Archive for March, 2015

NS 1065 in Conneaut, Perry . . .

March 31, 2015
Norfolk Southern train I87 waits east of the grade crossing at Thompson Road in Conneaut. The train was waiting for two eastbound intermodal trains to clear the single track on the trestle over Conneaut Creek.

Norfolk Southern train I87 waits east of the grade crossing at Thompson Road in Conneaut. The train was waiting for two eastbound intermodal trains to clear the single track on the trestle over Conneaut Creek.

A side view of NS 1065 at Thompson Road in Conneaut.

A side view of NS 1065 at Thompson Road in Conneaut.


A side view of NS 1065 at Thompson Road in Conneaut.

A side view of NS 1065 at Thompson Road in Conneaut.

Crossing Conneaut Creek and the tracks of the Bessemer & Lake Erie.

Crossing Conneaut Creek and the tracks of the Bessemer & Lake Erie.

A Parrish Road west of Conneaut.

At Parrish Road west of Conneaut.

Rounding the curve and coming into Perry.

Rounding the curve and coming into Perry.

Akron Railroad Club Treasurer Ed Ribinskas along with President Craig Sanders ventured to Conneaut on Saturday to catch some Bessemer & Lake Erie action. While there, a local railfan gave them a heads up that the Savannah and Atlanta heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern was leading a westbound auto rack train.

They were able to photograph NS 1065 and its train at Thompson Road near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, crossing the trestle over Conneaut Creek, from the bridge at Parrish Road and in Perry.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

. . . And in Painesville

March 31, 2015



Fellow Akron Railroad Club member Jeff Troutman was waiting in Painesville for the I87 to arrive. He was standing on the sidewalk on Bank Street and got these images of the Savannah & Atlanta unit shortly after it led the I87 over the trestle spanning the Grand River.

Photographs by Jeff Troutman

F Tower Handles Last Train in Fostoria

March 31, 2015

Control of the interlocking in Fostoria was transferred on Monday morning from F Tower to the CSX IP dispatcher.

The F tower operator lined the signals for the final time just before 9 a.m. for train R348-29, which took the southeast connecting track between the former Chesapeake & Ohio and Baltimore & Ohio mainlines.

Operators were still being stationed in the tower through Tuesday to ensure that the transition goes smoothly.

The IP dispatcher, based in Indianapolis, controls the ex-B&O between Greenwich and Deshler.

The first train to pass through the interlocking after it was handed off to the IP dispatcher was Norfolk Southern train 20R, an intermodal.

When eastbound NS train No. 218 called the tower to get through Fostoria, the operator replied,. “I don’t have control anymore. It’s been given to [Indianapolis].”

About 120 trains a day pass through Fostoria on the three mainlines. This includes the ex-B&O between Chicago and Pittsburgh, the ex-C&O between Toledo and Columbus and the ex-Nickel Plate Road (now NS) between Bellevue and Fort Wayne, Ind.

Trains magazine reported that several railfans were on hand to record the event, including former F Tower operator Dale A. DeVene Jr. “I’m sad to see it go,” he told the magazine. “It’s sad to lose the history.”

He has good memories of working in the tower. “It was a great place to work, it really was,” said DeVene, who left the railroad in December 1983.



Amtrak Inspects Proposed Hoosier State Cars

March 31, 2015

The three passenger cars and two locomotives that might be used on the Hoosier State got an inspection by Amtrak officials recently.

The equipment is owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings and stored in Bensenville, Ill.

Under a proposal being discussed by Amtrak and the Indiana Department of Transportation, Iowa Pacific would provide equipment and onboard services while Amtrak would continue to provide the operating crews.

Also joining in the inspection were officials of the Federal Railroad Administration.

The quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis train is underwritten by INDOT and many of the communities that it serves.

The Iowa Pacific equipment, which includes two coaches and a dome car, would provide enhanced business class and food service.

Currently, the Hoosier State typically operates with two Horizon fleet coaches and does not have food service.

About a dozen FRA and Amtrak inspectors were joined by a similar number of Iowa Pacific operations and mechanical personnel in making the inspection of the IP equipment.

The locomotives are GP40FH-2 Nos. 4135 and 4144, which formerly served New Jersey Transit. They are geared for a top speed of 102 mph, although no segment of the Hoosier State route has track maintained to that standard.

One of the two 44-seat coaches was built by Budd in the 1950s for Southern Pacific’s Sunset Limited. The other was built by St. Louis Car Co. in 1964 for Union Pacific.

Both are of former Amtrak heritage and during that time they were converted to head-end power and received accessible bathrooms

Iowa Pacific has used the cars on its Saratoga & North Creek subsidiary and reupholstered the Amtrak seats. The cars will have 110-volt at-seat outlets installed and be equipped for Wi-Fi.

The full-with dome car was built for the Santa Fe and later ran on the original Auto-Train and Holland America Westours.

The car would provide upper level business class with hot meals prepared in a lower level galley and serve as a café car for coach passengers on the lower level.

Panama to Panama Limited at ARRC Member’s Night

March 30, 2015
Marty Surdyk (right) seems amused by something that Dave Mangold said following his presentation at the Akron Railroad Club member's night. Marty was setting up the slide projector at the time.

Marty Surdyk (right) seems amused by something that Dave Mangold said following his presentation at the Akron Railroad Club member’s night. Marty was setting up the slide projector at the time.

From Panama to the Panama Limited, the 12 photographers who presented at the 2015 Akron Railroad Club member’s night had a little bit of everything.

Thirty-two members and guests gathered on Saturday night (March 28) to watch the digital and slide programs while also munching on pizza and other snacks. The club purchased 18 pizzas during the event.

Guest Paul Berg of Akron led off the presentations with a multi-media dissolve show of slides of passenger trains taken mostly in the decade before the coming of Amtrak.

Set to the song City of New Orleans by Arlo Gutrie, Berg’s program took viewers back to the waning days of passenger trains when the railroads still ran their own trains.

We saw trains in union stations, trains on the road, interiors of trains and passing trains. We even saw the famed orange and chocolate brown of the Illinois Central, whose flagship train was the Panama Limited.

Todd Dillon kicked off the digital presentations with a program focusing on images taken at the Norfolk Southern shops in Altoona, Pa.

Todd along with ARRC member Jerry Krueger visited the shops last year to see the locomotive that NS painted with the logo for the 2014 National Model Railroad Association convention held in Cleveland. He also showed images of NS action in Altoona and Galitzin, Pa.

Pete Poremba had one of two programs that had an international focus. During his days with the Ohio Central, Pete was part of a group that traveled to Panama to visit the Panama Canal Railway in 2008

The 50-mile line has passenger and freight service and is known for its former Amtrak F40PH locomotives that are painted in a livery similar to that of the Kansas City Southern’s “Southern Belle scheme.”

Pete discussed the railroad’s computer dispatching system, took us aboard for a cab ride and introduced us to a bartender at a restaurant who was wearing an Ohio Central baseball cap. It was not a setup. The OC group was as surprised as anyone to see the guy wearing that cap.

Bob Rohal dug into his archives and presented a program of mostly black and white images that had been scanned into digital form and featured various railroads that he visited during the 1950s and 1960s.

The action included the Ann Arbor, Canadian National, Baltimore & Ohio, New York Central, Erie, Santa Fe and Nickel Plate Road, among others.

Although some images were taken close to home in Kent and Willard, Bob also got to Pittsburgh, Toronto and Chicago. There were plenty of first generation diesels and late steam era locomotives to enjoy.

Roger Durfee described his show as snow to sun to snow. But the bulk of it was a glimpse of the Florida East Coast in action with some views of Amtrak and CSX thrown in.

Roger’s parents live in the sunshine state and he makes an annual winter journey to visit them. He also took us into the Florida sugar cane fields and gave us a look at the railroading operating there.

As for the snow, Roger showed Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad No. 800, the B&O tribute FPA, as well as an NS train running beneath an a bride with ice along the rails.

Tom Fritsch had the other international show with a look at rail operations in Italy that he made during an escorted tour.

There were plenty of high speed passenger trains to look at along with some street rail operations.

Tom also visited the Potomac Eagle tourist railroad in West Virginia last October and took us along to see it.

As if ARRC members had not seen enough snow this winter, Craig Sanders presented highlights of his winter railfanning activities. On two of his outings, the temperatures were in the single digits, but Craig was not to be deterred.

We saw trains of Norfolk Southern, CSX, the Wheeling & Lake Erie, and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

Craig noted that although he didn’t get as many photos as he has in past years of trains plowing through snow storms, he did have a lot of sunny days and good luck catching NS heritage units. This past winter, he finally photographed Nos. 18, 19 and 20.

Dennis Taksar gave an overview of his 2014 railfanning activities. During the year he traveled far and wide and we saw railroad action in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Georgia and Michigan.

Dennis captured a number of steam locomotives in action, including NKP 765, Pere Marquette 1225 and Southern 630, among others.

There were also view of trains on the Western Maryland Scenic, the Strasburg Railroad of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, R.J. Corman, and the Rockville bridge near Harrisburg, Pa., that was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Ed Ribinskas highlighted some of his favorite photos that he’s made since acquiring a Nikon digital SLR camera two years ago.

He had three themes of trains in winter in Lake County where he lives, heritage locomotives and various steam locomotives that he has chased. The latter NKP 765, Central Ohio 1293, the replica of the Leviathan and the Southern 630.

The heritage units included Amtrak and Norfolk Southern and were all photographed in Northeast Ohio.

One of his winter images won a photo contest sponsored by Dodd Camera. Ed’s winning image showed NS train 145 heading westward in winter on  the Painesville trestle spanning the Grand River.

Dave Mangold showed a variety of images taken in Northeast Ohio, many of them in Berea. He also gave a presentation on the history of locomotive cabs that he presented to a railroad industry group last year.

Paul Woodring dipped into his collection of Kodachrome slides to give us an overview and of the history and operations of the East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania. We saw many views of things that are no more as well as the steam trains of the EBT.

Marty Surdyk brought the evening to a close by highlighting images made on Eastern Sunday outings in 1989, 1987 and 1986.

Along with his brother Robert, Marty visited Deshler, the Southern Tier line of the former Erie Railroad in western New York and the CSX New Castle Subdivision west of Lodi.

We saw plenty of locomotives painted in Chessie System and Seaboard Coast Line liveries in the early CSX era.

Easter weather and rail traffic can be unpredictable. During the trip to New York State, Marty and Robert bagged just one train all day. But what a train it was with all of its Guilford motive power.

During an outing to Deshler that began in the fog, Marty photographed a train on the former Detroit, Toledo & Ironton with Grand Trunk Western motive power.

Appropriately, Marty brought the 2015 member’s night to a close with an image of a caboose.

11th Annual Dave McKay Day is Saturday in Berea

March 30, 2015

Akron Railroad Club members will gather this Saturday in Berea to take in the action on Norfolk Southern and CSX during the 11th annual Dave McKay Day.

The all-day outing is named after the longest-serving ARRC president. Berea, a suburb of Cleveland, was one of Dave’s favorite locations to watch and photograph trains.

About 80 trains a day pass through Berea on a given day with a mixture of intermodal, manifest, coal, tanker and auto rack trains.

With any luck at all, we might see the Wheeling & Lake Erie train that uses CSX trackage rights from Wellington and continues on Norfolk Southern to Campbell Road Yard.

If we are really lucky, we might get a Norfolk Southern heritage locomotive or two. Last year’s McKay netted the Wabash heritage unit, although it was trailing.

Early birds might even catch one of the four Amtrak trains that pass through. All are scheduled to reach Berea during the darkness hours, but if one is running late it might bet to BE around sunrise.

Given that this is late April, the weather can be unpredictable. We had everything from snow and cold to a warm sunny day.

A tradition of the McKay Day outing is the taking of a group portrait during the afternoon next to the plaque honoring Dave.

Some members plan to have dinner at the nearby Berea Union Depot Taverne, which is housed in the former Big Four passenger station. We expect to have dinner at about 6 p.m.

As always, the outing begins when the first person arrives and ends when the last person leaves in the evening. Come early and stay late while enjoying railroad action at Northeast Ohio’s No. 1 hotspot.

GE to Build 100 Locomotives for Use in Angola

March 30, 2015

GE Transportation will build at its Erie, Pa., assembly plant 100 C30ACi locomotives to be used in Angola. Production of the locomotives will begin in 2016 and the order will take three years to complete.

The locomotives are being built for Instituto Nacional Dos Caminhos de Ferro Angola . The contract also includes services, tools and training.

“This deal is another step in broadening GE’s partnership with Angola. This contract is evidence of continued confidence in regional trade through transportation infrastructure across Africa,” said Thomas Konditi, President and CEO of GE Transportation Sub-Saharan Africa in a news release.

Over the past four years, GE has delivered more than 320 locomotives to Central and Southern African countries. This newest order has increased GE’s backlog for deliveries to the region to more than 400 new locomotives.

The GE C30ACi locomotive, a six-axle diesel-electric locomotive with a 12-cylinder 3,000 horsepower FDL-series diesel engine.

GE has been operating in Angola since 1967. Today, GE employs more than 500 people in businesses spanning across key sectors including oil and gas, power and water, and rail transportation.

Crude by Rail Shipping Falling More than Expected

March 30, 2015

Railroad industry observers say that an expected drop in crude oil shipments by rail in 2015 has been falling off much farther than expected.

“The consensus view was that very high double-digit growth would moderate to low double digits, and as we have seen in recent weeks we’ve broken that floor and in some cases gone negative,” said Matt Troy, an analyst with Nomura Securities International Inc. in New York in an interview with Bloomberg News.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Railroads Index is on course for the biggest weekly decline since September 2012, and lessors’ rates for oil cars have fallen by about a third in the past six months, Cowen & Co. said.

The falloff was expected after energy companies reduced drilling for oil in the wake of oil prices falling 50 percent since July 2014.

Railroad executives and industry analysts also thought the demand for hauling crude and such materials as frac sand and pipes would slow after a four-year surge.

In January, CSX and Canadian Pacific predicted that even in the face of oil falling below $50 a barrel that oil projects in progress would boost production and keep trains hauling even more crude oil than in 2014.

However, carloads of U.S. petroleum products have fallen 2.8 percent in the past four weeks after growing 13 percent in 2014.

CSX no longer expects to reach the high end of its forecast for crude oil carloads this year but still expects that oil shipments will increase said spokeswoman Melanie Cost.

Figures provided by the Association of American Railroads show that CSX’s petroleum products carloads rose 3.6 percent following a 60 percent gain last year.

Kansas City Southern has modified its 2015 revenue growth forecast because of lower-than-expected crude-by-rail shipments and a 20 percent decline in coal revenue in the first quarter as utilities switch to cheaper natural gas.

Canadian Pacific spokesman Martin Cej said that CP has not changed its forecast of 140,000 crude carloads in 2015.

The railroad posted a 9.1 percent increase in petroleum product carloads in the past four weeks, but that’s down from 16 percent last year and a third of the railroad’s forecast for a 27 percent gain in crude only carloads this year.

BNSF saw a 4.5 percent drop in petroleum products in the last four weeks after a gain of 12.4 percent last year. BNSF is the largest hauler of Bakken oil production from North Dakota.

Union Pacific, which serves Texas oil fields, saw its carloads drop 25 percent in the four-week period. Demand for frac sand, which is used to prop open the cracks in shale stone to release trapped oil, also has diminished.

“This is the first time that anybody has slowed down on fracking,” said Taylor Robinson, president of Chicago-based PLG Consulting.  “Nobody knew how fast they could shut down and it looks like they’re pretty fast. “Frac sand is going to fall off very quickly,” Robinson says. “Oil production within a couple of months is going to fall off very quickly.”

Union Pacific’s carloadings of stone, sand and gravel fell 6.3 percent in the past four weeks after jumping 22 percent last year. BNSF saw those commodities fall 3 percent after increasing 18 percent last year.

On Photography: Nailing It

March 29, 2015

Nail it

David P. Morgan was feeling pensive. His friend and traveling companion Philip R. Hastings had died the year before.

Now he was thinking about all of the places he and Hastings had visited, including a stretch of the New York Central on the Illinois prairie.

It was there in 1954, while traveling to make images for their “Smoke Over the Prairies” series in Trains magazine, that they had encountered NYC Hudson No. 5403.

It was pulling a mail and express train westward out of Mattoon

As Morgan drove his Ford convertible, which he had purchased new earlier that year, Hastings crouched in the back seat.

The 5403 and its train came from behind, moving slowly at first and then accelerating as though it was a rocket blasting off into space.

When Morgan and Hastings broke off the chase, the train was going 85 mph and pulling away.

The image that Hastings captured merited a handwritten note of congratulations from Trains publisher and founder A.C. Kalmbach, something that Morgan said Kalmbach did not do often.

In writing about that image, again, 34 years later, Morgan quoted Lucius Beebe: “to know that one has it, cold turkey, is one of the great delights of the business of living.”

To use a contemporary phrase, Morgan meant that Hasting had “nailed it.”

It is a moment of triumph akin to the exhilaration of hitting a home run, executing a slam dunk, or putting the puck past the goalie.

It is a moment of pure emotion. All that you worked for has come together and you can proclaim to yourself, “I got it!”

But what is the “it” that you nailed or captured or whatever? And how do you know that you have “it” whatever “it” may be.

Often, recognizing that a photographer “nailed it” can be explained the way that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once attempted to define obscenity in a 1964 case. I know it when I see it.

Actually, Stewart was explaining why he was NOT attempting to give a tangible definition of obscenity, because, he wrote, “ . . . perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so . . .”

Stewart’s words became the butt of joking over the years among Supreme Court law clerks when reviewing materials that had been deemed to be obscene.

Yet Stewart had a point. When trying to use mere words to describe something that people feel, the words often come up short.

Maybe that is why the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” came to be.

If photographs are the medium of emotional reaction, words are the medium of explanation.

Consider the photograph shown above. It was made in May 1983 in approximately the same location where Morgan and Hasting chased NYC 5403 three decades earlier.

A Conrail rail train that is barely visible in the distance has lifted the rails from the former New York Central line that once extended to St. Louis.

Of all the images of that process that I created on this day, this one gives me that feeling of having “nailed it.”

The “it” of this image is a place. It is a story about the place. It is the essence of the story about the place.

Look at that ruler-straight right of way. Look at the open spaces surrounding it. Look at the blue sky . . . the parallel highway . . .  the small portion of the machine to the right . . . the spec of blue that is the bus to carry the Conrail workers . . . the ballast, the ties and the tie plates that the workers have temporarily left behind.

Do you feel the emotion? Do you feel how something that has lasted for more than a century is in the process of going away?

Do you feel the sense that you always had that “it will always be there” is now evaporating into that open space and blue sky?

Do you feel the disappointment that something that has been a part of you all of your life is being ripped away and there is nothing you can do about it except to record its passing?

If you do, then you know why I look at this photograph and know that I “nailed it.”

This is what it looks like when the railroad leaves town, never to return again.

Not everyone will see or feel what I did because they did not experience what I did.

Morgan visited this location on Dec. 1, 1988, and his story was published in the September 1989 issue of Trains.

I would like to think that Morgan knew that he was on short time and that he wanted to leave something for future generations of railroad enthusiasts.

So he used the story of his return to the site of a previous memorable experience as a cautionary tale. Enjoy it now because it won’t necessarily always be there.

Morgan had a way with words, a gift really, that few have. I don’t know if he was a photographer.  I do know that he was a superb wordsmith whose words often conveyed and invoked emotion.

And yet other than to explain what you are seeing in this image, are words necessary to describe it? If not, that means that the photographer has nailed it.

Commentary by Craig Sanders

Forbes Lauds CSX as a “Best Employer”

March 29, 2015

Forbes magazine has named CSX as one of one of “America’s Best Employers,” saying that the railroad earned the award because of “a commitment to employee development and diversity, combined with consistently high performance in key business areas.”

The list was based on a survey of more than 20,000 American workers at U.S. companies and divisions of multinationals, nonprofit institutions such as hospitals, and government agencies.

CSX has also been recognized as one of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” by Fortune magazine.