Archive for October, 2010

‘Miracle Kids’ Get Ride of Their Lives on NS

October 23, 2010

The Norfolk Southern executive train gleams in the October sunlight as it boards passengers at the Cleveland Amtrak station. NS donated the train for use on October 16 for the “Miracle Express” to Toledo and back. (Photographs by Roger Durfee)

The Norfolk Southern executive train was in Northern Ohio on Saturday, October 16 for the “Miracle Express,” which operated from Cleveland to Toledo and return.

The train trip was  run for the Children’s Miracle Network and organized by one of our local engineers, Bud Ramkey. The train and management were donated by Norfolk Southern. Use of the Cleveland station was donated by Amtrak

The train was staffed by volunteer NS employees, Bowling Green State University, and others. I volunteered to take photographs and just help out in general.

Our day started early at Rockport yard where our train, 4 F units and seven cars off the NS OCS train were stocked with snacks and drinks by the volunteers.

NS employees at Rockport put the finishing touches on the equipment, such as topping off the fuel and water tanks on the units and cars. Once the train was ready to go we pulled west from Rockport, then backed down to the Amtrak station to load the passengers.

Amtrak provided a wheelchair lift for several of the children who needed one to enter their car. Once everyone was on board, the train departed west for Toledo on the advertised at 12:45 p.m.

As we traveled westward, a band played in the lower level of the dome car and also visited each car and played a few songs for the kids who were not able to travel between the cars.

A magician also visited each car as did the CMN duck mascot and the BGSU falcon mascot. It was a smooth and fast trip to Toledo, and we often ran over 70 mph.

Once in Toledo the train headed north on the east leg of the Detroit Line wye, then backed west to turn the train on the west leg. The return to Cleveland allowed for second views of such interesting highlights as the Sandusky Bay bridge and causeway.

As I made my way through the train several times, it was evident the children were having the time of their lives as were many of us adults too! The smiles told me the effort was worth it.

It was a fun day, although bittersweet at times because a few of the kids aboard are fighting terminal illnesses.

Once back at the station in Cleveland, it was time to unload the passengers, clean up the train, and call it a day.

Another crew would return the train to Rockport, add more OCS cars, and it would depart that night for Bellevue then points south and east.

A very big thank you goes out to Norfolk Southern and its employees, Amtrak, and a host of other behind-the-scenes volunteers who made this such a great day for a lot of children.

Roger Durfee

Two kids get to spend quality time with their father as the train rolls along.

The smile on this little girl’s face as she was carried from the train when the trip was done said it all.

Everyone was having a good time inside car No. 23, which is the theater car on the rear.

And the band played on, and on, and on inside car No. 24, the full-width dome.

One of the two Bowling Green State University Falcon mascots was aboard and posing for photographs.

More than 1,000 Ride Hartville Trains

October 23, 2010

Passengers board the 3:15 pm McKinley Day train on October 16, 2010 with Orrville Railroad Heritage Society crew members assisting. (Photographs by Richard Jacobs)

Five roundtrip train excursions from the historic Hartville Train Station to Mogadore were operated on October 16, 2010, by the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway. The hour-long leisurely trek by rail was a part of Hartville’s McKinley Day celebration.

The trains journeyed along the golf course of Congress Lake and the waters of Wingfoot Lake. Two hundred seats per run were sold. The train was scheduled for four runs every two hours starting at 9:15 a.m.

A fifth run at 5:15 p.m. was added, due to the overwhelming response for tickets. More than 1,000 rode the train during the day.

President William McKinley impersonator Jerry Sandifer was aboard the train. McKinley was no stranger to Hartville and the train service from Canton to Congress Lake. He was a founding member of the Congress Lake Club, then known as a hunting club. McKinley was a Canton prosecutor, governor and the 25th president of the United States.

The five trains ran from Hartville MP Q47.4 to Mogadore about 8 miles north on the Wheeling’s Cleveland subdivision and returned to Hartville.

At MP Q40.1, the line meets the Akron subdivision of the Wheeling, which is the former Akron, Canton & Youngstown Railway. Both lines became part of the current W&LE in May 1990 when spun off from Norfolk Southern, the owner and operator at that time.

The line is former original W&LE/Cleveland, Canton & Southern/Connotton Valley. The line was originally 3-foot narrow gauge. It was widened to standard gauge in one day on Sunday, November 18, 1888, with the simultaneous effort of 1,150 men along the 115 miles of mainline track.

Motive power for the trains was the Wheeling GP-35 Nos. 106 and 102. Coaches and train crew were provided by the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society. The ORHS train crew assisted the loading and unloading of passengers, as well as providing assistance and trip highlights along the way.

Article and Photographs by Richard Jacobs

The 3:15 p.m. McKinley Day train leaves Hartville with W&LE GP-35 No. 102 trailing the consist.

Memories of the Chessie System! C&O wood caboose No. 90946 resides next to the Hartville Historic Train Station.

The 1880 historic Hartville Train Station, former W&LE, now the Maple Street Gallery.

President McKinley boards the train in Hartville for the trip to Mogadore.

ORHS, W&LE ‘Starred’ in ‘Unstoppable”

October 23, 2010

The fictional Allegheny & West Virginia (A&WV) locomotives used in the production for the movie "Unstoppable" repose in the Wheeling yard at Warrenton, OH on November 29, 2009. Some Wheeling & Lake Erie locomotives were repainted by the movie crews at Brewster for use in the film. (Photographs by Richard Jacobs)

When the action-adventure film Unstoppable opens in theaters on November 12, sharp-eyed observers may notice a few familiar pieces of railroad rolling stock. Part of the filming was done on the Wheeling & Lake Erie using its locomotives and passenger coaches owned by the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society.

Unstoppable, starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, is about a runaway train. The story is loosely based on a May 15, 2001, incident involving a CSX locomotive No. 8888 and 47 cars that got out of Stanley Yard in Toledo and rolled along the Toledo Branch until railroad personnel could attach a locomotive to the rear of the train and slow it enough to enable an employee to get aboard the No. 8888 and set the locomotive’s brakes.

Some of the filming for Unstoppable was done on the Wheeling property in Brewster and elsewhere along railroad lines. A trailer for the film that has been showing in theaters for a few weeks shows the noses of what clearly appear to be W&LE locomotives.

Coaches 103 and 104 from the ORHS were used in the filming. In the film, those coaches are filled with school children on a outing. The train they are riding is headed toward a railroad yard that is also in the path of the runaway train.

W&LE Locomotives were painted by the movie personnel in the Wheeling’s car repair shed in at the Brewster shops. The shed was modified as a paint shop by enclosing the open sides with plastic sheeting and installing the necessary lighting, ventilation and other equipment.

Some filming involving Mr. Washington was done in Brewster, but much of the movie was filmed in Olean, New York. Glenn Bowman and John Harding of the ORHS were on site in Olean to assist with the car maintenance if needed.

One morning as they arrived on the set Olean, they noticed smoke rolling out from under car No. 103. Upon further investigation they determined that no fires were imminent. It was simply testing of “special effects being conducted.

Bowman and Harding also spent two days filming in the small Pennsylvania town of Eldred. This site offered some nice scenery as well as giant mosquitoes in hordes of not smaller than one million at any given moment.

Harding said that to witness the constant attention to detail and the movement of hundreds of people and the needed props and power sources was an education. There were always sandwich trucks and beverages available at any time during the 16- or 17-hour days. The “base camp” food service area was a sight to behold every day.

Leg of lamb? “No problem. Right here, sir.” Harding said he remembered a railroad official saying “If you ever have the opportunity to be involved in a movie, don‘t!

Harding said he and Bowman felt pretty lucky being involved with the making of Unstoppable, but could see where the strict safety concerns of the railroads involved were not at all a prime consideration of the film crews.

Some information in this article was taken from the ORHS newsletter.

W&LE locomotive No. 6353 is in the terminal at Brewster on May 19, 2010. It has been numbered 1206, painted and lettered AWVR for use in the production of the movie "Unstoppable."

Sterling B&O Depot on the Move

October 19, 2010

The Baltimore & Ohio freight station at Sterling has been moved to the "Rails to Trails" site west of Kauffman Avenue and next to the CSX tracks. Note the passing westbound tank train in the background. The trail on which the depot now resides is the former Erie Railroad right of way that crossed the B&O in Sterling. (Photograph by Richard Jacobs)

Exploring Vestiges of Conrail in Cleveland

October 3, 2010

The night photo session of the Conrail Historical Society featured a former Conrail locomotive and crane. The event was held at the Norfolk Southern Macedonia car shops.

The Conrail Historical Society held its annual convention September 24, 25, and 26 in Cleveland this year. Conrail has been gone now well over 10 years, so many vestiges of “Big Blue” are fast fading from today’s railroad scene.

 Even though a small cluster of lines remain “Conrail” in the east, they are considered shared assets and power is provided by CSX and NS.

The CRHS is dedicated to preserving Conrail’s legacy because in the end Conrail proved to be a success. Our group attends and hosts many shows and gatherings throughout the year, one of which is our yearly convention held in a former Conrail city.

Past conventions have been held in places like Altoona and Philadelphia. Cleveland was picked for the 2010’s convention due to it being in the middle of the “X” on the modern Conrail map, a “Conrail Crossroad” city for sure.

As the convention coordinator I knew there was a lot of Conrail history in the Cleveland area and went about setting up some tours. Norfolk Southern was very cooperative and allowed us to tour several active former Conrail facilities.

 Friday started with everyone checking in to register and enjoy some time to “catch up” with old friends and make new ones. After a member’s meeting, we had pizza and then car pooled to the first event, a night photo shoot of former Conrail equipment at the Macedonia car shop.

I had staged an SD50 still in Conrail blue, a Conral boxcar, and the Dearborn Division/Cleveland terminal caboose on one track and a former Conrail American crane on another. CRHS member Brian Alesin provided the lighting for the event.

Earlier in the day several members had “unpatched” the NS 5405 back to CR 6710, which had been its delivery number under Conrail ownership.

The crane also had one of its earlier CR numbers applied to complete this Conrail scene. A car repair scene was also recreated using two CR boxcars, a laser light and fog machine, and a member posing as the welder.

A bonus was a transfer coming in while we were doing the night shoot with a former CR SD40-2 in its consist. The crew was kind enough to stop for a moment while we shot the 3405 with a one day past full moon and Jupiter above it.

On Saturday, a bus took us to the Macedonia shops for a tour. The Macedonia Car Shop was built by Conrail in 1977. Most of the equipment the carmen use was on display and there was a boxcar up on jacks with a truck set removed so we could see the inner workings of a wheel set.

We took daylight photos of the outdoor equipment lineup that we had photographed the night before and toured the cab of the 6710 and the caboose. After a few hours at the shop it was off to Larry’s Truck and Electric (LTEX), in McDonald, Ohio, (near Youngstown) for a self-guided tour of this very interesting used locomotive facility.

We were able to roam the grounds and take photos, gather frame numbers, or just revel in the railroad history that surrounded us. We spent the balance of the afternoon at LTEX and we all were pretty tired after all that walking.

Once back to the hotel it was social time then our banquet. Guest presenters after the dinner gave a well-received series of slide shows on Conrail in the Cleveland area. Noted rail author and photographer Dave Ori showed many of his Conrail slides and provided a wealth of train information. Dennis Nerhenz entertained us with a show of stellar Conrail photos and Joe Polefko rounded out the night with a show on all the places he has worked on the railroad. He is currently first trick operator at Bridge 1. We also heard a history of Cleveland Terminal Tower.

On Sunday, it was back on the bus for a morning at Berea. This former Conrail hot spot sees even more trains these days since the Conrail split. The owner of the long-closed The Station restaurant located in the former Big Four station was there and stated he will reopen. He was kind enough to let many of us up in the tower for photos.

From Berea it was off to the former Conrail drawbridge in downtown Cleveland where we were allowed to go up and observe the operations.

Ship fans were treated to the Buffalo passing through as it made its way down river and out to Lake Erie. We were treated to several operations of the bridge for river traffic and, of course, trains were plenty. After the Bridge 1 stop, it was back to the hotel where many folks, having a long drive home, departed. Some elected to carpool to the model railroad museum in Mentor where they viewed the operating layouts in all scales. That would be our last event in the convention, a full weekend to be sure.

To view additional photographs taken during the convention, click on the link below.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee

Conrail Historical Society members explore the Macedonia car shops built by Conrail and now used by Norfolk Southern.

Former Conrail locomotives are part of the "collection" of used locomotives sitting at Larry's Truck and Electric near Youngstown.

The view from the window at Drawbridge tower. CRHS members were allowed to visit the tower during the group's convention in Cleveland.

It wasn't all about trains. The Great Lakes freighter "Buffalo" makes its way along the Cuyahoga River during the visit to Drawbridge tower.

ELHS Members Enjoy Marion Meeting

October 2, 2010

The setting sun on September 24, 2010, backlights AC Tower and the Marion Union Station, site of the 2010 ELHS annual convention. (Photographs by Richard Jacobs)

The 39th anniversary annual meeting of the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society (ELHS) was held in Marion, Ohio, on September 24-25, 2010. The ELHS is the organization that preserves the history of the Erie Lackawanna (EL) Railway and its predecessor roads, the Erie Railroad and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western (DL&W).

The two roads, competitors on the New York to Buffalo route, merged in October 1960, forming the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad. The hyphen was dropped in 1963 when the road was renamed the Erie Lackawanna Railway. The EL was short-lived, only lasting until the formation of Conrail in 1976. It would have been 50 years old this year.

Thirty nine years ago in July 1971, a group of dedicated EL railfans in Marion formed the Erie Railfan Society. This organization became the ELHS in 1981. The ELHS held its annual meeting in Marion in 1991, when I joined. I had been photographing the EL for the last six years of its existence (1970-1976) and had been a regular visitor to Marion during that time. A second annual meeting was held in Marion in 2001.

This year’s meeting was sponsored by the Marion Union Station Association (MUSA), with Rich Behrendt and Pete White acting as meeting organizers and hosts. White is a former tower operator of AC (Atlantic Crossing) Tower, which formerly controlled all rail traffic through Marion.

The tower has been preserved and relocated to MUSA’s property across the rails from its original location. It was obtained from Conrail in 1995 and moved to its current location in 1999.

The working model board inside the tower reflects the track and signal installation that was in place prior to 1976.

EL bay window caboose C306 occupies the area next to the tower. Marion Union Station has been superbly preserved and the adjacent buildings of the complex house a fine meeting room, and an expansive HO model railroad layout. The station is open Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at other times by appointment.

Friday (September 24) was registration day followed by railfanning in the area. The ELHS slide presentations in the evening lasted until 11 p.m.

The restored AC tower was open for viewing and operation. The original signal interlocking machine can be operated to set indicated track routes and signals on the display board. You can do everything but actually move the switches and set the signals on the nearby tracks. That is done by the CSX IE dispatcher in Indianapolis.

Throughout the day, sales tables, manned by ELHS members, were open in the station. They featured books, calendars, DVDs, videos and other EL memorabilia.

Saturday was quite full of activities. At 10:30 a,m.,  Pete White presented a history of Marion Union Station and AC Tower. At 1 p.m. Preston Cook presented a black and white photographs presentation of the building, expansion and operation of the Marion diesel shops. Cook was stationed in Marion by the Electro Motive Division of General Motors as a technical advisor to help ready new locomotives for operation.

Cook was followed by ELHS historian Larry DeYoung, who presented slides from past ELHS meetings in Ohio. Dave Oroszi followed that with a slide show of the Dayton branch. The Dayton branch was part of the original mainline built by the Atlantic & Great Western in 1864  and leased by the Erie in 1874.

Gale E. Martin of the Marion County Historical Society then presented a short history of Marion and the railroads’ impact on the city.

From 5 to 8 p.m. the annual ELHS banquet was held in the Harding House Hotel, a few blocks from the Marion depot. After the banquet, we returned to the Marion station’s former waiting room. Door prizes of EL memorabilia were raffled off to the members.

Preston Cook then presented a PowerPoint program on the Marion diesel shop operations. Mike Schafer of White River Publications and editor of Passenger Train Journal, followed with an extensive slide program of the Erie Lackawanna from Chicago to Hoboken. Following his presentation, several members showed EL slides, including Pete Scheckermann, Richard Jacobs and Joe Slanser.

No programs were scheduled for Sunday but several members who stayed overnight enjoyed the day photographing trains. A photographic highlight was the presence of maroon EL bay window caboose C347 in the local CSX yard. The caboose had been painted in EL colors with CSX’s permission, by the Union Tank Car Corporation shop, which occupies the former EL diesel shop. It has the EL diamond, but the reporting marks are NYC 21114, probably as a result of the Conrail breakup. The caboose is assigned to the CSX Marion yard.

It was finally time to depart Marion. I certainly suggest visiting the Marion Union Station complex whenever you are nearby. With three double-tracked mainlines passing in front of and next to the Marion Union Depot, there is plenty of railfanning activity available. The Shovel Inn next to the station provides fine meals every day. There is a local gas station just a block away. The restoration of the property, and the friendly folks of MUSA, as well as the number of trains passing by will make it worth your while.

Article by Richard Jacobs