Archive for April, 2016

Erie Heritage With the Erie H Unit in Cleveland

April 30, 2016

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The Erie Railroad heritage unit has been assigned to Norfolk Southern intermodal trains 22K and 23K for about a month now. Sometimes it leads, sometimes not, but until today (April 30), I had not been able to catch it.
One challenge in chasing H units is to somehow work in the actual railroad the heritage engine represents.

Catching the New York Central on the NYC or the Pennsylvania on the Pennsy is like a double bonus. Getting the Erie on the Erie is difficult to do in northeast Ohio.

But the 22K, which the Erie lea today, traverses the former Nickel Plate Road east of Cleveland and it passes former although now abandoned tracks that the Erie used.

The Cleveland Union Terminal hosted passenger trains from the NYC, Baltimore & Ohio, NKP and Erie.

This is appropriate as the Erie heritage is based on the two-tone green colors of Erie passenger engines and trains.

Another Erie connection is the Terminal Tower complex seen in the background. Passenger trains ended their run here but Erie also had its headquarters located in this complex.

The Erie at one time was a Van Sweringen road. The Van Sweringen brothers owned a consortium of railroads including the Nickel Plate, Erie, Chesapeake & Ohio and Pere Marquette.

They were also responsible for building the massive Terminal Tower complex, a Cleveland landmark.

Their intent was to merge these holdings into a giant rail system. Alas, these plans fell through and while Pere Marquette did merge with the C&O, the Nickel Plate and Erie went their separate ways.

I wonder how today’s rail network would look had this merger happened. It would likely have been a dominant player in the rail scene.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

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C&IM SD20s Reposing at Yanda

April 30, 2016

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There are four former Chicago & Illinois Midland SD-20s working their way to LTEX. Last Sunday afternoon I did a few photos of them over at Yanda in Youngstown.

All were, of course, nose coupled but once they are in LTEX there won’t be much chance of getting them.

All started life as Southern Railway SD24s. The Illinois Central Gulf rebuilt them as SD20s.

That’s CSX Q375 passing them in the top photograph.

Two of the units still had the original C&IM logo on the rear of the long hood.

Yet another photo shows one of the unit’s recent history in layers of stickers.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee

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CSX Executive Train to Visit Kentucky Derby

April 30, 2016

CSX plans to send an executive train to Louisville, Kentucky, for the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby on May 7.

The train will bring VIP guests and policymakers aboard a train pulled by F40PH locomotives.

Jay Westbrook, CSX assistant vice president of passenger operations, said that in some years the trains has had as many as 15 cars.

CSX logo 3Westbrook said CSX views the train as another way to serve customers and collaborate with Kentucky officials on new ways to spur economic development.

One passenger who won’t be aboard will be Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin. He was invited, but said he was unable to make the trip.

The train will deadhead from Jacksonville, Florida, to the Kentucky capital city of Frankfort in the days before the Derby.

It will depart Frankfort on the morning of the Derby, which is run in late afternoon.

CSX has arrangements to lease additional passenger cars if needed and to use R.J. Corman Railroad Group tracks between Frankfort and Anchorage.

Special trains to the Derby are as old as the race itself and at one time 12 to 15 special trains descended upon Louisville on Derby Day.

Some specials came from as far away as Texas, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, Atlanta, New Orleans and Chicago.

Upwards of 200 Pullmans would be parked near Louisville Union Station, with many of them providing hotel accommodations for the railroad guests.

Corman and Norfolk Southern have also operated specials to the Derby, but it is not yet known if the NS executive train will be a visitor.

The NS office car train did not operate this year to The Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

Steamtown Attendance Up in 2016 by 35%

April 30, 2016

Steamtown National Historic Site is crediting the return of a working steam locomotive for an uptick in attendance during the first three months of this year.

Last December the park completed restoration of Baldwin 0-6-0 No. 26 and rededicated it during a ceremony this month to mark National Parks Week.

Park serviceThrough March 31, more than 10,000 had visited Steamtown, an increase of 35 percent.

Park officials also credit a visit last year of Nickel Plate Road No. 765 with bolstering the 2015 attendance, particularly during September.

In September 2014, Steamtown saw 6,900 visitors, but in September 2015 when the 2-8-4 Berkshire was on the property the number of visitors exceeded 13,000.

For the year, Steamtown had 89,592 visitors in 2015 compared with 84,257 in 2014, an increase of 6 percent.

Recent attendance figures, though, are well below what the park has seen in the past.

More than 211,000 visited Steamtown in 1995 – the year it held a grand opening – and visitation was around the 150,000 through 2000. The record low visitation was 61,000 in 2006.

By way of comparison, the The Colorado Railroad Museum draws 100,000 annually, the B&O Railroad Museum sees 200,000 a year and the California State Railroad Museum enjoys annual attendance of 500,000.

Steamtown Superintendent Deborah Conway told Trains magazine that one reason for the lackluster attendance in recent years has been that it hasn’t done enough to encourage repeat visits.

Conway, who took at Steamtown in 2014, said the park is seeking to create new and interesting events that will make people want to come back.

This includes excursions and having more working steam locomotives.

The Steamtown shops are currently working to restore former Boston & Maine 4-6-2 No. 3713.

Other attractions will include new locomotives, new exhibits and new excursions.

The park plans to repeat in September its Railfes event, although it is not expected to feature main line steam like it did last year.

JetBlue Adding Cleveland-Boston Flights

April 30, 2016

JetBlue Airways will add next a third daily flight between Cleveland and Boston next week.

The new flight is oriented to business travelers and departs Cleveland Hopkins International Airport at 6 a.m.

“We are so pleased with the response from travelers in Cleveland,” said John Checketts, director of route planning at JetBlue. “That’s why we are adding a third JetBlue flight on the Boston-Cleveland route.”

JetBLueThe New York-based carrier also flies a single daily non-stop flight between Cleveland and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It began serving Cleveland in April 2015.

Checketts said JetBlue may look at other routes from Cleveland, but was non-committal on that on that prospect.

Travel consultant Henry Harteveldt told The Plain Dealer that Cleveland probably isn’t a top priority for expansion by JetBlue.

The Cleveland-Boston route is also served by United Airlines while Spirit Airlines provides seasonal service on the route.

JetBlue is known for its high customer satisfaction ratings due to offering an industry-high amount of legroom; complimentary snacks and drinks; free wi-fi; and live TV. It is the nation’s sixth largest airlines.

If JetBlue were to expand from Cleveland, it might offer flights to one of its other focus cities of Orlando, Florida; Long Beach, California; San Juan, Puerto Rico; or New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Harteveldt said getting service to JFK might be tough for Cleveland to land because most of those whose final destination is New York City prefer to fly to LaGuardia Airport, which is closer to the business and entertainment districts of Manhattan.

However, JFK is a major connecting point for travelers headed to Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

JetBlue’s Recker said Boston also is a popular connecting point for international travelers, noting that JetBlue has an alliance with Emirates Airline.

He said dozens of Cleveland business travelers travel daily to the Middle East through Boston.

The new schedule, which takes effect on May 5, will have JetBlue flights departing Cleveland for Boston at 6 a.m., 9:55 a.m. and 7:05 p.m. Return flights will depart from Boston at 7:15 a.m., 4:25 p.m. and 8:50 p.m.

The flights are provided with 100-seat Embraer 190 regional jets.

The schedule change will also see the Fort Lauderdale flight depart later at 4:40 p.m.

Youngstown-Chicago Flights to Begin June 13

April 30, 2016

Daily scheduled flights from Youngstown Warren Regional Airport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport are now set to begin on June 13.

That is two weeks later than had previously been expected, but will allow more time for federal officials to review the provider of the service, Aerodynamics Inc. The flight had been set to begin on June 1.

Youngstown AirportADI has said it will offer 10 weekly flights, ranging between one to two a day using 50-seat Embraer regional jets.

Although the Youngstown Warren airport is served by Allegiant Air, that carrier’s flights do not operate daily.

Allegiant’s service from Youngstown is oriented to three airports in Florida plus Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

A charter service also offers periodic public flights to Atlantic City, New Jersey; Tunica, Mississippi; and Gulfport, Mississippi. Those flights are oriented toward travel to casinos.

The Youngstown airport has been without daily service since Northwest Airlink dropped flights to Detroit in 2002.

ADI has said that its service to Chicago will connect with flights offered by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and JetBlue Airways .

Officials expect that most passengers flying to Chicago will be connecting passengers. However, flights will be timed to afford business travelers a day in Chicago.

In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Transportation needs to grant final approval to ADI’s scheduled domestic service authority.

ADI said it recently successfully completed a series of test flights to show the Federal Aviation Administration that the carrier is capable of operating safely.

An FAA official said an airline must complete at least 100 hours of test flights, all of which are performed without passengers aboard.

DOT will review the test flight information as well as requested financial information before deciding on ADI’s service authority

“We must have the final authorization in hand from the U.S. DOT before we can collect funds for the advance sale of these flights,” said Mickey Bowman, ADI’s chief operating officer in a statement.

Bowman said ADI expects to begin selling tickets and taking reservations for the Chicago flights by May 11 on its own website and at other travel sites by May 15.

“We need the 30-day advance ticket sales to make sure there are passengers booked on the aircraft when the service launches and into the future so we are not needlessly expending valuable funding and resources,” said Dan Dickten, director of aviation at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

ADI officials said fares will be range between $99 to $250 for a one-way trip.

Airport officials said that would be comparable with fares from airports in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Akron-Canton.

ADI also has a hosting agreement with Silver Airways, which will allow ADI to use Silver’s interline agreements with other airlines for connecting flights.

Penn Central Heritage Where You Least Expect it

April 29, 2016

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We had been in southwest Pennsylvania to check out the Cumberland Mine Railroad and were on our way back to Pittsburgh on Interstate 79.

Off to the side of the road was an unusual sight, a Penn Central trailer.

We just had to get a photograph of that so we doubled back, got off the interstate and drove a short distance along Montgomery Run Road, which runs parallel to I-79.

It is difficult to say how long the trailer has been parked there, but my guess is that it has been a long time.

Some metal panels are missing from the sides and the PC logo is faded but clearly visible.

An unoccupied blue pick-up truck was parked next to the trailer. It was not clear why that was the case as no one seemed to be around.

We got our photographs and then walked a short distance to photograph the historic Hughes Covered bridge over Montgomery Run creek.

You just never know what you are going to find when out searching for trains so keep an eye out for more than locomotives.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Another View of the Akron Brewing Building

April 29, 2016

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Roger Durfee and I both spent a great deal of time within view of the Akron Brewing building. Here is an image from an earlier time.

Westbound Erie Lackawanna 2504, Reading 3604 and Penn Central 1730 approach the same building on June 12, 1976, during the early Conrail “any lash-up goes” period.

Today, this scene is virtually all memories. The Akron Brewing building with its Admiral Television sign on a north wall, the EL, RDG, PC, most of the trackage, and the other building are history with only our memories and slides to help preserve the past.

The building, by the way, is being razed to make room for a rebuilding of an exit ramp from Interstates 76 and 77.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas

Another One of its Kind No. 611

April 29, 2016

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There is only one surviving diesel from the Lehigh & New England Railroad . . . and it was at Rockport last Monday. L&NE No. 611 is destined for restoration over east. It’s on a Read and Ready flat car. I was lucky the train in front of it was also flat cars.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Akron Metro Pondering Service Restructuring

April 29, 2016

Akron Metro wants to make changes. For the past month it has been holding public hearings and soliciting comments on its website as part of its Drive Forward campaign that is expected to result in changes to bus schedules and routes.

The transit agency has said that its guiding principles include matching service to modern travel patterns, strengthening its network structure, simplifying routes, fostering a transit-first lifestyle, and building financial stability.

Akron Metro 3Metro said its current route network is built to serve commuting patterns of the past. Its challenge is to realign routes to go where the greatest number of transit users live and work.

The last major route restructuring occurred in the late 1990s and Metro said many people and jobs have moved since then.

A 2013 study determined that 53 percent of Metro riders travel to and from work, which is significantly less than most transit systems.

“Therefore, we need to tailor our service to more than just work,” Metro said in a presentation. “Metro provides basic mobility for school, shopping, medical, and many other trip purposes.

Although 76 percent of businesses in Akron are within a quarter-mile of a Metro route, the transit agency’s radial-oriented route network creates difficulties for those wishing to travel across town or from one neighborhood to another.

Traditionally, Metro routes have been oriented to serving downtown Akron, but now Metro is seeking to create connections outside of downtown.

It is eyeing a grid network that it labels an “everywhere to everywhere model.” It will result in more transfers being needed for riders but also more frequent service with faster travel times.

As for simplifying its routes, Metro is considering adopting a clockface schedule that will provide a regular and consistent schedule, such as every half hour.

The current schedule has more frequencies grouped during certain periods of the day and Metro said it is difficult for casual or first-time users to understand.

Some routes also have as many as four different patterns. Metro is proposing replacing this with fixed routes that would not vary depending on the time, the day or the trip.

Increasing service is a key to encouraging a transit-oriented lifestyle. Metro noted that nowhere in Summit County does it provide frequent service seven days a week.

Metro also acknowledged that its fare box recovery lags the average for similar transit systems. Whereas Metro recovers 11.1 percent of its expenses at the fare box, its peer system average is 19.4 percent.

Related to improving its financial position is boosting ridership. In 2015, Metro ridership was nearly 400,000 rides below 2008 when it imposed a series of service cuts.

Although Metro has increased the service hours of its buses by 22 percent since 2005, ridership has not responded in kind.

In 2014, Metro had 5.2 million line service rides, but that fell to 5 million last year. The peak was 5.4 million in 2008.

Comments about how Metro’s service should be restructured can be left at its website at:

http://www.akronmetro.org/driving-forward.aspx