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Railfan Extra Board - August 2012

Canadian National

Canadian National 783 is heading north out of Lang with 130 coal loads for Rouge on the CN Shore Line Sub near Erie, Michigan, on June 11, 2012.

Just the Right Time

By Michael Harding/Photos by the author

Sometimes there are those shots in your local area that you know are out there and possible but you don’t seem to get around to because they need just the right circumstances. Living in Toledo, OH with 3 different class one railroads in town including several yards each for both NS and CSX it’s easy to become preoccupied with shots other than those tough to get ones. With a choice of high volume main lines, interesting industrial tracks and even a short line operation making the effort to ferret out the challenging shots is not always at the top of one’s mind.

Canadian National
CN 5335 leads train 783 across Lotus Drive neaer Erie, Michigan, on June 12, 2012.

Such is the case with the former Detroit & Toledo Shore Line main north of Toledo to Detroit. The line runs north-north-east just inland from the shore of Lake Erie and despite being the only direct access to Toledo for Canadian National is not a heavily used line. A pair of road trains from Toronto to CSX Stanley yard in Toledo, coal loads and empties between CN Lang yard in Toledo and various power plants to the north and a handful of other locals & short runs call those storied rails home.

One of the prime functions of CN’s Lang yard in Toledo is a marshaling point for coal trains, many from the Powder River basin. They often lose the BNSF of CSX road power that brought them into the yard while awaiting an unloading slot. Consequently CN yard power is frequently used to drag the trains north their final miles to one of the Detroit Edison power plants that dot the shoreline. Watching older EMD’s drag 120 to 130 car loaded coal trains up the Shoreline is a treat in a world of coal trains powered by large, modern wide cab AC’s as so often seen elsewhere.

Canadian National
Crossing the River Raisin Bridge near Monroe, Michigan on June 12, 2012.

The challenging shot for the CN Shoreline sub is an evening northbound given the orientation of the line. There is only “good sun” after 7PM on the longest days of summer and you need a train to make use of it. Fortunately this summer CN provided with a 783 crew on duty early evening to take coal loads up to a power plant on several nights when I tried for it. My first effort was on a more cloudy than sunny evening where I sat at Lotus Dr. just over the border in Michigan and just north of Lang Yard. After waiting through sun, the train and the clouds moved as one leaving me scrambling to salvage something from the evening. I ended up with a nice back lit shot from a fresh growing field with the mottled sky in the background.

Railfan Extra Board

Another try on another night that was sunny and devoid of clouds resulted in the success I had been searching for. The shot at Lotus Rd before the line turns a little more east was a success and I pursued a vigorous chase north into Michigan. While much of the line traverses typical Michigan farmlands, the route does cross the River Raisin in Monroe Michigan on a through truss bridge and the shot of the train exiting the bridge with a SD40-2 / GP40-2 combo on the point of a heavy coal train was the real winner for me.

Though I may have missed half a dozen other typical NS Chicago line trains and several more on CSX, coming up with the “rare” shot that’s only possible a couple weeks out of the year and when the sun shines and the train runs at just the right time made it well worth the effort.



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