Saturday, July 29, 2006

Westward Local

August 2, 2006
The Ohio Central's Newark Turn tends to leave Zanesville at around 7:30, right about the time I usually get out of work. Usually I base my decision to watch the train leave town on the motive power and if there are any interesting coil cars waiting to be picked up on the way out of town. When I got out of work today, it was such a nice night and the Gp30 on the local was so nice and clean, I figured I would stop and take a photo. Or three.

I thought about taking a photo of the train crossing the former B&O bridge across the Muskingum River. As I cross the street to check out the bridge, the boss drove by and waved. He alread thinks I am nuts, so it is ok. So I tromped around in the mud under the bridge, foul stinking mud that stuck to my shoes and made me slip and slide and sink.

I tried a shot with a long lens, and then a wide view, framed by the underside of the famous Y bridge.

It wasn't very good, at least in review. My camera is still in my trunk, the card undownloaded.

So I scooted over to a tiny road near State Street, where I can watch the train pick up it's cars and head out of town. I squeezed off a tight shot of the train leaving, and then headed west, one more crossing left in town. I lined up my shot, part of a foundry towering over the tracks, and waited. The train had stopped to pick up it's conductor, and it took a few minutes for it to appear. But instead of roaring off into the sunset, the train stopped to switch the foundry.

And since I was late for home, and had a floor to sand, I went home. So here is a photo from last week, of a different set of power from nearly the same spot.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

South along the Scioto

June 30, 2006
I arrived in Circleville, south of Columbus, at 6:55 am, with the intention of meeting up with some fellow Ohio railfans and exploring the parallel CSX and NS lines that run south out of Columbus toward the Ohio River. I had no sooner parked the car than I heard an airhorn, and a headlight appeared to the north. Two light engines rumbled south. The leader was a lease locomotive in UP yellow, the second a former Conrail engine. I shot wide to include the impressive grain elevator. The day had gotten off to a good start.

The scanner kept picking up CSX trains, and while I knew that CSX ran nearby, I couldn't figure out where. I decided to find out, as I had time before the expected arrival of my fellow railfans. I headed south, and CSX's former C&O line appeared along side Ohio 23. At every opportunity, save a factory entrance, I check the side roads for railroad crossings. And darn that C&O, it seemed the whole line was grade separated. Some of the overbridges even had old C&O marking on them, but with 10 feet of bridge showing, it wouldn't do much for the train photography. I had to go nearly to Chillicothe, the next large town south of Circleville, before I found a grade crossing- complete with classic C&O signal. A signal maintainer was talking to an eastbound grain train, so I figured my train would appear around the bend, and pass under the signal bridge. Instead, a few minutes after arrival, a rumble to the south announced the arrival of Q311-30 (Russell Ky-Avon In). I crouched low and shot him with a ground throw switch in the foreground. I should have been a little higher, so the throw didn't 'touch' the train, but it would do. The crew was getting a little air conditioning through the open nose door. I listened to the crew talk to the dispatcher all the way into Columbus' Parsons Yard.

After my Q311, I headed north, to find a spot where I could see both NS & CSX while waiting for my fellow railfans. I found a spot a few miles north of Circleville, on an overbridge. The tracks went straight for both directions on both lines. It would do, more or less, although the sidewalk was closed. After a few curious glances from the locals, I decided to head back to Circleville. When I got back, Columbus native Chuck Carenna arrived and parked next to me.

After introductions, we discussed our plans. We would head south, and check out the NS and CSX lines southward. After a few minutes, an airhorn sounded and we had a northbound. A more or less brand new Sd70m-2 and a bland grey leaser pulled a coal train past us. Again I shot low, to include the grain elevator. I like grain elevators (especially rail served ones) and it was an area landmark, a good thing to include in a photo, to give a sense of place. That said, the photo is missing something. I like the poles though, which makes me about the only railfan that does. Some of them have a bracket on top that was particular to the Norfolk and Western, who built the line.

The grain elevator was unloading a hopper car, and I wanted to get a shot of the guy on the roof of the car closing the hatches. We waited around a while, and I gave up on him ever reemerging from the grain office. We headed south.

We followed the valley of the Scioto, south into Chillicothe, where we looked around but left, uninspired by the rapidly worsening light. We headed south along some little roads that Chuck had once ridden in a bike race. We were focused on a spot near a map-dot called Greggs Hill. It appeared, on the map, at least, that the old C&0 and the N&W crossed, with the DT&I making an appearance nearby. The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton was long gone, abandoned after a merger with the Grand Trunk in the early 1980s. The Chesapeake and Ohio was now CSX, the Norfolk and Western now Norfolk Southern. The map made Greggs Hill look like a promising spot, despite the loss of the DT&I. So we followed the tracks south, first NS, and then after crossing the river, CSX. We missed a northbound coal train on the CSX before finding Greggs Hill. We saw the DT&I roadbed, and after looking around a bit, I began to get a sinking feeling that I had led us astray, that CSX and NS didn't cross, just came close enough to kiss, and then parted ways. Crap.

Chuck wasn't too bothered though, in spite of my grand promises about an over-under crossing, and we parked his car and hiked up to the tracks to look around. The NS was quite a bit lower than CSX, both double track lines curving very close together, the CSX about 15 feet above the NS.

We agreed that we could make some photos here, and we went back to car to get my gear and some water. It was hotter'n hell. (Why I didn't bring my gear the first time, I don't know!) We marched trackside, and waited. We talked about photography, and trains, and this and that. Suddenly, a rumble, and a southbound appeared around the bend. We knew one was coming, more or less, but waited in the shade, rather than the sun, where we could photograph the train. My shade shot, two Sds appearing around a curve, provides a valuable lesson- be prepared, lest you end up with a crappy photo.

Shortly after our slow southbound squealed past, we heard more scanner chatter. We headed into the sun to wait. We were much chagrined to see an NS train pass below us, I even more so when I saw there was a four trucked depressed center flat car in the train, something I have been wanting to photograph for years. Just not an above view through bushes.

A glow on the side of the CSX tracks on the distant curve alerted us to a southbound coal train, the V109.

A pair of AC44s, typical CSX coal train power, rolled past with a variety of loaded coal hoppers, CSX, former CR, and leasers. After it cleared, we headed into the nearby town of Waverly, to check out the NS bridge over the Scioto (not particularly accessible) and find lunch.

After grabbing lunch, me at Kroger, Chuck at Burger King, we headed north, crossing the river at Omega, in search of a possible CSX train. We sat near a signal and waited, eating and chatting, until we heard the dispatcher tell an NS maintainer that he would meet two at Omega. So we went back to Omega.

Omega was a bit lacking, so we headed north. After all, I reasoned, we had two trains coming, so if we missed one, we would still have one behind it. Sure enough, when the road wound it's way back to the tracks, a row of grain hoppers were bounding their way south. Despite my reasoning, I was bummed. The spot where was saw the tracks would work though, with a field of beans and the distant hills framing the tracks. Shortly afterwards, another train rolled south.

While we were getting read to leave, a guy in a van asked us what we were photographing, beans? Trains and beans, I said, and he laughed. He said he wished he had nothing to worry about besides beans and trains. Me too.

We followed the tracks north, figuring on maybe catching a train on the way back to Chillicothe, where we would search for the over under. We had both seen pictures, and Chuck had a pretty good idea where it was. He had pointed out where he figured it was on the way down, so we headed there, just off a busy commercial road. After a bit of looking, we parked behind a Mexican restaurant and hiked to the tracks.

The solid, sturdy looking C&O bridge loomed over the double track NS. It wasn't long before a southbound coal train thundered over it, but the structure was so thick that the train was mostly obscured. Chuck and I retreated into the underbrush to find somewhere shady. We would an ancient drainage stream, with a pair of concrete and stone tunnels. The air was 20 degrees cooler in the shade of the ditch, and we hung out and chatted while waiting for the NS signal, an ancient N&W color position light, to change to green. We kicked around in the ditch, and tried to figure out why it was there. 1915 was cast into one end of the concrete, 1931 in another part.

The signal eventually changed, right in the middle of another CSX coal train. We raced up to the track, to wait for an NS train. We decided to shoot from a different spot, so we couldn't talk. I sat in the weeds, trying to find shade, and fiddled with the ballast. Chuck was further around the curve, so when the train appeared, I yelled and waved until he saw me. A bright BNSF GE thundered south, laying on the horn and dragging the long string of empty hoppers that made up NS train 851.

To tell the truth, when I am on NS, I would rather have an NS leader. Same with pretty much any other railroad. But beggars can't be choosers.

After the southbound we headed back into Chillicothe, to see if we could get a train passing the station there. We hadn't been there very long when another southbound coal train appeared. Chuck shot by the station, I shot further up, with some houses in the frame. I like a sense of place, for better or for worse.

The former station area is now partly covered by an over pass. One of the abutments, one that used to hold the bridge up over the B&O and N&W, had a steam engine mural on the side. It was across the street from a bar, and I tried to figure out how to work a train into the scene. I shot some coal hoppers rolling south, and then a little while later just the scene with no train. Minus one pole, I think it could be a good spot. For a northbound. Of which we saw none.

We waited, and as suddenly as last time, an airhorn sounded. I was out of position, so I ran down the street, and down an ally, hoping to frame the train between two houses. But as usual, the train was bigger than I expected, and the alley didn't allow as much train as I wanted. A guy is in the photo too, hidden in the shadows. He was giving me the eye as I ran down the street and into the alley.

Chuck and I headed back to the car after the last one, the southbound 218, a hot pig train. We were standing around figuring out what to do when I shot a guy working on his bike in front of a building.

I was starting to feel my 5:30 wake up, so we went back to Circleville to try and get something coming through town. I had given up on the day and we were shaking hands good-bye when we heard an airhorn, the sickly goose honk of a new Sd70m-2. It rounded the curve past another grain elevator, the shiny nose catching the last rays of sun. It was a nice way to end the day.

A New Face on the OHCR

June 29, 2006
I can see the OHCR's line through Zanesville when I peek out my office window, and should I hear an airhorn I usually take a surreptitious peak out the window to see what is passing. Wednesday afternoon, I got a late look at the northbound's power disappearing behind the downtown buildings. The rear of the leader looked more yellow than normal, but I passed it off to a slightly obscured view.

Thursday, when I saw the loaded gons head north much much later than normal, I headed out to find the train. The track swings westward enough that the train heads into the lowering sun. A late train, although rare, is a great thing.

Thusly I was surprised when I saw the leader of the train, the former CSX 4602. I had heard rumors and rumblings about new former CSX arrivals, but I didn't know it had hit the road. It was a former yard engine, an aging Sd40, and looked positively stubby next to one of the Ohio Central Sd40-2s and it's long back porch.

The train changed crew north of town, and I drove around waiting for it to leave. When it started to move, I headed north of town to get the train wrapping itself around a curve normally better suited to cloudy days. I had visions of the train rolling through the Dresden street running during the nice evening light.

The train took forever to get to my spot, only a few miles north of the crew change. When the engineer saw me lingering by the crossing, he laid on the horn, all the way through the crossing. From down low, the train towered over me as I crouched to get the shot.

As I headed north, thinking of places to shoot the train suited to the evening light, my cell phone rang. A plumber had been summoned, trouble was a foot. So I had to turn around. But the whole ride home I thought about the joys of the Ohio Central. Jointed rail, winding wooded right of way, and an eclectic, ever changing roster.

Last Light

May 5, 2006
The local has had an unusual combination of aging locomotives on it this week, and since my wife would be looking for houses with our realtor, it would be a fine evening to tingle some pixels in the evening light. So went home, fed the dog, planted some zucchini, and when I heard an airhorn, went down to the tracks. To my chagrin, the train was disappearing into the woods, and I was forced to give chase. Well, not forced, but certainly wouldn't have been able to photograph it otherwise.

Into the hills to the west, squinting into the setting sun. I found the first crossing I could access, and mulled my possibilities. The shadows had covered the tracks coming toward me, except for a narrow band. I thought the train would look nice going through that narrow band with a dark background. A deer crossed the tracks, and a squadron of baby raccoons marched along the drainage ditch. I turned around, and went off to find another spot, and a headlight appeared. So back across the tracks again, parked, and got to work.

The train rumbled through the shaft of light, which since my arrival had moved, and messed up my grand plans. The engineer gave me a horn salute, and notched it out as he passed. I turned, and watched the train roll into the sun, the bugs dancing above the train in the glorious evening sunlight. The raccoons applauded. It was wonderful.

And to think that I almost left...