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Railfanning Berea, Ohio

Norfolk Southern stack train GE AC44C6Ms 4256 and 4348, and C40-8W 9747 are heading east at 9:00 a.m. on October 14, 2022. The early morning train on NS’s Chicago Line is passing the signals at CP 194. This move is viewed from the lawn of the Railfan Park in Berea, Ohio.

Railfanning Berea, Ohio

February 2023By William J. Skeats/photos by the author

A family visit to Lakewood, Ohio, this past October was my first trip to the Buckeye State. I was looking forward to my visit, and to prepare, I checked out the schedule of Amtrak Trains 29 and 30, the Capitol Limited, and 48 and 49, the Lake Shore Limited. Unfortunately these trains travel through the Cleveland area in the wee hours of the morning. There is the Cleveland RTA rapid transit system which is of interest. But being a New York Central fan, BE Tower in Berea, Ohio, would be my choice.

I usually photograph passenger trains on my native Long Island, so a day spent at Berea would be a nice change and a chance to relax and watch the freight action from one spot. Berea has been running about 100 trains per day, with Norfolk Southern running more trains than neighboring CSX Transportation. Merchandise, double stack, intermodal, automobiles, coal, coke, C&D, stone, grain, and dimensional trains can be viewed.

Berea, Ohio

ABOVE: BE Tower still stands between Norfolk Southern’s Chicago Line (North) and CSX’s Cleveland Short Line Subdivision (South) in this morning view October 14, 2022. The tower is unused by NS, and with its electric and water shut off, its days are numbered.

Berea is located at CP194 on Norfolk Southern’s Chicago Line (former NYC main line). It’s 194 miles west of Buffalo, New York, the mileage used by the former NYC on today’s Chicago Line. On CSX, Berea is MP 21.5, based on mileage from Collinwood Yard, east of Cleveland, via Cleveland Union Terminal. CSX designated this trackage as the Cleveland Short Line Subdivision, which is the former NYC Big Four Route.

CSX dispatching along the line is controlled from Jacksonville. Berea has been a major hot spot on the Cleveland railroad scene since the mid-1860s when several NYC predecessors installed trackage in this area, originally part of the Lake Shore Michigan & Southern (LM&MS), Big Four and Cleveland Union Terminal, then New York Central, Penn Central (1968), Conrail (1976) and since 1999 Norfolk Southern and CSX.

Berea, Ohio

ABOVE: CSX CW44AH 566 and CM44AH 7229 have the garbage train in tow on the Cleveland Short Line Subdivision in Berea, Ohio, at 2:28 p.m. October 14, 2022. Front Street is above, and the Berea Depot Restaurant is to the right. The white C&D hoppers up front could be from New York & Atlantic Railway customers Coastal Distribution and One World Recycling on Long Island. Parent company Tunnel Hill Partners’ landfill is to the west in New Lexington, Ohio, served by G&W’s Ohio Central Railroad. The landfill has access to NS, CSX and Canadian Pacific.

Berea was the “X” of the Conrail system, where the busiest lines of Conrail met: The Chicago Line (Chicago to Selkirk), Pittsburg Line (Cleveland to Philadelphia), and the St. Louis Line (Cleveland to East St. Louis, Ill.). BE Tower closed in 1997 and its functions were transferred to Conrail’s (now Norfolk Southern) dispatching center in Dearborn, Mich. The NS Dearborn dispatcher controls the NS Chicago Line with Cleveland Terminal and Toledo East dispatchers. The NS Dearborn DS also controls Rockport Yard to the east. BE Tower is no longer used for any purpose by Norfolk Southern…

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This article was posted on: February 7, 2023