The Akron Railroad Club has about 75 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 meetings, 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. 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.
The Akron Railroad Club blog entry about chasing Nickel Plate Road No. 765 all day and only getting it in three locations reminds me of a December 1974 trip that a railfan friend and I took.
We covered over a thousand miles, but I took photos of only two locomotives and no trains on that three or four day trip.
Thankfully, one of the locomotives was this Morehead & Morgan Fork Baldwin road switcher.
It was a cold, rainy late-December morning in Morehead, Kentucky, and 1202 had already done the little work it had to do when I got there.
But the crew left it out for a few minutes for me to get my slides. I only found out later how few times the M&MF had operated during its short existence.
Sadly, the Baldwins were scrapped when the railroad was scrapped. Some treasures can’t be evaluated in miles and days.
Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas
With connections in all four quadrants, the crossing of the CSX Willard Subdivision with the Columbus Sub offers many opportunities to see trains rounding tight curves in Fostoria.
But only the northeast and northwest connections are easily photographed. The northwest connection between the Willard Sub and the Pemberville Sub is the most accessible because it curves around the Iron Triangle Railfan Park.
During a late June outing I was able to get a pair of trains coming off the Willard Sub and onto the Pemberville Sub. For the historically minded, that is going from the Baltimore & Ohio to the Chesapeake & Ohio.
My vantage point was the sidewalk along Columbus Avenue, using a telephoto lens.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
I was talking with a fellow member of the Akron Railroad Club a while back about my chase of Nickel Plate Road No. 765 as it steamed from Ashtabula to Youngstown.
He noted that I had driven 150 miles and only photographed the 765 in three locations.
In his mind that didn’t make the trip worthwhile. The distance involved was a major reason, he said, for why he had not chased the Berkshire locomotive when it pulled a pair of public excursions in Northeast Ohio in late July.
Distance is a factor when I plan my photo outings, too. There is only so far I am willing to travel.
But in the case of the excursion of the 765 on the Youngstown Line, the distance involved was never an issue. Anywhere within Northeast Ohio is not too far for me to travel.
Steam locomotives don’t operate on mainline railroad tracks all that often in Northeast Ohio or, for that matter, many other places. So I viewed this as a rare opportunity.
Another ARRC member also downplayed chasing the 765, calling the Youngstown Line a “bland” piece of railroad.
He acknowledged the rarity of getting a steam locomotive in action, but he just doesn’t care that much for steam locomotives.
When guys start explaining why they don’t want to do something, there usually is an underlying reason they are not revealing for why they don’t want to so something. We must make our own decisions as to how to spend our time and resources.
I tend to have wide interests in photography subjects. That is not true of everyone. Some guys have narrow interests and all manner of rules for when and what they will or will not photograph.
One of my regular railfan travel friends once refused to go to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad to photograph trains during the winter, telling me to do that on my own.
So I dropped him off at his house and did just that. I came away with some of the best winter images I’ve ever made on the CVSR.
I had a similar experience in chasing the 765 on the Youngstown Line. One of my photo locations was near the summit of Carson hill coming out of Ashtabula.
I made what turned out to be one of my best images of all time of the 765 in action.
There have been times when I, too, stayed at home because I didn’t feel like getting out with my camera. Sometimes circumstances beyond your control keep you at home or elsewhere. You just can’t get away to make pictures.
But that is not always the case. Sometimes staying at home just seems more appealing.
Not every outing yields a memorable image and sometimes things just don’t work out as you had hoped. It happens to all of us.
But worse than an average to mediocre outing is what might have been that wasn’t. I know that feeling all too well and it continues to motivate me to get out with my camera.
Had I viewed chasing the 765 as driving too many miles for too few images, I would have missed out on that dramatic photo on Carson hill that is my second favorite image I’ve ever made of the 765.
Interestingly, a guy saw that image on my Flickr feed and tried to replicate it the next day. Unfortunately for him, the 765 wasn’t putting on quite the smoke and steam show that it did the day before. Having luck on your side remains a significant factor in making striking images.
Yes, it was a long drive to the Youngstown Line and back. It would have been worth it had I gone home after photographing the 765 at my first photo location.
Even if I had not gotten that compelling image of the 765 attacking Carson Hill, I still would have thought that the effort had been worth it.
I am a photographer and getting out to make photographs is what photographers do. It’s that simple.
And that is why I was willing to drive 150 miles for a handful of images of a working steam locomotive that doesn’t come around all that often.
Commentary by Craig Sanders
A night photo shoot is being held tonight at the roundhouse of the Midwest Railway Preservation Society from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m.
Plans are to make up a freight and a passenger consist and use rented construction light trailers. The former Baltimore & Ohio facility will be open so that attendees can view former Grand Trunk Western No. 4070 and Reading 2100.
Photographers are being asked to make a $20 donation to help cover the cost of renting the light trailers. The roundhouse is located at 2800 West Third Street in Cleveland at the at the south end of the Flats and near Steel Yard Commons.
Amtrak plans to begin allowing passengers to take bicycles aboard the Chicago-Washington, D.C., Capitol Limited.
Although no date has been set, an Amtrak spokesperson said it could be as early as next week.
Passengers with bikes must have a reservation and pay a $25 fee for the service. For some, that might exceed the price of the ticket.
Amtrak’s website shows that roll-on service is available on nine of its routes. Of those, four offer the service for free, two have a $5 fee and three have a $10 fee.
Bicyclists will also be responsible for taking their bikes aboard the train, securing them and removing them once they’ve reached their destination.
The service will be available at all stations served by Nos. 29 and 30 with only standard-sized bikes permitted on board.
The service has been particularly anticipated in Pittsburgh, which is the western terminus of a trail that extends to Washington.
Two major bicycle trails – the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Towpath – run parallel to the route of the Capitol Limited east of Pittsburgh.
Amtrak expressed interest in providing the service five years ago and ran a one-day test with 20 bicyclists in October 2013
At present, Amtrak policies require that bicycles be dismantled and packed in boxes that can only be loaded or unloaded at staffed stations.
There are no staffed stations between Pittsburgh and Washington. Other staffed stations on the route include Cleveland, Toledo and South Bend, Indiana.
In the past, Amtrak has cited a litany of reasons why it has not implemented a bike aboard program on the Capitol Limited until now.
Deborah Stone-Wulf, Amtrak’s chief of sales distribution and customer service, addressed those in a guest blog post for the Adventure Cycling Association’s website (adventurecycling.org) last year.
“We understand and appreciate the synergies between rail and bike travel, and continue to work hard to better serve the bicycling community,” she wrote. “We, however, have many challenges, primarily with our core infrastructure. Among the key issues are finding space for bicycles on our trains and developing the ability to safely and efficiently load and unload bicycles.
“Much of Amtrak’s fleet is quite old with many cars more than 40 years old and bikes were not a consideration during the original design. The good news here is new equipment for long distance trains is on the way, featuring design elements that will help on this front. That still won’t help with our station platforms, however, which are of varying heights and present an obstacle for loading and unloading bicycles.”
Sara Snow, travel initiatives coordinator for the Adventure Cycling Association, based in Missoula, Montana, said her organization worked with Amtrak in identifying the Capitol Limited as one of two eastern routes that would test roll-on service. The other is the Vermonter.
Snow said that many of the organization’s 48,000 members use Amtrak to travel to or from biking excursions.
“We identified [roll-on service] as a huge need for making bicycle traveling easier. People have been advocating for this for a long time,” she said.
The former Bessemer & Lake Erie passenger station in Greenville, Pennsylvania, was quiet.
It was a hot, muggy summer afternoon and insurance offices aren’t normally open on Sundays.
All was quiet on the railroad, too, and not too many people other than those in passing cars were out and about in downtown Greenville.
Now operated as a State Farm office, the Mission-style Greenville depot is in remarkably good condition.
The exterior probably is more attractive now than it was when the railroad still used the building.
It has been 60 years since the last Bessemer passenger train pulled away from the Greenville station. No. 12 backed out at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 5, en route to Erie, Pennsylvania.
More than 200 passengers boarded the train that morning in Greenville and by the time the train reached Erie it had boarded more than 400.
A newspaper account of the last trip said that passengers had to stand in the aisles and in the baggage section of a combine car because all seats had been taken well before the train reached Erie.
The B&LE was never a major passenger carrier, but it did have its passenger heyday as did other railroads.
That was in the early 20th century when it ran four trains a day between North Bessemer and Erie. Consists routinely were 12 to 14 cars.
Service peaked in 1913 when the Bessemer carried 1.1 million passengers. There were just two years between 1909 and 1920 when the B&LE did not carry a million passengers.
The last passenger trains on the Conneaut branch ran on March 31, 1932. In 1954, the railroad was carried 5,857 passengers, an average of 10 per train.
On May 17, 1954, service ended between Greenville and North Bessemer, leaving Nos. 12 and 13 as the last varnish on the Bessemer.
Nos. 12 and 13 usually operated between Greenville and Erie with a diesel locomotive, a combine car and one coach. For the final trips, though, the trains carried two additional coaches.
The Record-Argus of Greenville gave the last trips extensive coverage. It was front page news the day before the last run and the Monday following the last trips. The newspaper also published a full page of photographs on Monday.
Aside from it being the last northbound trip, the run of No. 13 was also eventful because it had to back up five miles rather than proceeding straight ahead from the depot.
That was due to flooding at Osgood that forced the train to back up to Kremis to reach the then-named KO Subdivision. The train resumed its normal route at KO Junction, which is known today as Sandy.
The detour added 23 minutes to the final run and gave the passengers a look at places they would not otherwise see from the train.
The newspaper said that No. 12 carried 425 passengers, but just 126 of them had purchased tickets. The rest rode on passes.
The last southbound trip of No. 13 had a similar situation. The train carried 588 passenger of which 286 purchased tickets.
For the southbound trip, the B&LE in Erie sold commemorative tickets that noted that it was the last passenger trip. On the back of the ticket was a brief history of the more than 85 years of passenger service on the route.
Some purchased the ticket to have a keepsake but did not ride the train.
No. 13 had a load of Cub Scouts who rode to Greenville and then returned by automobiles driven by a dozen parents.
The Scouts sang songs, including, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, which they rewrote to “We’ve been riding on the Bessemer, the bullet is her name.”
The Record-Argus noted that members of National Railway Historical Society chapters traveled to Greenville for the occasion, some getting there aboard a chartered bus.
In Conneautville, children held up farewell signs as the train stopped there for the final time.
The newspaper noted that only two flag stops lacked people waiting to board the final trips.
No. 13 arrived in Greenville at 4:05 p.m. The platform was crowded with well-wishers and those waiting to pick up family and friends who had ridden the last Bessemer passenger train.
By then the flooding at Osgood has subsided and No. 13 could travel its normal route.
The railroad make a photograph of the last crew of conductor W.K. Putnam, engineer C.F. Burns, fireman P. Dinchart and baggageman C.G. Reitz.
Then the crowd dispersed and a chapter in the history of Bessemer had ended.
It would not be the last time, though, that a passenger train passed by the Greenville depot.
The Akron Railroad Club sponsored a chartered round trip that originated in Greenville and ran to North Bessemer on June 26, 1955.
Some ARRC members turned out several years ago to photograph or watch a chartered train sponsored by the American Association of Private Car Owners, which ran over the B&LE on a rare mileage excursion.
I didn’t know most of this history as I stood on the remnants of the brick platform in Greenville and made photographs of the station as it looks today.
Although the history of the railroad that passes by this station dates to the middle 19th century, the B&LE itself came into being in late 1900.
I wondered what stories those who passed through the station’s doors over the years could tell about why they were at the station or why they were taking the train.
Were they off to college? Off to begin basic training in the Army? Off to visit grandma in Erie or Pittsburgh? Off on business? Off to start a new life? Their stories were, I’m sure, as varied as those who rode the trains back then.
Most of the passengers and the railroaders who served them, whether aboard the trains or in the station, are gone now and each passing day obscures further the memory of Bessemer & Lake Erie passenger service.
The Greenville station is part of the city’s Commercial Historic District, which was added to the Register of Historic Places in 2000. That probably assures that the B&LE station will remain standing.
It was late afternoon and I faced a long drive home. I took another look around, made a few more photos and thought again about all of those stories that could be told about waiting for a train at the station.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
The long dormant Buffalo Central Terminal will host a train show in September with the proceeds being used to fund stabilization and restoration of the depot.
The 2015 Central Terminal Toy Train and Railroadiana Expo will be held Sept. 12-13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission is $5 for adults. Children under 12 will be admitted for free.
“This is more than just a train show,” says Central Terminal Restoration Corp.’s Mark Lewandowski. “It’s one of Buffalo’s largest celebrations of trains and railroading history. Visitors to the Terminal can expect to see everything from highly detailed scale models to family heirloom Christmas trains and archival photos of area railroads.”
The Central Terminal Restoration Corp. was founded in 1997 to oversee the stabilization and restoration of the structure. The Terminal complex includes an 18-acre site that hosts an art deco office tower, passenger concourse and four-story baggage building.
For more information, go to www.buffalocentralterminal.org.
Steamtown National Historic Site has created a support group that will promote, advocate and raise funds.
The nonprofit Iron Horse Society of Steamtown was created because by law a federal park cannot raise money for itself on its own.
Steamtown Superintendent Deborah Conway said that creating a support group was among her objectives when she took over Steamtown last year.
“A friends group (can) help support a variety of initiatives from restoration of equipment to marketing and promoting the park,” Conway said.
Many national parks have support groups that fund specific projects within a park that goes above and beyond its budget.
The Steamtown support group recently registered as a nonprofit under the laws of Pennsylvania. It will need to publish public notices, create a board of directors, write a set of bylaws and obtain 501(c)3 charity status before it can become the official friends group of Steamtown. Group founders hope to achieve this by the middle of 2016.
Bernard Gasper, a volunteer who helped organize the support group, said the founders have not yet identified any specific projects for which to raise money.
“We will be focusing on fundraising or when appropriate being the recipient of donated equipment and supplies,” Gasper said. “Ultimately our goal is the enhancement of Steamtown and the experience of its visitors.”
For more information about the Iron Horse Society at Steamtown, go to www.theironhorsesociety.com
A vacant Detroit train station might become a trucking control facility.
Matthew Moroun, son of Michigan Central Station owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun, told a Detroit radio station that the family’s CenTra trucking network might move to the depot.
Now based in Warren, Michigan, CenTra employs thousands at the formerly named Central Transport.
The depot owner has launched a $12 million project to replace scores of broken windows in the station, located southwest of downtown Detroit. The project also involved installation of an elevator and resuming electric service to the building.
A spokeswoman for Matthew Moroun would not say anything more about the family’s plans for the station other than it was concentrating on “doing right by the depot.”
Further renovation of the depot, which many see as a symbol of urban blight, would cost a minimum of $100 million, depending on what use was made of the structure.
Renovation is thought to be years away due to the time that would be needed to clean up the building and plan for its new use.
The Moroun family also owns the Ambassador Bridge to Windsor, Ontario, and a growing logistics network in the I-94 Industrial Park on Detroit’s east side.
The sponsor of two mid-September public excursions in northeast Pennsylvania behind Nickel Plate Road No. 765 is blaming insurance problems for canceling the trips.
A statement issued by the Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Chapter of the NRHS blamed Canadian Pacific for imposing “insurmountable insurance obstacles” on the group and the trips.
In a posting on Trainsorders.com, Rich Melvin, the 765 operations manager of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, said a complicating factor was the delayed sale of the route to be used from CP to Norfolk Southern.
Melvin wrote that the L&W Chapter had anticipated that the track would be owned by NS by the time the excursions were to operate. But closing on that sale has been delayed by several months.
“CP is responsible to our shareholders and our customers, and so we must safeguard our operation. Our liability insurance ask is consistent with that of other railroads and reflects legal settlements from passenger train incidents in recent years,” CP spokesman Jeremy Berry told Trains magazine. “While we are willing to run these types of trips; we simply must safeguard our operation as we do this.”
The 2-8-4 Berkshire was to pull trips on Sept. 12 and 13 from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the Tunkhannock Viaduct near Nicholson.
The trips would have used CP tracks. The chapter had planned to use money earned from the trips to help pay for the restoration of Boston & Maine 4-6-2 No. 3713 at Steamtown National Historic Site.
The 765 trips is still expected to pull a trip on Sept. 5 from Steamtown to Delaware Water Gap and on Sept. 7 from Steamtown to East Stroudsburg.
The Lima-built locomotive will also pull trips in September and early October on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad before returning home to its base in New Haven, Indiana.