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: July 28: Program by Ron McElrath.

Next Activity: July 30. Picnic at Warwick Park.

Never Weary of Seeing the Erie

July 27, 2017

The Erie heritage locomotive was one of the last of the series of Norfolk Southern heritage locomotives that I saw and photographed. It eluded me for nearly two years before I finally caught it in late December 2014.

It was the last of the 20 H units that I physically saw, but was the penultimate one that I photographed.

I don’t see the Erie that often, but I have managed to catch it a five times since that late 2014 sighting.

I got a text from fellow Akron Railroad Club member Todd Dillon that NS 1068 was leading Norfolk Southern train 22K.

I was expecting the 22K to come through Olmsted Falls in late morning but it was just after 2 p.m. before it finally arrived. Here is sighting No. 7 of the Erie heritage unit.

Date That Almost Lived in Infamy

July 27, 2017

June 18, 2017, started as a typical Saturday. We were busy at work. My phone chimed that I had a text message around 9 a.m.

Too busy to check it at that time, I continued working. It wasn’t until I got the next vehicle in and was in the process of texting the mileage to our secretary that I read the message.

“Erie leading 25T, 9 a.m. at Johnstown.”

“Holy Cow!”

The 25T usually comes through the Cleveland area in the mid to late afternoon. Today it had the Erie heritage unit leading, one that I have not yet seen, much less photographed.

I texted the Bro back and suggested he keep me informed about its progress.

Work wrapped up and while having lunch at home, I texted Robert for an update.

“At Conway changing crews.”

I had a few errands to run this afternoon that couldn’t wait, but the yard work could. So by 3, I was ready to head trackside.

The last report was Enon Valley at 1 p.m. It would be a family affair to see the Erie today. My nephew Henry and the Grif (his son) were also going along.

Since we had a “tot” with us, we went to the Tot Lot in Bedford. It is located on Palmetto Avenue between the crossings at Grace and Glendale.

We set up here and waited. Norfolk Southern had something happening in the vicinity of CP 86.

Eastbounds were stacked up on both mains waiting to continue east. Our westbound would not be in the picture for a while.

As we waited, Henry got a phone message that the Central of Georgia H unit was coming east on a 66W oil train. It was by Amherst.

It was trailing however, so trail equals fail. But it is still one of the H Units I have yet to see or photograph. This would be a GREAT day if I could get two in one day.

We shot eastbounds for just under three hours: 20E, 20R, 24W, 24M, 18N and a couple of more that I don’t remember the symbol on.

The low man on the pole, or the crew with the most time left to work was M4N. It was sitting at a red board at CP 110 on Track 2 for the entire time we were there.

Grif entertained himself on the slides and ladders of the Tot Lot, stopping only to watch a train go by. He made three new friends who were there with their grandmother.

When the slides became old hat, they took one of Grif’s toy trucks, one a little bigger than a Matchbox, for those who remember Matchbox Cars, and were throwing it over the gym sets.

The first one to get over, under or around to the other side and find the truck got to throw it back over, and the race was on again . . . until they got the truck stuck in the tree.

About now the other kids had to leave. It was pushing 6 p.m.

Henry was convinced that the 66W was the next train but each time he was wrong. Still, he kept insisting.

“Cleveland Terminal to M4N. OK to start heading east; you’ll cross over at CP 107 after one more eastbound.”

The traffic jam was finally subsiding. We had not gotten any more updates about 25T since Enon Valley. Where was it?

As the M4N clumped by and 18N shot past him, Cleveland Terminal cleared up the situation.

“25T, take it easy down to CP 107; got an eastbound crossing over ahead of you. As soon as they clear, you’ll get a light to go west.”

“Hot &%$#”

We loaded up Grif’s toys and his bike that he brought with him and were ready for 25T. We were going to shoot it here and head to Olmsted Falls for another view.

Skies were partly cloudy, so sun wasn’t guaranteed. We had to rub our rabbit’s foots and four leaf clovers to, hopefully, get some luck.

“25T, Clear, CP 107”

Show time was just a few minutes away. We each picked out our spots. As the gates went down at Grace Street, the sun popped out. It would be a sunny shot.

The Erie roared past with its intermodal train in tow. We were off as soon as the last cars cleared the Glendale crossing. Olmsted Falls, here we come.

There had been no further updates on the 66W and we didn’t hear anything about it on the scanner, so what happened to it?

Did it go east on the Nickel Plate to Ashtabula and turn south for Conway there? Is it still around Rockport waiting for a fresh crew? We speculated as we drove west.

As we passed Rockport Yard and the Chicago Line, our questions were answered. They spun the power and the Central of Georgia was now on the lead.

I was hoping for a miracle now, two never before seen H Units in one day . . . wow! We got to the Falls, parked across from the depot and set up shop. We were ahead.

The 25T would be the only train we would see. It came past about 20 minutes after we arrived.

Going back toward the brother’s house, Henry suggested I stop on I-480 and shoot the 66W from the bridge. It would take a long telephoto, but I might get lucky.

Traffic was heavy on I-480 and I couldn’t get over fast enough to pull over on the bridge. They were still sitting there. Not a word was said about the 66W, so how long they were going to be there was anyone’s guess.

I dropped off the rest of the clan and headed home for dinner.

After dinner I had an idea. I needed to go to the airport post office, so I thought I’d check on the 66W’s progress, or lack thereof.

This time I would come up onto I-480 from the airport freeway, making the pull over onto the bridge over the Chicago Line much easier.

The 66W was still sitting there, but they were sitting short of the signal bridge at CP Max and the shadow of the signal bridge was on the C of G and they were a little too far away for my 300mm lens. It was a good idea that fizzled.

The radio finally crackled with chatter about the 66W. A fresh crew was aboard, but they were having trouble getting their marker linked up to the 8101 and other assorted problems.

They would not be departing any time soon, and the sun was now getting pretty low in the sky.

I called it a day at this point, happy about the Erie, but frustrated by the C. of Ga. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck next time.

Article by Marty Surdyk

NS Net Profit Up 23% in 2nd Quarter

July 27, 2017

Norfolk Southern said this week that its second quarter 2017 net profit was up 23 percent and revenue had risen by 7 percent to $2.6 billion.

The railroad said traffic and revenue growth combined with productivity gains enabled it to achieve a record operating ratio of 66.3 percent. That compared with 68.6 percent during the same period in 2016.

Citing gains in coal and intermodal traffic, NS said it posted a 6 percent increase in volume. Income from operations was up 15 percent, to $888 million.

Intermodal traffic increased by 6 percent overall during the quarter with domestic business up 6 percent due to highway conversions and new service offerings.

International intermodal business rose 5 percent due partly to a 13 percent increase in volume from East Coast ports.

The company said it continues to see international volume shift from West Coast ports to the East Coast as a result of the expanded Panama Canal.

Coal traffic was up 27 percent with utility and export metallurgical coal both posting increases in traffic. Some of the traffic came from a 23 percent rise due to lower utility stockpiles and higher natural gas prices.

Export coal volume skyrocketed by 78 percent due to constrained Australian supply and increased steel making in China.

Merchandise traffic was flat with metals and construction the only categories seeing increases. There were declines in chemicals, automotive, agriculture, paper, clay and forest traffic.

NS reported earnings per share of $1.71, which beat the forecast of Wall Street analysts of $1.65 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“Norfolk Southern’s strong financial results and all-time record operating ratio reflect the power of our team, successful execution of our dynamic plan, and focus on operating even more efficiently while providing high quality service to customers,” CEO Jim Squires during an earnings call.

NS Chief Marketing Officer Alan Shaw said the railroad has seen some traffic come its way from CSX, but it is a small amount. Trucks remain the chief competitor of NS, Shaw said.

Some key operating metrics suffered during the quarter due in part to flooding near the Cincinnati terminal and on its line linking Louisville, Kentucky.  There was also flooding near Kansas City and operating issues related to fires in northern Florida.

Average train speed decreased, while terminal dwell grew. “We’ve turned the corner on that,” Squires said. Train speed has increased 10 percent and terminal dwell bounced back to previous levels.

NS expects to achieve $100 million in productivity gains in 2017. It has retired 100 locomotives and cut the work force by 10 percent compared with 2015.

Chief Operating Officer Mike Wheeler said NS set quarterly marks for locomotive productivity, fuel efficiency, and train length,

In looking toward the rest of 2017, NS management expects continued growth in intermodal and coal traffic while merchandise traffic is likely to decline slightly due in part to slowing auto production and assembly plant downtime.
NS plans to increase its share buyback program by 25 percent to $1 billion for the year.

CSX Running Daily Freight on ex-Clinchfield

July 27, 2017

CSX has resumed run-through freight service on its former Clinchfield Railroad route, but the move is expected to be temporary.

Trains magazine reported that trains Q696/Q697 are running between Cincinnati and Hamlet, North Carolina.

The magazine noted that trains have operated the full length of the Clinchfield in recent months although those moves were sporadic unit train moves and CSX has yet to re-establish the crew bases at each end of the route.

Nos. Q696/Q6967 are currently the only regularly scheduled daily trains on former Clinchfield.

FtWRHS to Hold Open House in August

July 27, 2017

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society will host its annual open house in New Haven, Indiana, on Aug. 18-20.

During the event there will be a live steam display of Nickel Plate Road No. 765, passenger car and railroad displays, train rides and local food trucks.

Admission is free and caboose rides are $5 with trips departing every 20 minutes.

The open hour hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Midwest Rail Group Has New Website, Logo

July 27, 2017

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association has a new website and new logo.

The organization said that the new look brings a modern feel to the association, and the new website’s layout is sharp and streamlined.

The group has long sought to promote the creation of fast, frequent, and reliable trains to the region. The site can be found at https://www.midwesthsr.org/

Easier than Trying to Herd Cats

July 26, 2017

Since former Chesapeake & Ohio No. 8272 showed up at the Lake Shore Railway Museum in North Pennsylvania, wearing its sparkling new Chessie System livery, I’ve managed to photograph it three times in about a month’s time.

First I got it during a night photo shoot, then in less than favorable lighting conditions en route home from a day on the Arcade & Attica, and finally on a recent late Sunday afternoon in the best lighting of all.

And I almost missed that. I was with a group of guys from the Cleveland-based Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts who were doing a double museum tour.

The first stop was in Conneaut and then it was on to North East.

CSX had been dead while we were in Conneaut. It finally sprang to life shortly after we reached North East, putting through town a steady flow of three westbound intermodal trains and five consecutive eastbounds.

There was a work gang in New York State and it was single-track east of North East.

After the fifth eastbound passed by, we decided to head out to Bort Road, which is, surprisingly, a good place to photograph in late day.

As we were ready to move on I remembered we had yet to photograph No. 8272. We soon remedied that while the light was still good.

Having only photographed two Chessie System locomotives in my life, I’m going to be all over the 8272 even if it isn’t going anywhere.

As seen from the front porch of New York Central No. 2500, which is mid July was still lettered for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie and numbered 2800.

Getting down low. For some reason I like having the locomotive off kilter.

Looking the kitty right in the eyes. Real cats don’t like it when you do that but this Chessie doesn’t mind.

ARRC Picnic Will be July 30 at Warwick Park

July 26, 2017

The Akron Railroad Club will again visit Warwick Park in Clinton for its annual picnic, which this year is Sunday July 30.

The club will provide hamburgers and hot dogs and the popular condiments. Members are asked to bring their own beverages, snacks, beans, and desserts.

Just remember, we will be outdoors without any refrigeration, so plan your dishes accordingly.

Manning the grill as always will be Master Grill Chef Martè.

In addition to the food and fellowship, we will be right next to the CSX New Castle Subdivision.

They may cooperate and run some trains. Our record for rail traffic at a picnic in Warwick is 21 moves. Our lowest total is nine.

The picnic will be held rain or shine. We do have cover, although in a heavy downpour with a lot of wind, there may not be enough cover.

Come for an hour, come for the day; just make sure you come to Warwick Park for the ARRC picnic.

In the July ARRC eBulletin

July 26, 2017

The July 2017 eBulletin visits the Northern Ohio Railway Museum. Last month NORM sold tickets to ride one of its trolley cars for the first time. It culminated a multi-year effort to create a demonstration track, which now extends 1,000 feet with plans to eventually extend it three miles.

Akron Railroad Club President Craig Sanders visited NORM earlier this month to check out the new operation.

Also in this month’s eBulletin is the latest railroad news and details about the upcoming ARRC picnic to be held July 30 at Warwick Park in Clinton.

To receive a copy or subscribe to the eBulletin, sent an email message to csanders429@aol.com. Individual copies or a subscription are free.

A reminder that this month’s ARRC meeting is Friday, July 28. The program will be presented by Ron McElrath and provide video of railroad operations in Cuba.

CSX Coal Customer Rips the Railroad’s Service

July 26, 2017

CSX head E. Hunter Harrison and Murray Energy chief Robert Murray might not be exchanging Christmas cards this year even though Murray’s company is a major CSX shipper.

Murray said CSX service has gotten worse since Harrison took over as CEO of the railroad in March. Furthermore, Murray thinks CSX service has been poor for years.

To borrow a phrase from a popular movie of several years ago, Murray is mad as hell and is not going to take it anymore.

“We cannot sit idly by while CSX fails to provide agreed-to service, breaks their own charter from the federal government, and jeopardizes our company’s existence,” Murray said in a statement released last week.

As Murray sees it, CSX has for several years caused “countless” delays and cancellations of trains scheduled to haul coal from his company’s mines.

Murray’s shot across the bow of CSX came about the same time that Harrison was proclaiming that the fossil-fuel era is over.

As for Murray’s complaints about CSX service, “CSX strongly disagrees with Murray Energy’s statements and will respond fully and factually to any STB complaint,”said CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said. “CSX will continue, as it has, to work with Murray Energy to provide rail service in accordance with CSX’s commitment to service excellence and compliance with regulatory obligations.”

Doolittle was referencing a statement made by Murray that the company has filed a complaint with the Surface Transportation Board.

But Trains magazine reported on Tuesday that no formal complaint had been filed as of Monday.

The magazine said that Murray Energy might have notified the STB’s Rail Customer and Public Assistance Program, which quietly referees disputes between railroads and their customers.

Harrison made his comments about fossil fuels during a conference call with investors during which he discussed the company’s second quarter financial performance.

When asked about the future of coal and how it will affect CSX, Harrison said, “my personal view . . . is fossil fuels are dead. That’s a long-term view. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to be two or three years. But it’s going away, in my view.”

Harrison followed that up by saying that CSX would not be making capital investments in its coal network.

CSX management had taken a similar view long before Harrison arrived, saying that in the face of declining coal traffic it was focusing capital investments on its high-density core routes that form a triangle connecting Chicago, New York, and Florida.

CSX earned $3.7 billion handling 1.5 million coal carloads in 2011 but in 2016 that had fallen to $1.8 billion and 838,000 carloads of coal.