Welcome to the Akron Railroad Club Blog

March 2, 2009

The Akron Railroad Club business meeting of May 28, 2010. The club meets monthly except in December on the fourth Friday of the month. (Photograph by Richard Jacobs)

The Akron Railroad Club has 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 arrc-logo1meetings, 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 few hours drive from Akron, stories about railfan outings, trip reports and special reports about railroad operations and railfan events. 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.

Next Meeting: May 22, 2015. Program by Jim Semon.

Next Activity: June 21, 2015. Longest Day Outing in Fostoria.

Yes, Mr. McCaleb Would Have Approved

May 24, 2015

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Jim Semon’s presentation last Friday night of Willis McCaleb’s color slides of mainly Nickel Plate Road steam is on my list of the top five programs that I’ve seen at the Akron Railroad Club.

Obviously, Mr. McCaleb’s technical quality was exceptional, but his depth of detail in capturing a scene instead of just a train photo made him one of the masters of railfan photography.

How thankful those of us who saw the program can be not only for Mr. McCaleb’s slides but Jim’s interesting narrative.

As for me, capturing a scene was a rare event. I wanted a “train” photo. Still, once in a while, I was blessed with a photo that not only captured an event but a slice of history.

I was looking for a photo to put online and went to a box of black and white negatives.

I had no idea what I’d choose but found this. It is Sept. 8, 1968, and NKP 759 is heading east over the ex-NKP trestle in Conneaut.

NKP 765 is running its first excursion after being restored in Conneaut.

Steam-starved people of all ages from die-hard railfans to families with their children seeing the beauty of a live steam locomotive for the first time lined the tracks.

Down in the valley, the field was dotted with people, cars and cameras. Perhaps Mr. McCaleb would have approved of this image. I like to think so.

Article and Photographs by Robert Farkas

Lake State Receives first GP40-3/Road Slug Set

May 23, 2015

Lake State Railway has taken delivery of its first GP40-3/road slug set manufactured by Metro East Industries Inc. and equipped with the ZTR NEXSYS™ III-I system.

With a slug set, one supplies power to an attached unit lacking a prime mover.

The Michigan-based Lake State had several GP40M-3 and rebuilt GP35 locomotives that were sidelined with various mechanical issues and in need of rebuilding to bring them back to service. The railroad chose Metro East to do the work based on its experience installing the ZTR system and producing road slug sets for other railroads.

“We have been doing business with Metro East for many years and their product and services is very good,” said Mike Stickel, vice president of business management for Lake State. “The units we chose for the slug sets were a GP40M-3 and a GP35, so we needed to either upgrade to Dash 2, or a new microprocessor control system.

“The decision was made by Lake State to convert to ZTR Nexsys III-i based on projected increase in tractive effort over older technology,” he said.

Work on the road and slug pair was done in East St. Louis, Illinois., where the units became the first four-axle locomotives to wear the attractive blue and grey lightning stripe scheme that was based on the Great Lakes Eastern model railroad and adapted for the prototype by owner Kevin Burkholder for Lake State.

The first mother unit – designated as a GP40-3 – is No. 4303 and was originally constructed for the Chesapeake & Ohio as GP40 No. 3780. It later became CSX No. 6555, before becoming Texas-Mexican 1178 and Lake State 1178.

Road slug 303, began life as Detroit, Toledo & Ironton GP35 No. 351. It was owned by Grand Trunk Western and the Wabash & Erie ownership before being added to the Lake State roster as GP38M No. 371.

It was then rebuilt to be a GP38M designation. Because it was due for another rebuilding, Lake States decided to use it as a road slug.
“We believe this is the first application of the ZTR system in a road slug set, but we had a comfort level going with ZTR,” Stickel said. “The Nexsys III system has been deployed on a large scale with the Class I railroads and feedback has been very positive. We expect the road slug set to perform as well or better than a pair of GP40’s on our road trains, with much less fuel consumption.”

The slug set offer operational control stands in both units. Although the slug retains the outward appearance of a GP35, it does not have an operating prime mover.

The prime mover remained inside the unit, railroad officials said, because it was more economical to leave it in place than to replace it with a different form of ballast/weight.

The slug’s fuel tank is operational and a fuel transfer allows the mother unit to draw fuel from either tank.

A second slug set will be released by Metro East Industries in the coming week and carry Lake State numbers 4304 and 304.

Steamtown Sets 2 Trips to Delaware Water Gap

May 23, 2015

Steamtown National Historic Site has announced that it will operate two-diesel powered excursions between Scranton and Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania, on June 27 and Oct. 18. Trains will depart at 9 a.m. and return around 5 p.m.

The June 27 trip is being held in conjunction with Founder’s Day in Delaware Water Gap. The town will have a car show and a historic program about the resorts in and around the town.

The Oct. 18 trip includes fall activities and tours of the town.

The excursions will use former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western tracks over the Pocono Summit.
For more information, go to www.nps.gov/stea.

PUCO OKs 5 Grade Crossing Projects in Ohio

May 23, 2015

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has approved the installation of mast-mounted flashing lights and roadway gates at rail crossings in Medina, Delaware and Trumbull counties.

Two of the The installations must be completed by May 20, 2016, with the expenses being shared by PUCO, the Ohio Rail Development Commission and the rail companies.

They are located ate:

  • Silvercreek Road (Wadsworth) in  Medina County on the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway.
  • Pawnee Road in Medina County on the Wheeling & Lake Erie.

Two installations are to be completed by February 19, 2016, and will be paid for with federal funds.

  • Westfield Road/County Road 15 near Creston in Medina County on the W&LE.
  • Gardner Barclay Road/Township Road 284 in Trumbull County on Norfolk Southern.
  • Troutman Road/Township Road 209 in Delaware County on Norfolk Southern.

In a news release, PUCO said that local governments may apply for PUCO for assistance with the cost of such safety improvements as rumble strips, illumination, improved signage or other enhancements at the project location.

Funding for such improvements will come from the State Grade Crossing Safety Fund and will not exceed $5,000.

Putting the Finishing Touches on Memories

May 22, 2015

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If I was forced to choose my favorite Norfolk Southern heritage locomotive, I’d probably pick the 8101, which pays tribute to the Central of Georgia.

It is not because the CofG is a favorite railroad of mine. In fact, I never saw a CofG train.

It is more a matter of association. Two Illinois Central passenger trains, the City of Miami and the Seminole, used CofG tracks during their runs between Chicago and Florida.

At one time, two CofG E units painted in the same livery that adorns the modern-day NS heritage locomotive, operated on those trains.

The CofG livery on those locomotives was short lived. IC insisted that they be painted in IC orange and brown if they were to operate on IC property.

So CofG sent them to the paint shop. I rode behind one of those locomotives in its IC colors at least once.

The Central of Georgia name was emblazoned in the IC green diamond on the nose rather than “Illinois Central”

NS 8101, the CofG tribute unit, was the last of the 20 heritage locomotives that I photographed. That alone should make it a distinctive locomotive for me.

It is one thing to photograph a locomotive, but quite another to paint one.

As I was walking through the National Train Day celebration in Toledo earlier this month, I spotted this artist putting the finishing touches on a painting of NS 8101.

I don’t know his name and he probably didn’t see me standing behind him.

Some photographers have long insisted that their craft constitutes art. Not everyone agrees and even those who do might say that many, if not most, photographs are not works of art.

A handful of men have distinguished themselves as railroad painters. The late Ted Rose comes to mind. So does Gil Reid.

A painter doesn’t need to be at the scene that they re-create, only to have an idea of what it looks like.

I paused for a moment to watch this artist exercise his craft.

Artistic painting has never been one of my strong suits. I can’t draw a crooked line and couldn’t paint one either.

So I admire someone who can, particularly if that artist can skillfully reproduce the straight lines and tiny details of a large piece of machinery.

The artist has the advantage of being able to recreate scenes that never existed.

So much of railroad photography is about being in the right place at the right time.

So much of art is having a vivid imagination, including the ability to see in your mind what your hands will create.

Both mediums have can make their subjects come alive in the minds of the viewer.

In the finished painting to the left of the artist, is a reproduction of Illinois Central passenger trains in Chicago with one of those CofG E units still wearing its original livery.

Perhaps there is an intentional juxtaposition going on here.

The NS 8101 was created to celebrate memories such as that moment in Chicago as well as to remind folks that Norfolk Southern is a descendant of a series of railroads that served certain territories for many years before changing economic conditions triggered widespread consolidation of the industry.

Perhaps those who view this painting of NS 8101 will think of that when they see it.

More likely, though, is that it will remind them of an era long after that consolidation occurred.

Whatever the case, paintings can take you back in time, remind you of the present or do both.

And that is one of the beauties of paintings.

The ability to celebrate the dual heritages of different eras is just one of the beauties of the Norfolk Southern heritage locomotive program.

N&W 611 Has Near Flawless Test Run Thursday

May 22, 2015

Despite having problems negotiating a wye on the return trip, Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 had a flawless performance during a test run in North Carolina on Thursday.

The Class J locomotive pulled a canteen, tool car and eight coaches with a handful of people aboard. The passengers had worked on the crew that had put the engine back together over the past year.

The test run stopped for an inspection at Linwood Yard and meets with trains at Thomasville and Lexington on the roundtrip between Spencer and Greensboro.

The wye in Salisbury, though, turned out to be too tight for the 611 and the crew ended up returning to Spencer with the 611 facing south and the train backing up.

As the locomotive entered the wye, the cab and tender were touching and the crew abandoned the idea of turning the train there.

The 611 has used the Salisbury wye during previous excursions, but since then new and heavier rails have been laid that need to be aligned before the 611 can use the wye again.

NS 911 to Debut at Pa. Museum Festival

May 22, 2015

The Norfolk Southern first responders tribute locomotive will appear at “Norfolk Southern Days” June 13-14 at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg. The event will be the first public appearance for the SD60E

Police, firefighters and emergency responders will receive a 50 percent discount on admission to the museum during the event

No. 911 will be available for emergency vehicles to be position to pose for photographs with the locomotive.

Also on hand will be NS executive train F7 No. 4271, sleeper observation car No. 7 Pennsylvania and the NS exhibit car.

Providing music will be the Norfolk Southern Lawmen band.

The museum will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, go to www.rrmuseumpa.org.

Pa. Groups Raising Money to Restore Another 611

May 22, 2015

The Lehigh & New England Railroad Preservation Society in collaboration with the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society is raising money to restore Lehigh & New England Alco S2 No. 611, the only remaining diesel locomotive of the northeastern fallen flag.

The diesel has been stored in serviceable condition at a grain elevator in Emporia, Indiana, for the past 15 years.
The two Pennsylvania groups hope to move the locomotive to the Allentown & Auburn Railroad shops in Topton, Pennsylvania, for restoration.

The locomotive is fully operational, suffering only from a ground fault issue and many years of external neglect.

“The locomotive was purchased from its Indiana owner at $35,000 and we estimate an additional transport expense of about $60,000 from Indiana to Allentown,” said Kermit Geary Jr. “Once at Allentown, we project an additional $8,000 to $10,000 in painting, preparation and additional evaluation.”

After the Central Railroad of New Jersey took over segments of the L&NE and the rest of the line was abandoned in the early 1960s, the remaining Alco diesel locomotives were sold, with No. 611 and several others transported to Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan, in the 1960s.

The 611 was subsequently donated to the Toledo, Lake Erie & Western Railway and Museum in Waterville, Ohio. An Indiana harvest corporation purchased No. 611 and used it as switcher until 2008.

The grain company starts the 611 on a regular basis to ensure that is is still operational.

For more information on L&NE No. 611’s transport and restoration efforts or to donate money, visit the locomotive’s Facebook support page online at www.facebook.com/lne611.

Pa. Gov. Asks NS, CSX to Adopt BNSF Standards

May 22, 2015

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has asked CSX and Norfolk Southern to make operating changes in how the handle crude oil trains in the state.

In a letter to each railroad, Wolf asked the railroads to follow the voluntary safety initiatives implemented by BNSF. Those changes include:

  • Lowering speeds to 35 miles per hour for all shale crude oil trains traveling through municipalities with populations of 100,000 or more.
  • Increased rail detection testing frequencies along critical waterways, going to 2.5 times the current Federal Railroad Administration mandated frequencies.
  • Increased hot box detectors with spacing of 10 miles on all crude routes that parallel critical waterways instead of the current industry standard spacing of 40 miles.
  • Mandatory set-out of all HBD-indicated cars on key trains stopped by a detector.
  • Immediate set-out of all cars on key trains that exceed Level II wheel impact load detector defect (120 – 140 kilopounds) – to be handled as a Level I defect.

“In view of your demonstrated concern for rail safety and your interest in working with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in increasing rail safety, I request that you join BNSF in adopting its improved safety initiatives for all trains with CBR cars operating in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “Additionally, I am requesting that you fully and expeditiously comply with the Department of Transportation’s announced final rule. I will closely follow the status of your compliance with the federal rule and would like to discuss your willingness to adopt the BNSF additional safety measures.”

In Memory of Gene Robert ‘Bob’ Redmond

May 21, 2015
Bob Redmond

Bob Redmond

Sixty-six year Akron Railroad Club member Gene Robert “Bob” Redmond, 91, of Kent, died on Monday (May 18, 2015) at his home.

He had the second longest tenure as an ARRC member, trailing  current Vice President J. Gary Dillon by 13 months.

Mr. Redmond joined the ARRC on May 27, 1948. Over the years he presented numerous programs at club meetings, many of them focused on steam operations.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Mr. Redmond was often trackside documenting operations on the Baltimore & Ohio, Erie, Pennsylvania, Wheeling & Lake Erie, New York Central, and Akron, Canton & Youngstown railroads.

Although most of his work was focused on his hometown of Kent, he often got into Akron. He also traveled as far as Cleveland and vicinity, and in the region around Brewster, Ohio.

His photographs have appeared in various books, including Akron Railroads and Canton Area Railroads.

Some of his images are included on plaques along the Portage Hike and Bike Trail at the site of the former Erie Railroad yards and shops. The yard and shops are gone, but the trail passes through where they once sat.

Mr. Redmond was also an avid model railroader who modeled the region’s railroads in his basement. The layout was a reflection of his railroading interests. There was not a single diesel locomotive to be found.

Although much of his photography work occurred in Northeast Ohio, Mr. Redmond liked to travel and photograph railroading operations elsewhere.

One of his last ARRC programs featured images made on a trip through Virginia down to Florida. He showed colors slides made in Roanoke, Virginia, of Norfolk & Western steam locomotives on freight and passengers trains.

Although he has a passion for steam locomotives, many of his photographs included first generation diesels on the region’s railroads.

His photography became less frequent after the 1950s. He once explained that one year his photo taking was interrupted when he was building his home in Kent.

Even though he no longer was an active photographer after the end of the steam era, Mr. Redmond continued to go trackside to watch trains.

Until a few years ago, he was a regular at the ARRC’s longest day railfanning event, often showing up by late morning and leaving by mid-afternoon. He would drive by himself to such far-flung hot spots as Deshler and Marion.

Aside from the railroads of Northeast Ohio, Mr. Redmond also had an interest in the Chicago & North Western.

Born April 21, 1924, in Kent, he was the son of Harvey and Ida M. (Parmalee) Redmond.

After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Mr. Redmond worked as a draftwman for Lamson-Sessions. He later became an apprentice carpenter with Everett Johnson and a carpenter for Sommerville Builders.

Aside from the ARRC, Mr. Redmond was a member of the Cuyahoga Valley Model Railroad Club.

He participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Harvey Redmond Bridge, which is named for his father, at Fred Fuller Park.

He is survived by three sons, Dave, Steven and Tom Redmond, all of Kent; and a daughter, Nancy Redmond, of Kent.

Mr. Redmond was preceded in death by his wife, June E. (Bancroft) Redmond. She died on July 14, 2013. They had married on May 27, 1950.

Services will be private. Bissler & Sons Funeral Home and Crematory handled the arrangements.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Kent Historical Society, the RMH Foundation-Hospice or the Animal Protective League.


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