Archive for February, 2016

Back When Stack Trains Were a Big Deal

February 29, 2016

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If it weren’t for the small portion of the gray building being visible, many local railfans wouldn’t recognize this as Clinton.

What makes this photograph special is that it was taken during the brief period when double-stacks on CSX first ran through this area.

Norfolk Southern No. 8040 heads a westbound train through Clinton on July 29, 1985.

Today we may take CSX Q015 and Q016 for granted, but back then this was special.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas

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Amtraking East in Search of Trolleys and Other Delightful Railroad Museum Pieces in Connecticut

February 27, 2016
A Rail Diesel Car wearing New Haven markings pauses at the station in Thomaston, Connecticut.

A Rail Diesel Car wearing New Haven markings pauses at the station in Thomaston, Connecticut.

I recently traveled to New Haven, Connecticut, for the annual Cabin Fever outing hosted by the Shoreline Trolley Museum this year.

It’s a gathering of volunteers from many of the streetcar museums to swap lies and drink beer.

I traveled via Amtrak using the Capitol Limited, the Pennsylvanian and Northeast corridor Regionals.

Norfolk Southern offered us a two-hour delay in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, due to track work and deciding that five westbound freights were a higher priority.

That messed up my connection to a Regional train in Philadelphia. Then the Philly Fire Department provided an hour-plus delay.

My return via Washington worked out better. It was my first time on the Corridor and cruising between 115 and 125 mph was impressive.

The reduced consist of the westbound Capitol Limited felt like a milk run in comparison.

On Feb. 19, we had an RDC excursion on the Railway Museum of New England in Thomaston that included several photo stops and a tour of their shops.

Among the notable pieces in the collection are a Canadian Pacific sister to Jerry Jacobson’s No. 1293, a New Haven RS3, a Central Vermont wood caboose and a GE C40-B.

Other pieces include New Haven FL-9 and a U25B. Unfortunately, their yard is too crowded for good photos.

We spent Friday night and all day Saturday at the Shoreline Museum riding and operating cars from their fleet as well as exploring many barns full of quite interesting pieces from along the East coast and elsewhere.

All in all, I had a great time getting together with old friends and making new ones.

I recommend you plan a vacation to the Northeast. There’s a lot of railroading to experience up there.

Article and Photographs by Alex Bruchac

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A mid-‘20s vintage car at the end of the line in front of the Frank Sprague visitor center.

A mid-‘20s vintage car at the end of the line in front of the Frank Sprague visitor center.

A New England 1906 Railway Post Office car.

A New England 1906 Railway Post Office car.

A turn of the century New York City Third Avenue Brill-built car.

A turn of the century New York City Third Avenue Brill-built car.

This Connecticut Company emergency car (wrecker) was a ery noisy car to ride with all the tools hanging on the walls and crashing about.

This Connecticut Company emergency car (wrecker) was a ery noisy car to ride with all the tools hanging on the walls and crashing about.

A sad home town boy is RTA No. 27, a former Newark, New Jersey, and Minneapolis PCC.

A sad home town boy is RTA No. 27, a former Newark, New Jersey, and
Minneapolis PCC.

No. 745 was part of a seven car train trapped in the World Trade Center and only two to survive. The other is in a museum in Kingston, New York.

No. 745 was part of a seven car train trapped in the World Trade Center and only two to survive. The other is in a museum in Kingston, New York.

Amtrak Protests STB Policy Statement

February 27, 2016

Amtrak is arguing that a proposed U.S. Surface Transportation Board policy statement would give freight trains priority over passenger trains rather than the other way around.

In a Feb. 22 statement to the STB, Amtrak asked the federal regulatory agency to withdraw the policy statement because it  “ignores the plain and unequivocal language of Amtrak’s statutory right to preference, creates a new definition that eviscerates the right to preference, and draws broad, erroneous conclusions about relevant evidence based on that fundamental misinterpretation.”

STBAmtrak’s letter was referring to a statutory right of preference for passenger trains contained in the Amtrak Improvement Act of 1973.

The passenger carrier believes that if the policy change is approved then passenger trains running on tracks owned by freight railroads will experience a substantial increase in delays.

Nearly 97 percent of Amtrak’s route miles use tracks not owned by Amtrak.

The STB launched a rule making proceeding last year that seeks to create a definition of on-time performance for passenger trains hosted by freight railroads.

The proposed rule would only take into account a train arrival time at end points of the route.

Amtrak wants delays at en route stations to also be taken into account. The STB continues to solicit public comments on its proposals.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers also is calling for the STB to withdraw its policy statement on the preference change, saying the statement “overreaches federal law.”

NARP also believes that a change in policy would cause passenger rail-line delays, hinder on-time performance and lead to a costly toll on the rail-riding public.

“The STB issued this ‘policy statement’ behind closed doors and without any input from any outside parties and outside the formal rule-making process that is required,” said NARP President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Mathews in a statement. “As a result, regulators will change how intercity passenger services like Amtrak will be treated by host railroads, which have legal obligations to give passenger trains right of way.”

The Association of American Railroads has filed a statement in favor of the STB policy statement.

The railroad trade association argues that the passenger train preference legal standard is not absolute and “a host rail carrier need not resolve every individual dispatching decision between freight and passenger movements in favor of the passenger train.” The AAR’s statement can be found at:

http://www.stb.dot.gov/filings/all.nsf/ba7f93537688b8e5852573210004b318/10bab4309e186e9a85257f6100782022/$FILE/240185.pdf

CP Touts Letters Supporting Merger with NS

February 27, 2016

Canadian Pacific said it has received more than 80 letters of support from shippers who favor CP’s proposed merger with Norfolk Southern.

In a statement, CP claimed that the ratio of letters in support as opposed to opposing the merger is more than 3-1 in favor of the merger.

Canadian PacificSixty-two of the letters of support have been posted on the U.S. Surface Transportation Board website.

NS has rejected three overtures from CP to take control of NS by buying its stock.

In the meantime, the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO has expressed “grave concerns” that the proposed CP-NS merger might lead to a “final round of consolidation” in the railroad industry, which would result in “further reducing jobs, safety and service.”

The labor union said it remembers having lived through the “mega-mergers during the 1980s and 1990s that have left this country with only seven Class I freight railroads, transportation labor understands . . . the devastating impact these transactions can have on jobs, freight service and safety.”

TTD called on the STB, regulators and legislators “to use their review and oversight authorities to carefully monitor CP’s actions and reject merger schemes that harm the economy and the public interest.”

2 Closed Roads Foiled My CVSR Chase

February 26, 2016
Horizon Rail No. 8420 does its best to imitate a steam locomotive as it approaches Brecksville station.

Horizon Rail No. 8420 does its best to imitate a steam locomotive as it approaches Brecksville station.

Saturday, Feb. 20 was one of those rare winter days when you just had to be out. The forecast called for temperatures in the high 50s and mostly sunny skies.

I decided to stay local and started my odyssey on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

For some reason I decided to photograph the first southbound Scenic of the day at Jaite.

But Riverview Road was closed just south of Brecksville because of high water and I didn’t have time to figure out a detour route to Jaite. I settled for catching the train at Brecksville station.

I then figured out an alternate route to get to Jaite, but of course by the time I got there the Scenic was long gone. I was able to get ahead of it because it makes a stop in Peninsula.

On the spur of the moment, I decided to photograph the train passing the pond by the motorcycle club at the corner of Riverview and Smith roads.

Shortly before the train arrived, a lone Canada goose walked out onto the still-frozen pond, which gave the images a little more interest.

My plan was to drive into Akron and photograph the train at Northside station.

But Merriman Road was closed south of the crossing of the CVSR tracks so I abandoned that idea in favor of moving on to my next photo spot. Next time.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

During the winter, the CVSR Scenic does not stop at Brecksville station.

During the winter, the CVSR Scenic does not stop at Brecksville station.

The Saint Lucie Sound is a regular on the Scenic, but the caboose is not.

The Saint Lucie Sound is a regular on the Scenic, but the caboose is not.

The side of car "Spirit of Summit" catches the mid-morning sunlight as the Scenic passes through Brecksville.

The side of car “Spirit of Summit” catches the mid-morning sunlight as the Scenic passes through Brecksville.

Maybe this Canada goose is a railfan. If so, he must have been disappointed not see any Canadian Pacific rolling stock. But the trailing unit did used to belong to Canadian National.

Maybe this Canada goose is a railfan. If so, he must have been disappointed not to see any Canadian Pacific rolling stock. But the trailing unit did used to belong to Canadian National.

A good side view of the Saint Lucie Sound, which still lacks its CVSR markings other than the lettering.

A good side view of the Saint Lucie Sound, which still lacks its CVSR markings other than the lettering.

The goose is still wandering around as the Baltimore & Ohio tribute locomotive lumbers past.

The goose is still wandering around as the Baltimore & Ohio tribute locomotive lumbers past.

RRE to Sponsor Tour of Age of Steam Roundhouse

February 26, 2016

The Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts of Cleveland is sponsoring a tour of the Age of Steam roundhouse in Sugarcreek on May 14.

Age of  SteamThe two-hour tour will start at 10 a.m. Tickets are $20 per person and may be ordered from Marty Surdyk, 5850 Clearview Drive, Parma Heights, OH 44130.

Checks should be made payable to “Forest City Division — RRE Inc.”

Tour participants will be provided directions to the facility along with a liability form to sign upon the purchase of a ticket. The deadline to order tickets is May 2.

Ann Arbor Study Favors Light Rail System

February 26, 2016

Ann arbor map

A study has recommended building light rail transit for the proposed Ann Arbor Connector, a nearly 5-mile route that will connect the city’s downtown with the central and north campuses of the University of Michigan.

The project is a joint venture of the city, the university, the Ann Arbor Development Authority and the Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority.

Estimated cost of the system is between $560 million and $680 million. The line would be built in two stages with the first stage linking downtown with Plymouth Road/U.S. Route 23. The second stage would involve building south from downtown to the Briarwood Mall near State Street and Interstate 94.

When completed, the light rail line would have nine stations.

Evaluated as part of the study were light rail and bus rapid transit. Light rail was favored because it would provide a better long-term, sustainable solution consistent with project goals.

A bus system would have lower initial capital costs, but substantially higher annual operating costs.

Annual operating costs for light rail were put at $3.4 million and projected weekday ridership at 31,600 by 2040.
The study also concluded that passenger demand would exceed the practical capacity of a bus system.

A rail system could accommodate the forecast level of ridership with one- or two-car configurations.

The next step will be the development of a capital funding plan that will be part of the regional transportation funding process.

Funding is expected to come from federal and local sources, including the University of Michigan. Most of those riding are expected to be UM students, faculty, staff and visitors.

Another study will create a conceptual design and conduct an environmental review.

The Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program can provide up to 80 percent of the capital cost to construct fixed guideway transit systems, although federal funding usually doesn’t exceed 50 percent of the cost.

Rail Crude Oil Traffic Fell 16.8% in 2015

February 26, 2016

Crude oil traffic on U.S. railroads fell 16.8 percent in 2015, reflecting a slowing of domestic oil production.

The Association of American Railroads said that U.S. railroads moved 410,249 carloads of crude oil last year, which was down by 82,897 carloads from the 2014 figure.

AARIn 2015, crude oil accounted for 1.4 percent of total U.S. carloads, a slight drop from 1.6 percent in 2014.

There was good news, though, for U.S. railroads last week as intermodal traffic posted an 18.2 percent gain for the week ending Feb. 20 compared with the same week in 2014.

Carload traffic volumes, however, were down 5.7 percent with railroads carrying 244,747 carloads during the week.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups that AAR tracks saw increases. They included motor vehicles and parts, up 30.7 percent; miscellaneous carloads, up 22.5 percent; and nonmetallic minerals, up 6.4 percent.

Commodity groups that posted decreases during the week included petroleum and petroleum products, down 22.1 percent; coal, down 20.2 percent; and farm products (excluding grain) and food, down 5.7 percent.

For the first seven weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads have posted cumulative volume of 1,698,803 carloads, down 14.3 percent from the same point last year; and 1,815,728 intermodal units, up 7.3 percent from last year. The total combined U.S. traffic for the seven-week period was 3,514,531 carloads and intermodal units, down 4.4 percent compared the same period in 2015.

CSX Makes Fortune ‘Most Admired’ List

February 26, 2016

For the sixth time CSX has made the Fortune magazine list of the world’s most admired companies.

The magazine said that key attributes included the railroad’s reputation, including management quality, people management and long-term investment value.

CSX logo 1Union Pacific and CSX placed first and second place, respectively, within the truck, transportation, and logistics industry. Also recognized were Ryder Systems, C.H. Robinson, and J.B. Hunt.

Fortune considers nine factors that range from investment value to social responsibility. The list is then reviewed and approved by top executives, directors and analysts across different industries.

“As a premier transportation provider, we are committed to delivering safe and value-enhancing service for our customers, returns for our shareholders, opportunities for our employees, and respect for our neighbors,” said CSX Chairman, and CEO Michael J. Ward in a statement. “We’re focused on living our core values, which focus on safety, people, customers and integrity, to continue to create long-term, sustainable economic growth.”

In a news release, CSX said that over the past year it also has been recognized as a “Top 10 Company for Veterans” by G.I. JOBS Magazine, one of the “100 Best Places to Work in IT” by IDG Computerworld, a “Best Corporate Citizen” by Corporate Responsibility Magazine, and was ranked on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the fifth consecutive year.

Railroading as it Once Was: Seeing Conrail Blue on the former Erie Lackawanna Tracks in Akron

February 25, 2016

CR in Akron

The Erie Lackawanna was one of six bankrupt railroads folded into the Consolidated Rail Corporation on April 1, 1976.

The government-formed company soon adopted an identity of blue locomotives with a herald of the letter “C” on a set of rails below.

For a while, Conrail continued to use the ex-EL tracks in Akron. Locals worked in Barberton and Rittman and there was a train that ran all the way to Marion on the ex-EL.

In the photograph above, a Conrail westbound train will run the “Erie side” west of Akron on this July 1977 evening . The freshly-painted former Penn Central U25B looks good in it’s new blue livery.

In the background is the Interstate 76/77 bridge over the tracks. Note the Taber Coal Company building off to the right. Of course it has a pile of coal out front.

Photograph by Roger Durfee