MÄRKLIN & RAILROADS
www.trains-and-trains.dk : A personal view by Christian Vinaa
USA : Ohio : Fostoria
Where ?USA - Ohio - 1 hour drive south/southeast from Toledo.
What ?One of the best train-spotting places in the world.
Train trafficFostoria - The Iron Triangle - is one of those places that is worth a detour; if not the whole trip in-it-self
So I give it 2,5 locomotives with 3 being the maximum.
You simply got to be there and experience it in order to appreciate it.
3 railroad lines. 3 diamonds - all 2x2 track - of which two are fully accessable. Norfolk-Southern line crosses 2 CSX lines.
Heavy freight traffic; 100+ trains / any day , which boils down to 1 one each 15 minutes. According to some statistics :
43 % --- 05:30 PM to 01:00 AM = ( 17:30 - 01:00 )
25 % --- 03:00 AM to 04:30 AM = ( 03:00 - 04:30 )
20 % --- 06:00 AM to 08:30 AM = ( 06:00 - 08:30 )
05 % --- 10:00 AM to 12:00 AM = ( 10:00 - 12:00 )
07 % --- 01:00 PM to 04:00 PM = ( 13:00 - 16:00 )
So in other words :;
During the normal workday hours (10:00 - 16:00 ) only 12 % trains, which is i.e. 12 trains in 6 hours = 2 trains / hour. During the night you will see most trains / hour; 25 trains in 2,5 hours.
Late afternoon and evenings are the better choice where you'll see about 45 trains in 8 hours, which is more than 1 train each 15 minutes.
Then again it's claimed that freight traffic; except intermodal "couriers"; doesn't run on a time-table.
But no matter what; Fostoria is the place where you'll ALWAYS see more trains than any other place.
Alas - no passenger trains, since AMTRAK dis-continued the line, but the old AMTRAK station is still there and so is the parking lot.
See it - Feel itBeing at Fostoria is something like a sensor-round experience. When you stand or sit at the Railpark you are literally surrounded by the railroad. 360 degrees.
Your biggest problem, as a newbie, is to locate from where the trains are comming. The trains will all sound their horns well in advance because there are several crossings, and these are outside the city limit, so trains horns are allowed.
When the trains then pass the Railpark they drive quite slow because they are not allowed to cross the diamonds at full speed, because it would ruin the wheels and the tracks in the diamonds. See details in picture below.
When hearing a horn you have to figure out what route the train is taking. There are several options in Fostoria :
It is however the CSX that controls the 3 diamonds. It is not un-common, though, so see a train on the "Findlay-Bellevue" route shunting in Blair Yard but also effectively blocking all traffic in Fostoria.
Some grain trains will also block all traffic while shunting at the grain elevators just south-west of Fostoria.
Rail fanning - US-styleFostoria and US-style railfanning are well suited to each other. US-style rail-fanning basically is about sitting comfortably, having lots of beverages and snacks at hand and having a front-row view of the trains.
And then you just sit and wait for the trains to pass.
And at Fostoria you don't have to wait long.
Most US-rail-fanners knows a lot about the individual railroad-lines and the locomotives. When trains can be 100-120 cars long, and most cars, to be honest, look the same, you are kinda left with the individual locomotives.
Of course a train with a special load is a real treat; i.e. army transport, John Deere tractors and anything un-usual.
Most US-rail-fanners also have scanners so they can follow the radio-traffic between the controllers and the engine drivers. Most af that talk was gibberish for me, but it was clear that the US-rail-fanners were fluent in that language.
At Fostoria, and several other places, i.e. Horsehoe Curve, there is even a speaker that transmits this radio-traffic.
A rail-fan admitted that most of the radio-traffic was of no use to the rail-fanners, simply because it required a detailled knowledge of where the trains were to understand what they were talking about.
One of the things that the scanner will pick up are the "defect detectors" along the railroad line that monitor i.e. number of axles and whether an axle is hotter than normal. The message with the result of the meassurement is computer-generated with an artifical human voice; some are male, some are female.
Example from "www.n8rrb.com/trains/sounds/railsounds.html" : CSX Hot box detected
What about European-style rail-fanning ?
European-style rail-fanning is a lot more "active". Very few European rail-fanners bring along a chair and they kinda move along to the next foto-spot after having seen one train at the first foto-spot.
Getting around in FostoriaIt is fairly obvious that the streets in Fostoria that crosses the railroad tracks near or inside the "Iron Triangle" will be blocked when the trains pass or shunt : "South Main Street", "South Poplar Street" and "Colombus Avenue".
Luckily there is the "Midblock Upass", so you don't have to wait several minutes at a crossing.
One last reminder. When you want to go to the Railpark, you enter from "South Poplar Street", but if the lights and bells at the crossing has begun, you MUST stop.
The lights and bells at crossings in the USA start when the train in fact is hardly 200 meters away, and I've often seen how the boom have only just been lowered when the train entered the crossing.
In Europe the lights, and bells and boom start at least a full minute ( 60 seconds ) before the train actually arrives. In the USA - NOT SO !
Hotel - accomodationsThere seem to be only 3 hotels in Fostoria :
Findlay, about 30 minutes drive away, have more motels to choose from. Tiffin and Fremont also have a few motels.
A good business idea would be to have a decent, cheap motel, just 5-10 rooms, just next to the Railpark. No facilities but a clean bed, WC and a shower. Even just a room with an elevated surface where you could put your own sleeping mat would be great for many rail-fanners.
The Railpark & Fostoria Rail Preservation SocietyYou can become a member or make a contribution to the Fostoria Rail Preservation Society :
I know : There seems to be no limit to how many organizations that wants your support or want you to become a member.
However; I think that the Fostoria Rail Preservation Society is one of the organizations that is worth supporting.
The Fostoria Rail Preservation Society has really done a wonderfull job with the Railpark and railfanners from all over the world visit the Railpark and benefit from it.
They have a lot of plans for the future, but they need money.
While visiting Fostoria in June 2014 I met one of the people responsable for the Railpark; Ellen Gatrell. A very kind lady who did a lot of volontary work for the "Fostoria Rail Preservation Society" and the Railpark.
In the USA it is very common, much more than in Europe, for local citiznes to get involved with the community and to take on various work tasks that benefits the community.
Not to demean Fostoria or the area around Fostoria, but when you look at the map, and find out that there are only about 13.000 people living in Fostoria, you realize that attracting rail-fanners to visit Fostoria is quite important for the little community - especially because all the towns in that region basically are competing against eachother to attract business and tourists.
And to be honest - the whole region doesn't really have a lot to offer tourists - if it was not for the railroad.
What can / should be done ?
Family packagesSo my advice to Fostoria will be to invest more in the Railpark and in things that will make rail-fanners visit Fostoria even more; perhaps even something for the wifes / girlfriends to do, while the men watch trains. Even amusements for the kids ?
As I see it - the activities around Fostoria, in Findlay, Tiffin and Fremont, are kinda for the locals that don't want to drive to Cedar Point - and Cedar Point no doubt is THE main amusement attraction in the whole region. And it's only about 1 hour drive from Fostoria.
On their website the Fostoria Rail Preservation Society could have one page for women and one page for children; listing offers and posibilities for women and children.
Weekend / 1-3 day package deals could be negotiated with Cedar Point / hotels-motels / restaurants etc. making a visit to Fostoria a family trip that catered for all members of the family.
How about having some kind of beauty / wellness / relax treatment for the women ?
But it must be REAL deals. I was told that the Best Western Fostoria Inn & Suites hotel gave members of the Railpark a special discount ( the manager of the hotel being a rail-fan himself ). However - when I tried to book online I was given the same price whether I booked with or without the "special offer code".
It didn't really matter, but it is one of those things that just MUST work.
Web-cam ?I don't know whether Fostoria needs any adverticing, regarding the rail-fanning location, but I think that a web-cam or 2 wouldn't hurt. Perhaps local business could donate equipment and internet-access. These days it really is not expensive.
Elevated platform - tower ?An elevated platform / tower would be a nice thing to have. Ellen Gatrell told me about the many regulations that must be adhered to - i.e. the platform / tower must be accessable with a wheel-chair.
I honestly don't know about the many US-regulations, but I do know that the authoreties in Switzerland put up a temporary tower at Erstfeld for the 125 year jubilee of the Gotthard Line in 2007, and apparently it wasn't pulled down till around 2013.
The tower was just a normal scaffold with stairs inside and plastic covering except at the top level :
Original urls :
[ http://www.erstfeld-tourismus.ch/panoramaturm.html - http://www.erstfeld-tourismus.ch/images/p094_1_00.jpg ]
[ http://www.panoramio.com/photo/90487750 ]
The view was magnificent.
This might be a solution. I mean - if the very quality- and securityminded Swiss can do it, it should be possible in the USA - right ?
A tower in Fostoria doesn't have to be as high as the one in Erstfeld, Switzerland, and it could be made more temporary; only during the summer; - afterall who wants to stand up there in the icy wind in wintertime.
I presume that regulations for temporary "buildings" might be less strict than for permanent buildings.
Visits to CSX / Norfolk-SouthernI presume that at least some of the people working for the CSX or Norfolk-Southern in Fostoria; at the towers - in the yards; are living in Fostoria. It would not hurt if these people could show some community spirit and somehow be more open about their jobs.
VIsits to towers / yards, ( small groups only ), and by appointment only, would be a great way to attract rail-fanners and for these rail-fanners to become members of the Fostoria Rail Preservation Society.
Even visits to the industries / grain elevators that also have railroad connextions could be interesting; especially if shunting was going on.
What I don't understand :There is only one thing that I can't understand about the location of the house / platform in the Railpark. The platform is placed in the upper northern part; just next to the Norfolk-Southern "Findlay-Bellevue" line.
So the line with the most traffic; the CSX "Tiffin-Deschler" line is quite far away. There are parking spaces in the southern part, just next to the CSX line, but they are unmarked.
When I was there in 2014 most rail-fanners would actually sit in their cars at the south-end in stead of using the platform and the shelter in the north-end.
Future projectsOn their website the Fostoria Rail Preservation Society has listed some future projects.
Let me, please, as an outsider and a foreigner, make a few comments :
Using funds and man-power to restore a caboose.
Well - given the amount of cabooses that are on display in every corner of the USA, I think that from a foreigners point of view it will be something like : "Oh - no - not another caboose !"
If anything should be placed in the Railpark
Moving the T&OC Depot from North Street to the Railpark.
Well - as long as it doesn't ruin the rail-fanning views in the Railpark - why not ?
Sounds like it could be another good rail-fanning place, even though it's only one line you can see from the tower.
Ellen Gatreel told me that there are also plans for the D&N Building on Columbus Avenue just across from the Railpark. Apparently the building needs a new roof.
I think the building could be a nice supplement to the Railpark; perhaps a place where you could rent a bunk and have a shower ? ( As suggested above ).
My picturesFrom June 2013 :
From June 2014 :
Other railroad (and other) sites to visit in the neighborhood
When you are in Fostoria you might want to visit the Fostoria Glass Museum.
A quaint little museum that tells a surprising story about how natural gas created and destroyed the glass industry in Fostoria.
A very shortlived story from 18887 to 1891. But the name "Fostoria Glass" lived on for almost another century.
Download flyer from Fostoria Glass Museum.
Copyright © Christian Vinaa
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