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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
If the Capitol Limited looks a little shorter these days, it is. Through Nov. 18 on Train No. 30 and through No. 20 on Train No. 29, the Capitol will have just one food service car, a combined diner-lounge.
Previously, the standard consist of Nos. 29 and 30 included a dining car and Sightseer lounge.
But Amtrak recently scraped together an extra equipment set for the Capitol as a hedge against late arrivals in Chicago by No. 29 that resulted in No. 30 departing late as well.
That was because the equipment that terminated in Chicago on No. 29 made a same day turn there to become that day’s departing No. 30.
Amtrak said that half of the diner-lounge will be devoted to full-service dining while the other half will be used as a lounge.
An Amtrak news release suggested that the meals available in the full-service dining section of the car will be the same as those available in a regular diner.
The news release cited “extreme freight train interference on the Norfolk Southern Railway in Ohio and Indiana” as prompting the equipment shuffling.
“Delays caused by freight train congestion leaves insufficient time to service trains at the end points for their return trip,” Amtrak said in the news release.
Amtrak’s string of record-breaking ridership records was snapped last month. For fiscal year 2014, which ended on Sept. 30, Amtrak’s system ridership fell from 31.56 million in 2013 to 30.92 million in 2014.
Excessive tardiness caused by host railroad freight congestion led to declines in patronage of key long-distance trains, which depressed the overall patronage number despite a 10 percent surge in ridership in the Northeast Corridor.
Patronage of the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder was down by 17 percent in September, with Nos. 7 and 8 carrying 450,932 in FY 2014.
The Empire Builder had Amtrak’s highest ridership among long-distance trains in FY 2013, but in FY 2014, it was eclipsed by the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight, which carried 459,450.
The Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited saw its ridership decline by 11.6 percent in September. Long-distance train ridership fell by about 200,000 during FY 2014.
Another factor in the diminished system ridership was a technological advance. Previously, Amtrak estimated multi-ride ticketholder numbers, but now it can record precise ridership numbers because each passenger’s ticket is scanned aboard the train.
This affected ridership numbers for such commuter-heavy routes as California’s Capitol, Pennsylvania’s Keystone, and Maine’s Downeaster corridors where the patronage was down by 589,000.
Ticket sales for the long-distance fleet fell by more than $15 million in FY 2014, but that was offset by sales on other trains that enabled Amtrak to post another revenue record. In FY 2014, Amtrak ticket sales were up 4 percent to $2.189 million compared with $2.105 million in FY 2013.
Much of the increase came from an 8.2 percent boost in the Northeast Corridor, which accounts for 54.5 percent of the Amtrak’s system ticket sales. Long-distance trains generate 23.3 percent of ticket sales while state-supported routes provide 22.2 percent.