Archive for November, 2015

Catching a Couple on CSX

November 30, 2015
Westbound Q009 is racing the approaching shadows as it races toward County Line Road in Unionville. If only the hole in the clouds had been a little wider.

Westbound Q009 is racing the approaching shadows as it races toward County Line Road in Unionville. If only the hole in the clouds had been a little wider.

The Spirit of Cincinnati leads eastbound Q008 at Davis Road east of Perry.

The Spirit of Cincinnati leads eastbound Q008 at Davis Road east of Perry.

We were on our way back to Cleveland from Ashtabula, but chose not to drive on Interstate 90.

I was monitoring my scanner and listening for any nearby CSX trains. I had the Norfolk Southern frequency on, too, but we missed an eastbound NS stack train.

As we approached Unionville, we turned onto County Line Road. I had heard a detector go off and a train was calling signals. But was it going east or west?

It was the westbound Q009 with a new ET44AH on the point. GE Transportation has been releasing these Tier 4 compliant locomotives en mass over the past couple of months.

This would be the first time I’d seen one of these units on the point of a train. I posted a photo of this unit earlier.

After bagging the Q009, we continued westward. Another CSX train was calling signals and, again, we didn’t know if it was going east or west.

We chose the Davis Road crossing to photograph this train, which turned out to be the eastbound Q008. On the point was CSX 5500, the Spirit of Cincinnati.

There was backlighting, so I sought to emphasize the clouds, which were plentiful.

It would be the last train we saw that day. Darkness was coming and I had to get back home.

But not before making a swing through Perry to check the NS signals. They were all red in both directions.

Yet that short little detour did yield the information that the former New York Central signal bridge over the CSX tracks has been removed.

I and countless other photographers have used it as a photo prop for years. It has been a while since I’ve been in Perry so it may have been taken down months ago.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders


Santa Trains Return to W&LE

November 30, 2015

Santa Claus trains returned to the Wheeling & Lake Erie this year after a year’s absence.

The trains were a long-time fixture on the W&LE until 2014. In previous years the trains used equipment supplied by the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society, but a falling out between the W&LE and ORHS prompted that service to end.

This year’s trains operated on Nov. 27 between Brewster and Zoarville and featured five coaches from the Age of Steam Roundhouse. W&LE Nos. 3046 and 111 bracketed the train, which made three roundtrips and carried railroad employees and their families.

In past years, ORHS cars were used on Santa trains for Wheeling employees, but tickets were sold to the public to ride some trains. The latter usually operated between Orrville and Lodi.

Consultant Laments the Near End of RoadRailers

November 30, 2015

A railroad industry consultant believes that Norfolk Southern decided to reduce the scope of its RoadRailer operations because it felt uncomfortable being the only railroad to continue to embrace the technology.

Larry Gross told Trains magazine that had other railroads continued to operate RoadRailers then NS might have followed suit.

Instead, NS this month scaled back its RoadRailer operations to one lane, which carries automotive parts between Detroit and Kansas City.

Gross, who has been involved with the RoadRailer program since the 1980s told the magazine that RoadRailers worked best for shorter hauls.

He said they were ideal for the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast, and were well-suited for moving such freight as auto parts

However, as railroads focused more on hauling longer, heavier trains the RoadRailer train became an outlier, Gross said.

Gross, who described himself as a “true believer” in the RoadRailer concept, said that the NS decision to do away with most RoadRailer lanes represents a “missed opportunity” for the industry.

NS operated its RoadRailer service under the Triple Crown brand. Many NS RoadRailer trains that ran through Northeast Ohio had originally been Conrail trains.

Other railroads that operated RoadRailer service for a time included CSX, Amtrak and BNSF.

When it announced that it was doing away with most RoadRailer trains, NS said it would incorporate that traffic into general intermodal services.

The Triple Crown subsidiary of NS was based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. About 200 Triple Crown employees are expected to be out of work as a result of the restructuring.

RoadRailers were specialty trailers that did not need to be loaded onto a flat car. Although the technology dates to the 1950s, the concept did not take off until the 1980s.

Conrail and NS launched Triple Crown Services in 1986. The service moved 5,000 trailer loads during its first year, but by 2007 had grown to 294,000 loads a year.

Late Afternoon on the NS Sandusky District

November 28, 2015
Sandusky District Chatfield-x

An eastbound NS manifest freight is stopped north of Chatfield waiting on a signal on the Sandusky District of Norfolk Southern.

The same train shown in the image above captured earlier south of Attica.

The same train shown in the image above captured earlier south of Attica.

Crossing the Wheeling & Lake Erie in Chatfield.

Crossing the Wheeling & Lake Erie in Chatfield.

It doesn’t have mountain or any hills to speak of other than some mild rolling terrain. The tracks don’t pass any large bodies of water. In short, the Sandusky District of Norfolk Southern between Bellevue and Bucyrus is a bit, well, nondescript.

Yet, it is one of my favorite places in Ohio to railfan. Maybe that is because it reminds me a lot of east central Illinois where I grew up.

I had just finished photographing a Wheeling & Lake Erie train in Monroeville. It was almost 3:30 and I had less than a couple hours of daylight left.

I headed for the Sandusky District, taking a route I’d never traveled before.

I was going to Bucyrus and keeping an eye out for trains. Just south of Attica I saw a headlight behind me on the NS tracks.

I raced down Township Road 44 and did an across the field shot.

The train slowed to a stop north of Chatfield, presumably for a meet. That enabled me to get it a second time.

I continued to Bucyrus, seeing a second train stopped north of town, but I couldn’t find a road to the tracks that would come out by the head end of the train.

After taking care of some business in town, I headed back north. Clouds were moving in, the first sign of a front that would bring winter weather to Ohio over the next couple of days.

I stopped to photograph the grain elevator in Chatfield that sits next to the Wheeling & Lake Erie (ex-Akron, Canton & Youngstown) tracks.

As I got out of my car I heard the rumbling of locomotives. It was that train I had caught earlier finally getting the signal to proceed.

I wanted to get a down-the-W&LE tracks image. The locomotives had already passed before I could get into position. So I took what I could get.

It was time to head back east and it was getting dark. The chase had been short, but productive.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders


Grade Crossing Closing Gets PUCO Approval

November 28, 2015

CSX has received the approval of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to close a grade crossing in Morrow County near Galion.

Located at Bloomingrove-New Winchester Road in Washington Township, PUCO officials said the crossing ranks as the 110th most dangerous in Ohio out of 5,800 crossings.

A PUCO investigation determined that the crossing was particularly dangerous because of the level of train traffic, the speed at which the trains travel through the crossing, the lack of flashing lights and gates, poor sight distances, the unusual angle of approach and the distance between two sets of tracks.

The crossing is located on the Indianapolis Line of CSX between Galion and Marion.

C&O 1309 Firebox in ‘Like New’ Condition

November 28, 2015

Workers restoring Chesapeake & Ohio No. 1309 report that the firebox of the 2-6-6-2 locomotive is in “like new condition.”

The restoration is being undertaken at the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Officials of Steam Operation Corporation conducted an ultrasound study of the locomotive’s boiler last month and conclude that the C&O might have replaced the firebox late in the engine’s service career.

The testing showed several areas of the boiler and rear tube sheet that had erosion and other potential issues.

Although the boiler and rear tube sheet meet current Federal Railroad Administration standards, they will need to be patched in several places within the next three to five years.

Western Maryland Scenic General Superintendent Mike Gresham said the timeline to return the 1309 to service has been delayed in order to give shop forces additional time to make those patches and bring the boiler into substantially “as-built” condition.

“Although we could operate No. 1309 without repair to some of the corrosion damaged areas, it’s really the only logical decision to make repairs now while the locomotive is disassembled even if it means a delay to [No. 1309’s] return to service. Otherwise, we’d have to be making significant repairs to No. 1309 in three to five years,” Gresham said.

The Western Maryland Scenic has launched a “1309 Completion Campaign” fundraising effort that is seeking to reap $200,000. The railroad hopes to have the 1309 pulling trains by mid-2016.

“From its beginning, this has been a grassroots effort without the direct support of major corporations or the railroad industry,” WM officials wrote in a letter to supporters.

Donors who give a gift of $500 or greater will receive cab ride in the 1309 during a regularly scheduled excursion.

A donation of $1,000 or greater will earn 30 minutes of throttle time, which increases to an hour with a gift of $2,000 or more.

The 1309 is expected to return to service on July 24, 2016.

U.S. Railroad Workforce Count Fell in October

November 28, 2015

The workforce of U.S. railroads fell in October by 2.14 percent from that of a year ago the Surface Transportation Board reported.

Railroads employed 165,606 people in October, which was also down slightly from the workforce count in September.

On a month-over-month basis, the size of the Class I workforce fell in four of the six employment categories that the STB measures.

Pa. Short Line Extends Track for Limestone Mine

November 28, 2015

The SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority and the Nittany & Bald Eagle Railroad will build a track to serve a limestone mine.

The authority said in a news release that limestone from the mine will help the Homer City Generating Station become one of the cleanest coal-burning plants in the nation. Lime is used in scrubbers that reduce the emissions of power plants.

Graymont Limited mines high-grade limestone from the Valentine formation that will be used in the scrubbers at the Homer City power plant.

The new track extends from the end of the Pleasant Gap Industrial Track and will ensure sufficient railroad track capacity for additional lime shipments.

Each lime train must be in blocks of 45 with siding space for both a loaded and unloaded car set. The Graymont mine lacked adequate track space for the Homer City business.

A new yard was built to tie into new tracks that Graymont built on its property.

The lime trains will move from Nittany & Bald Eagle to Norfolk Southern and then to the Buffalo & Pittsburgh for final delivery to the power plant.

R&N To Take Ownership of Industry Park Track

November 28, 2015

Reading Blue Mountain & Northern will on Jan. 1, 2016, become the owner of the track of a Hazleton, Pennsylvania, industrial park.

The short line acquired the Humboldt Industrial Park track from CAN DO, Inc., and agreed to provide rail service as well as maintain the park’s 7.5 miles of track.

The original agreement called for R&N to assume ownership of the industrial park track at the end of 2016, but recent talks resulted in the ownership transfer date being moved up.

R&N will offer scheduled service to the industrial park and additional rail switching when business warrants it.

The railroad also will offer rail-car storage and personalized service for each customer.

“Each customer will have their own local account representative who can assist them with all their rail needs and any issues that arise,” said R&N President Wayne Michel.

Amtrak Depot in Pennsylvania Getting Upgrades

November 28, 2015

The Middletown, Pennsylvania, Amtrak station will get an upgrade under a plan approved by the Pennsylvania Public-Private Partnership board.

A private developer will design, build, finance, operate and maintain commercially viable facilities on state-owned parcels near the station while maintaining or expanding station parking,.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said in a news release that the developer will be  responsible for station maintenance.

Signed into law in September 2012, the Public-Private Transportation Partnerships Act allows PennDOT and other transportation authorities and commissions to partner with private companies to participate in delivering, maintaining and financing transportation-related projects.