me of the small gravel used in alleys.

        Towns passed include Uniopolis which does have an active grain elevator with rail spur, in the shadow of the Rt. 30 bridge is St. Johns which has a small grain elevator but no rail spur, and a little further south is a point called Slater. This is the junction of the RailAmerica line and an abandoned PC (T&OC) line from St. Marys to Bellefontaine. This is a curious piece of trackage which my coworker John and I have talked about in the past. Why would the T&OC build a branch that ended in St. Marys? Was it supposed to go further? If not what was the point of it? Today the RofW is heavily overgrown but still discernable.

        Further south is Jackson Center, home of the famous Airstream Trailer Company. Unfortunately their plant is not located along the rail line! I guess the DT&I salesman couldn't convince them to build on the line! Looks like RailAmerica has chopped up the long siding which used to extend from north of the Rt. 67 crossing all the way through town. Now the siding ends south of the Rt. 67 crossing. Some cars were staged in the siding. Surprisingly for such a relatively large town it lacks a grain elevator.

        From this point on the line alternates between long straight stretches and gently curves as it moves south and slightly toward the east. At Maplewood a small grain elevator parallels the line and looks to at one time have rail access but no longer does. I also spotted this female pheasant enjoying the afternoon sunshine on the mainline.


        Just outside of Quincy is the famous truss bridge over the Great Miami River. The Scott Trostel's excellent book on the DT&I (which Half Price Books on Lane Avenue in Columbus has a first edition copy of for $45!) has a lot of information about this bridge, which is the second to bridge the gap across the river valley. The north end of the bridge is accessible if you park along the road which runs under it and then hike up the hill. The south end is not as accessible (unless you walk across the bridge - not advisable, or walk a ways through some corn fields, also not advisable).


        Finally I arrived in Quincy at the junction of the RailAmerica line and the CSX line. Nothing doing at the diamonds so I headed east. The first town east of Quincy is DeGraff. I've been here before but never noticed the spur to the grain elevator. The mainline is on a fill and the spur heads down a steep grade into town. The spur itself is basically in the shape of a T with cars parked in two different places. I snapped a photo of an ex-Penn Central car basking in the late afternoon light.


        Continuing east the mainline is mostly on a fill with few road crossings. I made some mental notes on a couple of the views which would make for some awesome photos with the right lighting.

        Eventually I reach Bellefontaine. BS Tower still stands at the former junction of the multiple lines which at one time used to converge around it. One of the windows has been broken so I'm not sure anyone is using the building anymore. As an aside, the line from Bellefontaine to Urbana which ends south of the tower seems to be a little less overgrown than before. I think they had stored intermodal equipment shoved fairly close to the end of the track so this might explain the lack of vegetation. After waiting around a little and not hearing a thing on the radio I decided to get some dinner and head home.

        Questions, comments welcome!


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