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: January 26, 2018. Program by Craig Sanders

Next Activity: TBA

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Good Old Bort Road

January 16, 2018

Q363 passes beneath the venerable Bort Road bridge over the CSX Eries West Subdivision tracks near North East, Pennsylvania.

One of my favorite places to railfan is the one-lane rickety bridge carrying Bort Road over the CSX tracks near North East, Pennsylvania.

The bridge has stood there for decades and probably dates well into the steam era.

Such ancient bridges are fast being removed and the Bort Road bridge is not likely to be standing too much longer.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is studying how to replace it. One idea is to build a new bridge at the site of the existing one. Another idea is to build the new bridge further west of the current bridge.

The bridge project will also change the roads in the area, which has aroused some opposition.

One way or another, though, I can’t imagine Bort Road bridge standing too much longer.

I don’t get there often, but last July I made a couple of visits. Most of the action was on CSX, which was to be expected.

Although not shown in this gallery of photographs, Bort Road is one of my “go to” places to photograph Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited. But that’s a morning occurrence and I was here in July in the late afternoon to early evening hours.

Getting a little glint on the Q008. It followed the Q010 by 10 minutes and got the sunlight that eluded the Q010.

Here comes the Q010.

Westbound manifest freight Q389 has a Guilford locomotive tucked away in its motive power consist.

Grain train G309 comes lumbering along.

An Uncle Pete is spliced between two NS units in the motive power consist of the 216. We were hoping to get a westbound on NS but got shut out both times.

NS train 216 passes beneath Interstate 90. A short distance to the left I-90 crosses into New York state.

The classic westbound train shot at Bort Road shows it splitting the milepost 70 markers. Shown is the Q007.

An endless line of auto rack cars on the rear of the Q363. These cars used to move in a dedicated auto rack train.

CSX 2018 Capital Plan Still Cloudy

January 16, 2018

CSX is still figuring out its priorities for capital spending.

Speaking last week at the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association conference in Los Angeles, Tod Echler, the railroad’s associate vice president, engineering, described the carrier’s 2018 capital plans as uncertain.

“We’re still figuring out where we want the capacity,” Echler said.

CSX has decided to continue upgrading and standardizing its 47 drawbridges, some of which are more than 100 years old and have outdated operating systems.

Another priority will be increasing clearances for auto rack cars.

With the onset of precision scheduled railroading at CSX last year, Echler said the railroad’s work window philosophy has changed.

Whereas workers once had 8- to 10-hour work windows, that has now been shortened to six hours.

“We took some projects that were scheduled for 24 hours and brought them down to 14 hours, and in some cases six,” he said.

Some major projects, most notably bridge replacement, are being done at night.

Last year CSX created 52 miles of new sidings or double track and installed 127 new turnouts.

Track workers used 470 miles of new or relay rail, more than 2.6 million ties, 23,740 bridge ties, and 5,400 switch ties. Workers also resurfaced 1,800 miles of track.

New Middletown Station Delayed by Track Work

January 16, 2018

A new Amtrak station for Middletown, Pennsylvania, is not expected to open until sometime in 2021 or 2022.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said it will take a couple years before construction can begin to build a new platform and station.

PennDOT attributed the delay to track work yet to be performed by Norfolk Southern.

NS must relocate about a mile of its track at a cost of about $6.5 million to make room for relocation of two tracks that will be used by Amtrak.

“Given the uncertainty of the railroads’ track schedules, a firm completion date was never set,” said PennDOT spokesman Richard Kirkpatrick said. “Track work construction schedules are contingent upon the availability of the Amtrak and Norfolk Southern workforces.”

The station project is expected to cost $24.4 million and replace the existing depot on Mill Street. That facility is not accessible to handicapped individuals. The new facility will be built along Route 230 at the end of Ann Street.

Kirkpatrick said the station design is being reviewed by Amtrak.

A public-private partnership known as Keystone Connections has submitted a preliminary proposal to build the station and related development.

Keystone has not yet released many details on the project other than it expects to construct a 400-space parking area and that there will be room for retail shops and possibly a hotel.

The station project also includes a pedestrian bridge to be built over Route 230 that will link the Penn State Harrisburg campus to the station and downtown Middletown.

Planning for the station project began in 2009. Middletown is served by Amtrak’s Keystone Service trains between New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

United Express to Link Akron-Canton and Houston in June; Airport CEO to Retire Late This Year

January 16, 2018

United Express will launch nonstop service from the Akron-Canton Airport to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport starting on June 8.

Bush Intercontinental is a major hub for United Airlines and serves as the carrier’s gateway to Latin American.

The regional jet flights to Houston will be operated by ExpressJet under the United Express brand name, departing from Akron-Canton at 7 a.m. and returning at 10:12 p.m.

In an unrelated development, the airport’s CEO has announced he will retire at the end of 2018 after serving in that position for the past decade.

Rick McQueen began working at the airport in 1982 as an accountant. During his time leading the airport, it has implemented an $118 million capital improvement plan that includes a runway extension, new parking and substantial terminal improvements.

“Nothing at the airport looks the same as the day I began working here,” McQueen said in a statement.

McQueen has seen the airport grow and then contract by losing service from such carriers as Southwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Allegiant Air.

Passenger traffic of late has been trending downward from a high of 1.84 million in 2012 to 1.36 in 2016.

McQueen continues to be optimistic that passenger traffic will begin growing again, saying that it tends to be cyclical.

“We’ve had our ups, we’ve had our downs. We think we’ll turn the corner and grow again,” McQueen said.

Akron-Canton has four airlines flying to 14 destinations, although at present none of those are located west of the Mississippi River.

One More for the Road

January 15, 2018

The daylight is sliding away fast. It’s funny how quickly the sun seems to sink. All day it’s been hanging up there in the sky and then just like that it’s gone.

You’ve been out all day chasing trains and anything else that caught your eye, but now it is time to head for home.

But you cant’ help but keep your eye on the tracks and your ear to your scanner as you drive along hoping to get just one more — one for the road. Maybe you’ll get lucky.

Fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and I were driving toward home on U.S. Route 20. Daylight was going fast.

But I had heard a train crew talking to the dispatcher about bulletin orders and the like and maybe, we could catch a westbound at the far west end of the yard along the Erie West Subdivision.

We turned down North Bend Road and much to our delight the light for a westbound was absolutely prime. We parked at a closed business and walked along the snowy road to the grade crossing.

We thought we had seen a headlight of a westbound when we had driven over the crossing, but it wasn’t what we thought it was. The train I had heard talking with the dispatch was in the yard and working.

An eastbound train was stopped on main track No. 2 for whatever reason. The eastbound signal for Track 1 displayed an approach aspect that soon went to clear. So much for getting a westbound.

To the west the sun was still hovering over the horizon, but not for long. As it set the sky turned to a brilliant orange and gold.

We spotted a headlight in the distance and it seemed to take an agonizingly long time to reach us. We were hoping to get a glint shot, but that was now out of the question.

We stayed with it and captured either the Q008 or Q010 rushing by, kicking up a little snow in its wake. It was a good way to end the day.

Pleased to Visit With You Miss Caroline

January 13, 2018

For a short time the water was calm enough to get a decent reflection shot. Shown is NS westbound manifest train 180.

I’ve driven past the Attica resevoirs at Caroline along the Sandusky District of Norfolk Southern many times, but I’d never stopped at the southernmost one.

I had seen photographs that Marty Surdyk has taken over the years at Caroline, but never made any images there myself until last June when we stopped there while chasing trains during the Akron Railroad Club’s longest day outing.

Nearly two months after that outing, I returned to Caroline with fellow ARRC member Peter Bowler.

Our goal was to get some reflection images of NS trains on the water of the reservoir. That was a challenge due to the windy conditions that whipped up the water and that direct sunlight was a hit and mostly miss proposition.

But we had not driven all this way to go home empty handed. We worked with what we had.

We had a situation in which NS had trains backed up waiting to cross the CSX diamonds at Attica Junction.

That junction is controlled by CSX and I can only imagine some of the telephone conversations that went on between CSX and NS officials as they tried to look out for the interests of their respective employers.

It was during the midst of the service issues that CSX was having last summer.

Not only were NS trains getting backed up at Attica Junction, but so were lesser priority CSX trains and/or those that Willard was not yet ready to handle.

In time, trains finally moved even if not as efficiently as everyone wanted.

 

The water wasn’t quite still enough to get a sharp reflection.

Once NS trains got the OK to go through Attica Junction they tended to run in pairs. Here the eastbound 195 passes the westbound 29G.

Detroit-bound stack train 29G cools its heels south of Caroline waiting for CSX to allow NS to run trains through Attica Junction.

At last NS stack train 29G has heard the word from the dispatch to come down to Attica Junction looking for a signal.

A westbound CSX manifest freight has the signal at Attica Junction. The view is looking northward to the east of the diamonds.

NS to Expand Maple Heights Intermodal Yard, Complete New Vermilion Connection in 2018

January 13, 2018

Norfolk Southern plans to expand its intermodal yard in Maple Heights in 2018 and finally finish a new connection in Vermilion.

Those projects are among the capital spending plans for the railroad this year.

Work on the Vermilion connection began a couple of years ago but stalled due to lack of funding.

NS is installing connections between the Chicago Line (former New York Central) and Cleveland District (former Nickel Plate Road) that will enable trains from either line to access the other and go east or west.

There is currently a connection between the two lines, but it does not enable an eastbound train on the Chicago Line to go westward on the Cleveland District toward Bellevue or a train from Bellevue to go westward on the Chicago Line.

NS said it will also increase mainline capacity in Buechel, Kentucky; Charleston, South Carolina; and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Intermodal capacity will be expanded in Kansas City, Missouri; and at Calumet Yard in Chicago.

Tie and rail replacement will remain in 2018 at the same levels of 2017. NS will lay 272.7 miles of dual rail and 177.3 miles of single rail. That equals 86,492 tons of rail of which 88 percent will be new 136-pound rail.

Track gangs are expected to put down 2.48 million new crossties and 2.13 million tons of ballast.

NS officials have could not provide a total capital spending figure because the company has not yet finalized its 2018 capital budget.

CN Plans to Boost Capital Spending in 2018

January 13, 2018

Canadian National plans to boost capital spending this year by greatly expanding its track capacity.

The bulk of that expansion will occur in Canada, although CN is planning to expand capacity of its route between Chicago and Winnipeg.

Jim McLeod, CN’s chief engineer, structures, design & construction, described CN’s capital spending during a presentation at the National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association conference as moving from “steady as we go” to a cycle of “the gangbuster variety.”

This year CN will add 49 miles of double track tracking, four new sidings, and three siding expansions.

It also plans to begin renewing the St. Charles Air Line in Chicago, which is used by Amtrak trains between the Windy City and New Orleans. Some bridges on the St. Charles Air Line were built in 1899.

In total, CN plans to spent $85 million in 2018 and $100 million in 2019 on bridges.

Basic track infrastructure spending will rise from $1.18 billion in 2017 to $1.2 billion in 2018, $1.23 billion in 2019 and $1.27 billion in 2020.

The work includes replacement of 1.1 million crossties, a 20 percent increase, and replacement of 446 track miles of rail, which would be equal to what the railroad did in 2017.

One Afternoon in Sugarcreek

January 12, 2018

The Ohio Central began running its steam-powered Sugarcreek-Baltic tourist train behind former Canadian National 4-6-0 No. 1551 in 1989.

Although I moved to Northeast Ohio in August 1993, it would more than four years before I ventured to Sugarcreek to see that tourist train in action.

However, my first encounter with the 1551 had occurred two years earlier when I rode behind it on an Orrville Railroad Heritage Society excursion that originated in Beech City and ran to Coschocton. A diesel pulled the return trip.

What would turn out to be the last time that I saw the 1551 in steam would be on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon on Sept. 27, 1997.

I’m not sure how I learned about it, but the Ohio Central had two working steam locomotives in town that day.

The 1551 would be pulling the regularly-scheduled tourist train to Baltic and back. But also in town was the newest edition to the Ohio Central roundhouse, former Canadian Pacific 4-6-2 No. 1293.

OC owner Jerry Jacobson had acquired No. 1293 in 1996 from Steamtown and restored it to operating condition. It debuted in fall 1997 and would eventually take over the duties of pulling the Sugarcreek-Baltic tourist train.

My memory is a little hazy as to why the 1293 was in Sugarcreek on this day, but it probably had something to do with pulling an excursion train.

In the photograph above, the 1293 is idling on the siding as the 1551 prepares to depart for Baltic.

What is crystal clear in my memory was how I was thinking that on this day this was one of the few places in America that featured two operating steam locomotives. This remains one of my favorite Ohio Central steam memories.

Given that the Ohio Central steam program is a thing of the past, that makes those memories all the more special.

CSX Sets Long Awaited Investor’s Conference

January 12, 2018

The long-awaited CSX investor’s conference has been set for March 1 in New York City.

CSX said in a news release that the conference will be held at the InterContinental New York Barclay hotel.

In a news release, CSX said that President and CEO James M. Foote and members of his senior management team will describe how the railroad is using the precision scheduled railroading business model to transform CSX operations and customer service.

Those presentations will be webcast for those unable to attend the event in person.

Following the conference, an Internet replay of the presentations will be archived on the CSX website.

The conference had originally been set to be held last fall in Florida, but was postponed in the wake of a high-level management shakeup.