Driving Trip - December 30, 2012
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The clock was ticking, time was getting
short. Less than 48 hours left in the year and the question on the
minds of railfans everywhere was this: would John and Tony take a
driving trip in 2012 and continue their consecutive year run for trips?
Thanks to some last minute discussions and decision making (we're much
more efficient than Congress at this) the answer would be "Yes!".
This would also be our first trip in the new Honda so we would give it
a good run in the snow.
A side note before we begin. This trip was different than most
others in the past. I didn't worry about writing down every unit
and train symbol, car numbers from trains or even worried about
changing lenses. Why? Well for one thing it was too darn cold to carry
a pencil and paper around or to worry about lens changes! Yes I could
have done a few of either, but instead I wanted to focus on enjoying
the hobby and the sights and sounds of the trains in the cold, snowy
weather. I think "Trains" editor Jim Wrinn wrote an editorial to this
effect several months ago. Sometimes there's something to be said to
just sit and observe and take everything in. There are some details in
these notes but everything is from memory. Enough of the editorial,
let's get going.
While on the way to
pick up John the thought came to mind that there might not be much to
see due to the holiday shut downs at manufacturing facilities and that
we're past the peak shipping season for retail. Plus while driving to
pick up John I heard very little on the radio. But our trip would be
less than five minutes old before we saw our first train, a westbound
stack train kicking up the snow on the CSX Columbus Line Subdivision
with three units and maybe 25 cars. We were unable to get in position
to take a photo as it passed us on an overpass at a decent rate of
We then followed the Columbus Line
north through Cardington and briefly admired the neat three-arch cement
rail bridge in town. The bridge definitely looks wide enough for two tracks.
A little further north we drove through Mt. Gilead and took a look at
one of the few pieces of the Toledo & Ohio Central Eastern Branch still in place
to serve a grain elevator. The branch comes off the main at the station
name Edison which is where the two lines used to cross. The branch also
has a spur to another industry but it appears to be vacant.
Hearing some activity on CSX somewhere north of us we headed toward the
Mt. Victory Subdivision (aka Indy Line) and crossed the track at
Caledonia. This is an interesting piece of trackage where the Erie and
CCC&STL used to parallel each other from Galion to Marion. Twin
truss bridges on the east side of town are a reminder that this used to
be "double track" territory of sorts. The Erie line has been removed,
just like in so many other parts of Ohio, and the Big Four remains in
place. A search light signal, becoming harder to find around here, still stands on
the west side of town. We also drove by the Glen-Gary Brick plant, the one
customer in town to see if they are still using rail. The spur has some
weeds growing between the rails so our guess is that they aren't but
with snow covered rails it was hard to tell how rusty things were.
Back to the radio chatter earlier, we heard someone on CSX telling the
dispatcher that they were ready to "depart for home" (presumably
from Crestline) so we figured they were either heading to Buffalo or
Indianapolis. Since there was no way we would catch up to them if they
were headed east we headed west to Marion. This turned out to be a very
fortuitous decision. As we arrived in town we heard some chatter on NS
of trains meeting at Harvey. A few minutes later we captured this
westbound coal train pass under the new signals for the diamonds at AC.
The snow-covered coal makes it look like the train is hauling snow! The
old N&W signals are probably experiencing their last winter.
NS westbound at the home signals for AC
We surveyed the area and noted the new signals about to be put in
service. Interesting that the eastbound signals on the
C&O which are maybe
three years old are being replaced. The eastbound signals on the Indy
Line are not being replaced while the westbound signals are.
Looking east on the CSX Indy Line
Looking north on the CSX Columbus Sub.
Looking south on the CSX Columbus Sub.
We headed back into the car to warm up. We heard the defect
detector at 38.7 on the CSX Columbus Subdivision come to life as Q634
passed by it. The detector said it was 17 degrees but that seemed a
little low. After the train paused to check a hot box found by the
defect detector, we performed our own rolling inspection as it passed
old and new signals at the Marion diamonds.
Q634 west with the entire train in view!
Q634 splits the signals at Marion
Again we headed back to the car to get an update on NS (and warm up).
We were greeted with radio transmissions from an eastbound train on the
CSX Indy Line. Here it is passing by us at the station with a new front door on the lead unit.
CSX eastbound on the Indy Line at Marion
Snow getting knocked off over the diamonds
We headed back into the car expecting to hear NS call signals but instead
heard another whistle from the west. The eastbound parade on the Indy
Line continued with an empty gon train. John does his best impression of a station agent as it passes.
The station agent is on duty! A CSX eastbound on the Indy Line passes the Marion station.
Things finally got going on NS with an eastbound loaded coal train and
a westbound mixed freight meeting at AC. I told John they were going to
meet at the whistle post sign and I wasn't far off from my prediction.
NS eastbound loaded coal train at AC. Note the non-standard number boards and number font on the side of the unit.
NS trains meet just east of the diamonds while the AC
"operator on duty" observes. The third unit on the westbound train is
dead in tow.
We headed back to the car to warm up again (by this time John was taking full
advantage of the Honda's seat warmers). We heard the NS dispatcher state
that, "CSX has one lined through". Shortly after that transmission we
heard the New Bloomington detector go off and announce a speed of 59
mph. The last eastbound in the parade was Q008 which was being challenged
to a race by a track inspector. The train won the race to the diamonds. An
observation: sometimes the new GE units sound like a helicopter,
vaguely similar to the sound the old GE U18Bs made.
CSX Q008 and track car exchange greetings while heading east on the Indy Line
Q008 wins the race. It also appears to have hit a few snow drifts along the way.
From the station property we could see a NS eastbound sitting in the
distance but after a five or so minute wait we got in the car. Hearing
nothing on the scanner we decided to change our position. We drove by
the CSX yard and saw two ex-Chessie
units CSXT 6065 and 6132(?) idling, and in the NS yard a low nose 6100
series unit idling along with a blue ex-Conrail caboose. The Erie
caboose was nowhere to be found in the CSX yard.
The NS train was still stopped but now had company as another NS
eastbound also approached on the other main. Shortly after we decided to
head north the dispatcher lines up both trains for what would have been
a pretty cool photo of both eastbounds heading toward AC. Both were
empty coal trains with single units in the lead. We hear that NS 218 is
behind one of the eastbounds so John directed me to the road crossing by
OBL. Here we catch 218 passing by with the large coal tower in the
distance. This train used to be entirely made up of UPS trailers but
now shares the space with other companies. John notes that the few
remaining 48' UPS trailers left on the train, once a staple of any
intermodal train from the past 20 years, look old and tired.
NS 218 heads east at OBL. The large coal tower sits in the distance.
Continuing north we work our way ahead of the NS westbound we saw at
AC. Hoping for a fast train photo in the snow, we get ahead and then
carefully head down a partially snow covered, partially clear county
road to the tracks. Here's the westbound moving about 45 mph just south
of Monnett. A perfect shot would have been from the other side but
we'll take what we can get. The all EMD lashup sounded good, though the
last unit was dead-in-tow.
NS westbound kicks up the snow just south of Monnett
north into Bucyrus (temperature of 24 degrees according to a bank sign)
and drove by the American & Ohio Locomotive Crane Company on the
south side of town. While the place looks deserted it could be due to a
holiday shut down. We also passed Transco Railway Products which rebuilds
railcars. Both industries sit along a short piece of the same
T&OC line we saw in Mt. Gilead.
getting a very tasty lunch and obtaining some "souvenirs" from a man
giving out religious propaganda at the local Wendy's, we crossed the
Chicago Fort Wayne & Eastern Ft. Wayne Line in Bucyrus west of the NS diamonds. Judging by
the mostly snow covered rails and piles of snow at the road crossings
nothing has been over the tracks for at least a day or two. John and I
contemplated how amazing it is that this line which used to be the main
PRR route from New York to Chicago moving dozens of trains a day at
speeds faster than a mile a minute has been reduced to a less than a
train a day route. East of Bucyrus it is still relatively busy,
but west of it is a different story.
heard NS westbound I33 call the signal just south of town. As I'm
sure everyone has experienced at one time or another, the timing of small town
traffic lights can be very frustrating and are seemed to be designed to keep you in
town rather than moving you through
town. After enduring two stop
indications at two consecutive intersections, we get a stroke of luck
and are able to get back to NS just in time to see the westbound pass
the beautifully restored T&OC station and pound the NS/CF&E
diamonds. It doesn't look like any more work has been done to build a
connector in the southwest quadrant of the diamonds. A PRR signal still
governs the CF&E eastbound at the diamonds. There's also a N&W
caboose near the station which I believe used to be the caboose used in
the Marion yard.
NS I33 at Colsan (Bucyrus). The T&OC station is just to the left of the utility poles.
NS I33 hits the diamonds with the CF&E (ex-PRR) at Colsan.
After crossing the Spore Industrial Track (T&OC) which looked like it hasn't
seen a train since it first snowed a couple weeks ago, we decided
to follow NS a little further. There's no chatter on the radio so we're
basically wandering aimlessly around in the cold, snowy Ohio tundra.
Then the NS dispatcher tells an eastbound that there will be a meet at
Benson. So we changed direction and headed west toward the tracks. At this
point we both came to the realization that the terrain is anything but
flat around here. As we approached the NS line looking for a place to
take a photo we noted the large curves in the line as well as the decent
grade. We're close to the dividing point between the Lake Erie
Watershed and the Ohio River Watershed so this may very well be the
spot at this location.
We headed down (Steve)
Carrell Road and found ourselves at the west end of Benson, a place
Robert Guillaume would be proud of (this spot has all kinds of TV show
references!). This also appears to be the top of the grade as the line
appears to go downhill in either direction. First we catch an eastbound
pulling mostly CN and CP traffic, then see a westbound empty grain
train which John dubs "a company PR train" with the solid NS power
with matching rolling stock.
View looking north (west) at the West End of Benson. Note the curve and grade in the distance.
NS eastbound at the West End of Benson. The sun has decided to make an appearance.
NS westbound grain train at the West End of Benson. This scene could be from Minnesota!
NS westbound grain train at West End of Benson.
We then paced the
grain train to Carrothers at the crossing of the Wheeling and Lake Erie
diamonds. Earlier in the day we heard the NS dispatcher give the signal
to a Wheeling eastbound and the flangeways confirm that something has
been over it recently. We then headed west and criss-crossed the Wheeling
line several times, including the town of Sycamore which has a very
neat looking feed mill building in the center of town. We also find
where the T&OC line used to cross through town including a few
remaining telephone poles from the old pole line.
Continuing east we arrived in (Ron) Carey, OH and do a reconnaissance of
the quarry operations in town along with the railcars parked along the
various parts of the plant. Most of the cars had somewhat rusty wheels
so things must be on hold during the holidays. After driving by the
beautiful Our Lady of the Shrine church (and it's nice pipe organ!), we
followed the C&O east, again criss-crossing it along the way. In
Upper Sandusky CSX had a locomotive in a yard track awaiting its next
assignment to move some of the grain hoppers in town. At the CF&E
diamond we see that the PRR signals have been replaced with crappy
looking C&O-ish signals. At
least paint the replacements so they look decent!
Continuing east we passed the west end of the Upper siding on the
C&O. CSX has kept the C&O signal bridge but replaced the
C&O signals with new hooded signals. The siding is the longest on
the line at just short of 13,500 feet. It's clear that the track
arrangement was different years ago and that a center siding also
existed here. We then heard some radio chatter on the C&O as it
sounded like an eastbound and a westbound were approaching. We continued to
head south and caught Q636 through Harpster in the snow.
CSX Q636 kicks up the snow at Harpster.
A closer shot of Q636 at Harpster.
Q636 passes the signal at West End Harpster
The eastbound was in the Upper siding waiting for Q636 to pass so this
gave us time to move further south. We hoped to see the train at the
road crossing at MD siding but the train was too far away and there was no
good place to stop because of the snow. As a side note, this spot on
the C&O looks, for now, to be completely untouched by CSX. C&O
signals still stand, the pole line is still in place, it looks like the
C&O. Get your photos now before something changes. There's also a
bridge just north of here that has a very small Chessie System emblem
painted on it.
We headed back to the Marion
station and saw a westbound NS and the CSX eastbound, Q637, by the station, along with a CSX train
taking the connector from the Indy Line to the C&O.
NS westbound at AC
CSX trains pass at Marion
On the way to drop John off the detector at 38.7 says it's 11 degrees.
Again we agree the reading is a little low. I dropped John off and we wished
each other a Happy New Year and agreed the Honda passed the test. We've made our trip for the year so now
for me my year feels complete!
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