Archive for February, 2014

Pitt Tunnel Project Wins Engineering Awards

February 28, 2014

A tunnel project in Pittsburgh that was part of establishing the CSX National Gateway Network has won an engineering award.

The J&L Tunnel modification project the Project of the Year Award from the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania and the Diamond Award for Engineering Excellence from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania.

The awarding organizations cited the project’s safe completion, sustainability, cost-effectiveness and community benefits.
Completed in late 2013, the J&L Tunnel Project increased the vertical clearance of a 130-year-old tunnel running through Pittsburgh’s “SouthSide Works,” a mixed-use residential and commercial development on the site of former steel mill.

CSX worked with public officials, local businesses and residents to minimize noise and disruption during construction. CSX later restored trees and plantings, and made landscaping improvements to the overlying Tunnel Park.

The J&L Tunnel was constructed in the 1880s as part of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie line to enable trains to pass beneath the former J&L Steel Co.’s Pittsburgh Works facility.

CSX recently announced a $50 million proposal to redevelop the former P&LE yard in McKees Rocks and Stowe Township into a new intermodal rail facility.

Survey Work to Begin for N&W 611 Shop

February 28, 2014

Survey work for a new shop and educational facility for Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 J-class No. 611 has begun at the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

The work is being done by Crouch Engineering and includes preliminary design and engineering of the facility at VMT.

The facility be used for maintenance, repairs and educational exhibits.

“The Class J 611 is considered by many to be the finest steam passenger locomotive in the world,” said J. Preston Claytor in a news release. He is the chairman of the Fire Up 611! committee.

The museum is also taking applications for available positions to help with restoration of the 611.

Prospective volunteers must fill out an application and be approved before working on the project. To fill out an application, go to fireup611.org.

Penn to Fund 33 Rail Improvement Projects

February 28, 2014

Eighteen railroads have shared in state grants in Pennsylvania that will result in 33 rail freight improvement projects.

The State Transportation Commission approved $33.4 million for 15 projects through the Rail Transportation Assistance Program, a capital budget grant program funded with bonds. An additional 14 projects are funded through the Rail Freight Assistance Program, which is funded a Multi-Modal Fund.

Also, the commission approved $1.3 million for four projects from Marcellus Shale impact fees designated for distribution through PennDOT’s Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports and Waterways.

The 18 railroads involved are the Allegheny Valley; Wheeling & Lake Erie; Bucks County Railroad Preservation & Restoration Corp.; SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority; Mittal Steel USA Railways; Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Rail Authority; Canadian National; Buffalo & Pittsburgh; Allegheny Eastern; Pennsylvania Northeastern; East Penn; Oil Creek & Titusville; Columbia & Reading Railway; Reading Blue Mountain & Northern; Lehigh Railway; Pittsburgh, Allegheny, & McKees Rocks; Lehigh Railway; and Youngstown & Southeastern.

For more information, including a list of all the funded projects, go to www.dot.state.pa.us.

ARRC Blog Celebrates its Fifth Anniversary

February 27, 2014

It was five years ago today (Feb. 27, 2009), that the Akron Railroad Club blog came to life when I posted the first five pages to this site.

Those initial pages contained information about the club and those pages are still here.

Today, the site has 177 pages, more than 1,200 posts and more than 5,600 photographs. And that doesn’t take into account the pages, posts and photographs that I’ve taken down because they were no longer timely or I needed to gain space to put up new content.

When the blog began, I had in mind it being a place to put background information about the club, news of upcoming events, and stories about the activities of ARRC members.

It quickly became apparent that there would not be enough of that type of material to keep the site as active as I wanted it to be, so I began posting trip reports and accounts of outings made by ARRC members and others.

I also added content about railroad radio frequencies and hotspots in Northeast Ohio.

Here and there I would post news items about railroads that serve the region. Within the past year I’ve expanded that content quite a bit and broadened the scope to include news about railroads and other matters in surrounding states.

The blog was created with the objective that it would help the club recruit new members. Some of that has occurred. Sometimes a guy will show up at a meeting and say he saw the club’s blog.

On an average day, the ARRC blog gets between 400 to 500 views by more than 200 unique visitors.

Traffic grew fairly steadily during the first four years of the blog’s existence. There were 16,597 views in 2009, 57,449 in 2010, 87,087 in 2011 and 167,893 in 2012.

Alas, 2012 has been the high water mark. Viewership fell to 162,794 in 2013.

The highest monthly viewership occurred in October 2012 when the blog recorded 23,514 views. Not surprisingly, the highest day for traffic occurred on Oct. 27, 2012, when the site had 4,690 views.

Why that day? Contributor Dan Davidson had sent photographs of new locomotives built by GE in Erie that were en route to England aboard a CSX train that passed his house.

Someone in England saw that and put up a link on a British website. The traffic then poured in from all over the world.

Indeed, most of the times when traffic on the site has spiked it has been because someone posted  a link to ARRC blog content on a website that itself gets a high level of traffic.

Take, for example, Feb. 5 of this year when the ARRC blog had 1,383 views by 930 visitors. On that day, I posted photographs sent by ARRC member Todd Dillon of the Norfolk Southern locomotive that wears a commemorative decal for the National Model Railroad Association national convention set to be held in Cleveland this year.

Someone on Train Orders.com saw the post and posted a link and the visitors came rolling in. That day we had 876 views by 527 visitors.

From what I could tell, the ARRC was the first website to post photos of that NMRA commemorative locomotive even if the Trains magazine News Wire site claimed to have an “exclusive” in showing its images of the engine. Interestingly, the images posted by Trains were contributed by ARRC member Jerry Krueger.

A similar effect occurred when a post by ARRC member Alex Bruchac was posted to a preservation site. Alex had lamented that no former Cleveland city streetcars are on display within Cleveland.

The last such car had been moved to a museum out of state. That post struck a chord with some who came to the site. Several visitors posted comments about it.

I try to make it a point to post at least one item every day. I usually do that shortly after I get up in the morning.

One of the most useful tips I’ve received about blogging came from a former co-worker of my wife. That former co-worker was also the person who introduced me to WordPress.com and help me set up the ARRC site.

She said that blogs and websites needed to be treated like serial publications. You need to regularly put up content just as newspapers, magazines and newsletters do.

I don’t know how many people routinely look at the ARRC site. Based on comments I’ve heard, there are at least a handful of fans who look at it daily or nearly daily.

I know from the internal site statistics that WordPress furnishes that most visitors are from the United States, but every day we get viewers from around the world.

For example, on Saturday, Feb. 22, the ARRC blog had 470 views, which of late has been a somewhat typical day. Of those, 452 came from within the U.S. But there was one view from Thailand and one view from Malaysia.

I can only guess who those folks were and why they came to the ARRC site. More than likely, though, they found the site doing a Google search.

The site is active enough that it often comes up on the first page of results when someone does a Google search.

What has been the most popular content of all time? The homepage has received the most views all time with nearly 260,000.

The post that has had the highest viewship was written by Richard Jacobs and is titled “Coal Trains in Northeast Ohio.” It has been seen 19,000 times. Why coal trains have proven to be so popular is beyond me.

Discounting the home page, Jake also wrote the fourth most viewed post of all time. It is titled “Aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train” and has drawn more than 4,800 views.

The ARRC blog will never have the viewership of such sites as Trains Orders.com or Railpictures.net. Those are sites with a widespread national and international following.

There’s a level of prestige involved in posting on those sites that the ARRC blog will never have. It is just the way that it is.

I have no idea how the ARRC blog compares in viewership with similar sites run by one person and/or are affiliated with a local railroad group like the ARRC.

Based on a comment made by the Train Orders.com owner earlier this year, the ARRC site would seem to have a little above average daily viewership.

I could probably increase the viewership of the ARRC blog if I were to create companion sites on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I’ve thought about doing that and I might still do it.

But it already takes up enough of my time to run this site and I’m not getting paid to do it. I don’t derive much, if any, professional benefit to overseeing the ARRC blog. It’s not even among the duties of the president of the club as spelled out in the bylaws.

I do get some personal satisfaction from doing it, particularly when a club member mentions seeing it and when someone takes the time to comment on the blog about something they’ve read. That is what keeps me going.

I also enjoy it when someone emails me to ask a question or to seek to use a photograph that he/she saw on the site. Just last weekend the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Historical Society asked to use some images in its magazine.

I also once got an email request for photographs from an editor of Trains News Wire about the demolition of Nova Tower. That one didn’t work out, but the site posted an item because that editor had seen the ARRC post.

If you view the blog regularly, you’ve probably seen the same names attached to posts and photographs.

There is a small cadre of contributors who send me photographs and postings. The site would not be what it is without their efforts.

Contributions to the blog tend to be cyclical. At times I get three or four contributions and they stack up awaiting processing and posting. But then there are days and even weeks at a time when nothing comes in.

I’ve learned to appreciate the contributions that I do receive and the contributors that we do have.

The contributors do not get paid for their images and there isn’t much else in it for them other than seeing their work on this site.

Generally, I’ll post just about anything that someone wants to send. There was a time when I used to Photoshop images that people sent if I thought they needed it. But that proved to be too time-consuming and I stopped doing it. To twist the saying from the late 1960s, “what you see is what I got.”

I have a like-hate relationship with ARRC blog host WordPress. The site is fairly simple to use once you learn all of its functions and quirks.

It is not user friendly in ways that I would like it to be and like any software company it is run by people who feel a need now and then to change things. Maybe those changes made sense to those who made them, but I usually don’t see the need for change that they saw.

As for what’s ahead for the ARRC blog, probably more of the same. One of my greatest challenges will be ensuring space for future content.

At this writing, the site has used 82 percent of its allotted space. We could have more space if we would be willing to pay for it, but I’d rather not commit the club to doing that.

Therefore, I periodically weed out older content, particularly photographs. Deciding what to remove is not always an easy decision to make.

If you’d like to be a contributor to the ARRC blog, send your materials to csanders429@aol.com. If sending photographs, send them as file attachments. They need to be JPEG images.

Thanks for reading the Akron Railroad Club blog.

Article by Craig Sanders

A Rainbow in the Sunshine State

February 26, 2014
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A motive power consist fit for a champion.

As much as I like photographing in the snow – and we all know there has been multiple chances for that this year – I do like my winter break in Florida.

With a lot of family down there I usually try to head south sometime in February. This year, for the first time in a long time, I elected to drive down.

In all the years (since 1976) that I have ventured to the Tampa/Clearwater area, I never headed over to photograph the Florida East Coast Railway.

With major motive power changes looming on the FEC I decided to take a day or so and see what I could come up with as I ventured back to snowy Northeast Ohio.

On the way down I made a brief stop at Bowden Yard in Jacksonville but the heavy overcast found me taking a quick grab shot of some power before moving on.

Better luck would prevail on my return trip north. Variety is the spice of life these days on the FEC road trains.

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m looking forward to solid sets of like painted FEC consists, but for now I will take the variety that is running up and down the coast today.

My first rendezvous would be with train 101 in Holly Hill near Daytona. I had spent the morning catching some CSX in Tampa and Amtrak in Lakeland, and then rolled east in hopes I could catch this afternoon train.

With some long distance help from a friend in Ohio I was able to set up and grab this SD40-2 trio with two of the “Champion” painted units leading a Union Pacific unit.

After the 101 it was (1) a drive on the beach at Daytona then (2) a drive up to St Augustine for the night in hopes of catching some northbounds in the morning.

My hotel had the FEC main right behind it. I noticed a clear signal as I walked over to check the area out and my friend Jeff in Ohio indicated that the 107 was out and running.

It would be a race against the sun as it was setting fast. In the very last light of the day, an almost pure set of blues rolled past. I’ve shown one in color and one in black and white as the grayscale conversion seemed to tone down the orange cast of that setting sun.

Fast forward to the next morning. Information showed there were two trains coming north, a southbound local and that there was time for breakfast.

This is the first northbound train (No. 226). Having shot a “Champ” leading the day before, I was OK with the ex-Union Pacific yellow leader. The still morning made for a nice reflection.

Between the two northbounds, local No. 905 ran south. It would clear up on the former Palatka Branch in St Augustine for the second northbound.

The next move was the second Bowden bound train (No. 224?) with, count ’em, seven units.

I couldn’t get them all in one photo. One of the CITX units was leading a couple of ex UPs, the 104, the 425 in pink, and two blues.

I don’t normally do rolling nose coupled roster grabs but couldn’t resist the pink trimmed 425.

That would be all for a while in St Augustine so it was north to Jacksonville and a rendezvous with train 101 again. Right on the money it was pulled out of the yard and parked at Sunbeam Road to wait on the road crew. Colorful SD70M-2 106 had the honors.

I’ll finish this up with one of the quick photos at Bowden on my down bound trip. I wasn’t a big fan of that pole in the middle of the photo, but of interest were the two former straight GP40s (the last two on the roster) that had just been re-lettered “EMDX”, including the 2000 in Champion colors. Both have since left the property.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee

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It was a race against the sun to get this all-blue consist.

The black and white version of that late day train.

The black and white version of that late day train.

That's right! This train had seven locomotives.

That’s right! This train had seven locomotives.

I couldn't resist this grab it roster shot of the pink ribbon unit.

I couldn’t resist this grab it roster shot of the pink ribbon unit.

I was OK with this ex-UP unit being ahead of the "champ."

I was OK with this ex-UP unit being ahead of the “champ.”

A southbound local made an appearance amid the northbound traffic.

A southbound local made an appearance amid the northbound traffic.

Train 101 was right on the advertised for its crew change.

Train 101 was right on the advertised for its crew change.

Not a bad haul for 24 hours on the FEC.

Not a bad haul for 24 hours on the FEC.

 

A gathering of motive power.

A gathering of motive power.

 

Roger Durfee Creates Site to Showcase Photos

February 25, 2014
Roger Durfee has just finished photographing the Jersey Central heritage locomotive on Norfolk Southern along with a dozen or so other guys last August.

Roger Durfee has just finished photographing the Jersey Central heritage locomotive on Norfolk Southern along with a dozen or so other guys last August.

If you’ve ever admired the photography of veteran Akron Railroad Club member Roger Durfee on the ARRC blog, you need to check out a website that he created to showcase his work.

Digital Durf (http://www.digitaldurf.com/) shows a selection of Roger’s work over the years. Although much of it is railroad photography, Roger also likes to capture other subject matter, including airships, wildlife, people, places and “things.”

The earliest images on the site date to 1974 when Roger was getting started as a photographer. Thousands of images later, the man who is known to some as “Durf,” “RAD” or “Murph,” is one of the most acclaimed and prolific railfan photographers.

His work has been published in various railfan magazines and seven books. His images regularly appear in the yearly calendar put out by Norfolk Southern that features photographs taken by NS employees.

“I’ve had a lifelong interest in photography and transportation subjects,” he wrote on his site. “Railroads in particular are my favorite. Some of my earliest memories are begging my parents to stop so I could see the train if I saw a light coming down the tracks as our car crossed them.”

Since then he has made images of railroads all over the country. Nonetheless, Roger also makes it a point to regularly photograph rail operations in his backyard in Northeast Ohio where he has lived for all of his life except for four years when he worked for Conrail in central Pennsylvania.

A conductor for Norfolk Southern based out of Motor Yard in Macedonia, Roger has been known to take his camera to work and document any and all facets of working on the railroad.

Images on Digital Durf are organized by subject matter. By and large, the railroad images are organized by railroad.

Although he has his favorite roads — Conrail and Erie Lackawanna immediately come to mind — Roger will photograph just about anything with steel wheels on steel rails.

As one person wrote on Digital Durf, “Roger is one of those photographers that can make trains tell a story. His love for railroad photography is his passion. You can see that in his pictures.”

Sunday Afternoon Chase on the CVSR

February 23, 2014
The chase is on. The northbound Scenic approaching Botzum.

The chase is on. The northbound Scenic approaching Botzum in a snow shower.

Photographing the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in good snow conditions was high on my to-do list for this winter. A couple of excursions to the CVSR had not yielded much in the way of snow.

But that changed on Sunday, Feb. 9. An early morning snowfall freshened the snow cover in the park. I rode the train in the morning, riding in the dome car Emerson. But once I got back to Akron, I was off to chase the afternoon trip.

The chase was not without some challenges. I wasn’t sure how deep the snow would be at my favorite photo locations. I had to call off photographing at Bath Road because the parking area by the grade crossing had not been plowed and I almost got stuck when I pulled in.

The parking lot at the Botzum station had been plowed. The images I there were nice, but not quite what I had hoped to get from Bath Road.

Fortunately, the Scenic was moving very slowly and I was able to catch up to it a few times.

Here is a selection of what I  captured during my chase, which began at
Botzum and ended at Indigo Lake with stops inbetween at Jaite, Brecksville and along Riverview Road south of Peninsula.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The head end is almost to Bath Road. There was just enough snow clinging to the trees to make for some interesting images.

The head end is almost to Bath Road. There was just enough snow clinging to the trees to make for some interesting images.

Unable to get to Indigo Lake before the train arrived, I improvised by shooting the nose of FPA4 No. 6771 as it crossed the trail leading back to the lake.

Unable to get to Indigo Lake before the train arrived, I improvised by shooting the nose of FPA4 No. 6771 as it crossed the trail leading back to the lake.

As I drove up Riverview Road, I caught the train and the sun found an opening in the clouds. There was no traffic behind me so I was able to stop and grab this shot.

As I drove up Riverview Road, I caught the train and the sun found an opening in the clouds. There was no traffic behind me so I was able to stop and grab this shot.

With still no one behind me, I bided my time, pacing the train. No. 6771 is about to lead the train across Riverview Road south of Peninsula.

With still no one behind me, I bided my time, pacing the train. No. 6771 is about to lead the train across Riverview Road south of Peninsula. Some leaves have yet to fall from this stand of trees.

Approaching Jaite. My objective was to get an image here without the high tension power lines in the background.

Approaching Jaite. My objective was to get an image here without the high tension power lines in the background.

Pausing at Brecksville for the 15 minute turn-around stop. After March 16, the Scenic won't be coming here until late spring.

Pausing at Brecksville for the 15 minute turn-around stop. After March 16, the Scenic won’t be coming here until late spring.

The Old Station Road bridge frames one of the coaches.

The Old Station Road bridge frames one of the coaches.

The nearly still Cuyahoga River afford some reflections.

The nearly still Cuyahoga River afford some reflections.

A CVSR passengers provides some perspective as to the size of LTEX No. 1420.

A CVSR passengers provides some perspective as to the size of LTEX No. 1420.

Departing Brecksville en route to Akron. I figured to catch this train one more time before calling it a day.

Departing Brecksville en route to Akron. I figured to catch this train one more time before calling it a day.

Something about this image captivated me. The snow-covered and frozen Indigo Lake is to the right. There was a snow shower yet a hint of clearer skies to the south. Winter can make for some contemplative mood images.

Something about this image captivated me. The snow-covered and frozen Indigo Lake is to the right. There was a snow shower yet a hint of clearer skies to the south. Winter can make for some contemplative mood images.

NKP 765 to Appear at Owosso Train Festival

February 22, 2014

Nickel Plate Road No. 765 will be one of the headliners at Train Expo 2014 in Owosso, Mich., in June.

The four day festival (June 20-24) also will feature Gramling Locomotive Works’ 0-4-0Ts, Flagg Coal No. 26, and Lehigh Valley Coal No. 126.

Of course the Pere Marquette 1225 will be hand as well given that the festival is being sponsored by the owner of the 2-8-8 Berkshire, the Steam Railroading Institute, which operates.

Festival organizers also noted that vintage vintage aircraft, and automobiles will be on display.

day excursion each day to Alma. It will head the 8 a.m. departure on Friday and Sunday and the 2 p.m. departure on Saturday. The 1225 also will similar half-day excursions from the expo.

According to SRI Director of Operations Kevin Mayer, each trip will last about four hours and will include photo runbys.

Little River Railroad 0-4-0T No. 1 and 4-6-2 No. 110 will pull one-hour trains rides.
During the festival, visitors will have the opportunity to operate the tank engines.

The Vintage aircraft expected to be on display include World II era include B-17 and B-25 bombers, a C-47/DC-3 transport, and a P-51 Mustang fighter.

NKP 765 was a star attraction at the 2009 railroad festival held in Owosso. The Berkshires are slated to part of night photo sessions coordinated by Lerro Productions.

For more information on Train Expo and to order tickets, go to www.michigansteamtrain.com. For more information on the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society and No. 765, go to fortwaynerailroad.org.

Winter on the Water Level Route in Lake County

February 22, 2014
An eastbound CSX manifest freight near Bowhall Road east of Painesville.

An eastbound CSX manifest freight near Bowhall Road east of Painesville.

Most of the time, trees are not a photographer’s friend. They cast shadows and diminish the amount of open space with work with next to the tracks.

But when coated with snow, trees can create for some striking winter photographs. And so it was on a recent Sunday when we found ourselves looking for trees next to the tracks.

Shown is a selection of CSX trains on the Water Level Route of the former New York Central east of Cleveland. It was an odd day from an operating standpoint.

Traffic was fairly steady, but from the time we got trackside around 11 until nearly 3:30 p.m. all of the trains were headed east. Where were the westbounds?

A fleet of them began reaching Lake County in late afternoon. The images shown here were taken at various locations including the crossings of Bowhall Road, Park Road and Davis Road. We also photographed near the ex-NYC Painesville passenger station.

One of our primary goals was to catch one or both of the Canadian Pacific intermodal trains that began running on CSX between Chicago and Buffalo late last year.

But we struck out on that objective. As reported in an earlier post, we did get four trains with BNSF power in the lead. The last train that we caught had Union Pacific power.

Aside from a few flurries early in our outing, there was no snowfall. Skies were cloudy all day, but the beauty of the snow clinging to the trees and everything else made for some nice winter scenes.

There also was enough snow on the right of way to create those clouds of misty snow that add drama to the sight of a fast oncoming train.

When we called it a day just past 5 p.m., we had photographed 18 trains. And we were pleased to have photographed all of them.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

If only there were trains on Sunday on the NS Fairport, Painesville & Eastern branch.

If only there were trains on Sunday on the NS Fairport, Painesville & Eastern branch.

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If Only They Were Real

February 21, 2014
An Alco PA (left) and RS11 pose at the mouth of the tunnel on the HO model railroad layout of Edward Ribinskas.

An Alco PA (left) and RS11 pose at the mouth of the tunnel on the HO model railroad layout of Edward Ribinskas.

Although I grew up in east central Illinois just 10 miles or so from the Nickel Plate Road’s St. Louis line, I never saw a NKP train. I occasionally saw the tracks, but that was it.

Most of my eyewitness sightings of NKP rolling stock have been at the Mad River & NKP Museum in Bellevue.

For one evening on a recent Sunday, though, the Nickel Plate came back to life. I had spent the afternoon with Marty Surdyk and Edward Ribinskas railfaning in Lake County. During the day we spotted four Norfolk Southern trains on the former NKP Chicago-Buffalo mainline.

That evening at Ed’s house, he brought out some of his NKP motive power fleet. Powering a coal train were an RS11 and an RS36. Pulling a manifest freight was a NKP “Blue Bird.”

In real life, the NKP PA locomotives pulled passenger trains, including a pair of trains that operated Cleveland and St. Louis.

But on a model railroad, you can create any parallel universe that you desire. And you can make anything from the past come alive again.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The "Blue Bird" climbs a grade on a trestle as the coal train is about to pass below.

The “Blue Bird” climbs a grade on a trestle as the coal train is about to pass below.

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By the time Penn Central came along in 1968, the Nickel Plate had been merged into the Norfolk & Western and the “Blue Birds” were long gone. But anything is possible on a model railroad layout.

No train runs on Ed's layout without a caboose.

No train runs on Ed’s layout without a caboose.

Head end and rear end align near the entrance to the tunnel.

Head end and rear end align near the entrance to the tunnel.