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: October 28. Program by Todd Dillon.

Next Activity: December 3. End of Year Dinner. Program by Roger Durfee.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder in Big Sky Country

October 23, 2016
Snow covered mountains loom behind Amtrak's eastbound Empire Builder as it heads for Chicago near Browning, Montana.

Snow covered mountains loom behind Amtrak’s eastbound Empire Builder as it heads for Chicago near Browning, Montana.

Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder passes through Montana during daylight hours in both directions. That makes it an attractive target for photographers.

Akron Railroad Club member Roger Durfee went chasing after the Builder during his trip to the Treasure State last September.

He tracked down No. 8 in various locations including against a backdrop of mountains, open range and grain elevators, making images near Browning, Cut Bank, Shelby, Malta and Havre.

This is the territory of the former Great Northern Railway, which was built by “empire builder” James Hill. For decades the Empire Builder was the premier passenger train on the GN.

Today these tracks are owned by BNSF and Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the only passenger train to use these rails.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Two views of No. 8 near Browning Montana. Glacier National Park is beyond those mountains.

Two views of No. 8 near Browning Montana. Glacier National Park is beyond those mountains.


Passing an empty crude oil train west of Malta.

Passing an empty crude oil train west of Malta.

Passing a waterway near Shelby.

Passing a waterway near Shelby.

Making a station stop in Malta.

Making a station stop in Malta.

In the barren countryside between Cut Bank and Shelby.

I like how I could do a broadside of the whole train out there.

Dropping down into the Valley of Cut Bank Creek.

Dropping down into the Valley of Cut Bank Creek.

Gliding over Cut Bank Creek on a high trestle.

Gliding over Cut Bank Creek on a high trestle.

Passing an old elevator at Ethridge.

Passing an old elevator at Ethridge.

Getting fuel in Havre.

Getting fuel in Havre.

The heritage of this line is Great Northern as someone wants you to know in Havre.

The heritage of this line is Great Northern as someone wants you to know in Havre. The stained glass shows “Rocky,” the GN mascot.

Posing with a relic of the Great Northern in Havre.

Posing with a relic of the Great Northern in Havre.

Pilot Error Blamed for 2015 Akron Crash

October 23, 2016

Pilot error was blamed for the crash in Akron last year of a private jet that killed nine people, but a National Transportation Safety Board report also singled out a poor safety culture at the company that owned the plane and lax FAA inspectors.

NTSBThe crash of the Hawker 125-700 jet while on final approach to Akron Fulton International Airport occurred on Nov. 10, 2015, in the Ellet neighborhood in low-visibility conditions.

The plane struck an apartment building and one person on the ground was injured.

The plane, leased by Augusto Lewkowicz of Execuflight in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was on a flight from Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport.

The seven passengers were employees of Pebb Enterprises of Boca Raton, Florida, and they had been looking at locations for shopping centers. All of them resided in Florida.

At the time of the crash, the plane was being flown by first officer Renato Marchese, 50. The captain was Oscar Chavez, 40.

The NTSB concluded that the crash resulted from the flight crew’s “mismanagement of the approach and multiple deviations from company standard operating procedures which placed the airplane in an unsafe situation.”

Before the crash, Marchese had slowed the speed of the jet because, the NTSB said, it was likely that Chavez had expressed concerns about another aircraft in the region.

The plane should have been traveling at about 165 mph, or 144 knots, on its approach but instead was flying at 125 mph, or 109 knots. The wing flaps should have been in a different position than they were.

As a result, the jet stalled and crashed two miles from the airport. The plane’s left wing tilted toward the ground, clipped utility wires, hit the ground and struck the apartment building.

The crew also had miscalculated the weight of passengers, luggage and fuel, and failed to go through a required checklist as they approached the airport.

NTSB investigators also found the pilots were fatigued at the time of the flight, but no evidence was found of drug or alcohol use by either pilot.

Nor did investigators find any structural defects that would have affected the jet’s performance.

Some of those killed in the crash might have survived had it not been for a fire that broke out after impact.

The NTSB said Chavez had been fired from a previous job for failing to show up for recurrent training. Marchese had been fired from a previous job for “significant performance deficiencies.”

The NTSB said that ExecuFlight did not do a follow-up evaluation on the reasons why the two pilots were terminated from their previous employers.

The safety board also faulted ExecuFlight  for have a casual attitude that set a poor example to pilots and for operational safety. The company lacked a safety management system designed to establish and reinforce a positive safety culture, the NTSB said.

A former Execuflight employee said that the company’s owner ordered him to lie to investigators in the wake of the crash. The former employee told NTSB investigators that ExecuFlight destroyed or altered flight records after the crash.

Two days after the NTSB report was released, ExecuFlight released a statement disputing the NTSB’s report.

Execuflight said it conducted complete background checks on the two pilots who were flying the plane and that both had successfully completed a training program.

“We’re regretful for the crash, but we don’t feel responsibility,” ExecuFlight CEO Leskowicz told WOIO-TV in Cleveland. “We didn’t do anything in that crash as a company to set it up for that.”

Leskowicz said his company did everything it was supposed to do in all legal areas of aviation, from hiring to training. He contended that Chavez had left his previous position voluntarily.

“Sometimes pilots require additional training,” he said. “That was not the case for these people. So it caught us all by surprise.”

Leskowicz blamed other factors for the crash including weather conditions and mistakes made by air traffic controllers in Akron. Specifically, he said the latter included miscommunication during a shift change.

Here is to the Unheralded Ballast Cleaner

October 22, 2016



The ballast that supports the ties and rails may not get “dirty” in a traditional sense, but it does need to be cleaned.

The equipment used to clean ballast isn’t photographed often, but it is interesting in its own right.

Here are two views of the LRV-12 on Norfolk Southern property in Macedonia. It’s a type of ballast cleaner that is used by NS.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

LSL Getting Business Class Service

October 22, 2016

Business class will be offered aboard Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited starting on Oct. 24.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedThe service will be available between Chicago and Albany-Rensselaer and Boston. Amtrak said passengers in business class will have reserved seating in a car dedicated to business class.

Other amenities for business class passengers will include complimentary coffee, tea and other non-alcoholic beverages; access to digital newspapers on AmtrakConnect; Amtrak Guest Rewards® Business Class bonus points; access to Chicago Union Station’s Metropolitan Lounge; and a fully refundable ticket if canceled prior to departure.

The service will begin with Train 48/448 originating in Chicago on Oct. 24 and on Train 49/449 originating at Boston and Albany-Rensselaer on Oct. 26.

The service is not available between New York and Albany-Rensselaer.

Track Works Disrupts Maple Leaf Route

October 22, 2016

Scheduled track work will disrupt Amtrak’s New York-Toronto Maple Leaf on Oct. 24, 25 and 26.

Amtrak logoTrain No. 63 will terminate on all three days at Niagara Falls, Ontario. Bus service will be provided to Toronto and at all intermediate stations.

Train No. 64 will originate at Buffalo Exchange Street station on Oct. 25 and 26 with bus service provided from Toronto to Buffalo, stopping at all intermediate stations.

Amtrak Set 2016 Ridership, Revenue Records

October 22, 2016

Low gasoline prices did not prevent Amtrak from breaking revenue and ridership records fiscal year 2016.

Amtrak logoThe passenger carrier hosted about 31.2 million passengers, up 1.3 percent from 2015, and generated $2.2 billion in ticket revenue, up 0.03 percent.

Former Amtrak President Joseph Boardman had earlier this year imposed various cost-cutting measures, saying that Amtrak faced a $167.3-million ticket revenue shortfall compared with the amount originally budgeted.

However, the carrier’s actual performance exceeded the revised downward forecast by 3.3 percent even as it was 4.3 percent off the original FY 2016 projection.

The California Zephyr posted an 11.2 percent increase in ridership and 6.2 percent in revenue.

The removal of full-service dining cars and meals included in sleeping car fares on the Silver Star led to a 5 percent decline in passengers and 11.6 percent in ticket revenue.

The Auto Train lost more than 12 percent of its riders and almost 8 percent of its revenue.

Among state-supported corridor trains, a push to complete infrastructure improvements to create higher speed service depressed ridership and revenue of Wolverine Service and Lincoln Service trains due to service cancellations.

The quad-weekly Hoosier State carried about as many passengers in 2016 as it did the previous year, but revenue increased by about $250,000 or 36 percent.

The offering of premium business class service by operator Iowa Pacific was credited with the increase in revenue.

Although Amtrak’s ridership and revenue data do not show passenger mile or revenue per-train mile comparisons, the 15 long-distance trains generated slightly more ticket revenue carrying less than 32 percent of the passengers of the state-supported trains.

This is partly  because the long-distance trains offer such higher-price services as sleeping car accommodations.

New River Train Marks 50th Anniversary

October 22, 2016

Chartered trains through West Virginia’s New River Gorge marked their 50th anniversary this month.

West VirginiaThe trains are sponsored by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society and operated this year between Huntington and Hinton on the third and fourth weekends of the month.

Past years have seen such steam locomotives as the Nickel Plate Road No. 765, Milwaukee Road No. 261 and Pere Marquette No. 1225 pull the trains, but these days the motive power is Amtrak P40DC and P42DC locomotives.

The trains travel over the Kanawha and New River subdivisions of CSX.

For the 2016 trips, Amtrak assigned heritage units  822 and 156 to the 30-car trains, which included 24 private cars.

Among the private varnish in the consist this year was: Passaic River, Powhatan Arrow, St. Augustine, Wenonah, Nokomis, Lake Pepin, Alexander Hamilton, Wisconsin Valley, Super, Dome, Dover Harbor, Prairie View, Scenic View, Braddock Inn, New York Central 38, New York Central 43, Morris County, Birken Diner, New York Central 448 Diner, Kitchi Gammi Club, J. Pickney Henderson, Berlin, Moonlight Dome, Silver Lariat, and Dearing.

Ultimate To Begin Burke-NYC Route in 2017

October 22, 2016

Ultimate Air Shuttle plans to begin scheduled service between Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland and the New York City region in early 2017.

Ultimate air shuttleNo date has been set for service to begin, but Rick Pawlak, managing director of the airline, said the company hopes to launch the flights by early March.

Ultimate will fly from Burke to Morristown (New Jersey) Municipal Airport, located about 27 miles from Manhattan. Fares are projected to be between $600 and $650.

“We’ve canvassed the business community. We know the demand is there,” Pawlak said.

The charter carrier is also looking at launching a route from Burke to Chicago’s Midway Airport next year.

Although Ultimate had hoped to start service from Cleveland to New York and Chicago this year, it has been unable to do so due to a lack of aircraft.

Ultimate Air Shuttle, a division of Ultimate JetCharters in North Canton, owns eight 30-seat Dornier 328 jets and one 30-seat Embraer 135 jet. It is hoping to acquire another Embraer jet for its fleet in 2017.

Ultimate began weekday service between Burke and Cincinnati Lunken Airport in October 2015.

Departing Burke for Cincinnati at 8:10 a.m. and 6:20 p.m., the fares on the route are $379 roundtrip.

U.S. Department of Transportation figures show that 4,359 passengers flew out of Burke during the first six months of 2016, including 3,861 on Ultimate Air. During the first six months in 2015, just 724 passengers departed from Burke.

Pawlak described the Cleveland-to-Cincinnati route as performing well. “We’re ready for the next step in our growth,” he said.

Amtrak OIG Urges Budgeting for PTC

October 22, 2016

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General is urging the passenger carriers to budget for the installation of positive train control.

Amtrak logoIn a report, the OIG, said that although Amtrak has has made strides in implementing automated braking technology, it still has several tasks to complete before it reaches full implementation before the end of the federally-mandated deadline of 2018

The report said Amtrak still needs to complete 33 percent of its planned trackside installations, submit a safety plan to the Federal Railroad Administration, resolve potential radio frequency spectrum issues and install onboard systems in its locomotives.

The OIG report said Amtrak has not properly accounted for the full cost of PTC technology. Those costs may be “millions more than is currently budgeted.”

Amtrak had spent about $183 million on PTC implementation through June 30 and plans to spend about another $35 million through 2018.

But those estimates are “incomplete” and don’t include other potential contingency costs, the OIG report concluded.

The OIG encouraged Amtrak to update its costs estimates in order to ensure that sufficient funds are available for the project and to enhance project schedules to better track the completion of key events and remaining tasks and clarify the roles of managers who are responsible for PTC implementation.

The report said that Amtrak management agreed with all three recommendations.

Challenges of Establishing New Amtrak Station in Buffalo Addressed During Public Hearing

October 22, 2016

Building a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, will take some time and it won’t come cheap.

But those pushing for a new station are optimistic that it will be built.

Amtrak 4That was the consensus at a recent public meeting to discuss what needs to be done to get a depot to replace the current Exchange Street station.

That facility closed last month after its ceiling caved in following heavy rains.

Amtrak’s Empire Service and Maple Leaf continue to stop at Exchange Street.

For now, the only open station building in Buffalo is in suburban Depew, which is also served by the Lake Shore Limited.

Among the options for a new station are building in Canalside or restoring Buffalo Central Terminal, which has not hosted scheduled passenger trains since 1979.

Speakers at the hearing said that before a station can be built, the region needs to undertake a study, obtain funding and gain the support of political officials.

Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, said it remains to be seen if if the city or the state should guide the process.

“The key is finding the right agency or government organization to take the lead,” Becker said. “The City of Buffalo would be a natural to do that because it’s in the City of Buffalo, and would benefit the City of Buffalo. But somebody has to say, ‘I’m going to step up because this is important.’ ”

An advantage of using Central Terminal is that it would be able to serve all Amtrak trains passing through Buffalo.

Niagara Falls Senior Planner Tom DeSantis said his city spent nearly two decades planning and constructing a new station that Amtrak still has not agreed to use.

“You’re in a much better place. The state is in a much better place. And I think your experience with this is going to be a lot quicker,” he said. “It won’t probably be any less contentious, but it should go a lot quicker, arriving at kind of A-OK, we’ve gone over all of the options. We’ve weighed all of the alternatives. We think we know what we want.”

The Niagara Falls station cost $43 million.

Becker said rehabilitating Central Terminal would be a more complex project than was constructing the station in Niagara Falls.

“We all know the topic of Buffalo Central Terminal is on the table and needs to be fully explored, but certainly I think realists would agree that that means in conjunction with redevelopment of that landmark,” Becker said. “A new train station cannot be that sole redevelopment. It needs an overall project because that’s a huge undertaking.”

The challenge of renovating the existing Exchange Street Station is that it is in a less than ideal location and is not handicapped accessible. The station, the platform and the tracks have different ownership.