Archive for May, 2016

Taking the Farkas Challenge: EL Akron Memories

May 31, 2016

EL image

If he was still here, the late Richard Jacobs might have been the first Akron Railroad Club to step up and take the Farkas challenge of providing a best or most memorable image made while railfanning in Akron.

But Jake died nearly a year ago so I am going to select my favorite photo of his that he made in Akron.

It is March 1976 and a westbound Erie Lackawanna train sits beneath the Thornton Street overpass near the Erie yard in downtown Akron. The EL has less than a month to live before it is folded into Conrail.

Once that happens, much of the EL in Ohio and Indiana is going to be doomed as the planners who created Conrail saw no use for it except, perhaps, if purchased by another railroad(s).

But on this day the EL is still the EL and looking quite sharp.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the brightly-painted EL locomotives provided a splash of color compared with the dark tones and Spartan liveries of Penn Central and the Baltimore & Ohio.

EL No. 3652 is an SDP45 that was designed for passenger service, but the EL acquired 34 of them and assigned them to freight service.

The SDP45 was a stretched version of the SD45 and its longer frame enabled the installation of larger fuel tanks. That meant a train could run between Chicago and the East Coast without having to refuel.

This image was published in my book Akron Railroads. Had Jake still been around when I was working on the color version of Akron Railroads I’m sure he would have allowed me to use it.

This image not only portrayed the EL well, but it also is good reflection of the Akron railroad scene before the great transformation began in the late 1970s that has wiped out much of the railroad infrastructure in downtown Akron.

Whenever I look at this image, I will always remember Jake. I can see him sitting next to the EL tracks somewhere west of Akron on a Sunday afternoon taking in the action of one of his favorite railroads.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Richard Jacobs

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Erie/EL Stations of the East: Rutherford, NJ

May 31, 2016

Erie Rutherford Station Built 1897

Erie Rutherford Station 2

Part 2 of a Series

The Erie Railroad had its start in New York/ New Jersey. As a result, the Garden State has some very old and unique stations, some of them dating from 1871.

Most of these stations still serve commuters seven days a week. Most have open waiting rooms but no ticket agents.

Only Mahwah does not remain in its original location. The tracks are about 200 feet away.

The station at Port Jervis, New York, also housed the Delaware Division offices. Most of the pictures in this series were taken within the past two to three years and show current conditions of the stations.

Today we view the Rutherford, New Jersey, station, which was built in 1897. Shown are the exterior and waiting room.

Article and Photographs by Jack Norris

Ohio Increases Public Transportation Funding

May 31, 2016

Ohio has increased its funding of public transportation for the first time in more than a decade.

The Ohio General Assembly this month approved a supplemental appropriation for the Ohio Department of Transportation that increased transit funding by $8.2 million.

ODOT 2The move reversed slightly a 15-year decline of state spending for public transportation from $42 million to $7 million.

The increase in funding comes from $6.8 million from a federal TIGER grant and $1.4 million in other federal funding.

Most of the increase will go to the Transit Tech Ohio project to help rural transit agencies purchase hardware and software that allows them to schedule and dispatch transit vehicles more efficiently.

Other funds will be used to reduce fares for elderly passengers.

The legislature, though, tabled amendments by state representatives from Cleveland and Cincinnati to boost transit funding to $97 million annually.

Grand Opening Set for Cincy Streetcar Line

May 31, 2016

A Sept. 9 grand opening will be held for the Cincinnati streetcar system that is under construction.

CVG streetcarThe event for the 3.6-mile line will be a week before the traditional Oktoberfest.

The opening is expected to be on time and under the project’s $147 million budget.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has indicated that surplus funds from the streetcar project will be used for non-transit projects rather than to plan the expansion of the streetcar line to Uptown to serve the University of Cincinnati and nearby hospitals.

Chicago-Youngstown Flights to Begin July 1

May 31, 2016

Scheduled daily airline service between Chicago O’Hare International Airport and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport is now set to launch on July 1.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently approved an application by Aerodynamics Incorporated to provide the service.

Youngstown AirportThe approval came after ADI provided documentation to the DOT that it was financially strong enough to provide the service.

ADI’s documentation said that the investment company of owner John Beardsley is committed to providing the $905,000 that DOT said was required to meet its financial fitness test.

Another letter from Riverview Community Bank of Portland, Oregon, said Fountain Village Investments, which Beadsley owns, has a checking account with a balance in excess of $1 million.

ADI had initially said it would begin service using regional jet aircraft between Chicago and Youngstown on June 13. But that date was pushed back after DOT asked for more information from ADI.

Back in March, airport officials had spoken about the service starting in mid to late May.

Buffalo Central Union Terminal Redevelopment Financing Tied to Building Adjacent New Housing

May 31, 2016

The iconic Buffalo Central Terminal will be developed by a Toronto developer who also plans to construct housing in the neighborhood surrounding the long-closed train station.

Central Terminal is owned by Central Terminal Restoration Corporation and its rehabilitation will be financed by the sale of 400 to 500 new townhouses.

Developer Harry Stinson earlier won approval of the Buffalo Common Council to develop a master plan to transform the railroad depot into a mixed used facility that would include a hotel and banquet facilities.

Stinson will spend the next six months meeting with pubic officials, preservationists and neighborhood stakeholders to refine the station’s master plan.

He must buy the land for the townhomes from the city and pay it $1,000 a month during the length of the six-month agreement, which can be extended by six months.

Stinson said he expects to invest up to $100 million on the Central Terminal building.

He expects to sell the townhouses for $200,000 to $300,000 apiece and target them toward employees of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

He told the city that townhouses will help to create neighborhood that will have the feel of a village.

Some business that would cater to that neighborhood could be located within the station building.

Central Terminal opened in 1929 and closed in 1979. It once served 200 trains and 10,000 passengers a day.

A non-profit group acquired the station in 1997 with the idea of restoring it.

It has since repaired the four clocks on the office tower and reopened the main concourse in 2003.

Sampling the Railroad Action of Central Florida

May 30, 2016
IMG_5547

Amtrak’s Silver Star crossing the St Johns River at Sanford, Florida.

The southbound Autotrain at Sanford.

The southbound Autotrain at Sanford.

The Silver Meteor makes a station stop at Deland, Florida.

The Silver Meteor makes a station stop at Deland, Florida.

Florida East Coast train 101-29 at Daytona Beach, Florida.

Florida East Coast train 101-29 at Daytona Beach, Florida.

An FEC train crossing the Tomoka River at Ormand Beach, Florida.

An FEC train crossing the Tomoka River at Ormand Beach, Florida.

A Sunrail commuter train at the station in Debary, Florida.

A Sunrail commuter train at the station in Debary, Florida.

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Akron Railroad Club member Todd Dillon was in Florida this past weekend and sends along these images from the Sunshine State. He caught some Florida East Coast, Amtrak and Sun Rail commuter trains.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

Erie/EL Stations of the East: The Stately Lackawanna Terminal in Hoboken, NJ

May 30, 2016

DL&W Hoboken Terminal Built 1907

First of a Series

New Jersey is big on preservation and many communities have preserved and/or restored their train stations.

Except for Mahwah, Waldwick, Middletown and Port Jervis, all of these stations still provide their waiting rooms for daily commuters using New Jersey Transit trains.

Only Mahwah does not sit in its original spot. It is now located about 200 feet from the tracks it once served.

In this first of a five-part series, Jack Norris takes us on a tour of Erie Railroad and Erie Lackawanna passenger stations in New Jersey and New York on the former New York Division.

We begin with the Lackawanna Terminal in Hoboken, New Jersey. This became the terminal for all EL passenger trains after the October 1960 merger of the Erie and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western.

Lackawanna Terminal opened in 1907. The exterior is copper and the waiting room ceiling was made by Tiffany (yes, THE Tiffany).

The original clock tower was removed in the early 1950s due to it being unstable. The clock tower you see is a recreation that New Jersey Transit installed in 2008.

During Superstorm Sandy, 5 feet of sea water and mud filled this waiting room. That is about a foot or so above the ticket window counters.

Article and Photographs by Jack Norris

Hoboken Terminal Entrance

Hoboken Ticket Windows

HobokenTiffany Ceiling

Orange Barrels Sprouting on NE Ohio Roads

May 30, 2016

Looking for highway construction this summer? There will be no shortage of construction zones on the interstate highways of Northeast Ohio, particularly in Akron and Summit County. Here is a summary of projects that are either underway or expected to begin this year.

ODOT 2In Summit County, Interstate 76 is going to present a challenge to motorists with four separate projects in the works.

Two of the projects are already underway, but inconvenience has thus far been minimal. That is about to change.

Demolition has been underway for several weeks of a cluster of buildings that are being removed to make way for a new interchange of I-76/I-77 with South Broadway and South Main.

As part of this $149 million project, interchanges at Wolf Ledges Parkway and Grant Street will be closed. Work won’t be completed until October 2019.

Also underway is a $20 million project to remove three bridges on I-76/I-77 over Johnston Street in Akron.

However, work will ramp up in August with three ramps being closed. These include the Ohio
Route 8 ramp to westbound I-76, the I-77 northbound ramp to I-76 westbound, and the I-76 eastbound ramp to I-77 southbound.

During the project, which is expected to be finished in July 2017, two lanes of traffic in each direction will be maintained.

On June 3-4, the eastbound lanes of the Kenmore leg of I-76 will be closed for striping. The westbound legs will be striped after that.

When finished, the highway in both directions will expand from two to three lanes.

That project will also involve some changes in traffic patterns at the interchanges of I-76 and I-277/U.S. 224.

Starting in July, a $97.6 million project to widen I-76 from two to three lanes between Ohio Route 21 and Central Avenue in Norton and Barberton will get underway.

The work also include replacement of the pavement between Ohio 21 and the Summit-Medina county line. The project is expected to finish in July 2019.

Construction on I-271 will continue through 2020. Yes, you read that right.

Currently, work is underway to widen the road in Macedonia, including work on bridges and entrance/exit ramps. That $48.1 million project is finally set to end in October.

But by then another massive rebuilding of I-271 will be underway, starting in July. The road will be widened through Bedford, Bedford Heights, Oakwood and Warrensville Heights.

During the $117 million project, ODOT will maintain traffic in all three lanes of traffic in each direction.

Work in Richfield and Richfield Township to replace pavement and repair nine bridges on I-271 will continue this year and through July 2017. The $49.8 million project has been underway for the past few years.

Two projects will continue on I-80 near Youngstown. This includes a $102 million project to replace and widen the pavement in Mahoning County from four to six lanes. That work won’t be finished until July 2018.

A $13.2 million project to replace two bridges on I-80 over Mt. Everett Road in Trumbull County is expected to be finished this October.

I-90 is relatively free of road work this year, but construction continues on a $70.6 million project to replace pavement in Ashtabula County.

The $70.6 million project has been ongoing for the past few years and is expected to be finished in November.

The Ohio Turnpike is replacing pavement on a five-mile stretch from Streetsboro to Shalersville Township in Portage County. That work is slated to be finished in November.

Bridge work on the turnpike is also being done this year in Elyria Township in Lorain County while pavement is being replaced in Jackson and Austintown in Mahoning County.

U.S. 30 is being repaired and resurfaced between Canton and Ohio Route 43. That $13 million project also includes bridge work on I-77, U.S. 30 and U.S. Route 62. The project is projected to be finished in October.

AAO Wants Faster Amtrak Trains in Ohio, Indiana

May 30, 2016

Rail passenger group All Aboard Ohio is seeking to prod public officials in Ohio and Indiana into seeking federal funds to be used to upgrade Amtrak routes in the two states in order to provide higher speeds.

AAO noted that under federal regulations positive train control systems enable passenger trains to exceed the 79 mph speed limit when track conditions and grade crossing safety devices allow it.

Amtrak logoWith railroads hosting Amtrak trains in the two states working to install PTC, AAO said that reconfiguring grade crossing for higher train speeds could enable Amtrak trains to reach sustained speeds of 90 mph.

An AAO policy statement noted that these routes have good track and long tangents.

Grade crossing circuits would needs to be lengthened, which could cost $50,000 per crossing.

The rail group noted that the Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Highway Administration have funding that could be tapped to pay for that work.

One particular beneficiary would be the Chicago-New York Cardinal, which has a top speed of 60 mph on its mostly CSX route between Chicago and Cincinnati.

AAO estimated that upgrading grade crossings would cost about $7 million and cut the running time of the Cardinal  by up to an hour.

Reconfiguring the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern used by the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited west of Cleveland would cost about $15 million.