Archive for December, 2014

Railroad Heritage Still Visible in Wakeman

December 31, 2014

 

Trains no longer rattle and roll on the sandstone bridge over the Vermilion River in Wakeman, Ohio, but it remains an impressive looking structure. A recent brush cutting  job has opened the view a bit.

Trains no longer rattle and roll on the sandstone bridge over the Vermilion River in Wakeman, Ohio, but it remains an impressive looking structure. A recent brush cutting job has opened the view a bit.

Wakeman is a town with just north of 1,000 souls that I’ve passed through numerous times during trips to railfan in Bellevue.

Whenever I’m going through this sleepy little Huron County burg I think of Marty Surdyk because he claims the town is a speed trap run by a cop named Roscoe.

Marty tells anyone who will listen – and a few who won’t – that you better be doing the speed limit when you cross the town line because Roscoe will be watching you.

I don’t know if Marty made that story up or if Wakeman is any more of a speed trap than any other podunk town in America with a police department seeking to raise revenue for the city.

Still, I keep one eye on the speedometer and the other out for Roscoe although I’ve yet to observe him running radar.

Wakeman has caught my eye for another reason. If you are traveling west on U.S. 20 you’ve probably noticed the massive sandstone double-arch bridge over the Vermilion River on the east side of town. It used to carry a railroad.

Near downtown Wakeman sits a railroad freight station and a pair of old-style grain elevators. The linear empty area next to these structures suggests “railroad space.”

Wakeman used to be a railroad town. The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern mainline between Cleveland and Toledo was built through here in 1852-53.

Construction of a more direct route via Sandusky relegated the original LS&MS to branch line status during its New York Central years and on through the end of Penn Central in 1976.

With the formation of Conrail that year, the branch that came off the mainline at Elyria and ran via Oberlin, Wakeman, Norwalk, Bellevue and Fremont before meeting up again with the mainline at Millbury was abandoned and the tracks removed.

Today, parts of that railroad right of way are a hiking and biking trail, although not in Wakeman.

On a recent trip to Bellevue I stopped in Wakeman to document what is left of the town’s railroad infrastructure.

I began with that sandstone arch bridge over the Vermilion River. Winter is a good time to see the bridge because of the lack of foliage.

From outward appearances, the bridge still appears sturdy enough to support contemporary railroad operations.

I’ve seen conflicting reports on when this bridge was built. A website devoted to old bridges says 1853 but a site devoted to abandoned railroads says 1872. Whenever it was built, it is more than a century old and looks good.

There are fences and no trespassing signs at each end of the bridge, but the fences are not that high and would not deter someone determined to walk across the bridge.

I then made my way down Railroad Street, which runs north of the former railroad ROW.

Much of the former ROW remains open and is covered with grass. Whoever pulled up the tracks more than 30 years ago probably scooped up the ballast along with the ties and rails. Whatever was left has sunk into the earth or been covered.

As typically happens over time, nature and man have obliterated the physical appearance of a railroad ROW by moving earth and erecting structures where tracks had been.

In Wakeman, a small park and a building now occupy part of the ROW. But the ROW near the former freight station and the grain elevators remains an open area with the appearance that says “railroad space.”

Nonetheless, it was difficult to determine how many tracks used to be here. There was probably a mainline and one or two sidings to serve the freight station and grain elevators.

Online sources say the passenger station, which resembled the existing depot in Olmsted Falls, was razed in the early 1950s not long after passenger service ended in late 1949.

The sources also say the freight station was built in 1873. It appears to be in decent condition considering its age but doesn’t shown signs of having an apparent use these days. Perhaps it was used for something in the past and was well maintained then.

One of the grain elevators has been repurposed into some sort of meeting center with a grain elevator motif. The other grain facility is still used although I didn’t observe it all that closely to determine for what purpose.

Information that I found online said that in its final years Penn Central had a daily local that passed through Wakeman westbound in early morning and eastbound in late afternoon or early evening.

That train had a lone geep, a transfer caboose and a small number of cars.

Whatever business Penn Central had in Wakeman probably was related to agriculture. The freight house had probably stopped receiving less-than-carload shipments by the early 1960s if not earlier.

I didn’t spend much time in Wakeman. It was already midday and I had business to take care of in Bellevue. Perhaps I’ll make it a point to stop in Wakeman again and study the remaining infrastructure a bit more closely.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The top of the sandstone bridge that once carried tracks of the New York Central, Penn Central and various other predecessor railroads over the Vermilion River in Wakeman.

The top of the sandstone bridge that once carried tracks of the New York Central, Penn Central and various other predecessor railroads over the Vermilion River in Wakeman.

The passenger station was demolished more than 50 years ago but the freight station still stands. The path the tracks took through town is apparent in this image although changes to the former ROW make it difficult to tell how many tracks were here.

The passenger station was demolished more than 50 years ago but the freight station still stands. The path the tracks took through town is apparent in this image although changes to the former ROW make it difficult to tell how many tracks were here.

The wood of the freight station is well weathered. How many people over the past century or so have walked through this door?

The wood of the freight station is well weathered. How many people over the past century or so have walked through this door?

It is evident that there used to tracks past the grain elevator complex, but note how the earth had been graded. This is removed the part of the ROW substructure.

It is evident that there used to tracks past the grain elevator complex, but note how the earth had been graded. This is removed the part of the ROW substructure.

One of the town's grain facilities has been converted into a storage facility and meeting center. It also has received quite a facelift.

One of the town’s grain facilities has been converted into a storage facility and meeting center. It also has received quite a facelift.

 

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Checking Out Bellevue’s New Railfan Park

December 30, 2014
A railfan keeps an eye out for the next train to pop out of Bellevue yard. The shelter at the Kemper Rail Park was completed in November.

A railfan keeps an eye out for the next train to pop out of Bellevue yard. The shelter at the Kemper Rail Park was completed in November.

There has been talk about having an Akron Railroad Club outing in 2015 at the new Kemper Rail Park.

It is Fostoria’s turn in the rotation for the ARRC’s longest day outing in late June and there is a new railfan park in that city, too.

There is no reason why we couldn’t hold outings in both towns as each is a superb place to spend a day watching trains.

With the club’s interest in holding a Bellevue outing in mind next spring, summer or fall, I paid a visit to the Kemper Rail Park recently to check it out.

The shelter was completed last month just before Thanksgiving and I wanted to spend some time there watching and photographing trains.

Arguably, the strength of the park is its location. Situated along Monroe Street inside a wye located just beyond the Mini Plant, you have excellent views of passing trains on the Toledo and Sandusky/Fostoria districts.

The view of the Mad River Connection is good, although more distant. The shelter affords a good view of trains coming out of the yard.

You can’t see from the park trains on the New Haven Connection making the transition between the Fostoria and Sandusky districts out by Slaughterhouse Road.

Signals on the Sandusky/Fostoria District and at the Mini Plant can be easily seen from the park. You can see one of the westbound signals on the Toledo District, but need to walk across the tracks to see the eastbound signals because of the angle at which they are positioned.

But those trains must traverse the Mini Plant and the signals for the Toledo District in the Mini Plant are easily seen from the park.

The sheltered area of the railfan park measures 24 feet by 24 feet and is a bit small. There are no electrical outlets and, thus far, no picnic tables.

Seating is concrete and wood benches, all of which are set up to face the tracks. There is enough open space around the shelter to place lawn chairs.

Perhaps the park’s major drawback is minimal parking space. That’s not a problem if there are only a small number of people there.

But lack of adequate parking spaces could be an issue with larger groups. There is parking in a nearby vacant lot across from Wheeling Tower. Railfans have been hanging out in that lot for years.

Parking is also available at the close-by Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum, which is a short walk from the railfan park.

Norfolk Southern maintenance forces still use the area right by Wheeling Tower, so parking there might seem convenient, but is ill advised. You could be cited for trespassing.

From a photography perspective, there are number of photo angles available from the railfan park, including framing trains passing beneath the signals on the Sandusky/Fostoria districts. A long telephoto lens could yield views of trains coming out of the yard.

On the Toledo District, you could make images of trains rounding the curve coming toward the Mini Plant and of trains coming out of the Mini Plant. You’ll need a wide angle lens to get the latter images.

Of course, you can walk around the immediate vicinity to try out other photo angles. One nice thing about the railfan park is that you can photograph trains in virtually every direction.

The Wheeling & Lake Erie comes into Bellevue on two routes, the Brewster Connection and the Lake Shore Connection. Neither passes directly past the railfan park, but can be seen from the park.

The W&LE has installed a talking defect detector just outside Bellevue that I was able to hear on my scanner. W&LE crews also must use their radios to “key up” the remote control switches.

One Wheeling train came into town during my time at the railfan park and I was able to hear it sounding its horn for grade crossings as well as see it by looking down the former W&LE right of way.

As for eating, there are two pizza joints within sight of the railfan park. Other eateries are not far away although you would likely want to drive to them.

Bellevue is one of Ohio’s premier railfanning hotspots and the addition of the Kemper Railfan Park is a welcome addition. I’m looking forward to our 2015 ARRC outing there.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

There are plenty of benches at the Kemper Rail Park in Bellevue, but ample space to set up lawn chairs on the grass or under the shelter.

There are plenty of benches at the Kemper Rail Park in Bellevue, but ample space to set up lawn chairs on the grass or under the shelter. The view is looking toward the Toledo District.

An NS westbound as seen from inside the pavilion of the Kemper Rail Park in Bellevue.

An NS westbound as seen from inside the pavilion of the Kemper Rail Park in Bellevue.

A westbound Norfolk Southern train accelerates out of the Mini Plant in Bellevue as it heads for the Fostoria District. The view is from the Kemper Rail Park.

A westbound Norfolk Southern train accelerates out of the Mini Plant in Bellevue as it heads for the Fostoria District. The view is from the Kemper Rail Park.

 

All I Wanted for Christmas was Some Sunshine

December 29, 2014

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Instead of dreaming of a White Christmas I just wanted some sun.  After having precious little sunlight for the last month, on the Friday after Christmas the sun returned.

A trip out to Willard and Attica yielded quite a few colorful consists.

First out was a Wheeling & Lake Erie train parked at New London with the two Rio Grande tunnel motors.  They still look good but had no crew at this time.  Later we would catch them on the move to Willard.

Next was a CSX westbound with 2 BNSF units and a Kansas City Southern Belle. Then we caught a CSX eastbound with a mix of leasers.

We then went to Attica Junction (Siam) and caught four CSX and two Norfolk Southern freights.

Back to Willard we went for another six-unit lash up with some leased SD90MACs.  On the way home the two Rio Grande units brought their train into Willard.

Lastly, we caught an NS lashup from Hudson on Saturday with a cream and green SD70MAC on a coal train.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

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Detroit M-1 Rail Project Lines up More Funding

December 29, 2014

The Detroit M-1 streetcar project has agreements for the second phase of funding.

The project will receive approximately $40 million total in New Markets Tax Credit financing.”

M-1 Rail said in a news release that the latest funding agreement brings its net funding to $8 million.  “The deal marks the first time that NMTCs have been used to fund a public transportation initiative,” M-1 Rail said.

“We have received unprecedented support from our partners, donors and the community,” said M-1 Rail CFO Jenilyn Norman. “This project is the standard for what NMTCs are meant to support, providing a catalyst for growth, inclusion and access for community residents who need good jobs and dependable public transportation.”

The NMTC program was established as part of the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000 to stimulate investment and economic growth in low-income urban neighbourhoods.

Financial institutions that comprise the partnership of investors for M-1 Rail’s NMTC include JPMorgan Chase, Invest Detroit, The Great Lakes Capital Fund, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and United Fund Advisors.

A NMTC investor receives a tax credit equal to 39 percent of its total qualified investment in any community development entity, with the credit realized over a seven-year period – 5 percent annually for the first three years, and 6 percent thereafter.

Norman said the NMTC is a critical piece of the 2014 funding, which also includes investment from private foundations, corporations, donors, and the Federal Transit Administration through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program.

PUCO OKs Funding 2 Grade Crossing Projects

December 29, 2014

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has approved funding for an authorization from the Ohio Rail Development Commission directing CSX to upgrade two grade crossings.

CSX will install mast-mounted flashing lights and roadway gates at the Industrial Parkway crossing in Marysville and at the Main Street/Ohio Route 281 crossing in Custar.

The projected are funded by federal dollars and must be completed no later than Sept. 17, 2015.

 

 

Winter Solstice From a Locomotive Cab

December 28, 2014

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I got up early on a Monday morning and traveled to Cleveland to switch a train. I was able to enjoy a special day.

In years past a most memorable day was being able to enjoy the warm weather and a celebration at Chichen Itza., Mexico, where there were lots of people waiting for the sun to cast a shadow on a Pyramid to show a snake crawling down the edge of the Pyramid for the Winter Solstice. You just take a seat a watch the grass grow and then watch the Sun Set.

It was pretty much the same for me on this day in Cleveland. Take a seat and watch the long black train snake through the switches.

I took the picture shown above as I was on the last pull of the day. I thought it was neat to see the sun setting and I wouldn’t be able to reproduce the scene again.

It’s a picture from a safety video screen in the cab. I was warm and marking the end of another season waiting for the sun to rise tomorrow.

Article and Photograph by Bob Rohal

The Lake Cities Stops in Kent in Early 1968

December 26, 2014

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Next  month will mark the 45th anniversary since the last pair of Erie Lackawanna intercity passengers trains made their final trips between Chicago and Hoboken, N.J.

Traditionally, the Erie Railroad had three roundtrips between Chicago and New York. The first to go were the Atlantic Express and the Pacific Express, which ceased carrying passengers in July 1965.

The next pair of trains to face the hangman was the Phoebe Snow. These trains had for years operated as the Erie Limited and had been the premier passenger trains on the Erie’s Chicago-New York route. They acquired their “new” name in October 1963.

Phoebe Snow had been the name applied to a pair of New York-Buffalo, N.Y., trains on the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western. The Erie and the DL&W had merged in October 1960 to form the EL.

That left the Lake Cities to carry on. Even this train had once operated under a different name. Nos. 5 and 6 had been the Midlander until November 1947. Previously, the Lake Cities name had been given to the Cleveland and Buffalo sections of the Midlander.

By 1969, the Lake Cities was losing $2,700 a day due to, the railroad said, falling patronage and head end revenue.

EL announced that it would end Nos. 5 and 6, but the Interstate Commerce Commission stayed that while it conducted an investigation and held public hearings.

In the end, the ICC found that, in the legal jargon used in these cases at the times, that Nos. 5 and 6 were no longer needed to serve the public convenience and necessity.

The EL said the trains would continue running through early January 1970 to serve the needs of holiday travelers. They began their final trips on Jan. 6.

When the sun the next day the only EL passenger trains left were commuter trains in the New York City area, and between Cleveland and Youngstown.

But all of that was in the future when this photograph was made in early 1968 as No. 5 halted for its daily station stop in Kent. E8A No. 828 was on the point and No. 5 had a string of head end cars.

The westbound Lake Cities was scheduled into Kent at 9:45 a.m. and into Akron at 10:05 a.m.

Today the Kent depot still stands and is used as a restaurant. The tracks are now owned by Portage County and used by the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

In This Case, Trail Equaled Triumph

December 23, 2014

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Of the thousands of photographs that have been made of the Erie heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern, the three appearing on this page will not rank among the best.

In fact, they are likely to rank in the bottom quartile because they violate the cardinal rule of photographing NS H units: Trail Equals Fail.

Not only is NS 1068 trailing it is the middle of three units. That is about as desirable as sitting in middle seat on a long flight between two burly men on each side of you.

No way would I post these images on Trainorders.com.

About the only thing these images have going for them is that they are sharp, exposed well, feature nice composition and were made on a sunny day.

But these images having something that no other images of NS 1068 have. They are mine. They are the first images I’ve ever made of the Erie heritage unit.

Until this past Monday, NS 1068 was one of three NS heritage units I had not photographed and one of two that I had not seen.

The closest I’ve come to seeing the Erie H unit was an HO model pulling a train on a layout at the Berea train show this past October.

I don’t know how many times the Erie H unit has been through Northeast Ohio, but it is several. On none of those occasions was I able to get out to photograph or even watch it.

I never lost hope that someday I’d be in the right place at the right time and/or be able to get there.

But having hope and seeing what you wish for come to fruition are not the same thing.

My breakthrough came in an email message this past Monday saying that the NS 1068 was at Toledo at 7:30 a.m. on the 206, an intermodal train that takes the ex-Nickel Plate route east of Cleveland to Buffalo, N.Y.

It was a rare sunny day and I had time to get out. So off to Olmsted Falls I went.

It took the 206 a while to show up. Around 11 a.m. I thought I heard a radio transmission that said in part “NS 206.”

I made my way to the other side of the tracks and waited.

Until I actually saw it I couldn’t know for sure that I hadn’t missed it.

Like so many things in life, you want something for a long time and it seems as though it will never come or is out of reach.

Then one day when you are not expecting it the opportunity comes along.

I kept glancing down the tracks until finally a headlight appeared. Minutes later I could see green between the two black NS units. I was not going to be denied.

Months of frustration vanished into thin air. I saw and photographed the Erie heritage unit.

I wasn’t expecting to get a great shot. There is a reason for the “trail equals fail” bromide and there wasn’t anything I could do in Olmsted Falls to transform an average photo into a stellar one short of taking extraordinary methods that would require resources that I don’t have.

The 206 was really moving so my glimpse of the NS 1068 was brief.  I only saw it through my camera’s viewfinder.

Of course, I now want to get this thing leading a train. But who knows when that opportunity will come if it comes at all.

But I now have the NS 1068 in my collection. That leaves just the Central of Georgia and Conrail H units on my list of “yet to photograph.”  I’ve seen the former, but not the latter.

Five of the 18 H units that I’ve photographed were trailing so I only sort of have them.

There will be more missed opportunities and frustration in the pursuit of the final two and getting all of the “trailing 5” onto the lead.

But that is for another day. I want to savor the sweet taste of success at finally corralling the Erie H unit.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Amtrak Adding Thruways in Indiana, Ohio

December 23, 2014

Amtrak has announced that it is adding Thruway bus service to connect with and supplement its Cardinal and Hoosier State trains between Chicago and Indianapolis.

The new bus routes will connect with Amtrak in Indianapolis and Chicago and serve Gary, Ind.; Cincinnati; Louisville, Ky.; and Nashville, Tenn. Amtrak said passengers will have the option of traveling between Indianapolis and points north to Chicago will have the option of riding the train in one direction and returning by bus.

The new Thruway bus services is an extension of ticketing previously done by Amtrak between Chicago and Louisville via Indianapolis.

‘On Your Honor” Ending in Buffalo

December 23, 2014

 

The light rail system in Buffalo, N.Y., is ditching the honor system in favor of a “tap-n-go” smart card with turnstile entry.

A pair of contracts totaling almost $18 million also includes new fare boxes for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s bus system. Scheidt & Bachmann USA will receive a $16.4 million design and construction services contract, while Louis T. Klauder and Associates  has been awarded a $1.4 million to monitor design support and construction.

Officials estimate the agency loses 3 percent of revenue due to fare evasion. The new system is expected to be fully implanted in about two years.