Welcome to Photo Line! Shortline railroading is a necessity of the modern industry. Fancy paint and clean engines don't pay the bills and yet many photographers refuse to photograph a line without them. What's worse, a a shortline with ratty power that still moves the goods or a bike trail that long ago hosted its last steel wheels? Join photographer Brian Schmidt for an up-close look at the local side of railroading on Ohio's Maumee & Western Railroad.
Maumee & Western headquarters
The Maumee & Western operates a former Wabash line in northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana. Crews for this operation are based at a CSX interchange in Defiance, Ohio where we see #5 idling by the yard office. The line was operated Norfolk Southern through the 1980s before being conveyed to Indiana Hi-Rail, its previous operator. The Maumee & Western took over operations in 1998.
Forgotten tracks of Napoleon
The remains of the long-forgotten tracks are seen at Union Street in Napoleon. The mainline and run-around track are seen in the foreground; on the left is an abandoned yard track. Napoleon once boasted a freight house, interchange, small yard, and even a TOFC ramp. Today, however, the rails sink into the mud as the railroad fights for survival, being sunk deeper with every load that passes over.
I love it when a plan comes together
The Maumee & Western crew debates their next course of action in Napoleon on a foggy morning. Without the run-around track in-service the crew must resort to other means to serve the industries on facing-point spurs in town. Shortline railroading will always be a make-do profession. This day only one inbound load, a reefer for Interstate Cold Storage, is on the switch list.
A watchful eye
The conductor watches the shove with a careful eye at a grade crossing in Napoleon. Normal operations have the conductor chasing the train in an old Ford Ranger, flagging crossings with non-operating crossing protection and keeping an eye out for possible derailments due to track conditions.
Passing Depot Street in Napoleon
The return westbound passes Depot Street in Napoleon. As in many communities across the continent the depot is long gone and the town's only connection with its history is through street names. The locomotive carries the colors of its former owner and the reporting marks of its current owner, the Connersville & New Castle, a corporate sibling to the featured Maumee & Western.
What used to be
More empties than loads this day, one inbound car has turned into more than a dozen outbound empties from the industries in town. The train passes the local VFW hall and long-abandoned silos on its way out of Napoleon. The grassy strip on the right was once part of the support yard for the freight house.
Westbound at Okalona
A westbound with one of the Maumee & Western's own engines passes through tiny Okalona on a sunny summer afternoon. The feed mill in town still receives occasional cars. It seems on this day the conductor is using his own personal truck to follow the train.
Maumee & Western Defiance Yard
The exaggerated condition of the road's Defiance yard is clearly evident in this telephoto view. This shot is indicative of track conditions throughout the line. The Illinois Central heritage of No. 16 can clearly be inferred through this shot.
Pitch and yaw
With banking more befitting a mainline curve an eastbound train leans a bit on its way to Napoleon on a late summer morning. For reasons unknown all of the line's soft spots cause the trains to lean to the north and this shot exemplifies that trait perfectly.
The customer is always right
The Maumee & Western's lone customer in Defiance is Johns Manville, makers of various fiberglass products. The CNUR No. 5 is seen switching their downtown plant early in the workday, according to the plant manager's schedule. Customer service is a crucial element that many shortlines live and die by.
Vestiges of the past can be found on almost every shortline, and the Maumee & Western is no exception. An old Southern boxcar remains in the Defiance yard residing in the mud, trucks long removed. It is used for storage of track and locomotive parts, much to the dismay of those observing the railroad. This sign on one end is a reminder of a time when the yard was full of activity and every spur had a purpose, long before the weeds and mud began to take over.