Archive for January, 2014

Port Huron Eyes New Amtrak Station

January 31, 2014

Amtrak may be moving to a new station in Port Huron, Mich., the eastern terminal of the state-funded Blue Water.

Local officials are eyeing a new station site in Port Huron Township because the current depot in the city of Port Huron is outdated.

The station was erected in the 1970s and is not in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, said Paul Maxwell, Port Huron Township Downtown Development Authority director.

He said a decision on a new station site will be released within the next 30 days.

Amtrak, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Canadian National Railway, the city of Port Huron and Port Huron Township Downtown Development Authority have begun discussions about a new station site.

“The benefit of moving, in addition to meeting ADA standards, would be a larger parking lot and being adjacent to the Interstate 69 business loop,” Maxwell said.

The proposed new location would be at 24th Street and Michigan Avenue.

“We have many Canadian residents who come across the bridge, park at the station and take the train to their destination,” said Maxwell. “We need to be able to increase our parking capacity to meet the growing demand.”

The new station might also be served by buses.

“We want to make the Port Huron area a destination for visitors,” Maxwell said. “That means we need to provide adequate transportation.”

In the fiscal year 2013, 194,766 passengers rode the Blue Water, an increase over the 187,911 who rode in the previous year. In 2005, the ridership was 155,741.

Of those, 29,461 boarded or got off the train in Port Huron in FY 2013 while in FY 2012 that number was 26,696.

“The train leaves from Port Huron early in the morning and arrives late at night,” Maxwell said. “This prompts people to spend the night in order to be able to catch the train. This allows visitors and those who are passing through to use local hotels and restaurants.”

Marci Fogal, Port Huron Convention and Visitors Bureau president, said that Amtrak allows for Blue Water Area marketing opportunities.

“We have videos playing and visitors guides in every station along our railway connection centers,” she said. “Trains are a very economical way to travel as well. There has been an increase in riders in the past few years.”

If the Amtrak station is moved to Port Huron Township, Lindsay Wallace, St. Clair County transportation planner, hopes it will be a mixed-use development.

“Since the station will be in an industrial area, the same complex could accommodate commercial and manufacturing trains as well,” she said.

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N&W 611 Restoration Team Named

January 31, 2014

The mechanical team that will oversee the restoration of Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 steam locomotive No. 611 to operating condition has been named by the Virginia Museum of Transportation and the Fire Up 611 Committee.

All of them were involved with Norfolk Southern’s steam program before it was phased out in late 1994.
“This is our dream team,” said Beverly T. Fitzpatrick Jr., executive director of the museum. “The individuals selected know the Class J 611 better than anyone.”

The committee members are:
Douglas S. Karhan , chief mechanical officer, Emeritus. Southern Railway hired Karhan in 1976 as general foreman of steam under William J. Purdie. He was promoted to master mechanic for steam in 1982. He retired from NS in 2000.
D. Scott Lindsay, project leader and running gear specialist, began his steam career in 1977 with the Chessie Steam Specials before joining the NS Steam Department in 1982. He formed Steam Operations Corp. in 1993, providing steam mechanical services to museums and tourist railways. Lindsay will be the project coordinator for No. 611, and lead the mechanical team in rebuilding the locomotive at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, N.C.
Robert Yuill, boiler specialist, joined the Southern Railway Steam Department in 1980. He became general foreman and held that post until the NS steam program ended in 1994.

In 1996, he formed Historic Machinery Services Corp. and built a dedicated facility. Repair, restoration, and conservation services are provided to railroads specializing in steam locomotives as well as museums and individuals with a need for detailed period restoration for specialized equipment and industrial machinery.

Robert Saxtan, safety appliance, airbrake and support systems specialist, joined the NS Steam Department in 1982. He was promoted to assistant road foreman of steam engines in 1985, taking full responsibility as system general road foreman of steam engines in 1987. He was one of the regularly assigned steam locomotive engineers for NS, and closed the throttle on No. 611 after it had made what was thought to be its last run in December 1994.

Enveloped In the Snowy Mist

January 30, 2014
The rear of a Norfolk Southern stack train is enveloped in a mist of snow as it heads westward at Brady Lake.

The rear of a Norfolk Southern stack train is enveloped in a mist of snow as it heads westward at Brady Lake.

Like any photographer who enjoys making images of drama of railroads in winter, I like a good shot of a train coming at me at speed and kicking up a swirl of snow in its wake.

But there are also good images to be had of the train once the head end has passed. The mist of snow can create some interesting effects, including the illusion of the train passing through a fog.

All of the images shown here were made last Sunday near Brady Lake. As  my winter railroad photography mentor Roger Durfee might say, “just trying making that in July.”

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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Ex-Algoma Central Passenger Service to End

January 29, 2014

Yet another passenger train in Canada is falling by the wayside. With the pending April 1 end of financial assistance from the federal government, Canadian National has decided to discontinue its tri-weekly local passenger service over the Algoma Central Railway between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst, Ontario.

The last train will be southbound No. 632, which will depart Hearst on Sunday, March 30.

It would be the second loss of passenger train service in Ontario in less than two years. In September 2012, Ontario Northland discontinued its Northlander trains between Toronto, North Bay, and Cochrane.

Those trains were replaced by buses, but that is less likely to happen with the Algoma Central route trains because they serves areas that cannot be reached by any other form of transportation.

The government of Ontario or some other governmental entities may yet step forward to underwrite the Algoma Central local service, but it is not clear if that will happen.

The Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains said the service was similarly threatened in 1995, but communities, businesses and other users of the passenger train successfully reversed the decision.

CAPT said its board members and supporters have been contacting municipalities, First Nations, business owners, camp owners and others to find out more about the decision to end the service and how it can be reversed.

The summer/fall Agawa Canyon tourist rain, which operates over 114 miles of track between Sault Ste. Marie and Agawa Canyon, will remain in operation.

Running from Sault Ste. Marie 296 miles north to Hearst, the ex-Algoma Central route runs through the heart of the Algoma District, an 18,800 square mile recreational wilderness area.

Since 1914 local passenger trains have provided year round access to several small towns, numerous lakes and rivers, private camps, cottages, and wilderness lodges. In many cases the railroad was the only means of access to this remote region. Providing the service has long been a losing proposition, but because they are considered an essential service the trains remained in operation with subsidies provided by the government.

Wisconsin Central purchased Algoma Central in 1995, and when CN bought WC in 2001, it inherited the passenger trains. In 2004, winter local passenger service was reduced by one to three round trips per week, and in 2007, summer local passenger service was similarly reduced. In 2013, CN ended the winter Snow Train between Sault Ste. Marie and Agawa Canyon, because the seasonal excursion service was incurring rising operating losses as a result of stagnating passenger demand.

Amtrak Restores All Canceled Midwest Service

January 29, 2014

Amtrak announced on Tuesday that it will operate its full schedule of trains to and from Chicago on Wednesday, Jan. 29.

The railroad warned that “residual delays” are possible due to a logjam of freight traffic on various Amtrak routes as the freight railroads also seek to get back to normal.

Amtrak urged passengers to check on the status of their train before traveling.

Passengers who have paid but choose not to travel due to this service disruption can receive a refund or a voucher for future travel. Some reservations booked online can be modified or canceled on Amtrak.com or by using the free Amtrak mobile app.

 

New Short Line to Operate in Michigan’s UP

January 29, 2014

A new short line operator plans to begin operating in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to provide service to a new copper and nickel mine.

The Mineral Range Railroad has purchased 12 miles of track from the Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad and also bought 1.9 miles of ex-LS&I right-of-way. The latter had been removed in 2005 and the route rail banked, but Mineral Range will rebuilding the line.

The route will serve Lundin Mining, which is opening the Eagle Mine and is trucking the mined materials to a mill processing facility near Champion, approximately 25 miles south of the mine. This mill is being established on the site of the former Humboldt Mine, once served by LS&I ore trains.

The mill will crush and process copper and nickel ore into concentrates and ship it over the short line. Mineral Range will interchange the cars to Canadian National at Ishpeming.

Mineral Range got its start in 2002 when it began switching a 3-mile industrial track near Ishpeming. Some railfan made the trip to see that company’s former Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal SW1.

Mineral Range quit this operation in 2003 and another company handled the switching for the next decade before Mineral Range resumed the switching operations on June 1, 2013. It also acquired some of the industry track and began operating it as its Pluto Subdivision.

Mineral Range uses an NW2 to switch the line about three days per week.
The Humboldt Mill is expected to open late in 2014 and Mineral Range will begin operations over its new 12-mile line at that time.

At present, only Canadian National’s L’Anse Local uses the 12 miles of line, which Mineral Range calls its Blueberry Subdivision, between Landing Junction near Ishpeming and Humboldt Junction, where the rebuilt track will connect.

About half of the track from Humboldt Junction to the mill has been put down. The rest will be laid in the spring.

Most of the shipments will be outbound copper and nickel concentrates moving in covered gondolas. Mineral Range officials told Trains magazine that they expect to switch the plant five or six times a week.

The railroad also expects to run trains to Ishpeming three days a week run that will have 15 to 20 car.

Mineral Range has acquired former Erie Mining/LTV Steel Alco C420 No. 7222 for its operations, and plans to obtain more locomotives. The railroad will construct an engine house this summer at a location to be decided later.

2 Trains, 1 Meet, 1 Minute and 2 Firsts

January 28, 2014
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The first of the two CSX container trains passes beneath the Fairchild Avenue bridge in Kent at 1:16 p.m.

It was one of those railfan photograph moments in which everything seemed to be moving rapidly.  We were driving toward Kent because he had heard a CSX train call a signal on the radio. But we couldn’t pick out which signal it was.

We were a few miles north of town so we didn’t even know if we would have enough time to catch this train. We had already struck out twice earlier in the day on catching CSX trains.

In the meantime, another CSX train called a signal, but this one was much fainter. There must be two trains out there.

As we came into Kent on Ohio Route 43 (North Mantua Street), I looked toward the  CSX tracks. No train. That was good news, I thought. Or was it? Was the train by already.

We heard a train calling the signal “Kent,” which is located just south of Summit Street. We pulled into the Sheetz parking lot and hoofed it across Mantua to the bridge carrying the Portage County Hike and Bike travel over the CSX track. A moderate level of snow was falling.

This bridge was opened last year and I had yet to photograph from it. Earlier we had discussed how it might be a nice view from there.

The snow on the ground on the east side of Mantua Street was deep and I was racing as hard as I could while hoping I didn’t slip and fall. I could see a headlight of the approaching Q016 reflecting off the rails on Track No. 2. Did I have enough time?

I barely had gotten into position when the eastbound train was upon us. This would be a first: my first photo taken from this bridge.

Q016 rumbled past. Roger then said he had heard the crew of this train talking on the radio to another train crew . That was even better news. A westbound was coming.

Seconds later westbound Q015 came around the curve and another first occurred. It would be the first time that I’d spotted and photographed double-stacked containers passing each other on the CSX New Castle Subdivision.

Container trains are old hat on this line, but it has only been a few months since double- stacked container trains began operating here. The clearance enlargement project on the former Baltimore & Ohio mainline has advanced far enough to allow some double-stack operations.

We got our photographs and headed back toward the Sheetz lot, this time at a much slower pace. The elapsed time between my first and last photographs was one minute.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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The head end of the eastbound has passed beneath the trail bridge and leans into the curve.

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Then westbound Q015 pops out from behind the curve. Note the double-stacked containers passing on each train.

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Q016 had just a few double-stacked containers.

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Passing the snow-covered milepost 117. The Cuyahoga River is out of view to the left.

Amtrak Cancelations Continue Into Tuesday

January 28, 2014

Amtrak will continue to operate on Tuesday on a reduced schedule in the Midwest. The following Amtrak Chicago Hub Services have been canceled for Tuesday, Jan. 28:

Lincoln Service Trains 300, 301, 306 & 307.  Trains 302, 303, 304 & 305 and Trains 21/321 & 22/322 (Texas Eagle) will maintain service on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor)

Hiawatha Service Trains 329, 332, 333, 336, 337 & 340. Trains 330, 331, 334, 335, 338, 339, 341 & 342 will maintain service on the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor)

Wolverine Service Trains 350 & 355. Trains 351, 352, 353 & 354 will maintain service on the Chicago-Detroit corridor)

Illinois Zephyr & Carl Sandburg Trains 380 & 381. Amtrak said it was awaiting word from BNSF regarding service by Trains 382 & 383 on the Chicago-Quincy corridor on Tuesday. The route was closed by BNSF late Sunday night, leading Trains 380, 381, 382 & 383 to be canceled on Monday, Jan. 27, and Amtrak Trains 3, 4, 5, & 6 to detour between Chicago and Galesburg via the former Santa Fe mainline via Chillicothe and Streator, Ill.)

Saluki & Illini Trains 390 & 391 are canceled. Trains 392 (Illini) & 393 (Saluki)and Trains 58 & 59 (City of New Orleans) will maintain service on the Chicago-Carbondale corridor)

No changes are planned for other Chicago Hub Services, including Michigan routes to and from Grand Rapids and Port Huron.  Missouri service between Kansas City and St. Louis and Indiana service to and from Indianapolis is expected to operate as scheduled.

All four Amtrak trains serving Northeast Ohio were operating on Tuesday morning and none were operating excessively late.

Rare Chance to Get Amtrak No. 30 in Daylight

January 27, 2014
Running more than 7 hour late, Amtrak No. 30 is approaching Lake Rockwell Road near Brady Lake on Sunday morning.

Running more than 7 hour late, Amtrak No. 30 is approaching Lake Rockwell Road near Brady Lake on Sunday morning.

So I see fellow Akron Railroad Club member Roger Durfee at our Friday club meeting and ask him if he goes out to photograph in this kind of weather. I meant conditions in which the wind chill is predicted to dip below zero.

Silly question. Of course he does. Roger lives for winter weather on weekends.

So we talked about going out on Sunday morning. I’d call him about 7:30 and we’d make plans from there. There was a possibility that the Reading Lines heritage unit on Norfolk Southern would pass through Ohio in daylight so that might be the focal point of Sunday’s chasing.

I got up before dawn on Sunday and soon learned that Amtrak’s eastbound Capitol Limited was running more than six hours late. It was projected to arrive in Cleveland about 8:46 a.m. Opportunities to photograph in daylight No. 30, or for that matter its westbound counterpart No. 29, are not common.

No. 30 is scheduled to depart Cleveland at 1:54 a.m. whereas No. 29 is scheduled to arrive in Cleveland at 2:53 a.m. Even when they are late, Nos. 29 and 30 are passing through Northeast Ohio in the dead of night.

I called Roger and we met up with plenty of time to track down No. 30. We elected to photograph the train from the Lake Rockwell Road bridge near Brady Lake. It would be going full speed there and kicking up a lot of snow.

A call to Amtrak Julie revealed that No. 30 arrived in Cleveland at 9:30 a.m. and departed three minutes later.  Based on the track speeds for a passenger train over the 30 miles or so between our location and the Cleveland Amtrak station, Roger estimated we’d see No. 30 about 10:30 a.m.

It actually came through at 10:20 a.m., so Roger was nearly spot on.

Our plans for swirling snow images were foiled when No. 30 got an approach at milepost 91 on the NS Cleveland Line. The bridge is at about MP 89.

No. 30 was following an intermodal train that we had photographed a few minutes earlier and it was kicking up a lot of snow. But now Amtrak was starting to catch up to the stack train and had to move at restricted speed.

Fortunately for us, it was snowing somewhat heavily when Amtrak showed up. You can see the results here. This is what winter railroading is all about.

As for the Reading heritage unit, it was removed at Conway Yard near Pittsburgh.

Sunday also saw the eastbound Lake Shore Limited running about an hour behind No. 30 in northern Ohio. No. 48 arrived in Cleveland at 10:41 a.m. on Sunday morning and departed at 10:50, exactly 5 hours late. No. 48 finally got to New York at 12:10 a.m., which is 5 hours, 35 minutes late.

No. 30 rolled into Washington Union Station at 8:20 p.m. Sunday, making it 7 hours and 36 minutes late.

Amtrak returned to a sense of normalcy on Monday morning. No. 29 departed Cleveland 20 minutes late while No. 30 was a mere 26 minutes late. No. 48 left Cleveland on time, but No. 49 was running 4  hours late.

Article and Photographs by  Craig Sanders

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Amtrak Cancels Trains on Monday Due to Winter

January 26, 2014

Amtrak announced on Sunday that it has canceled some trains on Monday due to expected severe winter weather conditions.

In a statement, Amtrak said it decided to cancel several Midwest Corridor trains following conversations with its freight railroad partners and state transportation departments that sponsor the services.

In the statement, Amtrak said the cancelations are being made as a precautionary move and will maintain service on all routes. The following  trains will not operate on Monday, Jan. 27:

Lincoln Service Trains 300, 301, 306 & 307. (Trains 302, 303, 304 & 305 and Trains 21/321 & 22/322 will maintain service on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor)

Hiawatha Service Trains 329, 332, 333, 336, 337 & 340. (Trains 330, 331, 334, 335, 338, 339, 341 & 342 will maintain service on the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor)

Wolverine Service Trains 350 & 355. Trains 351, 352, 353 & 354 will maintain service on the Chicago-Detroit corridor)

Illinois Zephyr & Carl Sandburg Trains 382 & 383. Trains 380 & 381 will maintain service on the Chicago-Quincy corridor)

Saluki & Illini Trains 392 & 393 are canceled. Trains 390 & 391 and Trains 58 & 59 (City of New Orleans) will maintain service on the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale corridor)

No changes are planned at this time for other Chicago Hub Services, including Michigan routes to and from Grand Rapids/Holland and Port Huron/East Lansing, Missouri service between Kansas City and St. Louis and Indiana service to and from Indianapolis.

Passengers who have paid for tickets but choose not to travel due to this service disruption can receive a refund or a voucher for future travel. Some reservations booked online can be modified or canceled on Amtrak.com or by using the free Amtrak mobile app.

Passengers are encouraged to call 800-USA-RAIL or visit Amtrak.com/alerts for Service Alerts and Passenger Notices. Schedule information and train status updates are available at the Amtrak.com home page.