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Norfolk Southern Steam Program Nickel Plate 765 Youngstown to Ashtabula 7/25/2015

by Chris Guenzler

I got up on the morning, took the batteries off the charger and placed them in my luggage. I worked on the story from yesterday and almost finished it before Dave and I drove to the Waffle House for breakfast. From there we drove down to the boarding site. We found several of our rare mileage friends and then Steve Miller came over and had us join him in the line. The train pulled in and I tried to take pictures but the camera would not work. I then noticed that the camera did not have the battery. There was nothing I could do. I would take a steam trip without having to look through a camera and just enjoy the views on this trip.

Nickel Plate Railroad 765 History

Nickel Plate Railroad 765 was built in 1944 and assigned to Bellevue, Ohio where it was used on fast freights. After the war it worked out of the Fort Wayne Classification Yard. The last run of the engine was on June 14, 1958. It was the donated to the city of Fort Wayne and placed in Lawton Park. In 1972 the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society was formed and the locomotive was towed to a shop in New Haven, Indiana. The group returned the locomotive to service on September 1, 1979. After years in excursion service in 1993, the locomotive was put back in the New Haven Shop to overhaul her running gear but it was then decided to perform a complete rebuilding of the NKP 765. NKP 765 steamed back to life in October 2005 and has been used in excursion service since.

A Brief Railroad History

In 1903, a double tracked low grade line was built between Plymouth {now known as Carson} and Brookfield, Ohio. This new line designed to provide a more level route for the slow and heavy coal and ore trains operating between Ashtabula and Youngstown/Pittsburgh. At the same time, Carson Yard was constructed in Plymouth for the staging of coal trains to Ashtabula Harbor and of iron ore trains to Youngstown/Pittsburgh.

In 1913, these lines became part of the New York Central. Operations remained relatively unchanged until 1950, when train volumes began to decline and fewer trains operated over the line. In 1957, this route was known as the Lake Division High Grade Subdivision. At the time, there were only two trains using the route. They were the northbound Pittsburgh Buffalo Express 272 and the southbound Buffalo Pittsburgh Express 281. Both trains operated over this route in the middle of the night until 1962.

Our Consist

Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 765, Tool Car 701, NS 42 Tennessee Power Car and Coach, NS 46 New Jersey, NS 43 Iowa, 1498 Ohio State, NS 47 Louisana, NS 44 Florida, NS 26 New York, Powhatten Arrow 539, Paul Revere 3125, Collinsville Inn 148, Franklin Inn 142, St. Augustine 500, Jackson Square 9410, Prairie View Full Dome 1394, New York Central 43, Hollywood Beach, Dover Harbor and Power Car 40.

Our Trip

The train was loaded and we had seats in the Powhatan Arrow. The train left at 9:24 AM backing out of the boarding area in Youngstown going about 2 miles east to west of the town of Center. Once the switch was thrown, NKP 765 started pulling us towards Ashtabula. We went by some of the old steel plants that were once very common here. I had the milepost signs on my side of the train and I would count them down as we headed north. We escaped the urban environment of Youngstown and I was really enjoying the trip. Good conversations were had during the entire trip. We went by Valley then past the New York Central station in Hubbard. At Latimer we saw the old connection to the former Erie main line. We were running through forests with fields cut out of them. The train ran through Ates and the sounds of a working steam engine could be heard. We passed one of my photo locations that I found and it will be good. We then passed through Wick to other end of the siding at Cherry. Moving north we rolled from Dorset to the end of that siding at Denmark. Next we went by a lake with dead trees standing in it and one tree near the shore had a railroad crossbuck on it. From there we went to Griggs where we reached double track. There was an empty Norfolk Southern coal train parked here that blocked the Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson caboose hop that was here to watch our steam train go by. We went through Carson then at the next crossover we took that to the west mainline. We kept going north entering Ashtabula, then came to a connection switch on the southwest side of the Norfolk Southern mainline crossing. We crossed the former Nickel Plate Railroad mainline, then pulled past the northwest connection to the Norfolk Southern mainline. We backed around this connection onto the former Nickel Plate Railroad mainline so now you have a Nickel Plate Railroad steam engine on the Nickel Plate Railroad mainline. We pulled east across the former New York Central mainline then came north to Ashtabula. We pulled into Ashtabula and came to a stop. No directions were given about where to eat lunch.

Dave and I got off and I asked a crew member where the tent was. He said it was on the other side of the train. We walked around the front of the steam train which was mobbed by people so when I got to the food line no one was really there. I could not eat any of the food but did get a Coca-Cola to enjoy. Dave found me and we were joined by other rare mileage friends. After lunch I went to the St Peters Church to learn about the Ashtabula train bridge disaster. The steam engine cleared the town and went west to the next siding. First an eastbound full Norfolk Southern stack train came through. I walked back to the boarding location and sat in the shade of a building. Next another eastbound Norfolk Southern train came through. Then our steam train put on a great show as it steamed back into the boarding area. We left Ashtabula at 2:30 PM with our train backing with a diesel on our rear end to the signal to allow our access to the southwest. We took that connection and I relaxed all the way back to Youngstown. I bought a NKP 765 Rathhole DVD. At Center the diesel pulled us back to the boarding location ending another fantastic trip behind Nickel Plate Road 765.

After the trip Dave and I drove with John Schmidt following to the Texas Roundhouse where I had a good steak dinner. Then we returned to the Travelodge for our final night in Youngstown.

7/26/2015 I got up at 6:15 AM, showered then put the corrections into the story of getting here. Thank you Elizabeth. Then we went into Hubbard to find the Erie Station.

The Erie Railroad station in Hubbard.

We found more railroad things here.

Emerald Railroad 2-4-2 6 Coalburg.

Signal tower.

Railway Express Office.

Unknown Conrail caboose.

Emerald Railway Express Car 92285.

A Fire Truck.

Pennsylvania Railroad Caboose 22883.

Rear view of the cars. At 8:00 AM we met John at the Waffle House for breakfast. After breakfast we drove into Youngstown and set up on the Federal Way Bridge to catch Nickel Plate Railroad 765 Sunday departure to Ashtabula. About 9:10 AM we heard a horn and a few minutes later the train came into view.

The train backed from the boarding location onto the mainline.

The pop off valve let the steam escape from the NKP 765. Now you will watch it leave Youngstown for Ashtabula.

Here we see the Nickel Plate Road leave Youngstown for Ashtubula. Dave and I started heading back to Chicago with one more stop to make.