Archive for June, 2014

CVSR Tracks Almost Ready For Service

June 30, 2014
Track equipment is idle on Sunday afternoon just north of the Bath Road crossing of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad tracks.

Track equipment is idle on Sunday afternoon just north of the Bath Road crossing of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad tracks.

The washout near Bath Road on the tracks used by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is just about repaired. I ventured over to the site on Sunday afternoon to take a look after seeing a news release on the CVSR website saying that service to Akron will resume this Wednesday (July 2).

The damage occurred on May 12 during a heavy thunderstorm that caused flash flooding. Initially, CVSR trains operated only between Rockside Road station and Peninsula. That was later extended to Indigo Lake.

The tracks used by the CVSR pass through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and are owned by the National Park Service. Flooding has washed out the tracks at this location before.

You would not know that there had been a washout here. The rails have been replaced or straightened and the ballast has been replaced. Ballast that had been washed over to the nearby towpath trail through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park has been scooped up and removed. Here are some before and after photographs.

Photographs by Craig Sanders

The flooding left the tracks looking like a roller coaster ride.

The flooding left the tracks looking like a roller coaster ride.

The roller coaster profile is gone with the straight now straight and properly ballasted.

The roller coaster profile is gone with the mainline now straight and properly ballasted.

Washout-d

This switch leads to a stub end siding just north of Bath Road. After the May 12 storm, it looked like this, but now . . .

 . . . now looks like this.

. . . it looks like this, which is how it should be.

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J.J. Young Photos Being Posted Online

June 30, 2014

The railroad photographs of the late s images from the area in and around Binghamton, N.Y.

Young was born in 1929 in Wheeling, W.Va., and worked for the Wheeling & Lake Erie before moving in 1959 to Binghamton, N.Y., to teach photography. His widow Liz has agreed to allow access to his collection.

Photographer Sam Botts and Young’s son, J.J. Young III, will review and scan the thousands of the negatives in the collection, a project that Botts said will take several years to complete.

The 800 Binghamton area now up on the site took two years to process.

After he retired, Young relocated to Charleston, W.Va., where he continued to photograph trains until his death. Young never had a driver’s license, yet visited all 48 states in the continental in pursuit of train images. His collection includes more than 10,000 images. U.S. chasing trains.

Young amassed a collection of more than 10,000 images before he died in 2004. To view some of Young’s steam era images, visit www.flickr.com/photos/jjyoungjr.

CVSR to Return to Akron on July 2.

June 28, 2014

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad will resume service to Akron on July 2 and is offering half price coach tickets to mark the resumption of service.

Passengers boarding at Akron Northside Station July 2 through July 6 will receive half price coach tickets of $9 for adults and $6.50 for children).

Akron service was suspended after severe thunderstorms on May 12 brought flooding that washed out the tracks near Bath Road. Initially, trains only operated as far south as Peninsula, but that was soon extended to Indigo Lake.

The National Park Service, which owns the tracks, has recently undertaken track repairs.

“We greatly appreciate our partnership with the National Park Service, which allowed the necessary resources to come together and repair the tracks in a timely manner,” said CVSR President & CEO Craig Tallman. “We are looking forward to a very busy summer aboard CVSR and in the National Park.”

CVSR operates regular excursions through Cuyahoga Valley National Park Wednesdays through Sundays.

The summer schedule runs through October and includes southbound departures from Rockside Station in Independence at 9 a.m., 12:45 p.m., and 4:25 p.m.; departures from Peninsula at 9:40 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:40 p.m., 3:30 p.m., and 5:10 p.m. and northbound departures from Akron at 10:45 a.m., 2:40 p.m. and 6:10 p.m.

Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors (Wednesdays through Fridays), and $13 for children ages 3-12.  Free coach tickets are offered to active military, veterans, and first responders on regularly-scheduled trains on Thursdays through September; up to three family members/guests may receive half-price coach tickets on the same train.

Tickets for may be purchased in advance at CVSR.com, by calling 1-800-468-4070, or at Rockside Station, Peninsula Depot, or Akron Northside Station 45 minutes before departure. Senior and military discount are only available at the station.

New Amtrak Baggage Cars to Have Bike Racks

June 28, 2014

Amtrak’s new baggage cars will come with bicycle racks on all of its long-distance trains.

“This is a service and amenity that we want to make sure we can offer,” said Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz.

Amtrak plans to place into service 55 new baggage cars on all 15 long-distance routes, including the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited, which operate through Northeast Ohio.

Amtrak offers roll-on service on a few trains, but for now, those who want to travel with bicycles on trains with baggage cars must box them as checked baggage.

The policies for bicycles at stations with checked baggage service are still are being worked out,. Schulz said.

Last October, Amtrak allowed 20 bicyclists to take their bikes onto a Capitol Limited train in Pittsburgh in a one-day trial of roll-on service that participants said was successful.

Amtrak said it has begun field-testing the baggage cars in Chicago, New Orleans, Miami and the Northeast Corridor. Testing will continue into October.

Groundbreaking Set for Detroit Streetcar Project

June 28, 2014

Ground will be broken for the M1 Rail Detroit streetcar project on July 28. The ground breaking ceremonies had been planned for last spring but had been delayed until more arrangements, including approval by the Detroit City Council, could be worked out.

M1 said it would work with the Michigan Department of Transportation and DTE Energy as the latter two parties “start complementary work around mid-July before M-1 Rail begins its work on Monday, July 28.

The MDOT and DTE work on Woodward Avenue will not prohibit vehicular traffic but will require limited lane closures.”

“Over the next 30 days our team will be pounding the pavement to make everyone who lives, works and visits the Woodward [Avenue] corridor aware of what they should expect from track construction and how to navigate around it once we begin on July 28th,” said M1 Rail Chief Operating Officer Paul Childs. “We are moving quickly to provide information and resources to businesses and residents along the corridor. There will be a business support program that we will introduce in the coming weeks along with more details about construction activities and timelines as they are finalized.”

Alameda, Calif.-based Stacy and Witbeck, Inc. is the construction  manager and general contractor for the 3.3-mile, $137 million project.

 

Firm Named to Build Rochester Amtrak Station

June 28, 2014

The Pike Co. Inc. has been chosen to oversee the design and construction of a new intermodal transportation center to be used by Amtrak in Rochester, N.Y.

Based in Rochester, Pike will work with LaBella Associates, Kisan Engineering, Moffat & Nichol Engineering, Foundation Design, Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect and Atlantic Testing Laboratories.

Amtrak currently uses a station built in the 1970s. The new facility will cost an estimated $29.8 million. Amtrak will own and operate the station.

The station will include two additional passenger tracks and a new two-sided high-level passenger platform. Greyhound and Trailways buses are expected to use the facility.

CSX will perform preliminary site work this summer in advance of the design build team’s work, which is expected to begin in the fall. Project funding includes a $15 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program.

NYSDOT and FRA will provide $3.5 million in funding for preliminary engineering. The City of Rochester will provide $500,000 while New York State Rail funds will make up the remainder of project costs. The contractors and the New York State Department of Transportation will negotiate a final contract this summer. The contract will then need to be approved by the state attorney general and comptroller.

Rochester is served by eight daily Amtrak trains, including the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited, the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and two pairs of Empire Service trains between New York and Niagara Falls, N.Y.

3 Ann Arbor New Amtrak Station Sites Named

June 27, 2014

Three sites have been identified to be the location of a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor, Mich.

URS Corp., an engineering and design firm hired by the city, recently narrowed the list of sites from eight to three, ranked them based on level of access to downtown and community activity centers, such as the University of Michigan Hospital and Central Campus.

The finalist locations include along North Street next to Margo Pond, the existing Amtrak site on Depot Street, and a parking lot on Fuller Road near the UM Hospital. The sites were reviewed for their environmental impacts, accessibility from existing roadways, and sufficient land for station facilities.

Ann Arbor officials want to design a station with the capacity to handle increasing ridership, while allowing dedicated space for buses.

The final design of a new Amtrak station is identified as a $2.6 million expense in the city’s 2015-2016 Capital Improvement Plan. Construction of the station is shown as a separate $44.5 million line item that same year.

Mayor John Hieftje said that he expects 80 percent of the funding to come from the federal government, with other local partners also contributing funds. A final recommendation for a specific site, including a conceptual design, is expected late this year.

Ann Arbor is served by six daily Wolverine Service trains operating between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

Chicago Firm Tapped to Manage Hoosier State

June 27, 2014

The Indiana Department of Transportation has selected Corridor Capital LLC as the preferred vendor to manage and operate a passenger rail route between Chicago and Indianapolis.

The Chicago-based passenger rail development company would take over the service on Oct. 1. Currently, Amtrak operates the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State over the route along with the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal. The trains do not operate between Chicago and Indianapolis on the same days.

Last fall the Indiana Department of Transportation along with local governments based in communities served by the Hoosier State agreed to provide funding to keep the train rolling for another year.

Earlier this year, InDOT issued a request for proposals to take over the service. INDOT officials said that proposals were submitted by Corridor Capital, Herzog Transit Services and Passenger Transportation Specialists, Iowa Pacific Holdings, and Railmark Holdings. Amtrak also submitted a proposal.

Corridor Capital is now in discussions with InDOT and the online communities about taking over the Hoosier State. Once Corridor Capital takes over, the train is expected to continue to operate with Amtrak conductors and engineers. Corridor Capital will provide equipment and maintenance.

Still being negotiated are such details as costs, ticket pricing, café car service, and business class amenities. The Hoosier State would use some of the 50 former Santa Fe Hi-Level equipment owned or controlled by Corridor Capital.

“We’re working together to open this up to competition to hopefully develop a plan and seek out innovations that will allow this service to improve and be more financially self sustaining,” said InDOT spokesman Will Wingfield.

Trains magazine reported that Corridor Capital plans to hire Railplan International, a Baltimore-based designer of modular interiors, to retrofit luggage towers and modular bathrooms “to make them fit for daily intercity operation and be responsible for maintenance.”

Railplan holds maintenance contracts for commuter services Virginia Railway Express and MARC in the Washington, D.C., area, and recently took over maintenance of North Carolina’s intercity passenger trains.

Founded in 2005, on its website, Corridor Capital describes itself as “a passenger-rail development company that assembles and integrates the multiple elements needed to provide a successful intercity passenger-train service.

“The company owns uniform passenger rolling stock and commands the professional skills of several dozen veteran passenger-train professionals, including civil and mechanical engineers, passenger-car and locomotive builders, station and terminal managers, locomotive and car maintenance specialists, planners, financiers, information technologists, travel-marketing and ticketing specialists and contractors providing on-board food, beverage and hospitality services.

“At Corridor Capital, the train-and-travel package once delivered by a multitude of individual railroad companies has been reinvented and reassembled by a professional passenger-rail development company.  Just as a real-estate developer brings architects, engineers, planners, lawyers and financiers together to create a new office, residential or commercial project, Corridor Capital brings its own agile cadre of specialists together to create the ‘project’ America is waiting for: successful passenger trains.”

More information about Corridor Capital is available at its website at http://ccrail.com

 

CSX Wants Seperate Empire Corridor Track

June 27, 2014

CSX is demanding a separate track for passenger trains operating more than 79 mph between Albany and Buffalo, N.Y.

The company made the demand in a filing that is part of a preliminary environmental impact statement for a proposal to raise the maximum speed limits for Amtrak trains using the Empire Corridor to 90 or 110 mph.

CSX said the dedicated passenger track would allow speeds of up to 125 mph.

The former New York Central Water Level Route between Schenectady and Buffalo sees 70 to 75 trains daily. It is, CSX said, the company’s “most important line” in its network. Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited, New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains use the route.

The railroad said that adding additional passenger trains would only add more congestion, causing delays and hindering access to freight customers on sidings along the main line.

Without adequate separation between the freight tracks and a newly constructed passenger track, high-speed trains also would pose increased danger to CSX track crews, it said.

CSX criticized the methods used to compile the draft statement, saying the projected costs don’t include payments for use of CSX property, which it said is worth “billions.”

The railroad also contended that the draft statement doesn’t reflect the detrimental environmental impact that would result from shifting freight traffic from trains to less fuel-efficient trucks as shippers facing delays from the added rail congestion moves freight to the highways.

CSX said that increase in truck traffic would lead to additional road and bridge maintenance cost.
The CSX filing said the statement fails to consider other, more cost-effective, ways to improve passenger mobility, including improved bus service and air service.

However, the filing doesn’t acknowledge that scheduled air service along the Albany-Buffalo corridor is nonexistent because air carriers have been unable to serve the route profitably.

CSX did note the relative lack of population density and transit connections around existing stations in Buffalo, Syracuse, Utica, Rome, and the Capital Region, factors that could affect demand for the service.

The railroad said the study should have considered the Albany-New York City and Albany-Niagara Falls segments as different corridors, allowing policy makers to proceed with improvements on the first and choosing the “no-build” alternative for the second.

CSX freight trains do not use the same tracks s Amtrak uses between Albany and New York City.

The New York State Department of Transportation collected comments from the public during several meetings across the state and through written submissions. On March 21, it extended the deadline for comments to April 30. CSX filed its comments that day.

The final draft environmental impact statement is expected to be released six months to a year after the comment period ends. Another environmental impact statement on the alternative selected will then be produced.

NS OCS Makes Appearance in Region

June 26, 2014

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The Norfolk Southern executive train, also known as an office car special, passed (slowly) through Cleveland last week.

I managed to catch it after work in Bedford at CP 107 on the Cleveland Line. It was stopped for traffic ahead.

Direct sunlight was tough to come by, but I did manage two photos of it as 14K was just clearing  and as the OCS started west, passing under the westward home signals at CP 107.

A couple of hours earlier, I had used the “aught” track off to the right to enter Motor Yard with a transfer from Rockport. The Lackawanna H unit made an appearance about weeks ago on the 14K, shown passing through the same CP 107 as the OCS. It looks like some touch up paint is in order.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee