Sunday, October 05, 2008

Evening Apparition

I was out for a walk with the family when I heard a steam whistle. Thinking it was perhaps the steel mill, I at first ignored it, until I heard it again. And checked the time. 10 minutes before the 7 pm whistle, if there even is one. After getting permission, I headed down to the tracks to see the 1293 one last time.

It may not be the last time, but if feels like it. The OC was recently sold to the G&W. And while realistically, it is not really going to affect the local railfan populace one bit, I still felt a little melancholy watching the 1293 back past the NZT, which was pulling up beside it to make its evening pickup.

The Ohio Central I knew was one that would pull out a steam engine for the fun of it, where new power would show up with no notice, and Alcos ruled the ballast trains. I don't know much about the G&W, but I doubt it is as much fun, for railfans at least. Plus, it was kind of neat knowing that the local railroad was headquartered 30 miles up the road.

I have heard things about what it was like to work for the Ohio Central. And honestly, I don't really care. We all have jobs, and we all do them, for better or for worse, until something better comes along. If I worked for them, I would probably feel different, but to me, the OC will always be yellow and maroon engines creeping through the woods, and an evening steam surprise.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


I shot the 1293's ferry move from Morgan Run to the Byesville Scenic on Thursday morning.

Check out the web gallery here.

Did a history blog post here.

Somewhere on the site is an audio recording of the 1293 trundling through the woods here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The End is Near

Had to go to Coshocton today, and as I was heading to my assignment, something caught my eye on the old Nickle Plate through town. It looked like a C30-7 in UP paint, which, upon inspection a few hours later after my work was done, it turned out to be. Or what is left of it. The pug-nosed brute is near the end now, parted out and slowly disappearing. Next to it was former Conrail slug 1002, a pair of steam generator cars and some rusty coaches. All are most likely going to be gone by the time the impending sale of the OC is completed in about 2 weeks. I guess the ownership is trying to squeeze a few more dimes out of the property.

Sadder to me was the demise of an ancient boxcar near by. There are fewer and fewer steam/transition era cars out there, and it would have looked nice restored running behind a steam engine.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

All the Way to the Bank

The Genesee and Wyoming is going to buy the Ohio Central system for $219.0 million in cash, barring the current managment screwing the pooch too badly. It was all over the local railfan world for a few days before an official release hit the web, late on a Sunday. The paper in New Philadelphia had it that Monday, the Coshocton and Zanesville papers followed suit on Tuesday. Front page news, too.

Apart from the obvious railfan interests, the real fun will be following a few story lines. The pending, on again, off again long term lease of the Panhandle line. The state owns it, and currently OC has a five year lease, give or take. Some political types in Licking County, through which part of the state owned line traverses, have this idea that the Panhandle should be open to all comers. Because clearly all the class ones are just itching to get hold of line that starts in Columbus and ends in east bumhump, doesn't have clearance for stacks (or racks, for that matter, most likely) and has long stretches of single track.

There is also a lot of coal out toward Cambridge, which some day may start leaving the area in unit trains. Not to mention the Buckingham Coal Co mine in Perry County. I don't know how long the OC contract is, but coal prices are up, so who knows where they could sell it.

People started talking about the steam program right off the bat. It will be interesting to see what happens to that. And sooner or later, the paint will change, and the orange will start to spread. Logic would say that it would spread to the ratty former UP and CR engines running around, if they stay on the roster. Most of OC's power was repainted in the last few years, and it would be throwing money away to repaint it when it doesn't need to be. But then again... logic.

All in all, does it matter? I don't ship, I am not employed by the railroad. Trains will still be running (usually in crappy light). It affects me not in the least. But in a way, it is kind of sad that the local railroad, headquarted about 30 miles away, will now just be another part of a larger, although disparate, system.

The photo: A northbound Glouster Turn leaves Zanesville along the Muskingum River. (A shot facing the other direction was in the Trains magazine article about the OC, labeled as being in "North Zanesville." I have never heard of North Zanesville. Northern Zanesville maybe. Anyway.) I shot it on February 21, 2002. I had been in town for a little less than a month. 3255 is gone, off the roster, sold to MBTA, I think. The 5855 has been renumbered into the 402x series, and even the coal gons are different. The Thrall rotary dumps aren't used as much more coal, some 4000cf Ortners taking their place. So in short, much has changed, but at the same time, nothing really has.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Varnish in Town

I got a rather cryptic call from a friend this afternoon. "The tourist train is coming into town right now" he said. It took a minute to figure out what he was talking about. For the Zanesville and Western Scenic Railway to get to its new home near Avondale it would obviously have to come through Zanesville- although I figured it happened while I was out of town earlier this week.

So I raced out of the office and a few blocks away to the yard. A few minutes later a B30-7 led a gaggle of heavyweights, a pair of cabooses and an Sw1 belonging to the former Buckeye Scenic, which was evicted from its home near Heath in an unfortunate series of events precipitated by a real f'ing douchebag, into the yard.

Bringing up the rear was a B23-7. There was a fellow in the cab taking pictures, perhaps to present a different view of this historic event.

The motley collection was being taken to Avondale on the former NYC Glass Rock branch, to be put into storage until the tourist pike gets started. When I first heard that is where the collection was going to be stored, I figured it would be in the woods near the switch with the OC, instead of close to the Ohio 93 crossing. Hopefully it is a safe spot, and all the windows emerge from storage intact. Same with the copper wire, come to think of it.

On my way back from New Lexington I saw the SW1 was indeed close to the road, so I stopped to take a picture- in much better light than our previous encounter. Best of luck to the Zanesville and Western.

The train consisted of a group of heavyweight (6 axle) cars in a D&H inspired scheme, an N&W caboose, a gondola with seats in it, a C&O caboose, and the road's Sw1.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Urban Ugly

I was on vacation last week, so I took a day and went to Columbus to see what was stirring. I didn't know how busy Wednesday (June 11, in this case) were, but it fit our schedule, so off I went.

Arose later than I could have, and took a while to get out of the house, playing with may daughter and giving my wife time to get herself ready. So it was 10 am by the time I got to town. After taking a look at the south side of town, I headed up to the ol' standby, Cook Road, to see what NS had going on the Sandusky district, the busiest line in town.

Turns out not much was going on. Two ugly yellow signals greeted me, and it stayed that way through my trip to the hobby store, after which I got tired of waiting (and sweating) and headed north along the tracks to see what was what. There was a sign on the CSX line that indicated work ahead, and I wanted to make sure it wasn't at the diamond with NS, which would put a wrench in any movements through the area.

When I crossed Lincoln Avenue, I saw a headlight in the distance. On CSX. I thought it may have been a train on the Weber Connector, which can look like CSX, but it was way too far away for that. Sure enough, a few minutes later, a CSX doublestack trundled north, in terrible light. Talk about urban ugly.

Back to Cook Road, where I read and occasionally checked the signals. And sweated. Finally, one dropped to red to indicate a southbound.

After sweating for a while longer, a southbound lumbered into view, with a dirty (and poorly lit) former Conrail Sd60m leading.

The highlight of the train was a Frisco boxcar, my first in several years. After the southbound, wanderlust struck again, and I headed over to see what was stirring in Buckeye Yard. I almost beat my southbound there, but traffic was horrendous. The light was crappy for the hump, so I messed around a bit more, missing an eastbound out of the yard while looking at the crossing at Hilliard-Rome Road, thinking it was a westbound (it was pointing west, and then all of a sudden headed east).

While heading back to somewhere, I saw a sign for Grandview. I remember reading about an area behind a Kroger warehouse where you could watch CSX, and figured I would give it a try. Turns out it is a former Big Bear facility, and has a nice clear view of the tracks, and was a very ugly spot. It was just off Goodale Blvd, and within hearing distance of Olentangy River Road. At the same time it was very desolate. I saw one car, and a jogger.

After what seemed like forever, I saw that a distant signal showed a green, and a few minute later a northbound hove into view with a new GE on the point of a coal train.

The newest CSX paint scheme sucks, even when new. Dark and dingy, it sucks in light worse than NS' black. Unless the light is low and directly over your shoulder, (as in, better than my light in this instance) the paint just comes out muddy and ick.

The two GEs trailed a long line of loaded coal, and seemed to be working fairly hard. There was a good variety of coal hoppers and gons, too, with at least 6 different types of rotary dumps and a bunch of normal hoppers.

A few minutes later the southbound signal went green, a little while later what appeared to be a local showed up and moseyed past, with two earlier variations on the CSX scheme. When I was a kid, they would have been called phase 5 and phase 6, later known as Bright Future.

After the local cleared I sat around a little longer and contemplated a place to pee. As I was about to whip out a soda bottle, I saw that the signals indicated a northbound, and headed out to find a better spot.

The C&O (or Hocking Valley) spared no expense in Columbus, grade separating the tracks most of the way through town. One of the few crossings on the line that I found was at Kinnear, next to a mall. Which had a place to pee, once my northbound came through.

Sure enough, after a little while a single Sd40-2 came grumbling past, with a pretty good sized train. There was even an "unpatched" B&O centerflow.

After my tinkle and buying a new book for my daughter, I checked the crossing and saw another northbound was due, at least somewhere close according to the green signal. I raced north, hoping that West North Broadway was a grade crossing. Turns out it wasn't, and as I turned around another coal train went north, with another new GE AC44AH leading. Seems that (apart from all the waiting for trains) CSX was busier than I thought.

I jumped across the city back to Cook Road to get one more look at NS before heading home. The light was starting to get nicer, but it was also getting close to bed time for my daughter, and I would rather be able to take our evening walk than get a few more trains. NS did reward my efforts with a southbound though.

Highlight of that train was a bunch of Magor 4000 cf covered hoppers.

So I went home, fighting traffic. Made it home around 7, and we all took our walk. Getting a running toddler hug from my daughter made up for all the trains I missed and will miss.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Consolation Prize

My assignment Friday was to cover the Coshocton Balloon Festival. I was supposed to go up in a balloon, since my paper was a sponser. That way I could get some nice art to put on the front page that said "hey, go to the balloon festival."

Unfortunately, it was too windy, and I didn't get to fly. I was pretty bummed. I have never been in a hot air balloon.

As I was leaving the office, I saw smoke, and thought at first that something was on fire. Until a few yards further down the street the Ohio Central's 33 came into view (with a gleaming 4092, a freshly painted Super 7) simmering near Main Street. There was a good crowd, and everyone stopped to take a look or take a picture. I saw people driving with one hand, and taking a cell phone picture with another. It was pretty cool.


Last week I had to cover the funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq. After the funeral there was a procession to the graveyard where he would be laid to rest, 65 miles from where he lived. The whole route was lined with flags, nearly uninterrupted. People lined the route, from little kids to senior citizens. It was very moving, and made me proud to live in SEO.

The soldier was laid to rest in in Rainbow, a hamlet near Beverly. The tracks were just a few hundred yards from the cemetary, and as soon as I arrived (about an hour before the procession) I heard airhorns. So I moseyed down the road to take a picture of the train passing a group of patriots waiting to pay their last respects. This is more than 60 miles from where the guy grew up. The train gave two very quiet "toots" and crawled very slowly past the gathered.

The waiting crowd, some of whom had come from 30 miles south, thus even further from where the soldier grew up, watches the train crawl past.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Feeding the Beast

My first trip to the river of the year. After missing the southbound WLE train at Rayland, I made my customary stop in Mingo Junction, at the elementary school parking lot that overlooks the mill. As I drove up I saw a switcher pushing a cut of hoppers up the high line. By the time I was out of the car the switcher was shrouded in steam, waiting for it's load to empty, as a line of coke hoppers wait their turn beside it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


I don't know why, but I am drawn to a tiny stretch of track between two crossings near Avondale, south of Zanesville. It is only 100 yards long or so, long abandoned, a gentle curve before the line disappears into the weeds again.

I think back to how it must have looked when New York Central trains 61 and 62 mosied through in the middle of the night, on their run between Fultonham and the interchange at Zanesville, probably dragging a few cars of cement, and maybe a box car or two.

We may have a chance to see trains here again- the former Buckeye Scenic has plans for the former NYC Glass Rock line. They plan to reincarnate the Zanesville and Western, a NYC predecessor, as the Zanesville and Western Scenic Railway. Nothing official yet, that I can find, just rumors through the railfan grape vine. Hopefully it will come about this summer.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lucky Break

Wednesday was a typical crappy Ohio spring day, except that it is the middle of winter. A light jacket sufficed for my duties in Coshocton in the morning, which included a spin past the ethanol plant to see if there were any signs of life, since I have been disinvited there twice now in the past two weeks. Hopefully an invitation to a grand opening will appear on my desk later this week.

It rained all morning, and was a light drizzle when I was on my way back to Zanesville. As I crossed the tracks in Trinway there was a headlight in the distance, so I stopped and grabbed my gear. Less than a minute later an NS Sd70m-2 was charging past with a coal train.

Just a lucky break, I guess.

edit: found out today that it was the NS852-06

NS 2688
HLCX 5947 (dead in consist)
NS 8884

114 x 0
15,000 tns
6,025 ft.

OHCR 5122 (rear helpers)
OHCR 4028

Friday, January 25, 2008


I was working at my computer yesterday when I heard the coal train blow for Main Street. I could not in good conscious leave my work until it was finished, but I normally have plenty of time for the train to get through town. Fortunately it was before lunch.

When the train was passing within sight of my window, it was snowing. By the time Main Street was clear it was sunny, and by the time I was in pursuit it was cloudy and warmed up just enough for snow to start dropping from the tree branches. And it was still cold. In the 20s, max.

So I had that going for me as I trudged along North River Road to try and get a good shot of the coal train and fallow fields. I fell well short of 'good' and settled for a side view of the snow dusted leader, Sd40t-2.

It was a cold wait for the train to pass, and as I watched the trailing unit roll away from me, I decided to give it one more try.

With my lunch hour burning away as quickly as the gas in the tank, I headed north. I tried for a shot along the river, but due to recent road work, I couldn't find the one clear spot where it was possible. So I watched the train roll below me and headed off to Ellis.

There is along tangent leading to the crossing, and I hoped the trees would still be covered enough to make the shot worth while- winter is about the only time of year that it is worth the detour. There are other options to be explored there, mostly late afternoon or a cloudy day.

Instead I got a little cloud of snow from the leader and another gray Ohio winter shot. But it was nice to feel the rumble of the train on the crossing, and get a little bit of the cold bones adrenaline for an increasingly rare train photo. It takes work and perseverance to get the great ones, and sometimes a few trips down dead end roads in the middle of nowhere.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Look Back: OC's Fs

A dearth of railroading these days, with the daily coal train failing to provide inspiration. Taking a cue from other railroad enthusiast blogs I provide a look back in place of more modern action.

Not too far back, mind you; 10/13/02. I had been in Zanesville for 9 months when I heard about an excursion on the Ohio Central. Two of the road's rebuilt Fs would be leading an excursion from Zanesville to New Lexington over former PRR trackage.

Unfortunately, the inlaws were due in that weekend. We had rented a cabin at Dillon State Park for a small family gathering. But I convinced my soon(ish) to be wife that I wouldn't be missed for a few hours while I got a few shots of the Fs.

They were already in Zanesville when I got there, two prisine Fs top and tail* in PRR inspired pin stripes. I took a look down town, and headed up to Putnam Hill park to get a shot of the leader on the bridge.

Looking at these pictures, I forget how much the scene has changed; it is still a great view of the city, and a train, but the details have changed. The Roekel Supply building (you can see the KEL) is gone, replaced by a parking lot. So the layered look of a tighter, tele view from the hill changes drastically, with a large expanse of parking lot replacing the old brick building. The line of the windows across the top of the frame is city hall, some 2 blocks north of the Roekel.

I left the overlook and headed down to the Muskingum Avenue crossing, which at the time had a bar called the "Question Mark Cafe" next to the tracks. Never thought to work that sign in to a shot. It is now a more "upscale" restaurant.

There was another railfan at the crossing, which was nice, as I had not met any local fans. I didn't get his name though, and we parted ways after the train passed. I used a longer lens to get the lead F framed by the bridge.

The train headed south. The shot of the train leaving the bridge was nothing spectacular, but it was nice to get a close look at the Fs. I headed south too, figuring to get a shot at the bridge in Roseville. I was still fairly new to the area, and I didn't realize I could get two or three more shots before then.

So off I went. I made it to Roseville in plenty of time, and stood on the old WPA-era bridge over the tracks. Got a lot of odd looks, I remember. But it was a nice sunny fall afternoon, and warm, although my memory may be a bit off there. But finally the train came, rolling through at about 10 miles per hour- which explains the hour+ wait.

I figured I had better not push my luck by following the train and headed back to Dillon and my family. I can't remember if I got any hassle about being out longer than allowed, but it doesn't really matter, and didn't then.

Things have changed since that October. The F units are gone, to CP to pull their executive train. The OC is different too, bigger, due to picking up CSX's former B&O lines in the area. Zanesville used to be a two railroad town, with OC the daily visitor. Now they stable a pair of Super 7s in town, a seldom changing duo in blue. The view from the overlook has changed, too.

If there is a moral to the story, it is to get out and shoot it. It would have been easy to say 'next time' about this particular excursion, but I don't think the Fs ever made it back to Zanesville. I saw them the next year on the railroad's Bicentennial train, but it doesn't seem like long before they headed off to Canada. Even for something that seems like it will last forever (like Conrail) will someday disappear. Sometimes it is sudden, sometimes it is gradual, but things change.

* a British "spotting" term for front and back

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Going my way?

Had to go to Coshocton Monday, and while I was there, I stopped to watch a pair of guys paint the former PRR freight house down town. I was shooting the bull when I heard a flat, toneless horn from the east. A few minutes later a shiny NS GEVO hove into view with a coal train.

Since I had to go back to Zanesville anyway, I bid adeau to the the painters and headed south/west. Turns out the train was going that way too.

I figured I could catch the train at the massive former PRR bridge over the Muskingum River at Tyndall, just south of Coshocton, but it seemed that the fates (mostly slow moving traffic) were conspiring against me. But, according to the sign beside the bridge, all traffic crossing the bridge has a 10 mph slow order, and the obedient engineer slowed down well in advance.

The sun, which was playing hide and seek for much of the morning, popped out just as the pristine 7701 emerged from the through truss.

The train and I went our separate ways. I was heading to Frazeysburg to find some wild art, to keep myself busy until my evening assignments. Not much was going on there; nary a soul on the playgrounds and ball fields, despite the unseasonably weather. But to my surprise, I beat the train, which went tearing through town at track speed, which seemed to be about 50 mph.

The confines of the track through Frazeysburg seem pretty narrow, which is odd, considering the line used to boast double track at one time.