Driving Trip -
October 19, 2013
Note: click on the thumbnails for a larger image
Vowing to not repeat what we did last year and wait until the
next-to-last day of the year to do a driving trip, John and I finally
got our schedules to sync on October 19th. The weather report
was not pretty but after analyzing the forecast we figured we could
minimize the rain by driving to the northwest part of the
It is a part of the state I've driven multiple times but it would be
mostly new territory for John. For those who wish to follow along a SPV
Atlas and a Delorme Gazetteer are helpful. For those not interested the
"delete" button is available.
I picked him up and after crossing NS at
Troyton and CSX
at Meredith (no trains imminent on either line), we headed
less straight north and arrived at the CSX Mt. Victory Sub. near New
Bloomington. The elevator sput had two hoppers in scrap tie
service spotted on it. John and I noted that the RofW here is
definitely wide enough for two tracks thought it is single track here
today. A little further west is the town of LaRue which again shows
signs that this used to be double track territory.
Continuing through the light but steady rain
we hear an
eastbound call a signal west of us. We arrive in the town of Mt.
Victory and watch a lengthy Q132 go by us. This train is made up
entirely freight booked by the intermodal marketing company Pacer
International which is John's current employer and my former employer.
Some of John's traffic is on this train so maybe we could write off our
trip as a business trip.
Q132 east passes through Mt. Victory,
OH; note the soon to be replaced signals in the distance
7,000 HP vs. 1 HP - An Amish man and his horse watch Q132 pass
has installed replacement signals for the existing NYC searchlight
signals on the west side of town. Time is definitely not on the side of
Signals at Mt. Victory
continued west and arrived at Ridgeway where the Mt. Victory
Subdivision crosses a north-south CSX line at a division point. South
of the Mt.
Victory Subdivision is the Scottslawn Subdivision and to the north is
the Toledo Branch. A few months ago CSX installed a new transfer in the
northeast quadrant of the diamond to allow intermodal traffic
moving west from the Schneider intermodal yard in Marion quicker access
to the CSX intermodal terminal in North Baltimore. CSX personnel
were scattered around the area preparing for the cutover of new signals
which would again displace the existing NYC searchlight signals on the
Mt. Victory Sub. and NYC style tri-light signals on the north-south
route. While there we see a southbound grain train head from the Toledo
Branch and take a turn west.
Westbound grain train at Ridgeway
New signals at Ridgeway
then followed the Toledo Branch north noting that a decent amount of
the pole line is still up in places. Eventually we arrive in (Stan)
Kenton, OH where the Toledo Branch once crossed the Erie at grade at a
spot marked as "KN" on the SPV railroad map, and was also crossed on a
viaduct by a PC line which ran northeast-southwest from Sandusky to
Bellefontaine. The Erie is the first of the four mainlines we would
cross which traversed from New York City to Chicago. The Erie double
main still exists for about a mile from the Toledo Branch eastward. The
line appears to be used for car storage for the large grain elevator in
town. A remanent of the PC line also exists from the former Erie main
southward about a mile to an industry. John's eagle eyes detect a
tank cars on the property between a few buildings.
We continue north and eventually arrive in
where the Toledo Branch crosses the Rail America (ex-PRR) Ft.
Wayne Line. The PRR line is the second of the four Chicago to
York routes we encountered during the day. This part of the PRR is a
shadow of its former self but has been discussed as being a possible
regional high speed route from Columbus to Chicago. The block
tower still stands at the diamond. Here's a photo from 2010 just after
the PRR signals were replaced. The block tower can be seen in the
2010 photo of Dunkirk
nothing doing on either route, we then get on Rt. 30 and head west to
Bluffton where the NS (ex-LE&W) Lima District once crossed the
AC&Y. The satellite maps show that there were transfer tracks
the northeast and southeast quadrants of the diamond. The NS RofW is
very wide here and appears to have shared space with an interurban
line. The AC&Y depot has been rebuilt and is now an ice cream
The AC&Y RowW itself is long gone at this location, though it
more evident east of the NS line.
One of our goals was to see all of the
northwest Ohio so instead of following either line in Bluffton we took
a beeline to Leipsic where the NS (ex-NKP) Fostoria District, CSX
(ex-B&O) Toledo Subdivision and Rail America (ex-DT&I)
all cross. John and I have been here a few times before and it seems
like more tracks keep being built. The ethanol plant just northeast of
town has resulted in several tracks built around the B&O/NS
diamonds, as well as a lengthy lead track which runs up to the
but is not connected to it. B&O and NKP signals still rule
respective routes and the block tower at the B&O/NS diamond
We then followed the B&O northward
and soon heard a
train following us. At Belmore, a town which looks to be 80% abandoned,
we stand out in the rain to see this northbound CSX empty ethanol
train. The track here is welded 132 lb. 1976 vintage rail.
CSX northbound train at Belmore, OH
little farther north we encountered CSX Q241 south at the south end of
Deshler with a healthy mix of auto racks, auto parts and frame flat
We continued north and arrived in Deshler on
the southeast side
and his expert spotting techniques pick up what's left of the
RofW that ran from Deshler to Findlay. We then watched the last 50 or
so cars of an eastbound on the CSX (ex-B&O) Willard
John observes that almost everything on the train is raw materials
freight rather than finished goods. The east-west B&O route is
third of the four main Chicago-New York routes we would encounter on
this trip. In Deshler we stopped briefly at the railfan park which was
unusually deserted. B&O signals still stand on the north-south
B&O line while newer signals installed during the rebuild of
east-west B&O route govern this line.
South of Deshler, OH looking north
Southwest tranfer in Deshler, OH
then followed the B&O west to Hamler where the line is crossed by
DT&I line seen earlier in Leipsic. A large grain elevator, able
be served by either railroad, sits in the northwest quadrant of the
diamond. The rail on #2 main is welded 136 lb. 1997 vintage rail. Here we see Q160 head east on #1 main.
Q160 at Hamler, OH
time, Mother Nature teased us a little and allowed the sun to peek
through the clouds. We departed northward and followed the DT&I
Malinta where the DT&I used to cross a N&W (ex-CL) line
ran from Toledo to Holgate. Along the former RoW of the N&W
the Malinta depot with a DT&I caboose spotted next to it.
pictures show transfer tracks used to be in the southeast and northwest
quadrants of the diamonds.
Malinta, OH train station / museum
A little north of this is where
DT&I main veers to the northwest toward Napoleon. The existing main is known as the Malinta
Cutoff and was built in 1924 to create a shorter route to Rouge, MI for the
DT&I. Today the old main goes for about 1/8 of a mile from the
existing main before ending in a field. A couple tracks, one occupied
with some older looking boxcars, also exist. Normally John and I would
have tried to investigate this further but RailAmerica had track crews
in the area so we had to settle for a quick drive by.
After grabbing a bite to eat in Napoleon, we
headed east to join back up with the DT&I line, but first encountered
line now run by Pioneer Railcorp as the Napoleon, Defiance and Western.
This former Wabash line was for many years run as the Maumee &
Western Railroad Corp. and before that the Indiana Hi-Rail Company.
Regardless of the name it unfortunately has the reputation of having
some of the worst active trackage in the state. Derailments were a
daily occurrence before some much needed track work was done in the
past year. They also recently received a state grant to
section of line between Defiance and Cecil to once again make the line
continuous from Liberty Center, OH to Woodburn, IN.
John and I crossed the line about a mile
west of the
diamond with the DT&I at Liberty Center and found it stuffed
essentially brand new tank cars in storage, all with 7/13 build dates.
The string of cars ended at the road crossing just west of the diamond
at Liberty Center. The tank cars had rusty wheels so it was obvious
these hadn't moved in a while. The RofW east of the road crossing was
full of weeds so it didn't look like the new owners of the line are
using it to serve the grain elevator at the end of the line in Liberty
Center. However we did not verify this.
Tank cars in storage west of Liberty Center, OH
A cat checks out the tank care in storage on the Napoleon, Defiance and Western near Liberty Center, OH
We continued to follow the
DT&I line north
again noting the occasional section of pole line still standing in
places. While driving north the clouds finally began to break up and
the sun showed itself to the world. There was still a little bit of
mist falling which resulted in a very low angled rainbow in the
northern horizon. John and I commented that neither of us had seen a
rainbow with its apex so close to the horizon. This natural pheomeona
distracted us long enough to miss the beginning of the long eight mile fill of the
DT&I as it begins its decent to eventually rise over another
ex-Wabash Line (now the Wabash Cannonball Rail Trail), and the NS
(ex-NYC, LS&MS) Water Level Route at Delta. We crossed under
fill in a few spots and noted that it was wide enough for two tracks
and also noted the ornate looking railings on all of the overpass
bridges. None of the bridges had DT&I logos.
In Delta we made a quick stop by the depot
along the NS
line to give it a once-over. The building's construction is similar to
other depots along this line. NS maintenance forces occupy this
building which is in good shape. The RofW here is wide enough for three
tracks which is confirmed by the width of the nearby overpass. We
contemplated driving straight west but decided to cross the line once
to check out the track. Great timing as we saw a headlight in the
distance headed west. We waited a few minutes to catch this westbound
domestic double stack train. The rail here is 136 lb. 1999 vintage rail.
NS westbound just west of Delta, OH
The problem with all of this was that I had
not heard a
peep on the scanner that this train was approaching. I thought this
line was on 160.980 MHz but nothing was coming in except for an
occasional transmission by the Toledo East Dispatcher. I put the radio
on scan hoping to hear the train which just passed or something else.
We made a quick drive by the massive steel
Delta and other businesses on the west side which had rail service,
then continued to follow the line westward where we encountered our
next town of note, Wauseon. This is where the original DT&I and
NS line once crossed. The old DT&I RoW is just west of the
signal on the west side of town. The depot in town is occupied by a
local club and is well maintained. With signals just west of the depot,
this is a nice spot to sit and watch the trains go by.
We passed by Pettisville, where the satellite
a small grain elevator with a spur, and arrived on east side of
Archbold and encountered the Sauder Furniture complex. Sauder primarily makes ready
to assemble furniture but also has branched out into drop ceilings and
even caskets (hopefully assembled before you die!). Their assembly and
distribution building is on the north side of the tracks with the rest
of their operations about 1/8 of a mile west and on the south side of
the tracks. Both complexes have active rail spurs.
While driving between the two complexes we
suddenly saw an eastbound freight train roll by the overpass by the
north Sauder building. Once again we did not hear this train on the
radio so at this point I'm baffled as to what frequency they are using.
I double checked my radio and found that old Conrail channel 1 160.800 MHz was
not being scanned. Shortly after putting that back in I heard the
eastbound we just saw call a signal. What's old is new again! They are
on 160.800 MHz again!
After driving through the Sauder complex we
made a brief
tour through Archbold. While driving through we saw a black squirrel in
someone's yard, a creature I hadn't seen in a long time. On the west
side of Archbold is a large ConAgra plant which also has an active rail
spur. NS has two decent sized customers in a relatively small
We continued west and arrived in the next
significance, Stryker. The name of this town always struck me (no pun
intended) to be of rail origin, which it is but not for the reason I
had in mind. According to the village's web page,
Stryker is the last name of a lawyer who was the founder of the
Michigan Southern Railroad Company which built the tracks through town.
In my convoluted mind I've confused Stryker
with with striker
which is the metal form where the coupler is inserted on a railcar.
Railcars are sometimes measured by the "length between strikers".
Anyway, another small depot, similar to the one in Wauseon and also in good shape, still
stands on the north side of the tracks.
As we approached Bryan, I reminded John that
this is the
section of track where a bad train accident occurred in 1999 where one
train rear-ended another train close to track speed around MP 337.2. The resulting collision
another train on the adjacent track. The accident occurred at night and
visibility was near zero as a thick fog blanketed the area. At the time
Conrail did not require crews to call signals over the radio, something
which may have helped prevent the collision. According to the NTSB report, it is assumed that the
train which rear-ended the other train did not see the signals because
of the fog. Here are some photos of the track around the collision site.
Signal at 3351W, near the rear of where the second train was when it struck the train ahead
Signal at 3381W. The train head had just passed this location when it was struck from behind
a photo of the 3241 signal. This type of signal bridge was in place at
the 3381W signal when the collision occurred. The NTSB report discusses
visibility issues resulting from the fog, signal location and view from
the locomotive cab
For whatever reason this accident has always intrigued
me, maybe because the NTSB report, found at http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2001/RAR0101.pdf
, is so descriptive and comprehensive that it places you at the scene
and in the cab of each train involved so you feel like you were there.
It also documents crew rest patterns, crew habits, operating procedures
and many other details that most railfans probably don't ever consider.
The report is 63 pages long but all you need to read is the first 10 or
so to understand what occurred. The photos in the report of the
collision are incredible. After seeing the photos, you'll wonder how
the event recorder was able to survive the crash.
At MP 339 we were treated to a westbound and an eastbound.
NS westbound at MP 339
NS eastbound at MP 339
As we approached Bryan, OH we heard a
westbound call a
signal a few miles away. We drove to the Amtrak station (more like an
"Amshack" station) and watched the westbound by. Note that the RofW is wide enough for five tracks at this location.
Bryan, OH passenger platform
NS westbound at Bryan, OH
This section of track is also
where, in 1966, NYC
tested a jet powered RDC passenger car which reached a maximum speed of
183.85 mph, the fastest speed recorded on a railroad in North America.
Perhaps this record will be shattered in the next 10 years with the
building of the high speed rail line in California. For those with
access to the archives of "Trains Magazine", check out the February
1989 issue which details the event. A historical marker at the station
documents the event.
Bryan, OH historical marker
the train passed we drove by the freight station which had a Trailvan
trailer in the yard.
Bryan, OH freight station
Trailvan trailer by Bryan, OH freight station
We then went back east about 1/2 mile to where the
NS line once was crossed by a PC (ex CCC&STL) north-south line. Transfer
tracks existed in the southwest and southeast quadrants. NS has a small
yard on the NYC RofW at this spot which appears to be a staging
location for a local based here. We follwed the PC line south through Bryan which is
parallelled by a public street. A number of industrial buildings are
located along the line, most of which look to have used rail at one
time. Several gons were parked on the main so if anyone was still
getting a switch it would require moving the gons first. The
line ends at the Titan Tire plant on the southeast side. This was built
by General Tire but was sold several years ago by then owner
Continental Tire to Titan. Carbon black cars were spotted atn the plant.
doubled back through Bryan, John and I noted something we saw in
Archbold, a black squirrel. Then we saw another, then another, and
another, and it seemed like that's all there were in town! Who knew
Bryan was known for their black squirrels.
One of many black squirrels in Bryan, OH. Note the PC main in the background
continued west following the NS line and its seemingly endless tangent
track. John commented that he thought he could see Chicago in the distance. Ha!
After we pass through Edgerton, where the RofW is defintely wide enough
for four tracks, the Honda reminds me that it needs gas so we
into Indiana to fill up in Butler. As we approached the NS (ex-Wabash)
route from Detroit to Ft. Wayne, the crossing protection activates and
we see this train pass by. John notes that this train is taking a new connection installed as part of the Conrail split. I'm two for two
seeing trains on this track at this spot, and both times with CP power!
NS southbound to westbound at Butler, IN
filling the tank we hear someone call a signal for CP352 which is just
east of us. We then position ourselves at the curve in Butler which is
the end of the 67 mile long tangent track that starts in Toledo. We see the intermodal
train photographed below pass by. It was mostly 53' trailers of
trucking companies and
intermodal marketing companies proving that TOFC is not dead. Like
everything else, TOFC has simply evolved from trains full of rail owned
equipment (primarily 45' and 48' trailers) to privately owned 53'
trailers and reefers.
NS westbound at Butler, IN
began our slow trip back home by dropping straight south and picking up
the CSX Willard Subdivision at the Indiana-Ohio state line. The road
crossing here at the state line has to be one of the more peculiar you'll ever run
across. Thanks to B&O re-grading #1 main in the 1920s to reduce the grade for heavy westbound trains, it is
even with the road while #2 main remains elevated on a fill. Here are photos
of the crossing with a K train passing by on #2 main.
Ohio-Indiana state line road crossing on CSX with K train east on #2
Ohio-Indiana state line road crossing on CSX; #1 track is at grade with the road, #2 is on the fill
followed the main back east to Hicksville where by this time both
are back on a fill through town. A fertilizer dealer has a spur to take
in cars, but the decent sized grain elevator does not. John and I
discuss that there seem to be a number of small and medium sized grain
elevators located next to the tracks which no longer have rail service.
The reason could be a combination of a) the railroads only going after
large volumes of business thus give quotes which are cost prohibitive
for the elevators, and b) the elevators pooling resources to single
source load/unload points in order to combat the railroad's rates.
Either way the number of small elevators being served on Class One main
lines is less than in years past.
east we make a quick stop in Sherwood to check out the active grain
elevator which is next to the CSX main but along the alignment of the
north-south PC line we saw in Bryan earlier in the day. Definitely no
one giving rail service to this elevator! A
further east just west of Defiance we encounter the new grain elevator
being built on the south side of the CSX main. This is a large complex
complete with a balloon track for continuous loading and even has a
dwarf signal to get back on the main. It is grain elevators like this
that the railroads will gladly serve with the ability to load a unit
grain train possible on site without having to switch blocks of cars.
this time we hear an approaching eastbound train. We quickly see Q130
east pass us at a high rate of speed.
CSX eastbound Q130 just west of Defiance, OH
CSX eastbound Q130 just west of Defiance, OH
drive into Defiance and do a quick reconnaissance of the Napoleon,
Defiance and Western yard which doesn't look any better than when the
Maumee and Western was the operator. With nothing doing on CSX we drop
south and pick up the NS Fostoria District again which we parallel
eastward. We catch up with a grain train made up of older 4750 cu ft
hoppers stopped at Townwood. Radio traffic reveals that a westbound is
approaching. We stop at a point called Shawtown (which also has a small
grain elevator) to watch Roadrailer 261 fly by us at what seems like
passenger train speeds. Impressive!
NS westbound signals at Townwood, OH
NS westbound 261 at Shawtown, OH
east we stop in McComb and watch the previously seen grain train pass
through town. We also check out the remanent of the RofW of the
line in McComb which we saw in Deshler.
no trains in the area and out of light we decide to head back home.
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