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: April 28. Program by Ed Ribinskas.

Next Activity: June 28. Longest Day in Bellevue.

Spring in Olmsted Falls

April 25, 2017

 

During a railfan expedition to Olmsted Falls last Sunday, I noticed a small flowering tree next to the parking lot for the city park that sits along the north edge of Norfolk Southern’s Chicago Line.

I would have liked for that tree to have been larger and closer to the rails. But it wasn’t and I had to work with what I had.

Framing trains with that tree was a challenge. No matter what angle I tried the light was not going to be ideal. It might be in late in the day in the middle of summer, but trees flower in the spring and not in June.

I’ve not had much luck being able to photograph trains and flowering trees. I’ve found very few of them along railroad tracks anywhere, particularly in large numbers. Such trees might exist somewhere next to an active rail line, but I haven’t found such a location yet.

Like peak fall foliage, flowering trees in the spring bloom in a short window that closes all too soon, giving way to what Akron Railroad Club member Roger Durfee likes to refer to as the great green blowout of summer.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

 

CVSR Oddball Locomotives Featured in April 2017 Issue of the Akron Railroad Club eBulletin

April 25, 2017

The Alco FPA-4 units built by Montreal Locomotive Works may have gotten much of the attention over the years on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, but if you have spent time chasing CVSR trains you would have seen an eclectic variety of motive power, some of which operated only for a short time.

The cover story in the April 2017 Akron Railroad Club eBulletin will focus on locomotives that did time on the CVSR but seemed out of place even if they added some interest.

A photographer would have had to have regularly spent time on the Valley throughout its more than more 40-year history to have captured all of these locomotives.

Also in the April eBulletin is a report from the ARRC’s 13th annual Dave McKay Day at Berea held on April 1. There is also the latest railroad industry news in the monthly Interchange Track feature.

CSX Declares 11% Dividend for 1st Quarter

April 25, 2017

CSX last week declared an 11 percent increase in its quarterly dividend while also announcing that it will spend $1 billion to buy back shares of its stock.

The railroad expects to issue financial guidance as it applies the precision railroading model to its operations.

The quarterly dividend, which increased from 18 cents to 20 cents, is payable on June 15 to shareholders of record as of May 31.

“Although we are just in the beginning phase of making changes to our network, we are off to a great start,” said President and Chief Executive Officer E. Hunter Harrison in a news release. “These changes are critical to driving strong, sustainable service for our customers and superior value for our shareholders.”

During 2017, CSX said that it expects to achieve record gains in efficiency and a step-function improvement in its key financial measures this year given continued economic growth and stable coal markets.

It predicted that its operating ratio for the year will fall in the mid-60s and earnings-per-share will grow 25 percent off the 2016 reported base of $1.81.

CSX said that the stock buyback program should be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2018.

Charger Locomotives Finish Testing in Illinois

April 25, 2017

The new Charger SC-44 locomotives were tested last weekend on three routes in the Midwest and are expected to enter revenue service this spring.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said the locomotives built by Siemens ran with empty trains of Amtrak passenger cars on routes linking Chicago with Milwaukee; Carbondale, Illinois; and Quincy, Illinois.

The locomotives will be tested on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor later this year.

“The delivery and testing of these attractive new locomotives will certainly get attention now and in years to come as they serve riders in our great Illinois communities,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn.

“Their arrival will be a welcome sight and put us one step closer to providing more efficient and reliable passenger rail service throughout our state and our neighboring states.”

During the test runs, engineering staff from Amtrak and Siemens rode the locomotives and performed required tests while monitoring each engine’s performance.

The Chargers are compliant with EPA Tier IV emissions standards and can operate at speeds up to 125 mph.

IDOT along with state transportation departments in Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Maryland, California and Washington collaborated on ordering the locomotives.

Midwest state agencies acquired 33 of the 4,400-horsepower locomotives, which were purchased through $216.5 million in federal funding and built in Sacramento, California. All of the Midwest-based locomotives are to be delivered by late 2017.

Revenue testing is to begin for 30 days on April 30 in California on the Capitol Corridor route. Six Chargers are expected to operate in Northern California on the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin routes.

In a news release, Siemens said the Chargers are equipped with electronically controlled regenerative braking systems that use energy from traction motors during braking to feed the auxiliary and head-end power systems. The feature is expected to minimize fuel consumption.

The diesel-electric operation is designed to enable better acceleration, cleaner emissions and low noise levels. The locomotives feature a 4,400 horsepower Cummins QSK95 diesel engine.

Montana, Steam Focus of April ARRC Program

April 24, 2017

The program at the Akron Railroad Club meeting on April 28 will be a digital presentation by Edward Ribinskas that will feature railroading in Montana and steam locomotives in Pennsylvania.

In July 2016, Ed and his wife, Ursula, celebrated their 25th anniversary by taking Amtrak’s Empire Builder to Glacier National Park, where they stayed at the Izaak Walton Inn.

While there Ed captured BNSF freight operations as well as Amtrak trains against the backdrop of mountains and glaciers.

He and Ursula had made virtually the same trip in 1991 shortly after their wedding.

This segment of the program will also feature a few views made from the train en route.

Rounding out the program will be views of steam locomotives in action on the Everett Railroad and Reading Blue Mountain & Northern. Ed photographed those locomotive during a September 2016 journey to Pennsylvania.

The meeting will begin at 8 p.m. with a half-hour business meeting followed by the program at approximately 8:45 p.m. The club meets at the New Horizons Christian Church, 290 Darrow Road, in Akron.

Following the meeting, some members gather at the Eat ‘n Park restaurant at Howe and Main streets in Cuyahoga Falls for a late dinner, dessert or an early breakfast.

Visitors are always welcome at Akron Railroad Club meetings.

Harrison is the New CSX President, Too

April 24, 2017

E. Hunter Harrison has added another title to his resume at CSX. He is now the president of the company as well as its chief executive officer.

Harrison replaced Fredrik Eliasson, who was named CSX president on Feb. 21 after serving as the railroads’s chief marketing officer.

Eliasson will now become executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer for CSX.

The moves in the executive suite mean that CSX has had three presidents in less than four months.

The year began with Clarence Gooden as president. The original plan was for Gooden to step down at the end of May when then-CEO Michael Ward also would retire.

Harrison assumed the CEO post on March 6. The good news for Eliasson is that he will get to keep the pay increase that he received when he was named president.

“There were no compensation adjustments associated with these title changes,” CSX said in a regulatory filing.

Buffalo Committee Favors Downtown Station Site

April 24, 2017

The committee studying sites for a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, has recommended building the station downtown rather than renovating the abandoned Buffalo Central Terminal.

The exact site will be chosen by the New York Department of Transportation, although it is expected to be along Exchange Street.

The new station is expected to cost at least $35 million, of which the state is contributing $25 million.

Currently, Buffalo is served by two stations, one at Exchange Street and the other in suburban Depew.

Exchange Street serves all trains passing through Buffalo except the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Eleven of the 17 members of the station site committee favored a downtown location while four voted against downtown. One member abstained.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz voted against the downtown recommendation because he opposed the “arbitrary timeline” given the committee to make a decision this month.

“Not all the issues were taken into account,” Poloncarz said. “The process was flawed but not rigged. And, no, this is not the death knell for the [Buffalo] Central Terminal.”

But Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown defended the timeline. “The governor clearly wants it to be a fast-track process, and I think the same kind of time constraints we had as a committee will be placed on the Department of Transportation,” said Brown, who voted for a downtown location.

A downtown location had been favored by WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, an engineering consulting firm hired by the state.

Howard Zemsky, a Buffalo businessman and head of Empire State Development, the state’s development arm, voted for downtown.

“This is really a transportation decision first and foremost, and from that standpoint downtown is a clear winner,” he said.

Zemsky said it was not a case of either or in terms of development of the long-dormant Central Terminal.

The Amtrak representative on the committee favored a downtown location. CSX, which owns the tracks in the vicinity of Central Terminal, said it doesn’t want passenger trains at Central Terminal because that might interfere with a nearby freight yard.

Intercity bus companies also favor a downtown site because they fear that clearance issues could prevent them from serving Central Terminal.

Also working against Central Terminal was the estimated $68 million to $149 million cost of renovating the structure. A downtown location is estimated to cost between $33 million and $86 million.

The Buffalo congressman who had championed Central Terminal was disappointed at the committee’s decision.

“This is a generational opportunity lost, said Brian Higgins said. “Obviously, the Central Terminal was not going to win out in an apples-to-apples cost comparison. It’s the vision you have for the property, and what you do with the opportunity.”

Higgins said the downtown location will preclude passengers being able to board there if they are bound for Cleveland or Chicago.

He noted that Amtrak opposes having the Lake Shore Limited backing up for more than a mile to serve downtown Buffalo.

Higgins vowed to work to funnel state and federal funding toward development of Central Terminal.

State Sen. Tim Kennedy supported the Central Terminal and believes that although it lost out in the vote to become an Amtrak station there remains hope that the iconic structure will have a new life.

“There has been more attention paid to the Central Terminal than probably in the last 50 years,” Kennedy said. “I think this is going to be at the end of the day a win-win because of the renewed focus on transforming the Central Terminal into a historic building we can all be proud of once again.”

In the meantime, Canadian developer Harry Stinson said he is close to closing on a deal to acquire the 523,000-square-foot Central Terminal, which includes a 17-story tower, concourse building, baggage building and ample underground and street-level parking.

“We’re days away from the final version of the agreement,” Stinson said. “It will have to go through a process, but the agreement is essentially done. There is nothing we see as collectively insurmountable.”

Stinson said he wants to develop the tower into office space, use the concourse for entertainment, dining and special events and transform the baggage building into a hotel.

Eventually, he will develop new housing at the site, which is now considered a brownfield.

Expedited FRA Review Sought of Ann Arbor Station Site Environmental Assessment

April 24, 2017

A  Michigan congresswoman is trying to turn up the heat on the Federal Railroad Administration to act sooner rather than later on reviewing an environmental assessment for a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell has written to the FRA to urge it to expedite that review.

Ann Arbor faces a Sept. 30 deadline to spend a $2.8 million federal grant that it received to develop a station. The FRA had indicated earlier that it would not finish its review until summer, leaving the city little time to spend the grant money on station design work.

In her letter to the FRA, Dingell said it was important that the FRA move in an “urgent and expeditious manner so the city can move forward with improving mass transit in the state of Michigan.”

Once the FRA finishes reviewing the environmental assessment, there will be a 30-day public comment period.

Thus far the city has not revealed the site it prefers for the new station.

Dingell also pointed out in her letter that Amtrak and the State of Michigan have been working to upgrade service between Chicago and Detroit for higher speed service.

Currently, Ann Arbor is served by three Wolverine Service roundtrips although transportation officials have spoken about increasing that level of service at some future time as well as launching commuter rail service to Detroit.

FRA spokesman Marc Willis said the FRA received the environmental assessment from the city.

“We reviewed it and sent it back to them for revisions,” he said, adding there’s no time frame from the city when it will be sent back for FRA review.

City Council Member Zachary Ackerman believes the city is running out of time to build a new Amtrak station

Ackerman said that a new station seems to be less of a reality given the current climate in Washington and he won’t support a new station without significant federal funding.

Michigan Rail Passengers Advocates Pushing for Detroit-Windsor Bus Connection for Amtrak-VIA

April 24, 2017

Michigan rail passenger advocates are working with Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada to revive connecting service between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, although that might not necessarily be rail service.

In a campaign that has been dubbed “mind the gap,” the advocates are talking with both railroads about establishing a direct bus connection.

Passengers who now want to connect between Amtrak and VIA must either take a cab or ride three local transit buses.

The advocates noted that the border crossing at Detroit is the busiest between the two countries.

Until 2003, Amtrak and VIA hosted a Chicago-Toronto train known as the International that operated via Flint and Port Huron, Michigan.

A Detroit-New York train, the Niagara Rainbow, operated via Windsor between October 1974 and January 1979, ending when the states of New York and Michigan ended their funding of the train.

An article posted on the website of the National Association of Railroad Passengers said that VIA is in active discussions with bus companies to provide a “bus bridge” between the VIA station in Windsor and the Detroit Amtrak station.

The service may begin by late 2017. The Michigan advocates hope that if the bus connection proves successful that it might provide an impetus for resuming rail service between Detroit and Windsor.

2 To Get Top U.S. DOT Posts

April 24, 2017

James Ray and Michael Britt are expected to be appointed by the Trump administration to new high-level posts within the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Other DOT policy-making posts are expected to be realigned.

Ray will become a senior adviser on infrastructure and head a task force to be appointed to oversee the administration’s expected $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

He is currently a principal at KPMG. He previously worked at the Office of Management and Budget, served as acting administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, and was a general counsel for DOT from 2006 to 2008.

Britt, who has been the chief of staff for Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, will become senior adviser for Federal Aviation Administration modernization.