Thursday, March 21, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Ten Is Enough, March 21st 2013

Today's Train of Though takes us to the eastern part of the Buckeye state and features a monster lashup on the Wheeling & Lake Erie making its way through the snowy countryside.

The latter-day version of the Wheeling & Lake Erie debuted in 1990- some 26 years after the original Wheeling & Lake Erie was brought into the Norfolk & Western fold with the 1964 merger between the Nickel Plate and N&W.

Getting its start with a motley assortment of secondhand high-hood SD45s and GP35s from the Norfolk Southern, the current W&LE stretches from Connelville, PA (southeast of Pittsburgh) to Bellvue, OH (south of Sandusky, OH) with trackage rights as far west as Toledo, OH and as far east as Hagerstown, MD. Since then, the line has done a fairly robust business hauling coal, grain, steel, limestone, fracking sand, coke, liquified natural gas, limestone, chemicals and aggregates. Since 2009, traffic on the W&LE has increased thanks to natural gas drilling along the Marcellus and Utica shales.

Also in recent years, the W&LE started painting their motive power in black and orange- colors reminiscent of the former Denver, Rio Grande & Western. This is not a coincidence- the current W&LE chairman, Larry Parsons, started out in railroading on the Rio Grande and opted to keep the Rio Grande's heritage alive with the current railroad. This includes purchasing GP40-2s and SD40T-2 Tunnel Motors still in Rio Grande paint from Union Pacific and running them in their original Rio Grande colors and numbers on the W&LE.

Of course, the black and orange has also been applied to a number of units that were not of Rio Grande heritage, including some of the high hood former Southern GP35s that this incarnation of the W&LE started out with as far back as 1990.

Here, GP35 #107 is seen kicking up some snow as its leading an impressive 10 unit lashup westbound at Bloomington, OH with train 213 (from Pittsburgh's Rook Yard to the W&LE headquarters at Brewster, OH) on Jan 3rd, 2012. The lead unit is actually lettered for the Akron, Canton & Youngstown- another Ohio-based railroad that was brought into the Norfolk & Western fold with their 1964 merger with Nickel Plate, but dissolved by the N&W in the 1980s. According to photographer Chris Lokey, train 213 left Rook Yard with just the three lead units that day but stopped to pick up seven additional locomotives in Mingo Jct, OH on its way west. By the time Lockey caught train 213 rounding this curve, it boasted 10 units and 88 cars.

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