Archive for June, 2015

UP OCS Travels to North Baltimore Over CSX

June 30, 2015

It is rare enough when the CSX executive train makes an appearance in Ohio, but on Monday there was an even more unusual sighting.

The Union Pacific office car train ran to the Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal in North Baltimore.

It is not clear why the train was there, but speculation online is that it might have something to do with a possible UP-CSX joint venture. Reportedly, the move to North Baltimore was a deadhead move that originated in Chicago.

Lead by UP ES44AC No. 8154, the train then operated east to Fostoria to turn around. It is scheduled to leave North Baltimore to return to Chicago on Tuesday.

On Monday the UP train operated on CSX as symbol P940.

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CVSR to Offer Christmas in July Excursion

June 30, 2015

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is offering a new event this year that it is calling Christmas in July.

To be held on July 25, the event will feature a special train ride that will serve a variety of beers and wines, including Thirty Dog’s 12 Dogs of Christmas. A dinner catered by Moe’s Restaurant will also be provided.

The train will depart Rockside Station at 7 p.m. Tickets are $65 and include dinner and three drink vouchers.

A portion of the ticket proceeds will be donated to the CVSR’s Polar Express Charity Run Train. Wearing holiday attire is highly encouraged.

There will also be a silent auction and raffles as well as a visit from Santa Claus. For ticket information visit the CVSR website at http://www.cvsr.com

Iowa Pacific Completes Hoosier State Test Run

June 30, 2015

Indiana, Amtrak and Iowa Pacific officials have yet to announce a takeover date by IP of the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State.

The quad-weekly train, operated by Amtrak on days that the Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate, is funded in part by the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Amtrak’s contract to operate the train expires on June 30, although it has said that it will continue to operate the train if Iowa Pacific does not take it over on July 1.

An IP trainset completed a test run last weekend over the route, running behind the Amtrak Hoosier State.

INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said the agency will review the results of the test.

The test train had GP40FH-2 locomotives Nos. 4135 and 4137, full-length dome Summit View and two coaches.

Even after Iowa Pacific takes over the Hoosier State, an Amtrak engineer and conductor will continue to make up the operating crews.

Iowa Pacific has said it will offer food service and business class service in the dome car. IP will service the equipment in its Bensenville, Illinois, shop during the Chicago layover.

NKP 765 Trips to Fund Locomotive Restoration

June 30, 2015

Nickel Plate Road No. 765 will team up with the Steamtown National Historic Site, Norfolk Southern and the Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Historical Society to raise money for the restoration of another Lima-built steam locomotive.

Proceeds from the Sept. 12 and 13 trips behind Nickel Plate Berkshire Scranton to Binghamton, New York, and return will benefit the restoration of Boston & Maine No. 3713, a 4-6-2 in the Steamtown collection.

The excursions are also being used to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tunkhannock Viaduct. For ticket information, go to www.laurellinesspecials.org.

On Photography: An Assessment of Photographing Inside Fostoria’s Iron Triangle Railfan Park

June 29, 2015
Novelty and roster shots are about the best you can do of the CSX Willard Subdivision when photographing from the observation platform in Fostoria's railfan park.

Novelty and roster shots are about the best you can do of trains on the CSX Willard Subdivision when photographing from the observation platform in Fostoria’s railfan park.

From a purely train watching perspective, the Iron Triangle Railfan Park in Fostoria, Ohio, is a great place. If you are willing to move around, you can see every train that passes through Fostoria.

Trains moving via the southeastern connection between the CSX Willard and Columbus subdivisions are the most difficult to see because of clutter and obscured views.

Straight moves on all three mainlines – which includes Norfolk Southern’s Fostoria District – can be easily seen as well as moves on the northeastern, northwestern and southwestern connections.

But being able to easily see trains does not always translate into excellent or even good photography vantage points.

The trade off for locating the park inside Fostoria’s “iron triangle” is that it is situated north of the busiest of the three mainlines, the Willard Sub, and hence the lighting is often less than ideal for capturing trains on that route.

I also found myself going outside the park to photograph from public sidewalks on Columbus Avenue to get the best photo angles and lighting.

In fact, most of the images that I made during a 10-hour visit during the Akron Railroad Club’s longest day event were made just outside the park. That annual event coincided this year with the date of the summer solstice.

None of my photographs were made on the park’s viewing platform even though it offers a good view of the NS tracks.

To its credit, the park does have many positives for the photographer. Chief among them are fences that are high enough to establish a boundary, but low enough so that an adult of average height can shoot over them.

A small child might not be able to do that, but he/she could shoot through the wide gaps in the fence with a little coaching from a parent.

The park is expansive enough that photographers can roam about freely and get right next to all three rail lines. Thus far there are no trees or bushes getting in the way of the sight angles.

Be advised that unless you are standing against the fence and/or leaning over it, you are going to have fences in your photos. The fences won’t obscure the trains, but will be noticeable.

Lighting is not a static thing and lighting conditions on all three rail lines will change throughout the day and even throughout the year as the sun angle shifts.

Here is a summary of photography conditions for each of the three mainlines from the perspective of shooting within the park proper.

Willard Subdivision

This busy east-west mainline is the most challenging to photograph. Aside from the lighting conditions, there is also the challenge of making photographs amid a lot of clutter from signal boxes, utility lines, and parked railroad motor vehicles and equipment.

The park’s southern boundary runs along the Williard Sub for a good distance, but it is tough to get good angles because of the clutter, some of which is south of the railroad tracks.

You can stand by the viewing platform and use a telephone or wide angle lens to photograph passing trains, but will be limited in what you can include of the train.

It is tough when standing next to the fence to get angles that include the motive power consist and the rest of the train because of the trackside clutter.

Columbus/Pemberville Subdivisions

This former C&O route changes names and jurisdictions in Fostoria. From a photography perspective, the best photography conditions of this line occur during the afternoon when the sun has shifted further west.

In the morning, you’ll be shooting toward the sun because this line runs along the park’s eastern boundary.

Some of the best images to be made are of trains coming off the northeastern connection to go north because they are facing you as they enter a curve.

The northwestern connection curves along the park’s boundary, but you’ll need a wide angle lens to get anything on it.

The home signals for southbound (railroad eastbound) traffic make good photo props for trains making straight moves northward (railroad westbound).

Yet most of the traffic on this line uses one of the connections rather than running straight through town.

Fostoria District

This line runs along the northern border of the park and features the best photo angles. With a good telephoto lens, you can get straight-on shots of eastbound trains after they cross the diamonds with the CSX Willard Sub and are coming into a curve just east of Poplar Street.

The eastward home signals for the diamonds with the CSX Pemberville Sub are located right in front of the viewing platform, but by moving down to the fence and setting up west of the platform, the photographer can get great, if not ideal, angles for westbound trains splitting those signals.

The park also features a good view of the Fostoria District/Pemberville Sub diamonds.

If you stand at the far eastern boundary of the park, you can get a good angle of eastbound trains splitting those same signals.

Because the sun will behind you, there are good photo angles to be had all day of the Fostoria District.

Going Outside

There is a pedestrian gate leading onto Columbus Avenue. The sidewalks of this street more often than not offer the better photo angles of traffic on the Pemberville/Columbus subs.

That’s because although you can see trains coming southward as they cross the diamonds with NS as you stand inside the park, you can’t see much beyond that.

I wanted to use my zoom lens to get trains passing the C&O signals that still stand north of the NS diamonds. You can’t see those from the railfan park.

Likewise, if you want to get more of a straight-on angle on either the Fostoria District or the CSX Pemberville/Columbus Sudvidisions, then you need to get outside the park.

You don’t have to go far. There is a sidewalk leading out of the park and across the NS tracks. There is a sidewalk on the north side of Columbus Avenue next to a business east of the Pemberville Sub tracks. I found myself standing on that sidewalk a lot in the morning and early afternoon because of lighting and photo angle considerations.

As for more straight-on views of trains on the Willard Sub, you’ll need to go over to Main Street by the old Baltimore & Ohio depot to get those. Another option is the Poplar Street crossing, but on the day that I was there it was closed because CSX is rebuilding it.

There is still a large open area between the Willard Sub and the Fostoria District that is outside the park. Perhaps the city is seeking to buy that property and expand the park. Perhaps there are other reasons why it is not part of the park.

This area used to be industrial property and the ground may be polluted. A large concrete pad in this open area is a reminder of what used to be here.

I mention this because if the park’s boundaries could be extended along the NS tracks all the way to Poplar Street that would open better photo opportunities for shooting eastbound NS trains without the need for a super telephoto or zoom lens.

Photographer can be a picky bunch and even the best possible, practical and affordable park design is sure to leave them wanting something they can’t have. The Iron Triangle Railfan Park is no exception.

Photographers more inclined toward making roster-type shots will find the park more than adequate for their needs.

More artistically-inclined photographs might find themselves exhausting their possibilities rather quickly and setting out for other vantage points and locations.

Nonetheless, the city and park designers deserve a lot of credit for creating a safe and accessible area from which to watch and photograph trains in this busy railroad junction town.

Commentary and Photographs by Craig Sanders

In the morning on a summer's day this might be as good as it gets for photographing eastbounds on the Willard Sub while staying inside the park. On balance, it's a nice photo angle.

In the morning on a summer’s day this might be as good as it gets for photographing eastbounds on the Willard Sub while staying inside the park. On balance, it’s a nice photo angle if you are trying to get the motive power and the consist of the train.

With people hanging around all day, there are going to be opportunities for human interest images. In the background is an eastbound on the Willard Subdivision. If you photograph from back here, you will have live with fences.

With people hanging around all day, there are going to be opportunities for human interest images. In the background is an eastbound on the Willard Subdivision. If you photograph from back here, you will have to live with fences being in your photos.

Heading toward the camera on the northeast connection yields a nice angle, but oh that clutter around F Tower.

Heading toward the camera on the northeast connection yields a nice angle, but oh that clutter around F Tower.

A Toledo-bound train passes beneath the home signals for the diamonds with the Willard and Columbus subdivisions.

A Toledo-bound train passes beneath the home signals for the diamonds with the Willard and Columbus subdivisions located to the right of the lead locomotive of the train.

Even in late day summer sunlight on the longest day of the year there will be shadows on westbound CSX trains on the Willard Sub.

Even in late day summer sunlight on the longest day of the year there will be shadows on the north side of westbound CSX trains on the Willard Sub. In the foreground is the northwestern connection between the Willard and Pemberville subs.

Flooding Strands CVSR Patrons in Independence

June 29, 2015

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad canceled all trains on Sunday after flooding marooned nearly 100 passengers aboard a train Saturday at the Rockside Road station in Independence.

Heavy rains triggered rising water that cut off Rockside Road near West Canal Road, thus closing the road in and out of the station.

Although a spokesperson for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park said the train wasn’t stuck due to the flooding, the 60 or so vehicles in the station’s parking lot were stranded.

Railroad officials ended up sending some of them home in cabs while others were put up in nearby hotels. Most of the passengers were able to cross a pedestrian bridge and have a friend or relative pick them up.

The train had arrived at the station at about 4:15 p.m. CVSR personnel had warned the passengers in Peninsula that the area was experiencing flooding, but that the water should recede by 8 p.m.

But by 7:30 p.m., water had not receded enough for vehicles to exit the station’s parking lot.

“We have been here since 12:45; we’re from Erie,” said Brad Anderson as he and his two children got into a cab to travel to a nearby hotel. “It’s been a two-hour drive to get here and we’re done. The three-hour tour was a little longer than expected.”

Video posted by Cleveland TV stations showed water beneath the wooden platform used at the Rockside Road station.

The National Weather Service in Cleveland said that the predicted moderate flooding had changed to major severity for the Cuyahoga River at Independence.

Flooding also prompted the closing of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park from Lock 39 to Hunt House.

By Sunday, though, the Park Service had reopened the closed portion of the trail after the flood waters receded.

NS ‘Drag Races’ In Fostoria

June 28, 2015
A westbound intermodal train on CSX passes in front of a pair of Norfolk Southern stack trains stopped west of the diamonds. The CSX train had two NS locomotives pulling it.

A westbound intermodal train on CSX passes in front of a pair of Norfolk Southern stack trains stopped west of the diamonds. The CSX train had two NS locomotives pulling it. Note the CSX track equipment and workers standing clear by the diamonds.

Thanks to track work on the CSX Willard Subdivision, Akron Railroad Club members on hand for the annual longest day outing were treated to Norfolk Southern trains engaging in “drag racing” past the Iron Triangle Railfan park.

The action started late in the morning when a pair of NS stack trains, the 234 and 218, halted west of the diamond with the former Baltimore & Ohio east-west mainline while CSX crews worked on Track No. 1 and CSX traffic moved on Track No. 2.

Interestingly, one of those CSX movements was a westbound intermodal train with two NS locomotives for power.

Eventually, the CSX IP dispatcher determined it was time for NS to run. Because the IP dispatcher, who controls all three sets of diamonds in Fostoria, could not line the signals for NS trains to cross the Willard Sub, the dispatcher had to give both NS trains verbal permission to pass the stop signals.

Each NS train then had to contact the NS Fostoria District dispatcher for permission to proceed because the CSX dispatcher had no authority to grant track authorization on the NS main beyond the opposing home signals.

The NS 218 offered a special treat with the Savannah & Atlanta heritage locomotive on the point.

Both trains got underway at the same time with the 234 pulling ahead. The 218 was not far behind and caught and began overtaking the longer 234 as the trains passed the viewing platform of the railfan park.

The NS dispatcher had indicated that the 218 would go ahead when the double track ended at Ilers to the east of Fostoria.

A similar ritual then played out about two hours later and involved three westbound NS trains. The 217, an auto rack train coming out of the mixing center; the 17K, a manfest freight; and the 288, a stack train. All had to wait until CSX traffic had cleared and the MOW foreman gave the diamonds back to the IP dispatcher.

As had happened in the morning, each NS train had to get permission from the IP dispatcher to pass the red signals and obtain permission from the NS dispatcher to make the move as well. All three NS trains also halted briefly just before crossing the diamonds.

The 288 went first with the 217 coming behind it and soon overtaking it. With those trains down the road, the 17K, which had a Union Pacific leader, then went.

The hogger on the 17K is on Trainorders.com and he reported that all three trains had “approach” signal indications for the crossing of the CSX Pemberville Sub, the former Chesapeake & Ohio route between Toledo and Columbus.

With the 217 in the lead, the 288 had to loaf along and the 17K ended up being stopped for an hour at DA while the traffic ahead sorted itself out.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The crews of the 218 and 234 have each received permission from  the dispatchers to proceed and both are moving ahead.

The crews of the 218 and 234 have each received permission from the dispatchers to proceed and both are moving ahead.

NS 1065 rounds the curve and passes colorful K Line containers on the 234.

NS 1065 rounds the curve and passes colorful K Line containers on the 234.

The 218 is starting to overtake the 234 and would go ahead of it at Ilers.

The 218 is starting to overtake the 234 and would go ahead of it at Ilers.

The afternoon westbound NS "drag race" in Fostoria begins to set up with the "contestant's getting into position. The 17K with UP power and the 217, an auto rack train at the far right, are already at the "starting line." The 288 is approaching in the distance.

The afternoon westbound NS “drag race” in Fostoria begins to set up with the “contestant’s getting into position. The 17K with UP power and the 217, an auto rack train at the far right, are already at the “starting line.” The 288 is approaching in the distance.

It is NS' turn to move and the 288 begins the parade. The 288 and 217 (not visible at right) would run side by side through Fostoria before the 217 moved ahead.

It is NS’ turn to move and the 288 begins the parade. The 288 and 217 (not visible at right) would run side by side through Fostoria before the 217 moved ahead.

The 217 has gained the mainline as it moves out of the mixing center yard.

The 217 has gained the mainline as it moves out of the mixing center yard.

The 217 is starting to gain on the 288 as the trains pass the railfan park. The 217 had a CSX unit in its motive power consist.

The 217 is starting to gain on the 288 as the trains pass the railfan park. The 217 had a CSX unit in its motive power consist.

Two Union Pacific and one BNSF units power the 17K past the eastward home signals for the crossing of the CSX Pemberville Sub. The signals are located in front of the viewing platform of the Fostoria Iron Triangle railfan park.

Two Union Pacific locomotives and one BNSF unit power the 17K past the eastward home signals for the crossing of the CSX Pemberville Sub. The signals are located in front of the viewing platform of the Fostoria Iron Triangle railfan park.

The rear of the 17K signals an end of the afternoon "drag race."

The rear of the 17K signals an end of the afternoon “drag race.”

Petition Drive Seeks Oxford Amtrak Stop

June 28, 2015

An Oxford resident has collected more than 1,000 signatures in support of establishing an Amtrak station in that southwest Ohio community.

Many of those who signed Deb Clark’s petitions also said they would be willing to provide funds or materials to make the station happen, she said.

The city of Oxford is supporting the bid to create a station to serve Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal, but G. Alan Kyger, Oxford’s development director, said a search committee has not decided on a site.

He did say that the committee is looking at locations on public land, although a privately-owned site would not be ruled out.

The committee has examined five or six potential sites, including between High Street and the former Talawanda High School site on Locust Street.

City officials have declined to divulge the specific locations because they have not spoken with the property owners.

“The eventual decision-makers are going to be city council and Miami University,” Kyger said. “We’re trying to work together on this project.”

Kyger said the search committee intends to make a location recommendation by the end of the summer.

Amtrak gave Oxford and Miami the go-ahead to select a site earlier this year.

The railroad has expressed a willing to serve Oxford, but the city and the university would have to find the site and to pay for it.

The station is expected to be a shelter station with overhead canopies but no amenities such as restrooms.

All Amtrak Indiana Stations ADA Non-Compliant

June 28, 2015

Many Amtrak stations fail to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including all 11 stations in Indiana, a Department of Justice probe has found.

Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services, the state’s disability advocacy agency, is one of several organizations around the country that filed complaints against Amtrak with the Department of Justice.

The agency’s executive director, Dawn Adams, says the report it sent to the DOJ was based on extensive inspections of Amtrak stations after the state received numerous complaints.

Adams said the violations included inaccessible parking and inadequate counter height, and even refusal to sell tickets to customers with disabilities.

“If the station at the other end that the person wanted to go to was inaccessible, then rather than making that station accessible, they just refused to sell tickets to people with disabilities,” Adams said.

The Department of Justice says it will work with Amtrak to ensure the stations become compliant. Amtrak has indicated that it will cooperate with the effort.

Kent as it Used to Be

June 27, 2015

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Here is the Kent you’ll never see again. It’s the late 1960s, and the Erie Lackawanna is still alive. The passenger station is still in use and there is an Erie boxcar sitting south of the station. The Baltimore & Ohio freight heading west has a wagon top caboose. There is no park where the river flows as there is now and the cars seen in the image are true collector’s treasures today.

Photographs by Robert Farkas