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 Activity: December 1. End of Year Dinner. Program by Dennis Fravel.

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Forgotten Railroad of Akron

November 17, 2018

I just ran across these photographs a few days ago, and thought you might like to see photos of a long-gone Akron railroad.

Now I wish I had taken more slides of the PPG industrial railroad that ran in Norton, but here are two taken west of Cleveland-Massillon Road looking east.

I believe the road being crossed is now called Limestone Drive. Until today I thought the “End E-L Operation” sign in the bottom photo was the end of the electrified part of the railroad, but now I believe it is the far end of the Erie Lackawanna trackage through the (cement?) plant.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

ARRC Elects Officers for 2019

November 17, 2018

At the 2018 annual meeting of the Akron Railroad Club held on Nov. 16, members elected officers for calendar year 2019.

Todd Dillon, the current vice president, was elected president. He will succeed Craig Sanders, who is retiring from his post after holding it for 14 years, the longest tenure of any ARRC president. Sanders became president in 2005.

Bill Kubas was elected vice president and will serve as program chairman as directed by the ARRC constitution.

Current ARRC Secretary Jim Mastromatteo was re-elected to his position.

Likewise, current treasurer Paul Havasi was re-elected to his office.

Ron McElrath was elected Bulletin editor. He replaces Marty Surdyk, who is retiring as an ARRC officer after more than 20 years of service.

Surdyk served as president between 1985 and 1992 before moving on to the Bulletin editor position in 1993.

CA&C Program Set for End of Year Dinner

November 17, 2018

Dennis Fravel of Westerville, Ohio, will present a program at the Akron Railroad Club’s end of year dinner that will discuss the history of the former Cleveland, Akron & Columbus Railway.

The dinner will be held on Dec. 1 at the New Era restaurant in Akron at 10 Massillon Road.

The event will begin with drinks at 5 p.m. and ordering of dinner at 5:30 p.m. As at past end of year dinners, attendees will order from the menu on an individual settlement basis.

The CA&C began life as the Akron Branch of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad.

State Senator Simon Perkins Jr. of Akron had led a delegation to Columbus to lobby the Ohio legislature to amend the C&P’s charter in February 1851 to direct the railroad to build a branch to Akron from Hudson where it was to connect with the C&P mainline.

The charter amendment also mandated that the rail line continue to a connection with the Ohio & Pennsylvania Railroad at either Wooster or Massillon.

The Akron Branch followed the former Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal to Old Forge, a point located northeast of the city. From there the branch moved in a southerly direction toward Summit Street and Akron’s southern boundary.

The Akron Branch opened amid much fanfare on July 4, 1852.

It would later be extended to the O&P connection at Orrville and opened to Columbus in September 1873.

As was typical of railroad companies in the 19th century, the Akron Branch had a series of name changes as the various companies operating it either sold the line or went into receivership due to financial difficulties.

The route emerged from receivership on Dec. 31, 1885, as the Cleveland, Akron & Columbus Railway.

The CA&C moniker would stick long after it ceased to formally be used. The Pennsylvania Railroad gained control of the CA&C’s capital stock in 1899 and for much of its history the route was part of the PRR network.

The merger of the PRR and New York Central in February 1968 diminished the importance of the ex-CA&C as Penn Central rerouted through freight to a former NYC line between Cleveland and Columbus via Galion.

On July 4, 1969, flooding from a severe storm severed the CA&C north of Holmesville and the line was never re-established as a through route.

The track between Clinton (Warwick) and Orrville was abandoned by Conrail in 1986.

The track between Hudson and Akron was abandoned in the early 1990s, but Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority has railbanked most of it, ostensibly for a rail commuter service that has yet to materialize.

Lessons Learned from 14 Years as ARRC President

November 16, 2018

The late Richard Jacobs made this image of me consulting with J. Gary Dillon before my first Akron Railroad Club meeting as president in January 2005. Fourteen years later I’ll be presiding over my final meeting as president.

Tonight, promptly at 8 p.m., I’ll gavel the November meeting of the Akron Railroad Club to order.

It won’t be just another meeting. It will be my last one as president.

It’s been 14 years and approximately 150 meeting since I took over the president’s chair from the late David McKay in January 2005.

But with many changes going on in my life it is time to hand the gavel to someone else.

The pace of those changes has accelerated in the past couple of months and I haven’t had much opportunity to reflect on my time as ARRC president or consider what I see as my greatest achievements.

Was it starting the blog in March 2009?

Was it pushing the club to buy a digital projector and laptop computer?

Was it helping to organize the steam excursions on the Ohio Central and Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad?

Was it prodding the club to come to terms with its diminishing financial condition?

Or perhaps it was something else that escapes my recollection.

On a rainy Saturday morning late last month I stood inside the front lobby of the New Horizons Christian Church awaiting the arrival of the casket that would take longtime ARRC member J. Gary Dillon on his final journey.

The service for J. Gary had ended and as he had requested a few years ago I had given a eulogy in his honor.

That was something I had expected to do. I had not expected, though, to serve as a pallbearer.

But the funeral director needed men to shoulder that burden and I stepped forward.

Not everybody standing in that lobby did so, but I could see that it needed to be done so I did it.

As I drove to the Green Lawn Cemetery in Uniontown where Gary was laid to rest next to his parents, I thought about how the willingness to step forward in times of need is the single greatest attribute every organization needs from its leadership.

Organizations need leaders who have the ability to see what needs to be done and the drive and skill to address those needs.

That was the quality I sought above all to bring to my service as ARRC president.

Some of an organization’s needs are apparent, but others are not always sitting there in plain view.

Serving as an officer in the ARRC is hardly an arduous task, yet it requires some level of commitment even if it is far from the daily commitment of a full-time job.

And not everyone has the skills needed to do the tasks at hand in an efficient and skillful manner.

I would describe my time serving as ARRC president as a learning experience in such fields as organizational behavior, psychology and sociology with a little history and economics thrown in.

During the November 2004 meeting at which I was initially elected as ARRC president, someone in the audience thanked Dave McKay for his 12 years of service as president and complimented him on the job that he had done.

In response Dave credited his “great staff” for the assistance that they had provided. I thought that comment was a bit odd given that the ARRC president doesn’t have a staff as such.

But I’ve come to appreciate that Dave meant that other officers and some members helped him get the work done when it needed to be done.

Of course, some have been more helpful than others. From my vantage point as president I learned who you could count on and to what degree.

I also learned that for most ARRC members club activities are at best a sometime thing in their lives. Although we had between 80 to 100 members during most of my time as president, only a small number of them routinely attended meetings and even fewer routinely attended all or most of the outings.

I found that out the hard way one Memorial Day weekend. I had suggested we have an outing to New London and Greenwich. It was scheduled and announced.

We had gone there in a previous year for an outing that had been well attended and eminently enjoyable. But I was the only person to show up for the encore.

A former ARRC member once compared the club to a movie theater. It is a place to visit every once in a while for entertainment. You walk in, watch a movie and leave without giving much, if any, thought to how the place is managed.

It is nice that it exists, but running it is for others to do. That former member, by the way, could have easily been describing himself whether he realized it or not.

In time I learned to look past such behavior. I learned to understand it and to accept the club and its members for what they are.

It is and always will be a loose-knit organization of people who are more acquaintances than friends. It provides a place to go for a few hours to be among like-minded people.

It may be that those who step forward to serve in leadership and administrative roles carry more weight than others, but the rewards can be quite bountiful.

I met many interesting people I would not have otherwise met, had many enjoyable experiences I would not have otherwise had, and learned things I would not have otherwise learned.

Those made it a worthwhile experience. I had intended here to share some of my favorite memories during my time as president.

I was going to talk about working with the late Jerry Jacobson and the staff at the Ohio Central when it still operated steam locomotives.

I was going to talk about the 100 plus programs I sat through, some great, a few mediocre and others falling somewhere between those extremes.

I was going to talk about how I looked forward to attending ARRC meetings because they provided a pleasant diversion from the pressures and stresses of life.

I was going to talk about the social hour at Eat ‘n Park following most meetings where there was a lot of laughter, much good conversation and always lasting fellowship.

I was going to talk about the selfless dedication I’ve seen from some members, particularly Marty Surdyk, during my time as an ARRC officer.

But then I realized that I’m here to write a column and not a book. That alone should tell you something about my experiences as president of the Akron Railroad Club.

It is the memories of the people, experiences and lessons learned that I will carry with me and think about from time to time after retiring as president. Those made it all worth doing.

Rough Day for No. 48

November 15, 2018

Thursday was a rough day for Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited.

The woes started on Wednesday night when the scheduled 9:30 p.m. departure from Chicago slipped to 1:50 a.m. the next morning.

And you know what happens with late trains and how they just get later.

After leaving Chicago 4 hours and 20 minutes late, No. 48 continued to lose time as it made its way east.

It lost 24 minutes between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, seven minutes between South Bend and Elkhart, Indiana, and another 15 minutes between Elkhart and Waterloo, Indiana.

And so it went that by the time it left Toledo it was 5:25 down, and more than six hours late leaving Sandusky and Elyria.

It had picked up some time when I photographed it rushing past the Olmsted Falls station just after 11 a.m.

Amtrak reported that No. 48 arrived in Cleveland 5:41 late. It pretty much held that pace to Erie, Pennsylvania, but began losing time again, arriving in Buffalo, New York, 6 hours late.

By the time No. 48 reached Syracuse, New York, at 6:37 p.m. it was 7:14 down.

Things improved somewhat east of there. As Amtrak Julie reminds callers, trains can gain or lose time en route.

In this case, No. 48 picked up an hour by the time it left Albany-Rensselaer, New York, and arrived in Penn Station in the Big Apple at 12:41 a.m., six hours and 18 minutes late.

I hope no one had reservations last night for dinner and a play in Manhattan.

Today No. 48 was a mere 39 minutes late arriving in Cleveland.

Extra Amtrak Trains Set for Midwest Thanksgiving Travel

November 15, 2018

Amtrak will operate additional trains in the Midwest between Nov. 20-25 to accommodate an expected surge of Thanksgiving holiday travelers.

Other Midwest corridor trains are expected to operate with increased capacity.

During the holiday travel period, reservations will be required for travel aboard the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service trains.

Holders of monthly or 10-ride tickets are exempt from the reservations requirement, but seating is not guarantee.

On the Wolverine Service corridor, additional trains will operate on Nov. 21, 24 and 25 between Chicago and Ann Arbor, Michigan, with intermediate stops in the Michigan cities of New Buffalo, Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Jackson.

Extra No. 356 will depart Chicago at 9 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Ann Arbor at 2:25 p.m. It will depart Ann Arbor at 4:28 p.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 8:04 p.m.

On the Pere Marquette route, extra No. 372 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 10 a.m. and arrive in Holland, Michigan, at 2:11 p.m. with intermediate stops in St. Joseph and Bangor, Michigan.

No. 373 is scheduled to depart Holland at 3:10 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:27 p.m. These trains will operate on Nov. 21 and 25.

An extra section of the Carl Sandburg will operate between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois, on Nov. 21 and 25.

No. 385 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 11:30 a.m. and make all scheduled intermediate stops en route to Quincy, where it is set to arrive at 3:53 p.m.

No. 384 is scheduled to depart Quincy at 1 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:22 p.m.

On the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, extra Lincoln Service trains will operate between Chicago and Normal, Illinois, on Nov. 21 and 25.

Extra No. 309 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 10:30 a.m. and make all scheduled intermediate stops en route to Normal-Bloomington, where it is set to arrive at 12:58 p.m.

No. 308 is set to depart Normal at 1:15 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 3:41 p.m.

Increased Holiday Capacity Set for Pa. Trains

November 15, 2018

Amtrak will increase capacity of its Keystone Service trains as well as the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian to accommodate an expected increase in Thanksgiving week travel.

The carrier said all passengers traveling on those trains will need to make reservations for travel between Nov. 20-25.

Reservations will not be required for monthly and ten-ride ticket holders.

On Thanksgiving Day, Keystone Service trains will operate on a Saturday schedule.

Empty Table

November 14, 2018

Alliance is a good place to watch Norfolk Southern action because it is the junction of two mainlines.

Most of the traffic through Alliance transitions from the Cleveland Line to the Fort Wayne Line or vice versa.

Few moves take the Fort Wayne Line straight through town. Even rarer are trains going to and from the Cleveland line east of Alliance via Bayard.

Shown is eastbound intermodal train 24M making the transition from the Cleveland Line to the Fort Wayne Line.

I made this image before an Akron Railroad Club meeting and because it was winter I was the only railfan present at the time.

Cincinnati Union Terminal Set to Reopen

November 14, 2018

A restoration of Cincinnati Union Terminal will wrap up this week when the 85-year-old art deco station reopens.

The $228 million restoration project took 30 months to complete after getting underway in July 2016.

The project was funded by a sales tax approved by Cincinnati and Hamilton County voters in 2014.

Amtrak’s Cardinal stops at the station and it is home to several museums.

The restoration effort involved rebuilding the structure down to its substructure and restoring the class murals in the rotunda to look the way that they did when the depot opened in 1933.

The neon-lined clock on the front of the building also was rehabilitated.

“This is a monumental achievement for our staff and volunteers and for the entire community” said Cody Hefner, a representative of the Cincinnati Museum Center.

“Everyone who works here, and really everyone in the community, has a story about Union Terminal, either as a train station or as a museum. So to be able to restore a place with such a personal connection, and to do so in such a grand, visible, breathtaking way, is really incredible.”

Amtrak moved its waiting room to an adjacent building during the restoration. It returned to CUT during the first week of November.

During the public reopening on Nov. 17, Hefner said projectors will be used to light the terminal’s exterior with different exhibits each evening.

A large Christmas train display, a tradition at CUT since 1946, will open to the public on Nov. 16.

Buffalo Terminal Restoration Getting Started

November 14, 2018

Developers have outlined their restoration plans for Buffalo Central Terminal, which will benefit from a $5 million state grant.

The 89-year-old art deco facility hasn’t served passengers since the late 1970s and last housed railroad offices in the 1980s

The abandoned 17-story structure long has been a symbol of urban decay, but now the future is starting to look bright even if officials caution that restoration is expected to cost $100 million.

Plans include making a portion of the depot into a museum that will expand and preserve the station’s legacy.

Mark Lewandowski, director for Central Terminal Restoration Corporation, said most of the grant money will be spent on new glass and lights for the main concourse.

Some funding will also be allocated to restoring the former Gateway Restaurant.

Most of the old glass in the concourse has been victimized by neglect and vandalism.

The arch windows at each end of the concourse include several four-foot square sections of 4-inch thick glass used as walkways between the windows.

Workers are also recreating the light fixtures in an effort to return the concourse to its 1929 appearance.

Much of the rest of the terminal is in poor condition. The only work it has received has included cleaning and weather proofing.