12 November 2005- Elkhart and vicinity (long)

Give us a run down of what you saw, post pictures if you'd like...any info is welcome.
GreatLakesRailfan
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12 November 2005- Elkhart and vicinity (long)

Unread post by GreatLakesRailfan »

Saturday morning I had some free time and I've realized that if I want to go out and 'fan, I've got to make the time to do it. Since my Saturdays tend to be pretty open, until my shift in the dishroom starts anyway, I decided that Saturday would be a good day to try to catch some rail action. Also, since seeing the two trains on Friday had been kind of frustrating since I got to see a total of two for the time I spent chasing less than ten miles of track, but somehow the two I saw managed to wet my appetite for more. Anyway, I got up about 6 on Saturday, but wasted sometime sitting around reading the message boards and stuff before leaving here about 7. I'd decided to go right over to Elkhart, to see if anything much was moving there, and to check the status of the Elkhart and Western. Seeing only red signals around the yard, I went over to the E&W's spot, but it was quite dead. The 1000 was sitting inside the fence, right in front of the caboose, and the 911 was sitting right beside it, but on the next track over. Both sounded as though they'd been shut down, although the 911 could have been idling quietly. I just had my video camera with me, so the pictures are a little grainy, but I didn't shoot any video at this spot. There were a number of cars sitting around, most of which looked to be what I think were cement hoppers- two? bay pneumatic unload cars. Maybe they're not for cement, although I believe the E&W does serve a cement facility or a gravel pit or something just to the west of State Road 19 in the Elkhart vicinity. There were also a couple of frame flats and a boxcar or two. After getting my shots of the E&W, I went back by the station, but instead of entering the parking lot, I headed on south on Main Street. I think it's main street. Its the road that parallels the NS all the way to Goshen. Which is pretty much what I did. I've been on that road before, but never for the sole purpose of 'fanning. I've also never really had a chance to drive around Goshen on my own, so it was definitely interesting. I managed to get across the tracks just after they veered away from the road I was on, and wandered over toward a crossing, just north of a complex that I believe proclaimed itself as a bag company. Well, I found the complex the second time I got to the crossing. The first time I didn't make it to the crossing. Instead an empty coal train decided to appear out of nowhere, while I'm idling down this road with one hand on the wheel, and one hand holding my cell as I'd taken what turned out to be a very inopportune phone call a minute or two beforehand. Yeah, meaning I had no easy way pulling over and taking a quick shot out the window as the train crossed my line of vision. Instead I hung up, turned around, and followed the road I had been on back in the direction of Elkhart. I hadn't realized it at the time, but it turns out there is a road that parallels the railroad on the east side of the R-O-W as well as the one I'd brought down from Elkhart. Being just a two lane road, it wouldn't be a good road for chasing when more people are out and about, but for the time of morning I was on it, it allowed me to catch up to the power on the train, which consisted of a blue ex-CR unit, with two BNSF pumpkins trailing along behind. Having gotten something of a shot, I turned around and went back to Goshen to continue to explore. Didn't know how much there was in town until I started to try to follow the tracks, looking for a decent place to 'fan from. Didn't see much, maybe someone else has some good places they know of. I did try to follow the tracks out of town, but wound up a ways outside of town headed for Newberry, rather than anywhere very close to the railroad. I did manage to find a westbound intermodal in town, but the motive power was out of sight before I was able to get within visual distance of it. All I managed to see was a bunch of double stacked containers. But after getting out of town to the east, and then back into town, I did see one train sitting and waiting for something. Probably Amtrak, as I found out later. But that's getting ahead. On return to town, I found a side street that runs parallel to the NS Marion Sub for about two blocks. Literally parallel. As in on both sides of the track. Not really street running, but probably the closest to it that I've ever driven on. I'm kind of glad there was no traffic while I was on that street. Anyway, I found out that there is a street that serves a bunch on industries just before the street that had taken me out of town. One of those industries uses plastic pellets, and as I drove by I could hear the air, from what I assumed was the unloading process, whistling. I think there was also an Omnisource location (it was definitely a scrap yard, but I think it was Omnisource, it was something kind of familiar) on the street. The street let out just beyond the railroad tracks on the street I'd brought back into town. Having seen just about all I figured I was going to see, I decided to return to Elkhart in case they decided to start running trains soon. So I did. Soon after pulling into the parking lot, I saw the first train I didn't really have to work for.

At about 9:10 am, NS 9956, and UP 5079 entered the yard from the east pulling an intermodal train. Less than 10 minutes later, Amtrak showed up. I'm not sure of train numbers or equipment, so I don't know which train this was for sure. I do know that it had Amtrak 94 leading 97; a baggage car; a dorm lounge; 2 viewliners; a diner; a club car, I believe the Chicago Club; 4 Amfleet cars; and 2 Express Trak reefers. I believe it was this train that had a decent number of passengers disembark (probably 20 or 30, between what I think were Amish, and a group that wandered over to the New York Central Museum, its hard to say, but there seemed to be quite a few people). The next train, at what I'm guessing was 9:30, had Amtrak 154 on the point. Following the 154 was the Amtk 6; a baggage car with two doors (as opposed to the single door on the preceding train); 3 coaches; 1 sightsee-er lounge; 1 diner; 2 sleepers, a single transition sleeper/dorm car, and two Express Trak cars. This also disembarked a number of passengers before leaving. While I know one of these trains was the 49, I don't know which one. I was using my scanner a little bit, but without an amateur radio license, I was not using it more than I was using it, although the signal was coming in loud and clear, especially the crews that were on trains virutally on top of me. After the two Amtraks departed to the west, the freight traffic picked up a bit.

First, at 9:40, NS 9184 arrived from the east (from where I was, anything entering the yard is an eastbound). The 9184 was pulling a number of stacks and cofc cars. I don't usually count cars, but I remember being somewhat surprised by how many cars were behind this engine. At 9:44, NS 9908 and NS 8987 pulling a string of TOFC cars departed to the east. Soon after this train had departed I had the scanner on and there was some discussion regarding a 17N and a --Q train, but I don't know which was which or essentially any of the numbers of the trains I saw. At 9:52, NS 9349, NS 2648, NS 5050, and NS 2643 arrived from the east (this one I know came from the east, I'd seen it sitting in Goshen, east of the Marion Sub split off earlier), pulling a mixed freight. Within a matter of seconds, NS 9792 and NS 8781 departed, eastbound, pulling stacks, TOFCs and COFCs. Then a lull for a couple minutes before NS 9774 and 9958 left eastbound at 10:01 pulling TOFCs, stacks, and COFCs. About ten minutes later, at 10:12, another Westbound general freight arrived, with NS 6788 and BNSF 8614 on the point. This train was interesting in that it had a number of coal loads close to the front with coal that appeared to be more chunky than most other coal I've seen before. This train cleared the crossing about 10:21. According to my notes, at 10:26, a Westbound general freight arrived, led by BNSF 7662 and NS 6590, passing in front of me just before a departing
general freight led by NS 9559 and NS 9179 blocked my view. The last two trains I got to see before leaving Elkhart were an eastbound mixed freight led by NS 2584 and NS 4627, which passed me about 10:35, and an easbound TOFC, led by NS 9642 and 9173 which passed by at about 10:36.

Right after these trains left, it was pretty dead. A guy from a nearby business stopped by, on his break, to see if anything was moving. The whole time he was there, nothing was moving, which considering the volume that had passed right before he got there was understandable, but kind of sucked for him. He did mention that he'd seen those Saudi locomotives heading west about a week ago when he'd been over in South Bend. After he left, I headed out too, figuring that it might be a good idea to get back to school (and maybe get a nap in before work). On the way back I did see BNSF 8836 and BSNF 5338 (I believe) pulling an eastbound coal train, consisting of FURX cars. The way I tend to take from school over to Elkhart takes me along Bittersweet Road between Lincolnway and McKinley Ave. (Old US-20). Since I was just 5 miles south of Granger, I decided to continue on Bittersweet up to Granger (more or less- Granger is a bit of a traffic mess at times, so I took some back roads to avoid it), I did see a northbound on the CN, and continued up to Edwardsburg where I got to see WC 6916 (one of those gray locos like so many GTW locos seem to be), CN (GTW) 5928, and GTW 4617 pulling a mixed freight north. For anyone not familiar with the CN line in Edwardsburg, the line parallels the road on one side, while on the other side are a fair number of businesses. Last Saturday I'd been in town eating lunch for a non-railfan related event down the road, and had seen a UP SD70M and BNSF 327 (I think), a GP60B pulling freight southbound on the line, and since then I'd kind of been wanting a picture of a train at this point on the line. Well, I got some video of one, although the train I got a pic of was northbound and in front of the elevator, not the colorful trees just to the north that I'd seen last weekend. Nevertheless, I did get to see that train, giving me a total of two CN painted locos and two of the 4600 series GT locos in two days.

All in all, not a bad yield, although most of my shots in Elkhart were backlit from the position of the sun relative to the position of the parking lot I was in. That didn't help my video/photos (especially since the photos are mainly stilled video shots), but the overall yield of the day more than made up for it, at least in my opinion. Since it took me longer to type this up than I'd expected, I'll add some of my photos to the thread later, but I'm pretty sure that ScooterB got some of them across the state a ways.

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Scooterb
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Unread post by Scooterb »

Great report Charles. I didnt get out Saturday had to stay around the house as I was on call for work.
Morning deffinantly hop on the NS Chicago line.
Last time I went to South Bend I followed that road up through Edwardsburg on the way home. Will go back that way next time I go down.

GP30M4216
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Nice Report

Unread post by GP30M4216 »

Hi Charles. Nice report. I can provide some answers for you, as Elkhart is where I first grew to like trains, from when I was about 3 years old!

I'm not sure of the E&W's operating plan, but for some reason I think it's weekdays only. But it sure is nice to see those classic EMD's there in a nice public spot. It makes me miss old MSO S2 #78 though, which used to be based there when the E&W was still more closely affiliated with the MSO.

Yes, it's Main Street that goes south from Elkhart to Goshen on the west side of the tracks. South of the US20 Bypass, it is US33. It's a great place to chase trains and read signals - there's quite a few different types between Elkhart and Goshen.

The place in Goshen where you were was near the Old Bag Factory - I believe it's sore of like an indoor collection of shops. I haven't been there in years, but I do remember it. The trains go just north of there, and the road crosses that cool old steel truss bridge over the Elkhart river.

Yes, there is a county road which parallels the NYC line on the east side too. How very convenient! In Goshen, you ran into the old Big Four NS Marion Secondary, which does have about 4-5 blocks of almost street running right in Goshen. This is the former NYC line which received former PRR position signals during the PC years, which are every 3-4 miles south of town. Try taking SR 15 south of Goshen sometime and old SR15 beyond that toward Warsaw sometime, you'll probably see a dozen of the old PRR signals. The Goshen local from Elkhart is the train which serves those industries in Goshen... they usually have Conrail caboose #21283 with them for a backup move.

Nice report about the Amtrak trains. The first you saw was #49, the Lake Shore Limited from New York. You can always tell because it will have the single level cars, including Heritage, Viewliners and Amfleets. The second train was Amtrak #29, the Capitol Limited from D.C. They always have Superliners. I'm glad to hear so many people got off in Elkhart. I always worry just a little bit that Amtrak will just stop service there all together, although I know the ridership into and out of the station has increased quite a bit over last year. Did you happen to walk inside the depot at all? I heard that the NYC museum, caretakers of the depot, have been making some changes/improvements, just curious to know what's going on. Sometime, go over to www.etruth.com (elkhart truth newspaper site) and search the paper for anything relating to "depot" or "Amtrak," You'll pull up quite a few interesting articles. Even one written by me about the increased Amtrak usage as of late!

The rest of the freight traffic sounds good to me! It's nice that since NS took over, most of the signals near the depot have become constant-lit, rather then approach lit from Conrail days. Thanks for the great report again!

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