Did the Easter bunny find you? He brought me four blue eggs!

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Monday, April 25, 2011

Look at these three blue Easter eggs in Cleveland! A trio of ex-Conrail SD40-2s assembles a hopper train on April 24. Jim Wrinn photo

I was in Ohio last weekend as the guest of the Akron Railroad Club, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The group kindly asked me to be its banquet speaker at the University of Akron on Saturday night, and I really enjoyed their hospitality and camaraderie. Thus, I awoke Sunday morning in Cleveland. I jokingly mentioned in a text to a friend that I hoped the Easter bunny would find me there. And in a way, the bunny did just that.

My Akron Railroad Club hosts Craig Sanders, Pete Bowler, Marty Surdyk, and Rich Thompson gave me a magnificent windshield tour of Cleveland railroads on Easter Sunday. Among the highlights: A quick look at "the Crow," a steel mill railroad in downtown that's visible from city streets; a rainy inspection of historic steel mill freight cars, including a molten still bottle car and an ingot car that are now on display in an area that's been redeveloped for retail; and train-watching time at the area's most famous location, Berea's BE Tower, where CSX and Norfolk Southern main lines parallel each other. And then there were the Easter eggs: four of them, all blue.

The first three came as Marty was showing us a location near the Cleveland Flats area, where Wheeling & Lake Erie and NS come together to cross CSX. We saw a headlight in the distance and decided to pause long enough to see what this might be. As the power drew closer, we could see that it was a set of three ex-Conrail SD40-2s, making up a train of hoppers. Wow! Everyone in the group was excited to see this. It had been years since any of them had seen three blue Conrail units leading a freight, and they had told me earlier that Conrail's 1999 breakup between CSX and NS had been a heartbreaking experience for all. 

Of course, my thoughts immediately turned to Trains Senior Editor Matt Van Hattem, whose love of Conrail as a son of New Jersey is well known. Matt, I almost called you to brag about my good fortune on Easter Sunday morning, but I restrained myself! Nos. 3405, 3380, and 3397 completed their move, and shoved back into the yard and out of sight. We went on our way.

In the afternoon after we spent enough time at Berea to watch several CSX and NS trains pass, then adjourned to nearby Olmstead Falls, where NS rewarded us with an eastbound and the fourth Easter egg, lead unit C40-8 No. 8303 (pictured at right), built in 1989.

Units still in Conrail blue number fewer than 200 on NS and fewer than 50 on CSX, according to some Web sites I've seen. While their paint is ragged, that touch of blue this weekend was the Easter Egg I'd been seeking all along.

 

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