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: July 29. Program by Todd Vander Sluis.

Next Activity: August. 27. Outing in Vermilion.

Interstate H Unit at Heinz Hill Road

July 29, 2016

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This is my only recent Norfolk Southern heritage unit catch, courtesy of good timing from the HeritageUnits.com  site and a clear personal calendar on the afternoon.

I saw the notice and left my mother-in-law’s house in Broadview Heights, hustling to where I felt there would be a clear shot.

This is at Heinz Hill Road looking east at the westbound train. I arrived with approximately 15 minutes to spare.

It is hard to catch something with good nose light on the C&P in the afternoon  without a longish drive from my house.

Given that the Interstate heritage unit leading the train was already to Ravenna when the notice appeared, I felt this is all I had time to do.

In retrospect a better lighted shot might have been from the Cuyahoga River, either side of lift bridge. This is not bad.

It has nice side light, good sun that was a bit of luck as the clouds were often blocking it that day. This was made on July 1 at 2:30 p.m.

Article and Photograph by Peter Bowler

STB Issues Two Rulings in Passenger Cases

July 29, 2016

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board this week decided that it would consider on-time arrival and departure performance at all stations along a passenger train’s route for purposes of assessing overall on-time performance.

STBThe STB said in a news release that it deem a train to be “on time” if it arrives at or departs from a station no more than 15 minutes after its scheduled arrival or departure time.

In a related decision, the STB said it is withdrawing a proposed policy statement on issues that may arise and evidence to be presented in proceedings under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 in favor of a case-by-case approach.

“Reflecting careful consideration of an extensive public and stakeholder response to our most recent passenger rail proposals, these decisions will better position the Board to implement its responsibilities under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008,” said Board Chairman Daniel R. Elliott III in a statement. “Improved passenger train on-time performance is an important goal, and the Board’s decisions will support that goal by clarifying the trigger for starting a proceeding, while allowing more complex and detailed issues to be resolved in the context of individual cases.”

Another Landslide Hits WMSR

July 29, 2016

Another landslide has hit the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, making it all but certain that the tourist railroad won’t be running to Frostburg, Maryland, until sometime in 2017.

Western Maryland ScenicAn earlier landslide last March near milepost 179 had severed the line, but officials had predicted that damage from that incident would be repaired in time for a return to Frostburg by the middle of September.

The latest landslide occurred 10 miles from Cumberland near milepost 175 and is unrelated to the earlier landslide.

WMSR General Superintendent John Garner told Trains magazine that a geology firm detected movement in a hillside adjacent to tracks about two miles away from the location of the March landslide.

Garner said the location, known as Woodcock Hollow in Mt. Savage, has been a problem spot for years with the original Western Maryland having to stabilize the hillside from falling rock and other debris.

Movement on the hillside was only detected recently when soil and rock-like material moved down and outward about an inch as a result of heavy rainfall.

For now, WMSR trains are operating from Cumberland to Maryland Junction in West Virginia and back into Maryland as far west as Milepost 174.

Locomotives are being placed on both ends of the train and passengers will travel on a 24-mile roundtrip excursion.

Garner told Trains that ridership is up by around 1,000 passengers this season.

STB Proposing Competitive Switching Rule

July 29, 2016

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board is accepting comments through Sept. 26 on a proposed rule that would allow shippers to switch cargo among railroads if a shipper can show the arrangement is “practicable and in the public interest” or “necessary to provide competitive rail service.”

STBKnown as reciprocal or competitive switching, the STB rule would allow a railroad that does not own tracks leading to a shipper’s facility to access those tracks by paying a fee to the owning railroad. This often done in the form of a per-car switching charge.

The STB was acting in response to a petition filed by the National Industrial League in 2011 asking the board to modify the standard for mandatory reciprocal or competitive switching.

The NIL wants certain captive shippers in terminal areas to be granted access to a competing railroad if there is a working interchange within 30 miles.

A competitive switching arrangement, though, would not be ordered if either railroad proves that it isn’t feasible or safe, or would unduly hamper either one’s ability to serve customers.

The Association of American Railroads opposes the rule change, calling it “a step backward from the deregulatory path that has allowed railroads to make the capacity investments required to meet customer demand and further modernize a nationwide rail network that benefits shippers and consumers.”

The AAR has argued that STB rules protect rail shippers as railroads voluntarily switch traffic under the current system. If freight can get from its origin to final destination only if it is carried by two or more railroads, then by law the railroads must cooperate to move the shipments.

2016 Tiger Grant Winners Being Named

July 29, 2016

Although the U.S. Department of Transportation has not announced the winners of the 2016 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, word is beginning to leak out about which bids have been chosen.

Thus far public officials in Tiger grantsIllinois, Mississippi, New York, Rhode Island and Washington have issued news releases detailing funding awarded to projects in those states.

DOT is awarding $500 million for the eighth round of TIGER. It received 585 applications requesting $9.3 billion.

The agency has said that its 2016 focus is on capital projects that generate economic development and improve access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation for urban and rural communities.

Chasing the PRR H Unit on the ex-Pennsy

July 28, 2016

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Last Sunday the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit led Norfolk Southern train 12V across the former Pennsy mainline via Bucyrus and Alliance.

With our club picnic being held in nearby Warwick Park, four ARRC members were out in force to catch this move.

My first stop was Mace interlocking in Massillon where the PRR crosses the former Baltimore & Ohio from Warwick.

Myself, Craig Sanders, Steve McMullen and a few others were there to witness its passage.

I also found out that a 66Z with Canadian Pacific motive power was following the 12V. I didn’t stick around for that as I wanted to catch 12V at some other spots.

Next up I went to Wandle crossing in Canton. Jim Mastramatteo and Ron McElrath were already set up.

After that I went to Fairhope which is the east end of Canton yard. The 12V was doing some switching there and I caught a meet with a westbound coal train, the NS 776.

Next was Beech Road at Maximo where Don Woods and Dave Shepherd were there waiting. They had a slight scare as the NS 169 showed up right before 12V, but it was on the opposite track and all was well.

It had been overcast and even raining but here the sun came out, which made for some nice photos.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

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NS Revenue, Profits Fell in 2nd Quarter of 2016

July 28, 2016

Norfolk Southern’s financial performance in the second quarter of 2016 followed a similar path of other Class 1 railroads with falling net income and profits, but an improved operating ratio.

NS logo 2NS said that its second quarter net income declined to $405 million, or $1.36 diluted earnings per share, from $433 million, or $1.41 earnings per share. The comparisons are to the second quarter of 2015.

Operating revenue declined by 10 percent to $2.5 billion compared with 2015 quarterly results. NS said that the fall in revenue was due to reduced volumes and lower fuel surcharge revenue. Overall, volume dropped 7 percent to 1.8 million units for the quarter.

Income from railroad operations was $770 million, a slip of 5 percent from the results of the second quarter of 2015.

However, NS said its operating ratio improved 1.4 points to 68.6 percent.

That was in part a result of cost-cutting measures the company imposed. It said lowering expenses and lower fuel costs resulted in an 11 percent decline in operating expenses, which totaled $1.7 billion for the second quarter of 2016.

“Our second-quarter results reflect our unwavering focus on cost-control, steadfast commitment to customer service, and significant improvements in network performance,” said NS Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer James Squires in a statement.

Squires said NS expects to reap productivity savings of at least $200 million for 2016 and noted that the operating ratio of 69.4 percent for the first half of 2016 is a record.

NS is aiming to have an operating ratio of below 70 percent for all of 2016.

“Through the continued execution of our strategic plan, we remain confident in our ability to drive superior shareholder value through excellent customer service that positions us for future revenue growth, combined with network efficiency and asset utilization,” Squires said.

In looking at individual traffic figures, NS said that coal revenue plummeted 25 percent to $339 million and coal volume fell 24 percent.

It attributed that to continued high stockpiles of coal by utility companies, limited coal burn due to a mild winter and lower natural gas prices.

Merchandise revenue fell 3 percent to $1.6 billion, primarily because low oil prices have resulted in fewer chemicals being shipped.

The five merchandise commodity groups’ year-over-year revenue results were chemicals, down 6 percent to $426 million; agriculture, up 1 percent to $383 million; metals/construction, down 3 percent to $334 million; automotive, down 2 percent to $248 million; and paper/forest, down 5 percent to $186 million.

Intermodal revenue fell by 15 percent to $538 million, with volume down 5 percent. NS said this was a result of its restructuring of its Triple Crown Services subsidiary.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the NS second quarter earnings were better than had been anticipated by Wall Street analysts.

CSX Moving More W.Va. Coal Trains

July 28, 2016

Trains magazine is reporting that coal traffic has been on the upswing in West Virginia on CSX during the past two weeks.

CSX logo 1It reported that Contura Energy’s McClure Complex has increased the number of loaded unit trains of metallurgical coal trains it moved in the third week of July from two to six.

Five additional new trains this week were also slated to be moved. The magazine said there has been a decrease in the number of stored coal hopper cars being stored on the idled former Clinchfield Railroad.

The uptick in business follows Contura’s reorganization in bankruptcy court as a new company that is comprised of the top lien holders of Alpha Natural Resources, which had mining operations in West Virginia.

Contura acquired the complexes of Alpha’s Nicholas, McClure, and Toms Creek complexes in West Virginia and Virginia.

It also owns mining complexes in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and in Pennsylvania.

Watco to Operate NS Sandusky Bulk Terminal

July 28, 2016

Watco Transloading will operate a new Norfolk Southern bulk terminal in Sandusky.

WatcoIn a news release, Watco said that the facility will have 30 paved rail car spots with laydown space for storage. Operations are expected to begin shortly.

Watco said it will handle in Sandusky such commodities as chemicals, plastics, forest products, steel products and agricultural products.

Operations will include origin and destination transloading, and outside storage for break-bulk products.

The Sandusky facility was formerly a Triple Crown Service terminal that handled RoadRailers.

Watco operates other bulk terminals in Ohio in Columbus and Euclid, and in Willis, Michigan.

Amtrak Workers Collect West Virginia Aid

July 28, 2016

Amtrak employees recently collected donations that were distributed to areas of West Virginia that were hard hit by flooding in late June.

Amtrak logoThe back-to-school supplies and other materials were placed in a baggage car of Amtrak’s New York to Chicago Cardinal and transported to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, for distribution.

The donations were collected at stations and Amtrak facilities in eight cities.

Amtrak worked with the American Red Cross, community organization Neighbors Loving Neighbors, and the West Virginia National Guard to coordinate the donations.


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