Thursday, June 5, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- Taken To the Woodshed, June 5th, 2014

Today's Train of Thought takes us to the Buckeye State and features the regional Wheeling & Lake Erie, one of the few remaining independent regionals in the USA.

The current incarnation of the W&LE takes its name from the original Wheeling and Lake Erie which was completed in 1877 as a link between the coal fields around Wheeling, WV and the ports and steel mills along the shores of Lake Erie. After WWII, the (original) W&LE merged with the Nickel Plate, which in turn became part of the Norfolk and Western in 1964. In the early 1980s, the Norfolk & Western and Southern merged to form the Norfolk Southern.

In 1990, the Norfolk Southern divested themselves of a portions of the original W&LE line between Brewster, OH and Pittsburgh- this new iteration of the W&LE was also able to secure trackage rights over CSX's ex-Baltimore & Ohio Sand Patch line through the Alleghenies between the Pittsburgh area and Cumberland, MD- an agreement the B&O had with the original W&LE that pre-dated the formation of CSX.

By most accounts, the early 1990s were pretty lean years for the W&LE but by 1994 the company restructured its debt and acquired the Akron and Barberton Belt Railway. While some of the traffic- such as iron ore, coal, aggregates and chemicals- has been in the same since the 1990 incarnation of the W&LE, traffic has picked up thanks to increased drilling in the Marcellus and Utica Shale.

Here, Richard W Thompson caught Wheeling and Lake Erie SD40-2 #6348 with a stone train backing past a bright crimson shed in Bellevue, OH in August 2010. Besides being home to a number of limestone quarries, Bellevue is also home to the Mad River and Nickel Plate Railroad Museum and where rail and real-estate tycoon Henry Flagler first ventured into starting his own business in the 1850s before going on to start the Florida East Coast railroad.

Besides being used for aggregates, limestone is also used for drilling pads throughout the Utica and Marcellus Shale.

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