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 meetings, 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.
With the weather dreary as the Reading heritage unit made its way west out of Conway last week pulling a coal train, I debated about even going out.
The draw of catching one of my favorite heritage unit won out, so off I went. As I made my way to the Alliance area, I started thinking of places to catch it.
I elected to try the Smith Goshen crossing that’s located in the middle of the Garfield Sag near Beloit.
There is a pond there that could add some interest in the form of a reflection on that otherwise cloudy afternoon.
On all but the very longest days of summer the sun angles don’t favor the north side at this location, so I figured I’d put the overcast to good use to even out the light.
A 15K was running around the coal drag at CP Murph while the helpers cut away. The coal train would be on Track 1 so I hoped the freighter would clear in time.
As you see, it did. I tried a couple different angles on the two trains. As luck would have it, some filtered sunlight occurred at the right moment.
Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee
The replica steam locomotive Leviathan arrived in Wellington on Thursday to prepare for this weekend of excursions on the old Lorain & West Virginia line. Here it is shown shortly after being removed from the flatbed truck. Note the salute to Lincoln on the truck. The Leviathan is a propane powered replica of the locomotive that pulled Lincoln’s funeral train in 1865.
Photographs by Dan Davidson
Recent news reports have reported that the State of West Virginia is talking with the West Virginia Central about a partnership to operate the Cass Scenic Railroad
The Cass is owned by the state and its infrastructure is located in a state park.
West Virginia Commerce Commissioner Keith Burdette said the discussion are aimed at helping the Cass operate more efficiently as well as secure the future of the park and its iconic steam trains.
The reports surfaced amid rumors that the state would shut down the Cass or sell it to the West Virginia Central. One fan created a Facebook page titled “Save the Cass Railroad.” State and West Virginia Central officials have denied the rumors.
“Nothing’s gone out to bid, there is no contract, and we’re not planning to close the state park,” Division of Commerce Commissioner Keith Burdette told the Charleston Gazette.
John Smith, president of the West Virginia Central, told Trains magazine that claims his company wants to take over Cass and fire its employees is “a bunch of nonsense.”
“The DNR is committed to Cass as a state park,” Smith said. “The railroad is an integral part of it. You could not operate that railroad without the core 20 experienced people who have been there for years.”
Helping spark the discussions are the fact that the Cass park loses about $1.4 million a year. That is money not available to replace ties and perform other maintenance work on the 11-mile railroad.
Although saying that “state parks don’t make money,” Burdette added that “we’re always looking for ways to operate smarter.”
“Maybe there’s a partnership out there that will be good for the state and good for the area,” Burdette said. “If that’s a possibility, it makes sense we’d talk.”
The West Virginia Central operates a trio of tourist trains and has a track connection to the Cass at Spruce. These include the Elkins-based Tygart Flyer, Durbin Rocket” and Cheat Mountain Salamander
Cass equipment has operated over that connection to reach Elkins on the WVC for special events.
In 2012, Smith proposed a 90-mile scenic railroad loop that would include Cass and WVC. Burdette says there have been discussions with Smith about that proposal, but there has been no action by either party.
“If anything does happen from them, I don’t expect it to happen for several more months,” he said. Smith says his interest in Cass is whether a cooperative agreement could be reached on joint ticketing and schedules if the loop concept reaches fruition.
Trains are not expected to begin running on the East Broad Railroad in Pennsylvania for at least another year. That is the time frame to resume service on the narrow gauge segment of the EBT between Orbisonia and Colgate Grove.
The East Broad Top Preservation Association, which owns portions of the line, estimates it will take two to three years before the line north of Colgate Grove can be opened to Mount Union.
Larry Salone, president of the EBT preservation group, said that the primary focus now is rebuilding the recently purchased standard gauge track south of Mount Union that serves the Riverview Industrial Park.
The group recently acquired two segments totaling 4.1 miles of the EBT from its connection with Norfolk Southern (nee Pennsylvania Railroad) in Mount Union to Aughwick Creek viaduct.
Known as the East Broad Top Connecting Railroad, this segment is about 5 miles in length. Officials hope that reinstating rail service will stimulate development in the industrial park.
The EBT preservation group hopes to use revenue earned from freight service to fund restoration of steam trains to Mount Union, which have been on hiatus since 1956.
It will take a lot of money to make that happen, although officials have not said how much. Salone said that at least one locomotive must undergo a federally-mandated 1,472-day inspection and the rolling stock will need to be refurbished.
Also, the preservation group must reach an agreement with the Kovalchick family, long-time owners of the EBT, to buy the reminder of the 33-mile line as well as the station, shops and equipment at Orbisonia.
In a related matter, work is expected to begin on development of a linear park in Mount Union that will use land once shared by the PRR, the EBT and Pennsylvania Avenue.
The borough recently received a $225,000 grant to be used to build the park, which will have a paved walking path, native trees and plants and seating. A decorative barrier will separate the park from the adjacent NS tracks and benches will be fashioned using wheels of old EBT cars.
The park concept was proposed 25 years ago and was recently revived by the EBT preservation group.
The EBT last operated public excursions in 2011. The railroad, built between 1872 and 1874, hauled coal before shutting down on April 14, 1956.
Sold for scrap to the Kovalchick Salvage Corporation. Nick Kovalchick, president of Kovalchick Salvage, instead allowed the railroad to remain in place.
He rebuilt 4 miles of track in 1960 and operated tourist train rides in the summer. Another 5 miles was later opened.
The EBT has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. Last month the EBT preservation group asked the federal Surface Transportation Board to allow it to offer common carrier rail operations in Mount Union in order to serve the industrial park.
Federal Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx visited a intermodal facility in Columbus this week as part of his Invest in America, Commit to the Future bus tour.
The stop at the Rickenbacker Intermodal Facility was part of a five-day tour through eight states during which Foxx visited bridges, freight facilities and highway projects in an effort to raise awareness about the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs.
The facility is located on Norfolk Southern and can handle 250,000 containers annually. In a news release, Foxx noted that the number of containers that go through the facility may increase to 400,000 in coming years.
Foxx also viewed construction of the $29.8 million Pickaway County Connector that will link U.S. 23 with the intermodal facility.
Construction on the connector’s first phase began in late 2012 and is expected to be completed this year. That project received a $16 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant in 2012.
“This increased capacity is especially important as the U.S. is expected to move an additional 14 billion tons of freight by 2050,” Fox said in a statement. “By making it easier for trucks to avoid stopping at the area’s major railroad crossings to wait for trains to pass, the new connector will cut delivery times and costs dramatically and, by reducing emissions from idling engines, will also enhance the region’s air quality.”
I did a short morning chase of a Wheeling & Lake Erie southbound from Akron to Canton last week.
I was heading out to see if the new airship was out – it wasn’t – and saw this train getting ready to depart Akron.
I set up for a photo looking across Wingfoot Lake, then it was off to Middlebranch. The crew was enjoying the little taste of spring we were having that day.
The next three photos are at various locations in Canton as it slowed down for the Norfolk Southern crossing at Wandle.
The W&LE twists and turns as it nears the diamond with NS at Wandle. I’ve always liked the “busy” look of a train coming out of all those buildings and over the diamond.
Note the older signals in the Wandle photos. There are two new ones up but not in service yet, so these Nickel Plate era signals appear to be on borrowed time.
The last photo is the new southbound approach signal located a little north of the diamond.
Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee
Just off Pennsylvania Route 18 just north of Rochester are seven old hopper cars piled up next to an old siding. I have seen them for years and kept saying to myself I’d check them out sometime. Well, last Sunday was that sometime.
They seemed to be placed there to support the hillside not so much a retaining wall but more like rip rap. The cars are of New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad origin some have legible reporting marks and others are too rusted and graffitied.
The photos I took are pretty interesting but more so after I posted some to Facebook. Many people responded and I learned a few things that I did not know.
One, an NS engineer who goes by here daily, asked me if I had checked out a bridge with PRR emblems further up the hill. I had not so now I have something else to investigate.
The branch track next to the cars was in fact the original Pennsy mainline. At some point it was relocated to its present alignment between Rt 18 and the Beaver River. This track remained to service local industries.
There is a switchback that continues up the hill with a high steel bridge and another bridge with PRR emblems. This is only visible during the fall so I will need to come back and investigate further.
I was not sure if these cars had been wrecked and merely shoved aside or deliberately placed where they are. Between comments and one of the cars clearly being whitelined I believe the railroad (Conrail) put them here on purpose.
Social media has radically changed railfanning and researching. Sure we know about a train with a heritage or other special engine before it appears.
However, sharing photos leads to answers that I hadn’t even thought to ask question about. By posting, I learned more about the cars and the branchline next to them that I never would have learned had I not posted and merely kept the photographs to myself.
Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon
The saga of the efforts by Canadian National to discontinue passenger service on the former Algoma Central has taken another turn after the federal government agreed to resume paying $2.2 million to underwrite the service that links Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst, Ontario.
The funding will keep the tri-weekly train operating through March 31, 2015. It had been scheduled to end on April 29 when a one month reprieve ended.
The federal government had told CN last fall that it would end the Regional and Remote Passenger Rail Services Class Contribution Program grant that had helped keep the train ion operation.
At the time, the federal government said that the route no longer met the criteria as a remote service, but neither CN nor Transport Ministry officials revealed the withdrawal news until late January of this year.
The news brought howls of protests from owners of remote lodges, trappers, and other businesses that said they would suffer a hardship due to he loss of the train.
They applied political pressure on the federal government to reverse its decision.
Though CN had extended the deadline to the end of April, Jeff Watson, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, told a Parliament member from the region on April 4 that the decision by CN to discontinue the service is “a business decision made by a private company. Railway companies are private entities that make their own decisions concerning their operations and which services and routes are offered to their customers.”
“The government is pleased to extend funding for another year to continue operation of [Canadian National’s] passenger rail service between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst. The funding will give local stakeholders time to explore long-term solutions for passenger rail service in the area,” the federal government said in a statement.
I generally don’t get a picture of the arrival of my train K920 as it usually arrives at the Shelly Material facility in Kent between 4 and 7 a.m.
The first train of the year, though, was a special one it had a Kansas City Southern GE unit as part of the power.
Besides all gages and controls in Spanish, it was not any different than any other of its type.
Nine train paparazzi stopped by during the day to take pictures of a unit not usually seen in Ohio.
A few days later, I was lucky to see my train pull up through the signals at Kent on Monday and then back into the yard track for my job the next day to move and unload 64 cars.
Article and Photographs by Bob Rohal
The city of Willard has received a $50,000 state grant that will be used to establish a railfan park in the north central Ohio that is home to a major CSX classification yard.
“Train watching has become a popular activity and this facility could bring as many as 20,000 visitors annually to Willard,” said City Manager Brian Humphress.
The city-owned park is expected to be built within the next two years at an unnamed location. Humphress told the Willard City Council that the city has a site in mind and is hoping that the property owner will donate the land to the city.
Willard city officials have been talking about establishing a railfan park for at least the past five years, but were waiting for some seed money to come their way.
State funds are expected to pay 60 percent of the expenses of establishing the railfan park while local entities must pick up the remaining 40 percent. The state’s share will come from the State Capital Improvements budget.