Archive for June, 2009

Nice Weather, 32 Trains at Marion Outing

June 29, 2009
Akron Railroad Club members had the opportunity to tour AC tower during the club's longest day outing on Sunday, June 28 at Marion, Ohio. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

Akron Railroad Club members had the opportunity to tour AC tower during the club's longest day outing on Sunday, June 28 at Marion, Ohio. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

It was a slow start, both in train count and weather conditions, but the 20 Akron Railroad Club members and their guests who meandered to Marion on Sunday for the longest day outing came away pleased with the results.

Members saw 32 trains of CSX and Norfolk Southern in this central Ohio community that lies at the junction of three rail lines. This was far from the record of more than 40 trains set on an earlier longest day outing at Marion, but also exceeded the low count of 28.

Traffic on Sunday was a mix of manifest freight, intermodals and coal trains. Nothing out of the ordinary passed by. A CSX westbound auto rack train had a former Conrail unit still in blue in the lead, but foreign power was scarce.

Only one train, a westbound CSX manifest freight, had any foreign power in the motive lashup. That train had a pair of Union Pacific units. The lack of foreign power was, perhaps, not surprising given that the class I railroads have sidelined thousands of locomotives due to traffic being down during the recession. They hardly need to borrow power from another road to help get their trains over the road.

Marion area residents who visited the station during the day said that traffic counts were down due to the economy, particularly on NS.

Volunteers from the Marion Union Station Association opened the depot and AC tower in the afternoon. A former operator was on hand to explain the workings of the tower and simulate tower operations by lining signals as trains approached. Of course he had to use radio transmissions intercepted by the tower’s scanners to know of approaching trains.

Many ARRC members witnessed a near miss between a southbound NS train and two bicyclists who crossed in front of it at the first grade crossing just north of the diamonds with the former Big Four/Erie, now owned by CSX. The engineer had already begun sounding the horn and the gates were down when the cyclists ran around the gates and crossed about 20 or so feet in front of the train. Had one of them gotten a wheel caught in the rails we no doubt would have witnessed a catastrophe.

Another notable occurrence played out just after 2 p.m. A CSX crew had readied the locomotives parked in Marion yard that are used by a local that originates there. A CSX dispatcher told them he had two CSX trains and an NS train lined up to cross the former Big Four/Erie diamonds before the local could come out and head east on the ex-Big Four to do its work.

At one point the crew told the dispatcher that they had been told to work as far as Crestline, but were not qualified all the way there. After the passage of the opposing traffic, the dispatcher came back on the radio to tell the crew to take its power back into the yard and tie it down.

Some 10-15 minutes later, another dispatcher came on the radio to ask the crew about their original work orders, saying there was some confusion in the office about what was happening or not happening.

The crew explained it was to go Galion, do some switching there, do more switching at Shelby and do more work at Crestline before returning to Marion. They expressed concern that due to traffic and the amount of time needed to get done what they had been assigned that they would not make it back to Marion before outlawing and their power was needed the next day for another job out of Marion.

The dispatcher consulted with a supervisor who apparently decided that the local was to go ahead and do the work it had been assigned, getting as much done as possible. By now, though, the crew had backed the engines back into the yard and placed the derail back into place. They finally got out on the main just after 3:30 and even then had to wait east of Marion for a pair of auto rack trains to clear before they could get on the single mainline track and head for Galion.

The day got off to a slow start. Members Rick Houck and Jerry Dietry were the first to arrive at 7:30 a.m. They saw two trains pass before Marty Surdyk, Tim Krogg and Richard Thompson pulled in at 8 a.m. But it would be nearly 9 a.m. before another train arrived and it did not go past the station, instead taking the connection from the former Chesapeake & Ohio to the ex-Big Four line to Indianapolis.

It would be more than a hour before another train appeared and it, too, took the connection, going from the ex-Big Four to the ex-C&O. The next train to pass the station, where most ARRC members spent the day, was a northbound NS intermodal just after 11 a.m.

During the lull, ARRC members hand spent time listening to the constant radio chatter of an NS work crew, which was tending to a project to install new rail through Marion. The members also spent considerable time grousing about the weather, which was overcast with occasional sprinkles, and wondering if the sun would come out.

By noon, though, the clouds had begun breaking up and mostly sunny skies prevailed for the remainder of the day. The temperature was nearly perfect, warn, but not hot and the humidity was low.

Traffic picked up about the time the weather began improving, with seven trains appearing between noon and 1 p.m. A lull of an hour and 20 minutes enabled members to go get lunch or have lunch on the station grounds. Rail traffic picked up just before 2:30 and was fairly steady the remainder of the day.

Other ARRC members attending the outing included Craig Sanders, Bob Redmond, J. Gary Dillon, Paul Woodring, Rich Antibus, Jim Mastromatteo, Blaine Hayes, Tom Ward and Matt Ward.

Some members had left by late afternoon but many remained at the station until 8 p.m., the unofficial quitting time. Three members decided to stick it out until 9 p.m.

Following the passage of two NS trains just after 8 p.m., which included a meet near Center Street, seven members ventured to Bucyrus for dinner at the Bob Evans restaurant near the intersection of Ohio Route 4 and U.S. 30.

The following is the list of trains in Marion on Sunday with the time, train symbol (if known), lead engine number, type of train and rail line it traveled. EB and WB CSX trains used the former Big Four/Erie whereas NB and SB trains used the former C&O.

Morning Trains

7:44     NA       CSX 841        auto racks      WB CSX

7:53     NA       NS 2586       light power    NB NS

8:53     Q359    CSX 7512    manifest         SB to WB CSX

10:04   Q358    CSX 8729   manifest         EB to NB CSX

11:04   217      NS 9484      intermodal    NB NS

11:19   Q216    CSX 5321    auto racks    EB CSX

Afternoon Trains

12:19   179       NS 7635      manifest           WB NS

12:26   Q123    CSX 9036    intermodal    WB CSX

12:35   Q108    CSX 7711   intermodal     EB CSX

12:40   218      NS 9832     intermodal     SB NS

12:58   18M     NS 9027    manifest          SB NS

2:22     854    NS 9957     coal                   NB NS

2:29     NA      CSX 7388     stone cars     NB CSX

2:38     Q637  CSX 5205    manifest       SB CSX

3:35     C935   CSX 2752     local            EB CSX

3:47     Q377   UP 5951      manifest    WB CSX

3:50     Q348     CSX 684    manifest     EB CSX

4:00     180       NS 8782    manifest     NB NS

4:10     375       NS 9621    manifest     SB NS

4:30     Q227    CSX 8759  auto racks    WB CSX

4:56     Q279   CR 7358     auto racks    WB CSX

5:07     305      NS 2687    manifest        NB NS

5:47     V358   CSX 263    coal                NB  CSX

5:59     857     NS 9017    coal hoppers  SB NS

Evening Trains

6:10     Q636    CSX 832    manifest     NS CSX

6:28     889      NS 8455    coal hoppers    SB NS

6:58     E809    CSX 338    coal hoppers   SB CSX

7:16     Q268     CSX 4743  auto racks      EB CSX

7:37     116         NS 9275    manifest         NB NS

8:04     851        NS 2698     coal hoppers    SB NS

8:05     854        NS 9722     coal               NB NS

8:30     G204     CSX 567     light power   EB CSX

NOTES: The NB NS  power move had 16 units . . . CSX Q377 had Union Pacific No. 7065 as the trailing unit. . . CSX Q348 terminated at Marion. . . NA denotes that we were unable to determine the train symbol.

Latest McKay Book a Nice Trip Back in Time

June 25, 2009

The most recent installment in the Morning Sun Books Trackside series featuring the photography of the late Dave McKay is devoted to western Ohio. That’s true only if you take a map of Ohio and divide it into equal eastern and western halves.

McKay western Ohio cover copyMany of the images in Trackside Around Western Ohio 1965-1995 with Dave McKay were captured in Marion, which many in the Buckeye State would consider to be in central, not western Ohio. Likewise, many would not consider Mansfield, Crestline, Galion, Columbus or New London to be in western Ohio, either. Yet photographs taken in those places show up throughout this book.

Be that as it may, author Stephen M. Timko has done an admirable job of assembling images from McKay’s collection to show railroading in the western half of Ohio in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which is the dominant time frame covered in this work. All of the images are sharp, properly exposed and interesting to ponder. You can’t say that about every Morning Sun book. This book does well in reflecting the type of photographer that Dave was. And he was pretty good.

The book presents a nice range of images of fallen flags Erie Lackawanna, Penn Central, New York Central, Pennsylvania, Baltimore & Ohio and Chesapeake & Ohio. Modern day carriers CSX and Norfolk Southern get their due along with the late, great Conrail. There are images of such short line and regional carriers as the Ann Arbor, Detroit & Toledo Shore Line, and Toledo Terminal Railroad. The majority of the photographs, though, feature class 1 railroads.

If you like cab units, you will want to pick up this book. Dave photographed a generous array of such locomotives in the 1960s on freight and passenger trains. There are plenty of first- and second-generation diesels on display as well.

Beyond rolling stock, the book pays some tribute to stations and towers that are no more. In particular, the book shows how much the landscape has changed at Marion. Preservationists in that city, where four mainlines once intersected, have saved the union passenger station and AC tower, but much of what was once there is now gone.

This is the fourth Trackside title issued by Morning Sun that features the photography of McKay, who died in December 2004, and the third authored by Timko. The first title focused on the Cleveland region with the text and captions written by McKay himself. Timko wrote the second title, which examined Youngstown, and the third book, which had eastern Ohio as its focus.

This book follows the standard Morning Sun slide show in a book format. The text is minimal other than the captions. Timko makes the best of it to provide an overview of what railroads operated in the region, what traffic they carried and where their tracks ran. He does well in identifying locomotive models and giving a bit of history about select noteworthy units.

McKay, who served as president of the Akron Railroad Club for 12 years, was a prolific photographer and Morning Sun likely will issue additional Trackside books featuring his photographs. For those who knew Dave, reading this book is akin to spending a pleasant evening in his living room looking at slides from his vast collection. For others, it will be a journey back to an era of railroading that no longer exists. Oh, what some might give to be able to go back to those days. You can’t do that, but this book can take you there.

Trackside Around Western Ohio 1965-1995 With Dave McKay is available from book dealers and on line at the Morning Sun Web site at The cover price is $59.95.

Reviewed by Craig Sanders

Norfolk Southern Begins Berea Signal Installation

June 22, 2009
A boom truck prepares to lift the new signal heads up so they can be fastened to the mast, which has already been installed. (Photograph by Dan Davidson)

An eastbound NS train passes by as a boom truck prepares to lift the new signal heads up so they can be fastened to the mast.

The signals are off the ground and being lifted toward attachment to the mast. (Photograph by Dan Davidson)

The signals are off the ground and being lifted toward attachment to the mast, located on the south side of the tracks. Note that that there is a signal head for westbound trains headed onto the 4 Lakefront track.

The signals have been attached to the mast and now crews must complete electrical work before the signals can be swung out over the tracks and placed into service. (Photographs by Dan Davidson)

The signals have been attached to the mast and now crews must complete electrical work before the signals can be swung out over the tracks and placed into service. (Photographs by Dan Davidson)

Norfolk Southern crews begin installing new signals in Berea on Monday (June 22) to serve westbound trains on its busy Chicago line. This is the former New York Central mainline between Chicago and New York.

The new signals are located just a few yards west of BE tower and will replace two existing signal masts that have been around since the days of steam. These are located in approximately the same location as the new signals, which are mounted on a cantilever structure.

It took several hours to get things properly installed. The main challenge was that the signal structure did not face in the proper direction for the crews to attach it to the upright mast. After turning it 180 degrees, the crews were able to raise it and put it into place. Now comes all the electrical work and testing before the signals will be turned 90 degrees over the tracks and placed into service.

The two old signals will be coming down soon. Eventually, NS is expected to replace the signals used by eastbound trains at Berea at the west edge of the interlocking plant. Signals at milepost 192 are also expected to remain in place. NS has already installed new signals at CP Max (formerly CP 190).

Some information in this post was provided by Dan Davidson.

Nofolk Southern to Install New Berea Signals

June 22, 2009

Norfolk Southern was expected early this week to begin setting up new westbound signals on its Chicago line at Berea. The cantilever-style signals had been placed on the ground next just west of the former BE tower. Installation and cut-in could be done on Monday (June 22), which is a light traffic day for NS.

Preliminary work in preparation for installation of the signals got underway last week. Crews poured a concrete pad that will serve as the base for the signal mast.

The new signals will replace the New York Central-style signals that have stood guard at Berea for several decades. Currently, there are two sets of signals for westbound traffic at Berea, which is known on the railroad as CP194.

One set of signals stands on the north side of Track No. 1 while a cantilever set of signals stands on the south side and slightly to the west that serve Track No. 2 and the Four Lakefront track.

The new signals, like the existing ones, will have three heads.

The Incredible Shrinking Fort Wayne Line

June 8, 2009

Mergers and acquisitions can be tough on a railroad line. Many a line has been wiped off the map after being deemed surplus as a result of a merger. While that fate has not befallen the Fort Wayne line that passes through Alliance, Canton, Massillon, Orrville, Wooster and Mansfield, the former Chicago-Pittsburgh mainline of the Pennsylvania Railroad isn’t what it used to be.

After the Conrail breakup, which resulted in the Fort Wayne line east of Crestline becoming Norfolk Southern property, traffic diminished preciptiously. Now the Fort Wayne line has just one pair of daily manifest freights that travel the route daily through northeast Ohio.

Until early May, 12V and 15V operated between Columbus (Buckeye Yard) and Pittsburgh (Conway Yard), using the Sandusky District between Columbus and Bucyrus and the Fort Wayne line east of there.

But NS temporarily closed Buckeye Yard on May 4, citing the downturn in traffic resulting from the current recession. Columbus area traffic will be marshaled at Watkins Yard, a former Norfolk & Western facility on the southeast side of Columbus. NS expects to reopen Buckeye Yard once the economy and its business picks up.

The 12V and 15V now operate between Pittsburgh and Bellevue. The trains continue to use the Sandusky District and to make the turn onto and off of the Fort Wayne line at Bucyrus.

The trains also have a new schedule. The 12V is now slated for a middle of the night departure from Bellevue and should reach the Canton-Alliance area by 8 a.m. The 15V is set to leave Conway at approximately midnight with a mid-morning arrival in Bellevue. The new schedule means that the trains are less likely to operate over the Fort Wayne line west of Canton in daylight hours.

Another change in recent weeks on the Fort Wayne line was the abolition of a pair of locals that operated between Mansfield and Bellevue. Local C37 had originated at Mansfield and hauled auto parts that were made at a General Motors stamping plant near Mansfield and taken to Belleveue for forwarding to GM plants via other trains. For now, this traffic will be handled by the 12V and 15V. However, the future of the GM plant in Mansfield does not look good as the company restructures and downsizes in bankruptcy proceedings.

NS continues to opeate a local between Canton and Massillon that runs during daylight hours, and a local that originates in Mansfield and runs to Wooster before returning. This train does work in Orrville, dropping off tank cars for the J.M. Smucker plant that is located on the former Cleveland, Akron & Columbus branch on the north side of Orrville.

Otherwise the only traffic on the Fort Wayne line is the occasional coal train or load of empty cars.

Two ARRC members inspected the Fort Wayne line between Bucyrus and Upper Sandusky last Saturday.  While in Bucyrus we were told that the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern, which operates over the line west of Crestline, hopes to build traffic over the next few years and even land some bridge traffic coming out of Chicago. A connection from the Fort Wayne line to the Sandusky District in the southwest quandrant of Colsan might be built.

The CF&E was fairly quiet last weekend. The only “train” we saw was a pair of CSX locomotives that CF&E reportedly uses to haul grain trains. Those ran light from Crestline to Lima in late morning.

The Fort Wayne line is mostly a single track railroad west of Crestline and looks more like a branch line than a mainline that once hosted such fabled trains as the Broadway Limited, Pennsylvania Limited, Admiral, General, Trail Blazer and Manhattan Limited.

The line still has Pennsy style position light signals and the defect detector is  still in operation at Robinson (“Robbins”) east of Bucyrus. The train called signals over the radio as it made its way westward.

The Fort Wayne Line remains an intriguing line to photograph even if traffic is slight. The position light signals are still intact on the NS portion of the line west of Alliance. There is the famous Tuscarawas bridge at Massillon that is built on a curve. Just west of the bridge, there is nice photo vantage point of the former Mace interlocking from the bridge carrying Cherry Road NW over the tracks. Although the tower is long gone, this junction sees trains of NS, R.J. Corman and Ohio Central (using trackages rights over the Corman).

There is a nice restored depot and block tower at Orrville. At Bucyrus, work is well underway to restore the former Toledo & Ohio Central station, which is located just south of the junction of the Fort Wayne line with the NS Sandusky District. The group restoring the station has opened a souvenir shop adjacent to the T&OC depot. There is ample parking there.

Given the paucity of traffic on the Fort Wayne line, its future in the NS system would seem to be uncertain. NS probably only kept the route because of its on-line traffic at Mansfield, Wooster, Orrville, Massillon and Canton. The line certainly has little other reason to exist in NS’s eyes other than perhaps serving as a safety value or backup route for traffic moving between Bellevue and Pittsburgh that now goes via Cleveland.  At some point NS might decide that it has more to gain by turning the route over to a short line or regional railroad.

Indeed NS is doing just that this summer with a lightly used branch in Cleveland.  The former Erie line that once ran between Cleveland and Leavittsburg, Ohio, is being leased to the Cleveland Commercial Railroad on or about June 15.

The Cleveland Commercial, which currently leases a Wheeling & Lake Erie branch between Falls Junction and Cleveland, will operate the NS Randall Secondary between Broadway Avenue in Cleveland and milepost 27.5 in Aurora Township — a distance of 25 miles. Currently, the line is out of service east of Harper Road in Solon.

The agreement calls for the Cleveland Commercial to use the former Erie Van Willer Yard in Cleveland. Interchange with NS will occur on a connecting track between East 65th Street in Cleveland and Erie crossing, where the NS Cleveland line (former Pennsyslvania Railroad) crosses the former Erie route.

The Cleveland Commercial can access the Randall Secondary directly without having to use NS trackage by using a connection that passes through the Ferrous Metals scrapyard. This will enable the Cleveland Commercial to offer its customers on the Randall Secondary an interchange with the W&LE

Bob Farkas Featured in Beacon Journal Article

June 5, 2009
Bob Farkas has long documented the railroad scene in the Akron area. Shown is a photograph he took in April 1971 of Reading Company 4-8-4 Northern Type No. 2102 pulling an excursion train across the trestle in downtown Akron on the former Akron, Canton & Youngstown. Farkas is retiring as a middle school teacher at the end of the current school year.

Bob Farkas has long documented the railroad scene in the Akron area. Shown is a photograph he took in April 1971 of Reading Company 4-8-4 Northern Type No. 2102 pulling an excursion train across the trestle in downtown Akron on the former Akron, Canton & Youngstown. Farkas is retiring as a middle school teacher at the end of the current school year.

Long time Akron Railroad Club member Bob Farkas is putting away his chalk and eraser and ending a teaching career that spanned 41 years. Farkas, 62, will retire at the end of the current school year. His thoughts about teaching and his career were featured in an article published in the Akron Beacon Journal.

The article also recounted some of his adventures in teaching including the time in the 1970s when his students tried to telephone the moon during the last Apollo lunar mission in order to wish the astronauts a safe journey home.

Farkas is currently teaching language arts at Manchester Middle School and described his teaching style as “old school.” His principal, Jim Miller, told the Beacon Journal that Farkas “. . . has a quiet, unique approach to teaching. ‘He is not a yeller. He’s a very caring, compassionate individual.”

Bob Eckert, another teacher at the middle school, had Farkas as a teacher 40 years ago. “I remember him always being positive and having kind words to say about students, no matter who they were, and that’s not always easy to do,” Eckert told the Beacon Journal. “It’s so easy to be negative.”

Farkas told the newspaper that he knows not everyone is an “A” student, but he tries to find ways to inspire all of his students. He gets excited when students light up — that’s when he knows they get it.

“Teaching doesn’t have to be dull,” he said. “The students just have to learn. It’s my job to find ways to reach them.”

Farkas attended Manchester schools from the third grade through 12th grade, graduating in 1964 as part of the first class to go through all four years at the community’s then new high school.

To ARRC members, Farkas is known for his railroad photography. Since the 1960s, Farkas has been out capturing railroad scenes, including many that has long since vanished from the landscape. He has periodically displayed his work during programs at ARRC meetings and on members’ nights.

When presenting his photographs of railroads that have disappeared, Farkas is known for saying, “but it will always be there, right?” It is his way of reminding photographers to never take for granted whatever the railroads are operating at moment because railroading is always changing and what might seem mundane today won’t always be here.

To the Beacon Journal article on Farkas, click on this link: