Welcome to the Akron Railroad Club Blog

March 2, 2009

The Akron Railroad Club business meeting of May 28, 2010. The club meets monthly except in December on the fourth Friday of the month. (Photograph by Richard Jacobs)

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 arrc-logo1meetings, 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.

Next Meeting: April 24, 2015. Program by Roger Durfee

Next Activity: April 4, 2015. Dave McKay Day at Berea.

Panama to Panama Limited at ARRC Member’s Night

March 30, 2015
Marty Surdyk (right) seems amused by something that Dave Mangold said following his presentation at the Akron Railroad Club member's night. Marty was setting up the slide projector at the time.

Marty Surdyk (right) seems amused by something that Dave Mangold said following his presentation at the Akron Railroad Club member’s night. Marty was setting up the slide projector at the time.

From Panama to the Panama Limited, the 12 photographers who presented at the 2015 Akron Railroad Club member’s night had a little bit of everything.

Thirty-two members and guests gathered on Saturday night (march 28) to watch the digital and slide programs while also munching on pizza and other snacks. The club purchased 18 pizzas during the event.

Guest Paul Berg of Akron led off the presentations with a multi-media dissolve show of slides of passenger trains taken mostly in the decade before the coming of Amtrak.

Set to the song City of New Orleans by Arlo Gutrie, Berg’s program took viewers back to the waning days of passenger trains when the railroads still ran their own trains.

We saw trains in union stations, trains on the road, interiors of trains and passing trains. We even saw the famed orange and chocolate brown of the Illinois Central, whose flagship train was the Panama Limited.

Todd Dillon kicked off the digital presentations with a program focusing on images taken at the Norfolk Southern shops in Altoona, Pa.

Todd along with ARRC member Jerry Krueger visited the shops last year to see the locomotive that NS painted with the logo for the 2014 National Model Railroad Association convention held in Cleveland. He also showed images of NS action in Altoona and Galitzin, Pa.

Pete Poremba had one of two programs that had an international focus. During his days with the Ohio Central, Pete was part of a group that traveled to Panama to visit the Panama Canal Railway in 2008

The 50-mile line has passenger and freight service and is known for its former Amtrak F40PH locomotives that are painted in a livery similar to that of the Kansas City Southern’s “Southern Belle scheme.”

Pete discussed the railroad’s computer dispatching system, took us aboard for a cab ride and introduced us to a bartender at a restaurant who was wearing an Ohio Central baseball cap. It was not a setup. The OC group was as surprised as anyone to see the guy wearing that cap.

Bob Rohal dug into his archives and presented a program of mostly black and white images that had been scanned into digital form and featured various railroads that he visited during the 1950s and 1960s.

The action included the Ann Arbor, Canadian National, Baltimore & Ohio, New York Central, Erie, Santa Fe and Nickel Plate Road, among others.

Although some images were taken close to home in Kent and Willard, Bob also got to Pittsburgh, Toronto and Chicago. There were plenty of first generation diesels and late steam era locomotives to enjoy.

Roger Durfee described his show as snow to sun to snow. But the bulk of it was a glimpse of the Florida East Coast in action with some views of Amtrak and CSX thrown in.

Roger’s parents live in the sunshine state and he makes an annual winter journey to visit them. He also took us into the Florida sugar cane fields and gave us a look at the railroading operating there.

As for the snow, Roger showed Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad No. 800, the B&O tribute FPA, as well as an NS train running beneath an a bride with ice along the rails.

Tom Fritsch had the other international show with a look at rail operations in Italy that he made during an escorted tour.

There were plenty of high speed passenger trains to look at along with some street rail operations.

Tom also visited the Potomac Eagle tourist railroad in West Virginia last October and took us along to see it.

As if ARRC members had not seen enough snow this winter, Craig Sanders presented highlights of his winter railfanning activities. On two of his outings, the temperatures were in the single digits, but Craig was not to be deterred.

We saw trains of Norfolk Southern, CSX, the Wheeling & Lake Erie, and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

Craig noted that although he didn’t get as many photos as he has in past years of trains plowing through snow storms, he did have a lot of sunny days and good luck catching NS heritage units. This past winter, he finally photographed Nos. 18, 19 and 20.

Dennis Taksar gave an overview of his 2014 railfanning activities. During the year he traveled far and wide and we saw railroad action in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Georgia and Michigan.

Dennis captured a number of steam locomotives in action, including NKP 765, Pere Marquette 1225 and Southern 630, among others.

There were also view of trains on the Western Maryland Scenic, the Strasburg Railroad of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, R.J. Corman, and the Rockville bridge near Harrisburg, Pa., that was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Ed Ribinskas highlighted some of his favorite photos that he’s made since acquiring a Nikon digital SLR camera two years ago.

He had three themes of trains in winter in Lake County where he lives, heritage locomotives and various steam locomotives that he has chased. The latter NKP 765, Central Ohio 1293, the replica of the Leviathan and the Southern 630.

The heritage units included Amtrak and Norfolk Southern and were all photographed in Northeast Ohio.

One of his winter images won a photo contest sponsored by Dodd Camera. Ed’s winning image showed NS train 145 heading westward in winter on  the Painesville trestle spanning the Grand River.

Dave Mangold showed a variety of images taken in Northeast Ohio, many of them in Berea. He also gave a presentation on the history of locomotive cabs that he presented to a railroad industry group last year.

Paul Woodring dipped into his collection of Kodachrome slides to give us an overview and of the history and operations of the East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania. We saw many views of things that are no more as well as the steam trains of the EBT.

Marty Surdyk brought the evening to a close by highlighting images made on Eastern Sunday outings in 1989, 1987 and 1986.

Along with his brother Robert, Marty visited Deshler, the Southern Tier line of the former Erie Railroad in western New York and the CSX New Castle Subdivision west of Lodi.

We saw plenty of locomotives painted in Chessie System and Seaboard Coast Line liveries in the early CSX era.

Easter weather and rail traffic can be unpredictable. During the trip to New York State, Marty and Robert bagged just one train all day. But what a train it was with all of its Guilford motive power.

During an outing to Deshler that began in the fog, Marty photographed a train on the former Detroit, Toledo & Ironton with Grand Trunk Western motive power.

Appropriately, Marty brought the 2015 member’s night to a close with an image of a caboose.

11th Annual Dave McKay Day is Saturday in Berea

March 30, 2015

Akron Railroad Club members will gather this Saturday in Berea to take in the action on Norfolk Southern and CSX during the 11th annual Dave McKay Day.

The all-day outing is named after the longest-serving ARRC president. Berea, a suburb of Cleveland, was one of Dave’s favorite locations to watch and photograph trains.

About 80 trains a day pass through Berea on a given day with a mixture of intermodal, manifest, coal, tanker and auto rack trains.

With any luck at all, we might see the Wheeling & Lake Erie train that uses CSX trackage rights from Wellington and continues on Norfolk Southern to Campbell Road Yard.

If we are really lucky, we might get a Norfolk Southern heritage locomotive or two. Last year’s McKay netted the Wabash heritage unit, although it was trailing.

Early birds might even catch one of the four Amtrak trains that pass through. All are scheduled to reach Berea during the darkness hours, but if one is running late it might bet to BE around sunrise.

Given that this is late April, the weather can be unpredictable. We had everything from snow and cold to a warm sunny day.

A tradition of the McKay Day outing is the taking of a group portrait during the afternoon next to the plaque honoring Dave.

Some members plan to have dinner at the nearby Berea Union Depot Taverne, which is housed in the former Big Four passenger station. We expect to have dinner at about 6 p.m.

As always, the outing begins when the first person arrives and ends when the last person leaves in the evening. Come early and stay late while enjoying railroad action at Northeast Ohio’s No. 1 hotspot.

GE to Build 100 Locomotives for Use in Angola

March 30, 2015

GE Transportation will build at its Erie, Pa., assembly plant 100 C30ACi locomotives to be used in Angola. Production of the locomotives will begin in 2016 and the order will take three years to complete.

The locomotives are being built for Instituto Nacional Dos Caminhos de Ferro Angola . The contract also includes services, tools and training.

“This deal is another step in broadening GE’s partnership with Angola. This contract is evidence of continued confidence in regional trade through transportation infrastructure across Africa,” said Thomas Konditi, President and CEO of GE Transportation Sub-Saharan Africa in a news release.

Over the past four years, GE has delivered more than 320 locomotives to Central and Southern African countries. This newest order has increased GE’s backlog for deliveries to the region to more than 400 new locomotives.

The GE C30ACi locomotive, a six-axle diesel-electric locomotive with a 12-cylinder 3,000 horsepower FDL-series diesel engine.

GE has been operating in Angola since 1967. Today, GE employs more than 500 people in businesses spanning across key sectors including oil and gas, power and water, and rail transportation.

Crude by Rail Shipping Falling More than Expected

March 30, 2015

Railroad industry observers say that an expected drop in crude oil shipments by rail in 2015 has been falling off much farther than expected.

“The consensus view was that very high double-digit growth would moderate to low double digits, and as we have seen in recent weeks we’ve broken that floor and in some cases gone negative,” said Matt Troy, an analyst with Nomura Securities International Inc. in New York in an interview with Bloomberg News.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Railroads Index is on course for the biggest weekly decline since September 2012, and lessors’ rates for oil cars have fallen by about a third in the past six months, Cowen & Co. said.

The falloff was expected after energy companies reduced drilling for oil in the wake of oil prices falling 50 percent since July 2014.

Railroad executives and industry analysts also thought the demand for hauling crude and such materials as frac sand and pipes would slow after a four-year surge.

In January, CSX and Canadian Pacific predicted that even in the face of oil falling below $50 a barrel that oil projects in progress would boost production and keep trains hauling even more crude oil than in 2014.

However, carloads of U.S. petroleum products have fallen 2.8 percent in the past four weeks after growing 13 percent in 2014.

CSX no longer expects to reach the high end of its forecast for crude oil carloads this year but still expects that oil shipments will increase said spokeswoman Melanie Cost.

Figures provided by the Association of American Railroads show that CSX’s petroleum products carloads rose 3.6 percent following a 60 percent gain last year.

Kansas City Southern has modified its 2015 revenue growth forecast because of lower-than-expected crude-by-rail shipments and a 20 percent decline in coal revenue in the first quarter as utilities switch to cheaper natural gas.

Canadian Pacific spokesman Martin Cej said that CP has not changed its forecast of 140,000 crude carloads in 2015.

The railroad posted a 9.1 percent increase in petroleum product carloads in the past four weeks, but that’s down from 16 percent last year and a third of the railroad’s forecast for a 27 percent gain in crude only carloads this year.

BNSF saw a 4.5 percent drop in petroleum products in the last four weeks after a gain of 12.4 percent last year. BNSF is the largest hauler of Bakken oil production from North Dakota.

Union Pacific, which serves Texas oil fields, saw its carloads drop 25 percent in the four-week period. Demand for frac sand, which is used to prop open the cracks in shale stone to release trapped oil, also has diminished.

“This is the first time that anybody has slowed down on fracking,” said Taylor Robinson, president of Chicago-based PLG Consulting.  “Nobody knew how fast they could shut down and it looks like they’re pretty fast. “Frac sand is going to fall off very quickly,” Robinson says. “Oil production within a couple of months is going to fall off very quickly.”

Union Pacific’s carloadings of stone, sand and gravel fell 6.3 percent in the past four weeks after jumping 22 percent last year. BNSF saw those commodities fall 3 percent after increasing 18 percent last year.

On Photography: Nailing It

March 29, 2015

Nail it

David P. Morgan was feeling pensive. His friend and traveling companion Philip R. Hastings had died the year before.

Now he was thinking about all of the places he and Hastings had visited, including a stretch of the New York Central on the Illinois prairie.

It was there in 1954, while traveling to make images for their “Smoke Over the Prairies” series in Trains magazine, that they had encountered NYC Hudson No. 5403.

It was pulling a mail and express train westward out of Mattoon

As Morgan drove his Ford convertible, which he had purchased new earlier that year, Hastings crouched in the back seat.

The 5403 and its train came from behind, moving slowly at first and then accelerating as though it was a rocket blasting off into space.

When Morgan and Hastings broke off the chase, the train was going 85 mph and pulling away.

The image that Hastings captured merited a handwritten note of congratulations from Trains publisher and founder A.C. Kalmbach, something that Morgan said Kalmbach did not do often.

In writing about that image, again, 34 years later, Morgan quoted Lucius Beebe: “to know that one has it, cold turkey, is one of the great delights of the business of living.”

To use a contemporary phrase, Morgan meant that Hasting had “nailed it.”

It is a moment of triumph akin to the exhilaration of hitting a home run, executing a slam dunk, or putting the puck past the goalie.

It is a moment of pure emotion. All that you worked for has come together and you can proclaim to yourself, “I got it!”

But what is the “it” that you nailed or captured or whatever? And how do you know that you have “it” whatever “it” may be.

Often, recognizing that a photographer “nailed it” can be explained the way that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once attempted to define obscenity in a 1964 case. I know it when I see it.

Actually, Stewart was explaining why he was NOT attempting to give a tangible definition of obscenity, because, he wrote, “ . . . perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so . . .”

Stewart’s words became the butt of joking over the years among Supreme Court law clerks when reviewing materials that had been deemed to be obscene.

Yet Stewart had a point. When trying to use mere words to describe something that people feel, the words often come up short.

Maybe that is why the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” came to be.

If photographs are the medium of emotional reaction, words are the medium of explanation.

Consider the photograph shown above. It was made in May 1983 in approximately the same location where Morgan and Hasting chased NYC 5403 three decades earlier.

A Conrail rail train that is barely visible in the distance has lifted the rails from the former New York Central line that once extended to St. Louis.

Of all the images of that process that I created on this day, this one gives me that feeling of having “nailed it.”

The “it” of this image is a place. It is a story about the place. It is the essence of the story about the place.

Look at that ruler-straight right of way. Look at the open spaces surrounding it. Look at the blue sky . . . the parallel highway . . .  the small portion of the machine to the right . . . the spec of blue that is the bus to carry the Conrail workers . . . the ballast, the ties and the tie plates that the workers have temporarily left behind.

Do you feel the emotion? Do you feel how something that has lasted for more than a century is in the process of going away?

Do you feel the sense that you always had that “it will always be there” is now evaporating into that open space and blue sky?

Do you feel the disappointment that something that has been a part of you all of your life is being ripped away and there is nothing you can do about it except to record its passing?

If you do, then you know why I look at this photograph and know that I “nailed it.”

This is what it looks like when the railroad leaves town, never to return again.

Not everyone will see or feel what I did because they did not experience what I did.

Morgan visited this location on Dec. 1, 1988, and his story was published in the September 1989 issue of Trains.

I would like to think that Morgan knew that he was on short time and that he wanted to leave something for future generations of railroad enthusiasts.

So he used the story of his return to the site of a previous memorable experience as a cautionary tale. Enjoy it now because it won’t necessarily always be there.

Morgan had a way with words, a gift really, that few have. I don’t know if he was a photographer.  I do know that he was a superb wordsmith whose words often conveyed and invoked emotion.

And yet other than to explain what you are seeing in this image, are words necessary to describe it? If not, that means that the photographer has nailed it.

Commentary by Craig Sanders

Forbes Lauds CSX as a “Best Employer”

March 29, 2015

Forbes magazine has named CSX as one of one of “America’s Best Employers,” saying that the railroad earned the award because of “a commitment to employee development and diversity, combined with consistently high performance in key business areas.”

The list was based on a survey of more than 20,000 American workers at U.S. companies and divisions of multinationals, nonprofit institutions such as hospitals, and government agencies.

CSX has also been recognized as one of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” by Fortune magazine.

NS to Make Juniata Shop More Energy Efficient

March 29, 2015

Norfolk Southern announced that it has begun a $53 million energy conversion project at its Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, Pa., that will seek to cut carbon emissions and water usage at the 70-acre facility.

The shop’s coal boilers will be replaced with natural gas heaters and a 1.2-megawatt capacity combined heat and power generator that will produce enough electricity to cover the 16-building complex.

When completed in late 2017, NS expects the program to save $4 million in electricity costs, reduce water usage by 49.4 million gallons from steam-water recovery, and eliminate more than 29,000 tons of carbon emissions on an annual basis.

Also being added are insulation, energy-efficient windows at key locations, high-speed roll-up doors on locomotive bays, and new roofing.

“This project showcases Norfolk Southern’s commitment to sustainability and innovation,” CEO Wick Moorman said in a news release. “The Juniata Locomotive Shop has a 125-year legacy of leading the rail industry in locomotive technology, and with our energy conversion project, this shop and its employees will remain an industry frontrunner in the 21st century.”

NS said that the project follows a comprehensive review of work demands and energy consumption at Juniata, the largest locomotive repair shop in North America and headquarters for the railroad’s locomotive rebuild program. The shops have about 1,050 employees.

Fostoria’s F Tower Set to Close on Monday

March 28, 2015

F Tower in Fostoria will close at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 30. The information is contained in a bulletin order issued by the CSX Great Lake Division that was posted online on a railfan chat list.

The order notes that the IP dispatcher based in Indianapolis will take control of the Fostoria Subdivision.

Fostoria is the location of the intersection at grade of two CSX mainlines with one Norfolk Southern mainline.

The IP dispatcher also controlled the Chicago-Pittsburgh line (former Baltimore & Ohio) east and west of Fostoria between Greenwich and Deshler.

The other CSX route passing through Fostoria is the ex-Chesapeake & Ohio line between Columbus and Toledo and is under the direction of the RL dispatcher.

Norfolk Southern crosses both CSX routes on its Bellevue-Fort Line line (ex-Nickel Plate Road).

One of the few interlocking towers still in operation in the Great Lake region, F Tower had already been changed to computer control.

An online report indicated that all of the dispatchers assigned to the IP desk have visited F Tower in preparation for the changeover.

 

 

A Banner Amtrak Day in Northwest Indiana

March 27, 2015
First train of the day. Its the Detroit (Pontiac) bound Wolverine No. 350 crossing Trail Creek on a swing bridge in Michigan City, Ind.

First train of the day. It’s the Detroit (Pontiac) bound Wolverine No. 350 crossing Trail Creek on a swing bridge in Michigan City, Ind.

Not since last October have I seen, let alone photographed, an Amtrak train. Considering that the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited had numerous days this past winter when they were running hours behind schedule, to say that I’ve been shut out might seem odd.

But the opportunity never came about for me to get trackside to photograph those late running trains.

So recently when a friend asked me to accompany him on a trip to Michigan City, Ind., to deliver some backyard model railroad equipment to a guy from Wisconsin who bought it, I eagerly said yes.

All of Amtrak’s 10 Michigan service trains pass through Michigan City and as I studied the schedules I saw that we would have a shot at getting five of them.

Not since the last time I was in Chicago have I see that many Amtrak trains in a single day.

We wound up photographing three of the trains in Michigan City and two more at Porter, where the line from Detroit joins the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern. Here is a gallery of what I was able to capture on that day.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Wolverine Service No. 351 for Chicago approaches the old Michigan Central coaling tower that still stands astride the tracks in Michigan City.

Wolverine Service No. 351 for Chicago approaches the old Michigan Central coaling tower that still stands astride the tracks in Michigan City.

Amtrak MC 05e

P42 No. 29 brings up the rear of Wolverine No. 351. Think of the thousands of New York Central passenger trains and steam locomotives that have passed beneath this massive coaling tower over the years.

P42 No. 29 brings up the rear of Wolverine No. 351. Think of the thousands of New York Central passenger trains and steam locomotives that have passed beneath this massive coaling tower over the years.

The Blue Water from Port Huron, Mich., has a typical Michigan service consist of a mixture of Horizon and Amfleet equipment with a P42 locomotive on each end. All five of the trains that we say had a P42 on each end.

The Blue Water from Port Huron, Mich., has a typical Michigan service consist of a mixture of Horizon and Amfleet equipment with a P42 locomotive on each end. All five of the trains that we say had a P42 on each end.

The Chicago-bound Blue Water has a clear signal at Drawbridge in Michigan City. The view was made by the Center Street grade crossing.

The Chicago-bound Blue Water has a clear signal at Drawbridge in Michigan City. The view was made by the Center Street grade crossing.

Crossing the swing bridge over Trail Creek in Michigan City. I was later told that the bridge is now operated by the Amtrak control center in Chicago and that operators are no longer stationed in the tower next to the bridge. In the background is a Northern Indiana Public Service Company power generating plant that receives shipments o coal by rail.

Crossing the swing bridge over Trail Creek in Michigan City. I was later told that the bridge is now operated by the Amtrak control center in Chicago and that operators are no longer stationed in the tower next to the bridge. In the background is a Northern Indiana Public Service Company power generating plant that receives shipments o coal by rail.

A Wolverine Service train twists its way off the NS Chicago Line at Porter and enters the longest stretch of Amtrak-owned rails outside of the Northeast Corridor.

A Wolverine Service train twists its way off the NS Chicago Line at Porter and enters the longest stretch of Amtrak-owned rails outside of the Northeast Corridor.

Think there are enough signs greeting train crews going from NS to Amtrak ownership in Porter? Shown is the rear of the mid-day Wolverine Service train to Detroit (Pontiac).

Think there are enough signs greeting train crews going from NS to Amtrak ownership in Porter? Shown is the rear of the mid-day Wolverine Service train to Detroit (Pontiac).

The last train of the day was the Chicago-bound Wolverine Service mid-day train. The consist had but one Amfleet car amid a sea of Horizon equipment.

The last train of the day was the Chicago-bound Wolverine Service mid-day train. The consist had but one Amfleet car amid a sea of Horizon equipment.

Ohio Central Receives Safety Recognition

March 27, 2015

The Ohio Central was among several short line and regional railroads recognized for its safety practices in 2014 by the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

The Coschocton-based regional received a President’s Awards for maintaining the best safety rate in the category of 50,000 to 150,000 man-hours worked.

Other railroads receiving the award and their category included: Union Railroad (500,000 or more man-hours worked), Portland & Western (250,000 to 500,000 man-hours worked),  Fort Worth & Western (150,000 to 250,000 man-hours worked) and Florida Central Railroad (less than 50,000 man-hours worked).

In a news release, ASLRRA said 274 railroad members earned 2014 Jake Awards with Distinction for reaching the goal of achieving a 0.00 Frequency/Severity Index (FSI) for the year.

Forty additional railroads received 2014 Jake Awards for having an injury rate lower than the industry average FSI of 2.68.


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