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: September 30. Program by Don Woods.

Next Activity: September 25. ARRC Picnic at Valley Picnic Area in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

NKP 767’s Loyal Wingman, CVSR 6771

September 24, 2016
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad No. 6771 reflects in Indigo Lake as it bring up the rear of an Akron-bound excursion train.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad No. 6771 reflects in Indigo Lake as it bring up the rear of an Akron-bound excursion train.

Nickel Plate Road 767 gets 100 percent of the billing but is only doing about 50 percent of the work.

At the other end of the train is Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad FPA-4 No. 6771, which pulls the steam train whenever it is heading northward.

It is not the first time that No. 6771 has pulled wingman duty for a steam locomotive on the CVSR. It had that assignment in 2014 and 2015.

Passengers riding in the lounge section of the Saint Lucie Sound have had ample opportunity to see the back of the 6771 and hear its single-note horn, which sounds like a loud blat as it approaches grade crossings. It harkens back to the early days of diesel locomotives.

Built by Montreal Locomotive Works in January 1959, the 6771 began life as Canadian National No. 6771.

It would later serve VIA Rail Canada and the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad — where it had roster number 305 — before winding up on the Cuyahoga Valley Line as No. 15.

As CVL No. 15 it wore that blue and gray Delaware & Hudson inspired livery and then the initial CVSR gold, red and black scheme.

The 6771 became something of a celebrity last spring when it debuted the CVSR’s new locomotive livery featuring a dark red V stripe on the nose.

Thus far the 6771 is the only CVSR unit to wear that scheme so perhaps that is why it was chosen to accompany the 767 this year.

Although the 6771’s new paint job is several months old, it still looks quite sharp and bright, making it the perfect complement to the 767, which itself is looking snazzy with its temporary new number and a Mars light.

So here is to the wingman, the 6771 which once the 767 has returned to Indiana will resume its rightful place as one of the most striking Alcos on the CVSR.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Crossing Chippewa Creek in Brecksville.

Crossing Chippewa Creek in Brecksville.

At milepost 51 near Deep Lock Quarry.

At milepost 51 near Deep Lock Quarry.

Passing an apartment complex at Boston Mill whose owner really doesn't want railfans standing on the property photographing the steam locomotive runbys.

Passing an apartment complex at Boston Mill whose owner really doesn’t want railfans standing on the property photographing the steam locomotive runbys.

Leading the excursion train into Indigo Lake.

Leading the excursion train into Indigo Lake.

 

Prospects of Making Amtrak’s Cardinal a Daily Train Discussed at Meeting Held in Cincinnati

September 24, 2016
Map of Amtrak's Cardinal showing its station stops. It more stations in West Virginia than in any other state.

Map of Amtrak’s Cardinal showing its station stops. It more stations in West Virginia than in any other state.

Amtrak supporters met in Cincinnati on Friday to push for making the Chicago-New York Cardinal a daily train rather than the tri-weekly operation that it has been since the early 1980s.

Amtrak CardinalRail passenger advocates and public officials heard Amtrak officials outline the challenges facing daily service as well as how to overcome those.

“We’ve been building toward an event like this for a very long time. If you truly want to make this train better, you’ve got to run it seven days a week,” said Amtrak senior government affairs specialist Charlie Monte Verde. “We’re pitching this as a modern economic engine. We’re not trying to trade on the ghosts of the past.”

A Cincinnati chamber of commerce official echoed those sentiments.

“This is a piece of the puzzle for the chamber’s transportation strategy of connecting people to jobs,” said Jason Kershner, the chamber’s vice president for government relations. “We’ve really put our stake in the ground that transportation is important to business.”

The Cincinnati meeting was billed as a step toward building a coalition of communities along the route of the Cardinal who want better service.

Amtrak officials have said the cost of a daily Cardinal remains unknown. Much of the route uses tracks owned by CSX, which might demand capital improvements before agreeing to host a daily Cardinal.

Monte Verde said once the capital needs are known Amtrak could ask for an appropriation from Congress or attempt to build seven-day-a-week service into its budget somehow. He would not discuss potential costs.

“We think there is the space out there to make this train daily, but the first real step is to work with the railroads to see what their traffic is like,” Monte Verde said.

Amtrak officials said ridership would likely increase with more service because trains become more reliable the more they run.

“A daily Cardinal is a starting point,” Monte Verde said. “From there, you build the kind of awareness you need to have a discussion [about] a Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago short corridor service.”

“It’s a step forward, and it’s going to be a step we build upon,” said Derek Bauman, the southwest Ohio chair of rail advocacy group All Aboard Ohio.

Indiana Northeastern Buys 6-Axle Power

September 24, 2016

The Indiana Northeastern Railroad has acquired a pair of six axle locomotives, its first.

indiana-northeasternUntil now the short line railroad that serves Indiana, Ohio and Michigan had relied on four-axle EMD diesels.

How Indiana Northeastern has purchased a pair of SD40-2s from Motive Power Resources in Minooka, Illinois.

The units formerly worked for Canadian Pacific and Southern Pacific with the ex-SP unit still having its flared SD45 car-body.

Indiana Northeastern president Gale Shultz said two factors prompted his railroad to seek larger locomotives.

“In the next year, we have to equip for positive train control to get in and out of the Norfolk Southern yards at Montpelier, Ohio,” Shultz said. “We are running 85-car unit trains and I can’t see spending money on one of the old girls.”

Shultz said both SD40-2s have been rebuilt from the frame-up by Alstom Canada and were last used in a CSX Transportation lease fleet.

“’These are sixteen cylinders, new controls and wiring, we hope to have the first one here in a week,” he says.

Indiana Northeastern General Manager Troy Strane told Trains magazine that one six-axle unit will be paired with a four-axle unit to move unit grain trains.

“I think one of these can easily do the work equal to two or three of our four-axles. We have a lot of small hills and curves, its real railroading and moving these unit trains is rough on the power,” Strane said.

The SD40-2s are unlikely to be repainted into Indiana Northeastern colors until next spring because they are needed immediately to help with the grain harvest that is getting underway.

Airline Turbulence Continues at Akron-Canton

September 24, 2016

The churn of airline service at Akron-Canton Airport continued this week with the news that Allegiant Air will leave the airport early next year and that Spirit Airlines will increase the number of destinations that it plans to serve from CAK.

Akron-Canton AirportAkron-Canton will also see an increase in service by American Eagle in early October.

Allegiant, which began service to Akron-Canton in spring 2015, plans to move it flights from CAK to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

The discount carrier, which specializes in selling travel packages as well as air fares, will cease serving Akron-Canton on Feb. 15.

For its part, Spirit plans to begin service at Akron-Canton on Nov. 10, serving many of the same destinations that Allegiant now serves.

From Akron-Canton, Allegiant serves St. Petersburg, Florida; Punta Gorda, Florida; Orlando (Sanford); Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and Savannah, Georgia.

Many of those destinations are seasonal and none are served daily.

Allegiant said it would link Cleveland with all of those destinations as well as launch routes between Cleveland and Jacksonville, Florida.; Austin, Texas; New Orleans; and Phoenix.

Spirit will offer service from Akron-Canton to Orlando International Airport and to Fort Lauderdale. Allegiant’s Orlando flights actually go to Sanford.

Spirit also plans to provide winter seasonal service several times a week to Tampa and Fort Myers, Florida. Summer seasonal service to Myrtle Beach will begin next April 27.

This week Spirit announced that it will begin flying between Akron-Canton and Las Vegas on April 27, providing the first service between those cities since Southwest Airlines ended its flights on the route earlier this year.

American Eagle plans to institute twice daily service on Oct. 6 between Akron-Canton and Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and to increase its service between Akron-Canton and New York LaGuardia Airport to twice daily.

United Express currently flies between Akron and O’Hare.

Airport officials said Allegiant told them its flights to Akron-Canton had performed well.

But Allegiant chief operating officer and senior vice president of planning Jude Bricker told attendees of the International Aviation Forecast Summit this month that service between smaller airports and destination cities such as Orlando and Las Vegas has just about played itself out.

Bricker said Allegiant did well in those markets, saying the carrier now has 350 served markets in 109 cities.

“We serve more cities than Southwest Airlines, though we’re much thinner on peak days,” he said.

Allegiant recently began service to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and plans to begin serving Newark Liberty International Airport.

In Ohio, Allegiant has service to Columbus, Toledo, Youngstown, Dayton and Cincinnati. It has never served Cleveland directly.

Akron-Canton Airport President and Chief Executive Officer Rick McQueen said Allegiant had an 88 percent load factor at CAK.

“It’s always disappointing to lose air service,” he said. “It’s a very precious commodity to the community. The Akron and Canton community really supported that service.”

Within the past year, Akron-Canton has lost service provided by Southwest Airlines. At one time, Southwest flew to Atlanta, Chicago Midway, LaGuardia, Washington Reagan National, Denver, Las Vegas and Orlando.

Today, Southwest continues to fly to Atlanta three times a day and has Saturday-only service to Orlando.

In a statement, Bricker said moving Allegiant’s flights to Cleveland “will allow Allegiant to have a stronger presence in Northeast Ohio and allow us to offer our low fares and convenient travel to even more travelers.”

Spirit also serves Cleveland and although it has said it expects to do well in Cleveland and Akron-Canton, there has been speculation that some Cleveland flights might migrate to Akron-Canton if the load factors out of Cleveland drop off.

DC to AC Conversion Units Make Their First Foray Through NE Ohio; Virginian H Unit Visits, Too

September 23, 2016

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On Thursday afternoon Norfolk Southern sent two interesting trains westbound. The first was 60H a unit train of gypsum that had the Virginian heritage unit leading.

The second had two brand new DC to AC conversion units leading 65K, an empty crude oil train. Both of these have a black mane but different color separation stripes one one blue and one maroon.

I got both of these trains at Rootstown.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

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‘Akron Railroads’ to be Released on Oct. 31

September 22, 2016

akron-railroads-cover

A Halloween release date (Oct. 31, 2016) has been set for Akron Railroad, the book written by Akron Railroad Club President Craig Sanders that describes the history of the railroads of Akron between 1960 and the present.

The book is being published by Arcadia Publishing as part of its Images of Modern America series.

Nearly all of the images in the book are in color and were contributed by ARRC members.

The cover image shows a meet in Peninsula between Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 Berkshire-type locomotive No. 765 and a Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train with CVSR No. 800, the Baltimore & Ohio tribute locomotive.

The book has 96 pages and 171 photographs, including the cover image and four smaller photographs on the back cover.

The book is organized by historical eras. One chapter is devoted to the CVSR.

Among the railroads portrayed in Akron Railroads are the B&O; Pennsylvania; Erie; Erie Lackawanna; Akron, Canton & Youngstown; Akron Barberton Belt; Norfolk & Western; Penn Central; Conrail; Wheeling & Lake Erie; Norfolk Southern; CSX; Amtrak; Akron Barberton Cluster Railway; and a few industrial operations in Akron.

ARRC members who contributed photographs to the book include Roger Durfee, Paul Woording, Marty Surdyk, Jim Mastromatteo, Richard Antibus, Peter Bowler, Edward Ribinskas, Robert Farkas and John Beach. Some photographs are included that were made by the late William Surdyk.

The retail price of the book is $22.95. Ordering information is available at the Arcadia website at www.arcadiapublishing.com

The book is intended to complement the book Akron Railroads that was published by Arcadia in 2007 and also written by Sanders.

The first Akron Railroads was focused on the history of the development of the railroads of Akron and the immediate surrounding areas.

All of the images in that 197-page book, which was part of Arcadia’s Images of Rail series, were printed in black and white.

There is some overlap between the two books in terms of coverage of modern railroad operations.

In choosing photographs for the second Akron Railroads title, Sanders said that he sought to portray the diversity of motive power liveries and models used by railroads between 1960 and the present. He also strove to provide a diversity of locations to show railroad operations.

The book opens with a few images from the 1950s to establish the transition between steam and diesel motive power. These include images of B&O steam locomotives made by William Surdyk.

A preview of Akron Railroads is available at the website of Google books and can be reached through the link provided below.

https://books.google.com/books? id=O4XiDAAAQBAJ&dq=akron+railroads&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Ann Arbor OKs Money for More Station Studies

September 22, 2016

The Ann Arbor City Council has approved a resolution to amend the city’s professional services agreement with AECOM, an engineering firm, which would provide additional funding to perform further studies on a new Amtrak station.

michiganHowever, some council members expressed discontent about how much money has already been spent on studies related to the new depot.

They noted that nearly a million dollars has already been expended on studies and environmental reviews since 2012 and yet a site for the station has yet to be chosen.

A study recently released identified several station options at three sites.

“This additional money is necessary because we have not narrowed it down to one site. The original agreement included the environment review for one preferred alternative,” said council member Jack Eaton. “If we were able to narrow it down to one alternative we would not have to spend this extra $196,000.”

Public Services Administrator Craig Hupy and Transportation Manager Eli Cooper said the additional city funding is needed for studies of the potential station sites because the project’s current funding grant from the Federal Railroad Association did not provide money for those studies.

Nine council members voted to approve the resolution, with Eaton the sole no vote.

Ann Arbor is served by six daily Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

Buffalo Exchange Street Station Closed After Heavy Rainfall Leads to Ceiling Collapse

September 22, 2016

Exchange Street station in Buffalo, New York, has been closed after heavy rain caused the ceiling to collapse.

Amtrak 3The city of Buffalo, which owns the station, has indicated that it will seek cost estimates about repairing the facility, which is served by New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains and the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf.

All of those trains plus the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited are also served by another Amtrak station in suburban Buffalo in Depew, New York.

Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak said a contractor has been sent to the site to evaluate the condition of the building. Stepniak said the city will explore various options before moving forward.

The ceiling collapse occurred near the passenger waiting area last weekend and the station was closed on Monday.

Earlier this month, another portion of the ceiling collapsed, prompting the closure of the station’s ticket office.

Amtrak will continue to serve the station in the meantime. The passenger carrier said it is working with the New York State Department of Transportation, but is not directly involved in station repairs because it does not own the station.

A passenger train advocate said the situation underscores the need for a new station in Buffalo near the city’s waterfront.

“We are very concerned over the immediate safety implications, and the loss of service to the increasingly vibrant downtown Buffalo area,” said Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

Class 1 Employment Continued to Fall in August

September 22, 2016

Employment at U.S. Class 1 railroads continued to fall in August, dropping by 0.02 percent since July, the Surface Transportation Board said.

STBEmployment  for 2016 to date is down 9.61 percent over what it was at this time a year ago.

The STB said that all six employment categories reflected decreases in mid-August compared with mid-July as well as with mid-August a year ago.

The month-to-month comparison showed that the number of executives, officials and staff assistants is down 1.33 percent to 9,153; professional and administrative, down 0.27 percent to 13,658; maintenance of way and structures, down 0.59 percent to 35,986; maintenance of equipment and stores, down 0.72 percent to 28,292; transportation (other than train and engine), down 1.32 percent to 6,035; and transportation (train and engine), down 1.18 percent to 59,629.

In comparing 2016 with 2015, the number of executives, officials and staff assistants decreased 6.68 percent; professional and administrative, down 6.19 percent; maintenance of way and structures, down 6.04 percent; maintenance of equipment and stores, down 8.75 percent; transportation (other than train and engine), down 10.06 percent; and transportation (train and engine), down 13.10 percent.

New Niagara Falls Depot Still Without Trains

September 22, 2016

Niagara Falls, New York, has a state-of-the-art new $43 million intermodal station that was built to serve Amtrak, yet its trains continue to call elsewhere.

Amtrak 4The city and Amtrak have yet to agree on a lease agreement for the station, which remains closed until such a pact is reached.

“Amtrak continues to work with the City of Niagara Falls toward execution of a lease agreement allowing us to occupy space in the new train station,” said Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz. “We are working through the remaining issues which we are optimistic can be resolved. We look forward to moving Amtrak operations into the new building and inaugurating service to the new station.”

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster has told local media that “the ball is now in Amtrak’s court.”

Work on the new station was completed this summer and an open house was held at which Amtrak showed off a display train.

In the meantime, Amtrak continues to use a facility in Niagara Falls near Lockport Road.