Archive for March, 2016

My Latest Quest in Kent

March 31, 2016
Yonder comes an eastbound auto rack train on the CSX New Castle Subdivision on the east side of Kent.

Yonder comes an eastbound auto rack train on the CSX New Castle Subdivision on the east side of Kent.

My objective was to feature the lead locomotive of the eastbound CSX auto rack train with standing stone in the Cuyahoga River. Even with a wide angle lens the best I was able to do was include only a portion of the nose.

My objective was to feature the lead locomotive of the eastbound CSX auto rack train with standing stone in the Cuyahoga River. Even with a wide angle lens the best I was able to do was include only a portion of the nose.

With warmer than usual weather during the winter, I was able to get out more often on the Portage Hike and Bike Trail.

The trail runs parallel to the CSX New Castle Subdivision for a short distance near Kent. I would take my camera along because you never know when a train might come past.

I’ve yet to pull it off the way I wanted to, but my latest quest is to get a train with the Cuyahoga River in the background.

The good news is that I’ve done it twice. The bad news is that the shot works best with a westbound and the two trains I’ve had thus far when I was there were eastbounds.

But that is why you go on a quest. You might not find what you are looking for in the first few expeditions, but if you keep working at it you’ll reach your goal.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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NS Offers Opening on CP Merger Talks

March 31, 2016

As expected, Canadian Pacific has filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission a shareholder resolution to be voted upon at the annual meeting of Norfolk Southern on May 12 that directs the NS board of directors to conduct “good faith discussions” about a merger.

The Calgary-based CP intends to send letters to NS shareholders to outline the value of the proposed merger.

Canadian PacificNS told the SEC in a proxy that it believes the CP-sponsored resolution is unnecessary because the NS board would be willing to discuss a merger with CP if the Canadian carrier obtains a declaratory order from the Surface Transportation Board and is willing to increase its offer.

CP has made three offers to acquire NS stock, but the NS board has rejected all three proposals.

The NS proxy filing signaling a willingness to discuss a merger was greeted warmly by CP.

“CP has consistently stated that we are open to discussing all terms of a potential deal, including price, but we can’t negotiate with ourselves,” said CP Chief Executive Officer E. Hunter Harrison in a news release. “Given we have also asked the Surface Transportation Board for a declaratory order on the voting trust model we were pleased to hear that Norfolk Southern may now be willing to engage in direct face-to-face discussions.”

In its statement of opposition, the NS board wrote that:

  • It is open to all feasible alternatives to drive shareholder value.
  • It has confidence in NS’ strategic plan, which aims to boost revenue and cut costs to reduce the railroad’s operating ratio to 65 percent by 2020.
  • It has clearly communicated its concerns regarding CP’s acquisition proposals.
  • CP has not addressed the board’s concerns regarding the value of its three merger offers or the regulatory risks of a merger.

It is unclear if the STB will issue before the NS annual meeting a ruling on the CP voting trust even though CP asked for one by May 6.

STB spokesman Dennis Watson said he couldn’t say when the board might rule.

Watson said the STB could issue a decision based on initial evidence or might begin a proceeding to ask the parties to submit additional evidence.

The latter would likely move a ruling by the board to date after the NS annual meeting.

“We have not heard anything from the STB on timing, and we are proceeding with our shareholder resolution,” said CP spokesman Martin Cej.

Although voting trusts are commonly used to insulate companies from unlawful control during a merger review process, CP has proposed an arrangement that the STB has never ruled upon.

CP proposed putting itself and not the company it wishes to acquire, into a trust. Harrison and other CP executives would sever their positions with CP and, presumably, take over as managers of NS.

Earlier, the STB set a deadline of April 8 for interested parties to file statements and participate in the declaratory order process.

Steamtown To Offer Free Admission

March 31, 2016

As part of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pennsylvania will offer free admission.

Park serviceThe 100th anniversary celebration will take place the week of April 16-24. A dedication ceremony on April 17 at 11 a.m. will feature restored Baldwin 0-6-0 No. 26. The locomotive was returned to steam last December.

Built in 1929, No. 26 served the Jackson Iron & Steel Company. Steamtown acquired the 0-6-0 in January 1990. The ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 17.

No. 26 will pull trips of the Scranton Limited between 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on April 17. The fare will be $5 per person.

Railroading as It Once Was: The EL on Akron’s East Side was Still Busy in Conrail’s Early Years

March 30, 2016

TV98 on EL

The former Erie Lackawanna on the east side of Akron was still a busy route in the early years of Conrail. Traffic carried between Chicago and the East Coast by the EL before the inauguration of Conrail continued to use ex-EL tracks east of town.

This was particularly the case with intermodal trains that originated or were bound for Croxton Yard in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The above scene has something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

The old is intermodal traffic on the ex-EL while the new is the train’ s symbol, TV 98. That’s a Conrail symbol.

The blue is the color of the freshly painted Conrail locomotives that are trailing in the motive power consist.

The borrowed is time. The lead unit is a former Reading GP40-2 that still wears, in part, its original livery, albeit with some modifications made by Conrail to show its new identity. It won’t look that way for much longer.

This operation is also living on borrowed time. It won’t be long before these trains will be steered to another route and the ex-EL east of Akron will become a branch line used only by locals.

Photograph by Roger Durfee

‘McKay Day’ at Berea is this Saturday

March 30, 2016

The Akron Railroad Club’s 12th annual Dave McKay Day will be held in Berea on Saturday, April 2.

The outing is held in memory of the ARRC’s longest-serving president. McKay served as president for 12 years before stepping down in December 2004.

ARRC logoAs always, ARRC members, guests and friends are invited to spend the day in Berea watching the action on the Norfolk Southern and CSX mainlines.

We can expect to see a diverse mixture of traffic on both railroads, including intermodal, automotive, manifest, minerals and tank car trains carrying crude oil or ethanol.

The trains of both railroads sometimes feature locomotives from other railroads, particularly BNSF, Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific and Canadian National.

CP has a pair of run-through trains between Chicago and Buffalo, New York, that use CSX tracks. At least one of those might pass through during our time in Berea.

The outing begins when the first member arrives and ends when the last person leaves.

It will be early April so who knows what kind of weather we will have. Past McKay Days have featured everything from shirt sleeve temperatures to heavy snow.

A few members have been having dinner at the end of the day at the Berea Union Depot Taverne. That tradition will continue this year.

Parking is available in the far west end of the restaurant parking lot or across Depot Street on private property owned by railfan Ed Gibbs.

The radio frequencies in use by trains in Berea are 161.070 and 160.980 on NS and 160.800 and 160.860 on CSX.

Toledo Still Holding National Train Day

March 30, 2016

It may no longer be called Amtrak National Train Days, but a national train day celebration will continue in Toledo this year and Amtrak might be a part of it.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari declined to confirm an assertion by the organizers of the Toledo event that it will send passenger cars to Toledo for the May 7 event to place on display as it has done in previous years.

Norfolk Southern plans to send its “Honoring First Responders” locomotive, which carried roster number 9-1-1

Amtrak 4The units is painted in a livery of  red, white, and black. Show organizers say they are planning a ceremony to honor the region’s first responders as part of the event.

The Toledo event also will feature an open house at Central Union Terminal, which is now named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza.

This will be the ninth train day in Toledo and as in past year there will be operating model railroads along with railroad-themed vendors, safety exhibits, children’s activities and musical entertainment.

Amtrak said earlier this year that it was ending its sponsorship of National Train Day.

Amtrak’s Magliari said that before National Train Day began in 2008 that the passenger carrier would on occasion send an equipment display to various cities for promotional purposes.

“Each event request every year, everywhere, will continue to be considered,” Magliari said.

NS Sets Annual Meeting for May 12

March 30, 2016

Norfolk Southern has set May 12 as the date for its annual meeting during which Canadian Pacific interests are expected to ask NS stockholders to vote on a resolution mandating merger discussions with CP.

NS logo 1The resolution would direct NS management to meet with CP management to discuss a merger. NS management is opposing the resolution.

In a letter sent to NS employees, CEO James Squires said he will discuss during the meeting the progress the company has made in its five-year strategic plan to streamline operations and increase profit.

Squires said NS stockholders might receive proxy materials from CP pertaining to the resolution it has proposed to direct NS to talk merger with CP.

Another Successful ‘Easter Egg Hunt’

March 29, 2016

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Over the Easter weekend I ended up with some colorful lashups while railfanning in a sort of Easter Egg hunt.

On Saturday I got a GATX GP15 going west on a Norfolk Southern freight at Alliance. Later that afternoon I caught a “skittles” lashup of Wheeling & Lake Erie power at Summit Street in Akron.

On Sunday, I found a Union Pacific GE in a westbound NS coal train. The engines were making some nice smoke effects.

Finally, I got an eastbound oil train which I chased down the Bayard line. A scenic photo at the dairy farm at Moultrie finished off my weekend.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Detroit Street Car to be Named QLINE

March 29, 2016

Quicken Loans already has its name on a sports arena in Cleveland and now the Michigan-based company will soon see its name on the Detroit streetcar line.

M-1 Rail logoThe finance company and M-1 Rail announced last week that the streetcar system will be known as the QLINE and cars will feature a stylized “Q” logo that they said “symbolizes the connectivity accomplished through the rail line.”

Quicken Loans received the naming rights to the streetcar line last May due to its financial support for the project. The companies will also be one of 20 station sponsors.

“The launch of this modern streetcar marks a monumental moment in the development of Detroit in the 21st Century,” said Quicken Loans President and Chief Marketing Officer Jay Farner in a statement. “Quicken Loans is proud to play our part in the beginning stages of modernizing the transit system in our burgeoning urban core.”

The QLINE is expected to be completed late this year. The first streetcar will be delivered during the fourth quarter.

Cars will operate at a top speed of 35 mph over a 3.3-mile route from Congress Street in downtown Detroit to West Grand Boulevard. Construction began in 2014.

W.Va. Tourist Railroads to Swap Locomotives

March 29, 2016

Two West Virginia tourist railroads plan to swap locomotives this year.

Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Climax No. 3 is being taken to the Cass Scenic Railroad while Cass Heisler No. 6 will go to the D&GV.

Cass ScenicTrains magazine reported that No. 3 will be rebuilt to meet Federal Railroad Administration standards.

“Rather than shut down the Durbin train while No. 3 is out of service, we decided to take No. 6 up there,” said John Smith, the president of the D&GV. “By next Christmas, we hope to be able to run No. 3 back up there and bring No. 6 back to Cass on the old C&O line.”

Smith said No. 3 needs some boiler work whereas shop forces are close to finishing the FRA-mandated 1,472-day work on No. 6.

Flooding more than 20 years ago damaged portions of the former C&O Greenbrier branch between Cass and Durbin.

The D&RG has since reopened five miles of the line south from Durbin. Last year, two miles of track was rebuilt north from Cass.

“We’ll work upstream from Cass this summer,” Smith said. “There’s about nine miles to go including four good-sized washouts, and we’ll put in 8,000 ties.”