Steam In Northern Indiana

Last week was the annual model railroad show and swap shop in Port Huron. The event was Sunday, but we spent Saturday setting up the Bluewater Ntrak and Franklin Range Division N scale layouts, leaving no time for train watching afterward. Sunday. Sunday was the show and despite tearing down both layouts in just over 90 minutes, after unloading everything from the van and putting it away, there was no time to railfan either. SO…my apologies for the week’s delay in posts, but I hope this week’s partially makes up for the lapse.

This weekend Norfolk Southern ran two employee specials (for their employees) using Nickel Plate 765, a 2-8-4 steam locomotive, from Elkhart, Indiana to Bryan, Ohio and return. One trip on Saturday and one trip on Sunday (today). I caught the eastbound trip on Saturday. My plan was to leave early and spend the morning on the Chicago line, catching freight trains before the 765 showed up. However, a longer than anticipated week at work and a family event Friday night resulted in my sleeping a little later than I anticipated and not getting the early start I’d planned. Instead of sitting by the Chicago line for a couple hours before the 765 showed up, I thought for sure I’d missed the eastbound run and would only get to see the return trip to Elkhart. Imagine my surprise when I got off the freeway and headed east to see cars at nearly every crossing heading east from I-69 on US-6, with people looking through their viewfinders to the west. When I arrived at the location I planned to shoot from, I almost kept going into town. Instead I took the turn to the overpass and found an open spot on the side of the road and turned the car off. Then I noticed an older couple on the other side of the road frantically waving at me- apparently I’d parked in their line of sight. So…I turned the car back on and pulled up a little. Because they’d stopped waving, and no one else was gesturing at me, I figured I was ok this time.

When I got out of the car, I realized I was just about exactly where I wanted to be- a good thing because 765 was coming.

From the middle of the bridge, you can see several miles to the west. Not quite to Waterloo, but definitely to the elevator. From the south approach to the bridge (where I was standing) you can see at least two crossings west of the bridge. A good zoom lens helps.

As the 765 approached, traffic at the first crossing west of the bridge went from one guy at the crossing with a camera to a tractor with plow and tiller(?). Just before the 765 arrived at the crossing, a newer Ford crossover approached, passed the plow and parked between the first guy’s car and the crossing. Two people got out and with the guy already at the crossing, watched the 765 pass by. They were lucky, because the 765 hit the only patch of sun between the overpass and Waterloo just east of the crossing.

765 Approaches

Watching the Steam Train

Between the Signals

NKP 765

Once the steam special passed, I headed into Butler, only to find I wasn’t about to spend any time trackside downtown. Saturday must have been the first day of Little League as the baseball fields and adjacent library parking lot were both mobbed. So I headed east, figuring I’d catch the 765’s return to Elkhart. Unfortunately, despite driving all the way to Bryan, and turning the scanner on after crossing the state line, I couldn’t tell what was going on with the wying of the train. So I headed west, looking for a spot to catch the westbound run. Although I found a couple spots that might work, I wound up getting bored (and tired) and decided to work on my alternate plan- to check out the Indiana Northeastern, something I hadn’t poked around in several years.

Long story short- I found Menard’s Holiday City, Ohio, distribution center, and visited Montipelier, Ohio for the first time. Saw a long cut of freight cars in Montipelier, but no power and no trains visible. In fact, after the 765 went east, I caught exactly one train on the Wabash line, with NS 9251 and CN 2408 for power. My record on the Chicago line wasn’t much better, with just one train a few miles west of Bryan (and by this I mean I saw it- I was not in position to take photos of it).

NS 9251 CN 2408

After getting my fix of NW Ohio, I decided to head home and see some real trains. Coming through Detroit I noticed 144 heading northbound, as it crossed a bridge over I94. Figuring I could catch it at Port Huron, I headed north. And beat it to Port Huron. When I arrived in town, the yard was completely empty. The only thing I saw in sight was a pair of Grand Trunk geeps. Except the only thing that identifies them as Grand Trunk are the numbers and the sublettering on the cabs:

Modern GTW

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