OK, the write up for the trip to Fostoria Ohio, is overdue. So, here we go.

First, why’d we go? My older boy, Matt, is a high school grad, and he decided for his graduation present, he wanted to go there to do some rail photography.  An overnight trip is impractical just now, but we’ve done day trips out there often enough. to know we can do the 800 mile run with some ease. (And guess what? That’s why American transportation works well. Can anyone imagine such a trip via any form of mass transit, even when it works well?)

For those who don’t know, Fostoria is out in Western Ohio, around 400 miles out from our home outside Rochester NY, and about 40 miles down I-75 from Toledo.   It’s also the home of what railfans refer to as the ‘iron triangle’. (I’ll get to that)  Fostoria’s a nice little town, actually. Little is right; the place only has about 7 sqaure miles of space. About 13,000 people last we counted, and something like 5500 households. I’m pleased to go there; I’ve always found it a nice place to be. Lots of history; Fostoria’s famous for their glass works, which back in the day, rivaled Corning, which is just down the road from us here.

Location of Fostoria OH

Why Fostoria, for US, though, is a larger question. That’s simple; The place is a huge railroad town. It’s the intersection of several major rail lines. They all cross each other in a fairly small area, using what railroaders call “Diamonds’… which themselves are fairly rare on a moder railroad. To have so many of them in so small a space is very rare indeed. To have so heavy a trafic load over such a small area and over the multiple diamonds is as close to a one of a kind as you get.  It’s not unusual to see over 200 trains a day passing through this small bit of real estate. How small? A map of the rail layout in the area ( thanks to a great site, Michigan Railroads ) will give you a clue.I’m sure that in looking at the map, you’ll begin to understand where the “Iron triangle” phrase comes form.

Rail Layout at Fostoria OH

Now, note please, that each of the lines are double tracked. Note also that the Amtrak station…(The red spot on the map) is no longer open as such. Amtrakstopped serving Fostoria a couple years ago. At the time, the Three Rivers (40 and 41) which stopped in Fostoria during the wee hours of the monring. Not enough riders at that hour, I guess. These days, Amtrak just slides right by the place.

That still leaves all the rest of the traffic… which is amazing to see. And, to photograph. Which brings us to where we start showing you pics. This first one is taken from the Amtrak parking lot, which is still open at this writing… and is of the Norfolk Southern Railroad Fostoria local, working the flour mill switching job/ THe mill is about a half mile west of the diamond. The engine working here is an SD-40-2 high nose. While you’ll still see a lot of 40-2’s out on the rails, it’s not often you’ll see them in a high nose configuration; NS is one of the few that still runs them.  The design is around 40 years old, these days.  The design is still popular among railroaders, though, mostly for it’s durability; They’re widely held to outpull their ratings. This one used to be owned by the Central of Georgia, which is a line that NS bought back in 1971, and eventually absorbed.

SD-40-2 high nose NS 3323 at Fostoria OH

Notice that the train parked on the western diamond on the map. About the time this shot was taken, the train left the yard, heading east, pulling around 45 flour gons. That’s my younger boy, Alex grabbing the action. The smile and wave from the hogger made his morning.

NS3323 Fostoria OH

Crossing the CSX main, and standing directly in front of the Amtrak station. Note the large number of rail signals in the shot. Note also, F tower, to the left of the rail It’s from here that most train movements in the area are directed. Note also, that if you zoom up and look close, you can see two features… That flash of Blue and gold to the left of F tower is some CSX  traffic coming off the Columbus line, and coming west on the Chicago line. He’s also got someone waiting for him to finish that movement; that headlight you see in the middle of the chicago line is another CSX train headed for Chicago. As I told you, this is a busy place.

Here comes the first one; On the point of a hot coke drag, is CSX 5266. We’ve seen this one all over CSX’s system, at different times. In Philly, In Buffalo, IN Angola, in Rochester, and now here. 5266 is an ES44DC, a 4000 horsepower unit.  Trailing it is CSX 5107, an early release of the CW60AC, which uses AC traction motors, which are a recent development. It’s one of only 17 in the CSX system. Note that this one’s been named for W. Thomas Rice. This 4400 horsepower unit was involved in an accident a few years ago in Baltimore. It had some front end damage and so was in the repair shop when the request came down from corporate to have a unit named. Rice was the Chair and CEO of the Family Lines system, which was the predecessor of CSX. The unit was named in his honor upon his death at the time.

Later in the afternoon, we went over to the other end of the triangle, to see about some different angles on the action. A few years back this place was a junkyard. I remember parking next to a burned-out Camero for half a day. Thing is, Fostoria draws so many people to watch the railroad goings on, it’s become a major tourism draw for the city, and the city fathers have decided to get together and create Fostoria Iron Triangle Rail Park.  THe building this sign is on will be raised in the near future,a nd a park will be built on the spot.. right in the middle of all that traffic. Years ago, I’d have liked to get the film concession for the place. But with digital cameras, I suppose batteries and wifi would do as well.

One of the things you get to see in a place like this is trains you’d never get to see at home. Here’s an example of one style of train we don’t get to see much of here in Western NY anymore… a Triple Crown train. The idea, here is fuel savings and end to end shipping, without having to switch trains in the process. The trains end up being very light by comparison to regular train cars.  A neat idea.

Some other railfans catching the action. Fostoria is taking very seriously the dollars these people bring to town. It’s nice to see.

Now remember that NS local we saw, and how I told you that a high-nose SD40 was rare? Here’s how most of them look, today. On the point of this auto-rack train, is CSX 8028, an SD40-2, with sibling CSX8157 in the rear. I’ve been seeing lots of CSX traffic with these SD40’s of late, and I’m wondering if CSX isn’t simply using these 40 year old units as much as possible before retirement. In short, I’m glad I caught this pair; We may not get many more chances.

Well, the truck behaved well. For the 800 mile around trip, we got 19.9 MPG going down and 20.5 coming back. We did run into a mean thunderstorm going down at Buffalo (Wow, what a light show… wish I could have grabbed some pics of that!) , and there’s a prevailing headwind if you’re going west through there anyway, so I’m not too displeased that the trip out consumed a bit more.  20mpg is pretty good, really, for a 300hp SUV with a full load of 4 people one old dog and the usual attachments. We left Rochester at 4am on Saturday, and got back at 2am the next day. As my wife and I were turning in, my alarm clock went off at 2am… where we’d set it the night before… a perfect circle, that.

One Response to “The Fostoria Trip.”


  1. The Fostoria Trip.