Archive for August, 2016

Sunset on the NS Toledo District

August 31, 2016

_DSC5962 NS Toledo dist sunset RES

You could sit trackside for hours on the Toledo District of Norfolk Southern northwest of Oak Harbor and not see a train.

Although an important route to NS, it is not the railroad’s major traffic artery in and out of Toledo. But it is the only route into Toledo used by the Wheeling & Lake Erie, which has a pair of trains each day on the line that interchange traffic with Canadian National.

That the route is important to the Wheeling seems appropriate because it is part of the original W&LE route between Toledo and Wheeling, West Virginia.

It fell into the hands of the Nickel Plate Road when that railroad acquired the W&LE in 1949. Of course the NKP was acquired by the Norfolk & Western which evolved into Norfolk Southern.

For a few days in July, the sun sets right down the Toledo District tracks near Oak Harbor. But you need to know when that is in order to gt it.

Photographer Peter Bowler was a little late this year, but he still came home with a very nice image.

Photograph by Peter Bowler

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What’s in the Numbering of a NKP Steam Locomotive? Mystery, Intrigue and Subterfuge

August 31, 2016
NKP 765

Nickel Plate Road 765 pauses at Canton during a visit to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. When it returns in September it will be No. 767, a number it once wore as a stationary exhibit.

The visit of Nickel Plate Road 767, a.k.a., NKP 765, to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad next month has been getting attention that the locomotive’s owner has been able to cash in.

“It’s handy when a nod to history can be good programming and also create some buzz. It’s already stimulated more ticket sales for our upcoming trips at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in September,” wrote Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society vice president Kelly Lynch on TrainOrders.com.

Recently, the FtWHS renumbered 765 to 767 for ceremonies held at an open house to reveal plans for the Headwaters Junction park that will eventually serve as the home base for the 765.

As part of that, the 765 was given number 767, which it wore during the decade it was on display in Lawton Park in Fort Wayne.

The story of how 765 became 767 and then 765 again goes back to the late 1950s when the NKP was retiring the last of its steam locomotives.

The NKP had 80 2-8-4 Berkshire type locomotives built in the 1940s by Lima Locomotive Works.

No. 767 was chosen to participate in a celebration held Oct. 4, 1955, to mark the completion of a track elevation project through Fort Wayne, Indiana, that resulted in the closure of several street crossings. Its role was to break the ceremonial ribbon across the tracks.

Nearly three years later, No. 767 was stored serviceable, but never returned to service.

Because of its participation in the 1955 ceremony, the City of Fort Wayne asked the NKP to donate the 767 for display in Lawton Park.

Reportedly, East Wayne Roundhouse Foreman, A.H. “Hap” Adang decided that No. 765 was in much better condition than the 767 and to donate it instead.

The 767 had been stored outside and vandalized. The 765, though, had been stored indoors, had been a crew favorite on the Chicago-Fort Wayne run, and was mechanically complete.

Workers renumbered the 765 to 767 and the real 767 was scrapped in 1964. For years no one was the wiser except a handful of NKP employees and any friends they had told about the number swap.

After the FtWRHS was formed in 1972, its member began hearing reports about the number swap that had taken place more than a decade earlier.

As they disassembled the 767, they found parts marked 765. The steam dome also had the manufacturer’s date for the 765. Lynch explained in a TO posting that the 765 never actually operated as No. 767.

Another FtWRHS member posting on TO said the NKP did not change the monthly, annual or Form 4 documents at Cleveland headquarter to match, so when the fake “765” went off to Chicago to be scrapped in 1964, the ICC Form 4s for the real 765 were trashed by the Interstate Commerce Commission

“That was a problem when we got the 765 ready to return to service in 1979,” he wrote. “We then had to have a mechanical engineer reconstruct the documents and certify the boiler calculations to put her back into service.”

He said that monthly inspection reports for the 765 in December 1958 show that for two days it was in stationary service, thus making the 765 the last Berkshire under steam at the Nickel Plate.

Further investigation revealed that there were ways to distinguish the 767 from the 765.

The 767 had been rebuilt after colliding in Fort Wayne with a Wabash passenger train on July 15, 1951.

That accident, which killed four people and injured 13, occurred when the engineer of Wabash train No. 13 mistakenly thought the clear signal at the diamonds for NKP train No. 51 was for his train.

The 767 struck the Wabash train in the buffet car at 10:22 p.m. after the 767 engineer applied his train’s emergency brakes. Both trains derailed.

No. 767 was rebuilt at the Conneaut shops and returned to service. In the process, the 767 received a six-sided number board.

Lynch said that the locomotive placed in Lawton Park had a flat, hand-painted headlight number board. Home address numerals were placed in the “flying” number boards.

The faux 767 was placed in Lawton Park on May 4, 1963. Ten years later it was removed from the park to begin restoration, which was completed in 1979.

The 765 has operated under other numbers on occasion including in 1993 when it ran as Chesapeake & Ohio No. 2765. It made trips in that disguise between Akron and Pittsburgh that August.

The FtWRHS has indicated that the 765 will continue to operate as the 767 for the remainder of 2016.

And that brings us back to a question someone asked recently as to whether the 767 number plate is original. For that matter, is the number plate of the 765 an original.

In his posting on TO, Lynch showed a photograph of the 765 at East Wayne shops in the early 1960s sans its number plate and number boards.

They may have been scrapped in 1964, might be in someone’s basement or one or more of them might still exist.

There is always a little mystery surrounding a restored steam locomotive.

IP Looking Ahead as Hoosier State Celebrates First Year of Operation Under its Direction

August 31, 2016

Operation of the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State by Iowa Pacific Holdings has reached the end of the first year of a two-year trial and the results are promising and concerning.

Iowa PacificUnder IP oversight, the average on-time performance has been 86 percent, which was better than the OT average of Amtrak trains of between 60 to 65 percent.

Ridership, though, has fallen by 11 percent since IP took over the quad-weekly train from Amtrak on Aug. 2, 2015.

The Hoosier State was racking up financial losses that were on track to reach $2 million a year.

On the other hand, ticket revenue has increased by 26 percent and during June the Hoosier State even turned a small profit on the strength of increases in patronage and revenue.

IP head Ed Ellis has attributed that turnaround to growth in business class passengers, who pay a premium to receive food and beverage service while riding in a dome car.

The Chicago-Indianapolis route is different from other intercity corridors in that IP and Amtrak both provide service over it.

Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal uses the route and the Hoosier State operates on days that the Cardinal does not.

Ellis told West Lafayette radio station WBAA that the improved timekeeping is a result of establishing personal relationships with Amtrak and every freight railroad that hosts the train.

“I think, if nothing else, just that level of daily attention has caused everybody else to pay daily attention to the train and has solved the problem,” Ellis said.

For its part, IP has focused on ensuring that the equipment is ready to go at departure time, thus eliminating late departures that can have a ripple effect.

“ . .  . it’s when trains get out of slot that you get more host-related delays because they need to run freight trains. So leaving on time is important,” Ellis said.

The Hoosier State is not solely an IP train. Amtrak provides under contract the operating employees and does servicing in Chicago and Indianapolis.

IP provides the equipment and handles marketing and promotion although the train is shown on the Amtrak website and Amtrak sells tickets for it.

Funding comes from the Indiana Department of Transportation and five communities along the train’s route.

The Hoosier State costs about $2.7 million annually to operate. Eventually, all of the parties concerned would like to see it become more self-supporting financially. They would also like to see more service.

But Ellis said that will require additional sidings and signal work on the mostly-CSX route that would need to be paid for by the Indiana Department of Transportation.

“I think it’s obvious we need more trains, and the only way to do that is for the state to go to the freight railroads and say, ‘What does it take,’ and for the railroads to give us all a number and for us to decide if we can afford to do that,” Ellis said.

If Ellis had his way, he would create a new route into Chicago and use a different terminal.

What he has in mind is building a connection in Blue Island between the Metra line from Joliet to La Salle Street Station and the former Grand Trunk Western mainline that CSX now operates.

Writing on Train Orders.com, Ellis said that and other improvements could cost $500 million and cut the Chicago-Indianapolis running time to 3 hours, 20 minutes.

Ellis also would like to operate three daily roundtrips between the two cities.

He wants to trade Chicago terminals because Union Station is crowded but La Salle Street is not.

A new Chicago routing would eliminate running on tracks owned by Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and the Belt Railway of Chicago. In the process, IP would gain a faster route into Chicago and eliminate a congestion- prone junction with the Indiana Harbor Belt in Dolton.

If the money was available today, Ellis figures it would take a year to 18 months to complete the track improvement work. Given the realities of the situation he said it would more likely take until 2020 to get the improvements made and train frequencies increased.

“There is a lot of spade work that has to be done between INDOT, the [Indiana] legislature and CSX on infrastructure improvement,” Ellis wrote on TO.

But he sees progress, noting that revenue in July 2016 was 70 percent more than that of the same month in 2015.

“  . . . so the effects of improved service are beginning to take hold. But there is a long way to go,” he said.

Continued political support for Hoosier State funding appears to be building.

Indiana lawmaker Tim Brown, a Crawfordsville Republican, is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes the state’s biennial budget.

He admits to having been skeptical at first about funding intercity rail passenger service, but after riding the Hoosier State he came away with a favorable impression.

“This experience showed me there is a desire, there is interest in continuing it and growing it, and so I’m more convinced now more than two years ago that it’s more appropriate to continue funding,” Brown told WBAA.

Brown said that although it is too early to say how much will be allotted for the Hoosier State when the next budget is hammered out in 2017, he expects legislators to approve a line item for passenger rail in the INDOT budget.

Getting Lucky En Route to an ARRC Meeting

August 30, 2016
What a treat. The New York Central heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern on former Pennsylvania Railroad rails in Bedford.

What a treat. The New York Central heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern on former Pennsylvania Railroad rails in Bedford.

Last Friday afternoon I checked the Heritage Units.com site more out of curiosity than anything else.

The New York Central heritage unit was shown as having been spotted at Leetonia, Ohio, at 3:25 p.m. leading westbound Norfolk Southern train 15K.

Hmmmm, I thought. We might be able to catch it on our way to the Akron Railroad Club meeting.

The plan was for Ed Ribinskas and Jeff Troutman to arrive at my house between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Depending on how the train was doing we might be able to get it.

At 4:28 p.m. the 1066 was reported by Alliance. Figuring that it would take an hour to get to Bedford and a half-hour to get there from my house if we left by 5 p.m. there was still a chance.

Ed and Jeff arrived shortly before 5 and we got underway immediately. Jeff checked HU which reported that the NYC H unit was by Earlville at 5:03 p.m. That is west of Brady Lake, if I remembered correctly. It was going to be tight.

It might take only a half-hour in most circumstances to reach Bedford from my house but Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. is not most circumstances. Traffic was heavy and we kept getting dinged by stop lights and traffic back-ups.

We finally made it to Rockside Road only to find out the 15K has been seen at Macedonia at 5:18 p.m. My heart sank. That was nearly 15 minutes ago. We’re not going to make it.

I reached the intersection of Rockside and Broadway where a short distance to the west Rockside goes over the NS Cleveland Line. Could the 15K be passing beneath Rockside at that moment?

Jeff suggested that maybe a circuit would be down and the 15k would be delayed. He was grasping at straws.

As we turned onto West Glendale Street, I asked Ed and Jeff to look for the signal indication just west of there.

Jeff said he saw the top head of the signal for Track No. 2 go from amber to green. That was potentially good news because it meant a westbound was lined up.

It might also mean the westbound was running closely behind the 15K, which had just cleared the block ahead.

I pulled into the tot lot parking lot, got out, opened my trunk and picked my camera out of the bag. I also fumbled to get my scanner set up.

I feared hearing the 15K call a signal at CP 114 or some other spot west of our location at milepost 110.

Jeff reminded us that trains are going upgrade coming from Macdonia and they might have to slow while passing Motor Yard.

I wasn’t hearing anything calling signals west of us. Then the gates for West Grace Street went down. Maybe this was it. But as soon as the gate came down they went back up. False alarm.

There was a faint transmission that Jeff said sounded like the 15K talking. But where was it? East of us? West of us?

We didn’t have long to find out. The gates for Grace Street went down again. Seconds later we heard the rumbling of diesels and Jeff, who was the closest to the tracks  said, “that’s it.”

Indeed it was. That NYC mighty oval never looked so good.

We got our photographs, congratulated each other on our good fortune and left for Akron.

The 15K was a long train and was not moving very fast when it arrived in Bedford. It had taken it 24 minutes to go from Macedonia to Bedford.

Had we been able to stick around another hour, we could have seen the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage locomotive pass by on its namesake rails. But it was trailing and we had places to go.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

I thought we had missed it, but luck was with us in landing the NYC heritage unit.

I thought we had missed it, but luck was with us in landing the NYC heritage unit.

The going away view shows a better view of the lightning stripes on the body of No. 1066.

The going away view shows a better view of the lightning stripes on the body of No. 1066.

Detroit Streetcar Route Testing Begins

August 30, 2016

Track testing of the Detroit QLINE streetcar route because last week using a motorized inspection car.

M-1 Rail logoDetroit M-1 Rail, which will operate the 3.3-mile line along Woodward Avenue, said the speeder checked for obstructions and reviewed the physical dimensions of infrastructure to ensure proper maintenance of traffic.

M-1 Rail said installation of the overhead catenary system is 60 percent complete and that 85 percent of the poles have been installed.

Track installation is 83 percent complete. Revenue service is expected to begin in early 2017.

Pa. Lawmaker Optimistic About Added Service

August 30, 2016

A Pennsylvania lawmaker is predicting that additional Amtrak service could begin in western Pennsylvania within a year.

Amtrak logoUsing a football anology, Bryan Barbin, a Johnstown Democrat, said that additional trains are not at the first and goal position yet, but are five yards or less away from the goal line.

Barbin serves on the House Transportation Committee and spoke with Pennsylvania news media after a meeting of that committee.

He said Norfolk Southern will soon tell the state how much it would cost to increase passenger service.

Currently, the route between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg is served only by the daily New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian. The region has been lobbying for years for increased service.

Although expanded service has support on both sides of the political aisle, lawmakers say that the price and technical details must still be negotiated.

“This won’t come to a matter of if, but how much it costs,” Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia, said.

Lawmakers might gulp if NS demands costly new switches and track improvements.

“You’ve got to take one step at a time,” Barbin said. “But what do you need to make the western corridor more like the eastern corridor? You’d have to make improvements on both sides of the Allegheny Mountain.”

He said federal grants could help cover the costs for track improvements.

“Any time you have a tight budget like we have, it’s never small potatoes. But it’s possible to do it,” Barbin said.

Expanded rail passenger service to Pittsburgh has the support of Pittsburgh city government, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and the Blair County Chamber of Commerce.

Barbin said some in western Pennsylvania have been contrasting the paltry level of rail service in their end of the state with the scale of commuter rail operations in eastern Pennsylvania, particularly the Keystone Service trains from Harrisburg to Philadelphia and New York.

 

No Serious Injuries After Tank Car Leak

August 30, 2016

No serious injuries were reported but a chlorine leak from a tank car leak forced some residents in northwestern West Virginia and southeastern Ohio to evacuate their home last weekend.

CSX logo 3The evacuations occurred after a loaded tank car developed a small liquid chlorine leak inside a chemical facility in Proctor at Axiall Corporation’s Natrium chemical facility.

Axiall said in a statement that the plant was shut down while hazmat crews evacuated the railcar and the area of the leak.

One employee and a contract worker were treated at a nearby hospital, the company said.

The plant is located along the CSX Ohio River Subdivision between Parkersburg and Benwood, West Virginia.

Ousted Volunteers Behind ITM Recall Drive

August 30, 2016

Trains magazine reported Monday that a group of former volunteers at the Indiana Transportation Museum is behind a online petition drive seeking to remove the current directors of the museum.

The seven former volunteers have said they were dismissed last March after they complained to the Federal Railroad Administration and the Indiana attorney general’s office about alleged operating and financial improprieties at ITM.

Indiana Transportation MuseumJason Hardister, a spokesman for the volunteers, told Trains that he group began the recall drive.

He noted the ITM bylaws provide for the ouster of members of the board by a vote by members in good standing.

“We’re trying to save the place,” Hardister told Trains. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do all along, and we’ve been open and transparent about it. We don’t want to run the museum into the ground.”

The ITM has been unable to operate any excursions this year because the owner of the track that it uses, the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, has not allowed it.

The Port Authority said an inspection found the track was not in good operating condition. The authority has also sought records pertaining to the ITM’s operating crews.

Trains said it was unable to reach ITM Chairman Jeffrey Kehler for comment about the recall effort.

Bort Road Bridge Might be Razed

August 30, 2016

CSX and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation may close and remove the single-lane bridge carrying Bort Road over its tracks near North East, Pennsylvania.

A public hearing will be held todPennDotay (Aug. 30) at the North East Township Building by PennDOT and its consultants to review alternative transportation options connected with razing the bridge and not replacing it.

The meeting, which begins at 6 p.m., will feature a presentation followed by a question and answer session.

A report on TrainOrders.com, indicated that some North East area residents are seeking to save the bridge and have posted flyers on it seeking to get people to attend the hearing.

The flyers are accompanied by a color photograph of an eastbound CSX stack train passing beneath the bridge that was made by Akron Railroad Club President Craig Sanders and posted on the ARRC blog.

Bort Road crosses over the double-track CSX Erie West Subdivision at that location, but crosses the single-track Norfolk Southern Lake Erie District at grade.

Presumably, the NS crossing would be closed if the bridge is removed and not replaced.

With a Little Help From My Friends

August 29, 2016

BF 12 and stone train-x

NS train 68D is a heavy train of stone hoppers that delivers its loads to Shelly Materials at the Chrysler Yard in Twinsburg.

On the day that this image was made, the 68D stopped on Track No. 1 of the Cleveland Line in the vicinity of MP 114 in Cleveland to get a pair of pusher units, which came from the BF12.

The helpers were to give the 68D a hand as it worked its way uphill on the Crown Industrial Track, which diverges from the Cleveland Line at CP 102.

The helpers are shown going away at Bedford at MP 110. Ordinarily, I am not thrilled about shooting the tail end of motive power, but in this case there was something about it that I liked.

Maybe that is because having the BF12’s locomotives pushing elephant style helps convey that these are helper units.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders