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.
There is something about an open gate that seems to invite passersby to come in, even if they are not welcome there. Maybe it’s because a gate indicates a sense of the forbidden. After all, there wouldn’t be a gate there if someone didn’t want to let just anyone in or didn’t want to let something out.
Back on Dec. 28, I was in Willard photographing this eastbound CSX manifest freight with a BC Rail trailing locomotive. I couldn’t resist the lure of stepping inside to get a photo before moving on to my next photo location east of town.
Photograph by Craig Sanders
When I rolled into Centralia, Ill., about mid-afternoon on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, it was not, strictly speaking, my first trip to the city in Southern Illinois named for the Illinois Central Railroad.
I had passed through Centralia numerous times riding on Amtrak and I have a hazy memory of having gone to Centralia at least once to cover a high school basketball game.
But I had never photographed a train in Centralia and it had been one of those things on my “to do” list for quite some time.
I had a video of train action in Centralia recorded in the late 1990s or early 2000s and I had seen it several times.
So on a trip to Illinois to visit my dad, I decided to spend a couple of days railfanning the former Mainline of Mid-America.
Yes, the former IC. It has been owned by Canadian National since 1998 and signs of IC ownership are fading fast.
In a perfect world, I would have spent all day in Centralia. But I had only one day and it began with my photographing trains in Effingham. After the passage of the Amtrak’s southbound Saluki I begin to work my way south to Centralia.
I ended up spending more time en route than I expected. I stopped in Edgewood to capture a northbound CN manifest freight and in Tonti to photograph the site of Amtrak’s first derailment that involved fatalities.
I also photographed a CSX train on the former Baltimore & Ohio line to St. Louis and the CN-CSX crossing in Odin.
And this doesn’t take into account the various other sites that I photographed, including a restored wood water tower next to the ex-IC tracks and a monument near Mason that marks the completion of the “Chicago Branch” as it was called in the 1850s.
I pulled into the parking lot of the Centralia Amtrak station and waited for trains to show up.
I would have a long wait and in some ways it was a disappointing outing. It would be well over an hour before Norfolk Southern sent a train through.
BNSF had a track maintainer out on the line, but no trains. Likewise, CN never sent any freight trains through Centralia during my time there, either.
My tally for the day would be three NS trains and the northbound Amtrak Illini.
The railroad demolished the Centralia IC station many years ago, replacing it with a small brick structure.
But as I studied the photos that Bob Farkas sent me and compared them to my own, I was amazed to see that some things about Centralia have not changed, notably the existence still of large telecommunications or radio antennas. Also, a grain facility visible in one of Bob’s photos can be seen in one of my going away shots of the Illini.
I would like to get back to Centralia this summer. This time I’m going to get their earlier.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
The summer operating schedule for Nickel Plate Road No. 765 has been making the rounds on various railfan oriented Internet sites. Aside from the TrainExpo festival in Michigan, none of these trips were listed yet on the website of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, the owner of the Berkshire locomotive.
Norfolk Southern employee trips:
May 3 & 4 – Elkhart, Ind. to Bryan, Ohio
May 10 & 11 — Chicago (Calumet) to Argos, Ind.
July 5 & 6 — Detroit to Toledo
June 20-24 — TrainExpo, Owosso, Mich.
July 12 & 13 — Detroit to Ft. Wayne
July 19 – Aug 9 Logansport, Ind., and Kokomo, Ind.
The subject line in the email message that I received from fellow Akron Railroad Club member Bob Farkas got my attention. Rumor has it you like IC. The contents of that message really got my attention.
It included three black and white images of Illinois Central Railroad passenger trains taken at Centralia, Ill., in summer 1970.
Over the next few weeks Bob sent me additional images of IC trains and an article to go with them.
We agreed that I would post his Centralia materials and follow that up with an article and images of my own from a visit to Centralia in August 2012.
But before you enjoy Bob’s 12 IC images, here is some context. He and his traveling companions, who included ARRC member Mike Ondecker, were hoping to photograph two of the last three active E6A Electro-Motive passenger diesels in America.
Writing in Journey to Amtrak, Kalmbach books editor Harold Edmonson said the E6 was second by a nose to an Alco PA in fan popularity.
IC Nos. 4001 and 4003 had racked up thousands of miles since being built in November 1941. On the day before Amtrak began, the IC washed its last two E6s – it once had five of them – paired them, and assigned them to pull the last trips of the Chicago-Springfield, Ill., Governor’s Special.
When released by EMD in November 1941, No. 4001 debuted the striking orange and chocolate brown passenger livery that all IC trains would eventually wear.
After Amtrak arrived, Nos. 4001 and 4003 were stored, although one of them reportedly worked one Amtrak run before both were retired.
As for the trains that Bob saw, I engaged in a bit of guesswork as to which ones they were based on schedules from August 1970, equipment assignments of that era, and what I know about the railroad layout in the city named for the IC.
At the time that Bob traveled to Centralia, the IC had 10 daily trains there plus the every-other- day City of Miami.
These included the Panama Limited and City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans, and the Shawnee, Mid-American and Illini, between Chicago and Carbondale, Ill.
But change was in the wind. The Mid-American would be discontinued south of Carbondale in September.
Citing massive financial losses, the IC would announce in October that it was ending the Panama Limited. But that didn’t happen.
The Interstate Commerce Commission decreed that the law establishing the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) froze the nation’s intercity rail passenger network into place until Amtrak sorted out which trains and services it would keep.
So the Panama Limited and its IC running mates trains continued to run through the end of the following April.
On Amtrak inauguration day, service in Centralia fell to the Shawnee and the City of New Orleans. Bob get there at a good time.
Article by Craig Sanders
It was the summer of 1970 and John Woodworth, Mike Ondecker (a fellow Akron Railroad Club member), and I headed to Centralia, Ill., to see Illinois Central passenger trains.
Our goal was to see one or more of the IC’s operating E6s in action. Although we got photos on the way to Centralia and on the way home, most of our on-location time was in and around Centralia.
We arrived at midday on what I believe was a Tuesday, stayed Wednesday and left at about noon on Thursday.
Our home base was the area around the IC passenger station. The Burlington Northern and Southern Railway tracks paralleled the IC tracks through the area, so we didn’t have to travel far for a photo.
John was the driver. Mike worked for the Erie Lackawanna at the time and was a walking encyclopedia of what was going on in the railroading world
I was the photographer and I was using a Mamiya C3, which was a 120 roll film twin lens reflex camera that took 2-and-a-quarter-inch by 2-and-a- quarter-inch square negatives.
I also had an 8mm Bell & Howell movie camera that I mostly mounted on a tripod.
More than 43 years later most of my memories of this trip are a blur of F-stops and getting a decent exposure, but three experiences come to mind.
It was mid-afternoon, I was tired and I wanted to get some sleep. Mike and John left for the station since neither could believe I’d put sleep over railfanning.
Left alone, I tried to sleep, but their warning that I’d miss something good kept nagging at me. I got dressed and got to the station in time to find one of the E6s on the point of the passenger train. Thankfully I got good shots.
As we were taking pictures, we noticed that a man kept watching us. Finally, he walked over and introduced himself.
He was a reporter for the local newspaper and wanted to know what we were doing. We explained we were from Ohio taking photos of Centralia’s trains.
We talked a little while and he invited us to breakfast the next day at a real greasy spoon. I remember the big thumbprint on my supposedly clean silverware.
He asked more questions and a few weeks later I received a copy of his article that had been published in the paper.
My last memory was made on the last day. We had time for one more IC passenger train before beginning to head home.
When it came into view, it had an E6A, E9B, E6A lash-up on the point. There was an older woman attempting to enter the station as we raced out like mini-tornados.
We probably gave her nightmares of a buffalo stampede leaving the station and almost knocking her over.
Thankfully we not only had time to get a few black and white shots, but I was also able to get a movie as the train departed. Perhaps one day Mike and I can do a tag-team show for the ARRC and include the movies.
Article and Photographs by Robert Farkas
When I’m off the clock and out trackside with my camera, I sometimes encounter railfans watching trains.
I know a lot of photographers get upset when railfans get in their picture and “ruin” it, but I take a different approach.
Our friends and fellow railroad enthusiasts change over time as much as the railway equipment does, even to the point of no longer being with us.
So many of our adventures out along the railroad are with our friends. Time takes its toll on us as well as the trains, so don’t be afraid to capture those around you along with the railroad scene.
Not only will you be glad you did, it will be a refreshing change to the normal “train only” photos we take so often.
I often try to make them the primary subject of the image because they don’t always seem to “fit in” the natural scene like a railroad worker would.
I will often try to make the fan more the focal point than the train, an example being my first photo of a couple watching CSX at Berea.
My goal with the man photographing a CSX local at Plant City, Fla., was to add human interest instead of just another shot of a normal CSX train.
I’m not a big fan of fan trips as far as great photos go because the crowds are generally large. On the other hand, a good composition still can be had with a little effort on the photographer’s part in composing the image.
And of course railfan gatherings can always be a chance to get both fans and crew in the same photo like my shot at the North Carolina Transportation Museum of their voluteers
and NS crews keeping a watchful eye while moving the PC unit as the fans look
Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee
On the afternoon of Monday, March 3, I received a phone call from Roger Scott at the Orrville depot. He was told by a visitor that the Norfolk Southern executive train was headed his way. It was out near Alliance. A quick calculation of mileage and time told me it would be in Wayne County soon.
As I was getting my coat and hat on, I heard the NS Pittsburgh West dispatcher telling the special that a maintainer would do a roll by at Orrville.
With that information, I knew it was too late to go to Orrville, so I headed for Wooster lickety split. I pulled alongside the NS tracks at the South Street crossing.
The special was just coming into view. I set up my camera quickly and took five shots as he went by. It was not a calendar cover shot, but turned out nice.
The track is curved and I was positioned on the inside of the curve with the direct rays of the sun on the outside. The nose of lead unit 4270 was shiny and nicely lighted.
The sides of the locomotives, however, were shaded and looked like they had seen a bit of winter. I did not notice any passengers onboard the cars.
The Wooster local was on the industry spur lead next to the mainline. It had all its lights on, so I thought it might leave after the OCS passed.
It did not. It cut off some of its cars and then pushed the remaining cars onto the spur leading to Gerstenslager’s auto parts plant.
NS operates several locals from its West Mansfield yard. Two travel to Wayne County during the week to switch local industries. They are the Orrville and Wooster locals. Both are usually returning home Both are usually returning home to Mansfield by early evening on the current schedule.
The Orrville local is C27 and the Wooster local is C03. The NS Yard Office is located on Oak Street in Mansfield. The new NS building in Orrville across from the ORHS depot is home base for the maintainers. They cover the Fort Wayne line from Alliance to Crestline.
A track supervisor has an office in the new building. I presume it’s manned all three
I followed the Wooster local up to Gerstenslager’s and took photos of it crossing Bowman Street and entering the plant. When it finished working and started its return to downtown, I was off after him. I was able to grab a quick shot through the windshield as it crossed Palmer Avenue.
After the local returned to downtown, I set up near the Pittsburgh Avenue crossing. While he continued working on his train, a coal train and then the Orrville C27 local went by westbound.
By that time it was nearing 6:30 and the engine crew of the Wooster local turned off the lights of lead unit 5629. They might have headed for supper; I did the same.
Monday was a surprise day for this railfan. Seeing the NS OCS again was great. I also had a first-time opportunity to see the Wooster local working at Gerstenslager’s.
I had passed auto parts box cars sitting on the plant’s street siding many times, but had not seen any railroad action. It was a totally unplanned rail adventure on a bright sunny day. Serendipity indeed!
Article and Photographs by Richard Jacobs
After reading Todd Dillon’s post on the Akron Railroad Club blog about the “human element,” I thought I’d add to it.
We as fans concentrate so much on getting that perfect photo of an engine or train with no one in or around it that we overlook the very interesting “human side of railroading.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t want a person in every photo, but don’t ignore that human element of railroading if the opportunity presents itself.
A wheel doesn’t turn unless someone makes it turn, so to me people can be as much a part of the scene as equipment. I don’t mind railroad workers in a photo doing what they do.
Such is the case with my top photo of the crew in the cab of the Nickel Plate Road No. 765 as I was boarding the train in Conway. It was just a grab shot, but would turn out to be one of my favorites of the day.
Posed photos can be a good way to add a little interest to a series of shots. After a day in Ft. Wayne, one of the young volunteers got the dirty job of shoveling the ashes.
I had him pose with his shovel and the 765 in the background. In a photo that has a 1940s look to it, this quick grab photo was a volunteer doing his walk around of the 765 while it was operating on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
Far and away my favorite human element photos are the ones that show railroaders doing their sometimes thankless and hard jobs. Be it track people, signal people or crews, everyone has a job to do that keeps the wheels turning.
Winter in particular is tough on all involved with keeping the trains moving. The first three photos show trying to melt some ice so a switch could be operated.
A water leak in a pipe under the deck of that overhead bridge resulted in a steady stream of water dripping down and then freezing around this switch. Note the large chunks of “blue ice” from this mess in the 3rd photo.
Track work comes in many forms. As a locomotive crane holds it, a gang muscles a panel of track into place to install in the tunnel leading to Whiskey Island in Cleveland.
A CSX westbound slowly crawls past the workers on the clearance project in Kent. And connected to the same project a contractor installs a run around track on the former Erie in Kent.
Train crews are probably the most common railroad workers we as fans come into contact with. The new crew is walking up to its train at Bellevue and the conductor is watching his train pull ahead at Motor Yard in Macedonia are scenes repeated multiple times each day.
The big smile on my former co-workers face is well deserved as this was one last pose “in the seat” on the day he retired.
I’ll end with a photo that has no human in it, but has a direct human connection. The sun has almost set for the day and the blue flag/blue light protection is up for the workers just out of sight in the car shop.
Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee
Amtrak will seek a new path into Chicago for the Hoosier State that likely would also be used by the Cardinal.
That news came out of a meeting between Amtrak President Joe Boardman and a delegation of Lafayatte, Ind., officials in Washington, D.C.
The talk of a new route came amid concerns that on-time performance for the Chicago-Indianapolis run was a mediocre 33 percent in January.
Lafayette, West Lafayette and several other communities along the route are helping to underwrite the Hoosier State through early 2016.
“There was a frank conversation regarding on-time performance,” said Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce council member Arvid Olson.
Boardman expressed a willingness to keep the route and make it work, Olson said.
“We need to have a demonstrated metric improvement for this service to remain viable, and they very much agreed this little train needs to run a whole lot better.”
Amtrak said the delays to the Hoosier State were caused by freight train interference, track and signal issues, and operating issues for which Amtrak claimed responsibility.
Boardman committed to finding a more direct route between Dyer, Ind., and Chicago, Olson said.
“Should we come to terms with CN (Canadian National), it would reduce the number of rail companies we deal with,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said. The reference was to Canadian National Railway Co.
Amtrak would pay any additional costs related to using a new route, Olson added.
Boardman also committed to minimizing delays caused when the train is halted mid-route so that a new crew can board and replace employees who have reached a maximum of 12 continuous work hours, Olson said.
Currently, the quad-weekly Hoosier State and the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal use a hodge podge of routes between Chicago and Dyer.
In a related development, a consultant hired by the Indiana Department of Transportation continues to draw up a request for proposals from companies interested in operating, marketing or improving the Hooser State, INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said.
When Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and four other communities agreed to help finance the Hoosier State, the agreement included a proviso that the state will week ways to run the trains on time at more convenient times, and attract more riders to close the gap on the $2.7 million annual operating cost not recouped from more than 36,000 passenger fares paid in 2012, according to an INDOT study.
“We are making good progress with R.L. Banks & Associates and anticipate publishing a rquest for proposals in March or April,” Wingfield said. “The RFP will detail when proposals will be due and an anticipated review timeline.”
Amtrak may submit a proposal, according to Magliari. “We are very interested in seeing what is in the RFP.”
Last Sunday Dennis Taksar and I had had our fill of winter train watching in Berea. Out of desperation we decided to venture to Bellevue even though we know Sunday is a slow day and that would prove to be true.
We arrived just past noon and after finding a new secret donut source we setup shop by the former Wheeling Tower and waited.
Finally, nearly two hours later, a aouthbound freight passed by, led by a high nose SD40. Older power on local trains has always been a plus in Bellevue.
About a half hour later an eastbound Wheeling & Lake Erie grain train showed up and made its way through the connection with a BNSF “Grinstein” unit in the lead.
The train only made its way to the first grade crossing and tied down with the NS crew departing by van.
We returned to our roost to wait for something else of interest. A couple run of the mill auto racks and stack trains passed our location, but where not worth a photo for me.
Just after 3 p.m., traffic picked up a bit. No. 186 arrived from Lang Yard sporting the usual Canadian National power.
We took some shots as it passed the Mad River & NKP Museum. A splash of color in our black and blue world is always nice.
In between trains, Dennis and I reviewed the article in Trains magazine about Bellevue that was written by the ARRC president. We were trying to figure out where the former NYC trackage was as well as other routes through the area.
Around 4 p.m., the sun came out somewhat to greet the Wheeling westbound freight destined for Lang Yard in Toledo
The train had a former blue SD40 EMD lease unit on the point and freshly painted SD40 following. The hazy sun brightened the flanks of the engines.
I was amused at Dennis’ efforts to climb mountains to get the right shot. This poor train has to make a arduous trek through the town first swinging north into the Mini Plant heading onto the Sandusky District, pausing a moment for a crew to finish clearing snow off switches that are not heated.
Then it must back all the way south and around a leg of the Fostoria District wye before going forward and onto the Toledo District via the Mad River connection.
It puzzles me how NS allows its railroad to be tied up for so long rather than restoring the former crossing the Wheeling once had.
For the day’s farewell shot, we drove west on Ohio Route 18 to a little east of Clyde to catch the train at speed.
The sun had faded away by this time and our last farewell task was to enjoy a good pizza trackside on a parlor on Center Street. Will spring ever come?