Archive for September, 2015

3 Trains, 5 Minutes, Then the Sounds of Cicadas and Traffic on a Summer Afternoon in North East

September 30, 2015
A woman captures a westbound CSX stacker in North East, Pennsylvania, as her young children eye the approaching train.

A woman captures a westbound CSX stacker in North East, Pennsylvania, as her young children eye the approaching train.

The westbound cleared just in time for an unobstructed view of the eastbound.

The westbound cleared just in time for an unobstructed view of the eastbound.

The NS local completed the trio of trains in slightly less than five minutes. And none of them blocked each other.

The NS local completed the trio of trains in slightly less than five minutes. And none of them blocked each other.

The buzzing of cicadas and periodic muffled sounds of nearby street traffic hung in the otherwise still mid-afternoon air on a late summer day of sun and clouds in North East, Pennsylvania.

It had been nearly three hours since the last CSX westbound had rolled past the Lake Shore Railway Historical Society Museum and more than an hour since there had been an eastbound CSX train.

Norfolk Southern had been quiet since just before noon.

All of that was about to change. The first clue was the scanner inside the museum coming to life with the chirps of what sounded like trains calling signals at a distance.

In due time, the transmissions became strong enough to pick out the location of the signals being called on both railroads. Then there were headlights to the east and west on CSX.

The westbound stack train arrived first. Its rear well car had barely cleared on Track No. 1 by the former New York Central station when the lead locomotive of an eastbound manifest freight came rushing past on Track No. 2.

The scanner barked out the transmission of a detector on NS situated nearly three miles away.

No sooner had the eastbound CSX train cleared, but a headlight came into view of an eastbound NS local, which would later work at the Welch plant in North East after another eastbound NS train had passed by.

It all played out over slightly less than five minutes and when it was over the only sounds in the air were the buzzing of cicadas and the periodic noise of nearby street traffic.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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C&O No. 1309 Restoration Work Moving Along

September 30, 2015

Restoration work on Chesapeake & Ohio No. 1309 is proceeding well and the 2-6-6-2 locomotive is expected to return to steam next year.

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad General Manager Mike Gresham told Trains magazine that reconstruction of the tender is well advanced.

The major work remaining includes tender tank floor replacement, water baffle reinforcement and reattachment, and stoker repairs.

Gresham said that no substantial repairs are expected to be made to the tender deck. Work on the tender is expected to be completed by late September.

SteamOperations Corp. will begin ultrasonic testing of the boiler and driver axles in early October with the work expected to finish in November

Seamless tubes and flues are order from Steam Services Corp. and expected to arrive by the end of October.

Some of the rebuilding work is being contracted out.

The Heber Valley Railroad of Utah will rebuild the air pumps and safety valves while the Strasburg Rail Road will turn No. 1309’s wheels on a wheel lathe.

Greshman told Trains that the scale of the rebuilding project has presented a challenge, with the No. 1309 needing nearly 300 new tubes and flues, and 200 new flexible stay-bolts.

All 12 of the locomotives driving wheels need to be turned on a wheel lathe. Other work includes the refurbishment of two full sets of running gear, and the rebuilding of such appliances as pumps, injectors, dynamo, and the stoker engine.

The Western Maryland is working on bringing in a train of private rail cars in May 2016 that would travel behind the 1309 between Cumberland and Frostburg, Maryland.

The train would originate in Chicago and follow the route of Amtrak’s Capitol Limited behind diesel power to Cumberland. The train would continue on behind diesel locomotives from Frostburg to Washington, D.C.

CSX Reaches Tentative Pact With 2 Unions

September 30, 2015

Two labor unions and CSX have reached tentative agreement on a new contract that all parties say will provide for more workplace flexibility.

The pact must still be approved in a vote of members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.

Members of both unions will be able to perform a variety of assigned work beyond the traditional boundaries of craft or union affiliation. The new contract will also provide pay increases through an hourly skill differential, enhanced ability to retain employment, benefits and connection to railroad retirement, and an ability to perform additional locomotive rebuild work in-house with CSX employees.

CSX said in a news release that the agreement builds on a similar work-sharing structure implemented at the company’s Huntington Locomotive Shop in 2013.

“This agreement is part of CSX’s focus on promoting a flexible workforce to meet changing business demands, and developing opportunities to retain and support our highly skilled workforce,” said Cressie Brown, CSX vice president, labor relations.

NS Names Another Yard After Retiring Executive

September 30, 2015

Norfolk Southern is naming another yard after a retiring high-level executive.

A classification and intermodal yard in Memphis, Tennessee, will be named Harris Yard after Executive Vice President Planning and Chief Information Officer Deborah Harris Butler, who is retiring Oct. 1, 2015.

“Consistently during her 37-year career, Deb envisioned and championed systems and technology that keep the freight moving,” said NS President and CEO Jim Squires in a statement. “Her name on a key yard that handles important segments of our business—in her own hometown—is apt and well-deserved recognition. Deb’s contributions in technology, the environment, and employee development have made a lasting difference. Our board, officers and employees are grateful for her vision and leadership.”

Butler joined the Southern Railway in 1978 as a customer account auditor. She was subsequently named assistant vice president transportation customer services (2000) and vice president customer service (2002) before assuming her current post in 2007.

NS said in a news release that Butler has been recognized for her expertise in car management and distribution.

“Early in her career, she oversaw modernization of many of NS’s core transportation systems, such as ITMS for transportation information sharing, TYES for yard management and inventory, RIT for remote work orders, and the Pacesetter customer portal,” NS said. “More recently, her tenure saw implementation of the optimized dispatching system to improve network velocity, significant progress toward installation of Positive Train Control systems, successful negotiation to purchase 282 miles of Delaware & Hudson Railway Co. lines [from Canadian Pacific] to support rail service in the Northeast, and a growing commitment to sustainable business practices.

“Butler also is known for her work in mentoring new railroaders: She helped start WiNS (Women in Norfolk Southern), the railroad’s first official employee resource group.”

Harris Yard is located on the Birmingham-Chattanooga main line near the midtown area of Memphis.

Another Weekend With NKP 765 in the Cuyahoga Valley. Will it Turn Out to Be the Last of 2015?

September 29, 2015
Getting an elevated view of the Nickel Plate Road 765 as it passes Brecksville Station on a ferry move to Boston Mill on Sunday morning.

Getting an elevated view of the Nickel Plate Road 765 as it passes Brecksville Station on a ferry move to Boston Mill on Sunday morning.

As I reviewed my photographs of the second weekend that Nickel Plate Road No. 765 spent on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, I wondered if this might be the last time that I will have photographed the 765 on the CVSR this year or the last time that I ever photograph the 765 on the CVSR.

The political gamesmanship being played in Congress over extending the federal debt limit might result in a shutdown of the government that would shutter the Cuyahoga Valley National Park as it did for two weeks in October 2013.

That in turn would sideline the CVSR and the 765. Then again, the politicos might strike a deal and the shutdown threat will be over for now. They say that they will, so we shall see.

The 2-8-4 Berkshire built in Lima, Ohio, is slated to run next weekend, pulling trips out of Akron on Saturday and Brecksville on Sunday. Then it returns to its home in New Haven, Indiana, and who knows if it will ever be back.

I’ve been wondering for the past couple of years how many encore performances the 765 will make on the CVSR. It has run here more often than I thought that it might.

I rather enjoy chasing this locomotive and the challenge of getting it in new places or finding new photo angles at old haunts.

I might have more images of the 765 in action than I do of all steam locomotives I’ve photographed combined.

The world of mainline steam locomotives is always uncertain and that has driven me to get out with a “get it while you can” approach.

With that in mind, I chased all three last Sunday out of Boston Mill. Originally billed as half-hour excursions, they wound up being hour and a half trips, perhaps because the ticket prices for the two-hour trips were the same as the half-hour trips. Maybe enough people noticed and complained.

The first and third trips of the day went south while the middle trip went north. That was the pattern last year. What was different, though, was that the 765 twice stood in Peninsula while the northbound Scenic ran around it. It also sat at Fitzwater for the southbound Scenic.

I captured the 765 in two new settings, although, arguably, the first of those wasn’t new as much as it was a new approach.

I’ve seen images of CVSR trains passing Brecksville that were made atop a hill on the south side of Chippewa Creek. This past Sunday I decided to climb the hill and get a new view.

The other setting was the bridge over the Cuyahoga River north of Peninsula. I’ve photographed trains several times on the bridge over the Cuyahoga located south of town, but never to the north.

I always thought that getting to a good vantage point for the north bridge would be too difficult and involve walking through, over and around brush and who knows what else.

Yet the trek to the river’s edge proved to be quite easy and left me wondering why I hadn’t tried it before.

Otherwise, it was another day of catching the 765 at the usual places, including near Deep Lock Quarry and in Peninsula.

I did try a new vantage point at the former, walking south along the tracks to just beyond milepost 52.

Although there were a few hints of autumn color, it seems likely that if the 765 runs next weekend there won’t be as much fall foliage to get as I had hoped when I learned that this year’s run of the 765 on the CVSR would extend into early October.

I would like to add to my 765 catalog some images of the steamer with brilliant fall foliage in the background at Peninsula.

If last weekend’s trips turns out to be the last trips for the 765 on the CVSR I can say that I made the most of the opportunity. You can’t do much better than that.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Sunday's trips were initially advertised as a half-hour, but by the time Sunday rolled around that had changed to an hour and a half. The ferry move passes the parking lot for the Brecksville station.

Sunday’s trips were initially advertised as a half-hour, but by the time Sunday rolled around that had changed to an hour and a half. The ferry move passes the parking lot for the Brecksville station on Sunday morning.

Between a rock and a milepost south of Deep Lock Quarry. I got a thumbs up from a crew member in the cab on the fireman's side.

Between a rock and a milepost south of Deep Lock Quarry. I got a thumbs up from a crew member in the cab on the fireman’s side.

It is starting to look a little like autumn, which is why I made this image of the 765 going backwards over the Cuyahoga River south of Peninsula.

It is starting to look a little like autumn, which is why I made this image of the 765 going backwards over the Cuyahoga River south of Peninsula.

Passengers on the 12:30 p.m. trip out of Boston Mill had more than a half-hour wait at Fitzwater Yard and Shops before following the Scenic train southward. The 765 leads its train through Brecksville beneath the Ohio Route 82 bridge.

Passengers on the 12:30 p.m. trip out of Boston Mill had more than a half-hour wait at Fitzwater Yard and Shops before following the Scenic train southward. The 765 leads its train through Brecksville beneath the Ohio Route 82 bridge.

Gliding over Chippewa Creek in Brecksville. Fellow ARRC members Peter Bowler and Ed Ribinskas were here with me.

Gliding over Chippewa Creek in Brecksville. Fellow ARRC members Peter Bowler and Ed Ribinskas were here with me.

Crossing the Cuyahoga River north of Peninsula. Two of the three trips out of Boston Mill on this day went south.

Crossing the Cuyahoga River north of Peninsula. Two of the three trips out of Boston Mill on this day went south.

Getting to the site to make this photo turned out to be much easier than I expected.

Getting to the site to make this photo turned out to be much easier than I expected.

Of course cameras were out and people stood and watched as the NKP 765 rolled into Peninsula.

Of course cameras were out and people stood and watched as the NKP 765 rolled into Peninsula.

It wasn't planned, but I'll take credit for the headlight of the 765 reflecting in the fourth window from the left of the far right CVSR passenger car.

It wasn’t planned, but I’ll take credit for the headlight of the 765 reflecting in the fourth window from the left of the far right CVSR passenger car.

This time the 765 was sitting still as the northbound CVSR Scenic passed in Peninsula.

This time the 765 was sitting still as the northbound CVSR Scenic passed in Peninsula. This same ritual had played out in the morning during the first southbound trip of the day pulled by the 765

Trailing out of Peninsula as the last excursion of the day winds down.

Trailing out of Peninsula as the last excursion of the day winds down.

CVSR Polar Express Tickets Go on Sale Thursday

September 29, 2015

Tickets go on sale on Thursday for the 2015 Polar Express trains of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

The annual Christmas season specials will operate between Nov. 13 and Dec. 20.

The fares will be $45 for standard coach, $65 for seating in a dining car and $85 for seating in the Saint Lucie Sound observation-lounge car.

Patrons purchasing tickets for the latter two classes will receive a commemorative Polar Express Mug. Saint Lucie Sound tickets are available only for trains leaving from Rockside Station.

All ticket sales will be conducted online and patrons may purchase up 10 tickets at a time. There is no assigned seating.

To order tickets, visit www.cvsr.com and visit the Polar Express page.

Business Class Set to Launch on Hoosier State

September 29, 2015

Business class service will begin on the Hoosier State on Oct. 2. Iowa Pacific, which oversees the service on the Chicago-Indianapolis train, will also add a third coach to the run.

Business class passengers will receive breakfast to Chicago and dinner to Indianapolis.

The service will be provided in the upper level of the great dome car. Coach passengers will continue to be able to purchase food and beverages in the lower level of the dome car.

The Hoosier State operates quad-weekly on the days that Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.

Finally Finding the CB&Q Lookalike Switcher

September 28, 2015

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I went to the Fostoria trainfest on Saturday and finally got a switcher that I knew of but had not found.  It is a former Illinois Central EMD switcher painted in a Burlington Route inspired paint scheme.

It works the Sunny Farms Landfill a couple miles south of town.  I also discovered that the landfill is expanding with new trackage being built just south of the facility.

The new trackage has yet to be connected to the rest of the facility.  A grade crossing and culvert need to be built.

Many, if not all, of the garbage trains through Cleveland on CSX are destined for this facility. These are a few of the photos I took.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

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Fostoria 035_21744448805_l

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The current end of track. The one on the left will be extended.

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The unloading facility.

The site is expanding.

The site is expanding.

Vermilion Outing Reset for Oct. 10

September 28, 2015

The Akron Railroad Club outing in Vermilion has been rescheduled for Saturday, Oct. 10. The event has been slated for Saturday, Sept. 12, but was rained out.

An announcement about whether the event is a “go” or “no go” will be made on this site a day or two before the event is held.

A Sunday Out With NKP 765 on the CVSR

September 26, 2015
September 20 765 01-x

Steam meets diesel at the Peninsula depot. Both of these locomotive are actually vintage, having been built for another generation.

It began with a sense of deja vu. As had been the case last year, I started my day-long chase of Nickel Plate Road No. 765 on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad on top of the Ohio Route 82 bridge in Brecksville.

Conditions were strikingly similar to what they had been the year before. A slight fog hung over the valley that would dissipate before the 765 arrived after the first CVSR Scenic train of the day.

A couple of other photographers were also atop the bridge, one of whom knew me by name even though I didn’t know him.

He said he had been to a few Akron Railroad Club meetings and was going to try to duplicate an image I had made in 2014 and posted on the ARRC blog. How is that for getting your day started? I have a fan.

In the cool morning air the 765 was putting on quite the smoke and steam show. After getting my photographs, I walked back through dew on the grass that was so heavy that my shoes were soaked by the time I reached my car.

The next stop was Jaite, where I decided to try a new perspective by standing a ways south of the crossing with Vaughn Road.

I spent several minutes talking with a woman after the passage of the train, filling her in on other places to photograph. She seemed appreciative of the tips, but I didn’t see her the rest of the day.

My next stop was Deep Lock Quarry, which might be my favorite place to watch the 765 as well as photograph it. The train is working up a grade out of Peninsula and putting on quite a sound show.

This year I wanted to get closer to the bridge over the Cuyahoga River. I chatted briefly with another fan, but he then went out south and out of sight. Another guy came jogging down the tracks, asked me where the 765 was, and kept going. He crossed the bridge and vanished.

I had this spot all to myself and it felt like the 765 was putting on a show just for me. Hearing the chug-chug-chug of the locomotive in the still air of early morning was the sensory experience of the day.

I waited for the steam train to return from Howe Meadow and snapped a few more photos. I also waited for the Scenic train to come back north. Even then I still had plenty of time to kill before the next trip.

I sat in the parking lot at Jaite and read the Sunday paper to pass the time. There would be another passage of the CVSR Scenic before the 765 and its train showed up.

Not long before the Scenic arrived, I got out and went to scout for photo locations. I saw a familiar face walking in my direction as I stood near the tracks.

It was fellow Akron Railroad Club member Ed Ribinskas, who was the first person I’d seen on this day who I recognized.

We photographed the Scenic and I went back to my car to change lenses. I wanted to walk a little north from Jaite “station.” By now photographers and onlookers were gathering, some of the latter setting up lawn chairs on the grass as though at an outdoor concert.

The location I picked out was all right, but I wasn’t overly thrilled with the shots that I got. I actually liked Ed’s shots better. He had used more wide angle than I did.

Then it was on to a new location, the bridge over Furnace Run that is opposite of Szalay’s Farm on Riverside Road south of Peninsula.

Ed also planned to shoot there and then call it a day. We made our way down to creek level and soon were joined by another ARRC member, Jeff Troutman.

We got cloud skunked as the 765 came south. So we waited for it go back north, by which time the sun was back out. I bade farewell to Jeff and Ed and went over to Szalay’s to buy a couple of ears of sweet corn.

Then it was off to Peninsula to wait for the third run of the day of the 765. I hadn’t been there long when I heard a locomotive horn that signaled the approach of the northbound Scenic.

I got out to get some photos and spotted ARRC member Bob Farkas. He pointed at FPA-4 No. 6771 and talked about how he had seen this locomotive in Canada many years earlier where it had served Canadian National and, later, VIA Rail Canada.

The last trip of the 765 would be the only one of the three to run ahead of the Scenic. That meant that the two trains would meet in Peninsula.

I shot the 765 and its train moving southbound along Riverview Road north of Boston Mill. I then went to Peninsula to await the meet.

The engineer of the southbound Scenic spotted FPA-4 No. 800 — the Baltimore & Ohio tribute locomotive — in an ideal location. It was parked in sunlight right next to the Peninsula depot. As a result, I made what turned out to be my favorite image of the day. The 765, the 800 and the depot are all lined in a row.

I had been avoiding the photo runbys at Boston Mill all day, but decided to see what I could do for the last go-around.

The first runby was already underway when I arrived. I saw Don Woods and Dave Shepherd photographing the scene and talked with them for a few minutes.

They had seen me earlier on the Route 82 bridge and Don wanted to know what kind of images I was able to get. I showed him a few along with my image of the trains meeting in Peninsula. They had hoped to get that shot, too, but had been standing too far away.

I was better able to plan for the second runby and got some fair to good images. Then it was back up Riverside for one last shot of the 765 across an open field, the same location where I had shot earlier.

By now the late day sunlight was quite brilliant and the clouds had moved out. I had been dodging clouds all day and aside from one spot of bad luck at Furnace Run I had been lucky to have sunlight. You can’t feel bad about that kind of day.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Passing the dam on the Cuyahoga River at Brecksville that sits nearly directly beneath the Route 82 bridge. If only there weren't as many trees along the water's edge.

Passing the dam on the Cuyahoga River at Brecksville that sits nearly directly beneath the Route 82 bridge. If only there weren’t as many trees along the water’s edge.

Zooming in on the 765 as it nears Brecksville station on the CVSR. How much longer will this area remain open and devoid of trees along the river's bank?

Zooming in on the 765 as it nears Brecksville station on the CVSR. How much longer will this area remain open and devoid of trees along the river’s bank?

Upon further review this might e my second favorite image of the day. Gotta love that smoke and steam plume, which always seems to accompany the train as it approaches Brecksville during the first run of the day.

Upon further review this might be my second favorite image of the day. Gotta love that smoke and steam plume, which always seems to accompany the train as it approaches Brecksville during the first run of the day.

The bridge over the Cuyahoga River reflects in the relatively still waters as the train awaits its passengers in Brecksville.

The bridge over the Cuyahoga River reflects in the relatively still waters as the train awaits its passengers in Brecksville.

I got back a little further at Jaite and used a telephoto. The train is about to cross Vaughn Road.

I got back a little further at Jaite and used a telephoto. The train is about to cross Vaughn Road.

Hearing the 765 work here was even more impressive than seeing it. The train is about to cross the Cuyahoga River south of Peninsula near Deep Lock Quarry.

Hearing the 765 work here was even more impressive than seeing it. The train is about to cross the Cuyahoga River south of Peninsula near Deep Lock Quarry. Note the leaves being kicked to the right of the train.

I liked the symmetry of the leaves at upper left and the shape of the locomotive nose. It just happened.

I liked the symmetry of the leaves at upper left and the shape of the locomotive nose. It just happened.

Another shot of the 765 crossing the bridge over the Cuyahoga River south of Peninsula. This one was made as the train returned to Brecksville.

Another shot of the 765 crossing the bridge over the Cuyahoga River south of Peninsula. This one was made as the train returned to Brecksville.

Crossing Furnace Run on the way back to Brecksville. The red roof in the distance is Szalay's Farm.

Crossing Furnace Run on the way back to Brecksville. The red roof in the distance is Szalay’s Farm.

The last trip out of Brecksville is underway. The view is from along Riverview Road north of Boston Mill.

The last trip out of Brecksville is underway. The view is from along Riverview Road north of Boston Mill.

I've seen the 765 put out more smoke and steam while just running between locations. Shown is the second runby at Boston Mill, which was not overly impressive.

I’ve seen the 765 put out more smoke and steam while just running between locations. Shown is the second runby at Boston Mill, which was not overly impressive.

Surveying the crowd from the cab at the end of the second runby at Boston Mill.

Surveying the crowd from the cab at the end of the second runby at Boston Mill.

Cameras are out as the 765 gets back into position to load passengers after the second runby at Boston Mill station. The orange cones mark the edge of the photo line during the runbys.

Cameras are out as the 765 gets back into position to load passengers after the second runby at Boston Mill station. The orange cones mark the edge of the photo line during the runbys.

One last view across the goldenrod field, except there wasn't much goldenrod to see. At least there was great afternoon light as the 765 rolled backwards.

One last view across the goldenrod field, except there wasn’t much goldenrod to see. At least there was great afternoon light as the 765 rolled backwards.