Archive for June, 2017

Services Saturday for Dennis Taksar Sr.

June 29, 2017

Services for Dennis Taksar Sr., 65, of Fairview Park, will be Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Hopko Funeral Home, 6020 Broadview Road, in Parma.

Dennis Taksar Sr.

Mr. Taksar was the father of Akron Railroad Club member Dennis Taksar Jr. He died unexpectedly on June 23.

Visitation will be at the funeral home on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. and continuing until the time of services.

Mr. Taksar is survived by his wife, Patricia (nee Peterson) Taksar; another son, Kevin Taksar; and two step children.

He was preceded in death by his parents Margaret H. (nee Skladany) and John M. Taksar; and a sister, Jean Tisza.

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Last Hour Trains

June 29, 2017

The last train of the day during the 2017 Akron Railroad Club’s longest day outing passes Wheeling Tower as it rumbles in off the Fostoria District.

We would not get shut out during the last hour of the ARRC longest day outing. This train from the Fostoria District made sure of it.

The Akron Railroad Club longest day outing to Bellevue was winding down. It was the last hour of the day and the crowd of about a dozen people had dwindled to just five of which four would have dinner at the Bob Evans restaurant in Norwalk once the train watching was done.

The last hour of a railfanning expedition has a distinctively different feel than the first hour.

When the day begins, you’re filled with optimism. Anything can happen. Who knows what we will see today?

By the last hour that optimism has given way to a hard-edged realism. Unless it has been one of those rare days where everything you touch has turned to gold, the realization has set in that those sighting you had thought possible at the start of the day are not going to materialize.

The best images of the day — whatever they might have been — have probably been made and now the best you can hope for is one last surprise or at least one last good photo before calling it quits.

We ended the day having not seen any NS heritage units. There had been a Wheeling & Lake Erie sighting and I was pleased with what I was able to get during an afternoon foray south of town on the NS Sandusky District.

We had decided to stick it out until 7 p.m. and then move on to Norwalk and dinner. Truth be told I would have been OK with going to dinner an hour earlier had that been the majority view.

Everything seemed quiet in Bellevue and there was no guarantee we would be seeing any trains.

But within that last hour a couple of manifest freights came in from the Fostoria District, so the longest day outing had a good outcome and we were able to make a last round of photographs.

ITM Plans to Sue over Denial to Use Rail Line

June 29, 2017

The Indiana Transportation Museum plans to file suit against Hamilton County and the cities of Noblesville and Fishers, seeking damages for losses sustained from being unable to use a former Nickel Plate Road branch line for excursion service last year.

The museum sent the notice to leaders of the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which oversees the tracks, the mayors and deputy mayors of Noblesville and Fishers, all three Hamilton County commissioners and several other county officials. The notice of intent to file suit in federal court was also sent to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Attorney General Curtis Hill.

“We have tried to find ways to work with these entities and our efforts have not been successful,” said John McNichols, the museum’s board chairman. “Our efforts have been met with indifference and opposition.”

The museum in past years has used the tracks for excursion trains and the popular Indiana State Fair Train.

But last year the Port Authority refused to allow ITM to use the tracks, citing concerns about the museum’s financial condition and its failure to adequately maintain the tracks for safe operation.

Earlier this year, Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness spoke about pulling up the rails and putting in a hike and bike trail. The mayor rejected a proposal by ITM to construct a trail alongside the tracks.

The track in question extends for 37 miles between Indianapolis and Noblesville, where the ITM is based.

In its notice to sue, ITM said it lost more than $350,000 in revenue because it couldn’t operate its Polar Bear Express trains and another $150,000 from being unable to run the Fair Train.

The notice said the museum was “current on all terms and conditions” of the operating agreement with the port authority at the time it was prevented from using the tracks.

Being prohibited from using the rail line, ITM said, violated its rights under the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Further, ITM alleges, some public officials defamed the museum, interfered with an established business, breached an agreement, failed to engage in fair dealing, failed to comply with the Indiana Open Meetings and Records Act, and engaged in abuse of process.

In the meantime, four groups have responded to a port authority call for proposals to be the new operators of the rail line.

They include ITM, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Railway of Indianapolis, Hoosier Heritage Railroad of Fishers and Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad of Arcadia.

McNichols said he hoped the parties involved could reach an agreement before the Indiana State Fair begins on Aug. 4.

The port authority had earlier ruled out making a decision in time for an operator to offer the fair train this year.

Waiting and Waiting

June 28, 2017

Railroads spend a lot of time waiting, often to get permission from a dispatcher or yardmaster to move ahead.

If you work for the Wheeling & Lake Erie, it is almost a given that you’ll spend time waiting in Bellevue for Norfolk Southern to give the OK to move onto NS tracks.

With NS owning most of the trackage in Bellevue and with NS trains often coming and going, the Wheeling doesn’t have the highest priority.

During the Akron Railroad Club’s longest day outing in Bellevue last Sunday, the W&LE job that interchanges at Moorman yard arrived a little after 8:30 a.m.

It then sat on the Brewster connection for the next three hours.

Finally, shortly after 11:30, the Bellevue dispatcher lined the signal for the Wheeling to enter the mini plant and proceed eastward into the yard.

The motive power consist of the W&LE train included a pair of green, silver and black FURX sD40-2s that were numbered consecutively 6986 and 6987.

The third unit was “tiger stripe” 6351, which once starred as an Allegheny and West Virginia locomotive in the movie Unstoppable.

INRD Seeks to Give up Trackage Rights

June 28, 2017

In what may be the first step toward abandonment of the CSX Hoosier Subdivision in Southern Indiana, the Indiana Rail Road is seeking regulatory approval to end its trackage rights on the line.

INRD was the last user of the route, but has not moved traffic over for more than two years.

In is filing with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, INRD said its network has been physically disconnected from the Hoosier Sub after it abandoned 22.8 miles of a former Milwaukee Road line in 2011 between Bedford and Crane, Indiana.

The Hoosier Sub, which was once part of the Chicago-Louisville, Kentucky, route of the Monon, extends for 72 miles between Bedford and New Albany, Indiana.

Most of the Hoosier Sub is out of service except for a portion of it in the New Albany region.

If the STB grants the INRD’s petition, the trackage rights would be discontinued on July 27.

CSX decommissioned the Hoosier Sub in November 2010 after a trestle over the White River south of Bedford burned, in what officials reported to be a suspicious blaze.

There were plans for the State of Indiana to buy the line but a local port authority was unable to raise enough money for that purpose.

The ex-Monon has been abandoned and the track removed between Bedford and Cloverdale, Indiana.

Heath Hall Named to FRA Post

June 28, 2017

Heath Hall has been named deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administrator.

Hall, whose position does not need Senate confirmation, was named by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who has known him since his days working in the deputy DOT secretary’s office and in the Peace Corps.

Now a vice president in the marketing and external affairs department of non-profit Innovate Mississippi, Hall also manages Pointe Innovation magazine.

He has served as senior vice president of external affairs at the Mississippi Economic Council, the State Chamber of Commerce, and as executive director of Mississippians for Civil Justice Reform/STOP Lawsuit Abuse in Mississippi.

Hall also served as Gov. Kirk Fordice’s director of public affairs, deputy press secretary, and deputy director of communications for Fordice’s re-election campaign.

In federal government service, Hall served as an FRA intern in the public relations office before moving into the USDOT deputy secretary’s office.

During the administration of George H.W. Bush, Hall served as an intern in the White House Office of Political Affairs.

The FRA is still without a permanent administrator. Patrick T. Warren, the FRA’s executive director, is serving as acting administrator.

Railway Age magazine reported that an administrator is unlikely to be appointed before August and that the agency is without an official mandate from the Trump Administration.

But is He a Railfan?

June 27, 2017

Marty Surdyk, Todd Vander Sluis and I were out chasing Norfolk Southern trains on the Sandusky District south of Bellevue on Sunday during the Akron Railroad Club’s annual longest day outing.

CSX was single tracking in the vicinity of Attica Junction and had trains backing up. Norfolk Southern ended up paying the price.

The 29G, though, got lucky. The CSX dispatcher agreed to let it across between CSX traffic without much delay, but NS train 175 on the other side of the crossing would have to wait at West Attica.

We elected to chase the 29G and catch it somewhere north of Attic Junction. That turned out to be at a crossing along a township road where there was a home next to the tracks.

The homeowner was out mowing the grass. The guy has a great view of NS operations here, but I wonder, is he a railfan? He hardly looked up as the 29G came past. It was just another train.

Works Continues on Restoring C&O 1309

June 27, 2017

Trains magazine reported on Monday that workers have begun installing the tubes into Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 at the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad shops.

The magazine said other work included workers applying firebox patches and conducting laser scans of the frame.

The locomotive is expected to return to operation later this year although no firm date has been set for its first public excursion.

Once operational, No. 1309 will be among the largest operating steam locomotives in the United States.

Drifting Down Into Grand River

June 26, 2017

One of the switch engine that was used by the Grand River Railroad makes a rare appearance on the front of a train drifting down the hill and into the street running in Grand River on March 17.

The two switchers adorned in this Baltimore & Ohio inspired livery are reportedly still on the property but no longer used in freight service.

The GRR instead is using Horizon Rail 8420, a GP10, that worked on  the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad last year.

Photograph by Jeff Troutman

Chessie Was Everywhere

June 26, 2017

Were you aware the Chessie the cat was even featured on Chessie System stock certificates? Look at the lower corners.
Photograph by Jack Norris