Monday, August 28, 2006

Business and Pleasure

A call came across the scanner about a wreck off the interstate, so my reporter went off to see what we could find. A semi had plunged down a hill, narrowly missing a building, and come to rest not far from the railroad tracks. The northbound coal train had already been through, so I was not expecting to see a train. But after we had been there a while, I heard an airhorn, and could see a southbound empty through the trees across the river. It would only take a few moments, and I could get a photo of the train and the wreck. Business with pleasure.

I waited around longer than I really need to go get the train, and it took a little longer after it showed up, because the conductor got off to make sure the tow truck wasn't fouling the tracks. Finally the run down GE, star of my GLT chase last Thursday, eased past and I got a frame or two.

Kind of ruined by the guy looking at me, but what to do, what to do.

Photo copyright Times Recorder 2006. Fortunately, the guy in the truck wasn't hurt, just a little banged up.

Cook Road Poles

I had to drop my mother off at the Columbus airport at 3 pm on Sunday. Since my wife would be at a bridal shower, I figured I could get in a few hours trackside somewhere in town. Unfortunately it started to rain on the ride west, and I figured my trip would be just a quick look at the Cook Road signals and then the hobby shop near by.

But by the time we got to the airport, the sun had come out. I left my mother in the care of Delta Airlines and headed west. I figured I could stop at the local railfan hang out Cook Road and check the signals, and then see if the hobby shop had anything interesting in stock.

Back at Cook Road, it wasn't too too long before the yellow nothing-around signal went red, indicating a southbound on NS. And then it was an hour before the train showed up. Since there was a big puffy cloud to the north, I decided to try a photo I had tried before, a low down shot of poles and sky. So I slipped and slide down the embankment between the CSX and NS, coming to a stop in waist-high underbrush. I waded through it, picking up various stickers and seeds until I was below the pole I wanted to include in the photo. A pair of bushes had sprung up since my last attempt, one where I wanted to stand, and one at the base of the pole. They were sturdy bushes, too, which precluded me adjusting them by the time the train came, which at that point, was blowing for the crossing and sure to burst into sight at any second. It did, obviously, a manifest zipping along pretty well, thundering past 10 feet above my head.

The train was mostly cars from the CN family, a train I have seen before, thick with W'S cars. There was a cut of sulfur tankers at the end of the train, and an aging DWP boxcar not far from the head end.

Then it was back to normal for a Sunday. Two yellow signals, which usually means a wait before the next train. So I fiddled around, reading the May issue of CTC Board and taking pictures of the peeling, Conrail-era trespassing signs on the CSX relay box.

I started to think about finding somewhere else to find trains, but then my wife called, shortly after the signals went red (indicating a southbound) and green (indicating a northbound) indicating I would stick around until they came and head home.

First up was the southbound, another manifest, this one heavy with gondolas. Back when I lived on Conrail, I would have been able to tell which train was which when they had recognizable cuts like the two trains I had seen today, but I don't know any NS train numbers.

The train snuck up on me, as I was paying more attention to the clouds covering the sun than the train. The high summer brush makes it harder to see the headlights down the tracks from the 'railfan' parking lot, too. But the shot was what I was planning, using the NYC-era signals on the CSX line in the foreground. A typical view of Cook Road. The sun filtered through the clouds just enough to light the train a little.

So much for wandering around Columbus looking for trains. It was time to head home, Chipolte in tow.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Delayed Meeting

August 24, 2006
Friday night football starts, well, Friday, which means coal train chasin' season starts too. I don't have to be at work until 1 on football Fridays, so I can head south and chase the Ohio Central's Glouster Turn north, usually arriving in Zanesville right about time for me to go to work.

But I figured I would get an early start to the season Thursday, when I had a morning assignment in New Lexington. I could get a shot or three of the coal train as it rolled north through the hinterlands of Perry County, leave it at New Lex and head to my assignment. So I left the house early and headed south.

When I got to Moxahela, I turned my head to a familiar sound through the trees to see a former Conrail C30-7 and the familiar red-ended Ortners thundering through the trees.

Damn. And there was a van behind me so I couldn't just whip the car around on Congo Road. By the time I was heading the right direction, the train was through the big curve at Moxy and gone. So I headed north the 'back way' to New Lex, to a spot in the woods with an old coal mine haulage road bridge I could shoot from. It is an afternoon spot for northbounds, but beggars can't be choosers. And good luck finding a northbound in the afternoon on the West Virginia Secondary. Good luck finding anything, actually.

The train was gone by the time I got to the bridge; I could hear it disappearing to the north.

I had heard the dispatcher talking to a train behind the GLT, so I headed back to Moxy, with hopes to catching him. But the GLT had stopped, having lost it's air just north of the New Lexington tunnel. So I headed north. Again.

I could see the leader from the first crossing in town, so I looked around for a spot. My mind was made up for me when the train started rolling toward the y from the NS to the OC. So I headed to a spot I have shot before, where the tracks come close to the road and you can see part of the town in the background. The sun came out just as the engineer gave the two big old GEs leading the train a bit of throttle, and let loose that wonderful gurgling chug and a beltch of smoke at the same time.

Worth waiting for, as usual.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Old Friends

August 22, 2006
I had a mission in Coshocton Tuesday morning, and I hoped to see my old friend the Ohio Central 1501 performing it's switching duties around town. I drove my wife to work for 2 weeks during various periods of car difficulties last year, and had photographed the former Pittsburgh and Lake Erie GP7 several times during that spell.

I usually take the long way into town, off the main road and over the railroad tracks, past the Ohio Central headquarters and down through the south side of town to follow the tracks. The 1501 was just pulling up to the first grade crossing when I arrived, towing some bulkhead flat cars and some coil cars. A set of coil cars was already on the main, so I knew he would have to combine the two sets of coil cars before heading off the AK Steel works. This would give me enough time to safely cross the tracks and find a spot to shoot from

The line passes through cornfields at this point, despite being only a mile or so outside of Coshocton. I drove away from the tracks and set up to shoot the venerable geep across the fields. I went both vertical and horizontal, shooting tighter to avoid the poles. I like poles in general, but these ones didn't really do much for the photo, so I avoided them.

With a few shots on the card, the train roared off to the south while I went into town to finish my mission.

Once I got to Zanesville and finished my chores, I took my usual path past the yard on the way home. Two blue Super-7s were sitting in the yard, but RS18 1800 was tucked away at the other end. The 1800 usually shows up towing a handfull of ballast hoppers, this time it was alone with a single tank car.

I had spent a pleasant few moments last winter photographing the 1800 as it burbled away the night, spitting sparks on the same siding. I had photographed it a few times as it pulled ballast cars through town. It is always nice to see the 1800, so I stopped to make some more photos of the only RS18 in Ohio.

I was on the dark side of the engine, so I tried to accentuate the long snout of the handsome beast. Then I got down low, and the flare of the clean gray front of the cab gave the resulting image a dreamy feel.

I went over to the sunny side of the locomotive- access was easy as there is a bike path along the west side of the yard, the former PRR line. But the sunny side wasn't quite the same, just a front coupled roster shot of an engine that appeared to be tilted down to the front.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


A recent visit to revealed that their August photo assignment contest was boxcars, and I immediately thought of a scene I enjoy looking at as I pass nearly every day.

It is a photograph I have made before, both during the day and at night. Best in the late evening sunlight, it would probably be good in the snow or fog, but these opportunities have not yet presented themselves.

There is a dog food factory in town that ships by rail, either inbound or outbound. Boxcars line the side of the factory in a scene that harkens back to the glory days of railroading, before intermodal and retrenchment.

The most recent photo, at top, was taken in the first week of August. The other two in the summer of 2005.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Fresh Paint Interlude

August 14, 2006
I was on my way back from Corning when I saw the familiar triangle of lights as I passed over the Ohio Central near Crooksville. So I turned around and found a spot to take a picture. I had not taken a lunch break, so I thought I could take a few minutes to watch a train. It had just finished raining, and the sun was doing it's best to evaporate the puddles, creating a mist that hung overhead like a veil.

I found a little crossing that I had never shot from before, and waited for the train, which was only creeping. I lined up a shot with a row of mailboxes in the foreground and waited for the train to roll into view. When it did, I was surprised how clean the leading locomotive was. Then I noticed the number.

4027? Evidently the OC had renumbered one of it's former Southern Pacific tunnelmotors, and repainted it from it's gray and rust scheme.

Not even the trucks were dusty. I decided to run south and get another photograph, as the sun was threatening to come out, and I wasn't all that pleased with the white, featureless sky in the mailbox photo.

I just needed to wait for the rest of the train to pass. Which of course, was a nice thing to have to wait for.

The trailing locomotives appeared around the corner, first a big blue former Conrail C36-7, and then a green, former BN C30-7. I had never seen the BN locomotive before, which gave me even more impetus to chase the train a little further.

I zipped down to the crossing at Tunnel Hill Road, maybe 2 miles away and waited.

The sun came out as the train neared, and lit the gleaming nose and the yellow house beside the tracks.

The train headed into the mist, and I shot it going away, hoping against hope the mist would linger long enough to watch the trailing engines disappear too. It was not to be though. The somewhat shabby C30-7 did look pretty cool though, as it slowly rocked its way south.

The next day I kept my eyes peeled for a northbound coal train, so see what train the gleaming tunnelmotor was leading. The next day's GLT had different power, thus telling me that the trio of interesting engines was an RHT, the Rehoboth Turn.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Late Summer Light

August 11, 2006

There was a possibility that I was going to guide a fellow railfan along the Ohio Central on Friday night. So after stopping home to see my wife, she suggested we go to dinner. So I took her with me to chase the train. I didn't find my fellow fan, and the chase morphed into an evening drive with my wife, but I did shoot the train at one of my favorite evening spots, for the third time. It is fun to see how the light has changed since the first time I was there, back in May.

It was a nice evening with my wife, which culminated in a fine dinner at one of the best beer bars/restuarants in the state.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Evening Gamble

August 9, 2006

I had Wednesday night to chase the local, so of course it clouded up just before I left work. There were no coil cars waiting to go west, so I didn't know if the the local was even heading to Newark. I headed home to mull a chase.

I ended up messing around, and the train was long gone when I crossed the tracks at State Street. I followed the tracks west, getting stopped for construction twice, despite the fact that it was 7:30. The sun was in and out of the cloads, appearing through a guazy haze and then disappearing behind thicker cover. At a stop light I considered turning around, and then decided to give it a go anyway.

Problem was, the train normally leaves down town at 7:10 or so, and heads across the river to pick up the rest of the consist. Most of the time that is done by 7:30, and heads west, pausing only to pick up the brakeman. This time, with no cars to pick up across the river, it had a good head start on me.

I took the fast way west, not following the tracks, and stopped at a grade crossing. The rails looked well polished, and I feared I had missed the train. I headed further west to check out one last crossing, in the tiny village of Toboso. There was some kind of gunk on the rails- I hadn't missed the train after all. So I headed back to the previous crossing, because there was nowhere to park at the spot I had scoped out.

When I crossed the tracks, the train was visible, so I pulled a u-turn (safely, but illegally) and roared off back down the road I had came from. The train rumbled slowly along, barn in the background, hay in the foreground. The light was gone, the blue of the evening settling in.

I thought it was worth the gamble.