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.