Driving Trip - November 21, 2010

Note: click on the thumbnails for a larger image

        It was time for yet another driving trip with my now former co-worker John. We've both felt the effects of the crazy economy over the past year, but thankfully we are both gainfully employed again. John suggested a trip to northwest Ohio to cover areas he's never seen so we worked out a game plan ahead of time to maximize daylight and territory covered.

        I picked up John in Delaware around 7:40 a.m. On the way up I heard radio chatter on the NS Sandusky District and it sounded like there were a few trains meeting at Troyton. Sure enough a WB was stopped on #2 track, and we got to the Horseshoe Rd. crossing just in time to see an EB fly by. The WB gave no indication of moving so we headed a little farther north to the Penry Rd. crossing and saw another WB stopped waiting for yet another EB. Eventually we saw the second EB train at Waldo. I got this shot just before the train went over the crossing. Unfortunately I didn't get a shot of the three peacocks just to the left of the cars parked on the left side.

NS EB at Waldo

        Instead of waiting for the WB trains to get moving, we started heading north on Rt. 23. John mentioned that he had not seen the Spore Industrial Track in person so we got off Rt. 23 and headed toward Bucyrus. The Spore Industrial Track is an approximately seven mile remnant of the ex-T&OC "eastern" route that Penn Central abandoned. The line actually crosses the NS Sandusky District and connects with the NE connector between NS and the CF&E (ex-PRR) Ft. Wayne Line at a rather unusual alignment. After the Conrail split CSX got the line and kept the work. Here's a Google map of the interlocking at Bucyrus.


        We picked up the Spore Industrial on the north end of Bucyrus. There's a short distant approach signal on the west side of the Rt. 4/19/100 road crossing. Instead of criss-crossing the line, we headed straight to the sole reason why the line is still in operation - a large quarry at the end of the line. We spotted a switcher inside the gates of the property, however judging by the rust on the rails it doesn't appear that a train has been loaded at the plant for a while. We crossed the PC line one more time at Lemert, but we almost missed it as on the south end of the dinky "town" the line is almost indiscernible.

        We then headed straight north to Plankton where we picked up the W&LE (ex-NOH) east-west route from Carey to Greenwich and eventually Brewster. W&LE has obviously put a little money into the line as at this spot it exhibits welded rail and a decent roadbed. We decided to follow the line west towards Carey. The next town was Sycamore where the W&LE and the previously seen PC line crossed. The PC line runs right through the middle of the center of town on a NW to SE angle, while the Wheeling runs along the north end of town. The two lines appear to cross each other in some woods on the NW side. A few poles from the PC pole line can be found just north of the downtown area.

        Continuing west we eventually arrived in (Drew) Carey (or is it (Ron) Carey? Bonus points if you know who Ron Carey is. Hint: a "sleuth" might know. It definitely is not (Mariah) Carey!). Anyway, we entered town on the NE side right in the middle of the quarry. Public roads give you access to many of the areas where cars are spotted for loading or unloading. The plethora of yard tracks, plus the mains of the W&LE and CSX (ex-C&O, HV), and abandoned or mostly abandoned mains of the PC (ex-CCC&STL) and AC&Y (ex-NOH) make it a fun town to drive around. The last of the abandoned to cross CSX was the AC&Y line which existed for another mile or so west of town to serve an industry. This was pulled in the mid-1990s. The one story C Cabin on CSX still stands and looks to be in good shape.

        We decided to head north towards Fostoria. Before stopping there we made a quick drive-by of the landfill just south of town. When they first opened they had an ex-Conrail B23-7 doing switching duties at the dump. However we noted no such unit there so the trash cars apparently are now moved by trackmobile or some other device.

        We arrived in Fostoria and got stopped by the last 20 or so cars of Q634 taking a right turn off the C&O and heading east on CSX (ex-B&O). We then heard the operator call Q395 through so we headed to the old C&O station on the north end of town and saw the train head east. Whistles were still blowing so we headed to the station and saw NS 10E pound the diamonds, followed by CSX V891 east. Four trains in 30 minutes! Gotta love Fostoria! Here are photos of 10E and V891.

   NS 10E CSX V891

        Heading west we stopped in Arcadia where the NS main splits with the ex-LE&W line heading southwest to Lima, and the ex-NKP line heading straight west to Ft. Wayne. I covered this junction in a previous trip about a year ago so I won't get into the goofy nuances of the interlocking. Still would like to see a train go through here at track speed. The curve on the NKP side looks like it would give some very nice photographic angles. NKP signals still stand at all points on the line. Here are photos of the interlocking taken in April 2010. The left photo shows the view towards Fostoria (NKP line on the left), and the right photo is looking west (NKP line on right).

 Arcadia, OH Arcadia, OH

        Next stop was back on the B&O at Galatea. This dinky village where the ex-B&O and ex-T&OC (western) lines cross is about to become a little more important in the railroad world. According to the plans presented to the Ohio Rail Development Commission in September, CSX plans to install a transfer in the southwest quadrant of the diamond to facilitate the movement of trains from the new intermodal yard in North Baltimore down to Columbus. While no transfer track exists today (and no work on the new transfer has been done), the MSR Maps internet map (formerly Terraserver) from 1994 clearly shows a transfer in the northwest quadrant which is also where the T&OC station used to sit. The B&O block tower sat in the southwest quadrant.

        Moving further west we arrived in North Baltimore, "Crossroads of the Heartland". In town the station still stands and is used by CSX MofW. The station sports a newer roof and a recent coat of paint so it looks good. The station is lucky to be standing after it narrowly escaped being wiped out by a derailment a couple years ago. The grain elevator and its storage tracks were all absent of cars. John and I noted the new signal bridge on the west end of town for the new intermodal yard lead tracks.

        Speaking of which, let's take a minute to address the new intermodal yard. Located about a mile west of downtown North Baltimore, it sits on the south side of the main tracks (adjacent to #2 main). There are two signaled yard tracks which span the entire length of the yard. Inside the yard are four massive overhead cranes which look more like cranes seen at an ocean port rather than an intermodal yard. Side by side, these cranes would dwarf the cranes at Rickenbacker. John and I were in awe by the size of them! Of all the photos I did not take on this trip, a shot of these cranes is probably the one I wish I had taken. A public road sits on the south side of the yard though a large earthen mound obscures most what's in the yard (except for the cranes!). A public road crossing also exists on the west end of the yard, and a new overpass is being built on the east end of the yard, so until it is complete (probably in the next six months) you can still get a trackside view of the east end of the yard. New defect detectors have been installed east and west of the yard, replacing the single detector at MP 54.4. CSX already has run a few trains of empty cars into the yard and we could see one locomotive in the yard. The yard is scheduled to open in January/February 2011.

        After completing our survey of the new yard, we headed north by northwest across some of the flattest parts of Ohio. After crossing the CSX Toledo Subdivision at Custar, John says, "Somewhere up here is Wayback City and the map shows a line from Wayback City to Deshler." Huh? Doing some online searches reveals very little other than a reference in the "Poor's Directory of Railway Officials 1887" stating that the line was five miles long with one locomotive and 10 cars. My 1914 rail map doesn't even show the line so it has been gone a long time. Well we looked but didn't see anything that screamed "abandoned rail line", although I think we were too far north to see where it might have been. Using Google Maps it is a little over five miles from Deshler to the intersection of Rt. 65 and County Road G so that's my guess as to where it ended.

        Heading north we quickly passed through McClure where a N&W (ex-CL) line used to run from Grand Rapids, OH to Malinta. Eventually we made it to Liberty Center, and the beginning (or end) of some of the trackage with the worst conditions in the state. Liberty Center is the eastern end of the line for the Maumee & Western. They operate on ex-NS (nee-WAB) trackage which used to stretch from Toledo to Defiance and on into Indiana. The line is all 90 lb. jointed rail in horrible shape. The grain elevator in town is the last customer on the line, though it hasn't received a car in probably over a year for reasons we'll find out shortly. Overhead maps show two additional spurs on the east side of town but from what we could tell the track was not passable to these spurs. A very nicely preserved depot is about a block east of the grain elevator.

        Heading southwest we could see from a distance the diamonds for the MAW and Rail America line at a junction called Liberty Center. Block signals still are illuminated on both sides of the MAW line so this is still considered "active" trackage. On the west side of the diamonds begins what we thought we might see at some point and that's cars in storage, and a lot of them. The furthest east block were 60' hi-cube AOK boxcars. Probably at one time in auto parts service, surprisingly these newer cars haven't found new assignments moving other freight.

        A little further west we arrive in Napoleon, OH. On the northeast side is a small industrial complex with at least five active rail customers. So this appears to be one of the larger revenue streams for MAW. We also saw one of MAW's locomotives parked behind one of the industries. Here is a photo of it showing off its ex-IC heritage.

MAW unit

        We then found where the MAW line used to cross the original alignment of the DT&I. In the late 1920s this became a secondary route after the Malinta Cutoff was constructed which shaved over 50 miles from the route between Malinta and Detroit. The line was I believe abandoned in the late 1960s. All of the bridges including the truss bridges over the Maumee River are still in place. Just west of the diamonds John pointed out some ancient looking telephone poles along the MAW RofW, as well as an old coal "elevator". Everything along the track is old, from the track itself to the crossing signals. An old freight depot sits on the south side of the tracks a couple blocks west of the former diamonds. Again we look at the track and can't figure out how they keep the cars on the rails.

        Moving west we arrive in Okolona, or is it "Okolona, Okolona, Okolona!" (OK - who can figure out what movie that's derived from?). Despite the dinky size of the town, it actually has an active grain elevator and a scrap metal dealer, both rail served, but neither with any cars. The grain elevator did have some MofW equipment in one of its tracks. A little further west is Jewell which also has a grain elevator and also had no cars.

        Finally we arrive in Defiance where the MAW crosses the CSX ex-B&O double track main line. North of the diamond is the MAW "yard" which looks more like a graveyard for railcars. Not so much because the cars are in bad shape, but because the tracks are so bad they lean to one side or the other. Here are some photos of the tracks taken back in 2008 (nothing has changed!).

  MAW Defiance Defiance, OH MAW Defiance Defiance, OH

        After driving the length of the yard and taking a look at the truss bridge over the Maumee River we are lucky enough to see two CSX EB trains, including one with a MARC unit and a U.S. Army Genset unit!

CSX EB at Defiance, OH CSX EB at Defiance, OH CSX EB at Defiance, OH 

        We continued west along the MAW only to find more cars in storage. This time we find probably over a mile of ATW (ex-UP) 20'2" autoracks (apparently the MAW is cleared for 20'2" cars! Let's run some domestic double stacks!). Given the state of the track and these cars' higher center of gravity I'm not sure how they stayed on the rail as they rocked along the track when put in storage. In addition to the racks was some older rolling stock including an ancient looking 50 ton coal car (maybe ex-B&O?). Unfortunately most of the older cars were blocked by foliage and not really in a good spot to look at up close.

        Further west we arrive at Cecil where the MAW once was crossed by a PC (ex-CCC&STL) north-south line. A one mile portion of the PC line still exists to the south to serve a quarry. A MAW locomotive was laid up on the MAW main awaiting its next assignment. Given where the cars were stored it appears that any cars in or out of the quarry have to go west instead of east back to Defiance. We followed the PC line south which was of noticeably heavier rail than the MAW line, as well as in much better shape. The line ends inside the quarry's property. We could see a few tank cars and a few other older cars (including a 70 ton C&O/Chessie hopper) but the property appeared to be absent of any hoppers used for loading at the quarry.

        We headed straight south through Latty where the PC line crossed NS (ex-NKP). Newer NS signals now govern the interlocking on NS. The ancient wood partial railroad crossing crossbuck on the PC RofW still stands in town as well. Here's a view of the NS main looking east toward Arcadia.

NS Latty, OH

        Further south we reach Van Wert where the PC line crosses the CF&E (ex-PRR) line. The grain elevator tracks north of the diamond only had a couple cars. The PC main ends about a mile north of the diamond under the Rt. 30 bridge. The diamond itself is still governed by PRR signals, high signals on the PRR main, and PRR dwarf signals on the PC main. We followed the PC main south to where it ends a mile or so south of the diamond in a small industrial park. One industry had a couple cars spotted so this is still active. Here's a photo of the diamond from the PRR side, the grain elevator on the PC line, and a former interurban building near the elevator. Again these were all taken 3/1/2008.

  Van Wert PRR Van Wert PC elevator Van Wert interurban building

        John said he had never been to Ohio City so I took care of that by heading south to Ohio City. I was surprised to see that the RJ Corman (ex-Erie) main has been dismantled! The line used to go all the way to Glenmore but in recent years there was no activity west of Elgin. Apparently the scrap price of steel was attractive so everything from MP 73.2 westward is gone. This must have been a recent event as stacks of rail and other track supplies were sitting in Ohio City. Here are a few photos of what it looked like 3/1/2008.

  Ohio City looking east on Erie main Ohio City, OH diamond Ohio City, OH Ohio City, OH Ohio City, OH

        Here's how it looks today.

Ohio City, OH Ohio City, OH Ohio City, OH


        We followed the line east and as mentioned above found the end of the line at MP 73.2 which is a mile or so west of Elgin. The grain elevator in Elgin didn't have any cars spotted but it looked to be an active rail customer. As we criss-cross the line an occasional semaphore signal mast rises above the countryside thus showing the importance of this line at one time. Here's the signal at 78.3 on track two.

Erie signal at 78.3 track two

        Further east in Spencerville the Erie line used to cross a CH&D north-south line. It is very hard to pick this out in town but it appears to parallel the canal which also runs north-south. The Spencerville depot still stands and is slowly being restored by locals. Here's the depot in 3/1/2008.

Spencerville, OH

        Out of daylight we crossed several mains and abandoned RofWs in darkness with no trains to see. Just before we got back to John's house we did see CSX Q636 blast north with 52 cars. There's something cool with seeing a fast train at night.

        Questions, comments welcome!



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