Archive for September, 2014

UP Heritage Unit Action in NE Ohio on Sunday

September 30, 2014
UP 1996 leads a westbound CSX train into Wellington on Sunday where it had to set off a car.

UP 1996 leads a westbound CSX train into Wellington on Sunday where it had to set off a car.

On Sunday the Southern Pacific heritage unit of Union Pacific led a CSX westbound empty hopper train.

I had to work that day, but after getting word that it had just passed Berea at 1:30 p.m. I figured there was a slim chance I could catch it near Greenwich or Willard.

As it turned out the defect detector at LaGrange nailed a car and it had to be set out. I first intercepted the UP 1996 at Wellington as it was pulling up to make the set out.

It was still overcast then but I did like the shot by the old mill.

I then went to Greenwich to wait on it with hopes of more sun down there. Just as Q352 cleared at GN Tower the 1996 came around the corner, but the clouds didn’t clear.

Two more locations did yield some sun though, Boughtonville and Peru Center.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee

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Passing GN Tower in Greenwich.

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Coming around the curve in Boughtonville.

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Close up at Peru Center.

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Also at Peru Center.

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Port of Cleveland Ranks High in Service Survey

September 30, 2014

The Port of Cleveland recently ranked the highest among Great Lakes ports for customer satisfaction and performance excellence in Logistics Management magazine’s annual Quest for Quality Awards program.

The magazine evaluates ports in the categories of ease of doing business, value, ocean carrier network, intermodal network, and equipment and operations.

Port authorities said in a news release that the awards are regarded in the transportation and logistics industry as the most credible measure of customer satisfaction and performance excellence.

The port cited a recent move of a 114-metric-ton transformer as an example of the type of business that it has been able to perform.

Great Lakes Towing Co. completed the ntermodal short-sea barge move using the Port of Cleveland’s rail loop and its switching carrier, the Cleveland Harbor Belt Railroad. Norfolk Southern delivered a car carrying the transformer, which then moved via a rail loop to a port dock.

The cargo then was transferred to a barge and towed to a DTE Energy Electric Co. facility. The loop, which opened in September 2012, connects the port to NS and CSX.

When it became operational, port officials hoped it would attract a larger customer base that could take advantage of rail and water logistics, and extend the port’s reach to the Midwest.

“This rail and water logistics movement is an example of the port’s ability to provide seamless logistics transfers in Cleveland, making shipping more cost effective,” port officials said.

“We added more than a mile of rail track to enhance the interface with Norfolk Southern and CSX, and we launched our own liner service to Europe through a charter agreement with Amsterdam-based carrier Spliethoff Group,” said Port of Cleveland Chief Executive Officer Will Friedman.

W.Va. CSX Derailment Cleanup Continues

September 30, 2014

 

CSX on Monday continued to clear a derailment site in the New River Gorge of West Virginia that sent two loaded grain hoppers plummeting into the river near Fayette Station. The cars spilled soybeans into the water.

The National Park Service said the grain hoppers are expected to take several days to remove from the riverbank due to the inaccessibility of the location. The derailment took place within the New River Gorge National River park.

An eastbound loaded grain train derailed several cars about 10 p.m. on Friday while en route to Rocky Mount, N.C., from Cincinnati

The accident, which remains under investigation, occurred on the New River Subdivision (former Chesapeake & Ohio) between Handley and Hinton.

There were no injuries reported. Rail traffic was detoured via a parallel main line south of the river while crews worked to reopen the line. Throughout the weekend, many trains operated on the south side until track was fully restored across the river.

 

 

Marathon Runners Halt Train in Indiana

September 30, 2014

Runners participating in a marathon in Columbus, Ind., on Saturday halted a freight train on the Louisville & Indiana Railroad with some runners climbing over and under it.

The incident occurred during the second annual Mill Race Marathon. The course twice crossed the L&I tracks.

A Witness told WRTV-TV in Indianapolis that the runners stopped for the train on their first meeting. But at the second crossing the train’s conductor ordered the train to stop because running were crossing in front it.

But neither race organizers nor railroad officials expected a train to be moving in the vicinity of the race course once the marathon got underway at 7:30 a.m.

Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center Director Ed Reuter told The Republic of Columbus that marathon organizers had been assured by L&I officials that no trains would come through.

“We always cooperate and stop train traffic,” said L&I President John Goldman. “That was our intent this morning as well.”

Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown said the railroad had planned to send the train through town before the race began.

Goldman said a young supervisor thought he had more time than he did to get the train through. Goldman said the railroad intends to investigate and is confident that there will not be similar incidents in the future. He noted that nothing like this had happened before.

The witness told WRTV that some runners then climbed over and even ducked under the locomotive.

“There were so many people, and they just wanted to make their time, that they just didn’t care,” the witness said.

Nearly 300 runners completed the marathon. No injuries were reported as a result of the stopped train.

The L&I train began moving through Columbus less than 20 minutes after start of the race.

Andy Pajakowski, a race organizer, tried to negotiate with railroad personnel on the scene, to no avail. Eventually, the train blew a long blast from its horn and started to move forward with runners in the vicinity.

Police held runners back, but could not control the runners and spectators once the train came to a stop.

“We had no clue this would happen,” Pajakowski said. “We worked extra hard to make sure no trains would come through. There were supposed to be no trains.”

After the train halted, some runners crossed in front of it. The course became so clogged with runners that some began curved around the front of it to cross the tracks. Eventually, the course became so clogged that climbing between the rail cars to get back into the race.

“Over, under or around?” was the joke at the finish line, as participants recounted how they bypassed the train.

Columbus police tried to stop runners from climbing between the cars, but as soon as police would stop one stream of runners, although would begin a few cars down.

A photographer for The Republic reported that the locomotive engineer yelled at the runners to stop or they would be arrested, saying “the train has the right of way.”

Not all runners sought to cross the tracks in front of the train or between the rail cars.

“I was yelling at people to stop, but no one was listening,” said Melissa Burgin of New York.

“It was dangerous; the conductor was still trying to move. Shows how runners are stubborn.”

She plans to email race organizers to ask if her time can be adjusted, although organizers said that may not be possible.

Organizers estimated that some runners who were in the middle of the pack of marathon competitors were delayed up to two to three minutes by the train.

Goldman was apologetic about the conductor cutting it close and said he was thankful that no one got hurt. But he insisted that the runners should have stopped.

“I get that it impacts the race outcomes for individuals, but there are a lot of things that can go wrong by climbing through the equipment,” he said, adding that the trade-off for runners trying to get a personal record easily could have turned into fatal mistake.

Craig Dismore, of Columbus, was at the front of the pack and saw the lights flashing.

“I thought, ‘Am I going to get stopped by a train? Really? Is this real?’ ”

Dismore was one of the last runners to make it over the track before the train rolled through the intersection.

Late Day Blessings on NS at Amherst

September 29, 2014
The nose of NS No. 2515 glistens in the late day light just after 8 p.m. in Amherst. It would be a pleasing end to a day that had not quite worked out as we had hoped that it would.

The nose of NS No. 2515 glistens in the late day light just after 8 p.m. in Amherst. It would be a pleasing end to a day that had not quite worked out as we had hoped that it would.

The day had not gotten off to the best of starts. As we left Marty’s house there was light rain and overcast conditions.

It was a Saturday afternoon in early August and Marty Surdyk, Tim Krogg and myself were headed for a picnic in Amherst at the former New York Central depot. It is now owned by Nordson Corporation and used as a community center.

But we also had reason to be optimistic. Somewhere to the east the Norfolk Southern executive train was coming our way. The Penn Central heritage unit was also leading a train westward as well. And behind that was another westbound that was reported to have the original Norfolk Southern heritage locomotive on the point.

It just might turn out to be one of those days where you walk away feeling like it was Christmas morning with so many gifts having been passed your way.

But it didn’t quite turn out that way and the lousy weather was the first clue that our results would not match our optimism. But more often than not railfanning is like that.

It did stop raining and we did see the NS executive train, although under cloudier skies than we would have liked. It was the first time that Marty had ever photographed the NS OCS with its classy-looking F units in their “tuxedo” livery.

But the Penn Central H unit never showed while we were there and the NS H unit was too far east into Pennsylvania to get to our location during daylight hours.

Around 7 p.m., after everyone had had their fill of burgers and dogs, Marty and I ventured up to the nearby Jackson Street overpass of the NS Chicago Line.

Nearly all of the clouds had moved out and late day sunlight illuminated the tracks. We might not have been lucky in getting those heritage units that we coveted, but NS did send a fairly steady stream of westbound traffic into that golden light.

After more than an hour of train watching, photography and conversation, it was time to go. It had turned out to be a good day and we had been blessed after all.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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Amtrak Poised to Begin Service in Troy, Mich.

September 28, 2014

After delays lasting more than a decade and many trips through the courts, the Troy Transit Center is poised to open within a month and become an Amtrak station.

The suburban Detroit facility would replace Amtrak’s Birmingham station on the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service route.

The transit center, located at Maple and Coolidge Higwhay, is expected to also serve regional bus routes and taxi services.

The City of Troy was finally able to approve a lease agreement with Amtrak, which had withheld its support until the city had taken ownership of the 2.7 acres of land on which the transit center sits.

“We’re very pleased to take the next step in the process,” Troy Mayor Dane Slater said. “I’m excited that we are on schedule for the transit center to open in the fall.”

Troy will be reimbursed for all operational costs and maintenance expenses. The lease will extend for 20 years with a 10-year option to renew.

The lease approval finally moved along after Oakland County Circuit Judge Leo Bowman issued an order on Aug. 15 transferring to Troy the title to the land on which the multimodal facility sits.

The order required the city to pay $1.05 million — the independently appraised value of the 2.7-acre property near Maple and Coolidge Highway — to developer Grand/Sakwa Properties, which owned the surrounding shopping center.

The land containing the transit center was deeded to the city in 2000 as part of a negotiated court settlement that granted an intense mixed-use commercial and residential development not allowed by the city’s zoning ordinances.

The land was sold to Troy for $1 as a part of a 1999 consent judgment, amended in 2000, that allowed Grand/Sakwa to build a 77-acre mixed-use commercial/residential development, even though Troy’s zoning ordinance at the time did not allow such developments.

Grand/Sakwa agreed to give the land for the transit center provided that the money for the center was secured by 2010. Troy landed an $8.4 million federal grant for the transit center, but Grand/Sakwa said it was not acquired before the 10-year deadline. Therefore, the developer said, the land reverted back to it.

Troy offered $550,000 for the site, based on a 2010 appraisal before the transit center was built.

Despite the court proceedings dragging on, the Troy City Council approved a scaled-down version of the transit center in January 2012.

The 28,000-square-foot center was completed last fall at a cost of $6.3 million. In May 2013, the court of appeals granted the reversion of the parcel. Troy initiated a condemnation case, allowing the city to purchase the land.

New Grand Rapids Amtrak Station to Open

September 28, 2014

The new Amtrak station in Grand Rapids, Mich., is expected to begin boarding passengers next month.

The last hurdle to opening the station is the rebuilding of a CSX crossing at Century Avenue SW. That work is expected to be finished on Oct. 10.

The $5.2 million station was supposed to open in 2013 but had become bogged down with numerous delays.

Named after former West Michigan congressman Vern Ehlers, the station will replace an existing depot built by Amtrak on Wealthy Street.

The station will be the eastern terminus of the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette, which is funded in part by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“The track work has to be inspected by CSX; that’s a separate agreement, as we own the railroad spur,” said Peter Varga, CEO of The Rapid.

Rapid officials touted the convenient location of the new Amtrak station, saying that Central Station, which serves all of the six-city bus system’s busiest routes and the new Silver Line bus rapid transit system, is just down the street.

Chicago-Detroit Route EIS Completed

September 28, 2014

Public comments will be taken on a Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement that evaluates planned improvements to the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) rail corridor used by Amtrak.

The study was prepared by the Federal Railroad Administration and the departments of transportation in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois.

The statement reviews the project’s purpose and need, identifies reasonable route alternatives, describes the affected environment, and analyzes the potential environmental impacts of the alternatives considered, including the no-build alternative, FRA officials said in a news release. Public comments must be submitted to the FRA by Dec. 19.

The study will also be the subject of public hearings in Michigan (Oct. 28), Illinois (Oct. 29) and Indiana (Oct. 30).

To view the study documents, or offer comments online, go to www.greatlakesrail.org.

 

Transportation planners are working to upgrade the corridor for high-speed rail service. The State of Michigan owns much of the route between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, Mich., while Amtrak owns the route between Kalamazoo and Porter, Ind.

Michigan is currently overseeing a project to rebuild the tracks over the portion that it owns. The Amtrak-owned section has already been rehabilitated.

Amtrak operates three daily Wolverine Service roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac). The Chicago-Port Huron, Mich., Blue Water and the Chicago-Grand Rapids, Mich., Pere Marquette use a portion of the route.

 

NE Pa. Tourist Line May Restart in early 2015

September 28, 2014

The Delaware, Lackawaxen & Stourbridge Railroad may reinstate passenger service early next year in northeast Pennsylvania.

The trains will travel 25 miles of former Erie Railroad track between Honesdale and Lackawaxen. The railroad ended excursion service in September 2012 for financial reasons.

“We want to bring the train back bigger and better than it was before,” said General Manager K.C. Smith.

The Lackawaxen & Honesdale Shippers Association, which owns the DL&S, has has approved agreements allowing the DL&S to restart passenger service.

Paul Brancato, a principal in Ideal Steel Supply Corp., purchased the railroad in May 2008 and hired Morristown & Erie to operate it. M&E had a 10-year operating agreement but pulled out in 2012. The new agreements put control of the line into the hands of DL&S.

The railroad has multiple plans to operate trains. The shippers association owns the locomotive and cars.

The locomotive, former Bangor & Aroostook BL2 No. 54, needs work, as do the tracks. Smith said the work will require a “significant investment.” The tracks are in good shape, but vegetation will need to be removed.

“We can’t wait for it to come back,” said Gail Tucker, executive director of the Greater Honesdale Partnership. She added that the excursions will attract tourist to Honesdale and give a boost to local businesses.

Shipper’s board member Donna LaBar said the excursions had drawn between 10,000 and 15,000 riders a year before the Great Recession began in 2008.

 

 

Pa. Pushing Travel Aboard Keystone Trains

September 28, 2014

Pennsylvania has launched a program to promote travel within the state aboard Amtrak’s Keystone Service trains.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in cooperation with Amtrak has created a website PATripsByTrain.com, to show places to visit by train between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and launched Access the Keystone, a study to identify ways in which different modes of transportation might be used to travel to and from train stations across the state.

Patronage on the Keystone Line has grown significantly since 2006, with 1.3 million trips last fiscal year, up from 890,000.

More improvements are planned, including a renovation of the State interlocking plant in Harrisburg. When that work is done, trains will be able to switch tracks more swiftly, cutting the 90-minute trip from Harrisburg to Philadelphia by three to four minutes.

Craig Schulz, a spokesman for Amtrak, said the company would love to see improvements made on the Norfolk Southern route west of Harrisburg used by the Pittsburgh-New York Pennsylvanian.

“From Amtrak’s perspective, anything that’s going to create better conditions for operations of trains is something we are very interested in,” he said.  A study begin in 2011 examined the feasibility of reducing the travel time of the Pennsylvanian as well as increasing train frequency west of Harrisburg.

The study was completed in May 2013, but hasn’t yet been released to the public; the Federal Railroad Administration is still reviewing it.  “We anticipate that the study will be complete before the end of the year,” said FRA spokesman Michael England. “Once complete, the study will be available to the public on our website.”