The Akron Railroad Club has about 75 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. 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.
It has been more than a year since Peter Bowler and I had chased trains together so we were long overdue for an outing.
Everything fell into place one recent Sunday as we made plans to meet early – as in 5:30 a.m. – to travel to Conneaut to catch a train on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie.
But the first order of business was getting Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited just east of Conneaut.
No. 48 was running about 10 minutes late when it rushed past us in the early morning light. We then went to see if we could intercept an inbound B&LE train at Albion.
As we drove toward that city, I heard the detector go off at MP 117 and then heard the crew call out over the radio a 10 mph slow order for MP 125. They were at MP 122.
That was a good omen. The train was coming. But our luck ran out when we found a bridge closed on U.S. Route 6N a couple miles short of Albion, Pennsylvania.
Further bad luck hit when Peter discovered the Pennsylvania Gazetteer he had brought was missing. We still don’t know where or how he lost it.
Relying on A GPS on Peter’s smart phone, we searched for crossings west of Albion, but we never saw the train.
As we were driving back to Conneaut, we heard the sound of a remote control switch being toned up on the radio. It turned out to be the creek switch at the south end of the Conneaut yard and we missed the head end of the train, although we did see the rear.
All we could do was wait for it to come out once it was done switching in Conneaut yard. It first poked its nose beneath the Norfolk Southern trestle at 11:17 a.m.
As the crew was switching, I was able to ascertain from their radio communication that the lead locomotive facing south was Illinois Central No. 1018.
Given that B&LE owner Canadian National sent a fleet of ex-IC SD70s locomotives to its Bessemer Subdivision last March that was not a surprise.
But I had heard the crew talking about a 905, which I knew from an online posting was B&LE SD40T-3 No. 905, which is the only tunnel motor still working on the Bessemer Sub.
It turned out that the 905 was the second unit behind the 1018, so that kept my streak intact of having a B&LE locomotive in every train I’ve ever photographed on the ex-B&LE.
The motive power consist also included CN 5336 (SD402-W) and IC 1019. The CN locomotive was one of the rattiest looking I’ve ever seen. It had the appearance of someone having taken a blow torch to burn paint off its flanks.
I’ve seen trains come out of the Conneaut yard and go past the Old Main Street grade crossing while switching, but I had never seen one stop just north of the crossing when it was done.
That provided a rare opportunity to make an image of the motive power sitting still on a curve with good lighting.
When I spotted the CN truck coming to drop off the conductor I knew the train would be leaving soon.
We relocated to the U.S. 20 bridge. I’ve photographed here before, but had yet to get an outbound move with an IC SD70 in the lead.
Mindful of the U.S. 6N bridge closing, we had mapped an alternative route to Albion via Pennsylvania Route 215 and Old Albion Road.
We waited for the train at the crossing of Route 215, which was a new photo spot for me.
We then did some traditional B&LE photo locations in Albion, Conneatuville, Hartstown and at KO Road.
The latter is widely known as KO Junction, but CN now calls it Sandy. The dispatcher told the crew that it would re-crew at Sandy.
No new crew was on hand to board the train there so we went into Greenville to look around. That, though, is for another story.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
Want to take your bike aboard Amtrak? No problem says the nation’s rail passenger carrier. Bike racks will be ready by the end of the year.
Uh, that was supposed to be the end of last year. Amtrak had announced in June 2014 that baggage cars “equipped with built-in luggage racks that will be able to secure unboxed bicycles” would be available by year’s end.
But six months after that deadline passed, Amtrak is still working to install the bike racks.
Among the trains that were slated to get them were the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.
Although it won’t commit to a new deadline, Amtrak says that is aiming to get the racks installed and ready to use by the end of summer.
“That’s a process we’ve been working on for quite some time,” said Craig Schultz, an Amtrak spokesman. “We’re very eager to get it off the ground.”
Schultz said that finding the right racks and figuring out how they can fit in a baggage car while also keeping a train on schedule has taken longer than expected.
He said Amtrak wants to ensure that loading and unloading bikes doesn’t add time to boarding or de-boarding process and that the baggage cars fit with varying platform heights at en route stations.
The bike racks were to be tested on the Capitol Limited and the Vermonter between New York and St. Albans, Vermont.
Amtrak will solicit feedback from riders who use the service, Schultz said.
Nos. 29 and 39 are expected to have racks to fit eight bikes, something that some bicycle advocates say won’t be enough.
A replica of the funeral car of the Lincoln funeral train will make a visit to Troy, Ohio, on Sept. 10-13.
The car will be open on Thursday and Friday from noon to 8 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Admission will be $5 for adults. Children, age 18 and under or in grade K through 12, will be admitted free.
Also on hand will be the Leviathan, a replica of a 19th century steam locomotive. The funeral car and locomotive will be placed on the west side of the Miami County Court House, 201 West Main Street.
Historical re-enactors will be on the courthouse lawn throughout the weekend.
The Lincoln funeral train car earlier this year visited Wellington and Painesville and is on a national tour.
A Pennsylvania short line has launched a GoFundMe drive to pay for moving a caboose out of an industrial park in Baltimore.
The Stewartstown Railroad wants to move the former Union Pacific caboose No. 25623 by truck to Stewartstown, Pennsylvania.
Moving the caboose, which is currently sitting on a short piece of panel track, will cost an estimated $14,000.
Backers of the project have raised half of this amount thus far.
The caboose is currently on the property of at Waco Products in Baltimore.
To make a donation to the “Blue Caboose Fund,” go to www.gofundme.com/8r6ec6x68.
It must have been my lucky day. Not only did I get some good images of Nickel Plate Road 765 during a ferry move, but I also managed to snag Union Pacific motive power leading freight trains of CSX and Norfolk Southern into the sunrise in Painesville.
Fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and I rose early to go to Painesville to catch the 765. We figured if we’re going to get up early, we may as well catch Amtrak while we’re there.
We set up by the former New York Central station in the county seat of Lake County and caught No. 48. We then stuck around for some CSX action.
Not too far behind Amtrak was an eastbound manifest with a trio of UP motors and a slew of UP rolling stock. If this was still the Conrail era, I’d think it was the NPSE (North Platte to Selkirk), a train that originated on UP in Nebraska.
The sunlight wasn’t quite above the trees enough to light the tracks by the Painesville depot. But I was still pleased with what I was able to do.
We then relocated to the Norfolk Southern tracks by the trestle over the Grand River. We had been there less than about 10 minutes when I heard train 316 calling a signal over the radio.
The light favored being on the north side of the tracks whereas at the ex-New York Central depot on CSX the sunlight had favored the south side.
I got into position by the Riverside Drive crossing and waited. To my surprise and pleasure, the 316 had a UP leader.
That made me two for two on getting UP locomotives going into the sunrise in Painesville in a single morning.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
When Peter Bowler and I arrived on Riverside Drive just east of the Painesville trestle of Norfolk Southern last Thursday morning, we nearly had the place to ourselves. Just one other railfan was parked there.
It was nearly 7:30 a.m. and had the ferry move of Nickel Plate Road 765 followed the best case scenario, it would be showing up in about a half hour to an hour.
But ferry moves seldom, if ever, follow the best case scenario.
The 765 crew had tweeted the night before that the Berkshire would be leaving Rockport Yard in Cleveland between 7 and 11 a.m.
As the morning drug on, the crowd got larger and more diverse. There were the usual railroad enthusiasm suspects as well as the proverbial daisy pickers.
Countless numbers of people stopped and asked what everyone was doing here.
A report filtered through the crowd that westbound Norfolk Southern train No. 145 had the Virginian heritage locomotive in the lead.
Then came another report around mid morning that the 765 was waiting for the 26R and the 206 to go by and it would follow them eastward.
The NS line east of Cleveland is at best moderately busy. It can go quiet for hours, but that was not the case today.
NS put by us two westbound intermodal trains and two eastbound trains, a manifest freight and an auto rack.
I chatted with fellow Akron Railroad Club members Edward Ribinskas and Jeff Troutman, both Painesville residents. I also spoke with a couple other fans I knew.
At 10:21 a.m., the 765 crew tweeted that it was leaving Rockport Yard. Maybe it would get here by 11:30, but noon was more likely.
But that wasn’t to be. There was a 23K coming westward and what the Youngstown Line dispatcher told that train was discouraging.
The 23K would be waiting in the siding at Unionville for five eastbound trains, the 26R, the 22K, the 206, the 310 and the 955.
The latter was the symbol for the NKP 765 ferry move, although that symbol was later changed to 958.
The 145 with the NS 1069 on the lead was stuck in Conneaut and would be there for a while until all of those eastbounds got out of the way. So much for seeing the Virginian H unit today.
We counted down the number of NS eastbounds passing by. As one wag commented, we would be getting a lot of “catfish” on the Painesville trestle – a slang term for an NS locomotive – and a lot of practice making photographs of where we wanted to catch the 765.
One some outings you might not get any NS trains on the trestle. On this day I got eight of ‘em.
Some photographers worried openly about the sun angles by the time the 765 showed up.
Throughout the morning, we watched the skies turn from to partly cloudy, to sun and clouds, to partly sunny and then back to clear again.
We even watched a funeral procession pass by to a nearby cemetery and spotted a guy tooling around in a vintage automobile that was a good two to three decades older than the 765.
The crowd continued to grow in numbers to the 50 to 100 range. There was the expected barking at those who the more vocal members of the photo line thought were going to get into their photos.
I heard the 958 call a clear signal at Daniels, located about five railroad signal blocks to the west. I took my place on the photo line.
Someone said the 765 had called Jackson Street and cameras were raised and/or fixed onto tripods. The long-awaited show was about to begin.
It was 1:45 p.m. Peter and I had rendezvoused near I-271 in the eastern Cleveland suburbs at 5:30 a.m. before setting out for Painesville. We could have stayed in bed longer.
Four minutes later there was smoke, the sound of a steam locomotive whistle and then a headlight on the Painesville trestle.
Six hours of waiting were about to pay off. Three minutes later, the 765 and its train were gone.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
Utica, New York, police said that a 13-year-old-boy has admitted to playing on a freight car that was set free, struck a restored steam locomotive and damaged the Amtrak station on July 21.
Police had said earlier that there was evidence that the brakes on the car, which was sitting on the tracks of the New York, Susquehanna & Western had had its brakes tampered with.
The car, a covered hopper, rolled through downtown Utica, hitting a vehicle, and striking New York Central 0-6-0 No. 6721
The Utica & Mohawk Valley Chapter of the NRHS owns the locomotive.
Contractors have started repair work to Utica Union Station to ensure the structure is stable before they removed the freight car.
The 13-year-old may face charges in connection with the incident, which is still under investigation.
Amtrak service was unaffected by the damage to the station, which serves the Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf and Empire Service trains.
Also unaffected are operations of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which uses the station.
Pennsylvania-based Wabtec has announced plans to acquire Faiveley Transport S.A., a global provider of integrated systems and services for the railway industry.
Wabtec will pay about $1.8 billion Faiveley and assume its debt. Faively has annual sales of about $1.2 billion.
The merged company will create one of the world’s largest rail equipment companies, with revenues of about $4.5 billion and a presence in all key freight rail and passenger transit markets worldwide.
“Faiveley Transport is an excellent strategic fit, expanding our geographic presence considerably, broadening our product and service capabilities, and enhancing our technology and innovation initiatives, all of which will make us a more efficient global competitor,” said Albert J. Neupaver, Wabtec’s executive chairman. “We are excited by the compelling opportunities and synergies created from the combination of two rail industry leaders with historic ties, a commitment to growth and efficiency, and a focus on technology, quality and customer service. We would be pleased to welcome the Faiveley family as a long-term Wabtec shareholder with representation on our board of directors.”
Faiveley headquarters in Gennevilliers, France, will become Wabtec’s global transit headquarters and use the Faiveley Transport brand name.
Founded more than 90 years ago, Faiveley Transport has more than 5,700 employees in 24 countries. Wabtec is based in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania.
In chasing the Nickel Plate Road 765 Ashtabula trips last weekend I discovered two things.
First, it is not very easy to chase this line. Second, the majority of good photos were in Youngstown.
Yes, there are some nice locations along the line but at the speeds that the 765 was travelling it was difficult to keep up. No four lane highway directly parallels the Youngstown Line as ws the case for the Indiana trip chase.
However, in Youngstown there were several good spots in close proximity. Even better, the train made several reverse moves to access the loading facility at the Covelli Center.
In the afternoon, the sequence was as follows. The train would pull in from Ashtabula with the 765 leading. Then it would back in on the line to unload.
After unloading, the 765 would pull east. The train would reverse to Hubbard where a wye is located.
The train would turn here and then back into the Haselton Yard to stay overnight. An SD40-2 was provided to assist with these and stayed with the train to help at Ashtabula.
All these moves were at slow speed and provided many good opportunities for photographs and video.
Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon
Norfolk Southern Corporation reported that its second quarter operating revenue fell 11 percent to $2.7 billion. The railroad company attributed the drop to weak coal demand and lower fuel surcharges revenues.
Income from railway operations was $814 million, a drop of percent.
Nonetheless, NS reported that it posted a net income of $433 million, even though it was a drop of 23 percent, and diluted earnings of $1.41 per share, a drop of down 21 percent.
The company’s volume was 1.9 million units, down 2 percent, and its operating ratio was 70 percent, a gain of 3.5 points compared with the second quarter of 2014 results.
NS also said that its operating expenses declined 6 percent to $1.9 billion because fuel costs plunged 38 percent to $519 million and materials and other supply costs dropped 5 percent to $235 million.
In a news release, the company said its financial performance was affected by falling natural gas prices, declining fuel surcharges and growing oversupply globally.
Domestic utility coal volume fell 23 percent to 175,400 units and export coal volume plunged 38 percent to 36,600 units. Total coal revenue fell 33 percent to $453 million while volume declined 21 percent to 275,700 units.
General merchandise revenue decreased 5 percent to $1.6 billion but volume inched up 1 percent to 661,500 units.
Volume growth in chemicals, automotive and paper shipments helped to offset traffic declines in steel, fertilizers and wheat. Chemicals volume rose 13 percent to 137,300 units primarily due to traffic gains in crude oil and natural gas liquids.
Intermodal revenue slipped 3 percent to $633 million, but volume rose by 2 percent to 999,900 units.
NS President and Chief Executive Officer James Squires said the volume growth in intermodal and merchandise was encouraging as were significant service improvements.
He said there remain good prospects for volume growth in the near and long term in the intermodal, energy, manufacturing and housing markets.
“We are confident in our long-term strategy,” Squires said. “Norfolk Southern is well positioned to continue improving service, which will reduce costs and add value to our customers. We have a strong legacy of success, and we are taking the right steps to continue value creation.”
Executive Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer Marta Stewart said that NS has scaled back its capital spending budget for 2015 by $130 million or 5 percent. Earlier this year, NS had projected 2015 capital expenditures of about $2.4 billion.