Archive for November, 2010

W&LE Manager Ran ‘Unstoppable’ Trains

November 18, 2010

Denzel Washington may have played a locomotive engineer in the movie Unstoppable, but a Wheeling & Erie Railway road foreman actually was at the controls even if you never see him.

Steve Stertzbach, a Stark County resident, told The Repository that he operated about 97 percent of the trains seen in the film. During scenes in which Washington and his co-star were in the locomotive cab of a moving train, Stertzbach was in the locomotive nose operating the train with a remote control unit.

Stertzbach got his movie role after helping director Tony Scott scout for filming locations on the Wheeling.

The job had its perks. The Repository reported that during the five months of production, Stertzbach received his regular railroad salary plus overtime. The filming required him to work five- and  six-day weeks, many of them involving 13-hour shifts. Stertzbach also received $60 per day for expenses, a hotel and on-set meals paid for by the film company, and the use of a 2010 Chevy Equinox.

He also received another unexpected benefit. Director Scott sent Stertzbach a signed leather-bound copy of the script.

Stertzbach told The Repository that he once talked with Washington for 45 minutes during some downtime. After the filming of one scene, Stertzbach said Washington approached him, shook his hand, and said, “Man, I want to thank you. You really made me look good in these shots.”

Aboard the NS Executive Train

November 18, 2010

The Norfolk Southern executive train awaits its depature from Cleveland on October 16, 2010. The train carried "Miracle Kids" on a roundtrip to Toledo.

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it sure gets attention. We’re speaking about an appearance by the Norfolk Southern executive train in Northeast Ohio. NS may be known for black locomotives, but the black, white and gold livery of the F units that lead the executive train are head turners. The passenger cars that accompany the train are painted Tuscan red, a livery similiar to that used by NS predecessor Norfolk & Western for its passenger trains.

Few ever get a chance to ride on the NS executive train. It is, after all, a business tool used to ferry high-ranking executives and to entertain shippers, key government officials and other VIPs.

Sometimes, though, the exec train is used for public relations and charity purposes. Such was the case on October 16, 2010, when the train journeyed to Cleveland from its home base in Altoona, Pennsylvania, to carry several “Miracle Kids” on a roundtrip journey between Cleveland and Toledo on behalf of the Children’s Miracle Network.

Akron Railroad Club member Roger Durfee, who is an NS conductor, was among several NS employees who volunteered to work aboard the Miracle Express. Serving as the “official” photographer, Durfee provides us an onboard-view of what it is like to ride the NS executive train.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

The full-width dome car provides a spectacular panaromic view.

The view from the theater car of Lakefront line between downtown and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. The Greater Clevelant RTA Red Line is visible to the left.

The lift bridge over the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland recedes in the distance as does Cleveland Browns Stadium.

An NS local (right) sports the caboose assigned to Motor Yard in Macedonia. At left is the theater car of the NS executive train.

The full-width dome car used on the Norfolk Southern executive train. This car was formerly part of the Conrail executive train fleet. It was originally built for the Santa Fe as a dormitory-dome-lounge.

County Line Trail Shaping up in Sterling

November 12, 2010

The Erie Lackwanna Railroad disappeared years ago, but you can travel its path between Creston and Ritman on the Country Line Trail.  A project of Rails to Trails of Wayne County, work is underway in Sterling, where the EL once crossed the Baltimore & Ohio Chicago-Pittsburgh line at RU tower.

The trail is paved through Sterling and railings are on the bridge across the creek west of Kauffman Avenue. A parking lot next to the former Baltimore & Ohio freight station — shown in the photograph above — is paved, but not yet finished. Access is from Kauffman Avenue, just south of the CSX line. It is a good place to park and watch trains go by.

The former B&O station was moved to the trail earlier this year.

The Wayne County group also developed the Sippo Valley trail between Massillon and Dalton on a former right of way of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway.

Photographs by Richard Jacobs


W&LE Completes Siding at Creston

November 12, 2010

The new siding at Creston in a view taken Brooklyn Street at the west end of the siding. (Photograph by Richard Jacobs)

The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway has finished installation of a 6,900-foot siding at Creston to provide a badly needed place for trains to pass on the Brewster Subdivision between Brewster and Spencer.

The siding has powered switches and signals. The view above shows a red aspect on the signal. It does not mean “stop” in the usual railroad parlance. It only means that the signal has not been activated by an approaching train.

The signals are activated by a tone generator from an approaching train. This switch has a specific code. The switch at the other end of the siding has a different code. The signal aspect will go “green” for normal (straight through alignment) and “Aaber” for reverse (switch lined for the siding). This system is prevalent at many W&LE locations.

Richard Jacobs

New Views at Berea

November 12, 2010

The new bridge carrying Front Street over the Norfolk Southern and CSX tracks in Berea opened to traffic in late October. The bridge had been in the works since the two railroads divided Conrail on June 1, 1999. The railroads reached an agreement with the City of Berea to build an overpass as a way to mitigate traffic congestion on Front Street. It took several years before all of the engineering and design work was completed and construction on the $18 million project began in June 2009.

The new structure is semi-railfan friendly. There are sidewalks on both sides of the bridge, which is actually a series of three bridges linked together. High fences with small chain-link fencing are positioned directly over the tracks of both railroads. The fencing elsewhere on the bridge is low enough to enable photographers to shoot over it. These provide for some interesting side views.

Earlier this year, someone cut holes in the fence over the CSX tracks. Those holes have since been patched.

Also new at Berea are windows in the tower. Although the tower hasn’t been manned for years, Norfolk Southern recently had new windows installed on the second floor during the first week of November. Perhaps the railroad wanted to take advantage of a tax credit for more energy-efficient windows that expires at the end of this year.

Operators in Berea tower no longer lines switches and signals, but the interlocking mechanisms that control them are still on the first floor of the structure, hidden behind wooden planks. The tower is also used by NS MOW personnel.

In Memory of John Schon

November 12, 2010

Akron Railroad Club member John Schon, 58, of Akron (Coventry Township), died Wednesday, November 10, 2010. He also was a life member of the Nickel Plate Road Historical and Technical Society. He contributed photographs that were published in the book Akron Railroads.

Born November 2, 1952, in Lorain, Ohio, Mr. Schon resided in Vermilion until 1958 and Beach City until 1980 when he moved to the Akron area.

He is survived by his wife Elaine (Sciarini) Schon and children, Andy (Brooke) Schon of Green and Kristen Schon of Coventry Township.

Visitation will be Sunday (November 14, 2010) from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Anthony Funeral Home Kucko-Anthony-Kertesz Chapel, 1990 S. Main St. in Akron. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church at a date and time to be announced.

Memorial contributions may be made to the 765 Maintenance Fund, Fort Wayne Railway Historical Society, P.O. Box 11017 , Fort Wayne , Indiana, 46855.

In Memory of Clint Ensworth Jr.

November 6, 2010
Clint Ensworth at the throttle on his PA&W railroad in July 2010. (Photograph by Richard Jacobs)

Clint Ensworth at the throttle on his PA&W railroad in July 2010. (Photograph by Richard Jacobs)

Veteran Akron Railroad Club member Clinton B. F. Ensworth, Jr., 87, died November 4, 2010, at his home in Medina County. He died 10 days short of his 88th birthday.

Since joining the ARRC on May 23, 1968, Mr. Ensworth several times hosted club members at picnics and other outings at his home. He frequently invited club members out to ride on his Pittsburgh, Akron & Western 7.5-inch gauge railroad. Most recently, Mr. Ensworth invited ARRC members to attend his annual meet on the PA&W, held July 17-18, 2010.

The PA&W had about 4,000 feet of mainline railroad. Mr. Ensworth was an early participant in the live steam hobby in the United States and consequently was considered one of the elder statesmen of live steam here. The PA&W was built on the 113.5 acre farm to which he moved in 1960.

He started building the PA&W in 1967 and finished the far loop in 1982. Mr. Ensworth was a pioneer of point-to-point live steam layouts. Before that, most operators just laid a circle of track.  He also was an early advocate of operating his railroad by rules and timetable.

Mr. Ensworth was one of 18 founding member of the Northeast Ohio Live Steamers, which formed in 1969.  He was also a member of Tri-State Live Steamers in Michigan and the Cinder Sniffers in Cincinnati.  He belonged to the British 7 1/4 inch Society and made numerous trips to the United Kingdom to visit live steam railroads there. Those trips gave him ideas for many of his operating practices, including adding weight to the bottoms of cars to make them more stable and less likely to derail with adults riding them.

Mr. Ensworth mentored several younger ARRC members, some of whom have gone on to become railroaders.

He was active in ARRC events until the end, having attended the annual picnic this past July and the October meeting. The ARRC honored Mr. Ensworth during its July 2010 meeting by awarding him a certificate of appreciation for his service to the club.

Mr. Ensworth was born November 14, 1922, in Akron. and grew up in Goodyear Heights. He graduated from Akron East High School and served in U.S. Army’s 35th Infantry Division during World War II. He was wounded in France during the war and received the Purple Heart.

He attended the University of Akron and Columbia University and for much of his career, Mr. Ensworth was a teacher, including stints at Simon Perkins Junior High School and Buchtel High School. He taught visual education, history and civics. He retired in 1976 after teaching in the Akron Public Schools for 49 years.

He spent nine years as a patrolman during the summer at Portage Lakes. He was also a member of the Land Conservancy, Lighter-Than-Air Society, Center for Inquiry, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Mr. Ensworth married Ruth Bradley and the couple had three children. Mrs. Ensworth died at age 79 in December 2002. She had been an elementary school teacher. They were married for 49 years. He was also preceded in death by a brother, Bob.

Mr. Ensworth is survived by two daughters, Susan Shah, of Wadsworth; Jean Schreiner, of Denver; a son, Clint Ensworth III of Medina County; and six grandchildren. He also is survived by a brother, Jack, of Bend, Oregon.

A memorial celebration will be held at 1 p.m. on November 20 at Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron, 3300 Morewood Road. A reception will follow.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron, NEOLS, or the Sharon Township Fire Department.