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 meetings, 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. Most 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.
Several years ago Trains magazine asked the question of whether railroad photographs must have a train in them. The magazine then proceeded to publish a page of railroad images without trains.
Apparently it wasn’t something that the publication thought that it needed to do frequently because I don’t recall it ever publishing such a page again.
But then again the title of the magazine is “trains” and not “tracks.”
I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of images made by railfan photographers have a train in them and that the vast majority of those feature the lead locomotive. That describes much of my railroad photographs portfolio, too.
But I like to make it a point, particularly in the winter, to make images of rails sans trains. Shown is the former Erie Lackawanna (nee Erie railroad) at the crossing of Lake Rockwell Road near Kent.
It’s late on Saturday afternoon and these rails are inactive during the weekend. The Akron Barberton Cluster Railway only uses these tracks on weekdays and even then it doesn’t travel over these rails every day.
Today it is sunny with only a few clouds in the sky. But tomorrow will bring another winter storm and more snow. For the moment all is peaceful here and the rails glisten in the late day sunlight.
Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders
Norfolk Southern has put into place a succession plan whereby President James A. Squires will replace Charles W. “Wick” Moorman as company’s CEO. The planned succession process will kick in on June 1.
Squires, 53, who joined NS in 2009, will continue to serve as president and all major divisions will continue to report to him. Moorman will continue as executive chairman of the board of directors.
In a news release, NS said that Moorman and Squires will work together to ensure a seamless transition of leadership responsibilities.
“Jim has the right experience and vision to advance Norfolk Southern’s traditions of safety and service,” board member Steven F. Leer said in a statement. “NS is well-positioned to continue leading and innovating, and the board of directors is confident in the ability of the entire Thoroughbred team to deliver for our customers, shareholders, and communities.”
Squires served in several law positions at NS before being named vice president of law in 2003, senior vice president of law in 2004, senior vice president of financial planning in 2006, executive vice president of finance in 2007, executive vice president of administration in 2012, and president in 2013.
A native of Hollis, N.H., he is a graduate of Amherst College, where he received a bachelor of arts in Ancient Greek in 1983.
After graduation, he spent a year as Amherst-Doshisha Fellow at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. He then served in the U.S. Army from 1985 to 1989.
In 1992, he received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Chicago Law School, where he has served as a member of the Visiting Committee.
“Leading NS is an incredible honor,” Squires says. “I join our 30,000 employees in pledging that we will do everything possible to exceed the expectations of our shareholders and the people and businesses who depend on us. We welcome that opportunity, and we will meet that challenge.”
Demand for all types of freight cars is on the rise, but nearly half of the new cars to be delivered in 2015 are expected to be tank cars.
Economic Planning Associates expects 85,500 new freight cars and intermodal platforms this year with 40,000 of them being tank cars.
“Demand for rail cars continues to expand,” EPA’s Peter Toja wrote in his quarterly freight car forecast. “Orders for 37,431 cars and platforms in the fourth quarter of 2014 far outpaced deliveries of 18,491 units, sending end-of-2014 backlogs to a record 142,837 cars.
“As a result, car builders in 2015 are starting the year with formidable levels of cars set to be assembled this year and in the foreseeable future. Equally important, with the exception of coal cars, rail equipment demand is broad-based, as both expanding traffic and replacement pressures lifted the need for a variety of car types. And, the railroads are providing significant support to equipment demand.”
EPA analysts project that 80,500 cars will be delivered in 2016 with 75,800 cars being delivered in 2017. Through 2020, EPA expects new car deliveries to be 75,000 a year.
“During 2015, we look for continued high levels of commodity haulings and further growth in investments by the railroads,” Toja wrote.
“Our analyses of the major customer markets indicate that the investment plans are well-founded. We anticipate a modest growth in coal traffic and continued expansion in grain movements this year that will provide a major boost to rail commodity haulings.”
In the fourth quarter of 2014, car builders received orders for 14,964 tank cars, the highest since the first quarter of 2013.
Car builders thus entered 2015 with backlogs of 57,625 cars.
“On the regulatory front, car builders are responding to the Notice of Proposed Rule Making on hazardous material tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol,” Toja wrote. “At issue here is the retrofitting or replacement of a number of DOT-111 tank cars as well as the most recently built CPC-1232 tank cars with enhancements to the bottom outlet value and pressure relief values that will reduce the likelihood of tank cars releasing contents in derailments.”
Analysts estimate that 90,000 to 100,000 tank cars currently in the fleet will be affected by increased safety regulations.
“Due to the rapid expansion in oil production and the lack of any significant pipeline additions, especially given the president’s recent veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline, rail will continue to benefit, and we anticipate strong annual deliveries of oil service tank cars throughout the forecast horizon,” Toja wrote.
“With railroads espousing the growth of petroleum movements, the possibility of overhauling a major portion of the fleet with newer equipment, and industry reports of expanding productive capacity among the carbuilders, we expect 2015 deliveries of 40,000 tank cars. Next year, we look for a moderation to 32,000 deliveries.
The demand for boxcars, which had slumped in recent years, is on the rise. Orders for 3,510 boxcars were placed in the third quarter of 2014 with 800 more cars ordered in the fourth quarter. Most of those boxcars are going to TTX, which is looking to upgrade its aging fleet.
However, there is little demand for boxcars from users other than TTX.
The EPA report did say that steady expansion in motor vehicle demand and production is leading to a revitalization of auto parts boxcars.
The demand for all types of covered hoppers continues to expand and hi-cube equipment posted gains in 2014.
The orders for 7,250 cars far outpaced deliveries of 2,449 units, sending backlogs from 5,689 at the beginning of 2014 to 10,490 cars at the end of the year.
EPA said that industry sources continue to point toward plastic pellet and chemical demand for hi-cube equipment.
“Due to the strength in current backlogs and the anticipation of continued growth in the corn to ethanol process, which will keep DDG demand on a high note, we look for deliveries of some 4,500 hi-cube covered hoppers this year and 5,000 cars in 2016. From 2017 through 2020, deliveries will be in the range of 4,000-4,500 cars per year,” Toja wrote.
“Given the strength in grain exports last year, orders for grain service cars rose to 11,937 units in 2014, far outpacing assemblies of 4,481 cars. As a result, backlogs at the end of the year amounted to 9,856 cars, 3.8 times above the opening-year level of 2,600 units.
“Based on higher opening year backlogs, we expect 2015 deliveries of mid-sized hoppers to amount to 5,500 cars, followed by deliveries of 6,000 units in 2016. From 2017 through 2020, deliveries will average 6,000 cars per year.
“Demand for small-cube covered hoppers continues to astound us. Full year 2014 orders amounted to 49,809 cars, far ahead of the annual assemblies of 13,402 units. As a result, carbuilders will open 2015 with unprecedented backlogs of 39,835 cars. Based on these backlogs and rising production schedules, we look for assemblies of 17,500 cars this year and 17,000 cars in 2016.”
Demand for hoppers to haul coal remains lacklustre with just 16 cars orders in the fourth quarter of 2014 and a backlog of a “paltry” 1,853 going into 2015.
“Nonetheless, there are limited bright spots for coal in the next few years,” the EPA report said. “During the winter, American Electric Power pressed into service several of its older coal-burning generating units targeted for retirement in a few years, in order to comply with new federal Environmental Protection Agency rules. Indeed, a full 87 percent of those soon to be shuttered coal units needed to operate to help maintain electric grid reliability when the mercury plummeted across the region.
“Based on extremely low backlogs, we expect deliveries of only 2,500 coal cars this year. Next year, we look for deliveries of 3,500 units, mostly replacements.
A brighter spot was the demand for intermodal equipment. After three consecutive quarterly increases, orders for articulated equipment expanded fourth quarter of 2014.
Backlogs at the end of 2014 had increased to 12,251 units, almost 15 times the beginning-year level of 825 platforms.
“Based on the gathering momentum in demand, we look for deliveries of 7,500 intermodal units this year and 10,000 units in 2016. Longer term, we continue to anticipate strong steady expansion in deliveries. From 12,000 units in 2017, we look for deliveries of 15,000 cars and platforms in 2020,” Toja wrote.
There’s snow and then there’s deep snow. No sooner had I set out from the parking lot in Brecksville toward the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad tracks when I found myself ankle deep in it.
It wasn’t that long of a walk so I trudged ahead with the objective of photographing the northbound Scenic train crossing Chippewa Creek.
The snow was even deeper on the other side of the creek. I fell once when my mind was going in one direction but my body in another.
But it was worth it because the snow had not been spoiled by human footprints or other activity. It was as pure a scene as I could expect to find in Northeast Ohio and with little imagination reminiscent of being in an isolated spot in the woods of Minnesota, Michigan or Canada.
Another photographer also hiked through the snow, but he chose to photograph from the creek whereas I wanted to be able to get coming and going shots.
It was getting to be late afternoon and the sun was low enough that much of the track was in shadows. Yet the sun streaming through the trees created an interesting effect of shadows across the rails.
The bridge over Chippewa Creek was in open sunlight, which is probably why that other guy chose to go down to the water level. He would get a nicely lighted side view.
During the winter the Scenic doesn’t stop at Brecksville station, so I had to guess as to when it would arrive there. The only scheduled stop between Akron and Rockside Road in Independence is Peninsula.
I was happy to see a spot of yellow when the Scenic came into view. That meant that the black LTEX 1420 would not be on the lead. Try photographing that locomotive in shadows.
Instead, the 1822, an RS18u that had been built in May 1958 for Canadian Pacific, was on the point. The trailing unit was No. 800, the FPA-4 built in March 1959 for Canadian National, and painted in a Baltimore & Ohio livery.
I can only hope that this motive power consist combination will continue to run a little longer.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
Norfolk Southern’s locomotive paying tribute to America’s veterans made a pass through Northeast Ohio on Saturday morning. It was on the lead of train 11V.
My friend Adam and I were headed for Vermilion to get some images of the bridge carrying the NS Chicago Line over the Vermilion River by the boat launch.
As we cruised westward on I-480, we saw NS 6920 on a train at CP Max.
The river was frozen enough to walk out on, but to photograph the 11V, we stood on one of the concrete piers at the boat launch.
Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders
It was a mostly sunny spring day. My recollection is that it was late afternoon when I drove out on Illinois Route 16 west of Mattoon, Ill., to look for a Conrail rail train.
The line had been abandoned more than a year earlier, but by law Conrail had to wait at least 120 days in case someone wanted to buy it. There had been talk of that, but nothing materialized.
On this day the rails were being removed to be sent somewhere to be refurbished and, eventually, reused.
My mission was to make a few photographs to document the rail removal.
This day had been years in the making. It began when Penn Central decided it didn’t need two routes between Terre Haute and St. Louis.
PC had expected to abandon or dramatically downgrade the former New York Central route, but that didn’t happen.
Even with a mandate to rationalize the rail network that it inherited from PC, it took Conrail seven years to finish the job.
I didn’t spend much time at the site where the workers were pulling up the rails.
I didn’t have the documentary mindset that I have now. Back then, making photographs was a sometime thing.
How I wish today that I had done more to document the abandonment of a rail line that had played a significant role in my life.
It was over these rails that I made my first railroad journey in the 1950s aboard an NYC passenger train to St. Louis.
I saw these rails often as I went about my life activities while growing up and later working in Mattoon.
As a reporter for the Mattoon Journal Gazette I had written about the process that led to the ex-NYC being abandoned between Paris and Pana, Ill.
But when the rail train came through Mattoon to pick up the rail, I was at home. I made no effort to go see, let alone photograph, the rail removal operation in my hometown.
I must have figured that the photographs that I made the day before west of town were a good enough record.
Today you would hardly know there had been a railroad here. Farmers have claimed the right of way and extended their fields.
The only traces of the railroad are a few small concrete bridges left behind and linear empty space in the towns where the rails had been.
Shown are a few of the better images that I made on that 1983 day. They were scanned from the original color print film negatives.
For the most part, I consider these images to be nothing special. Most of them are not composed well.
And yet they are very special because they show something that happened once and won’t happen again. They have historical significance.
Regardless of the quality of these images, I’m very pleased that I made them.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
A request for proposals has been issued for an operator to run Detroit’s 3.3-mile streetcar line that is under construction.
M-1 Rail, which is developing the line as part of a $140 million project, has scheduled a pre-proposal conference for March 13, with proposals due by April 16.
Contract talks with a preferred bidder are expected to occur in May with a contract signed in June.
The streetcar is expected to begin operations in December 2016.
The company that wins the contract will begin working with M-1 Rail at least a year in advance of the commencement of operations, said Paul Childs, M-1 Rail’s chief operating officer, in a news release.
The contractor “will be instrumental in developing processes and procedures for operations and fulfilling all of the obligations required by federal, state and city government agencies,” Childs said.
Contractor responsibilities will include hiring operators, scheduling and training employees; developing customer service standards; safety; fare collection; maintaining vehicles, track, switches, signals, platforms, substations, and overhead contact systems/charging bars; washing and cleaning vehicles; and report preparation.
The initial operating contract will be five years with M-1 Rail retaining the option to renew it for another two to five years.
M-1 Rail officials estimate the cost to operate the streetcar at $5 million annually.
“Passengers want a reliable, safe and clean experience and the operator of the line will be a catalyst for that,” Childs said.
When operational, the streetcar line will run along Woodward Avenue between Larned Street and West Grand Boulevard in Detroit.
Employment at Class 1 railroads fells in January by 3.7 percent compared with the previous month’s head count.
Surface Transportation figures showed that in mid-January, the workforce of Class 1 railroads stood at 164,568.
All six workforce categories saw declines. Maintenance-of-way and structures was down 6.4 percent to 34,985; transportation (other than train and engine), was down about 5 percent to 6,370; professional and administrative was down 4.8 percent to 13,600; executives, officials and staff assistants was down 3.9 percent to 9,621; transportation (train and engine), was down 2.5 percent to 69,921; and maintenance of equipment and stores, was down 2.3 percent to 30,071.
However, on a year-over-year basis, the workforce grew 1.4 percent.
Transportation (train and engine) forces rose nearly 6 percent and the number of maintenance of equipment and stores workers increased 1 percent versus January 2014 figures.
The other four workforce categories registered the following year-over-year declines: transportation (other than T&E), 4.2 percent; professional and administrative, 3.2 percent; maintenance-of-way and structures, 2.8 percent; and executives, officials and staff assistants, 2.1 percent.
Yeah, I know many of you are sick of winter, particularly the cold. I could do without the latter. But it doesn’t look like it is going away just yet.
Last Saturday I was able to get out for a while in the afternoon before going to a railroad club banquet that night.
The outing began with a chase of a Norfolk Southern heritage locomotive leading a crude oil train. I posted earlier this week my images of the Central of New Jersey leading that train through Vermilion.
After that, we drove back to Berea. Here is a selection of some of the images that illustrate trains and railroad operations in winter.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
No injuries were reported after a Canadian National iron ore train derailed on Wednesday night on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie mainline in Butler County, Pa.
The derailment of 27 of the train’s 71 cars occurred about 9:30 p.m. south of State Route 308.
An online report said the derailment occurred just north of the Oneida interlocking.
B&LE 907, CN 5336 and B&LE 905 along with about 10 cars were sitting near the Oneida Road, the report said.
The train had originated in Conneaut, Ohio, and the ore was bound for a Pittsburgh area steel mill.
Workers were cleaning up the derailment site on Thursday. Steve Bicehouse, Butler County’s emergency services director, said there was no fire and no hazardous materials were spilled.
The accident occurred in a wooded area. Highway traffic was not disrupted.
CN spokesman Patrick Waldron told local media that he did not know what caused the derailment. CN acquired the B&LE in 2004.