Welcome to the Akron Railroad Club Blog

March 2, 2009
The photo line is ready to capture an eastbound Norfolk Southern manifest freight with BNSF motive power during the July 2012 Akron Railroad Club picnic.

The photo line is ready to capture an eastbound Norfolk Southern manifest freight with BNSF motive power during the July 2012 Akron Railroad Club picnic in Bedford.

The Akron Railroad Club has about 80 members who meet monthly in Akron, Ohio, to share their passion for railroad operations and history.  On this blog you will find information about our meetings, activities, how to join us, and news about railroads and railroad oriented organizations.

ARRC logoOn the feature pages you will find information about popular Ohio railfan hotspots within a few hours drive from Akron, stories about railfan outings, trip reports and information about railroad operations and radio frequencies.

Many 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 and joining us. Dues are $16 yearly and include a subscription to the monthly newsletter, the Bulletin. We meet on the fourth Friday of the month at New Horizons Christian Church, 290 Darrow Road in Akron. Visitors are always welcome at our meetings.

Next Meeting: January 26, 2018. Program by Craig Sanders

Next Activity: December 2. End of Year Dinner. Program by Mark Demaline.

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Waiting for the Cleveland Night Express

November 18, 2017

Back in the day, railroads would drop off and pick up set-off cars at various intermediate stations. These included sleepers, diners, lounges and head-end cars. Amtrak has all but ended that practice.

During the holiday season, railroads would use every head-end car they had to carry an increase in mail and express business as millions of Christmas cards, parcels and letters rode the rails.

Show above is a Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad baggage car on the siding in Peninsula. I’m not sure why it is there, but suspect it has something to do with the Polar Express season.

With a little imagination, though, I can pretend that it is a set off car that will be loaded with  holiday mail and express from the Peninsula post office and sent it out tonight on the Baltimore & Ohio’s Cleveland Night Express.

NEORHS

November 18, 2017

The Northeastern Ohio Railway Historical Society will meet tonight between 6:30 and 10:30 p.m. at the town hall building in Randolph.

Attendees are encouraged to bring summer photographs, whether slides or digital images, to show.

Pizza, snacks and beverages will be available. A donation is requested and those attending  are asked to bring something to eat to share.

For more information Contact David Mangold at 330-947-3685 during the afternoons or evenings.

The Randolph Town Hall is located just north of the intersection of Ohio Route 44 and Waterloo Road.

The next NEORHS meeting will be the Christmas party on Dec. 16 at the Maple Street Gallery in the former Wheeling & Lake Erie depot in Hartville, 120 E Maple Street.

C&O 1309 Restoration Runs Out of Money

November 18, 2017

Efforts to restore Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 have run out of steam. More to the point it has run out of money.

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Executive Director John Garner remains optimistic the restoration can be completed and the tourist railroad is seeking additional funding.

However, he said the restoration will not be completed at the expense of the other operations.

“A lot of our visitors have the idea that we should throw all of our money into the 1309’s restoration, but that would bankrupt us,” Garner told Trains magazine.

He estimated WMSR needs least an additional $530,000 to complete No. 1309’s restoration and finding additional sources of money has been a slow process.

There have also been some disappointments, including less money than expected from photo freight charter trains that ran in October.

“I don’t think that we fully understood what was going on in the region on that weekend; there were several other railroad-themed events going on around the same time,” Garner told Trains.

Some grant sources look promising, but that money won’t arrive until late 2018 if it arrives at all.

The railroad is preparing to send out a round of 1,600 letters to plead for donations and will host more freight photo charters in February.

WMSR said the remaining running gear and boiler work is expected to cost $120,000 and $115,000 to complete.

To date, the restoration of No. 1309 has benefited from at least $400,000 from the State of Maryland.

Last spring the WMSR said it had spent $800,000 of its own money on the restoration. By August the project had consumed $1.8 million.

Aside from funding issues, work on the 1309 restoration has been hindered by mechanical problems that forced cancellation earlier this month of a hydrostatic test on the articulated locomotive’s boiler.

“We filled the boiler with water up to the crown sheet and repaired a few leaks around the stay bolts,” Garner said. “Then we ran out of money.”

Maryland officials have expressed confidence in the leadership of the WMSR, but have said that no more public funds are expected to be forthcoming toward the 1309 restoration.

Allegany County in Maryland owns the former Western Maryland Railroad right-of-way from Cumberland to Frostburg.

Where the Capitol Limited Once Stopped

November 17, 2017

Photographs that are a mere five years old don’t necessarily qualify as being “oldies,” but this March 2012 image shows the end of something that had been associated with Akron for 62 years.

In early 2012, workers came through Akron to lower the tracks of the CSX New Castle Subdivision as part of a clearance project associated with development of the National Gateway.

This included removing the last section of umbrella shed on the platform to the west of the former station concourse.

It is not clear why a portion of the umbrella shed was left in place. Perhaps it was to serve as a monument to what this building had once been.

The last intercity passenger train to stop at this location was Baltimore & Ohio No. 5, the Capitol Limited, which pulled away at 2:37 a.m. on May 1, 1971.

The next day, Akron no longer had intercity rail passenger service for the first time in more than 100 years.

The December 2017 issue of the Akron Railroad Club eBulletin will have a feature about the final decade of B&O passenger service in Akron.

NS Painesville Bridge to Open late Summer 2018

November 17, 2017

The new Norfolk Southern bridge over the Grand River in Painesville is expected to open in late summer 2018.

An NS spokesman told the News-Herald of Willoughby that when completed the single-track bridge will be 1,318 feet in length and supported by seven concrete support structures.

The existing bridge, which was built in 1905 by the Nickel Plate Road, has 14 support structures. That bridge was strengthened in the 1940s, but NS has decided it needs to be replaced.

Designed by HDR Engineering of Cincinnati, the bridge is being constructed by Great Lakes Construction of Hinckley.

Work began last March and trains on the NS line between Cleveland and Buffalo, New York, have continued to use the existing bridge, which sees 10 to 15 trains a day.

“Work crews now are constructing the foundations and concrete towers that will support the bridge,” said NS spokesman Jon Glass. “The bridge foundations are being drilled down to bedrock, a distance that ranges from 30 to 100 feet below ground surface.”

The foundations will have steel-reinforced concrete and the steel bridge spans that carry the track will be outfitted with a precast concrete deck. Crossties, rail, and ballast will be laid atop the concrete deck.

Glass said the new bridge will be less costly to maintain and have less of a footprint in the Grand River, thereby improving the flow of the river in that location.

NS has not disclosed how much the bridge will cost.

Steamtown Stops Charging Admission

November 17, 2017

Steamtown National Historic site has ceased charging admission.

The park in Scranton, Pennsylvania, has scrapped its fee of $7 a day for those 16 and older after a National Park Service study concluded that visitation would increase and costs would diminish by not collecting admissions.

The museum will continue to charge $5 for the short train rides that it offers and longer excursions to destinations outside the park will continue to have a fee.

Fees may also be charged for special exhibits and the annual Railfest. Park Superintendent Debbie Conway said the fees for Railfest have not yet been determined.

CSX Reportedly Lays Off Willard Workers

November 17, 2017

An online report this week said that CSX has furloughed all of the laborers at Willard Yard who put fuel, sand and water in locomotives and clean the cabs. There were also layoffs in the car shop.

The report said this leaves 20 employees in the car shop and that CSX management is seeking to have electricians and machinist do service on locomotives.

Amtrak Saw Ridership Increase 1.5% in FY2017, Posted Lowest Operating Loss in Decades

November 16, 2017

Amtrak recorded its lowest operating loss in decades this year the carrier said on Thursday. The national passenger carrier said it broke passenger and revenue records for the year ending Sept. 30, helping to narrow its operating loss to $194 million.

During the period Amtrak recorded 31.7 million passenger trips, a 1.5 percent increase over FY2016 and had total revenue of $3.2 billion, an increase of 1.1 percent over FY 2016.

In breaking out ridership by service type, Amtrak said it carried 12 million in the Northeast Corridor, up 1 percent, which set a record.

State-supported trains carried 15 million passengers, a 2.1 percent increase, while the long-distance routes carried 4.6 million riders, an increase of 0.9 percent

Amtrak also set a record for cost recovery, covering 94.7 percent of its operating costs with ticket sales and other revenues.

“Over the next several years, we’re aiming to cover total operating costs from ticket and other revenues by strengthening our services and continuing to drive efficiency,” said Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia in a statement. “To do this, we are making investments in tracks and stations, on our trains, and in the delivery of customer service so that we can serve more customers with a better experience.”

Amtrak said it cuts its debt from $3.3 billion on Sept. 30, 2007, to $1.2 billion on Sept. 30, 2017, a reduction of 64 percent over the 10-year period.

Other notable milestones for Amtrak in FY2017 included a 19 percent increase in membership in its Amtrak Guest Rewards program and launching a national partnership with ride-sharing service Lyft.

Some Erie Sights

November 16, 2017

Hunter’s railroad wasn’t being very cooperative. I had set up on the West Main Street bridge in downtown Kent hoping to get a train or two on the CSX New Castle Subdivision.

Westbound intermodal trains Q015 and Q137 have been operating in mid to late afternoon of late. But I got crickets. There wasn’t as much as a peep on the radio.

After about 45 minutes of waiting, I got out and walked around to make photographs of whatever caught my eye, including some Erie Railroad relics.

The most prominent of those is the former passenger station, which has been restored and now houses an Italian restaurant.

Just south of the station is a heavyweight passenger car painted in Erie colors. It apparently is used as a meeting room, although I’ve never seen anyone in it.

There is a signal box by the station that I know I’ve seen dozens of times, but never photographed. Today I saw something there as the late afternoon sunlight cast a warm glow on the rust-covered box. Who knows how many years it has been here and how many trains it has seen?

Finally, I checked out the siding for the Star of the West grain elevator. Just the night before during a program at the Railroad Enthusiasts meeting in Cleveland there was speculation as to what will happen with this property, which closed earlier this year.

The Erie would have served this facility as did the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway. Now the siding sits unused.

At one time, one of the mainline tracks would have been here, but it has been a long time since these rails were a double-track mainline.

Shippers Demand Congress Address CSX Service

November 16, 2017

Some CSX shippers are seeking more hearing about the railroad’s service issues.

The Rail Customer Coalition argues that CSX service has not improved and it wants federal officials to take action on complaints they expressed during an Oct. 11 hearing held by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

The coalition made its demand in letters dated Nov. 14 and addressed to the U.S. Senate’s Commerce Committee and the House of Representative’s Transportation Committee,

The letters assert that CSX customers continue to experience “service changes with little notice, missed switches, and poor communication on delivery status.”

The shippers group also wants Congress to “examine the CSX service breakdown, and potential means available to the STB to mitigate the adverse impacts to the rail network.”

Members of the coalition include the American Chemistry Council, National Farmers Union, the Sulphur Institute and 30 other organizations.

Although CSX has presented figures showing that car dwell time in yards and average train speeds have improved since last summer, the coalition is questioning whether those service metrics matter because they continue to perceive freight delays.