Archive for February, 2013

Enough Snow Left to Still Say ‘Winter’

February 28, 2013
A westbound NS manifest freight passes a snow-covered hillside near Brady Lake on Sunday, Feb. 10.I waited three hours to get an eastbound here.

A westbound NS manifest freight passes a snow-covered hillside near Brady Lake on Sunday, Feb. 10.I waited three hours to get an eastbound here.

By the time the second weekend of February arrived, much of the snow that had fallen in Northeast Ohio had vanished in the warmer temperatures. Rain that would arrive early the next week would take care of the rest of it.

Nonetheless, there was still enough snow left that if you worked it just right you could get some photographs that said “winter” even if they did not say “winter storm.”

I felt like spending the day on my own so I headed for Brady Lake and Towner’s Woods Park. It was a sunny morning there, but I knew this wouldn’t last. By early afternoon a weather system would bring overcast skies and the threat of rain.

I was hoping to get some eastbound NS trains in the morning light, but everything was going west. It was just past 1 before NS sent an eastbound past this location. That train barely beat the cloud cover.

After that, I drove into Kent and set up shop on the Main Street bridge. I had been hearing CSX trains blowing their horns all morning but now the New Castle Sub was quiet.

It was a good thing I had brought plenty of things to read because I spent far more time reading than photographing anything.

When CSX did come back to life, it sent a train in each direction in late afternoon in quick succession. So my afternoon in Kent was for not for naught.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

A nice long cut of tank cars made for a nice image. Wonder what the blue coloring ont he ends of those cars means.

A nice long cut of tank cars made for a nice image. Wonder what the blue coloring on the ends of those cars means.

There was just enough snow left on the lock in the Cuyahoga River at Kent to make things interesting. An eastbound CSX manifest freight passes as a couple watches from above next to the former Erie Railroad tracks.

There was just enough snow left on the lock in the Cuyahoga River at Kent to make things interesting. An eastbound CSX manifest freight passes as a couple watches from above next to the former Erie Railroad tracks.

The now decorative dam on the Cuyahoga River at Kent appears to be holding back a large accumulation of snow as a westbound CSX auto rack train noses past.

The now decorative dam on the Cuyahoga River at Kent appears to be holding back a large accumulation of snow as a westbound CSX auto rack train noses past.

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Grant Talk on Erie RR Moved to April 4

February 28, 2013

Due to a schedule conflict, the lecture by history professor and lifetime Akron Railroad Club member H. Roger Grant has been moved up a week.

Grant will now speak before the Kent Historical Society on Thursday, April 4. The talk will begin at 7 p.m. in the First Christian Church in Kent. The event is free and open to the public.

The topic of the talk will be the overall state of the Erie Railroad before its merger with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad in 1960 to create the Erie Lackawanna.

In particular, Grant will focus on the career of Erie executive Robert Woodruff and how the culture of the Erie caused problems with profitability and creativity.

CSX Changes Q106/Q107 Schedules

February 28, 2013

During the past year, many railfan photographers have been chasing CSX trains Q106 and Q107 because those trains often have Kansas City Southern power. The trains originate/terminate on the KCS and had been operating to the CSX North Baltimore, Ohio, intermodal terminal.

The trains had operated between St. Louis and Ridgeway, Ohio, via Indianapolis. Between Ridgeway and Galatea the trains took the former Toledo & Ohio Central route. At Galatea, the trains got on the former Baltimore & Ohio’s Chicago-Pittsburgh mainline to reach North Baltimore.

That all changed recently with the Q106/Q107 now originating and terminating in Marion, where Schneider National maintains an intermodal terminal.

Field reports indicate that Q106/Q107 are now operating on their previous schedules to Marion of arriving  in the early morning hours and departing between 7 and 9 p.m.

However, the reports indicate that a shuttle train between Marion and North Baltimore has been operating with the motive power that comes in on the Q106. The shuttle train, the Q109, reportedly departs Marion for North Baltimore not long after the arrival of the Q106 and returns to Marion in daylight hours, typically arriving around midday.

The shuttle train carries the Q109 symbol in both directions.

CSX recently installed a connection in the northeast quadrant of the diamond at Ridgeway that enables trains bound from Marion to North Baltimore or vice versa to directly switch from the former Big Four line from Marion to the former T&OC route.

Previously, trains operating between Marion and North Baltimore had to make a backup move at Ridgeway. The switches for the new connection are now hand-thrown.

For Rent: 24/7 Rail Traffic Included

February 26, 2013

Many railfans have probably wished they could have a house  next to a busy railroad line. It doesn’t get any better than being able to sit on your front porch or on the deck in the backyard and watch trains go by at all hours of the day or night.

Some have made that dream come true while others do little more than dream about it.

While railfanning early last November along the CSX mainline in Willard, I ran across this vacant house next to the tracks that is for rent. The house didn’t appear to be in the greatest of conditions nor is the neighborhood the best.

But you can count on CSX running train after train after train past your backyard. The shoes hanging from the wire at right are included at no extra charge.

Photograph by Craig Sanders

The Chaos Theory of Railfanning Worked

February 26, 2013

Other than endless hours of trains on YouTube and a blizzard-filled trip on Amtrak to Wisconsin and back right after Christmas, our railroad activities have been few and far between lately and we have been unable to attend any Akron Railroad Club meetings for awhile because of schedule conflicts.

On a recent Saturday Max’s mom had a lot going on, so after a morning round of playing old time fiddle tunes with friends at a local restaurant, we decided to go watch trains.

After a late start, we stopped for gas and then decided to go to Berea because we haven’t been there in awhile.

As we arrived, two Norfolk Southern locomotives sat idling in front of us and headlights shown around the curve off to the west. There sure were a lot of railfans with cameras here for such a cold, blah day. We had left the camera at home.

Those headlights pulled up and stopped in front of us. Of course it was Max who pointed out his first long-awaited heritage unit. It was the Wabash locomotive but I think he was hoping for a Pennsy unit.

We were beginning to catch on as the Wabash unit and its mate backed up toward the 24M. I was amazed at how many people clearly knew what was going on well in advance, and no doubt some ARRC members were hovering around somewhere, but the car was just too warm to venture out more than the few minutes it takes to enjoy the up-close throb of passing CSX trains, one of which seemed to be belching out a little extra smoke that smelled more like kerosene than diesel fuel.

Much of the rest you already know that we watched a few trains and then finally saw the Wabash pull out and head eastward. On a whim we decide to follow. That’s not something we normally get around to doing.

Heading out of Berea I thought we’d take I-71 north and see if we could catch up with the 24M toward Cleveland.

I was stuck behind someone in a little red car poking along in the passing lane and couldn’t do much about it when I became aware of someone in a gold SUV behind me who seemed to be on a mission that required slightly more expedient travel conditions. Could it b e someone else with the Wabash on his mind?

As we began to head north toward I-71, Marty Surdyk pulled around us and headed off toward the I-480 east ramp.

I was committed to going north on I-71 while someone who clearly knew what was going on and had a plan was headed elsewhere.

So we just kept traveling alongside the 24M as long as we could, before looping around and heading south on I-77, passing under the same smoke-puffing eastbound CSX freight that we had just watched in Berea.

We kept a steady move on as I tried to figure out where would be the easiest place to get to from I-271.

I got off at Broadway and headed straight down to the south end of the yards in Macedonia, turned around and parked under the I-271 bridge next to the tracks.

In a few moments, a long westbound train came through with a number of BNSF units, but we were looking north, hoping we had gotten here in time.

As soon as the westbound freight cleared the area, I saw the reflection of headlights on the rails and the Wabash unit came into view and rolled past.

From there we headed to Willoughby where we again ran into the same smoke-coughing CSX eastbound freight.

Checking the Internet the next day, I could only chuckle as I saw where others had set up camp and caught the Wabash unit.

Sometimes I think we catch more exciting or unusual train action by random acts then we do by trying to have a clue as to what’s going on. So perhaps there is more to chaos theory than meets the eye.

Article by Ken Roby

Cleveland RTA to Boost Onboard Security

February 25, 2013

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority will spend $2.5 million to purchase security cameras to place aboard its buses and trains as well as upgrade the existing cameras aboard those vehicles.

The move, which was approved on Feb. 19 by the agency’s governing board, came in response to an increase in assaults of RTA bus drivers in the past year. The most notable incident occurred last September when a driver punched a female passenger during an altercation over paying a fare.

RTA reported 25 assaults involving bus drivers through last November, the highest in five years.

General Manager Joe Calabrese told the board that RTA would replace six-year-old digital recorders on 96 buses and trains for $500,000 and spent $2 million to install cameras aboard 230 other buses. The new security systems have eight cameras, a digital recorder and several microphones.

Seventy older buses are slated to be taken out of service in the next few years and will not receive the cameras but their replacements will have them.

‘Windy’ Spring Day in Kent

February 24, 2013

I made these photographs last May of a train of wind turbine blades on CSX at Kent.

I was railfanning there and was pleasantly surprised by this solid train of wind turbine blades.

It was pulled by Union Pacific power and because it moved so slowly I got many detail shots that you don’t normally see.

The long blades are curved and angled from one side of the flatcar to the other over its length. Also, the blades overhang each flatcar.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

N&W 611 May Return to Mainline Service

February 23, 2013
Norfolk & Western J Class No. 611 executes a photo runby during a May 21, 1989, excursion between Chicago and Fort Wayne. The J  Class locomotive may yet return to mainline steam service. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

Norfolk & Western J Class No. 611 executes a photo runby during a May 21, 1989, excursion between Chicago and Fort Wayne, Ind.. The J Class locomotive may return to mainline steam excursion service on Norfolk Southern tracks. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

The Virginia Transportation Museum announced on Friday that Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611 may return to mainline excursion service if a study of what needs to be done to restore and maintain the steam locomotive is positive and funding can be found to finance the endeavor.

The museum created a seven-member “Fire up 611?” committee that is expected to report its findings within 90 days.

The 4-8-4 pulled N&W passenger trains between 1950 and 1959, and returned to service in 1982 as part of the Norfolk Southern steam program. It has been on static display at the museum in Roanoke, Va., since the steam program ended in late 1994.

“The Class J 611 locomotive embodies both beauty and power,” said Bev Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the Virginia Museum of Transportation in a news release. “Since her retirement from excursion service in 1994, fans have been clamoring, hoping, and dreaming of a day when she once again blows her whistle and thunders across the landscape.”

The museum said that the 611 committee will meet with specialists in steam locomotives operations and restoration, technical engineers, and experts on Federal Railroad Administration regulations and safety.

“Before we can promise our 611 fans that she will indeed return to service, we need to know what it will take to fix and maintain her,” he said.

Fitzpatrick said the museum will need the help of railfans to raise money for a restoration if the committee decides to move in that direction.

The committee will determine the restoration’s scope, the experts needed, and the location for the work as well as cost estimates based on the 611’s mechanical history, FRA boiler regulations that went into effect since the engine last ran, and other factors.

The museum has established a website – fireup611.org – with information about the effort to restore the 611. There is also a Fire Up 611 Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Some Late Saturday Afternoon Action

February 23, 2013
A westbound cruises past the depot at Olmsted Falls.

A westbound cruises past the depot at Olmsted Falls.

Another railroad club to which I belong was having its annual banquet on Saturday night in Berea. The banquet didn’t begin until 6 and I decided to go out to Olmsted Falls and Berea for some late afternoon railfanning.

Most of the snow was gone when I arrived. That was disappointing. I had not expected anything to be left on the tracks, but I had hoped for more snow than still existed on the periphery.

None of the trains that I saw and photographed featured anything out of the ordinary in the way of motive power or freight cars. But with the high level of traffic on the Norfolk Southern and CSX routes here you never know what you might see.

Photographs by Craig Sanders

No, it is not a train of containers and half containers. It’s actually two trains passing in Olmsted Falls. The eastbound train on the right has a block of single containers whereas the westbound train had double-stacked containers.

The lead locomotive of this westbound CSX intermodal train shows evidence of having plowed through some heavy snow earlier in its journey. It was the weekend following a blizzard that dumped heavy snow on New England and parts of New York state.

The lead locomotive of this westbound CSX intermodal train shows evidence of having plowed through some heavy snow earlier in its journey. It was the weekend following a blizzard that dumped heavy snow on New England and parts of New York state.

The sun is about to set behind a stand of trees as coal hoppers rumble by on the NS Chicago Line at Berea on Saturday, Feb. 9.

The sun is about to set behind a stand of trees as coal hoppers rumble by on the NS Chicago Line at Berea on Saturday, Feb. 9.

Remembering the LE&P

February 22, 2013
Most of the former right of way of the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh is now a hiking and biking trail. The trail is shown crossing over Barlow Road.

Most of the former right of way of the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh is now a hiking and biking trail. The trail is shown crossing over Barlow Road.

The right of way of the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh railroad is today mainly a hiking and biking trail, but it used to be an important link in the area’s transportation system.

The LE&P was a paper railroad. It existed legally but had no equipment.  Everything was supplied by the New York Central, which owned it.

Built around 1910, the LE&P ran from Marcy in Cleveland to a connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad at Brady Lake. From there trains ran on trackage rights either to Alliance and Minerva, or to Ravenna where they got on the Baltimore & Ohio to go to Niles Junction.

From there trains went back to the PRR until reaching the Lake Erie & Eastern (another paper railroad) at Girard. The Lake Erie & Eastern took the trains across Youngstown into the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie yards at Struthers, Ohio.

This was quite a confusing arrangement but it made for a direct Cleveland-Youngstown route for both the NYC and PRR.

The B&O between Ravenna and Niles Junction had trains of the NYC and Pennsylvania railroads as well as its own. That must have been a sight. Also, the LE&P had PRR trains using it as well.

The story doesn’t end there, however. The LE&P originally planned to build from Cleveland to Lorain on a routing that would take it through Berea just south of the current Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

This was never completed but it was graded and bridge piers were constructed over the east and west branches of the Rocky River. These piers still stand.

The LE&P was busy until the Penn Central merger. It was quickly abandoned and torn up with only a two-mile siding from Brady Lake to serve Hugo Sand near Twin Lakes and the Akron water treatment plant. The grade of the route was level, but it hugged the east side of the Cuyahoga Valley. Many tall steel bridges were required to cross Marcy, Tinkers Creek and Brandywine Creek

These bridges required heavy maintenance that Penn Central could not afford.

The ex-PRR mainline paralleled the LE&P just a few miles east and had signaled double track as opposed to the single-track dark territory of the LE&P.

Throw in the automotive plants located on the Pennsy and it was a no brainer for Penn Central’s management team to favor that route over the LE&P.

I was able to photograph a Conrail local on the ex-LE&P in 1989 switching the remaining track at Brady Lake. NS served this branch for while, but I have not seen any trains on it in about four years now.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

There were plenty of trees along the last segment of the ex-LE&P that was used by Conrail and later Norfolk Southern.

There were plenty of trees along the last segment of the ex-LE&P that was used by Conrail and later Norfolk Southern.

A pair of Conrail GP38-2s was typical power for a local freight.

A pair of Conrail GP38-2s was typical power for a local freight.

Bringing up the rear is bay window caboose 21313, N21 class. Interstingly, the N21 class 21202-21313 built by Conrail in 1978 was the last of that order. These were the only cabooses builtfor Conrail.

Bringing up the rear is bay window caboose 21313, N21 class. Interstingly, the N21 class 21202-21313 built by Conrail in 1978 was the last of that order. These were the only cabooses that were built for Conrail.

The LE&P diverged from the ex-PRR at Brady Lake tower. The westbound track rose in elevation until crossing over the Pennsy on this bridge located just west of Lake Rockwell Road.

The LE&P diverged from the ex-PRR at Brady Lake tower. The westbound track rose in elevation until crossing over the Pennsy on this bridge located just west of Lake Rockwell Road. The eastbound track is visible at the far left.

The former eastbound main of the LE&P is still extant, joining the NS main nearly beneath the Lake Rockwell Road overpass. A westbound NS manifest freight passes the junction.

A map of the former New York Central Cleveland Division shows the former LE&P and the trackage rights arrangement that the NYC had to reach Youngstown from Cleveland.

A map of the former New York Central Cleveland Division shows the former LE&P and the trackage rights arrangement that the NYC had to reach Youngstown from Cleveland.

Brady Lake tower still stands inside the Tower's Woods Park in Portage County.

Brady Lake tower still stands inside the Tower’s Woods Park in Portage County.

The former LE&P right of way, now a trail, in a view looking west from Ohio Route 91.