NS Chicago - Ft. Wayne line

21 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    January 2001
  • From: MP CF161.6 NS's New Castle District in NE Indiana
  • 2,140 posts
Posted by rrnut282 on Wednesday, October 29, 2008 9:53 AM

To add a little to the discussion:  L41 runs daily from East Wayne Yard (between Fort Wayne and New Haven, IN) sometimes switching Argos Yard in both directions.  If there is no work, it doesn't go all the way to Valpo and turns back at Argos or a siding where the power can run around the train.

Train 25A truns south at Fort Wayne like 215, 236, and 177.  Where I live South of Fort Wayne, 215 and 236 come through in the wee hours of the morning or near sunrise in summer, often on each other's block.  177 can come through anytime from 6am to 7pm depending upon whether the train has to do a lot of switching at East Wayne or comes straight South.  Many times 177 follows the blocks of 25A past the house.  17R, 217, 233 run to Bellevue before turning South.  I haven't seen 280 in a long time, but it used to run East to Bellevue or the Fostoria Mixing Center.

Ed, have you seen 263 lately?  It should be an EB Triple Crown counterpart to 264.  Speaking of 264, it was extended to the twin cities via UP a while back.  It usually goes by the house around 10pm, spends the night in Piqua Yard (Triple Crown's hub) and heads for Chicago in the morning.

Mike (2-8-2)
  • Member since
    July 2006
  • 175 posts
Posted by t.winx on Wednesday, September 3, 2008 10:44 AM

Any more news Ed regarding current operations? Is traffic down from those last postings, or up?

I've been told that 324 and 365 are Elkhart to Fort Wayne trains. I've seen them both in Porter on the ex Conrail line. And 17R is running that way now. Until a little while ago it was running to Columbus OH, but now it terminates in Elkhart. Also, 175 is running via the Marion Branch through Goshen IN then to Chicago. I saw that it is from Macon, but that hasn't been confirmed by anyone.

This really is a great thread Ed. Thanks for putting all that work into it!

  • Member since
    August 2008
  • 1 posts
Posted by W&ST1918 on Sunday, August 31, 2008 4:01 PM

I was out there yesterday at Hobart and only saw 2 trains in about 3 hours or so. Trains #323 &

a coal train I think was #857. I wonder why so little activity, well I always used to hear from other Chicago area fans that the line is a "night railroad". I can't pick up the dispatcher from where I live but I wonder do NS dispatchers for this line have a more formal ID on the radio or just the generic "Chicago Dispatcher", I like the BNSF system "DS-01" "DS-15", etc. 

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Portage, IN
  • 15 posts
Posted by gamcgee on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 12:10 PM


I know you started this thread awhile back, but I just read it yesterday and wanted to let you know that I enjoyed it.  I live in Portage near CSX Willow Creek Junction on the Porter Branch.  I also listen on the scanner and can hear the activity on the Ft Wayne and CFE Lines.  I hope to photograph them in the future.

Thanks for a good thread!

  • Member since
    May 2004
  • From: Valparaiso, In
  • 5,909 posts
Posted by MP173 on Wednesday, November 9, 2005 10:18 PM
I thought I would add a little update to the NS operations here in NW Indiana.

First of all there have been trains added this summer and fall. Schedules have been altered also, but I am not exactly sure of all the changes.

The biggest change is there are more manifest trains running. I always thought the line was a little lacking of "boxcar" trains. At least three have been added:

17R is an evening train (anywhere from 3pm - 8pm). It comes off of the CN in Chicago (WC) and is a monster. Typically it will have well in excess of 100 cars with lots of lumber flats (30+ cars), lots of WC short hopper cars, Thiele tank cars and lots of boxcars. I have been told this is a version of the 175, which used to run from Elkhart to Knoxville (may be mistaken on this). Anyway, NS routed it from CN directly on to the Ft Wayne line. I dont know if it turns south at Ft Wayne or continues to Bellevue for classification.

324 started up about a month ago and is sort of a mystery train. I have been told it runs from Chicago to Ft Wayne and then up to Elkhart via Butler, In. Strange routing, but it might be a mop up train. 324 usually runs about 4-5pm and has been a short train...40 - 70 cars with lots of Cargil covered hoppers.

365 seemed to appear about the same time as 324. I am wondering if it is a reverse routing. It runs westward to Chicago and shows up in the evenings.

Two other unusual trains have been running, often daily. These are empty FEMA trains, empty flatbed cars running west to Osborn, Indiana, then up the IHB and then back east to Elkhart where they are loaded with the manufactured housing being built for the Hurricane Katrina displaced families. There seems to always be one train (o42) and often a second (o44). Why the strange routing?

Two coal trains are keeping the rails shiny...412 and 413. These are TOPGON trains and I have been told they are coke trains from PA.

Intermodals are running heavy. Usually there will be at least one extra a day, alternating between Jacksonville or Norfolk.

So, at this time there are three added manifests, plus the FEMA train (the loads are not on this line) and 412/413. My guess is 412/413 are re-symboled trains that were running. The 882/883/884/885 coal trains are still running.

So, the Nickle Plate is one busy single line railroad, but pretty fluid at this time. I am counting 31 scheduled train, tho not all run daily (such as coal trains).

My favorite train, 177 seems to have be scheduled for early morning. I have not heard it since Sept 15th, when I was prowling around the house at 430am.

If anyone has any info on any of these trains, please let me know.

  • Member since
    May 2004
  • From: Valparaiso, In
  • 5,909 posts
Posted by MP173 on Sunday, June 19, 2005 1:17 PM
I will now finish my review of operations for NS's Fort Wayne - Chicago line. As previously mentioned, morning finds a flurry of activity as NS's inbound intermodal trains are making their way to Chicago as outbound trains such as 177, 218, and 25A begin their journies.

A similar pattern, in reverse, takes place in the evening as outbound intermodals are beginning their movements.

The biggest difference between the morning and afternoon is there is normally not as many movements counter to the intermodals. While the morning often sees three counter moves (177, 218, and 25A), the evening sees one early train (306) and a later train (216) and those are spaced out over a few hours.

NS 307 is a Bellevue to Chicago manifest. I have heard it on the Fostoria internet scanner leaving Bellevue around 11am. It normally moves thru Valparaiso from 6pm to 9pm. It is usually a fairly large, heavy train with car count approaching 100 cars. I am not certain where it terminates....either Calumet Yard or BRC would be my guess.

If 307 is thru early (6 to 7pm) it will certainly make the double track at Van Loon and have a straight shot into Chicago. However, if it is delayed, it will enter a siding, often Nickel or Spriggsboro and wait for the eastbound parade.

Around 830pm the first intermodal will show up. Usually it is 262, the Triple Crown. However 215 the Chicago - Jacksonville intermodal could be in the lead. Also working east is 306, the Chicago - Bellevue manifest. It's schedule is irregular, often running in the mid to late afternoon. This train is usually very heavy, with many cars of lumber, plus covered hoppers and other misc freight.

Often 306 and 307 will meet in early evening, the only Chicago - Bellevue trains left on the old NKP line.

Another eastbound intermodal is 236, the Chicago - Norfolk train. It almost always is the third intermodal out of Chicago, often moving thru at 10pm.

Another westbound intermodal is 216, but it usually is around midnight, so I seldom hear it on the scanner.

On a perfect evening 262, 215 and 236 will be following each other often within 20 minutes of each other. Train 307 will be tucked in a siding and will await it's turn to proceed west. When the three eastbounds have cleared Van Loon an empty hopper train will begin assembling it's train, returning to West Virginia for more coal for the steel mills. That train is usually 883 and often starts moving east around 10pm.

A normal night for me will be to read a book and listen to the parade. The current book is Barbarians at the Gate, the excellent book on the 1988 RJR Nabisco buyout by KKR. The parade moves on, the pages turn and the eyes grow heavy.

Somehow it is reassuring, in my own world, to know the NS is moving freight in the tradition of the Nickle Plate....on schedule. Even tho it is single track the trains move fluidly, even when extra sections are frequently running. It is a pretty tight operation.

CN, however, seems to provide the drama. Trains are often stalling, crews are running out of hours and slow orders are frequent. The dispatcher must deal with all sorts of problems.

What makes this line (NS) run so smoothly? Why do these trains follow such a tight schedule when CN, referred to as the "Scheduled Railroad" can have such wide variance on times? Are other NS operations so smooth? If so, it is one hell of a railroad.

  • Member since
    March 2004
  • From: Indianapolis, Indiana
  • 2,434 posts
Posted by gabe on Wednesday, June 15, 2005 2:27 PM
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,205 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, June 15, 2005 2:14 PM
Gabe, TRAINS also did a piece on the NS' former Wabash line, Detroit to Kansas City and St. Louis, in January 1996. I think these kinds of articles were replaced by the "Trackside" series.

What part of Indiana are you from?
  • Member since
    May 2004
  • From: Valparaiso, In
  • 5,909 posts
Posted by MP173 on Monday, June 13, 2005 7:46 AM
I just heard on the scanner that CN 396 -Memphis to Toronto has 78 loads and 68 empties, or 156 cars. I will try to run down to watch it pass a little later. Normally 396 has lots of tank and covered hopper cars.

Throw in a few longer cars and you are approaching 10,000 feet...a fairly common train on the CN's South Bend Subdivision.


Alright....just got back 396 was in fact a monster train, as best as I could tell:
Auto racks - 22
Tank cars - 70
Cov hopper - 18
Flat cars - 9
gons - 3
box cars - 34
for a total of 156 cars. Lots of tank cars, both food grade, but a lot of vinyl chloride. Dont know what that stuff is, but there was probably 25 tank cars marked with it.

Then, my train NS 177 came thru. It was a little short today 94 cars, no doubt due to the weekend, but it was heavy, only moving about 30 mph:
Gons (all with scrap steel) 17 cars
Covered hoppers 48 cars
Tank cars 9
Lumber cars 5
Box cars 6
coil cars of steel 9

The scrap steel trade has dropped off a bit, last fall there would be 40 - 50 cars. Most of the cars' springs were low, thus loaded, I would bet that was a 11,000 ton train, pulled by NS 9096 and UP 4137.

I sure would like to know the revenue generated by those two trains. It had to be considerable, but my chances of getting that info are 0%.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: australia
  • 329 posts
Posted by peterjenkinson1956 on Monday, June 13, 2005 3:53 AM
this is one of the most interesting forums i have read... q.. you mention long trains.. what are the longest you have seen..?...peter
  • Member since
    May 2004
  • From: Valparaiso, In
  • 5,909 posts
Posted by MP173 on Sunday, June 12, 2005 3:48 PM
In my earlier posts I listed trains that run on the NS Chicago - Ft. Wayne line. This information is primiarily based on listening to my scanner. There are other sources of information on the line including Scott Lindsey's excellent Norfolk Southern 1995 Review and the October, 1997 issue of Trains. As you can see, there is nothing published that updates information that is 10 years old.

There are a few trains which I am unsure of. Since I tend to sleep from 10pm til 530am, there is a significant block of time that I dont listen in on. These trains either do run during that time at one time were scheduled and have been annulled. Any info will be appreciated.

216 - at one time was a scheduled Jacksonville - Chicago intermodal.
175 - I have heard it occasionally. It would be a manifest from Chicago. Lindsey's book shows it as a Knoxville train.
231 - at one time it was scheduled as a Chicago - Jacksonville intermodal.
25A - I do not know where that train is destined for. It is an intermodal.

There seems to be a pretty good routine to the NS's operations. You cannot set your clock on their trains, but for the most part they seem to be fairly timely.

I will attempt to review their morning operations, as I know it.

Morning rushhour.

There seems to be quite a bit of activity as several inbound intermodals to Chicago are due to arrive in the early morning. Plus there are several eastbounds, which result in meets.

Eastbound moves seem to include my favorite 177. This train is perhaps the most unreliable scheduled train. I have caught it anytime from 530am to 530pm. It is usually a monster of a train with 100+cars, often heavy with gons of scrap metal and covered hoppers.

Other eastbounds are the much more punctual 25A (usually around 6 to 730am) and the 218 for Greensboro, which normally runs ahead of the 25A.

These eastbounds are met by several westbounds including the Triple Crown 261 and 264. Usually one of the trains (261 often) is thru between 6 - 7am. Chicago bound 217 from Greensboro is another westtbound, often carrying US Express, UPS, Schneider, and JB Hunt equipment. It too is in the 6-7am slot. Auto rack train 13N can show up anytime from 6am til noon. It consists of loaded racks that goes to Gibson Yard in Hammond on the IHB. Often it sits, sometimes for hours, awaiting IHB's acceptance. Depending on the size of the 13N, it may sit at Wanatah (10,000 ft siding) or on the CFE line at Wheeler.

Intermodal 233 from Norfolk is also an early train, followed later in the morning (usually 10am - noon) by 235, also from Norfolk. Train 235 carries double stacks and is routed via Cincinnati, while 233 is restricted by clearance and does not carry stacks. Train 233 proceeds thru Columbus, Ohio.

NS's intermodal schedules shows Chicago to Norfolk intermodals 234 and 236. I seldom hear 234, it must whistle thru town during those magic hours of sleep.

So, between 5am and 7:30 it is often busy. In review, 177 slugs across the state, with 25A and 218, all going east. Westbounds include 261, 264,217, and 233.

Midmorning finds a lull with only the 13N and 235 regular contributors. Often a coal train or hopper train will rumble thru town.

By noon, things begin to pickup again. Several of the most regular trains pass thru town. Often, the first train is the 323 which runs daily from Ft. Wayne to Van Loon and return. The dispatcher communicates to 323 the pickup infomation in form of loads, empties, tons, and feet and which track the train will be located on and the estimated time of arrival from the J. The inbound 323 will have any cars to be interchanged with the J, normally coil cars, gons, and occasional covered hoppers. The inbound 323 will always have 2 locomotives, since the engine has to run around the train to return and usually has 20 - 50 cars.

Local L41 seems to work about every other day. It too arrives around noon and switches the industrial park east of Valparaiso. The industrial park is on the north side of the tracks and L41 must hold the main. Fortunately it is at the site of Nickel siding. Trains passing thru, such as 323 or 230 will take the siding around L41. When it's work is completed, usually in about 60-90 minutes, it will head back to Ft. Wayne, often working at Brems.

The Jacksonville to Chicago intermodal 230 is usually a 1pm - 4pm player. It is an obvious train as there will be a block of auto racks (usually 5 to 15 cars) on the front. If I am driving and without my scanner, I often think it is a tardy 13N until the intermodal cars show up. This is a healthy train with the racks, stacks, and misc trailers.

Between 3 and 4pm, our friend 323 returns with coil cars of steel. The return trip can vary between 1 car (yes once it had 1 load) and 60. The dispatcher often gives instructions for making a pickup at Argos Yard. Usually the PU is 1 to 5 cars.

Following 323 is another reliable eastbound, train 280 and autorack train. Word is the 280 is an empty rack train that was scheduled to return racks to Cincinnati. It was implemented due to the irregular nature of 177. In defense of 177, adding 50 autoracks to a 100+ manifest train, often in excess of 12,000 tons would not seems like something the NS would do. CN, however would have no problem with running a 10,000 foot monster.

Often a westbound coal train, 852, 882, or 884 will make an late afternoon appearance, but usually after 280 clears there is the second lull of the day. That gives me time to either fire up the grill or otherwise prepare dinner.

The evening parade will soon begin and the spirit of the Nickel Plate is displayed as five eastbounds exit Chicago and make time across Northern Indiana meeting a couple of westbounds of significance. It usually makes for a great night. Often I will bury myself in a book and listen in as NS operates in clockwork precision.

I will conclude with the evening parade in the next installment.

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,205 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, June 11, 2005 10:23 AM
Some great reading guys.
I miss the days of running around NE Indiana and the Southside of the city.
Those areas were (and are) spectacular railfan meccas.
I got stuck for over an hour once at Hohman Ave in the early 70's when I spotted 2 RS 11's leading 2 U30B's on a looong merchandiser heading into Calumet. When he got the signal to cross the IHB those 4 beasts erupted!
Then a couple GP9's and an ex NKP C420 hit the crossing eastbound!
There was a saying that ones money was always safe in a Hammond bank.
No robber could make a successful getaway with all the crossings there!
  • Member since
    March 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 13,428 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, June 10, 2005 12:21 PM
In my younger days I watched the NKP/N&W at Burnham, State Line and Hammond crossings. All were excellent locations at the time (late 60's-early 70's) with enough action on the other lines to fill in between N&W trains.
The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    May 2004
  • From: Valparaiso, In
  • 5,909 posts
Posted by MP173 on Tuesday, June 7, 2005 5:40 PM
Let me know when you are coming up and I will give you the tour and hopefully CN will be running some coal trains and you can watch the action on the hill.

This is a very diverse area. Porter County is the edge of Chicagoland. The cornfields are giving away to the cul de sac nation. I am amazed as I travel the back roads the new developements. It is an easy commute to Chicago (I do it) and the quality of life is very high.

West of Valpo it becomes more urban and then near Gary it is extremely urban with steel mills, warehouses, and junctions. Chicago is a world in itself with just incredible sites.

One of my favorite spots is East Chicago Indiana. Within a three mile radius you have mainlines (NS, CSX), steel mills, yards, terminal lines (EJE and IHB), scrapyards with beat up gondolas being filled with scrap, drawbridges, towers, and even electric passenger trains (South Shore).

That is within a 3 mile radius. Oh yeah, add in oil refineries. And industrial spurs that wander off into who knows where. Did I mention bottle trains that carry molten steel?

This is as far removed from Newton or LItchfield, Il as you could imagine.


  • Member since
    March 2004
  • From: Indianapolis, Indiana
  • 2,434 posts
Posted by gabe on Tuesday, June 7, 2005 3:12 PM

Thanks for the description. So is the area in which you watch these trains primarily urban, suburban, or rural? How do you compare it to watching trains near our old stomping grounds?

I think there is a certain mystique about watching trains in the country rather than an urban setting. I don't know if it is the back ground noise or what, threat of being mugged, or just the beauty of nature, but I would much rather see a train outside of Newton than in Gary.

Well anyway, you are starting to sell me on this place. When I take my Grand Summer Rail Soujourn ("GSRS") I will have to make it my first stopping point. My wife is from South Bend, and that will probably be my stepping off point.

  • Member since
    May 2004
  • From: Valparaiso, In
  • 5,909 posts
Posted by MP173 on Tuesday, June 7, 2005 2:58 PM
I outlined the trains that traverse the Chicago - Fort Wayne line in the original post. This will describe the line, as I know it, primarily within my little world.

First, an excellent article on this line is found in the October, 1997 issue of Trains. It is the cover article and is entitled "Hot Times on the Norfolk Southern's Nickel Plate Line" and was authored by Bill Stephens.

I do not believe this line receives a lot of railfan activity. I seldom see anyone out shooting it. It is a very "quiet" line, when compared to the NS's Chicago - Elkhart line or the CSX line, both of which are only a few miles north.

The line is primarily single track . From Van Loon (Griffith, In junction with the EJE) west to Chicago it is double track. East of Van Loon it is single track to Fort Wayne. My information shows there are 16 sidings between Van Loon and Fort Wayne, with double sidings at Hobart and Argos.

My little world of this line (scanner range) is from Hobart (MP 488.3) to South Wanatah (MP 468). Eastward (6500 ft) and Westward (6900 ft) sidings are at Hobart; Spriggsboro (MP480.7) has a 7800 ft siding; Nickel (MP 473.9) has a 7100 foot siding and South Wanatah (468) has a 9900 foot siding.

As you can see, the sidings are rather small. This seems to control the sizings of the trains.

At Spriggsboro the line crosses the CN (Grand Trunk) single mainline at grade. The crossing is controlled by the CN dispatcher and let me tell you NS trains do wait! If there is anything close, NS sits. Consider tho, that the CN has trackage rights and crosses over the NS mainline in South Bend. With NS running up to 60 trains per day on that line, the CN no doubt has to wait.

The crossing and the CN "hill" seems to offer the most drama in my little world of railroading. CN controls the crossing and any eastbound close will get lined up, even if it is 10 miles distant. A common comment between the dispatcher and NS crews goes like this:

Dispatcher - "Seen any cross traffic?"
Crew - "A westbound went thru about 25 minutes ago, nothing since then."

The CN "hill" begins (eastward) just past the crossing and chews up eastbound heavy trains. Yesterday I saw a 18000 ton coal train with 2 UP engines down on its knees and crawling at the summit. It was down to about 1 mph. It made it.

Anyway, back to the NS line.

Between Spriggsboro and Nickle the line goes from 650 ft elevation to 760. So, there is a grade. A heavy eastbound with only one unit pulling will really be digging potatoes thru town. Probably just as critical are the number of curves. Due to the curves, the speed limit drops from 60mph down to 50 (I think).

Another feature of the line is that just west of the CN crossing, the ex PRR mainline (now Chicago, Fort Wayne and Eastern) parallels the NS line to Hobart. In the 90's NS purchased this line from Conrail and used it to alleviate the strain of its line. A crossover was built at Spriggsboro and then again at Hobart, thus making it a long (7.5 mile) siding, or a short double track, depending on your perspective.

NS seems to dispatch the CFWE line (track warrents) except for the above mentioned siding (CTC). NS does use the ex PRR for movements as necessary, but only from Spriggsboro to Hobart.

The track seems to be in excellent shape. There are very few slow orders and those seem to be addressed quickly. The trains seem to be well powered and word is that NS is a scheduled railroad. I can attest that their trains appear to be on a pretty tight schedule. Fluxuations occur, but for the most part, the trains run close to schedule.

The Nickel Plate line was a railroad built for speed. It had to be to compete with the parallel New York Central mainline. While today it is not an outright speedway, although one could make the argument that a 60mph intermodal is a fast train, the trains run steady.

East of Valparaiso the line crests the Valparaiso Morraine and enters some of the best farmland Northern Indiana has to offer. Summer finds 10 foot corn plants hiding the right of way.

At Argos(MP 431) is a small yard and a junction with what was once the NKP's Michigan City - Indianapolis line. I dont know who operates the line now, but if memory serves me correctly there are about 5 tracks, plus the two sidings.

Next, I will outline the approximate schedule (based on one year's observations) of the line.

  • Member since
    May 2004
  • From: Valparaiso, In
  • 5,909 posts
Posted by MP173 on Tuesday, June 7, 2005 2:09 PM

Glad to hear you guys liked this. I was in the writing mood the other night and thought I would summarize things.

Responding to your questions/comments:
Slopes: I think it is really interesting to write down info heard off the scanner. I have gotten a real feel for the railroads here in town the last year by doing so. I probably am a little over the top...I have a graph notebook with vertical and horizontal lines. Each day I start a new page and the best I can tell you is it is sorta like a dispatchers sheet. I dont write down every signal they call and some days I dont even write down the trains, but for the most part, I record what is happening.

Gabe: This is in fact the Nickle Plate line. There is a short street, about 2 blocks long which parallels the track which is named "Nickle Plate Avenue". I refer to the line as the Nickle Plate. My son only knows it as the Nickle Plate.

In the next installment, I will outline a little more about the line, based on my information.

Hegewisch: The line is not as busy as before the Conrail split up. There are several trains that either went over to the Chicago - Elkhart line or simple have disappeared over the years. For example 411/412, the Chicago - Detroit manifests are gone, probably routed via Elkhart. 143/144 (Chicago - Chatanooga) trains are also via Elkhart.

I would guess the line has dropped from about 35 trains a day in the 1998 era to about 25 - 28 today. Still, that is quite a bit for a single track CTC piece of railroad.


  • Member since
    March 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 13,428 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Tuesday, June 7, 2005 9:12 AM
This is the former Nickel Plate main line, and judging by Ed's posting, the operation is as tight as it has always been, all the way back to the Berkshires and leased C&O GP9's of my dim and distant youth.
The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    March 2004
  • From: Indianapolis, Indiana
  • 2,434 posts
Posted by gabe on Tuesday, June 7, 2005 8:19 AM

Thanks for the excellent summarization (I initially opened this post because I saw you wrote it and knew it would be worth my time).

My only question is etiology. The line to which you refer, was it initially a Nickel Platte line or a Wabash? Did NS pull out the other one?

Thanks again,

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,205 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, June 7, 2005 12:25 AM
I should try this on the BNSF by me. Too bad I can only hear the dispatcher from where I live.[:(]
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,205 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, June 6, 2005 12:31 AM
That's really cool, Ed. You got some busy lines where you live! [:)]
  • Member since
    May 2004
  • From: Valparaiso, In
  • 5,909 posts
NS Chicago - Ft. Wayne line
Posted by MP173 on Sunday, June 5, 2005 10:09 PM
About a year ago I found my scanner, plugged it in, and entered the frequencies. I live in Valparaiso, Indiana and there are three lines thru town...the NS Chicago to Fort Wayne mainline, the CFWE line from Gary, In to Ft. Wayne, and the CN main from Chicago to Detroit and Ontario.

I started listening for the first time in years and soon became hooked. I then began writing down train symbols and times. The scanner (soon became 2 scanners) were on all the time. Obviously the volume was reduced at night, unless I was restless. My girlfriend didnt seem to mind, in fact, she found it interesting that I could carry on a conversation with her and also casually mention that NS 262 was being held at the crossing from a fleet of CN trains. "How do you know that" she asked. BTW...she is a keeper!

So, after a year, here is a thumbnail sketch of operations on the NS line. My scanner picks up from roughly Hobart (10 miles west) and South Wanatah (10 miles east). Some days I can hear further.

NS makes it easy to identify trains, as their crewmen call out the signals. I have heard quite a bit in the last year...from the terror of a train crew that described a man whom they had run over and severed his legs was crawling back toward the locomotive, to the joy of crewmen (and women) sharing their personal victories in life. But, everyday the trains run and they seem to run on a certain schedule that is much tighter than the CN's.

Here is what I hear in a typical day:

NS runs the following manifest trains:
177 - Chicago to Ft.Wayne then to Cincinnati
306 - Chicago to Bellevue, Ohio
307 - Bellevue to Chicago
175 - Chicago to ?

I must add here that I have no contacts with the NS. I am not on the inside, nor do I have access. I have used this forum and others to gather a little info. I have listened to dispatchers and crew members. I have read Scott Lindsey's excellent book Norfolk Southern, 1995 review and have emailed him with questions...and begged him to follow up with a new book.

Any info here that is ego is in check, please correct me. If you like this, perhaps I will attempt it with the CN also.

There are two locals:
323 - runs from Ft. Wayne to Van Loon and back daily to pickup interchange, mainly steel coil cars from the EJE
L41 - is a typical local which runs from Ft. Wayne to Nickle (siding east of Valparaiso). It seems to show up if not daily, at least every other day.

Auto racks include:
280 - a daily train of empties racks from Chicago to Cincinnati
13N - a daily loaded a/r train from Wilmington (Delaware?) to Gibson Yard on the IHB
289 - ???

Intermodals include:
215 - Chicago to Jacksonville
216 - Jacksonville to Chicago
217 - Greensboro, NC to Chicago
218 - Chicago to Greensboro
230 - Jacksonville to Chicago
233 - Norfolk to Chicago
235 - Norfolk to Chicago
236 - Chicago to Norfolk
261 - Fort Wayne to Chicago Triple Crown
262 - Triple Crown Chicago to Ft Wayne and beyond
264 - Fort Wayne to Chicago Triple Crown
25A - Chicago to (I have heard someplace in Kentucky)

Misc trains include:

Coal trains run also:

There is a pattern to the operations. I live about .5 miles from the tracks and when I hear a whistle, I can almost predict which train it is. NS runs a tight ship.

Next, if you want more, I will describe the "parade", both morning and evening, when inbound and outbound intermodals converge or depart from Chicago and fill in the other times during the day.


Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy