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: April 1. Dave McKay Day in Berea.

Forcing Film Shooters into the Digital World

March 27, 2017

Organizations have ways of forcing people to do something they might not wish to do otherwise.

It used to be that airlines issued paper tickets to passengers. They still do, but for a fee.

The reason why this changed is obvious. The airlines save money by shifting the cost of paper and printing onto their customers.

In theory customers get the “convenience” of being able to print their tickets at home. That saves them a trip to the airport or a travel agent.

To many people, printing your own tickets is no big deal. The cost of the paper and ink for printing airline tickets – technically called boarding passes – is minuscule.

Most people who travel by air already have computers and printers at home.

Some don’t even print their boarding passes. They show a code on their smart phone sent to them electronically. No paper is involved at any step of the process.

But not everyone who still makes photographic images on film has the equipment needed to digitize their work.

Those photographers might be out of luck if they wish to enter the 2017 Trains magazine photo contest.

Tucked into the rules is this change: “We will no longer be accepting submissions by mail.”

No explanation for that rule change was provided, but it likely wasn’t a financial move.

The photographer paid all costs associated with sending slides or printed images by mail.

More than likely this rule change was for the convenience of the staff. All entries can now be kept in one location and viewed in the same manner.

There is no more having to toggle between digital entries and slides and prints.

It also might save some staff time. Winning entries submitted as slides or prints no longer need to be digitized.

But what is convenient for the magazine staff is not so convenient for certain photographs. If they lack the equipment to digitize the images they wish to submit to the contest, they will have to buy the equipment or pay to have their images digitized.

Perhaps some have a friend who has a scanner who might be willing to do it for a beer.

The rule change also is likely a reflection of the reality that few entries are still being submitted the old fashioned way.

There remains a hard core of photographers who use film to make railroad images.

Some of them have scanning equipment to digitize their images, but most of the film guys I know do not have equipment to scan slides and negatives.

Most of them strike me as unwilling to learn how to do it. I can understand why.

Like cameras, film scanners come in all shapes, sizes and price points.

Some equipment is inexpensive, but the quality of the finished product might not be satisfactory.

B&H Photo offers a guide to scanning equipment at https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/film-scanners

If you know little to nothing about digital images, reading that guide might be bewildering. You soon learn you need to know about things that film photographers do not need to know unless they are in the publication business.

I can’t say what percentage of photographers has equipment capable of scanning film images into a digital format.

Most of the railroad images I’ve see posted online were made with a digital camera.

There are not as many pre-digital images in cyberspace as there could be. Aside from its cost, digitizing equipment takes time to learn to use.

Yet the day is coming when having scanning equipment will be a “must have” if you wish to share your pre-digital photographs with others.

Slide shows remain a staple of local railroad clubs, but some events, e.g., Summerail, no longer allow programs in which images are projected directly from film.

I have a sizable collection of slides and I do not foresee projecting them again with a slide projector.

Local railroad clubs are losing members and the number of opportunities to project slides the old fashioned way is dwindling even as slide film is making a modest comeback.

As I noted in a previous column, slide film has a future, but it is tied into the digital world, particularly if you want to share your images with a circle that extends beyond your closest friends who are willing to get together in a room for a slide showing.

Chessie Loco Going to Lake Shore Museum

March 27, 2017

The Lake Shore Railway Museum has acknowledged that it will be receiving a locomotive painted at a CSX shop in the Chessie System colors.

Former Chesapeake & Ohio No. 8272 received the treatment in Huntington, West Virginia, so that is now resembles the appearance it had when the B30-7 was delivered by GE Transportation  in 1980

The Lake Shore museum in North East, Pennsylvania, specializes in collecting retired locomotives that were built at the nearby GE assembly plant in Erie.

No. 8272 will be the eighth locomotive to join that collection.

In a news release, the Lake Shore Railway Historical Society, which operates the museum, said  the locomotive is being donated by CSX to the museum. It was retired by CSX in 2009 as No. 5554.

The museum said that GE and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum assisted in the restoration of No. 8272 by contributing historic paint records, logo/lettering information and paint chips.

The museum said that plans to move No. 8272 to the museum are still being worked out.

Hayes to Present at Hoosier Traction Meet

March 27, 2017

Former Akron Railroad Club member Blaine Hayes will be among the presenters at the 34th annual Hoosier Traction Meet on Sept. 8-9 in Indianapolis.

Hayes will present a program titled Cleveland Trackless Trolleys.

The event is being held at the Clarion Hotel, 2930 Waterfront Parkway West Drive.

This year’s event will feature free exhibits that will be open on Friday from noon to 10 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Exhibitors will on display items illustrating the principles and nature of mass transportation systems: photos, books, miniature models, timetables and other collectibles.

The presentations will be given in a 150-seat auditorium with audio-visual presentations of live narration and photographs.

Sessions are expected to run from an hour to an hour and a half with 20 to 30 minute breaks between sessions.

Tickets for the presentations are $40 at the door or $19.50 if purchased before August 25.

Presenters include: Ed Conrad, Union Traction – Union Electric interurban; Andy Maginnis. The Philadelphia (Transit) Story; George Gula, Two Keystone Interurbans: Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton and the Northern Electric; Paul Grether, The Return of Cincinnati Streetcars; Richard Aaron, Toronto; Ken Schramm, Michigan’s Detroit United Railway Operations; Tom McNamara, Cincinnati Transit in Transition from Streetcars to Trackless; Charles Bogart, Current Transit Industry News; Bob Olson, Not Just Your Average Garden Variety

Backyard Electric Railroad; Leo Sullivan, Trolley Freight and Express in New England.

Railroad Archeology in Monroeville

March 25, 2017
The most visible reminder of the railroads past in Monroeville, Ohio, is this passenger station, which served the New York Central and its predecessor railroads. It has since been restored, but the tracks are long gone.

The most visible reminder of the railroads past in Monroeville, Ohio, is this passenger station, which served the New York Central and its predecessor railroads. It has since been restored, but the tracks are long gone.

In the past few years I’ve found myself in Monroeville, Ohio, while chasing trains on the Wheeling & Lake Erie.

At one time, Monroeville was served by three railroads plus an interurban railway.

The railroads of Monroville included the Toledo-Brewster line of the original Wheeling & Lake Erie. This line still exists with the modern W&LE owning it between Brewster and Bellevue.

Monroeville was also served by a Willard-Sandusky branch of the Baltimore & Ohio, the Norwalk Branch of the New York Central and the Cleveland-Toledo Lake Shore Electric.

The Norwalk Branch began life as the Toledo, Norwalk & Cleveland Railroad, which built between its namesake cities in the 1860s. It was later absorbed by the Lake Shore & Michigan  Southern, which in turn became part of the NYC.

The Norwalk branch was the main route of the LS&MS until it built a cutoff via Sandusky along Lake Erie, which today is the Chicago Line of NS. The Norwalk branch diverged at Elyria and rejoined at Milbury.

Penn Central continued to offer freight service on the Norwalk branch through 1976. The line was not conveyed to Conrail and was subsequently abandoned. Passenger service on the line ended in 1949.

I don’t know when the B&O branch was abandoned, but it likely continued in operation through the 1970s and possibly into the 1980s.  A portion of it still exists in Monroeville for the W&LE to serve a grain elevator.

The Lake Shore Electric last operated on May 15, 1938. Not long before then, the Eastern Ohio Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society — a forerunner of the Akron Railroad Club — ran a trip over the line.

During the 1960s, the ARRC chartered a B&O Rail Diesel Car and ran excursions between Akron and Sandusky to visit the Cedar Point amusement park.

I’ve long been fascinated by what railroads leave behind after they leave town. If you know where to look and what to look for,  you can find reminders of what used to be.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The North Coast Inland Tail uses the former NYC Norwalk Branch. The view is from the bridge over the West Branch Huron River looking westward toward the NYC passenger station.

The North Coast Inland Tail uses the former NYC Norwalk Branch. The view is from the bridge over the West Branch Huron River looking westward toward the NYC passenger station, which was built in 1863.

A train order board at the Monroeville station.

A train order board at the Monroeville station.

I don't know if this train bulletin at the former NYC station is accurate.

I don’t know if this train bulletin at the former NYC station is accurate.

The former freight NYC freight station still stands a short distance west of the passenger depot.

The former freight NYC freight station still stands a short distance west of the passenger depot.

Looking westward on the Lake Shore Electric right of way with the passenger station on the left.

Looking westward on the Lake Shore Electric right of way with the passenger station on the left.

Looking northward toward the Lake Shore Electric (foreground) and NYC stations. The B&O tracks would have been to the right of both stations.

Looking northward toward the Lake Shore Electric (foreground) and NYC stations. The B&O tracks would have been to the right of both stations.

Looking southward on the former B&O right of way.

Looking southward on the former B&O right of way.

A relic from the days when these tracks operated as the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern.

A relic from the days when these tracks operated as the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern.

A restored property boundary marker.

A restored property boundary marker.

A bridge pier that once held the Lake Shore Electric bridge over the West Branch Huron River.

A bridge pier that once held the Lake Shore Electric bridge over the West Branch Huron River.

The concrete base of what was once the northbound home signal for the B&O crossing of the NYC.

The concrete base of what was once the northbound home signal for the B&O crossing of the NYC.

This signal cover is along the W&LE and may be still used.

This signal cover is along the W&LE and may be still used.

Railroad ties once used to hold B&O rails remain embedded in the ground, slowly deteriorating as the forces of nature take their toll.

These railroad ties are on the former Lake Shore Electric right of way. The LSE was abandoned in the 1930s, they probably were used as a connecting track between the B&O and the NYC.

The B&O and W&LE used to cross here. At one time there was a passenger station here that was used by both railroads. Next to the depot was a hotel and freight station. On the other side of that pile of ballast is the only remnant of track once used by the B&O.

The B&O and W&LE used to cross here. At one time there was a passenger station here that was used by both railroads. Next to the depot was a hotel and freight station. On the other side of that pile of ballast is the only remnant of track once used by the B&O.

A short stretch of the former B&O remains in place for the W&LE to serve a grain elevator. But this segment of the B&O is used only as a tail track that ends at a pile of ballast north of where the B&O and W&LE used to cross on a diamond.

A short stretch of the former B&O remains in place for the W&LE to serve a grain elevator. But this segment of the B&O is used only as a tail track that ends at a pile of ballast north of where the B&O and W&LE used to cross on a diamond.

 

Merriman Valley CVSR Station Being Sought

March 25, 2017

In late 1989, the Federal Railroad Administration condemned a railroad bridge over Howard Street in Akron, which effectively prevented the Cuyahoga Valley Line from reaching its Akron boarding site.

The bridge was eventually rebuild using federal money and CVL service returned on Aug. 1, 1993.

In 1991 and 1992 CVL trains terminated in the Merriman business district along Riverview Road in far northwest Akron.

Now merchants in that area want to see the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad as it is known now resumed stopping there.

The Merriman Valley Business Association has posted a petition at change.org seeking support for establishing a Merriman Valley station  in land owned by the Summit Metro Parks.

The site would be somewhere between the Greater Akron Motorcycle Club and the Valley Dental Group.

Aside from the cost of building and maintaining the station, another potential hurdle is the fact that the land in question is a wetland.

A spokeswoman for the National Park Service, which owns the tracks used by the CVSR, said the NPS has yet to be contacted by anyone concerning the station proposal.

Likewise, a Metro Parks spokesman said no one has contacted his organization although it is aware of the petition.

If the petition receives at least 500 signatures, it will be presented to the Akron City Council, the CVSR and the Conservancy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The business association sees stopping CVSR trains in the Merriman Valley as one of many steps they hope to undertake to attract more visitors.

They also plan to host a farmer’s market and are pushing for signs along the Towpath Trail to direct hikers and bikers to the business district.

Court Sides With Railroads in Amtrak Dispute

March 25, 2017

In the end Amtrak’s freight railroads prevailed in court.

A federal judge ruled in their favor by ruling that Section 207 of the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act is unconstitutional and thus the metrics and standards that the Federal Railroad Administration had issued in 2011 in terms of evaluating on-time performance have now been struck down.

The ruling was made by Judge James E. Boasberg based on the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution against the taking of life, libery or property without due process of law.

The Association of American Railroads had filed suit challenging the legality of Section 207.

Boasberg’s ruling was made after the case had been remanded court by the U.S. Supreme Court with instructions as to how to proceed in the case.

Therefore, observers say, it is unlikely that the U.S. Department of Transportation will appeal the ruling.

In his ruling, the judge relied on a precedent set in an 1886 Supreme Court ruling involving Southern Pacific that found that rights granted to people by the Constitution are also granted to corporations.

The court ruled that the regulatory authority of the federal government rests only with individuals appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which is also known as the appointments clause.

The AAR had challenged Section 207, in part, because it allowed Amtrak to have some regulatory power even it is a part of the industry that is being regulated.

In July 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals found that Amtrak is a private company that may not be granted regulatory powers, overturning a May 2012 ruling by the District Court that Amtrak is a governmental entity.

A unanimous Supreme Court in March 2015 ruled that for the purposes of the constitutional clauses in question, Amtrak is a part of the government.

In sending the case back to the district court, the Supreme Court instructed it to rule further on the questions of due process and appointments.

The latest court ruling means that although Congress may lawfully create companies that act commercially within an industry and may also create regulatory bodies, it cannot create entities that do both at the same time.

AAR had asserted that Section 207 allowed Amtrak to do that.

FRA Not Expected to Complete Review of Ann Arbor Station Site Assessment Until Summer

March 25, 2017

The Federal Railroad administration has acknowledged that it is likely to be summer before it completes a review of a draft environmental assessment report pertaining to a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Once that is completed, there will be a 30-day public comment period.

Only then will the design and engineering work for the new station begin. That’s a problem for Ann Arbor because the city is set to lose a federal grant if it isn’t used by Sept. 30.

The question city officials are grappling with is whether there will be enough time to use the federal funds for station design.

An FRA spokeswoman, Desiree French, told the Ann Arbor News/Mlive.com that the federal grant will be available for use after its expiration date.

It will be the city’s responsibility to complete preliminary engineering and National Environmental Policy Act compliance work. That will mean paying for it out the city’s own pocket.

“We’re working very closely with them to help them meet that sunset date,” French said.

The Ann Arbor City Council in January approved a contract with Neumann/Smith Architecture to conduct the design and engineering work once the environmental assessment has cleared all of its hurdles.

Officials estimate that the preliminary design and engineering is $2.37 million with another unallocated contingency of $101,131 making the total cost nearly $2.5 million.

Ann Arbor had expected $2 million of that to be covered by federal funding awarded to the city in 2011 and accepted in 2012.

The city had hoped to have the preliminary design and engineering work completed by May 31, which it figured to be enough time for the FRA to review it before the grant expires.

French said the Sept. 30 expiration date is part of the authorizing legislation that approved the funding and the FRA has no authority to extend it.

Eli Cooper, Ann Arbor’s transportation program manager, said he was expecting the FRA review of the environmental assessment to be completed much sooner.

“Summer sure sounds like a lot more time than what information I’m working on,” he said. “The implications on the schedule, as it relates to the grant, is also something that is of interest to me and the city.”

French said the FRA is working with the city and the Michigan Department of Transportation to prepare a draft environmental assessment that complies with the National Environmental Policy Act.

Although Ann Arbor had submitted a draft  environmental assessment to the FRA in December, it sent a revised and more complete document to the agency in February.

At the time, the city expected the FRA would complete its review of it in 30 days. But that now appears unlikely to occur absent some change of heart at the FRA.

The FRA awarded MDOT a $2.8 million grant 2011 that was originally expected to help Ann Arbor plan for a new Amtrak station on Fuller Road in a city-owned parking lot near the University of Michigan Hospital.

But planning for that site was disrupted in 2012 when the FRA asked the city to consider other potential station sites and funding assumptions for the project changed.

The Fuller Road site is still under consideration, but city officials have said they also are looking at sites on Depot Street, where the current Amtrak station is located.

French said the FRA has encouraged the city to advance the preliminary engineering and NEPA compliance tasks simultaneously.

“It was the city’s decision to wait until NEPA and an alternative is selected to complete preliminary engineering,” she said.

Ann Arbor officials have declined thus far to say which site they prefer and the FRA won’t comment on sites, either.

“It would be premature for the FRA to comment on a preferred location for the station until completion of the NEPA process,” French said.

As It Once Was in Grand Rapids

March 24, 2017

It is a Saturday morning in June 1995. I am awaiting the arrive of Amtrak’s Pere Marquette to Chicago.

The train originates in Grand Rapids but it lays over elsewhere in the city, making a deadhead move to the station in the morning.

The station is adequate for its purpose and reflective of the type of facilities that Amtrak has been building since 1972 when it built its first station in Cincinnati.

There is no ticket agent in Grand Rapids and I believe there never has been one.

The City of Grand Rapids gave $50,000 toward the cost of building this station and Amtrak service got underway on Aug. 5, 1984.

Amtrak no longer uses this facility, having moved to a new station in October 2014.

W.Va. Legislature Moves Toward Daily Cardinal

March 24, 2017

One half of the West Virginia legislature is supporting legislation that would permit the state tourism commissioner to work with Amtrak and other states to make the Chicago-New York Cardinal a daily operation.

The House of Delegates approved the bill on a 95-5 vote and it now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The bill would establish a special revenue account that could be used by the state to help fund the outreach effort, but it does not appropriate any funding to help pay the operating costs of the Cardinal.

The Cardinal currently operates tri-weekly, passing through West Virginia westbound on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, and eastbound on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

Indiana Rail Advocates Want Rails and Trail on Former Nickel Plate Branch Line in Indianapolis

March 24, 2017

Hamilton County (Indiana) officials are rejecting a proposal to retain a former Nickel Plate Road branch line that has been used in recent years by the Indiana Fairtrain.

Instead, they want to move forward with their plans to remove the rails and make the right of way a 9.2-mile paved hiking and biking trail.

The Indiana Transportation Museum, which operated the Fairtrain through 2015, had proposed building the trail next to the tracks.

However, Fisher Mayor Scott Fadness rejected that idea, saying that the right of way is not wide enough for rails and a trail to co-exist.

Fadness said the right of way is 50 feet and to have both rails and a trail would require 120 feet.

The mayor also cited safety concerns.

“I do not believe from what my engineers have told me that within our current right of way bounds it would be safe to put a trail next to a rail line,” Fadness said. “As a father of 2-year-old, the idea of putting a trail within several feet of a locomotive doesn’t sound like a logical solution from my perspective.”

Some rail proponents left a recent public meeting a Fishers City Hall that was devoted to the trail idea feeling disappointed.

“I thought it was presented as an open discussion between a rail and trail and the whole purpose of the meeting is strictly trail,” said Wilbur Sutton, who wants the tracks retained.

An online petition seeking to preserve the rail line has thus far generated more than 4,300 signatures.

ITM official John McNichols disagrees with the mayor’s safety concerns and believes the right of way is large enough to support a trail and the tracks.

“It’s ludicrous,” McNichols said. “We don’t know where they got that. No trail in the county needs that kind of right away unless it’s a park.”

However, on the day of the public hearing, Fadness said the tracks and trail idea will not be considered.

Fishers, Noblesville and the Hamilton County Commissioners said in February they planned to launch a $9.3 million project to convert the rail line to a trail that they said would be similar to a nearby trail built on the former right of way of the Monon Railroad.

Supporters of the proposed Nickel Plate Trail say that rehabilitating the railroad tracks for passenger service would cost up to $5 million.

Last year the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which oversees the rail line, would not allow ITM to provide excursion service on the route, saying that it had safety concerns.

In 2015, the last year that the Fairtrain operated, it generated $700,000 in revenue and was ridden by more than 10,000 passengers.

ITM would like to see the rail line extended beyond 10th Street in Indianapolis, where it now ends, to Union Station.

That would enable service such as the Fairtrain to serve Bankers Life Fieldhouse – home of the Indiana Pacers NBA team – and Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts NFL team.

McNichols estimates it would cost $1.5 million for that extension. At one time the NKP line did extend to Union Station, but those tracks were removed many years ago.

ITM and the Port Authority have been in conflict since last year over the condition of the rail line.

The Port Authority commissioned an inspection of the tracks that found they needed at least $3.7 million, but potentially up to $5 million, in repairs. Repairing the tracks between Fishers and the fairgrounds would cost more than $2 million, it said.

But ITM counters that as recently as June 2016 the Federal Railroad Administration said the line was safe for passenger service, although it would be limited to slow speeds.

“We’re certainly hopeful that enough community support can actually sway the officials,” McNichols said about his group’s proposal to retain the rails next to the trail.

He noted that there are trails next to the rail line in some places in Hamilton County, including at the Riverwalk Depot in Noblesville.

Following this week’s meetings, Fishers, Noblesville, and Hamilton County officials will decide whether to pursue funding for the Nickel Plate Trail.

If the rails are removed, ITM said it might move its railroad rolling stock and locomotives to another location within Indiana for excursion service.

At one point, some Hamilton County officials had raised the prospect that ITM could continue to use the former NKP line for excursion service between Noblesville and Tipton.

ITM has operated excursions on that segment of the route in past years.

Fishers Mayor Fadness sees the issue as a cost-benefit matter. A trail would get more use than a set of railroad tracks.

“It’s going to be $9 million for a trail that you [could] use 365 days a year,” he said. “Far more than 40,000 people would be able to utilize that. From a cost-benefit perspective, it’s very clear to me what the right policy decision is.”

The Rails to Trails Conservancy said there are more than 1,660 rails-with-trails in 41 states, but 10 times as many trail-only corridors on former rail right of ways.

In the meantime, ITM posted a statement on its website saying that it has prepared a master plan that calls for increased excursions and events “to maximize economic and cultural benefit.”

“With downtown developments carrying the Nickel Plate theme, the railroad as a historical, tourism-oriented entity has the capacity to continually enrich the area’s market appeal and economic footprint. Studies have shown ITM is one of the top attractions in Hamilton County,” the statement said.