Archive for January, 2017

Last Runs for Orange Blossom Cannonball

January 31, 2017
Making a backup move in Tavares, Florida.

Making a back-up move in Tavares, Florida.

While vacationing in Florida I caught one of the last trips of the Tavares Eustis & Gulf steam train, the Orange Blossom Cannonball.

TE&G No. 2, a Baldwin 2-6-0 built in 1907, powered these final trips the weekend of Jan. 27-28 2017.

This scenic railway used the tracks of the Florida Central short line. It started operation in 2011 and an increase in trackage rights fees caused it to shut down this month.

The equipment has been used in movies such as True Grit, Appaloosa, and 3:10 to Yuma, among others. It is owned by the Reader Railroad of Arkansas and will be returned there.

I was fortunate to be vacationing for these last trips.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

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Amtrak Taking Back Hoosier State

January 31, 2017

Iowa Pacific will cease operating the quad weekly Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State at the end of February with Amtrak taking it over on March 1.

Iowa PacificThe Indiana Department of Transportation, which had contracted with IP to operate the train, said the contract was to have run through June 30, but IP demanded more money than the contractual amount.

“They were looking for a minimum monthly subsidy that was outside the budget we had,” said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said. “Even under the existing contracts, their needs were beyond what we had budgeted.”

IP has operated the Hoosier State since July 2015, taking over it from Amtrak after INDOT advertised for bidders.

INDOT said it has paid Iowa Pacific Holdings $500,000 to date to provide on-board service, marketing and equipment for the Hoosier State and $3.9 million to Amtrak, which provides crews to operate the train.

IP will receive an additional $300,000 to operate the Hoosier State through the end of February.

“It should be said we signed contracts in good faith with Iowa Pacific that was through the end of June, and then they came to us and said they we’re unable to continue under those contracts,” Wingfield said.

IP President Ed Ellis wrote on Facebook that his company is moving to “a different service model.”

There have been discussions on railfan chat lists that IP might be experiencing financial difficulties after it failed earlier this month to issue paychecks to employees in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Some employees of the IP-operated Texas State Railroad were laid off, but IP said in a statement that those layoffs were seasonal.

Ellis said on his Facebook page that IP was “unable to continue providing passenger train equipment and on-board services under the terms of its existing contract for the Hoosier State.”

IP received high marks for instituting business class, upgrading the food service and offering a dome car on the Hoosier State.

Ellis wrote that these service enhancements improved customer satisfaction, revenue and ridership, but the train suffered from poor on-time performance when it reached its destination hours late, if at all, on some occasions.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the Hoosier State will operate with Amtrak equipment starting March 1.

INDOT said it’s seeking to continue on-board wi-fi and business-class seating for the train, which operates between Chicago and Indianapolis on days that the Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.

It is unclear, though what the long-term future will be for the Hoosier State, including whether INDOT will again put the operation out for bid.

The Hoosier State is funded by INDOT, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Crawfordsville and Rensselaer.

CSX Said to be Talking With Harrison

January 31, 2017

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that CSX and E. Hunter Harrison are in negotiations about the railroad’s CEO position.

CSX logo 3Harrison has presented to CSX management his plans to revamp CSX. The former CEO of Canadian Pacific, Canadian National and Illinois Central, is teaming up with Paul Hilal of the Mantle Ridge hedge fund to seek a management shakeup at CSX.

Mantle Ridge was reported to be seeking three seats on the 12-seat CSX board of directors, a demand that may be a source of conflict the Journal reported.

News reports indicate that Harrison met with CSX officials last Friday in Atlanta.

If CSX, Harrison and Mantle Ridge are unable to reach an agreement, then the hedge fund has until Feb. 10 to nominate candidates to the CSX board. CSX usually holds its annual meeting in May.

It is not clear what plans that Harrison and Mantle Ridge have for revamping operations at
CSX.

In the past year, CSX management under current CEO Michael Ward has retooled rail operations. Among other steps, CSX has emphasized longer trains and focusing capital expenditures on core routes.

In 2015, Ward said he planned to remain the CSX CEO for three more years after Oscar Munoz, who was expected to replace Ward, left to head United Airlines.

While at CP last year, Harrison unsuccessfully sought a merger with Norfolk Southern.

Some analysts on Wall Street believe CSX will be receptive to having Harrison as CEO because of his experience in leading other class 1 railroads.

Ohio Turnpike Sets 2017 Construction Work

January 31, 2017

The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission has approved a $121.4 million capital budget for 2017 that includes construction projects in Northeast Ohio.

Ohio turnpikeThe budget calls for pavement replacement and resurfacing, bridge rehabilitation and an investment of $714,000 in technology to prepare for a time when vehicles will be able to communicate with each other and the roadway.

Turnpike Executive Director Randy Cole said despite the road work there should be less congestion because there will be 25 percent fewer lane miles under construction.

“We heard loud and clear from our customers last summer. They want fewer orange barrels so we are carefully balancing customer preference with the pace of our program for improvements,”  Cole said in a statement.

To prepare for self-driving vehicles, the turnpike plans to deploy Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) (connected vehicle) technology.

This year it will be installed in the Boston and Amherst maintenance sections between mileposts 126.4 in Erie County (Berlin Township) and 187.5 in Portage County (Streetsboro).

Forty turnpike maintenance vehicles will be equipped with on-board units that will gather and supply data to managers monitoring the fleet’s activity.

Pavement replacement plans for 2017 include a 5-mile long section in the eastbound lanes in Sandusky County from milepost 90 to 95.9 (between Sandusky and Riley Townships).

Also slated to be replaced are 5-mile long sections in Erie County in the westbound lanes from milepost 107.3 to 112.45 (between Groton and Oxford Townships) and in Portage County from milepost 186.35 to 191.39 (between Streetsboro and Shalersville Township).

The pavement replacement budget for 2017 is $45.5 million.

Four 2017 resurfacing projects will cost $21.6 million. These projects will include resurfacing the pavement of the right and center lanes from milepost 69.3 to 74.15 (between Lake and Troy Townships) in Wood and Ottawa Counties and resurfacing all three lanes and both shoulders from milepost 136.1 to 144.1 in Lorain County (between Brownhelm and Elyria).

In Cuyahoga County, the left lane and left shoulder will be resurfaced from milepost 160.1 to 169.1 (between Strongsville and Broadview Heights) with construction taking place from August until October of 2017.

In addition, in Cuyahoga and Summit Counties, the interchange at Exit 173 (Akron/Cleveland) will undergo pavement reconstruction, repairs and resurfacing of select ramps from May through October.

The turnpike plans to spend  $16.6 billion in bridge repairs and rehabilitations.

The work includes deck replacements, miscellaneous bridge rehabilitations, and substructure repair at various sites, including five deck replacements and bridge removal at mileposts 122.3, 128.5, 132.4 138, 138.2 (bridge removal) and 145.8 in Erie and Lorain Counties.

In Cuyahoga County, the Ohio Route 252 bridge over the turnpike at milepost 156.9 (Olmsted Falls) will undergo a bridge deck replacement and rehabilitation.

In Summit and Portage Counties, bridge bearings, joints and decks will be replaced on overhead bridges at mileposts 178, 179.5 and 199.2.

In Mahoning County, six mainline bridges and one ramp bridge from milepost 222.8 to 232.9 will undergo bearing and deck joint replacements and two bridge deck replacements are planned at milepost 240.8 east and westbound.

Amtrak and Shadows at Bort Road

January 30, 2017

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One in a series of posts about photographs that I created last summer.

It was Labor Day weekend 2016. I got up before dawn to drive to North East, Pennsylvania, to catch Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited.

If I waited too much longer in the year, there would no longer be good daylight at Bort Road when No. 48 passed by.

It is due out of Erie, Pennsylvania, at 7:20 a.m. and gets to North East about 20 minutes later.

The sun angle was still pretty low when No. 48 showed up right about on time. That meant that the bridge carrying Bort Road over the CSX tracks still was casting shadows on the rails.

Somehow, I didn’t mind that because it gave the photo a little interest of its own.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Dillon Named as ARRC VP Emeritus

January 30, 2017

J. Gary Dillon was named vice president emeritus by the Akron Railroad Club at its Feb. 27 meeting.

ARRC logoDillon had indicated to the officers during a recent board meeting that he no longer wished to serve as the club’s vice president.

Since joining the ARRC on June 26, 1947, Dillon has held all officer positions except for Bulletin editor.

He was elected treasurer in November 1948 and has since served as president in 1958, 1959, 1967, 1968 and 1969. Dillon was elected vice president in 1975, a post he had held since then.

Dillon was named a lifetime ARRC member in July 2010. The Akron native is the last ARRC member left who joined the club in its early years.

The ARRC traces its history to the 1936 formation of a committee to sponsor railway excursions. That committee a year later became the Eastern Ohio Chapter of the National Railway Society.

The Eastern Ohio chapter surrendered its charter in December 1945.

Some members elected to form a new group known as the Northeastern Ohio Railfans, which organized on Feb. 9, 1946.

That group reorganized again a year later as the Akron Railroad Club, which came into existence on March 27, 1947.

The club is currently seeking a volunteer to agree to serve as its vice president.

If You Post Your Photographs in Social Media, It’s Almost a Sure Bet That Someone Will Steal Them

January 30, 2017

If you post photographs on social media you run the risk that someone will copy and use your work without your permission. Chances are they won’t even give you credit so no one will know that it is your image.

on-photography-newIn theory that is a violation of copyright law, but like speeding on an expressway it is a law that is widely flaunted.

I’m not sure whether to be angry or flattered when someone steals my photos.

At times I’ve been amused. That was the case when someone posted on Trainorders.com a photograph of a flier on the wood bridge carrying Bort Road over the CSX Erie West Subdivision tracks near North East, Pennsylvania.

A group seeking to save the bridge from removal put on that flier an image that I made of a CSX train passing beneath the bridge. That photo had been posted on the Akron Railroad Club blog.

I was less amused when I discovered the organizers of a Michigan railroad conference lifted an image I made last July of Amtrak’s Blue Water at Durand, Michigan.

An educational group should know better than to steal a photograph without permission or giving credit.

On occasion, someone sends me an email asking permission to use one of my photographs.

The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers did that for an image I made of an Amtrak train in Kalamazoo. My images have been used with permission in professional presentations and in the magazine of a rails-to-trails group.

But All Aboard Ohio stole a photograph I made of the Lake Shore Limited at Bort Road and published it on Page 1 of its newsletter. They did give me credit, though.

Some photographers won’t post on social media because they hate having their photographs used without their permission.

Others post stern copyright warnings, but those may be useless because it is easy to copy and paste online content.

Those who steal copyrighted work are largely unapologetic about it. Supposedly, some people believe that if something is online it is in the “public domain.”

There may be some truth to that, but I see it a different way. There is larceny in the hearts of many, if not most Americans.

Some scrupulously honest people will refrain from theft out of principle or moral obligation, but far more others have the attitude of “I’ll take what I can until someone stops me.”

The cost of stopping people who steal photographs can be high and the rewards low or nonexistent even if you prevail in a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Using the legal system is not free.

Many, if not most, who “steal” the photographs of others are not making money from the theft.

They see what they did as providing an illustration. I can look past those situations, but have a harder time with situations such as the blogger who copied an image I made inside an Amtrak dining car and used it to illustrate a travelogue about his Amtrak trip. The post suggested it was his photograph.

I received an email from someone I don’t know alerting me to that theft and providing a link to the site moderator to seek removal of the image.

I was told this blogger has a reputation of stealing other people’s images. Although I thanked the watchdog, I wound up not doing anything about the theft.

In part that is because I have adopted the philosophy of David Oroszi, a highly-respected railroad photographer from Dayton.

He once wrote that if someone is able to profit from stealing one of his photographs, well then good for them.

He did not elaborate on why he felt that way, but it might be a combination of understanding that the battle might not be worth waging and feeling comfortable with his own success as a photographer.

Dave’s images have appeared in numerous books, including several he has co-authored. Magazines regularly pay him for use of his photographs.

He knows what retailers know that you do what you can to protect your property but some loss from theft is part of the cost of doing business.

Amtrak CEO Moorman Talks About His Vision For the Future of the U.S. Rail Passenger Carrier

January 30, 2017

Since taking over last fall as the CEO of Amtrak, Charles “Wick” Moorman has given hints here and there about his vision of America’s national intercity rail passenger carrier.

Wick Moorman

Wick Moorman

Columnists and editors of Trains magazine sat down with Moorman in December to discuss that vision.

Columnist Don Phillips was there and wrote about it for the March issue of the magazine that will be in subscriber mailboxes soon.

Phillips recently sent advance copies of his columns to those on an email list that he maintains. Presumably, there will be another report in the March issue written by the magazine’s passenger rail correspondent.

Moorman told the Trains representatives that he sees a future for long-distance passenger trains, but it is less clear if he sees any expansion of them.

He does see potential growth in medium-distance service, which is paid for by the states.

The proposed restoration of service along the Gulf Coast east of New Orleans has been gaining political support and may end up becoming an extension of the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans.

But that hinges upon the federal government making a financial commitment to the service.

Moorman said during the interview that the new Viewliner equipment for eastern long-distance trains that is being built by CAF USA will be finished according to a new production schedule that the company and Amtrak have agreed upon.

Other items of interest include Moorman’s view that something needs to be done about the quality of food service aboard Amtrak trains, and the aging diesel locomotives and passenger cars used by trains outside the Northeast Corridor.

In regards to food service, Moorman said the pressure that has come from Congress in recent years to cut the cost of food service is lessening and what Amtrak needs to do is sell more food.

Another high priority on Moorman’s list is the institution of a training program for on-board employees, including conductors.

But the top priority on Moorman’s list is rebuilding infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor. That includes replacing bridges, tunnels and catenary, as well as building a replacement for New York Penn Station.

The takeaway from the Phillips column: Look for a better on-board experience but with little to no expansion of the existing routes and levels of train frequency.

Ohio Turnpike Set Usage Record in 2016

January 30, 2017

The Ohio Turnpike hosted a record number of 54.9 million vehicles in 2016, which broke the previous record of 53.4 million set in 2015.

Ohio turnpikeThe turnpike said that during 2016 it recorded the second-most number of vehicle miles traveled in its history at 3.037 billion, which was 2.6 million less than the record set in 2006.

Turnpike officials attributed the increase in travel to an improving economy, relatively low gas prices and mild weather.

During 2016 the turnpike said it posted a 2.2 percent gain in the percentage of vehicles that used E-ZPass®.

In 2016, 57.1 percent of all vehicles used E-ZPass, saving an average of 33 percent on tolls compared to cash-paying customers. Tolls for E-ZPass customers are less than for most cash-paying vehicles.

During 2016 the turnpike saw an 8.8 percent gain in the number of passenger cars using E-ZPass and a 3.1 percent rise in the number of commercial vehicles using it.

Warm Memories of NKP 767 in the Valley

January 28, 2017
Nickel Plate Road No. 765, operating as No. 767, approaches Pleasant Valley Road on Saturday, Sept. 24.

Nickel Plate Road No. 765, operating as No. 767, approaches Pleasant Valley Road on Saturday, Sept. 24.

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Reflecting on past steam trips in the Valley at Indigo Lake.

I waited for quite a while to get the NKP 767 crossing the Cuyahoga River north of Peninsula.

I waited for quite a while to get the NKP 767 crossing the Cuyahoga River north of Peninsula.

Now that winter is here and the warm days of summer and early autumn in 2016 are just another memory, how about some warm memories to take the chill out of the air?

Here are three images of Nickel Plate Road 767 — which is actually NKP 765 — when it was running on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad last September.

All were among my favorite images of the NKP 767 in action, but for various reasons they didn’t make the cut when it came time to post those photographs.

But I kept them with the idea of posting them during the winter. Perhaps NKP 765 willl return to the CVSR in 2017, but that remains to be seen. If it does come back as NKP 767?

Even if it doesn’t, we’ll always have our memories and photographs of when it was the 767.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders