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: January 26, 2018. Program by Craig Sanders

Next Activity: TBA


Straight Down the Tracks

December 14, 2017

The advance signals on the Cleveland District of Norfolk Southern for the location west of Vermilion where the connecting track to the Chicago Line diverges.

There is a group on Flickr titled Tracks Without Trains. I’ve posted there a few times because I like to make photographs of empty tracks.

I like the look of rails going off into infinity, which seems to invite you to travel.

Sure, I’d prefer to be photographing a train here instead, but sometimes the rails are all you get.

The first two images below were made of the former Erie Railroad mainline between Kent and Brady Lake. The piece of track was lying on the former right of way of the Akron, Canton & Youngstown west of New London. The bottom image is the Cleveland District of Norfolk Southern west of Vermilion.


Intermodal Traffic on Pace for Record

December 14, 2017

The Association of American Railroads said that intermodal rail traffic remained on pace last month to set record in 2017. However, overall carload traffic for November 2017 fell.

U.S. railroads originated 1,307,521 carloads last month, a drop of 0.9 percent, or 11,442 carloads, from November 2016.

On the intermodal side, the railroads originated 1,369,160 containers and trailers in November 2017, up 3.8 percent, or 50,029 units, from the same month last year.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in November 2017 were 2,676,681, up 1.5 percent, or 38,587 carloads and intermodal units from November 2016.

In November 2017, 12 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with November 2016.

Posting gains were crushed stone, sand & gravel, up 16,402 carloads or 14.8 percent; metallic ores, up 5,810 carloads or 22.8 percent; and chemicals, up 5,465 carloads or 3.6 percent. Commodities that declined last month were coal, down 22,560 carloads or 5 percent; grain, down 16,311 carloads or 12.7 percent; and petroleum & petroleum products, down 3,877 carloads or 7.2 percent.

“U.S. rail carload traffic in November, like in October, had both a glass-is-half-empty and a glass-is-half-full feel to it,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a news release.  “It’s half empty because total carloads were down for the month, and railroads of course are concerned with their total level of business.

“However, the commodities that were the main reason for the decline in total carloads in November — coal, grain, and petroleum products — saw declines for reasons that don’t have much to do with the state of the economy.  So, the half-full feel comes from the fact that many traffic categories that are more sensitive to the economy did relatively well in November, which is a good sign for the economy going forward.

“The fact that intermodal grew solidly in November and will almost certainly set a new annual record in 2017 is a good sign as well.”

Excluding coal, carloads were up 11,118 carloads, or 1.3 percent, in November 2017 from November 2016. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 27,429 carloads, or 3.7 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first 11 months of 2017 was 12,479,958 carloads, up 2.9 percent, or 356,660 carloads, from the same period last year; and 12,945,869 intermodal units, up 3.7 percent, or 467,141 containers and trailers, from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 48 weeks of 2017 was 25,425,827 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.3 percent compared to last year.

C&O 1309 Restoration 6 Months From Completion Once Another $530,000 in Funding is Secured

December 14, 2017

The completion of the restoration work to Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 is six months away once funding is in place.

Trains magazine reported on its website on Wednesday that Gary Bensman of Diversified Rail Services, a contractor doing the work on behalf of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, that $530,000 is needed to get the 1309 into steam.

Bensman told the magazine that the locomotive is about ready for a federally required hydrostatic test of the boiler.

He expects no surprises for the restoration that has been on again and off again due to funding issues and mechanical issues that have cropped up.

“We got the boiler done, had it full of water, and had pressure on it, but did not finish it 100 percent to have the FRA witness a full hydro test,” Bensman said. “With little more work, it can be ready.”

Bensman said about a dozen old staybolts need to be replaced. Once the hydrostatic test is completed, the grates and superheaters can go back in and a test fire up performed.

Some running gear work will need to be done before the engine can begin revenue service.

This past year has seen program made on restoring the 1309’s boiler.

“This year, we changed almost 800 staybolts, applied eight firebox patches, and installed a new rear flue sheet,” Bensman said. “A lot of that stuff was completed so the tubes could be put in during July and August. We’ve gone from a boiler with some 2,300 holes in it in June to none in November.”

The restoration work stalled last month after the WMSR ran out of money for the project.

Some work has continued on the wheels using specialized lathes at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Thus far the restoration of No. 1309, the last steam locomotive Baldwin built in 1949 for domestic service, has cost $1.8 million.

WMSR Executive Director John Garner said the tourist railroad is is committed to finishing 1309 restoration project.

Amtrak Restructures Vice Presidents

December 14, 2017

Amtrak announced this week the restructuring of its vice presidents, including the hiring of two new VPs and the reassignment of job responsibilities of some executives already with the company.

Robin McDonough has been appointed vice president, human resources. Byl Herrmann, who had been serving in this role for the past year, will return to the law department as vice president, senior managing deputy general counsel.

McDonough will continue the transformation of the human resources department begun by Hermann earlier this year.

Jeanne Cantu has been promoted to assistant vice president, network support, succeeding McDonough. Cantu will be moving from the finance group, where she had already been working closely with operations through her role as senior director, business planning and controls.

Caroline Decker has been appointed vice president, Northeast Corridor service line. She succeeds Mark Yachmetz, who remains with the group as vice president, Acela 2021 Program, where he will be focused on delivering the next-generation of Acela service, including the new high-speed train sets.

In her previous role as vice president of government affairs and corporate communications, Decker led Amtrak’s efforts in Congress to secure annual federal funding while providing strategic leadership on corporate messaging.

In her new role, Decker will focus on increasing customer satisfaction and driving net revenues through innovation for the company’s flagship products and prepare for future growth across the NEC.

Bob Dorsch has been promoted to vice president, long distance service line. He succeeds Mark Murphy, who will be retiring after 40 years at Amtrak. Dorsch previously served as vice president, product support and management within the marketing and business development group.

In his new role, Dorsch will be responsible for leading efforts to modernize and improve the carrier’s products, deliver these services more efficiently and at a lower cost, while also providing a higher level of customer satisfaction.

Peter Wilander is joining Amtrak on Jan. 4 as vice president, product development and customer experience. He comes to Amtrak from Gate Group, a global provider of products, services and solutions for the aviation industry, where he served as chief commercial officer.

Wilander has more than 35 years of airline industry experience, having previously held the role of managing director on-board services for Delta Air Lines, where he was responsible for the worldwide catering operation, food and beverage design and implementation, on-board retail programs, and crew service delivery procedures.

In his new role, he will establish Amtrak’s customer service standards.

Dennis Newman joined Amtrak on Dec. 4 as vice president, schedule and consist planning. Newman will be responsible for the execution of Amtrak’s network strategy through schedule planning and capacity management of trains in the Northeast Corridor, state supported, and long distance services, and ensuring that route capacity is managed to optimize load factor and revenue, and stays responsive to market conditions and demand.

He was most recently vice president, sales, at Dish Network. Prior to that, he was vice president, network planning at Delta Air Lines.

More Former Erie Passenger Stations

December 13, 2017

The Park Ridge Station of the Erie Railroad.

In June I did a series on Erie Railroad mainline stations from Hoboken, New Jersey, to Port Jervis, New York. Here are some other stations on some lesser known Erie/Erie Lackawanna branches.

The New Jersey & New York Railroad was leased by the Erie in the 1880’s. The railroad served Bergen County, New Jersey.

Even though the Erie took control of the line, it was still the NJ&NY on paper right through the EL days.

There are some beautiful old stations on the NJ&NY RR. Here are (in order) River Edge, Oradell, and Park Ridge.

Today the line is New Jersey Transit’s Pascack Valley Line and all these stations still serve passengers in their waiting rooms. Ticket machines sell the tickets rather than agents.

Another Erie Line was originally The Northern Railroad of New Jersey.

This railroad started before the Civil War and was bought outright by the Erie about 1940.

The EL ended passenger service on this line in 1966. Today CSX owns the line and only a couple industries are served on the lower end of the line.

This line served some very affluent New Jersey communities and their stations demonstrate that. In order, we have Tenafly Station, now a restaurant, and Demarest Station, which looks more like a church.

The railroad is pretty much dead in these parts, although there is talk about making part of this line a light rail system, which still won’t reach these locations.

Article and Photographs by Jack Norris

The Tenafly station of the Erie Railroad

The River Edge station of the Erie Railroad

The Demarest Station of the Erie Railroad

The Oradell Station of the Erie Railroad

NS Opens Portageville Bridge in New York

December 13, 2017

NS train 36T crosses the new Portageville bridge on Dec. 11. (Norfolk Southern photo)

Norfolk Southern on Monday opened its Portageville Bridge in Letchworth State Park near Castile, New York.

The first train across the bridge was the 36T, a Buffalo, New York, to Allentown, Pennsylvania, manifest freight, which crossed the 945-foot steel arch structure in mid afternoon.

The new bridge replaces an iron truss  structure built by the Erie Railroad in 1975. Intermodal train I2K to Mechanicville, New York, was the last train to use that bridge.

It took two years and $75 million to construct the new bridge over the 235-foot-deep Genesee River gorge. Funding came from a public-private partnership that included NS, the New York State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

NS said in a news release that the new bridge will enable it to transport rail cars over the Southern Tier Line loaded to the industry standard of 286,000 pounds.

The old bridge had a weight limit of 13,000 pounds below that standard while the top train speed was 10 mph. The top speed on the new bridge is 30 mph.

3 Federal Agencies Examining Train Length

December 13, 2017

Three federal agencies are reported to be looking into the longer trains that Class 1 railroads have been running of late.

The probes are occurring despite a lack of federal regulations of train length.

The Government Accountability Office is looking into whether increased train length is a safety risk.

That review was prompted by derailments that occurred this year in Pennsylvania and Florida on CSX. In both cases, hazardous materials were involved.

The derailments came as CSX has increased its average train length by 400 feet to 6,833 feet this year. Like other Class 1 railroads, CSX sees longer train lengths as a way to reduce costs.

The Federal Railroad Administration and the Surface Transportation Board are conducting independent investigations of the safety of longer trains.

FRA inspectors have reportedly been spending more time on CSX property in recent weeks due to a spike in incidents.

If the investigations lead to proposals to regulate train length, it is likely that the railroads and their trade association, the Association of American Railroads, will resist those efforts, arguing they would increase operating costs.

Trump Meets to Talk Infrastructure Plan

December 13, 2017

News reports said that President Donald Trump met this week with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster to discuss the administration’s infrastructure proposal.

The administration has proposed using $200 billion in federal funds to leverage $1 trillion worth of infrastructure improvements.

Trump had indicated last month that once a tax bill had passed Congress that his administration would be ready to focus on the infrastructure plan.

More Conneaut Doings

December 12, 2017

NS eastbound manifest freight 316 has a pair of Union Pacific locomotives in charge as it crosses Conneaut Creek in a view made from the U.S. 20 bridge.

In a recent post I described a recent Sunday afternoon catching a Canadian National train in Conneaut on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie. CN wasn’t the only operations that I observed and photographed.

Traffic on Norfolk Southern was slow for most of the morning with nothing running. Things began picking up before noon when the 22K showed up followed by the 206, the 098 and the 316.

I never saw or heard of a westbound on NS during my time in Conneaut.

I spent most of the morning on CSX where traffic was heavy after I arrived with four trains coming through in the first hour that I was there.

I was surprised that none of the CSX trains I saw were intermodals. Once NS got into action, I moved away from the CSX tracks.

After the CN train showed up around 1 p.m., the likelihood of my going back trackside along the CSX Erie West Subdivision became minimal.

Here are some highlights of what I saw on NS and CSX on this day.

It’s the eastbound stack train 22K.

NS train 206 has one of the DC to AC conversion units on the point today.

Can you guess which way the 098 is going? It is headed for work in Pennsylvania.

A two-image sequence of a westbound CSX crude oil train.

A westbound CSX manifest freight passes the former New York Central freight house, which is now owned by the Conneaut Historical Society.

CSX eastbound auto rack train Q254 passes the Conneaut water tank.

Tentative Contract Reached with 5 Unions

December 12, 2017

The National Railway Labor Conference has reached a tentative contract agreement with five railroads labor unions.

The pact, which covers wages, benefits and other issues for more than 31,000 employees, now must be approved by union members.

The unions involved include the Brotherhood Railway Carmen, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Transportation Communications Union and the Transport Workers Union.

The latter union represents a limited number of employees in this bargaining. Terms of the contract were not announced.

The Conference represents 30 railroads, including five of the Class 1 railroads operating in the United States. Contract talks between the unions and the Conference began in 2015.

In a news release, the Conference said it now has reached new contract agreements with unions representing 116,000 employees, or 80 percent percent of the 145,000 employees in this bargaining round.

The agreement has already been ratified by union members of the American Train Dispatchers Association; Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, and International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers ─ Transportation Division including Yardmasters.

Talks continue with a coalition representing the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.