Archive for April, 2011

Amtrak to Light 40 Candles

April 26, 2011

Amtrak's "Lake Shore Limited" is westbound at Berea, Ohio, behind SDP40F No. 624 in the middle 1970s. (Photograph by Richard Jacobs)

Amtrak turns 40 on May 1 and in human terms that means that it will have reached middle age. Like anyone in the middle years of adulthood, Amtrak is showing signs of getting older. It may not have wrinkles and gray hair, but it has plenty of bridges, stations and pieces of rolling stock that are or soon will be in need of a facelift, if not major reconstructive surgery.

Unlike a person, though, Amtrak began life looking like a senior citizen with its collection of hand-me-down locomotives and passenger cars. The first few years of Amtrak may have been its most colorful with its trains featuring a mix of liveries from a couple dozen railroads. But keeping that equipment in operable condition was a daily struggle until the arrival of Amfleet, Superliners and F40PH diesels. Horizon coaches and Viewliner sleepers later joined the roster in relatively small numbers.  

Some streamliner era equipment remains, primarily baggage cars and diners, with a great dome car thrown in for good measure. The F40 has given way to the P42DC Genesis locomotive. Over the years, other motive power that graced the roundhouse included the SDP40F, the P30CH, the GP40TC and the P32BWH. Some of the latter are still around. Don’t forget the Turboliners, Talgos and California fleet.

That is not a bad history for an operation that began as a skeletal network and remains so today. Amtrak’s inauguration day map bears a strong resemblance to today’s route map. Sure, some routes have changed, a few have been added, and others have vanished altogether. Remember when Amtrak used to have a route across central Ohio via Columbus and Dayton? The National Limited has been gone since October 1979. The Cardinal, which serves southeastern Ohio, has been a tri-weekly operation since the early 1980s when another route that served southern Ohio, the Shenandoah, was discontinued.

In northern Ohio, we’re somewhat more fortunate. We have four daily trains. Our daily train count has been as high as eight and as low as two. We once had a daytime train, the Pennsylvanian, but it went away after a brief run. Akron once had Amtrak service, too. But the Broadway Limited ended in 1995 and a successor, the Three Rivers, ended in 2005.

From an Akron Railroad Club perspective, Amtrak always seems to have a fleeting presence in our lives. Unless the Capitol Limited or Lake Shore Limited are running hours late, only night owls get to see Amtrak in Northeast Ohio.

Amtrak trains regularly dance across the screen during ARRC meeting programs, but rarely do we see a program devoted solely or largely to Amtrak. At least three ARRC members once worked for or on behalf of Amtrak, and one member remains an employee. Our club’s members take their share of Amtrak trips every year and a handful of ARRC outings have involved riding Amtrak. Yet some of our members haven’t been on Amtrak in years if ever. Nonetheless, stories of Amtrak trips past and future are plentiful at club gatherings.

Ever since the last Penn Central passenger trains between Cleveland and Cincinnati made their final trips on April 30, 1971, there has been talk of reviving service in the 3-C corridor. With four of the state’s largest cities on the route, how could it lose? But the political will or Amtrak management commitment to get the 3-C route rolling has been elusive. Increasingly, it is looking like it will take another generation with a different perspective on public transportation to make 3-C happen. I wonder if that generation has been born yet.

As anyone who has reached middle age knows, as you get older life gets more complicated even as it becomes more settled. And so it has been for Amtrak. I was talking recently with member Ron McElrath about his plans to issue an Amtrak 40th anniversary DVD to match those he created for the 30th and 20th anniversaries of Amtrak. Ron noted that there hasn’t been much happen at Amtrak in the past decade.

The carrier in the past year placed an equipment order and is working with a few states – Ohio choosing not to be one of them – to upgrade routes for higher-speed service. But the type of service that rail advocates have long sought remains as stuck in neutral as the launch of the 3-C corridor. It has been many years since Amtrak drew a new line on its map. Changes to Amtrak over the past 10 years have been incremental. But considering how many political officials have tried to kill or cripple Amtrak, maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Because of Amtrak’s limited presence in Northeast Ohio, its 40th birthday is likely to pass here with little or no ceremony. It will occur on a Sunday. If you are out and about that day, take an Amtrak tour. Start in Canton. Next to the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline downtown you’ll find a forlorn reminder of Amtrak’s past. The station that Amtrak built in Canton sits vacant and unwanted. Many an ARRC member embarked on his first Amtrak trip from that platform, but “all aboard” hasn’t been heard here since late November 1990.

Drive north to Akron on Interstate 77 and you’ll see an equally forlorn former Amtrak station near Quaker Square, but also a hint of what passenger rail could be. Look westward and you’ll see next to the CSX mainline a gleaming new city bus terminal that was designed with the idea of adding a train station if Amtrak or rail passenger service ever returns.

Complete the circle by visiting Amtrak’s Cleveland station near the Lake Erie shore. This is still a working train station, although you wouldn’t know that during daylight hours when it appears to be as abandoned as the depots in Akron and Canton.

Designed in the 1970s, the Cleveland station reflects what Amtrak has been for much of its life: functional and modest. Some find that hard to embrace, but if you are charmed by the allure of travel involving steel wheels on steel rails, it is the best you can do until that future generation can begin to implement a different vision of transportation policy in America.

Article by Craig Sanders

In Memory of John P. “Jack” Wunderle

April 25, 2011

John Wunderle poses in front of an Akron Transportation Company car in November 1941 during a trip chartered by the Eastern Ohio Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, a predecessor group of the Akron Railroad Club.

John Wunderle during a presentation at the Kent Historical Society on June 7, 2010.

On the eve of its 75th anniversary banquet, the Akron Railroad Club lost a major link to its past. John P. “Jack” Wunderle of Cuyahoga Falls, died on April 22, 2011, at age 90.

Mr. Wunderle is the last known surviving member of the ARRC who had been a member of the club when it was the Eastern Ohio chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. Although not a co-founder of the group, Mr. Wunderle joined it not long after its 1936 founding.

He had actively attended ARRC meetings until shortly before his death. We always knew when it was winter because Jack would be in Florida. But as soon as spring returned, do did Jack.

Mr. Wunderle had a passion for the history of traction operations. He kept scrapbooks at his home filled with newspaper clippings about trolley and interurban operations. Another set of scrapbooks contained the many photographs that Mr. Wunderle recorded of traction operations.

Born March 15, 1921 in Cleveland, he was the son of Carl V. and Helen Wunderle. The family moved to Kent in 1929 and John Wunderle graduated from Kent Roosevelt High School in 1938.

He worked briefly at the Standard Drug store before joining Ohio Bell Telephone Company in 1939.

He served in the U.S. Army Air Corp during World War II where he was an instructor pilot who flew heavy bombers. He became a commander on a B-29 that had been assigned to the South Pacific when the war ended.

After the war, Mr. Wunderle returned to Ohio Bell Telephone Company where he worked for 42 years before retiring in 1981. Aside from the ARRC, Mr. Wunderle was a member of the Kent Historical Society, the Canal Society of Ohio, the Kent Rotary Club, the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, and the Telephone Pioneers.

Wunderle often gave presentations on canals and railroads.  He also built a scale model of Kent with its canal and railroads for the Kent Historical Society Museum.

Mr. Wunderle is survived by his wife of 65 years, Mary Lou Wunderle; two sons, John, Jr. and  Tim Wunderle; two daughters, Susanne Blok and Laurie Knuth; two brothers, Carl Wunderle and Frank Wunderle;13 grandchildren; and 10 great grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 5-8 p.m. Tuesday, April 26th at Bissler & Sons Funeral Home in Kent. Mass of Christian Burial will be held 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 27th at St. Patrick Church in Kent. Burial will be held at Standing Rock Cemetery in Kent.

New Power in the NS Roundhouse

April 4, 2011

Norfolk Southern has been getting deliveries of new AC motive power from EMD, the first new EMD AC power that NS has purchased. Numbered in the 1000 series, the 1012 and 1011 pair made a round trip from Conway to Bellevue and back last week. The first photo is of westbound 11V passing through CP 110 in Bedford on March 29, 2011. The same pair of locomotives is shown eastbound the next day on the 14K passing through CP 107 near Motor yard in Northfield.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee



W&LE Derails 2 Locomotives in Kent

April 4, 2011

The Wheeling & Lake Erie Falls Junction to Akron train derailed two locomotives  and two cars on Thursday (March 31, 2011)in Kent, Ohio. Wheeling Nos. 302 and 301, both in the touched up Rio Grande scheme, hit a soft spot in the track and one of the rails gave way. Due to only going 10 mph, the damage was restricted to the two units and the head two cars.

Hulcher was called in to rerail the equipment. The location of the mishap was just south of where the W&LE goes over the CSX and the old EL lines in Kent. The line was open by the next morning.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee

Train Action Plentiful at ARRC McKay Day Outing

April 4, 2011

Akron Railroad Club members gathered in mid afternoon for the traditional group photo during the seventh Dave McKay day outing at Berea, which was held on April 2, 2011. Shown by the McKay memorial are (left to right) Richard Thompson, Marty Surdyk, William Surdyk, Craig Sanders, Cody Zamostny (and his nephew), Drew Deneher, John Puda, Tom Kendra, Alex Bruchac, Bill Kubis and Dennis Taksar.

It was close, but not quite at the Akron Railroad Club’s seventh annual Dave McKay Day outing at Berea on Saturday (April 2) at Berea. Club members recorded 71 train movements during the 15 hours that one or more club members were present. That fell just short of the record 74 movements recorded in 2008. Still, it was the second highest total in the seven years the club has held the event to honor its longest serving president, who died in December 2004.

Dennis Taksar arrived  just before 6 a.m. and recorded the first train of the day, a coal train on CSX with Union Pacific power in the lead. The longevity award went to John Puda who arrived at 7:05 a.m. and remained on site for the remainder of the day.

Although club members were treated to a steady flow of traffic, none of the trains that rolled by featured anything special in the way of motive power of freight cars. Foreign power was relatively scarce and primarily limited to BNSF units.

ARRC member Dave Mangold rolled through just after 7 a.m. behind the throttle of Norfolk Southern train 20V, but didn’t notice any club members present in the darkness. However, former club member Tony Dannemiller was the conductor on CSX intermodal train Q148 and he did make his presence known as his stack train came by just before 4:30 p.m. He leaned out the engineer’s side window and waved.

During the noon hour, CSX had both main tracks out of service for maintenance and NS had one of its mains out of service for the same reason. That limited traffic for awhile, but club members did not have to endure any interminably long lulls.  

Nearly 20 club members and guests turned out for the event during the day, which was quite cool but mostly sunny throughout. The weather began cloudy and ended that way, but in between the forecast snow showers and rain failed to materialize. The temperatures began in the mid 30s and improved only into the mid 40s.

Table of Trains Recorded at Berea (April 2, 2011)

NR          NR          UP (NR)                5:52 a.m. (on CSX)

Q149      WB         CSXT 7600           6:35 a.m.

X096      EB          NR                         6:59 a.m. (on CSX)

Q114      EB          CSXT 5428           7:06 a.m.

20Q        EB          NS 9805                7:08 a.m.d

Q263      WB         CSXT 308             7:16 a.m.

21T         WB         NS 7508                7:20 a.m.

20V        EB          NS 7542                7:21 a.m.

Q366      EB          CSXT 4745           7:30 a.m.

24Z         EB          NS 8450                7:55 a.m.

S393       WB         CSXT 5484           8:06 a.m.

L163       WB         CSXT 7584           8:54 a.m.

11J          WB         NS 2615                9:12 a.m.

K689      WB         CSXT 936             9:28 a.m.

Q385      WB         CSXT 4722           9:35 a.m.

205         WB         NS 8898                10:05 a.m.

20R         EB          NS 6765                10:10 a.m.

Q164      EB          CSXT 5300           10:28 a.m.

242         EB          NS 9703                10:29 a.m.

Q160      EB          CSXT 7375           10:30 a.m.

D752      EB          CSXT 6119           10:51 a.m.

N859      EB          BSNF 9940           11:03 a.m. (on CSX)

34N        EB          NS 9425                11:09 a.m.

22K        EB          NS 9679                11:53 a.m.

21Z         WB         NS 9633                12:06 p.m.

145         WB         NS 8726                NR

Q122      EB          CSXT 4749           NR

Q377      WB         CSXT 3443           NR

V818      EB          CSXT 4759           NR

206         EB          NS 9550                1:59 p.m.

Q351      WB         CSXT 7633           2:07 p.m.

261         WB         NS 2635                2:13 p.m.

D752      WB         CSXT 8305           2:19 p.m.

24M        EB          NS 9265                2:23 p.m.

Q378      EB          CSXT 4797           2:41 p.m.

20E         EB          NS 7556                2:57 p.m.

14K        EB          NS 9860                3:15 p.m.

Q108      EB          CSXT 7363           3:15 p.m.

18N        EB          NS 9687                3:23 p.m.

Q386      EB          CSXT 5312           3:42 p.m.

Q393      WB         CSXT 4785           3:42 p.m.

316         EB          NS 9761                3:51 p.m.

21G        WB         NS 8348                3:54 p.m.

Q110      EB          CSXT 778             3:58 p.m.

Q123      WB         CSXT 5382           3:58 p.m.

M1V       WB         NS 6773                4:17 p.m.

Q148      EB          CSXT 7332           4:24 p.m.

Q157      WB         CSXT 7827           4:30 p.m.

15N        WB         NS 8315                4:45 p.m.

Q364      EB          CSXT 7683           4:47 p.m.

21Q        WB         NS 9803                4:58 p.m.

262         EB          NS 9716                5:07 p.m.

NR          WB         NS (NR)                5:10 p.m.

11G        WB         NS 9751                5:30 p.m.

K695      WB         CSXT 5473           5:45 p.m.

19A        WB         NS 9351                6 p.m.

Q109      WB         CSXT 5267           6:09 p.m.

573         EB          NS 7687                 6:10 p.m.

N859      EB          BNSF 9928           6:43 p.m. (on CSX)

K925      EB          CSXT 7731           6:51 p.m.

Q290      EB          CSXT 314             7:03 p.m.

L115       WB         CSXT 5303           7:03 p.m.

25Z         WB         NS 9893               7:09 p.m.

11V        WB         NS 9791               7:21 p.m.

14N        EB          NS 9762               7:25 p.m.

K683      WB         CSXT 5350           7:59 p.m.

23K        WB         NS 7671                 8:13 p.m.

Q117      WB         CSXT 5247           8:15 p.m.

Q380      EB          CSXT 5472           8:20 p.m.

15K        WB         NS (NR)                8:31 p.m.

Q381      WB         BNSF 7622           8:40 p.m. (on CSX)