Welcome to Akron Railroads

March 2, 2009

Welcome to Akron Railroads, formerly known as the Akron Railroad Club Blog, a site once connected with the Akron Railroad Club. The ARRC meets every month but December in Akron, Ohio, at the New Horizons Christian Church.

This site is not formally connected with the ARRC but instead serves as an archive of past postings about ARRC meetings and activities as well as railfanning adventures and photographs posted by some members.

Also included in the site are historical overviews of the railroads of Akron and Northeast Ohio as well as some news and information about current railroad operations in that region.

For more up to date information about the ARRC, visit the club’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AkronRailroadClub/

New Amtrak Acela Train Passes Through NE Ohio

February 19, 2020

The new trainset built by Alstom for Amtrak’s Acela Express service in the Northeast Corridor passed through Northeast Ohio late Monday afternoon.

The train was en route from Hornell, New York, where it was built, to a testing center near Pueblo, Colorado.

It departed Hornell early Monday morning and reached Lake County east of Cleveland by mid to late afternoon.

A railfan chat list posting said it passed through Berea on the NS Chicago line at 5:40 p.m. and was in Elkhart, Indiana, at 11:30 p.m.

The ferry move used the Southern Tier line of Norfolk Southern to Buffalo, New York, where it picked up the route of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited to Chicago.

On Tuesday afternoon the train left Chicago on the route of the Southwest Chief bound for La Junta, Colorado.

The consist of the special as it passed through Northeast Ohio included P42DC Nos. 135 and 196, heritage fleet sleeper Pacific Bend, a Viewliner baggage car, the Acela trainset, a Viewliner dining car and P42DC No. 144.

The train set is expected to undergo testing for several weeks in Colorado before returning to New York for the installation of its interior appointments.

Vestiges of the Past in These Photos

February 19, 2020

In these three images can be found many traces of the past and things that are no more.

The top image made made on May 8, 1987, in Akron. It may not be readily apparent to some that this is an eastbound CSX train.

The motive power includes Baltimore & Ohio 8593 in its Chessie System livery, a former Seaboard System unit and another Chessie locomotive.

The photographer was standing on the former right of way of the westbound Erie Railroad mainline, which by this time had been abandoned.

The middle image was made in Barberton on May 9, 1987.

The trailing unit indicates it is the early CSX era. Lead unit No. 8373 is a former Chesapeake & Ohio SD40-2 wearing its Chessie colors.

Note the bright Cyron-Trans boxcars in the consist.

The bottom image also was made in Barberton but in May 1988. Like the other Barberton image it has a Seaboard System unit in its original colors.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

Dayton Trying to Buy NS ROW for Downtown Trail

February 19, 2020

Dayton and Norfolk Southern remain at loggerheads over the city’s desire to buy a section of unused right of way that would be used to create a hiking a biking trail.

The city wants to buy a 6.5-mile segment of elevated right of way between East Oregon and Kettering that would connect downtown Dayton with its eastern neighborhoods.

A major sticking point has been price with NS demanding more than the city is willing pay.

An appraiser hired by the city put the value of the property at $785,000 while appraisers hired by NS placed its value at $3.5 million.

The proposed Flight Line trail would provide panoramic views of the city, officials say.

“It’s a huge missing connection that would connect downtown Dayton to 300-plus miles of Miami Valley trails,” said Susan Vincent, a planner with the city of Dayton.

NS said in 2017 it intended to abandon the line in question and talks over the city buying the property have been ongoing since then.

City officials say the Flight Line trail would be similar to “high line” trails and parks in New York City and Chicago.

Some city leaders believe the trail could be a “transformational” project that improves access to neighborhoods and improves the quality of life in them.

A Dayton city attorney, John Musto, said the city is the only serious buyer for the property.

NS in the meantime has agreed to pause the abandonment process, which will prevent the property from being broken up and sold piecemeal.

The railroad also has offered a “phased acquisition” option to help with a purchase.

Dayton officials are considering seeking Clean Ohio Trailways funds to help fund the Flight Line.

NS to Move Loco Shop Jobs to Altoona From Roanoke

February 19, 2020

Altoona, Pennsylvania, will be gaining jobs at the Juniata Locomotive Shop of Norfolk Southern but those gains will come at the expense of Roanoke, Virginia.

NS said it will close its Roanoke Distribution Center and transfer its locomotive shop work and jobs to Altoona.

The job cuts will reduce NS employment in the Roanoke region to 650.

The carrier said the downsizing comes in the wake of a 22 percent cut in the size of its locomotive fleet since 2018.

As a result NS said it no longer needs two heavy-repair locomotive facilities.

Another factor in the closing of the Roanoke shop is a decline in rail traffic through that city with coal volume having fallen by 48 percent and more declines expected.

About 85 NS mechanical workers will be affected in Roanoke and offered jobs in Altoona.

They also will be offered unspecified relocation benefits.

However, 19 clerical positions will be eliminated although those workers will be given the opportunity to apply for open positions elsewhere on NS.

NS said it expects the Roanoke Distribution Center will continue in operation through April 18 while workers at the Roanoke Locomotive Shop will remain on the job through May 18.

FRA Completes Risk Reduction Program Rule

February 19, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has completed writing a rule that requires Class 1 railroads to create a risk reduction program.

Each carrier must create a program that will be reviewed by the FRA and which identifies and analyzes hazards and their associated risks.

The risk reduction program must also develop and implement plans to eliminate or mitigate those risks.

The FRA said in a news release that the risk reduction programs are to be designed to improve operational safety and complement a railroad’s adherence to all other applicable FRA regulations.

The programs must be tailored for each railroad’s individual operations and reflect the substantive facts on any hazards associated with each railroads’ operations.

Class II and III freight railroads that have an inadequate safety record must also create a risk reduction plan and submit it to the FRA for approval.

The FRA said railroads must involve employees in implementation of the risk reduction plan, including during the process of identification of risks and hazards.

Risk reduction plans are mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

CSX Lauded for Sustainability

February 19, 2020

CSX has been named the “most sustainable company” in the logistics industry by World Finance magazine.

The railroad said in a news release that it was recognized for its longstanding commitment to sustainability.

The carrier said its greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by more than 8 percent since 2011 and it has provided support to community initiatives through charitable investments and volunteer opportunities.

Looking for Love in the Steam Restoration World

February 18, 2020

On Valentine’s Day last week a group in Pennsylvania found itself showered with love after it announced that it had reached an agreement to purchase the moribund East Broad Top narrow gauge railroad.

If all goes according to plan, steam locomotives will huff and chuff again in central Pennsylvania maybe as early as this year.

On the same day that the EBT resurrection was announced I ran across a column posted on the website of Trains magazine lamenting the lack of love that another steam restoration has received.

John Hankey, who has been involved in railroad restoration for more than 50 years, decried what he described as the “unwarranted criticism, vitriol, and downright nastiness” that has been directed by some toward the restoration of Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 by the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

Hankey’s column offers a cautionary tale about what may lie ahead for the EBT project once all of the feel good moments have passed and the realities of restoration have begun to sink in.

It wasn’t that long ago when the 1309 was feeling the love.

But an announced event for the triumphant return of the Baldwin-built locomotive was canceled and the restoration project was halted for lack of funding. That had to be embarrassing and frustrating for the WMSR.

Indeed, the 1309 restoration is still in the “pause” stage as the WMSR continues to shake the money trees for the final $390,000 the restorers say is needed to complete their work.

Thus far WMSR has spent $2.8 million on restoration of the 1309 and that has strained the tourist railroad’s finances.

Hankey’s column details the travails WMSR has faced over the years since its creation in the 1980s and that alone makes it a must read for anyone seeking to understand the restoration world.

There is much we don’t know yet about the finances of the newly formed East Broad Top Foundation.

We don’t know, for example, how much it paid to buy the EBT from the Kovalchick family that has owned the railroad since the middle 1950s.

We don’t know how much it will cost to rebuild the EBT and how those efforts will be financed.

We know that three high-profile luminaries from the railroad industry – Charles “Wick” Moorman, Bennett Levin and Henry Posner III – are involved and that suggests the foundation is being backed by some deep pockets or at least people who know where to find deep pockets.

Unless the EBT foundation has some fabulously wealthy benefactors it seems likely that at some point it, like the WMSR, will be appealing for money.

It also seems likely that the same negativity that has dogged the 1309 restoration efforts will eventually descend on the EBT if it hasn’t already.

Conflicts and tensions long have been part of the business of operating vintage railway equipment. Those long predate the Internet era, which has tended to magnify disputes by giving them a wide platform on which anyone can express gripes, grievances and opinions whether those are informed or not.

Judging by the casual comments I’ve heard over the years during railfan events there is much jealousy and no shortage of opinionated people in the railroad restoration world.

There also are more restoration projects chasing dollars than there are dollars to go around.

The potential for the 1309 to run again and for the EBT to come back to life probably are pretty good given the support that they have managed to attract.

Many were skeptical that a Union Pacific Big Boy steam locomotive would ever operate again under its own power, but it did last year.

Of course the Big Boy had the resources of a Class 1 railroad in its corner.

The underlying lesson is that it takes more than dreams to return a machine to steam.

The day that 1309 finally rounds Helmster’s Curve under its own power or that an EBT steam locomotive reaches Colgate Grove with a smoke plume trailing will be a most happy one for those who’ve spent innumerable hours working to make those days possible.

There will be dozens, if not hundreds, of photographers on hand to record those historic moments.

All of those chat list and social media comments that said the restoration efforts couldn’t or wouldn’t make it that far it won’t mean anything.

Vintage South Shore in Michigan City

February 18, 2020

Chicago South Shore & South Bend car No. 34 is shown in the early 1970s in Michigan City, Indiana.

America’s last surviving interurban railway still uses these tracks and the freight operations of the South Shore still use a yard in Michigan City.

But the passenger equipment seen here has since been replaced.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

CN Withdraws Plans for Disputed Indiana Rail Yard

February 18, 2020

A rail yard in northwestern Indiana that drew protests from neighbors and environmentalists will apparently not be built.

Canadian National has withdrawn its petition seeking regulatory approval of an expanded facility in East Chicago, Indiana, that would have reportedly been used as a staging area for the shipment of petroleum coke.

The petition had said CN planned to fill in wetlands and build tracks to handle refinery byproducts.

CN said that the shipper, BP, “has identified a more efficient transportation for movement of commodities.”

The petroleum coke would have come from BP’s refinery in nearby Whiting, Indiana.

The withdrawal of the petition came from a consultant project manager and was addressed to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

City officials in East Chicago had said the permit CN had sought would have allowed it to build at 149th Street and store piles of petcoke in the Calumet neighborhoods.

In a statement to the Times of Northwest Indiana, BP said its involvement in the project was never about building a petroleum coke storage facility but only about improving the movement of rail traffic at its Whiting refinery.

Some of those who had opposed the CN petition said their environmental concerns remain because they fear that if the petcoke is contained in open rail cars that its dust will blow around their neighborhoods as trains pass through.

Petcoke is a byproduct of refining tar sands oil.

Blockade Leads to Cancellation of Amtrak to Canada

February 18, 2020

A blockade of Canadian National tracks in Canada disrupted last weekend Amtrak service to that country.

Amtrak’s Maple Leaf, which ordinarily operates between New York and Toronto, was halted at Niagara Falls, New York.

The New York-Montreal Adirondack did not operate north of Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

Also affected was Cascades Service in the Pacific Northwest although some trains did operate all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia.

The blockades, which have lasted more than a week, are being staged to protest construction of a natural-gas pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia and is opposed by the First Nation’s hereditary chiefs.

CN has shut down freight service in eastern Canada after blockades sprang up in that region.

VIA Rail Canada has also canceled most of its services within Canada.