Indiana Excursion Weekend
Oct. 25-27, 2013

by Dave Ingles

On the weekend of Oct. 26-27, 2013, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, owners of Nickel Plate 2-8-4 No. 765, operated round-trip excursions behind the engine on Norfolk Southern's former Wabash main line between New Haven, Ind. (Fort Wayne suburb where the NS yard is) and Lafayette. The trips were named "Wabash Cannonball" in honor of the pre-1971 Wabash-N&W passenger train on the route. Chuck Weinstock of Pittsburgh secured dome-car tickets for me and himself, and also for Rick and Jane Moser of Naperville, Ill., who upgraded to top class in order to ride ex-NYC 20th Century Limited observation car "Hickory Creek" on the rear end. Passengers in Hickory Creek traded spots with those in the car ahead, ex-NYC lounge car 43, for the eastbound return. Chuck & I were in dome 511 Scenic View, one of two Iowa Pacific dome lounges in the 17-car consist (counting 765's auxiliary water tender). We rode the Saturday trip; on Sunday all of us went out for photos, Rick and Chuck selecting only one spot, a curve near Roanoke, Ind., while I got the train 3 times, then went up to Warsaw, Ind., to try for photos on NS's Goshen-Indianapolis line on its street-running section in Warsaw.

On Friday, Oct. 25th, I left home in mid-morning, and my first stop off the Tollway and Expressway was Porter, Ind., where I first shot a parked westbound NS coil-steel train, units 7147/7146, at 2 p.m. Central Time.

Immediately a headlight to the west appeared, and it turned out to be -- ho hum, something I see all the time around home -- an eastbound CP train, on NS trackage rights bound for Butler, Ind., and Detroit, with units 9608/9649, a few minutes later. As it went by, one of the several MofW machines busy on track 2 moved by westward.

I detoured into lower Michigan to check on the Ingles clan's cemetery plots at Galien, first stopping in New Buffalo for a shot of the new Amtrak station stop, which was delayed entering service over a flap about platform height. This is on the old Michigan Central, now Amtrak's own Wolverine Line; it is next to new lakefront condo complexes and replaces a non-paved stop at the south end of town on the ex-C&O Pere Marquette route.

I then took Hwy. 12 to Galien and on to Hwy. 31, going south around South Bend, stopping at a Culver's I hadn't visited, for a to-go lunch. Coming into Goshen on Hwy. 33, I did a brief U-turn to shoot a westbound NS oil train,although under clouds, units 8078/8150, at 4:15, now Eastern Time.

From Goshen I followed Hwy. 15 south along the NS line that, although ex-NYC in heritage, has PRR-style signals, installed by Penn Central after being salvaged from an ex-PRR line downstate. NS has installed two connections on this line, at Claypool to the ex-NKP main eastbound toward Fort Wayne, and at Wabash westbound to the former Wabash Railway main to Decatur, Ill., but also operates trains to the Indianapolis area on this line. I saw no action until Milford Jct., crossing of the CSX ex-B&O Chicago main line, where Rick Moser and I encountered action, on both roads, on our July trip to Pittsburgh (see separate file on the 2013 website). There is a big ethanol plant going up northeast of Milford Jct., to be accessed by both CSX and NS, and several local back roads have been closed since July, so I wound up going about 10 miles total to the east to get across CSX and back to Milford Jct., where I found a northbound NS train waiting, at 5:10 p.m. The first view looks north across the CSX main, on which MofW forces had Track 1 all tied up.

Figuring a CSX was close, I went up on the Hwy. 15 overpass and parked (there is barely room) and shot this eastbound vehicle train behind unit 5445 at 5:18. While it passed, I checked just to the west, beyond an agricultural firm, on the angle, just in case.

After the 5445 East passed, the northbound NS train got the light, and lit out like a scared cat. I made the light at U.S. 6 because the gates on 6 for NS went down, and pulled over for a photo sequence just south of New Paris, almost halfway back to Goshen! The train had units 8977/610/4650, the middle unit being a slug. This sequence was at 5:36.

As I returned to Milford Jct., Indeed I spotted another headlight to the west, so drove down the parallel road west of the ag plant and got these across-the-field views of a stack train led by units 391/7369 at 5:44. I'd hoped to get to Warsaw for the street-running, or at least an inspection of it, but time was fleeting and I was due in Fort Wayne to meet the others for supper, so this was my last train photography for the day.

On Saturday, it was still dark when we drove -- all in Rick's van -- to New Haven to board the excursion. The day would turn out to remain cloudy on the eastern half of the route, with sunlight on the western half. It did not matter to me, as except for the layover in Lafayette, we would be on board the train. Iowa Pacific's car manager and rare-mileage friend Jim Fetchero, at Chuck's request, secured a booth for us in the center of his dome car. Unfortunately, the 765 group's inexperience in running excursions (it has a special relationship with NS on this, allowed fund-raiser trips such as this, with no diesel behind the 2-8-4) showed many times over. The queue to board was long when we got there, tho Rick parked near its end and not far from the gate to the track, right by the engine, and grew longer. Rick, bless his young legs, stood in line to get a good spot so he could be among the first to select seats in the Hickory Creek. The rest of us sat in the car to keep warm and rest our legs. Finally, 10 or 15 minutes after the supposed boarding time, the 765 crew opened the gates; those of us in "first class" had to hoof it, on gravel, the entire 17-car train length to board! Seats were not assigned, just cars, and the group seemed to have sold 100% of the seats, never a good thing; most groups sell 80 to 90% of seats. We had chosen dome so we could see things -- in this litigious era, when the train officially is held to 40 mph on NS (we did exceed that a bit at times) and no vestibule riding nor open Dutch doors are allowed, in effect you are sealed up in a long tin can and so it doesn't matter what the motive power is. Plus, this route is fairly straight and level, good for operations but not for seeing the engine from on board. This may be among the last day-long "public excursions" I choose to ride, especially since this one gained me no new mileage; Sunday's chase made the trip worthwhile, though.

The train left about 16 minutes late at 8:46, and it was getting full light as we cleared Fort Wayne at 9:04. We wound up with a rare 3 of us in a booth for 4, Chuck, Tom DeJoseph, and me. Here, Chuck (left) and Tom check something on Chuck's iPad.

The seeming requisite entertainment (for an audience bored by Indiana scenery?) was OK, and they did play "Wabash Cannonball," so we all got to sing :-).

Rick and Jane Moser did come by to visit, "slumming it" away from their "poo-bah class."

And we did make Page 1 of the Fort Wayne paper!

My next photos were at Lafayette, where we swung west on the "new" (recent) connection that was part of the mainline alignment thru the city, getting CSX's Monon line off its street-running and NS's ex-Wabash route off its straight, but grade-crossing-heavy, alignment thru town. We pulled far enough onto the connection for me to count it as new mileage (probably 0.6 mile or so). This was a service stop, with the engine spotted next to a fire station, easy to water up. The parking lot is off to the left in this from-the-dome photo.

A bus shuttle was provided for passengers to ride downtown to pick up their box lunches, at the Amtrak station, but the buses left from the fire-staton parking lot, so first-class passengers had the train-length to walk in each direction. We were told if we stayed on, our lunches would be delivered to us, which they eventually were, but the smart folks snarfed up a few more of the morning snacks, set out for self-service on the lower level, to tide us over. Again, "dome class" paid mostly for the view, as there was no on-board service common on most excursions. I stayed on the train; Chuck went up front and provides this view of the engine, the only one available from trackside for passengers all day. And returning passengers decried the "bus shuttle," saying they never actually shuttled, making only 1 round trip, so those who missed first boarding just had to get back on the train to await their lunch. Perhaps the 765 group fixed some of these glitches on Sunday.

Here is one of several views I took looking forward in the afternoon out of Lafayette when the sun was out, just to prove we were behind steam! Most of the attempts had all the bugs on the window too prominent to be worth sharing.

The last shots of the day were of people, too -- Jim Fetchero of Iowa Pacific (left), Steve Cordwell in middle, and Tom DeJoseph at right, and then Chuck (who has a proclivity to close his eyes as a shutter snaps) and me.

Having done "scouting" only from the train, I relied on my Indiana DeLorme Atlas which I brought along. Chuck and Rick selected the curve near Roanoke, Ind., and so as to not duplicate exactly their views, I went on south to the village traffic light on 4-lane US 24, turned left, passed a small crowd at the grade crossing (most every crossing had folks present, many of them locals), and turned left on a road the atlas incidated paralleled the track on the sunny (southeast) side. This was one short stretch where the track was more NNW-SSE than pure SW in direction. The road turned out to be uphill a bit, looking down slightly to the track. But first, here are 4 frames from Rick's sequence perhaps a mile or so north of where I made my first shots. Thanks for sharing, Rick!

On this back road, I passed one car where the occupants -- I'm sure they were chasing, not locals --  apparently had walked down a bit into the fields. When I came to a wye to a General Motors factory over near I-65 (as I'd learn later was the reason for the spur), I turned back and selected the vantage point you see in the next few frames. I had less than 5 minutes before I heard 765 whistle for the curve where Rick and Chuck, and a few others, were.

West of Roanoke, I overtook the train, doing a bit over 40 mph, and while driving, snapped a couple of "across the fields" views. My first sequence, incidentally, was at 9:09 a.m. I did not record the time of these two images.

Beyond Huntington, but east of Lagro, I knew I was ahead of him and picked a side road, County 750E, only a short ways off the 4-lane US 24. Perhaps 1 or 2 other cars there were chasers, the rest were locals, several of them lined up to the east of the road, affording a great "candid" action shot of what this train meant to local citizens. Similar to with my first sequence, in which I alternated digitals and slides, I employed both cameras, using the D70's short telephoto set at 70mm, with some cropping done later, and shot multiple slides with the 50mm lens on the N90. Time here: 9:35.

I went around the city of Wabash and found a spot just west of town around a curve, at a private crossing, an entrance to an industrial plant, which was working. The sounds from it would've made sound movies no good, but I didn't care . . . and I was the only one there. Alas, the D70 misfired on the coming-on shot, so I didn't get that, only in multiple slides, but present here a mid-train coming-on to show some coaches, and then as a farewell, the observation car end. This is Milepost 192, from Detroit, and the time was 9:55

I decided enough was enough, didn't want to add another hour to the chase, as I wanted to return to Wabash. I wanted to grab food to-go from the Culver's at the edge of town, a new one for me. So I poked around town, shooting the Wabash County Courthouse, an interesting historical sign across the street, and the overpass that takes NS's ex-Wabash main line over the ex-NYC line south from Goshen. I'd never been to this spot on the ground.

After stopping by Culver's, as first customer of the day, I drove north toward Warsaw. I inspected the small junction of Claypool, but took no pictures. I'd like to return there for some action -- the diamond, and connection, are right in the middle of the tiny town. When I reached Wabash I first checked out the diamond and found one target, the local CF&E switcher, tied up and in a good spot for photos. CF&E runs the ex-PRR main from Chicago's outskirts near Hobart, Ind., to Crestline, Ohio, but its sole road train on the Chicago end runs at night. Local jobs, like Warsaw's, run only on weekdays; it's a hard road to capture. I never had time in Fort Wayne to check out the yard where it keeps some motive power.

Then, just in case I didn't see a train on it, I then made a shot of NS's street-running, which is 2 or 3 blocks of Hickory Street north of the CF&E diamond, guarded by PRR-style signals for the ex-PRR diamond! The unit, painted in what I call the old Rail America's "Monon scheme," as it mimics the old Monon passenger-unit (and cars) color scheme, is one of the ex-C&NW 4600-series GP38-2's returned to the lessor by UP and snapped up by Rail America, most of not all initially assigned to the CF&E. UP kept the remainder and rebuilt them with air-condition cabs, dynamic braking, etc.; they are in UP's high 300's and low 400's series.

To kill some time, awaiting a likely southbound -- according to friends who know this line -- I re-shot the ex-PRR Warsaw depot, and the Kosciusko County courthouse.

Figuring it would not hurt, I moseyed north to Milford Jct. again, and sure enough, here came a CSX eastbound, with three units led by 5208 and 459. When he passed at 12:22, I turned around to go on north and --- whoops, here was my NS southbound, headed for Warsaw! i put the pedal to the metal and headed south again, with only one small town in the way, then 4 or 5 traffic lights in the north end of Warsaw, by a shopping mall and the Route 30 interchange.

I got past all those lights, and was on the home stretch toward downtown Warsaw, when here came a northbound NS train, going slowly but already with half his train through the street-running! Obviously there was, unknown to me, a passing siding between Milford Jct. and Warsaw. I made a u-turn, beat it thru the lights and took a side road at the north end of civilization, where Hwy. 15 veers away from the railroad slightly. I crossed the crossing and turned into a convenient National Guard Armory parking lot, with a nice lawn between it and the track. The result is here, engines 9541/9095 and 68 cars, passing me at 12:50. But I knew I still was going to get my southbound on the street-running.

I retreated to a parking lot downtown right off Hickory and Market Streets in Warsaw, ready for my southbound, and read the paper. Then bells and a horn -- it was yet another northbound! Backlit or not, I shot a coming-on and then a few mid-train shots northward, with the sun, as the train passed: engines 8928/9006/8948 with a whopping 154 cars, at 1:28 p.m.

Figuring it was be maybe 20 minutes to a half hour until the southbound showed up, I thought about going to grab (second) lunch to-go at the Steak n Shake by the route 30 interchange (I'd really only had a snack from Culver's in Warsaw), but decided not to chance it even though I was getting hungry and the clock was still running. (At least I'd gain the hour to Central Time near Chicago.) Finally the southbound showed up, engines 8869/2622 with 65 cars, at 2:05, so my patience had been rewarded. The "normal cab" lead unit was a bonus, as was the high-sign from the hogger! I shot this sequence and then hit Steak n Shake to take stuff home, and was out of Warsaw by 2:40 or so.

The going-away shot at Warsaw would be my last photo of the day. I took Route 30 to just east of "Valpo," went north on 49, through Chesterton and Porter to see if I could smoke out any trains, but saw only the rear end of a westbound Amtrak Wolverine at a distance, from Chesterton, clearing onto the NS main line. With nothing else evident, I went west to US 20, got on I-94, and was home in time for supper, as planned, right at dusk.

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