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Thread: Unlimited Ceilings

  1. #1
    ccaranna Guest

    Default Unlimited Ceilings

    Sweeping past at speed--- Another typical day on the Sandusky District
    (Photo taken near Delaware, Ohio ~ November, 2005)

    Just as a broom can whisk around madly to and fro kicking up dirt, so too can trains on the Norfolk Southern Sandusky district. Upon a first-time casual visit you may need to shield your eyes to keep the debris out, but be careful…an attempt at blindly braving the storm may result in getting caught up in a blustery whirlwind of activity and being blown away. Ask anyone who has experience. Employee or not; they will tell you every day here means business.

    The busy NS Sandusky district located in north-central Ohio is about as directionally straightforward as they come. The trackwork isn’t necessarily complex, and natural obstacles are few and far between if existent at all. I suppose “flat and linear with a few slight curves” would essentially describe the 112.7 mile highway of steel that connects Columbus with its northern terminus on Lake Erie; however there’s much more to the district than a simple map diagram can show. Much more.

    “Sandusky” may actually be one of the more oxymoronic names found to describe a railroad line these days. Translated from its Native American origin meaning “Cold Water”, the term more appropriately fits the icy Lake Erie waters it was intended to define rather than the tops of the gleaming, rest-starved, silver rails that get pounded day and night into submission. A day spent in the lake-effect snow plagued area of Ohio during winter may easily explain the name given to describe the frigid lake temperatures, but sit trackside on the Sandusky district for an afternoon, and you may find the action warming you up more quickly than your thermos of hot coffee.

    Before you scald yourself though, keep in mind that things weren’t always the way they are presently. Just ask the Pennsylvania Railroad, who considered the stretch nothing more than a branch line back in the days of their ownership. By the 1960’s, track conditions deteriorated to a point that “good enough to get by” worked for the plodding southbound ore trains from the lake as well as the directionally opposed northbound coal drags back up. By 1964, the Pennsy viewed the line merely as excess plant that was becoming a strain on their rapidly dilapidating and declining infrastructure. To the Norfolk and Western Railway during a time of great merger-mania, however, it was the missing link and much needed connection to reach their new northern acquisitions in Bellevue, Ohio. So without further adieu, they purchased the line from the struggling PRR and quickly began renovating it. Not even “I Dream of Jeannie” and a crystal ball could have predicted how well the line would serve the coal hauler for decades to come. The line certainly proved its worth well into the NS era, and by 1999, the joint split of Conrail with CSX began to see its traffic rise up to the highest levels it has ever seen. The rest, they say, is history.

    Over the years, after the line was given its second (and possibly third) lease on life, a few relics of the former “Standard Railroad of the World” still remain in operation even decades later. If any existing Pennsy “ghosts” were to happen to visit, they may find themselves milling about and perhaps lost in the flat Ohio country searching for the line that they once remembered. If it wasn’t for the few remaining position light signals sprinkled about here and there, they may find parts of the route completely unrecognizable. They would be surprised by the new double tracked segments in unlikely locations, blown away by the nearly massive amount of urban growth in northern Columbus, and perhaps saddened by the vanished towers. They would be quickly overcome, however, by the seemingly endless barrage of catfish-striped 6-axle GE’s ruling the rails that long replaced the majestic Keystone adorned J-1 2-10-4’s. It has been over 40 years since the last Brunswick green diesel roamed the Sandusky rails, but some argue that the Pennsy spirit may ironically exist in the similar conservatively dark and perhaps no-nonsense NS paint scheme almost unwittingly passed down from one era to another.

    No matter how you may view the Sandusky district today- perhaps sterile and stripped of character or not, it continues to represent healthy, modern-day railroading with strong freight diversity. In addition to hot commodities such as intermodal containers and trailers, you will easily find (among many others)- coal, grain, lumber, automobiles and parts, raw steel, and chemicals funneling up, down, and in between Bellevue and Columbus with their final connecting points north, south, east, west, and beyond.

    So finally, what does the future hold for the Sandusky? What happens to something that consistently goes up? The laws of physics state the obvious, but year after year the Sandusky district defies the odds. Will traffic levels continue to rise? No one may be able to precisely predict what’s on the horizon, but currently the cards are confidently stacked in favor of the NS. As traffic continues to nearly overflow out of their hands, I for one am eager to see how the game plays out. Maybe you will be too, once you visit.

    Just remember to keep your head down from all of the dust.

    Photo and text by Charles J. Renella~ 2006
    Last edited by ccaranna; 02-28-2009 at 02:55 AM. Reason: changed sig to "pen" name

  2. #2


    I'd like to see a few more photos to go with your writing, Chuck. Relics of the Pennsy, mentioned, maybe at least a shot of lake Erie (?) where the Indian name Sandusky came from...that kind of thing to round things out. Although the photo included is a good one, it really doesn't do much to make the Sandusky stand out from anyother curve on any other division. You did a good job of telling me about the division and why it stands out, now show me a little more.

    Give me a few more shots and you'll get a thumbs up from me.

    Martin Burwash

  3. #3


    I agree with Martin that additional photos would be nice, but I think the text is strong enough to carry it as is. So, if you'd like to add more photos that's fine, however I'll give it a thumbs up as is.
    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

  4. Default

    I really enjoyed the writing, it was quite informative and gave a nice 'executive level' overview of the Sandusky line. In fact it reminds me of a CTC Board article that focuses on a specific location. Like the others who have posted before me said, the writing begs for more photos to illustrate some of the main points. If some could be added it would be perfect...Charles adding more photos is your decision. Thumbs up from me...

  5. #5


    OK, 2 for approval, 1 vote to edit. We need at least one more...
    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

  6. #6
    greenthumb Guest



    Thanks for the concise, yet detailed history. You drew me in with the low angle image, which I like; then told me a story, which I liked even more. I think your writing carries the single image just fine. Your text brings the image to life and lets my imagination complete the bigger picture.

    Regardless of adding images, I vote for approval as posted.

    Well done Chuck, thanks for sharing your work with us.

    ~ jeff
    (vacationing in South Carolina)

  7. #7
    ccaranna Guest


    Thank you very much guys, I appreciate your taking the time to review my essay and share your thoughts. I definitely agree with Martin's comment that more photos could have been used. My inspiration for this style essay actually came from TRAINS magazine. Occasionally, they have single-picture essays at the end of the each issue. The latest one I saw that piqued my interest was Kathi Kube's "Too little too late to live" on page 86 of the Oct. '05 issue. I thought I would try to emulate that first and hopefully work on a larger scale "article" type format once I practice using PDF files similar to what I've seen in Steve's and Jon Bentz's work. I haven't scratched the surface on that yet, so I may still try some easier multipicture essays utilizing the forum software and attachments in the meantime.

    Again, thank you very much!


  8. #8


    Duplicate image for directory listing
    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

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