Taking the Farkas Challenge: B&O on ‘The Hill’

Farkas Woodring

If you have spent any time railfanning in Akron you already know about “the hill.”

It is a railfanning spot that has been frequented by Akron railroad photographers for generations.

Name a member of the Akron Railroad Club who has photographed trains in Akron and chances are he has spent time on “the hill” making photographs.

The late Robert E. Redmond hung out there a lot in the late 1950s documenting the last days of steam motive power on the Baltimore & Ohio.

In his younger years, Paul Woodring spent time there, too, documenting the B&O in a different era.

His image of four B&O GP40s all wearing the same 1960s era solid blue livery is my nomination on his behalf for the Farkas challenge.

He made this image of an eastbound train in September 1984 when it was still the Chessie System. By then such a motive power consist would not have been common.

Paul’s photo of the “blues brothers” as he called it, will appear in the color version of Akron Railroads that will be released later this year.

It is a photo that he really liked and wanted to see it included in the book.

“The hill” goes by a number of names, including “Bettes Corner” and “Home and Tallmadge.” These names refer to the nearby streets.

Although most often associated with the B&O, “the hill” also had tracks belonging to the Pennsylvania Railroad. In fact, that track cutting across the lower right-hand corner is the ex-PRR.

Most of the images you’ll see that have been made here are of eastbound trains. Photographing westbound trains just doesn’t seem to work out as well because the train is going away from you into an S curve.

Another reason to favor eastbound trains is because they are working up a 1.05 percent grade from Akron Junction to Cuyahoga Falls, the steepest on the Akron Division of the B&O.

In steam days, as many as four locomotives might be coupled together to get a train up the hill. But even one steamer pulling a train up that grade could make for an impressive sight.

Many photographs made of trains working up the hill have featured the A. Schulman, Inc., facility in the background. It’s hard to miss and is as much an Akron landmark here as the railroads themselves.

Over time, change came to the hill. The PRR became Penn Central which developed into Conrail. Today, the former Pennsy line here has been removed.

The A. Schulman facility has expanded but otherwise has been a constant for decades. Of course the B&O morphed into the Chesssie System which evolved into CSX.

The hill has never been among Northeast Ohio’s premier railfanning spots and I’m not sure that it is the favorite of Akron fans today.

Brush and weeds growing along the top of the hill overlooking the tracks present a challenge in getting a clear look. At times, railfans have voluntarily trimmed the weeds at the site.

Although you can see everything that CSX puts through Akron on “the hill,” Voris Street not only has clearer sightlines but also features Akron Barberton Cluster trains exercising their CSX trackage rights.

Nonetheless, no story of the history of railroads and railfanning in Akron is complete without paying tribute to “the hill.”

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Paul Woodring

 

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2 Responses to “Taking the Farkas Challenge: B&O on ‘The Hill’”

  1. Bob Says:

    Great shot. This image of four eastbound “blues” on the hill brings back good memories. Thanks for posting this.
    Bob

  2. Paul Woodring Says:

    Thanks for posting this, Craig, although you steal some of my thunder from my August program. I am almost certain that this lash-up was no accident. That there was either a B&O fan or partisan in the Willard Diesel shop who saw the opportunity to put them together and did, whether or not he hoped some fan would capture them on film together between Willard and New Castle. At least I’d like to think that’s the way it happened. There was a train master in Baltimore who liked to put consecutively numbered units together whenever he could, so things like that happen.

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