Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ten New Miles (1993)

Ordinarily I wouldn't have bothered posting a short trip report like this, but at the time I thought folks would be interested in the fact that Norfolk Southern had apparently turned their excursion program around (in 1993.)

Jim Boyd (the late editor of Railfan and Railroad Magazine) had written an article blasting the Norfolk Southern Railroad excursion program and specifically Carl Jensen, manager of the program. As I've mentioned in other reports, the NS excursion equipment was in terrible shape, A/C cars ran hot, Jensen walked around with a permanent scowl on his face, dispatchers refused to cooperate with getting the train over the rail, etc.

On Saturday June 19, 1993, I had the good fortune to ride the excursion operated by the Ohio Railroad Museum (the folks at Worthington) Rails to Rollercoasters a one day excursion from Columbus, OH to Cedar Point and other activities at or near Sandusky.  My friend Rich Copeland and I had driven in from Pittsburgh the afternoon before and spent the night at a local Red Roof Inn.  The tickets said that boarding passes would be issued at 6:45am, the train would board at 7:30am, and we'd leave at 8:00am.  We arrived at the fairgrounds at 7:00am and found a good sized crowd there already.

My previous experience with NS at the fairgrounds was for an Independence Limited several years ago.  On that day we stood around in heavy thunderstorms awaiting a train late for boarding, then boarded soaking wet into a well air conditioned car.  Very uncomfortable.  This day the weather was perfect at boarding time (though it would get very hot later).  Not only that, but the train pulled in at 7:20am and we were on board before the advertised 7:30am. The train left exactly on time at 8:00am. The car was air conditioned and the air conditioning worked perfectly.  The cars had been converted to HEP (head end power) and had been refurbished somewhat.  All were painted tuscan red, so the train had a uniform (and very nice) appearance.

The NS line to Bellevue and Sandusky was an ex-PRR (Pennsylvania Railroad) line that the N&W (Norfolk & Western) bought in the 1960's when it merged with the Nickel Plate and Wabash to give it connectivity.  It was in good shape, and had long stretches of double track at the time.  Along the way to Sandusky we passed at least three freights that were waiting for us at the end of double track. This was in sharp contrast to recent years. In previous trips they'd done things like hold us at the end of double track while a train 50 miles away came toward us.  That so there'd be no chance that we'd hold up the freight before we got to the next siding.

Carl Jensen (sans scowl) stopped by and chatted with us for a while.  I hadn't had time to notice, but all of the ex N&W cars had train names on them: Pocahantas or Powhattan Arrow.  Carl said that as soon as he could get the decals they'll be putting appropriate train names on the other cars: Man 'O WarRoyal PalmSouthernerCrescent, and one other that escaped me at the time.

The train arrived in Sandusky (actually a yard about 3 miles away) at 10:57am. We were then faced with a problem: Rick and Phil Moser were driving our car to Sandusky so that they could ride the return trip and so that Rich and I could head for home.  They weren't scheduled to arrive in Columbus by air from Chicago until around 9am and by the time they retrieved our car and drove to Sandusky and found the train it would be sometime in the future.  We ended up waiting until about 1:30, the only ones on the train (to stay out of the hot sun and in the cool A/C...I can't believe I was able to say this about a NS train sitting on a yard track) before they appeared.  We zipped over to the local McDonalds and then dropped them back at the train and headed off to points East.

It was a really nice, smoothly run little trip that added 10 new miles to my mileage map.

Oh, and in case anyone really cares, the train was pulled by steam engine 611.
611 pulls a train on some other trip

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