Welcome to Akron Railroads

March 2, 2009

Welcome to Akron Railroads, formerly known as the Akron Railroad Club Blog, a site once connected with the Akron Railroad Club. The ARRC meets every month but December in Akron, Ohio, at the New Horizons Christian Church.

This site is not formally connected with the ARRC but instead serves as an archive of past postings about ARRC meetings and activities as well as railfanning adventures and photographs posted by some members.

Also included in the site are historical overviews of the railroads of Akron and Northeast Ohio as well as some news and information about current railroad operations in that region.

For more up to date information about the ARRC, visit the club’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AkronRailroadClub/

CSX in Warwick

November 15, 2019

Here are three images taken in Warwick on Nov. 6, 2019.

In the top image CSX GP38-2 No. 2707 is westbound with train D750.

When D750 works Jones Chemical on Vanderhoof Road in New Franklin, the single track and therefore the whole CSX New Castle Subdivision mainline is blocked until the D750 is done.

In the middle image, CSX AC44CW No. 411 has Q277 westbound through the small park in Warwick.

In the bottom image CSX SD70MAC No. 784 is eastbound near the former Warwick Tower. This unit was built for Conrail in May 1998.

Article and Photographs by Robert Farkas

Choosing The ‘Marty’ Perspective

November 15, 2019

Late last month I was chasing an excursion train on the former Detroit, Toledo & Ironton from Springfield to Lima, Ohio.

The passenger train had a stop signal at Quincy, where the former DT&I, now the Indiana & Ohio, crosses the CSX Indianapolis Line, former a New York Central route.

CSX had two trains to run. The first was the Q348, which is one of those monsters of the precision scheduled railroading era that had a cut of double-stacked containers, a cut of auto racks and a string of manifest freight.

It would cross over at Quincy to get out of the way of the Q008, which is still an intermodal-only operation and a priority train.

I had to make a decision as to where to photograph the Q348. I could walk a short distance and frame it passing a tree with good fall foliage or I could catch it passing the grain elevator.

“Well,” I said to myself, “what would Marty Surdyk do?”

Marty is known for his affection for grain elevators and you can easily see above how I answered by that question to myself.

IU Press Publishes Grant Book on Transportation

November 15, 2019

Indiana University Press has published Transportation and the American People by H. Roger Grant, a noted railroad and transportation historian.

Grant, a long-time member of the Akron Railroad Club and was once a professor of history at the University of Akron, writes in his latest book that transportation is the unsung hero in America’s story.

The book reviews various forms of transportation including stagecoaches, , waterways, canals, railways, buses, and airplanes.

Grant concludes not only did these modes of travel revolutionize the way that people got around, they also transformed the economic, political, and social aspects of everyday life.

Each of these modes has a chapter in the six-chapter hardback book.

A description of the book posted on the IU Press website said Grant’s book “tells the story of American transportation from its slow, uncomfortable, and often dangerous beginnings to the speed and comfort of travel today.

“Early advances like stagecoaches and canals allowed traders, business, and industry to expand across the nation, setting the stage for modern developments like transcontinental railways and buses that would forever reshape the continent.”

The book is said to be a compelling and thoroughly researched narrative of the social history of travel, shining a light on the role of transportation in shaping the country and on the people who helped build it.

Released on Oct. 1, the hardback book costs $40. A ebook edition is available from the publisher for $39.88.The ISBN is 978-0-253-04330-6

Grant is the Kathryn and Calhoun Lemon Professor of History at Clemson University.

His other books include Visionary Railroader, John W. Barriger III; Railroaders without Borders; and Railroads and the American People.

CSX CEO Says Better Service Will Bring Traffic Growth

November 15, 2019

CSX CEO James Foote continued his “our future is upbeat” tour this week, telling an investment conference that substantial improvements in service reliability will enable CSX to grow faster than the overall economy over the long term.

James Foote

Speaking to the Stephens Nashville Investment Conference, Foote said internal and independent surveys of CSX shippers have found they view the service provided by the carrier as having been much improved over the past two years.

“What they’re getting in terms of service quality today is off the charts,” he said.

Foote acknowledged CSX has lost business in previous years to trucks because of unreliable or inconsistent service.

But now Foote projects that CSX should see above average growth in volume and revenue.

In response to an audience question he said that CSX would see gains that exceed the nation’s gross domestic product, a measurement of economic growth.

“Long term, yes, absolutely I think so,” Foote said.

He said shipping merchandise freight by rail is less expensive than shipping by truck.

Since 2011 the U.S. GDP has been 37 percent while CSX’s traffic volume has been flat.

Between 2011 and 2018, CSX’s merchandise volume grew buy 1.7 percent, coal traffic declined 42 percent, and intermodal business rose 26 percent.

The latter is a particularly ripe area for growth, Foote said.

With CSX intermodal shipments meeting their trip plans 98 percent to 99 percent of the time, the carrier believes that 10 million highway shipments annually could be diverted to its intermodal network.

Last year CSX hauled 2.9 million containers and trailers.

Intermodal trip compliance plans are measured from terminal cutoff to terminal availability.

If CSX is to see growth in its merchandise network it will need to get trip compliance for merchandise shipping into the 90 percent range in order to compete with trucks.

Foote said CSX is getting close to that but still have a long way to go to reach it.

“We will get that business when our service levels get reliable enough,” Foote said.

Another factor is that the economy will need to improve, particularly the industrial economy.

The latter has been hindered by, among other things, global trade wars.

Foote acknowledged that intermodal traffic normally surges late in the year but that has not been the case this year.

He attributed that to changing shipping patterns. “We’re in the peak season and there’s not a peak,” he said.

Clinchfield Business Car to be on CSX Santa Train

November 15, 2019

A former Clinchfield Railroad business car will be assigned to the annual CSX Santa Train that will operate on Nov. 23 on the former Clinchfield in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

Car No. 100 is owned by the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum in Johnson City, Tennessee, and will be on the rear of the 77th edition of the Santa Train.

CSX business car West Virginia had been the tail car and will still be part of the consist.

No. 100 has recently been refurbished and will be used by Santa to toss gifts of food and toys to the crowds that turn out each year along the train’s journey.

Watauga Valley volunteer Mike Tilley told Trains magazine that Clinchfield No. 100 has operated on past Santa trains.

The train in recent years has also had other Clinchfield touches.

Former Clinchfield F unit No. 800 led the Santa Train two years ago. Other locomotives assigned to the train have either been re-lettered “Clinchfield” or had a “Clinchfield” sticker applied to their nose.

No. 100 was built by Pullman Car Company in 1911 for the Atlantic Coast Line.

The Clinchfield purchased it in 1951 and rebuilt it to include three bedrooms, a kitchen and a restroom.

In the recent renovation of the car, the bedrooms were removed and the interior was redone. The kitchen and restroom were left intact.

The Santa Train will start its trip at Shelby Yard near Pikeville, Kentucky, and travel through Southwest Virginia en route to Kingsport.

Gifts will be distributed at 13 locations along the route. More information is available at facebook.com/santatrain.

Corman Kentucky Line Receives Safety Award

November 15, 2019

A Kentucky short line railroad has received a President’s Award from the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association in recognition of its safety record.

R.J. Corman received the award at the annual Southern Region meeting Nov. 11-13 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Corman’s Central Kentucky Lines was recognized for most hours of injury-free operation and best safety rate, 50,000 to 150,000 man-hours.

Also recognized was the Florida East Coast Railway, the Corman Memphis Line and the Alabama Warrior Railway.

In a statement ASLRRA President Chuck Baker said recipients of the award are considered to be industry leaders that strive to value safety above all competing priorities each day.

Black and White Kind of Day

November 14, 2019

Wheeling & Lake Erie GP35-3 No. 102 is headed westbound in Brewster on Nov. 5, 2019.

While the image was shot in color, the front of the train was in shadow and the back in sun. It made an OK color photo but a much better black and white.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas

Back When No. 49 Had a Full-Service Heritage Diner

November 14, 2019

Inside the diner of Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited as the sun rises in western Ohio.

Amtrak retired the last of its Heritage Fleet dining cars in 2016, but these cars had already vanished from the Lake Shore Limited before then.

They were called “heritage” because the cars were ordered and built for railroads that operated their own passenger trains until the coming of Amtrak in 1971.

In the late 1970s, Amtrak began rebuilding some of these cars to give them head-end power capability as well as a makeover of their interiors.

Diners were among the last survivors of the Heritage Fleet still in revenue service.

Coaches, lounges and sleeping cars has long since been retired in favor of Amfleet and Viewliner equipment, but the heritage diners continued to solider onward.

I usually favored traveling from Cleveland to Chicago aboard the Capitol Limited because of its earlier departure and arrival times, but on occasion I would ride the Lake Shore Limited.

The images in this series were made inside diner 8532 as I was having breakfast in March 2012 en route to Chicago.

This car has an unusual history. It was built as a coach by Budd in 1956 for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, which used it on the Denver Zephyr.

The Q named it Silver Halter and it carried roster number 4739.

Amtrak acquired it for use as a coach and gave it roster number 5016. It was rebuilt it to HEP capacity in November 1985 when it was transformed into a cafeteria car numbered 8716

It was rebuilt into a diner in November 2008 when it gained its last Amtrak roster number.

On one wall of the diner was an image of New York Central passenger trains at LaSalle Street Station in Chicago circa 1947 with some powered by steam locomotives and one pulled by a diesel.

Presumably, that rendering was a nod to the heritage of most of the route of the Lake Shore Limited.

It also is noteworthy that there were some etched glass panels at one end of the car.

All of these images were made as the train traveled along in western Ohio near Bryan shortly after sunrise.

You can still watch the sunrise while eating breakfast in western Ohio aboard No. 49, but you won’t be enjoying a meal freshly prepared by a chef in the kitchen and brought to your table by a server.

AOS Reports on Recent Work at the Roundhouse

November 14, 2019

The Age of Steam Roundhouse in Sugarcreek recently released its fall report on what the shop forces have been up to in the past few months. Here are some of the highlights.

Open-window coaches Nos. 3659, 4979 and 5010 were sold in October and will be moving to their new owners during November. The report did not say who bought the coaches.

Former Canadian National/VIA Rail Canada combine No. 9300 has had its old roof replaced with a new rubber/fiber one.

The car had been built as a coach by Canadian Car & Foundry in 1954 but later converted buy CN into a 52-seat combine.

Former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie wreck train diner White Castle also received a rubber/fiber roof. This car had been built in 1918 by Pullman as open-section sleeper Aukland. It ended its career in wreck train service.

Tool car 5012 (Conneaut) is slated to receive a rubber/fiber roof. The former Wabash RPO/coach was built in 1920.

Boiler work on former McCloud River Railroad 2-8-2 No. 19 is nearing completion.

The work includes installing washout plugs, boiler studs, water glass fittings, globe valves and other components.

No. 19 is due for a hydrostatic test and its front tender truck is being reassembled, which includes installation of the newly reprofiled wheel sets.

Former Morehead & North Fork 0-6-0 No. 12 was in steam during the annual Swiss Festival in Sugarcreek this fall.

No. 12 was moved to the recently renovated former Wheeling & Lake Erie depot in Sugarcreek for the festival, which marks the cultural heritage of the village’s founders.

AOS also had displays, information and souvenir items at the depot.

Accompanying No. 12 was former Wheeling & Lake Erie steel caboose No. 0222.

The tender from former Bessemer & Lake Erie 2-10-4 No. 643 arrived at the roundhouse on Oct. 18 and was lifted off its big Buckeye six-wheel trucks and devoid of everything removable to reduce weigh.

The 49-foot long tender traveled to Sugarcreek from McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, on a highway trailer that had to see-saw around sharp street corners.

Doubled-headed highway trucks were used to get the tender up the steep ramp to Pennsylvania Route 51 at the start of the journey.

Work continues in McKees Rocks to separate No. 643’s boiler and piping from its massive frame, cylinders and driving wheels.

The parts that have been removed from the steam locomotive have been catalogued and moved to Sugarcreek by truck.

Thus far there have been four truck loads of parts that have made the trip.

House Committee Gets Earful About Amtrak Practices

November 14, 2019

A House committee that held a hearing to consider the future of Amtrak got an earful from witnesses who were critical of the passenger carrier’s practices.

But Amtrak’s host railroads also came under fire for poor dispatching of passenger trains in the hearing held by the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

That led committee chairman Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois) to observe that most witnesses seemed to favor giving Amtrak a right of action in dealing with its host railroads to force them to provide better dispatching so that trains are not habitually late.

Among those appearing before the committee were Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson, representatives of three railroad labor unions, the president of the Rail Passengers Association, an Oregon state legislator, and a California corridor operator.

“The bottom line is we need [on-time performance] standards and metrics completed by the FRA with a real enforcement mechanism and we need a private right of action because freight railroad delays are our biggest single threat,” Anderson said.

Anderson said Amtrak could grow its national network if it could partner with its host railroads and co-invest to rebuild tracks for higher speeds while removing congestion bottlenecks.

“If you allow us to operate at 125 mph in a 100-mile zone, you’ll take a lot of cars off the highway,” Anderson said.

Amtrak’s onboard service was a frequent topic addressed during the hearing.

Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) was critical of crowded lounge cars on the Coast Starlight since Amtrak removed from service the Pacific Parlour car on the Seattle-Los Angeles run.

He also told Anderson that Amtrak is at risk of losing its high-end passengers because of changes in onboard food and beverage services.

RPA head Jim Mathews said comments his organization has received from Millennial age passengers is, “the idea of sitting at a table with no tablecloth, a plastic bag, and plastic trash, is not what they were looking for and certainly not what they paid for.”

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) called Amtrak meals “paper sack food” and strongly disagreed with Anderson’s contention that it changed food and beverage service in response to market survey data

Anderson had said Amtrak doesn’t make changes based on anecdotes.

“That wasn’t true,” said Cohen, adding that he hopes Amtrak executive will “consider the humanity, the romance, and the appeal of train travel with food, and not do it like Delta Airlines that took all the meals away.

“I hope you don’t continue that on Amtrak,” Cohen said.

RPA head Jim Mathews held up what he termed a “survival pack” that he takes with him while traveling on long-distance trains.

It included duct tape, plastic and wooden shims (to stop rattles), Velcro (to hold curtains together), hand sanitizer, and a power strip.

“Everyone has their own version of this,” he said.

Anderson said Amtrak is replacing the P42DC locomotives that pull long-distance trains with new Charger locomotives and it is taking other steps to improve service.

This includes replacing pillows and bedding in the sleepers, and refurbishing Superliner II coaches at the Beech Grove Heavy Maintenance Facility near Indianapolis.

San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Stacey Mortenson expressed frustration with Amtrak’s lack of information about why it makes changes, saying her agency often can’t get a rational explanation of why Amtrak has made those changes.

She compared that with working with Herzog, the company that operates the Altamont Commuter Express.

“We are able to work with Herzog but have no control over what it costs to maintain our own equipment with Amtrak,” she said.

Mortenson said part of the problem is Section 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act allows Amtrak to hide what it considers proprietary information while pushing costs on the states to “treat everybody the same.”