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: August 24. Program by Todd Dillon.

Next Activity: August 25. Day in Vermilion.

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Street Running

August 17, 2018

It was mid afternoon and those still at the Akron Railroad Club picnic in Warwick Park were sitting around talking and contemplating whether to have another burger or hot dog.

The scanner finally came alive after a long silence with the Q292 calling a signal at Warwick.

That sent me scrambling with my camera to get into position to photograph it.

Of late the Q292 has sometimes had Kansas City Southern motive power and maybe I would get lucky today and bag a Southern Belle.

The auto rack train originates at Rose Lake Yard near East St. Louis, Illinois, and terminates in Connellsville, Pennsylvania.

It is a rather reliable train to catch in the Akron area in mid to late afternoon.

On this day, though, luck was not with me. The Q292 had run of the mill CSX motive power.

It also was moving father than I was. I wasn’t able to get to my preferred spot to photograph and to settle for a bit of street running.

In this case, I was running down the street trying to get into position.

3 Entities Work to Enable South Shore Track Project

August 17, 2018

Three entities are teaming up on a major trackwork project in northwest Indiana that will benefit the South Shore commuter line.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which oversees the South Shore, is working with the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad, which provides freight service on the tracks used by the commuter railroad, and the Northern Indiana Public Service Company.

They are undertaking a $300 million project that when completed in two years will add an additional 17 miles of second track to a 25-mile segment between Gary and Michigan City, Indiana. The segment already has eight miles of double track.

The project also needs federal funding, which if provided will enable it to be completed by 2021.

As part of the project the South Shore will use some of the utility company’s now idle Bailly Generating Station.

Officials said double-tracking the entire Gary-Michigan City segment will enable additional passenger and freight trains to operate more efficiently.

It will also alleviate congestion at Burns Harbor where freight and passenger trains share a single-track main line.

Upon completion of the double-track, South Shore switching operations will be conducted north of the main line.

Transit Grants Slow to be Disbursed

August 17, 2018

Although the Federal Transit Administration has distributed about $25 million of an available $1.4 billion in grants, the agency’s failure to distribute the remaining $1.38 billion is causing delays in construction plans of transit agencies.

The grant money was included in the federal fiscal year 2018 budget and is designated for transit-rail and bus projects.

The undistributed funds have been approved for 17 projects that involve building or expanding transit systems.

Many of those projects are ready for construction and are waiting for the FTA to release the funds.

Some of those projects have been pending for several years.

Among the projects awaiting the release of funds is the proposal double-tracking of the South Shore rail line in Northwest Indiana.

CVSR Acquires 4 Ex-California Zephyr Cars

August 16, 2018

The CVSR dome car fleet will soon expand to three. Shown is Silver Bronco, the current dome car in the fleet.

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad announced this week that it has acquired four former California Zephyr cars for $1.5 million.

The acquisition includes two dome cars, including a dome-observation car.

All four rail cars are now currently located in Los Angeles and will be ferried to Chicago by Amtrak.

They include dome cars Silver Lariat and Silver Solarium, sleeping car Silver Rapids, and baggage car Silver Peak.

Both dome cars have full kitchens that the CVSR plans to use to expand special dinning excursions.

Also included on the dome cars is a supply of linens and china.

The cars were owned by a private collector and have been used for excursions through the country.

They are expected to arrive on the CVSR in September in time for the visit of Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive No. 765, which is slated to pull excursions over two weekends between Sept. 21 and 30.

CVSR purchased the cars with a $700,000 loan that it is financing through an overall capital campaign that began in 2016 and is seeking donations from individual, corporations and foundations.

“The acquisition of the Zephyr railcars was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” CVSR CEO Joe Mazur said in a statement. “We not only are preserving history, but giving hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to have one more way to travel through and experience Cuyahoga Valley National Park.”

The CVSR already owns another former CZ dome car, the Silver Bronco.

The four cars will arrive on the CVSR in a ferry move of NKP 765 from Chicago.

Mazur said the cars are in good condition and that he will be riding in them during the Amtrak ferry move, which begins Sept. 10.

He noted that the cars were being offered for sale on the open market and the CVSR didn’t want to lose out to another buyer.

“We’re in the preservation business. We’re preserving a fleet of cars that were in service in the 1940s and 1950s,” Mazur said.

The Silver Lariat has a full bar and lounge area while the Silver Solarium has five suites and a full bar.

Each car can accommodate 24 diners in the dome sections. CVSR plans to invite chefs aboard for custom dinners.

The Silver Rapids car has six double bedrooms and eight roomettes. CVSR won’t be operating any overnight excursions, but plans to maintain the rooms as a museum piece.

Aside from being assigned to steam in the valley excursions, the new cars also will be used for Fall Flyer fall foliage events in October and Polar Express outings in November and December.

CVSR said that aside from buying the ex-CZ cars, it is also using money raised in its capital campaign to create an Edu-trainment Car that will provide interactive exhibits, programming, and activities for children ages birth to 12 years of age, and upgrade to an existing dining car to ensure ADA accessibility.

Silver Lariat was built in 1948 by the Budd Company for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy.

It came with a dining and lounge area seating 42 passengers (36 at tables) and is equipped with a full bar with a freezer capable of storing 200 pounds of ice.

From this room, passengers can access the Vista Dome above, which includes an 24 passenger seats at tables.

A unique feature of this car is The Pony Express, a restored mural created by Mary Louise Lawser that was commissioned by the Burlington when the car was built.

The kitchen includes two ranges and two half-size convection ovens; registered monogrammed china service; original white damask California Zephyr table linens; and a full sound system with CD, iPod, and PA.

Silver Solarium also was built in 1948 by Budd for the Burlington. Ownership of the car was conveyed by Burlington Northern to Amtrak, which gave the car roster number 9251.

The car was retired by Amtrak in October 1981. More recently, the dome-sleeper-observation  car was operated by California Zephyr Railcar Charters.

The Silver Solarium has been fully renovated and features three double bedrooms, a drawing room, and a stateroom.

The observation lounge seats 11 in chairs upholstered in frieze fabric while the Vista Dome car seats 24 in booth seating at tables.

The car also features a full commercial kitchen with a range that includes a half-size convection oven, an original bar with a carved linoleum façade, and a sound system with CD and iPod.

Silver Peak was built in 1940 by Budd the Burlington and and assigned to the Denver‐Ft. Worth Texas Zephyr.

Originally built as a coach/dormitory/baggage car, the coach area was used as the Jim Crow section of the train.  It was later converted to a full baggage car.

The car comes with a workshop section that has an 8‐foot work bench with a drill press, bench grinder, band‐type cutoff saw, table saw, and a variety of power and hand tools; and a commercial refrigerator and chest freezer.

Silver Rapids was built by Budd in 1948 for the Pennsylvania Railroad, which intended to use it

as an interchange car to the California Zephyr as part of a short-lived transcontinental sleeping car service.

It was conveyed by Penn Central to Amtrak, which retired it in October 1983.

The car was built as a 10-6 sleeper, but now has eight roomettes and six double bedrooms.

Kids Ride Free on CVSR in August

August 16, 2018

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is allowing some children to ride for free this month when accompanied by an adult.

The promotion, sponsored by WKYC-TV, allows for one free child’s coach ticket aboard the National Park Scenic when an adult buys a $15 coach ticket. There is a limit of three child tickets per household.

After three free coach child’s tickets, any additional passengers will require paid tickets.

The promotion is available Tuesdays-Fridays and excludes Saturdays and Sundays.

The promotion will end on Aug. 31 and is not valid with other promotions or discounts. It also does not apply to special event tickets.

Museum Gets Another GE U Boat

August 16, 2018

The Lake Shore Railway Museum has acquired another historic GE-built locomotive.

This week the museum received a four-axle U36B carrying MCVX reporting marks and the roster number it had when working for CSX (7764).

The museum’s parent organization, the Lake Shore Railway Historical Society said No. 7764 was last with the Firefighters Education and Training Foundation in Massachusetts as a training locomotive for firefighters.

The unit was built in 1970 at GE’s Erie manufacturing facility located in Lawrence Park, Pennsylvania, as Seaboard Coast Line as No. 1776. It was later renumbered 1813.

“The U36B is a very rare GE locomotive model and we are thankful for its inclusion in our collection,” said society President Ray Grabowski Jr. “Its earlier re-purposing as a training unit just enhances Lake Shore’s educational function. Look for it to continue to be used as a teaching tool here soon.”

The North East, Pennsylvania, museum has eight other GE locomotives and one Heisler in its collection.

CSX Revamping Intermodal Service

August 16, 2018

The plans of CSX to revamp its intermodal business will focus on more profitable longer-haul service linking major markets.

Trains magazine reported on Wednesday that CSX has notified its customers that numerous changes are being made to traffic that is interchanged with BNSF as well as the pending end of 75 low-volume service lanes.

A similar change in interline service with Union Pacific had been announced about a week ago.

CSX said that the changes are designed to reduce transit time through Chicago.

The new operating plan will funnel interchange traffic coming through Chicago to five eastern destinations including Chambersburg, Pennsylvania; North Kearny, New Jersey; the Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal in North Baltimore, Ohio; Springfield, Massachusetts; and Syracuse, New York.

Intermodal traffic will be sent to those terminals by truck from markets now served by rail. For example, traffic going to and from Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Detroit will travel by highway to and from North Baltimore.

Baltimore will be served via Chambersburg; Philadelphia via North Kearny; Worcester, Massachusetts, via Springfield; and Buffalo, New York via Syracuse.
CSX said the changes will cut travel time, including by as much as a day between West Coast terminals and New England.

The changes will occur in mid-September with UP interchange and in mid to late September for BNSF interchange.

BNSF and CSX also will shift interchange traffic bound for the Southeast from Chicago to Memphis. This includes traffic headed for Atlanta, Florida, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

“We have been working closely with our interline partners, Union Pacific and BNSF, to streamline interchanges, especially for traffic routed through Chicago and the Southeast,” CSX Chief Marketing Officer Mark Wallace wrote in a letter to intermodal customers. “These changes, to take effect prior to peak season, will enable us to execute our service plan with greater reliability and speed during this important shipping period.”

Union Pacific had told its shippers in early August of the plans of CSX to end steel-wheel Chicago interchange between a number of UP origins and CSX destinations as well as to shift interchange away from Chicago and New Orleans in favor of Memphis.

Most of the 197 UMAX service lanes being discontinued are low volume, including 67 that have not had any container movements in the past 12 months. Other lanes being dropped averaged just one container per week.

“Maintaining these status-quo service offerings would be detrimental to the majority of our customers and the East-West transcontinental network, particularly during fall peak,” Wallace said in his letter tocustomers.

CSX contends that most of the UMAX volume in cancelled steel-wheel interchange lanes can continue via crosstown trucks linking UP and CSX terminals.

However, Trains quoted an intermodal analyst as saying that might not happen because drayage capacity is tight in Chicago and it will increase the cost of the move. The analyst said drayage by highway will increase the travel time.

Movements from the West Coast to the Ohio Valley are likely to stay on the road once they are unloaded in Chicago.

In some instances, the traffic might be diverted to Norfolk Southern in Chicago. Of the UMAX lanes being dropped, 49 could potentially shift to NS.

CSX CEO James Foote had indicated during an earnings call conversation last month that the carrier was studying revamping its intermodal network. He said at the time that during his days at Canadian National that that carrier had undertaken a similar intermodal restructuring.

During his comments last month Foote said CSX would seek to become more efficient.

In his letter to shippers, Wallace said CSX will not be making any other changes to its intermodal network until the peak season is over.

The intermodal restructuring will not result in any closing of terminals.

CN Names 3 Senior Executives

August 16, 2018

Canadian National has appointed three high-level executives, all of them having experience with the precision scheduled railroading operating model.

The Montreal-based railroad said Doug MacDonald and Keith Reardon will head CN’s sales and marketing initiatives and all non-rail supply chain operations, such as intermodal container terminals and transload facilities.

John Orr, an experienced operator across CN’s three regions, has been named senior vice-president and chief transportation officer responsible for day-to-day rail operations.

MacDonald previously served as vice-president of bulk and will now be the senior VP of rail-centric supply chain growth. He will oversee the expansion of the bulk and merchandise carload businesses.

Reardon, who had been VP of intermodal and automotive, will be senior VP of consumer product supply chain growth. He will oversee the expansion of the intermodal and automotive businesses.

MacDonald and Reardon will directly manage their supply chain performance and have the ability to effectively adapt all last-mile services for customers.

Orr will lead day-to-day scheduled railroad operations in the field across CN’s three regions and the network operations group.

CN also said that Derek Taylor, previously general manager of CN’s southern region operations center, has been promoted to VP of the southern region, based in Homewood, Illinois.

APTA Reports Commuter Rail PTC Progress

August 16, 2018

The American Public Transportation Association said this week that commuter railroads are making substantial progress toward the installation and implementation of positive train control systems.

That progress comes despite technical and financial constraints, APTA said in a news release.

As of June 30, the commuter-rail industry has achieved the following:

• 91 percent of spectrum has been acquired;

• 85 percent of 13,698 pieces of onboard equipment have been installed on locomotives and cab cars;

• 79 percent of 14,083 wayside installations have been completed;

• 78 percent of back office control systems are ready for operation;

• 74 percent of 14,847 employees have been trained in PTC; and

• 34 percent of commuter railroads are in testing, revenue service demonstration, or are operating their trains with PTC.

APTA said not all U.S. commuter railroads required to implement PTC will have their systems in service by a Dec. 31 deadline set by federal law.

Those that will not are focused on meeting certain milestones necessary to qualify for a two-year extension.

The Dec. 31 deadline requires railroads to have installed all PTC hardware; acquired all necessary spectrum; completed employee training; initiated testing on at least one territory; and submitted a plan and schedule to the U.S. secretary of transportation for implementing a PTC system.

If granted an extension, railroads must implement PTC no later than Dec. 31, 2020.

Steamtown Head Moving to Another Post

August 16, 2018

The head of Steamtown National Historic Site is leaving for another position with the National Park Service.

Debbie Conway, who once worked in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, said she has accepted a position as deputy regional director for the Park Service’s Northeast Region and will step down at Steamtown on Oct. 1.

“This is a great opportunity professionally for me and a position in which I think I can have some positive influence for the region,” Conway told her staff in an email message.

Conway has been at Steamtown for four years. An acting superintendent will be appointed to replace her.