Archive for September, 2013

Bort Road Closed in North East, Pa.

September 30, 2013






If you’ve ever photographed trains at North East, Pa., chances are you’ve spent some time shooting at Bort Road, a country road just off Interstate 90 that crosses over the CSX tracks (ex-New York Central) on a narrow, ancient bridge.

It’s an odd arrangement because right after motorists cross over CSX tracks, they encounter a single-track Norfolk Southern line (ex-Nickel Plate) at grade.

On Sunday morning, I arrived at Bort Road to find that it has been closed. There is a small pile of new steel supports of some type located next to the CSX tracks.

It was not clear if this mean that the bridge is going to be replaced, if the closure is permanent or if some other type of road work will be done. For now, it means that you can photograph from the bridge without having to dodge passing traffic.

I hung around for a while and caught the hour late Amtrak No. 48, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited.

Not long after Amtrak 48 cleared, an eastbound CSX manifest freight came past on Track No. 2.

If the bridge carrying Bort Road over the tracks is replaced, chances are there will be fence on it and the open views down the tracks will no longer be available.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Another 765 in Ohio

September 29, 2013


Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive No. 765 earlier this month completed a two-week visit to Northeast Ohio and I was going back into my archives when I ran across another 765 that I photographed in Ohio this past summer.

On a Sunday in mid July fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and I were exploring the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern when we stopped in Pettisville to wait for some action.

On the radio I heard a train that called itself 765 calling signals, which turned out to be a westbound coal hoppers train. It would be the only train we would see here as traffic had diminished for the time being.

I am not sure if the 765 the train was announcing was the train symbol or locomotive number. Note that 765 is part of the number of this BNSF diesel.

Photographs by Craig Sanders



Michigan Amtrak Route Track Work to Begin

September 29, 2013

The second of three route rehabilitation projects in Michigan will begin on September 30 when workers begin working on tracks between Jackson and Battle Creek that are used by Amtrak’s Wolverines.

Crews will work Monday through Thursday, with regular service on Friday through Sunday. Passengers will face delays and modified schedules. 

The overall project is expected to result in improved service for the Wolverines and Blue Water (Chicago-Port Huron, Mich.)

Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation are laying more than 30 miles of new track and installing 130,000 new crossties this year.

One project goal is to cut the travel time between Detroit and Chicago by two hours from the current 6 hours, 30 minutes.

Hoosier State Supporters Rally for Support

September 29, 2013

Indiana passenger train advocators held a rally Thursday on the steps of the Indiana State Capitol Building in Indianapolis to try to rally support for the threatened Hoosier State.

Brian Connors, an Amtrak employee who works at the railroad’s Beech Grove maintenance facility, told WTHR-TV, “This is not just an Indianapolis issue, it’s not just a Beech Grove issue.  It’s an Indiana issue, a U.S. issue.”

In the meantime, the Indiana Department of Transportation released a 47-page report that concluded that a decision about saving the train should be made at a policy level rather than an economic level.

The report looked at continuing the route as is, upgrading the service (with annual costs ranging from $3.8 million to $10.9 million) and discontinuing the train. The study has narrow scope to determine the value of the train, focusing primarily on the benefits that could be assessed as a monetized value. The study recognized that other benefits from the service include economic impacts, economic impacts on land usage, freight improvements, quality of life, and social benefits.

INDOT has begun negotiations with Amtrak on a funding agreement to retain the route. If the state and Amtrak do not agree on a funding arrangement whereby the state agrees to help underwrite the cost of the train, the Chicago-Indianapolis train will be discontinued.

Amtrak has agreements with most of the states that have trains affected by a federal law that requires most states to pay more, or start paying for, short-distance Amtrak services.

The four states where agreements have not been reached are New York, Illinois, Indiana, and California (San Joaquin and Pacific Surfliners). Amtrak has an agreement with the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority for its service in northern California.

The Belle of Corder, Missouri

September 28, 2013


While in Kansas City prior to heading down to the A&M, we received information that the Kansas City Southern business train was going to make a trip over the former Gateway Western (ex-Gulf, Mobile & Ohio) line between KC and Corder, Mo., on Friday of that week.

There is a new grain facility in Corder that the brass was going to see. Complete with a loop track, it’s a sizable place.

We were hoping it would be a morning trip, but as it turned out the train was going to depart KC at 230 p.m.

The tough part would be finding a place to catch an eastbound in the afternoon. We picked a spot in Independence, Mo., and waited.

The nose light wasn’t going to be great, but it was the best we could find. Once we photographed the train, it was off to Corder since we had to head east anyway.

We caught up with it in Corder, shot a going away photo of the business car, then headed for the new facility located just outside of town.

The train pulled through the unloading area and stopped just clear of it so the passengers could get off and tour the facility.

That gave me a chance to walk along the edge of the woods and photograph the nice looking A-B-A F units on the loop track.

The crew cut away, advanced the marker and then ran around the loop with the power to the other end of the train.

I’m guessing that very few passenger trains have ran around grain company loop tracks, so it was kind of neat to get the entire train below the silos. The train was going to be there until dark, so we departed and moved on east.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee


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Spending Time in Centralia, Illinois

September 27, 2013
Amtrak's northbound Saluki glides to a stop at Centralia nearly 40 minutes into its 6-hour journey to Chicago.

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki glides to a stop at Centralia nearly 40 minutes into its 6-hour journey to Chicago.

In the continuing series of posts about Roger Durfee’s vacation earlier this month, we visit Centralia, Ill., the location of a yards and shops on the former Illinois Central Railroad. Now operated by Canadian National, the yard and shops are still here, although reduced in their scope of operation.

The other railroads in Centralia include Norfolk Southern’s St. Louis-Louisville, Ky., route and a BNSF route to deep southern Illinois that primarily sees coal traffic.

Traffic was relatively light on the day that Roger stopped by. Presented are a few views that he captured before moving on to Kansas City.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

There was a BCOL unit being worked on there.

There was a BCOL unit being worked on there.



Ex Union Pacific junk waiting for work.

Ex Union Pacific junk waiting for work.


Fresh dipper, an ex- Oakway unit.

Fresh dipper, an ex- Oakway unit.

Note the old coaling tower in the Centralia Yard.

Note the old coaling tower in the Centralia Yard.


The old IC roundhouse.

The old IC roundhouse.


CN? What CN?

CN? What CN?


NS local power in Centralia.

NS local power in Centralia.

The other railroad in town is the NS former Southern line to St Louis. DPU's on a coal drag as seen from the station.

The other railroad in town is the NS former Southern line to St Louis. DPU’s on a coal drag as seen from the station.


The evening before we caught a northbound stack train passing through Odin. Up ahead is the diamond of the ex B&O St Louis main, now CSX.

The evening before we caught a northbound stack train passing through Odin. Up ahead is the diamond of the ex B&O St Louis main, now CSX.


Just Like it Was in the 1950s

September 27, 2013


Four days after my back fusion surgery, I took a drive over to Mogador to see one of the Nickel Plates engines that I used to see almost every day in Kent back in the 1950s. After picking out an open spot where the engine would be working hard, the hour wait was worth it. I wasn’t disappointed.

Photograph by Rob Rohal

Amtrak, Indiana Ponder Fate of ‘Hoosier State’

September 27, 2013

The Indiana Department of Transportation will begin negotiations with Amtrak on a funding agreement to save Amtrak’s Hoosier State between Chicago and Indianapolis.

The train, which operates four days a week on the days that the Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate, will continue operating through Oct. 16 while negotiations are underway.

The Cardinal uses the same route in Indiana and Illinois as the Hoosier State.

Federal law requires Amtrak and states to reach funding agreements by Oct. 1 to retain trains that operate less than 750 miles.

Other states where Amtrak operates corridors discussions with Amtrak in 2011 after they adopted a framework for categorizing costs and revenues. However, Indiana refused to sign the agreement with the other 18 affected states.

But a March 15, 2012, rules by the Surface Transportation decreed that Indiana was compelled to comply with its terms. Amtrak has reached agreements with eight states – Virginia, Missouri, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Texas, Oregon, Washington and California – to continue corridor service. Amtrak said it provided pricing information to INDOT in April and a draft agreement in July.

“If we don’t have an agreement by Monday, Sept. 30, Amtrak will begin steps to notify its employees and the public of the impending suspension of service of trains 850 and 851,” an Amtrak spokesman said.

The spokesman said Amtrak’s cost estimate to retain the Hoosier State is $4 million. The annual cost Indiana would pay is $2.96 million, a reduced number that is likely the result of on-going discussions between Amtrak and its state partners within the framework of federal legislation.

The Hoosier State is used to ferry equipment between Chicago and Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops in south suburban Indianapolis, a fact that undoubtedly weighs on the decision makers for both the state and Amtrak.

Indiana has said it will reveal a state-funded cost-benefit analysis of the existing service and four options Amtrak has provided for improved frequency and departure times on its website at

INDOT has explained the benefits of daily passenger rail service by dividing the $2.963 million annual cost by the number of annual passengers, which results in $80 of government support for each $24 ticket.

While ARRC Members Did Steam in the Valley . . .

September 26, 2013


 . . . I was out in Illinois photographing a Chinese steam engine.

We came across this excursion by shear dumb luck. We had departed Galesburg that morning and were working our way back up to Interstate 80 for a fast ride home.

We picked up Route 6 near Sheffield. The Iowa Interstate (ex-Rock Island) main crosses the IAIS just east of town.

As we crossed the tracks we noticed a light way off in the distance. We thought it to be some good luck that we noticed the light and would be able to photograph a westbound IAIS freight. We turned around and went into “downtown” Sheffield where we noticed some tents and food vendors set up.

We inquired about the fair going on and were told there wasn’t any fair but the steam special was due in.

In short order IAIS Chinese-built (1986) QJ No.7081 rolled into town and stopped to unload passengers.

The trips were short, running from Tiskilwa to Sheffield and return. We did some shots while they serviced the QJ and took a few detail photos.

GP38-2 No. 707 was on the east end of the train and would lead back to Tiskilwa. We followed the train back east for a shot or two south of Wyanet, but as time was running short for us (I had to work the next morning) we elected to give up the chase and roll toward home.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee









Cruising along the East Branch of the Hennepin Canal near Wyanet. That's Lock 17 off to the right if I remember correctly.

Cruising along the East Branch of the Hennepin Canal near Wyanet. That’s Lock 17 off to the right if I remember correctly.

A "going away" shot I while some fans take photos.

A “going away” shot I while some fans take photos.

Then and Now at Hudson

September 25, 2013


I caught wind of Norfolk Southern No. 8099, the Southern Railway Heritage unit, leading an empty grain train west out of Conway this past Monday.

The 8099 isn’t the most common H unit through my neck of the woods. The weather was less than ideal, so I went for a little “then and now” photo at Hudson.

I had shot the Virginian heritage unit there back in May and had used the old Pennsylvania Railroad station bay window as a prop.

Fast forward a few months and there is a chill in the air. It’s fall and even though I stood in the same spot as the May photo the station is gone, having been razed about a month ago.

After the zoom shot I took a wider view that shows that a few broken bricks and the radio antenna are all that remain of the structure.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee