Archive for October, 2014

Pa. Awards $84M in Transportation Grants

October 31, 2014

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has announced that it will award $84 million to 86 projects in 35 counties as part of its Multimodal Transportation Fund grants.

It also said that five transit projects that applied for multimodal funding will receive $7.2 million. The grants — which require a 30 percent match from local sources — can be used for freight- and passenger-rail projects, as well as port, aviation and bicycle-pedestrian projects.

PennDOT said in a news release that it evaluated grant applications based on such criteria as safety benefits, regional economic conditions, technical and financial feasibility, job creation, energy efficiency and operational sustainability.

Among the rail-related multimodal grants were:

  • $3 million to the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority to construct a new two-way industrial access road, realign a portion of the Nittany & Bald Eagle Railroad’s mainline to accommodate the access road, and construct new sidings and operating tracks for First Quality Tissue’s two existing facilities and a proposed new facility.
  • $3 million to the township of Abington to improve two existing Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority stations to enhance vehicular and pedestrian access.
  • $2.9 million to Biomass Global L.L.C. for rail infrastructure upgrades that support the operation of a new port facility to receive, store and ship wood pellets.
  • $1.9 million to Colona Transfer L.P. for upgrades to river cells, dock and rail turnouts, and track rehabilitation for the Colona Transfer facility originally built in the early 1930s.
  • $1 million to the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County to construct an 85-car unit-train loop track in the Keystone Regional Industrial Park that will connect with an existing Norfolk Southern mainline and serve a Deerfield Farms Service grain elevator.
  • $848,010 to the Johnstown Area Heritage Association to rehabilitate a passenger station to serve the needs of Amtrak riders and to house a visitor welcome center.
  • $350,000 to Lower Makefield Township to install necessary safety measures at three grade crossings to alleviate train noise on a heavily traveled passenger- and freight-rail corridor.
  • $243,750 to Three Rivers Marine & Rail Terminals L.P. to help design and construct five quad tie cells for barge mooring at the Glassport Terminal located on the Monongahela River and a CSX line.

2 Railfan Magazines to Merge in 2015

October 31, 2014


Two longtime railfan magazines plan to merge in early 2015. White River Productions announced this week that Railfan & Railroad will be combined with Railroads Illustrated with Steve Barry serving as editor of the combined publication.

The December issue of Railroads Illustrated will be its last. The editor of Railroads Illustrated, Cinthia Priest, will oversee an upcoming Railroads Illustrated Annual that is still in development.

White River acquired Railfan & Railroad earlier this year after Carstens Publications shut down.

White River also acquired Railroad Model Craftsman from Carstens and has named Stephen Priest as its editor.



Nordson Gives Rail Cars to Wellington Museum

October 30, 2014




The Nordson Corp. in Amherst has donated a caboose and two passenger cars to the Lake Shore Railway Association in Wellington.

The cars have been on static display for the past 43 years at the former New York Central depot in Amherst, which is owned by Nordson and used as a community center.

The wooden caboose and passenger cars were purchased in 1971 by company founder Evan Nord from the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.

The passenger cars include Pullman-built City of Waynesboro, a 10 roomettes, six double bedrooms car built in February 1950 for the C&O. The other car is a former C&O coach. All three cars are in their “as built” condition.

“A lot of old railcars end up modified, changed around or used for other purposes,” said LSRA President Jack Siffert. “These are pretty much the way they came out of service, which 40-plus years after the fact, is incredibly rare and scarce.”

The museum hopes to have the cars moved to the Ohio Locomotive Works in Lorain for a cosmetic restoration and mechanical upgrades so the cars can be moved by rail to the association’s property in Wellington and used in excursion service.

Siffert told the Chronicle-Telegram of Elyria that moving the cars will be a challenge. No timeline has been set for moving the cars to Lorain and restoring them.

Nordson Vice President Doug Bloomfield said in a news release that the company is pleased that the rail cars will be used to educate people about railroad history in Northeast Ohio.

“This is a unique way of giving something back to the community in addition to the many traditional charitable causes we support every year,” he said.

Photographs by Dan Davidson


Amtrak Forms Panel to Study Chicago Congestion

October 30, 2014

Amtrak announced on Tuesday that it has established a blue ribbon panel of railroad and transportation industry leaders that will study how to relieve rail congestion in the Chicago region.

The Chicago Gateway Initiative will include former Congressman Jack Quinn, former Surface Transportation Board Chair Linda Morgan and former Amtrak board member Tom Carper.

The panel will ask representatives from the freight railroads that operate in Chicago and other stakeholders to participate in panel activities and recommend solutions.

“The rail gridlock in Chicago is causing unacceptable delays for Amtrak passengers while reducing revenues and driving up [our] operating costs,” said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman in a news release.

The panel will identify and evaluate infrastructure investments and operational actions that will optimize Amtrak’s on-time performance and improve freight-rail service.

This includes finding ways to minimize disruptions and delays, as well as accelerate construction of infrastructure projects. Final recommendations will be made by the end of May 2015.

Amtrak said that rail congestion in Chicago has been triggered by a combination of rising demand on the East Coast for more intermodal and freight, and crude oil shipments that originate west of Chicago.

Another factor has been what Amtrak terms “underinvestment” in critical rail infrastructure and short-term capital projects.

Ex-NKP Coach Trucked to Lake Shore Museum

October 30, 2014

It needs a lot of restoration work, but a former Nickel Plate Road lightweight coach has found a new home at the Lake Shore Railway Museum in North East, Pa.

The museum took delivery of No. 103, which was built in 1950 by Pullman Standard. The 52-seat coach no doubt passed the museum several times during its tenure on the Nickel Plate before it was sold in August 1964 to the Atlantic Coast Line.

Amtrak later acquired the car and renumbered it 5253. It was sold in 1981.

The car had been languishing in Gowanda, N.Y., and was used in the move Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

It was trucked moved to North East from Gowanda last week.

Amtrak Sets Ridership, Revenue Records

October 29, 2014

Amtrak said this week that it set a revenue record in fiscal year 2014 and achieved a slight increase in ridership over the prior fiscal year.

Ticket revenue reached in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 hit $2.189 billion, a 4.0 percent jump over the previous year.

Ridership was more than 30.9 million, an increase of 0.2 percent over adjusted FY 2013 numbers.

“The slower growth in ridership than in recent years is due, in part, to a harsh winter season and on-time performance issues associated with freight train delays and infrastructure in need of replacement,” Amtrak said.

Ridership on long-distance routes and state-supported services declined by 4.5 percent and 0.6 pecent, respectively in FY 2014.

Eight routes outside the Northeast Corridor set ridership records, including the Adirondack, Auto Train, Blue Water, Capitol Limited, Empire Service, Piedmont, and Washington-Lynchburg.

“However, meeting future growth in passenger demand requires investing in the infrastructure that supports intercity passenger rail and resolving unacceptable congestion delays caused by freight railroads that own the tracks,” said Amtrak President Joe Boardman in news release. “As more and more people choose Amtrak for their travel needs, investments must be made in the tracks, tunnels, bridges, and other infrastructure used by intercity passenger trains, particularly on the Northeast Corridor and in Chicago.

“Otherwise, we face a future with increased infrastructure-related service disruptions and delays that will hurt local and regional economies and drive passengers away.”

Detroit to Auction Narrow Gauge Trolley Cars

October 29, 2014


A half-dozen narrow gauge trolley cars are among the hundreds of items that the city of Detroit will auction next month.

The cars, which were operated by the Detroit Citizens Railway, will be put on the block on Nov. 5.

The cars were built for a mile-long trolley route that was built in the 1970s, but failed to attract much ridership.

It was built as part of a downtown redevelopment project that itself failed to gain traction. Reportedly, just one car was still operating when the trolley line closed in June 2003.

There were originally nine single-truck trolleys on the line, including seven closed cars, an open bench car, and a double-decker open top car from the Burton & Ashby system in England.

Three of the Detroit cars are reportedly up for sale in the Pacific Northwest.
The Detroit cars were built in Portugal. The tracks of the trolley line are said to be covered with asphalt or buried in dirt.

To view the auction details, go to



Tie ‘er Down for Now

October 28, 2014


Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad volunteer engineer Tim Osyk sets the hand brakes on Alco C424 No. 4241 at Peninsula on Sunday. The 4241 was providing motive power for the five-car trainset used for the Pumpkin Express.

The train was sitting at Peninsula on the siding while its passengers spent time at Szalay’s Market. It also had to remain clear of the main so that the northbound Scenic train could pass.

Photograph by Craig Sanders

Book on Pere Marquette 1225 Released

October 28, 2014

A photography-oriented book about the history of the Pere Marquette steam locomotive No. 1225 was released on Monday.

Pere Marquette 1225 was written by T.J. Gaffney and Dean Pyers and published by Arcadia Publishing in its Images of Rail series.

The 1225 was one of 38 Berkshire Class 2-8-4s built between 1937 and 1944 for the Pere Marquette Railway.

From the construction at Lima Locomotive Works and important role in hauling material from factories to the front in World War ll to its unlikely preservation on Michigan State University’s campus and eventual restoration, the history of 1225 covers nearly 75 years.  The price of the book is $21.99 plus tax.

Beautiful Day for Steam on Wild Mary Scenic

October 27, 2014


Coming around the famous Helmstetter's Curve.

First of two images showing the train coming around the famous Helmstetter’s Curve.


With the perfect fall weather that we had on Saturday, I drove to Cumberland, Md., to catch one of the last runs of Western Maryland No. 734 before its mandatory rebuild.

For a scenic railroad, there aren’t very many places to catch the train. Unlike the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad where Riverview Road parallels much of the route and there are many accessible points, there are just a few on the way to Frostburg on the WM.

We set up at Helmstetter’s Curve, a famous horseshoe curve like nearby Mance, Pa., on the former Baltimore & Ohio mainline or the big one near Altoona. Just as in the steam era this is a good place for photos.

The other area, ironically, is past the yards at Ridgeley. W.Va. Passengers don’t get to ride this trackage but it’s necessary to turn the locomotive.  For the creative railfan, this turning operation can yield some interesting photos.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon