Driving Trip -
November 22, 2015
Note: click on the thumbnails for a larger image
This is the latest installment in the
of myself and my former coworker John. Unlike past trips, we actually
saw a decent number of trains along our travels so this narrative
should satisfy the vast majority of the readers (all 12 of you) out
there. A SPV Rail Atlas of Ohio would also be handy for
was a cool, dark morning, but at least it was dry. The weather forecast
was not optimistic on seeing much sun so it would be yet another gray
day in Ohio. This fit the mood perfectly since our beloved Buckeyes got
beat by Michigan State on the gridiron the day before! On the way to
pick up John I heard CSX Q122
calling signals on the Columbus Line Subdivision south of Delaware.
Shortly before arriving at John's house the Lewis Center defect
detector sounded an alarm so the train of 120 axles had to stop and
inspect. That gave John and I time to do a little investigation near
the small village of Kilbourne for some bridge abutments of a rail line
that supposedly started to be built but ran out of money before they
got anywhere. John said he saw a photo of the abutments over Alum Creek
either north or south of the village. We drove along Alum Creek north
of Kilbourne for a few miles and didn't see anything in the river,
though we did see a bald eagle make a sweeping move in front of us and
then landing on a branch high in a tree, making an impression on both
of us with its majestic presence.
Vowing not to wait until the last day of the year to get our last
driving trip in, John and I made a date for November 22nd to get
together. John usually gives me suggestions for places to visit and I
then come up with the trip plan. This time he mentioned "New Washington" which is
kind of between several junctions so I did my best to incorporate a
route which would take us by there, as well as by several other notable
junctions in northern Ohio. I must say that this was one of the best
trips we've had. The phrase "quality, not quantity", is often used in a
number of situations. With this trip, we put fewer miles on the car yet
seemed to see more than usual. We stopped at locations along the way
and took photos of things we might not normally stop to photograph.
However the railroad landscape is changing and any relics along the
line seem to be dropping like flies so I'm glad we slowed down and took
the time to take some extra photos. And now, on with the report.
We then headed back to the
Columbus Line Sub. and began following the line closely in anticipation
of Q122's arrival. Surprisingly the crew told the dispatcher they
were still walking the train which gave us more time to inspect
the trackage northward. We made a stop in Edison to see the remnant of
the Toledo & Ohio Central's Eastern Branch through Mt. Gilead. The
line exists to serve a grain elevator and is operated by CSX. We parked at the road crossing
near the elevator and took some photos. The rail here is jointed 105
lb. 1928 vintage rail.
Looking south on the former T&OC line. At the switch the main is on the left and the spur is on the right.
north on the former T&OC line. The line curves toward the northwest
where it meets with the CSX Columbus Line Sub. about 1/2 mile from this
location. The grain elevator is the only remaining customer on this
The radio chatter
revealed that Q122 was finally heading our way. We heard it go through
the Leonardsburg defect detector at 59 mph so knowing that it was
moving a mile a minute we had to quickly find a spot to see him by. We headed
up to the curve at St. James and watched him fly by us. The St.
James detector, which has a female voice, clocked him at 57 mph. The
old elevator at this location makes for a nice photo prop.
The elevator at St. James probably hasn't loaded a car since the Penn Central days.
finally get to see Q122 moving close to track speed through the curve
at St. James. With three units and just over 100 axles the power is
probably barely breaking a sweat. The lead unit looks like it has been
through a lot. The old elevator is just out of view to the left.
stop was Galion where the Columbus Line meets the Mt. Victory
Subdivision (ex-CCC&STL/Erie). The depot here appears to be
undergoing some restoration as it looked to have recently been
sandblasted. We peaked inside the windows and saw that some work was
being done on the inside as well. Here are photos of the building.
of the trackage looking south. Just beyond the curve is where the
Columbus Line Subdivision splits and goes south while the Mt. Victory
Subdivision curves to the right (westward). The NYC signals may be
living on borrowed time.
of trackage looking north. The passenger platform canopy still stands
even though it has been over 40 years since the last regularly
scheduled passenger train stopped here.
a nice 3/4 view of the Big Four Depot. It appears that some painting
has been done to the upper part of the structure, but much work is
still needed to protect it from the elements.
Just in case you were wondering who built this depot, look no further than above one of the windows to get the answer.
Some of the details around the building caught my eye. Here we see some decorative carvings on either side of the windows.
north we made a quick reconnaissance around Crestline yard on the
Panhandle Line. I'm not sure how to designate this line as it's owned
by CSX, operated by CF&E and dispatched by NS. It's the modern
version of the Alphabet Route! Not much doing in the yard other than a
Conrail cab and a few cars laying around. At East Crest we took some
photos of the control point. Nice to see the PRR signals still in
service. This part of the line "Stop" is displayed using two horizontal
red lights. From Mansfield eastward it is three horizontal amber lights.
the view of the eastbound signals at East Crest. The signal on the left
is sitting on what used to be the RofW for the second main. The large
PRR signals have a character all their own, but likely will be replaced
soon due to the new positive train control regulations.
around 180 degrees and you get this view looking west. The track to the
left is the southeast transfer to the Mt. Victory Subdivision. Crest
Tower stood between the two tracks just before the highway bridge. The
second main would have been on the right of the current main. The
passenger platform on the right is still visible.
continued north and made a brief stop at Vernon where the Mt. Victory
Sub. once was crossed by a Conrail (ex-PRR) line which extended from
Toledo Jct. east of Crestline up to Tiffin and on to Toledo. CSX has
new signals staged at this location so the old NYC signals will soon be
south (railroad west) at CP 71 we see the control point from double to
single track. Also note the two slightly different signal heads for the
eastbound signal. It is obvious this used to be double track
territory beyond this point.
north (railroad east) at CP 71. Again it is quite clear this used to be
all double track. The abandoned Conrail line mentioned in the
trip write up used to cross where the trees are on the right side.
signals await installation at CP 71. It won't be much longer before the
NYC style signals become yet another railroad relic relegated to the
scrap heap (or in someone's railroadania collection).
We then headed a little further
on the Mt. Victory Sub. and checked out the diamond at Shelby where the
Mt. Victory Sub. crosses the Ashland Railway (ex-B&O). B&O
signals still govern the ASRY trackage but these are about to be
replaced. This diamond was one of the first OWLS (One Way Low Speed)
diamonds installed on CSX. A nice write up about flange-bearing technology, including the Shelby OWLS diamond, can be found here. A transfer track and small yard used to exist in the southeast quadrant of the diamond at one time. Here are a
few photos of the area.
north on the Ashland Railway, we see a recurring theme of signals about
to be replaced. Not many signal aspect options for this old B&O
signal - it's either stop or proceed!
a closer view of the OWLS diamond. The ASRY is the OWLS route while the
crossing CSX line is the high speed route. The steel bars inside the
rails support the flanges through the diamond.
of the CSX line looking northeast (railroad direction east). Note that
the rail for the CSX line (the high speed route) never has a break in
it as seen in a conventional diamond. A small yard and transfer tracks
used to exist on the right.
brief drive through the old military warehouse area near the diamond
(which had several cars staged for unloading), we arrived at Plymouth
where ASRY crosses the Wheeling and Lake Erie (ex-NOH). The first time
I visited the location the diamond was governed by a tilting target
signal but now has newer looking tri-light LED signals. The old
Locomotive Works is slowly being reclaimed by nature (and others). Both
the Northern Ohio and B&O depots amazingly still stand, though not
in good shape. The sun also made an appearance nicely lighting up some
of our photos.
the view on the W&LE looking west toward the diamond with the ASRY
at Plymouth. This diamond used to be governed by a tilting target
east on the Wheeling at Plymouth shows that the line moves downgrade
from here. The 115 lb. rail is supported by a finer grade of ballast.
Looking north from the Wheeling line reveals this view of what's left of the Plymouth Locomotive Works and its water tower.
Northern Ohio Railroad depot still stands near the diamonds in Plymouth,
though it is slowly being encroached upon by nature. The depot's
architectural features are still evident as well as the position of the
station sign above the window.
photo shows the placement of the Northern Ohio Railroad depot with its
track. It is apparent that this was moved away from the right of way.
The book "Ohio's Railway Age in Postcards" shows the depot next to the
former B&O depot in Plymouth is also standing and in somewhat
better shape than the NOH depot. The main is to the left and what looks
like a house track is on the right.
side view of the depot shows some of the detail of the building. For a
small town this is a decent sized building. Other than the broken
windows the building appears to be in decent shape.
windows on the south end were broken allowing us to take a peek inside.
The building has obviously had some "remodeling" done since its days as
a depot for the B&O.
a view of the ASRY main looking north. The track makes a sweeping curve
by the depot and then descends into a valley under a bridge in
continued east and arrived at the
spot John suggested - New Washington. The CR (ex-PRR) line seen at
Vernon crossed the W&LE at this location. It looked like a transfer
track used to exist at one time in the southeast quadrant of the
diamond location. For a line gone only 35 or so
years it is hard to tell where it existed in spots. A high voltage
power line now parallels the CR RofW. We stopped at the grain elevator
in town and took some photos of cars spotted, finding that one of them
reporting marks showing under the paint!
on the siding in New Washington was this relic. At first glance only
the Conrail paint is evident, but if you look closely you can see PRR
above the WE reporting marks, and the Keystone logo is near the top of
the panel on the right with H47A showing at the bottom.
on the New Washington siding, this Wheeling hopper also shows its
former heritage as a CNW hopper. Someone wishes it still was owned by
then followed the abandoned CR line northwest and crossed the NS Sandusky
District just south of Carrothers where the two lines once
crossed. Our timing was perfect as we got to see an eastbound NS train
pass by. Again the unexpected sunlight helped illuminate the surrounding landscape.
Eastbound NS 234 south of Carrothers on the Sandusky District. The land profile shows that not all of northern Ohio is flat.
After a quick drive by of the
former diamond at Carrothers, we continued to follow the abandoned CR line
northwest. At. St. Stephens we stopped and took some photos as the pole
line is mostly intact and the RofW looks like it only recently lost the
ties and tracks that used to be on it (though likely they've been gone for years). The RofW once supported two tracks here.
of the abandoned Conrail right of way at St. Stephens looking northwest
toward Tiffin. The right of way is very broad and with four arms on the
line pole this suggests it was double track at this
around 180 degrees we see the view at St. Stephens looking southeast
toward Carrothers. Part of the pole line is visible in the distance on
We continued to follow the
line northwest. About a mile southeast
of Tiffin the rail reappears and used to serve a power substation and
another customer, both of which are gone.
southeast about a mile east of Tiffin the track reappears. The end of
the track is in the distance where the high tension poles appear to
cross the track.
A little closer to Tiffin
another customer appears to possibly get rail service on what's left of the CR line. At this point we
were close to the CSX Willard Sub. and the scanner revealed that a westbound was approaching.
CSX westbound passes a grain elevator on the east side of Tiffin. The
rail on #2 track had just recently been replaced. The old rail in the
ditch was less than 15 years old.
and I had visited Tiffin on several past trips so I won't go into the
complex track arrangement that used to be in place. On the west side of
town we see one more CSX train before taking a break for lunch. John commented the whistle sounded like
the horn off of a Ford Escort.
What the lead unit lacked in whistle power it made up for in shiny red
Another CSX westbound heads west on #2 track after just crossing the Sandusky River bridge.
After a very tasty lunch at Wendys, we began following the CR line north from Tiffin. The line
reappears on the north side of CSX and continues its journey northwest
to Toledo. This part of the line is operated by the Northern Ohio &
Western shortline. The line here is heavy welded rail and looks
good for 40 mph
or better. The first junction it crosses is at Maple Grove with the NS
(ex NKP) Fostoria District. A transfer track and an old grain elevator
are at the diamond.
is a view of the diamond at Maple Grove looking northwest. The NOW line
is closer with the NS line crossing in a east-west direction. The old
NKP signals that used to govern this diamond are long gone.
elevator in the southwest quadrant of the diamond at Maple Grove has
seen better days. The track in the foreground is a connector between the
NS was surprisingly quiet so we continued to follow
the CR line north. At Burgoon the line used to cross a line abandoned
by N&W (ex-LE&W) from Fremont to Fostoria. There used to be PRR signals still standing
by the former block tower cement footer in town but these have since been
followed the line through Millsersville, Helena,
Gibsonville and finally Woodville where line ownership switches from
NOW to CSX. A small yard is here for staging cars at one of the lime
plants in the area. At this point we departed the CR line and
headed straight north to pick up the NS Chicago Line (ex-CR,
NYC) at Clay Center. No sooner had we arrived did we see the first
The leader of the westbound train parade greets us at Clay Center, OH.
bridge abutment of the Toledo Port Clinton & Lakeside interurban
still stands at this location. Definitively a relic of another era.
began following the NS line east. The very broad right of way, good for
3-4 tracks, is a reminder of the importance of the route and of how
busy it once was when there were many more passenger trains
running. About every 10 minutes we had to stop because a train was
Another NS westbound quickly passes on main #1 around Martin, OH.
rapid fire train frequency was reassuring to both of us who have
recently heard nothing but bad news regarding the declining volumes the
railroads are hauling right now. At least this very busy line hasn't
Here's a train at CP 268. The old NYC signals will
soon be replaced by tri-light signals. All former
railroad owner identity is about to be lost.
in the westbound parade was this mixed freight. The recurring theme of
new signals is repeated with the venerable NYC signals about to be
chopped in favor of PTC-capable signals.
we arrive at Oak Harbor. This is a neat place to watch trains as the NS
line crosses under another NS (ex-W&LE) line from Toledo to Fremont
and on to Bellevue. As part of the Conrail split a large transfer track
was constructed from the former W&LE line to the former NYC line so
trains going from Bellevue could take the transfer and then be on the
more direct route to Chicago bypassing much of the Toledo congestion.
Here are photos of yet another train on NS.
east, here's a view of the signals at MP 266.2. Note the 220 MHz
antenna on the left to support the PTC functionality.
#4 in the westbound parade was this empty autorack train being pulled
by a rebuilt SD60 locomotive. A nice pure sound with the single unit in
this point John comments, "Now all we need is to see one train crossing
over another on the bridge." Ask and ye shall receive as we were luck
enough to see just that.
westbound parade continues! Here's a coil steel train ducking under the
NS (N&W) Toledo District track bridge showing built in 1910.
wish comes true as we see a train come off the ex-NYC and take the new
connector to head on the Toledo District. A train over a train!
We were about to leave only to hear the scanner reveal that one more train was coming.
The depot in Oak Harbor needs a pain job but is still standing and used by MofW forces.
last train in the westbound parade is this intermodal hot shot, moving
noticeably faster than the previous couple trains.
this point we began our journey south. We made a brief drive around the
Heinz plant in Fremont noting for the first time all of the trackage on
the back side of the plant. Fremont itself has a number of rail lines
that meander the hills and river valley making it somewhat confusing
trackage to follow. I think every time I drive through Fremont I get
confused but John always patiently re-explains who's who in town. We
hop on Rt. 53 and in the process again cross the NS Fostoria District
at Old Fort. We see a headlight so we wait for what seems like a long
time. The longer than normal wait was due to it being a light engine
move. The lead unit had a nice sounding Leslie whistle like what many
of the Seaboard System roads (and others) used on their locomotives.
south we again arrived in Tiffin and CSX was hot. We first stopped to
see a westbound stack train, then as we were about to leave heard an
eastbound trip the 31.1 detector with 650 axles. OK... got to see this
since it was a manifest train. We parked on the east side of town and
watched two SD40-2s pulling their heart out (great sound!). The train
started by us going 35-40 mph but by the time the long train had passed
it was down to 25 mph or so. Later we heard them talk to another crew
saying they were down to 14 mph but would make the hill at Republic.
would be the extent of our train activity for the day. It was a short
trip by our standards (only 281 miles), but it made up for the 350+
mile trips seeing only 1-2 trains the whole time!
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