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.