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: June 24. Program by Robert Farkas.

Next Activity: June 26. Longest Day Outing in Marion.

Taking the Farkas Challenge: My Best Akron Photo is One of My Best of All Time Anywhere

May 29, 2016

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It didn’t take long to figure out my favorite train photo taken in Akron.

This backlighted photo of Nickel Plate Road No.765 crossing the old PA&W bridge is easily my best in Akron and maybe ever.

It’s from the ferry move in 2013. I had been chasing it from Norwalk and on this occasion it came into Akron with some daylight remaining. Previously it had always arrived after dark.

I had always wanted to get a train on this bridge and had with some Wheeling & Lake Erie trains but the results were less than satisfactory. Either the light wasn’t right or the train was moving in the wrong direction. It was always something.

On this night, the light was back lighted pretty well. Most people in order to get a good color photo would shoot it going away and I had even considered that myself. It would have made a great photo but instead I went for this angle and got an awesome photo instead.

I love how the sun lights up all the details that would normally be in shadow.

Article and Photograph by Todd Dillon 

ARRC Member’s Night 2016

May 29, 2016
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Marty Surdyk (right) helps J. Gary Dillon serve the first piece of cake to mark the 80 year journey of the Akron Railroad Club and its predecessor organizations. Dillon has been in the ARRC since June 1947.

Approximately 25 Akron Railroad Club members turned out on Saturday (May 28) to eat pizza and birthday cake while watching programs during the annual member’s night, which this year doubled as an 80th anniversary celebration.

Cake and ice cream were served to help mark the occasion.

A forerunner of the ARRC, the Eastern Ohio chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, had its roots in a committee that was organized in 1936.

President Craig Sanders and Bulletin Editor Marty Surdyk took members on a nostalgia tour of past ARRC photo outings.

Marty showed slide of club outings from the middle 1980s through the early 2000s, including longest days and visits to railroads in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

This included outings in Deshler, Alliance and Erie, Pennsylvania, among others.

Craig presented a similar program featuring scenes from club activities between 2003 and the present.

He, too, included excursions, longest days and other railfan outings in Ohio in Bellevue, Deshler, Fostoria and Marion. He also included numerous photographs of members at picnics, recent member’s nights, banquets and the end of the year dinner.

Six members presented short programs during the member’s night segment of the evening.

Pete Poremba led off those member’s night programs with a feature of still photographs and video that he made during a trip earlier this year to the BNSF Transcom mainline in Arizona and New Mexico.

He and a friend from Italy traveled by Amtrak to the Southwest to catch BNSF trains. Pete also had some image of Amtrak made during the trip aboard the Southwest Chief.

Craig and Roger Durfee presented separate programs saluting Conrail, which began operating 40 years ago this past April.

Craig’s program began in his home state of Illinois and presented early Conrail operations on the former St. Louis line of the New York Central. He also showed images of Conrail trains in Berea and Orrville, including a few views inside Berea Tower.

Roger’s program was organized into a format of 40 images for 40 year, which included one image made during each year of Conrail’s existence.

His program showed how Conrail evolved from an amalgamation of bankrupt railroads into the leaner but well organized and financially successful operation that it became before it was divided in 1999 by CSX and Norfolk Southern.

Marty’s member’s night program highlighted the places he had been and trains he photographed in 2015. It included a selection of Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Wheeling & Lake Erie trains in Berea, Bellevue and Cleveland.

Jim Mastromatteo focused on trains he photographed in 2015 and 2016, primarily in Akron, but also in Alliance and Brewster.

Much of this was Wheeling & Lake Erie and we saw most of the current W&LE locomotive roster during his slide show, which also had some trains of CSX and Norfolk Southern.

Rich Antibus presented the final slide program, which featured images made in Akron over the past several years.

Primarily, Rich showed us the evolution of the former Erie Railroad freight house from a warehouse for newsprint for the Akron Beacon Journal to its demolition and the development of the site into housing catering to University of Akron students.

Rich made it a point to get down to the area near Main and Exchange streets to document the demolition of the freight house and the construction of student-oriented housing.

He also touched on the demolition of buildings currently underway near popular Akron railfan hangout Voris Street to make way for a new interstate highway interchange.

What'a birthday party without a cake?

What’a birthday party without a cake?

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Robert Farkas checks out one of the pizzas.

Robert Farkas checks out one of the pizzas.

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Rich Antibus checks out the slide projector before presenting his program .

Having a sip of Coca Cola with a slice of pizza.

Having a sip of Coca Cola with a slice of pizza.

10 Years Ago Today Was a Most Memorable ARRC Photography Outing to New London, Greenwich

May 28, 2016
"That looks like an F40." And it was, leading the CSX executive train at Greenwich on May 28, 2006.

“That looks like an F40.” And it was, leading the CSX executive train at Greenwich on May 28, 2006.

Ten years ago today several members of the Akron Railroad Club gathered for what was one of my top five outings in the nearly 13 years I’ve been in the club.

It was a trip to New London and Greenwich that was ideal because of its good weather, diverse mixture of trains and a few pleasant surprises.

When the idea was mentioned during a club meeting about holding a Memorial Day Weekend outing, club members initially settled on going to Greenwich.

But Marty Surdyk said he planned to spend the morning in New London at the above-ground reservoir there and would go to Greenwich in the afternoon.

At the time, I had never railfanned in either location so I followed Marty’s lead and began the day at the reservoir.

CSX traffic was steady throughout the morning. Most members who participated in the outing began in New London, although a few spent all day in Greenwich.

At one point a flock of vulture was flying above us, which as you might expect led to some joking. We learned from Peter Bowler that a group of such birds is known as a “kettle.” I’ve yet to hear that term used since that day.

In putting together my program for the ARRC 80th anniversary event I had a chance to review my photos from that day and had forgotten that among other things we saw a caboose on the rear of an eastbound train.

Another train featured a BNSF warbonnet with its motive power running mates consisting of a Norfolk Southern unit and a TFM locomotive.

Most of our group at New London spent their time atop the reservoir or at its base.

Tim Krogg was one of those who spent the morning down below and about 1 p.m. he started getting impatient.

“When are we going to get some (expletive) lunch?” he bellowed up at us.

With that we descended to ground level and headed into town to McDonalds’s, where we could eat and keep an eye on the CSX mainline.

After lunch, we went back to the reservoir but shortly thereafter decided to head for Greenwich.

I didn’t know how to get there so Marty said, “follow me.” I did and the route he took was one dusty road after another.

In Greenwich we continued to have good luck and even caught an eastbound Wheeling & Lake Erie manifest freight with GP35 No. 2662 in the lead, one of the railroad’s two “Kodachrome” or “painted ladies” locomotives.

But the sighting of the day was a westbound train on CSX that went straight through toward Crestline and Galion.

We had seen a headlight and heard a symbol that no one recognized. As Marty eyed the train through his telephoto lens he said, “that looks like an F40.”

I didn’t believe it but as the train got closer it turned out to be a three-car passenger train that was, indeed, led by an F40PH.

It was my first and thus far only sighting of the CSX executive train.

We speculated it was en route to Indianapolis to pick up VIPs who had attended the Indy 500 earlier that day.

I never forgot how much I enjoyed that outing and I wanted to do it again, but it took a few years before I could get it onto the club’s schedule.

The date was set for May 26, 2013. Unlike the 2006 outing, this one was a total bust. I was the only person to show up.

As I wrote this, I thought about what made that 2006 outing so enjoyable. There were a number of reasons, most noticeably the fellowship of being with fellow rail fans. I would have enjoyed seeing and photographing those same trains had I been there by myself, but it is more enjoyable to do it in the company of other like-minded people.

It also was my first time to railfan in New London and Greenwich. Although I’ve been back to both places numerous times in the intervening years, like anything else in life once you do it several times it just doesn’t have the same excitement of discovery feel that it had the first time.

Beyond that, there are some events that seem destined to be special because of the set of circumstances that surround them and what happens during the day.

That decade ago outing in New London and Greenwich was one of those. It cannot be duplicated in quite the same way as it played out, but at least I’ll always have my memories.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

A Helm Financial, a.k.a. HLCX SD40 trails on this westbound manifest freight. No. 9039 was built in April 1970 for the Louisville & Nashville.

A Helm Financial, a.k.a. HLCX, SD40 trails on this westbound manifest freight. No. 9039 was built in April 1970 for the Louisville & Nashville.

The typical motive power on a typical CSX stack train.

The typical motive power on a typical CSX stack train.

It was just like old times, but we were still surprised to see a caboose on the rear of this eastbound CSX train.

We were still surprised to see a caboose on the rear of this eastbound CSX train even if it was battered and vandalized.

What a motive power consist this train had.

What a motive power consist this train had. That is Peter Bowler making a photograph at the far left.

It is always a good outing when you can catch a warbonnet leading a train.

It is always a good outing when you can catch a warbonnet leading a train.

Even some of the clouds seemed special.

Even some of the clouds seemed special.

A special W&LE sighting in Greenwich.

A colorful  W&LE sighting in Greenwich.

Many of us spent most of the morning atop the reservoir.

Many of us spent most of the morning atop the reservoir.

So Where Was Quality Control?

May 28, 2016

Different numbers

It’s pretty obvious that the number boards are not the same on this CSX C40-8 as it led the Q113 through Berea.

One number is much larger than the other. My guess is that the number with the larger numerals is original while the smaller numerals are more modern.

No. 7583 has been around the CSX system for awhile, having been built by General Electric in September 1989. It probably has been through Berea numerous times. Maybe this is not the first time I’ve seen it or even photographed it.

I didn’t notice the difference in the number boards until I was looking at my photographs after having downloaded them.

I think I know what happened here. The shop needed to get the 7583 back on the road and a foreman said to put on whatever numerals were available. So long as the numbers on the right and left matched, the unit was good to go.

Perhaps some day No. 7583 will have matching number boards. But given all of the things that need the attention of the mechanical department, that is probably not high on the priority list.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Taking the Farkas Challenge: My Favorite Railfanning Photograph Made in Akron

May 27, 2016

April 30, 2006 in Akron

Fellow Akron Railroad Club member Robert Farkas challenged us to contribute to this blog our favorite railroad photograph made in Akron.

The image shown above immediately came to mind. I made it on April 30, 2006. It features a westbound manifest freight passing the former Akron Union Depot.

On the point is a “rent a wreck” locomotive. The trailing unit is either owned by Union Pacific or used to be because it appears to wear a UP livery.

Akron Union Depot is something of a mystery to me because I’ve never been inside the building, which the University of Akron has transformed into a continuing education center.

Nor do I know what the interior looked liked when it was a train station. I’ve seen only one photograph of the inside of the station and it showed the upper level of the concourse.

I’ve never seen images of the waiting room or the head house. If any present ARRC members have photographed the interior of the station, they’ve never shown those images during a club program.

Most ARRC members came of age after passenger service here ended on May 1, 1971, with the coming of Amtrak so by the time they began photographing, Akron Union Depot no longer served as a passenger station.

This is the third union station to serve Akron. It opened in the early 1950s and was used by just two railroads, the Baltimore & Ohio, and the Pennsylvania Railroad. The Erie Railroad elected to build its own depot across the tracks.

The PRR used Akron Union Depot less than a decade, so the B&O was the primary tenant over the two-decade period when this was a train station. The campaign to have this station built took far longer than the time that the depot served as a passenger train station.

Still, that was enough time for a lot of history to be made and for countless numbers of people to have begun or ended their journey by rail on this platform.

There was a time in the 1950s when Union Depot figured in the activities of the ARRC. Club members sometimes rode the PRR shuttle train to and from Hudson during meetings. At other times, they would board a train here, ride to another city where they conducted their meeting and then returned to Akron, sometimes on a different railroad.

Since this image was made, the train sheds and platform have been removed. For a while, the building itself was in danger of being razed by UA in order to construct a new law school.

But the university has moved in a different direction on the law school, electing to renovate and expand the existing building. So, for now at least, Akron Union Station continues to stand, albeit with virtually every feature of its passenger train days having been removed or modified.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Different From All The Others

May 27, 2016

BE tower April 2-x

I made this photograph because I liked the contrast of the direct early morning sunlight on BE Tower with the dark clouds behind it.

It is a Saturday morning on the Akron Railroad Club’s annual Dave McKay Day last April. I had walked down to the area east of the former Big Four depot, which is now a restaurant, to photograph an eastbound CSX train passing the station.

The sun was in and out of the clouds. As I was about to get back to my car, it popped out again and I just had to make this image.

I’ve seen and photographed BE Tower dozens of times over the years, but there was something about this image that made it different than all of the others.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

OLI Awards Grant to Ohio Chapter

May 27, 2016

Ohio’s Operation Lifesaver organization will receive a grant from its parent organization to be used to target college students and young adult males with public service announcements on radio and TV, social media and billboards

Operation Lifesaver 2Operation  Lifesaver is awarding a total of $200,000 in grant money to 12 state OLI programs for a variety of rail crossing safety and anti-trespassing public education projects.

Individual grants will range from $1,800 to $20,000.

Most of the projects will incorporate elements from OLI’s “see tracks, think train” public awareness campaign.

Other states receiving granted include Alabama, California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee and Washington.

“These important grants will support the strategic rail safety efforts in 12 of Operation Lifesaver’s state programs, with a goal to further Operation Lifesaver’s mission of eliminating collisions, injuries and deaths at crossings and along rail property,” said Bonnie Murphy, OLI’s president and CEO. “Thanks to our ongoing partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration, we are able to reach more people with lifesaving rail safety messages in many states where the highest number of incidents occur.”

The grants were awarded through a competitive process, with selection based on criteria such as successfully use of federal funds with private partnerships, targeted messaging and the frequency of pedestrian-train incidents and highway-rail collisions.

CSX to Use COMPASS in 40 MOW Vehicles

May 27, 2016

CSX is the first major rail road to buy a system designed to protect maintenance of way workers.

The carrier will use Protran’s COMPASS system in 40 track maintenance machines. Protran is a division of Harsco Rail.

CSX logo 1The proprietary telematics system is described as able to achieve real-time asset awareness, productivity analysis and maintenance tracking by using a combination of cellular or satellite communications.

The system uses a graphical analysis of each machine’s activity with automatic daily alerts for required maintenance, on-board system faults and real-time equipment diagnostics.

“Protran’s intelligent solutions for asset management and railway worker safety enable railways to protect railway personnel from potential collisions and other hazardous situations while also improving the utilization and maintenance planning of operating equipment,” said Jim Resio of Harsco.” Protran’s voltage awareness units provide audible and visual safety warnings during testing of third-rail and overhead catenary.”

CSX indicated that it plans to deploy the COMPASS in additional track maintenance vehicles.

Take the Challenge: What Photograph Reflects Your Favorite Akron Railfanning Memory and Why

May 26, 2016

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With the Akron Railroad Club about to celebrate its 80th year, I have a challenge. Pick one photo from your many that captures an Akron railfanning memory.

Perhaps it will be from your early years or one you took this week, but chose one with meaning to you.

Let’s post a memory on the blog from as many members as possible. Let this be a blog “celebration” of our heritage.

If you would, tell a little bit about why this is special to you.

Here’s mine: Erie Lackawanna 818 with the westbound Lake Cities is passing under the Union Depot walk bridge on a snowy late-1960s morning.

Mike Ondecker introduced me to railfanning in 1965. He told me steam might be gone, but many early diesels also were disappearing.

He had the knowledge and I had the camera. We started going railfanning as many times as possible.

At the time we both went to Kent State and called Kent and Akron our two favorite locations.

The weather did not matter. We went out.

The EL was our favorite railroad and I took quite a few black and white photos and then switched to slides.

Yes, I also took Baltimore & Ohio, Pennsylvania Railroad, Akron & Barberton Belt, Akron, Canton  & Youngstown, etc., but the EL had a special place in my heart.

Many of my current friends are railfans I met years ago including members of the club, so railfanning to me is about both friendships and photos.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas

Railroading as it Once Was: Hooping Up Train Orders With an ‘Iron Man’ in Sterling in the EL

May 26, 2016

EL at Sterling

One of my favorite hang outs during my “formative years” was Sterling.

The Erie Lackawanna and Baltimore & Ohio mains crossed each other and traffic was always plentiful.

The tower had friendly operators who were willing to explain railroad operations to a novice including what the “iron man” was.

In this 1975 photo of Second NY100, the engineer is leaning out of the window to grab his “19s” on the fly.

The 19 orders were how such things as slow orders and meets were relayed to a train and were typed out on a thin onion skin-type paper.

The rear end crew would also pick up a copy the same way. The iron man is the tall pole that the operator could string the orders on in lieu of standing next to the train and hooping them up. This was everyday railroading back then, but it’s basically a lost art these days.

Article and Photograph by Roger Durfee


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