Welcome to the Akron Railroad Club Blog

March 2, 2009

The Akron Railroad Club business meeting of May 28, 2010. The club meets monthly except in December on the fourth Friday of the month. (Photograph by Richard Jacobs)

The Akron Railroad Club has more than 100 members who meet monthly in Akron, Ohio, to share their passion for railroad operations and history.  On our blog you will find information about our arrc-logo1meetings, activities, how to join us, and news about railroads and railroad oriented organizations.  On the feature pages you will find information about popular Ohio railfan hotspots within a couple of hours drive from Akron, stories about railfan outings, trip reports and special reports about railroad operations and railfan events. Most features are amply illustrated with photographs.  Take a look around and enjoy yourself. There is always something new to read so come back often. Better yet, come to one of our monthly meetings or join us at one of our many events. We look forward to meeting you.

Next Meeting: October 24. Program by Marty Surdyk, Craig Sanders and Roger Durfee.

Next Activity: November 22. Members Night.

Recalling a Summer Jaunt to the ‘Old Road’

October 25, 2014
Adrian & Blissfield GP9 No. 1751 waits to head west from the Blissfield, Mich., station with the Old Road dinner train.

Adrian & Blissfield GP9 No. 1751 waits to head west from the Blissfield, Mich., station with the Old Road dinner train.

Barbara and I visited Toledo and southern Michigan over the July Fourth weekend last summer.

On Friday, July 4, we visited the Titanic exhibit at Imagination Station in downtown Toledo and the Great Lakes Maritime Museum on the east bank of the Maumee River. We also visited the Maumee Bay Lodge.

On the way we passed over the CSX Presque Isle yard throat. A stack train was alongside the yard office. Usually one sees only coal, grain and sand trains there.

We took an upriver cruise aboard the motor vessel Sandpiper on the Maumee River from Riverside Park on Saturday morning.

We passed by large grain elevators in downriver Toledo then went on to more serene vistas upstream, including fine homes and local marinas. At Maumee, we turned about for the downriver cruise back to Toledo’s downtown.

Passing under a downtown railroad bridge, an eastbound oil train was on the bridge. It was passed by a westbound Norfolk Southern train. I managed a grab shot as we cruised by.

We then drove to Blissfield, Mich., for a murder mystery dinner on the Old Road Dinner Train of the Adrian & Blissfield Railroad.

The mystery of the death of owner Howey Cheatum of Camp Runamuck was finally solved after much hilarity.

The Old Road Dinner Train is the longest continually operated such train in America and the only five-star rated dinner train in North America. The murder mystery run is offered every Saturday evening year round and on occasional special trains throughout the year.

Before the dinner train left, we browsed about the A&B station and yards. Much equipment was available for photos.

The A&B line is part of the former New York Central’s “Old Road” from Toledo to Elkhart, Ind. It was built in 1836 as the Erie & Kalamazoo Railroad linking Toledo with the Kalamazoo River.

The railroad was later extended to Elkhart. After the Civil War, the line was bypassed by the “Air Line” from Toledo to Elkhart.

The line through southern Michigan and northern Indiana became known as the “Old Road.” It was spun off by Conrail in the 1970s.

The A&B was formed in 1991 to operate the state-owned lines in Lenawee County. A&B later purchased the tracks from the State of Michigan.

The A&B also operates a thriving freight business on this historic short line, handling nearly 2.5 million tons of freight annually.

On our return from Toledo on Sunday, we stopped at Elmore, Ohio, a small village on another former NYC railroad line, now the North Coast Trail for hiking and biking. The line was the former NYC Norwalk branch from the mainline at Elyria to Toledo.

Elmore is also the home of Schedel Arboretum & Gardens, which we visited. The gardens are beautifully landscaped with many varieties of plants and trees.

Travelling from Elmore, we stopped in Bellevue to look around. We saw the five ORHS coaches that were involved in the July 1 derailment of a Wheeling & Lake Erie train on the NS New Haven connection.

They were on a siding at the rear of a local industry. They did not appear heavily damaged as viewed from the nearest railroad crossing about 50 yards away.

They had not been repaired, however, and returned to the ORHS at Orrville as of Oct. 20.

Other than our time in Blissfield on the Old Road Dinner Train, we did no railfanning per se. It was a fun-filled weekend, however, with a variety of events.

Article and Photographs by Richard Jacobs

Switcher 1223 on an A&B storage track in Blissfield.

Switcher 1223 on an A&B storage track in Blissfield.

Former VIA Rail Canada luxury dome car resides on the A&B Blissfield storage track.

Former VIA Rail Canada luxury dome car resides on the A&B Blissfield storage track.

The A&B railroad yard near the station. GP9 No. 1751 will lead the Old Road dinner train later.

The A&B railroad yard near the station. GP9 No. 1751 will lead the Old Road dinner train later.

The he/she athletic director from Camp Runamuck plays some suppertime music.

The athletic director from Camp Runamuck plays some suppertime music.

Dinner on the Old Road dinner train.

Dinner on the Old Road dinner train.

Former NYC Blissfield depot is now the Visitors Center.

Former NYC Blissfield depot is now the Visitors Center.

Grab shot! A NS westbound approaches the Maumee River bridge in Toledo.

Grab shot! A NS westbound approaches the Maumee River bridge in Toledo.

NS freight from Toledo rounding the Museum connection to the Sandusky line at Bellevue.

NS freight from Toledo rounding the Museum connection to the Sandusky line at Bellevue.

ORHS' five coaches involved in the July 1, 2014, derailment on the New Haven wye while on a Wheeling train. They were being returned to Orrville from Train Fest 2014 at Owosso, Mich.

ORHS’ five coaches involved in the July 1, 2014, derailment on the New Haven wye while on a Wheeling train. They were being returned to Orrville from Train Fest 2014 at Owosso, Mich.

Durbin & Greenbrier to Run Cass Scenic

October 24, 2014

The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad will be taking over operations of the Cass Scenic Railroad later this year, but the West Virginia operation will continue to operate under the Cass Scenic name.

The changeover will occur on Nov. 24 and includes a 10-year lease with an option for renewal for another decade.

The railroad is currently owned and operated by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. The West Virginia State Rail Authority voted on Thursday to approve the lease. The authority will continue to lease the Cass assets.

The Durbin & Greenbrier will operate all Cass rail operations including the shops, depot, water tower, rolling stock, locomotives, and facilities at Whittaker and Bald Knob.

The Department of Natural Resources will continue to operate the rental units in the town of Cass.

“New events and activities will be added to the current offerings of both organizations to enhance customer experience through coordination of marketing, customer service, and regional partnerships,” Durbin & Greenbrier Valley President John Smith told Trains magazine. “The combined operations will offer numerous trip options of interest to a wider demographic with the goal of increased ridership and customer satisfaction.”

The Cass Scenic will become a division of the West Virginia Central, which is owned by the Durbin & Greenbrier.

The railroad will also work with the Mountain State Railroad & Logging Historical Association to continue preservation efforts at the state park.

“We see this changing of the guard as a new opportunity to expand on existing preservation projects, while working with the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad on innovative ways to strengthen our involvement with personnel and operations,” said Mountain State Railroad & Logging Historical Association President Paul Rujak. “We are very confident our Climax restoration project will continue unchanged, along with our annual trips such as Cass Railfan Weekend.”

Schedules of the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley and Cass Scenic are expected to be coordinated to allow patrons to ride two trains with overnight stays at Cass and Elkins.

Passengers will be able to spend the night in Cass, ride the Cass Scenic to Spruce and a connection with the WVC Cheat Mountain Salamander, spend the night in Elkins, and then return by the same route to Cass.

The lease agreement is the first step toward creating a 90-mile rail excursion loop using West Virginia Central and Cass Scenic Railroad track.

Track will be relaid from Cass to Durbin along the Greenbrier River, and from Durbin to Bemis along the route of the West Fork Rail Trail. West Virginia purchased the former Mower Lumber Company track from scrapper Midwest Raleigh Corp. in 1962, and opened it to the public as the Cass Scenic Railroad in the summer of 1963.

Starting with two operable Shay locomotives and 4 miles of track, the railroad has grown to 10 locomotives, eight Shays of which one is a Heisler and another a Climax

The Cass Scenic operates on more than 11 miles of track, including extensions to Bald Knob, one of the highest peaks in West Virginia, and Spruce, on the West Virginia Central Shavers Fork line. John Smith founded the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad in 1996 with his wife, Kathy.

Operations began with a Whitcomb locomotive, a flat car, and a caboose, known as The Durbin Rocket over 2.2 miles of rehabilitated track along the Greenbrier River south of Durbin.

By summer 1998, the Durbin & Greenbrier had extended the track an additional 3 miles toward Cass.

That same year, the Smiths submitted the successful bid to operate the 132-mile state-owned West Virginia Central, consisting of former Western Maryland and Baltimore & Ohio trackage.

Their initial West Virginia Central route was Elkins-High Falls, the Cheat Mountain Salamander, using an experimental Leyland railbus and then a reproduction Edwards railcar.

Since then, they’ve purchased a 35-ton Climax geared locomotive for the Durbin Rocket and expanded now operate diesel-powered excursions over the length of the railroad.

The Smiths have marketed freight traffic and operate the Virginia short line Shenandoah Valley Railroad.

Rare Chance to Get Passing CVSR Trains

October 23, 2014


Last Sunday I had a rare opportunity to get two Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad trains passing side by side in Peninsula.

Several years ago that was common because trains would originate in Independence and in Akron and terminate in Peninsula. The schedules were set up to allow across the platform connections.

Then the CVSR simplified scheduling by running all trains between Independence and Akron. But on Sunday a special,  the Pumpkin Express, had to deadhead to Peninsula after dropping off its passengers in order to clear up for the Scenic train.

In the photograph above, that is the Scenic train on the left. There is a back story behind this image.

The angle you see is not what I had originally intended. I had wanted to get this photograph from the west side of the tracks (to your left), not between them.

I had been standing between the tracks to watch the Scenic arrive. Usually, the head end of the Scenic stops short of the grade crossing that you see in this image.

But not today. The head end of the Scenic went well past it, meaning that I was committed to photographing the “meet” from the middle of the tracks, which had been my second choice of photo angles.

You may note that a woman is partially visible in the far right of the image. When I first saw the image after making it I wasn’t pleased to have her there.

I knew something like this might occur because a crowd of people had gathered who had disembarked at Peninsula and were returning to their vehicles, which are parked in the lot visible to the left.

I had anticipated that as soon as the Scenic cleared that they would immediately begin crossing the tracks. I was fortunate, though, that the crowd stayed east of the siding as the Scenic began to move northward. So I had an unobstructed view of the “meet.”

As I expected, the crowd began moving and started walking into my shot. I did get some clear shots without pedestrians, but the image shown here was my favorite.

After thinking about it some, I decided that I liked having that person in the image after all. If anything, I wished that I had moved my camera slightly to the right to get all of her.

But it was a spontaneous moment and I was focused on getting images of the two trains passing before too many people walked into the view.

In the end it wasn’t my ideal image, but it was pretty darn good and, essentially, what I wanted.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Capitol Limited Down to 5 Cars, 1 Locomotive

October 23, 2014

The scuttlebutt on railfan chat lists these days is that an Oct. 6 letter from Surface Transportation Board Chairman Daniel Elliott III to NS Chairman Wick Moorman asking for a detailed explanation about what the railroad is doing to improve Amtrak on-time performance is responsible for an improvement in Amtrak timekeeping.

Those who follow the on-time performance of the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited have noted that the hours-long delays have begun to disappear.

The trains are still running late, but in the past week or so the tardiness has been more in the range of two hours or less.

The link between the STB letter and the uptick of on-time performance of the two Amtrak routes serving Northeast Ohio is at best circumstantial.

A number of factors have played a role in improving the fluidity of the NS Chicago Line. Amtrak has also taken steps to protect itself.

One of the steps Amtrak has taken is to alter the practice of having the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited equipment and Toledo-based operating crews make same-day turns in Chicago.

The habitual excessive delays suffered by inbound Nos. 29 and 49 meant that outbound Nos. 30 and 48 were delayed by hours because of the need for crew rest and equipment servicing.

One step has been to scrape together a fourth equipment set for the Capitol that can be sent out regardless of how late the inbound train is that day.

For now, that has meant shortening the consist of the Capitol Limited by removing the Sighterseer lounges in favor of 37000-series diner-lounges.  Half of the car is a full-service diner while the other half serves up lounge car fare.

On one occasion, the makeshift equipment set for the Capitol departed Chicago for Washington, D.C., just nine minutes past its scheduled 6:40 p.m. departure time and passed that day’s inbound No. 29 en route. That No. 30 was staffed by a Chicago-based operating and on-board crew.

Amtrak also has decided to have the Toledo-based crews that bring the Lake Shore Limited into Chicago to layover there and handle the next day’s outbound Capitol Limited

Inbound Capitol Limited crews are expected to have sufficient rest time to make a same-day turn back to Toledo on the eastbound Lake Shore Limited.

Since these crew and equipment assignments have been implemented, Nos. 30 and 48 have departed Chicago either on-time or less than 10 minutes late every day, something that last occurred back in April.

Another factor has been the opening earlier this month of the Englewood flyover, which separated the NS Chicago Line from Metra’s Rock Island District on the south side of Chicago.

Summer track work on NS is winding down, meaning that there are fewer segments of single tracking occurring.

NS also has been increasing the number of operating crew members assigned to Chicago Line trains through new hires and transfers from elsewhere in the system.

The Amtrak Capitol Limited “self-help plan” has pros and cons. Amtrak cut the number of coaches assigned to the Capitol Limited from three to two and eliminated the transition sleeper used by the crew.

Nos. 29 and 30 will continue to carry two sleepers, one of which will be used by the on-board crew. The lower level of one of the coaches will also be used to store checked baggage.

With the Capitol Limited now operating with five cars, Amtrak is assigning one P42 locomotive to the train rather than the customary two.

Amtrak expects to save money on fuel and on labor cost due to the reduced number of on-board service employees.

The shortened consist also means that last-minute travelers might find coach seats and sleeper accommodations aboard the train unavailable.

However, Amtrak only expects to continue using the shortened consists through Nov. 18 eastbound and Nov. 20 westbound.

Grand Rapids Amtrak Station Opening Set

October 23, 2014

Officials in Grand Rapids, Mich., will celebrate on Oct. 27 the opening of the new Amtrak station.

The dedication ceremony for the $6.1 million multimodal facility will begin at 10 a.m. with Amtrak, state and federal officials speaking

The station, named in honor of the former U.S. Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers, also serves local bus transit routes, intercity buses and taxis.

The facility is closer to the Grand Rapids business district, offers a larger waiting room, restrooms, a covered canopy and is compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Other features include a clock tower and 118 parking spots.

Funding for the project came from a $4.6 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant, a $1.5 million match from the Federal Transit Administration, funds from the Michigan Department of Transportation, and from local funds.

Grand Rapids is served by the Pere Marquette, which is scheduled to depart for Chicago at 7:40 a.m. and return at 9.55 p.m.

Keystone Trains Get New Electric Locomotives

October 23, 2014

Amtrak placed in revenue service on Monday a new Cities Sprinter (ACS-64) electric locomotive in Keystone Service in Pennsylvania.

Amtrak is acquiring 70 of the electric motors, which are built by Siemens, to operate on electrified routes in the East.

More than a dozen ACS-64 units are in service, with the remainder to be delivered through the end of 2015, Amtrak said in a news release.

The ACS-64 will replace AEM7 locomotives that have been in operation for as long as 35 years. Annual ridership on the Keystone corridor between New York and Harrisburg, Pa., totals about 1 million passengers.

In Memory of Allister C. Phillimore Jr.

October 22, 2014

Services for former Akron Railroad Club member Allister C. Phillimore Jr., 72, of Smithville, will be held on Friday (Sept. 24) at 11 a.m. at Oak Grove Mennonite Church in Smithville, with the Rev. Douglas J. Zehr officiating.

Al PhilimoreBurial will be in Oak Grove Cemetery. Visitation is 4-7 p.m. on Thursday and 10-10:45 a.m. on Friday, at the church.

Mr. Phillimore died on Monday at Wooster Community Hospital following a long battle with cancer.

He was a friend of ARRC member Richard Jacobs who recalled the two of them taking a nine-day railfanning trip in 2003 to Illinois, stopping to railfan in Joliet, Galesburg, Naperville, West Chicago, East Peoria and Chenoa.

Mr. Phillimore, who went by the nicknames of “Big Al” and “Butch,” enjoyed watching trains and was a member of the Sterling Loopers. He also had been active with the Mad River & NKP Museum in Bellevue and the Orrville Railroad Heritage Association. Aside from his interests in railroads, Mr. Phillimore enjoyed restoring old cars and was an avid Sprint and NASCAR race fan.

He worked as a boiler operator, electrician, and maintenance man for Apple Creek Developmental Center for 16 years and previously worked for Columbia Gas as a boiler operator/stationary engineer. He graduated from Canton McKinley High School in 1961.

Mr. Phillimore was born Sept. 24, 1942, in Canton, to Allister C. and Charlotte (Betz) Phillimore Sr. He married Carol J. Hartzler on July 21, 1963, in Oak Grove Mennonite Church. She survives.

Other survivors include a daughter, Sandy (Robert Gilmore) Phillimore of Canton; a son, Daniel J. (Shelley) Phillimore of Old Fort; three brothers, James Phillimore of Massillon, Charles (Donna) Phillimore of Magnolia and Michael (Jean) Phillimore of Canton; two sisters, Marcia (Michael) Vahilia of Canton and Debbie (Mike) Murphy of Navarre; and five grandchildren. He was preceded in death by an infant daughter.

Memorials may be made to Oak Grove Mennonite Church or LifeCare Hospice in Wooster.

Auble Funeral Home of Orrville is handling the arrangements. Online registry and expressions of condolence may be made at the funeral home’s website at www.aublefuneralhome.com.


Bye, Bye Pumpkin Express

October 22, 2014


Passengers wave farewell to the Pumpkin Express, a special train that operated last weekend on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

Participants boarded at the Brecksville station for the trip to Szalay’s Market. There they could visit the corn maze, shop at the market and receive a free mini pumpkin.

In the photo above, passengers have just returned from the market and the train is continuing to the Fitzwater shops to clear the main for the mid-day southbound Scenic. The special had six cars, one of which was a Rail Diesel Car.

The Pumpkin Express will continue in operation this weekend with two trips a day on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $28 for adults and $21 for children ages 3-12. The train departs from Brecksville at 9:35 a.m. and 1:25 p.m.

Photograph by Craig Sanders

New Tourist Railroad Operating in Pennsylvania

October 22, 2014

The Colebrookdale Railroad became Pennsylvania’s newest tourist railroad last weekend with a trip over its 9-mile line from Boyertown to Pottstown.

The railroad characterized the first trips as a soft opening with a grand opening planned for 2015.

The railroad plans to continue operating on Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Nov. 9 The route used was once owned by the Reading Lines, which ceased using it in 1976.

After a series of owners, the track was purchased for $1.35 million by Berks County in 2009 to

keep it from being abandoned.

Calling itself the Secret Valley Line, the Colebrookdale Railroad runs along Manatawny Creek, climbing a long grade from Pine Forge to Boyertown. Along the way it crosses three wood trestles.

The tourist operation is overseen by the the Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust. For more information, go to www.colebrookdalerailroad.com.

Searching for Fall Foliage on a Sunday Afternoon

October 21, 2014
The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern bridge at Wakeman no longer carries any trains.

The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern bridge at Wakeman no longer carries any trains.

Sunday was a nice afternoon so I decided to take a drive and try to catch some trains with the fall colors.

My first stop was Vermilion where I got three westbounds but no eastbound trains.  A BNSF unit in the Warbonnet livery made a nice catch.

Next stop was Wakeman. No trains here but there is an old stone bridge of the original New York Central line to Toledo.

This became a branch after the Sandusky Bay bridge/causeway was built and eventually was abandoned.

The bridge remains as a reminder of past eras. Normally this is a difficult shot because of all the trees but recently some of these have been cut down, opening some new angles.

I then went to Wellington and caught a pair of CSX trains and found a Wheeling & Lake Erie train waiting to go west.  I chased this train back to Hartland yard where it tied down.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon






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