Archive for July, 2017

Searching for Ghosts of the Erie in Sterling

July 31, 2017

A westbound CSX auto rack train with Union Pacific and BNSF motive power rattles the windows as it passes through Sterling on the New Castle Subdivision.

I can’t help but be reminded of the late Richard Jacobs when I am in or think about Sterling.

It was the last place I saw Jake alive and during the final years of his life he often hung out at Sterling and photographed CSX operations on the New Castle Subdivision.

Jake’s last posting to the Akron Railroad Club blog was about an outing to Sterling in March 2015. He died of cancer the following June.

It was an article written by fellow ARRC officer Marty Surdyk, though, that prompted me to visit Sterling on a Saturday afternoon in early July.

He had written about Sterling in the ARRC Bulletin after he and his brother Robert swung past there earlier this year.

Marty made a few observations about railfanning in Sterling these days, including how it has changed from the old days when RU Tower still guarded the crossing of the Erie Lackawanna (nee Erie) and Baltimore & Ohio mainlines.

The tower is long gone and so is the EL. But Wayne County has converted 6.75 miles of the former Erie right of way between Creston and Rittman into an asphalt hiking and biking trail.

Just off Kauffman Avenue in Sterling is a parking lot for the trail and a former B&O freight house that long-range plans call for converting into a museum.

The trail runs parallel with the CSX line and I wanted to check it out.

So I parked at the station and started walking westward with my camera over my shoulder.

Marty’s article had spoken about there being an opening to photograph trains passing beneath the eastbound home signals for the interlocking.

You have to walk off the trail a short distance, but the view is reasonably open.

CSX crosses Chippewa Creek here and the view from the trail is open, but rather tight.

I walked for about a mile and a half west from Sterling and most of the time a wall of trees obscured the view of the CSX tracks.

There are a few open areas, but only at the grade crossings can you get any significant open space to work with in making photographs.

The first of those is at Eby Road, which has crossing gates protecting the CSX tracks. If you know of a train coming you can stand by the side of the road and have fairly open views.

There are three tracks here one of which is a siding used to store cars although this may be a block swapping location.

Likewise, there are open views at Jordan Road, which is about a half-mile to a mile west.

Here the trail jogs slightly and there are remnants of ballast for the EL tracks. The jog is made to avoid an access road leading to private property.

A short distance west of Jordan Road the trail veers away from the CSX New Castle Sub as it nears Creston.

It is in this vicinity that you can see the Wheeling & Lake Erie’s Brewster Subdivision to the south

I came upon a few other remnants of the Erie during my hike, including a milepost, a whistle post and the concrete foundation of what might have been a signal base. There were also discarded cross ties in various places.

The trail is level and easy to walk. I wished, though, that I had a much smaller and lighter point and shoot digital camera rather than my DSLR.

Marty mentioned various places to eat in Creston. There is also Bradley’s in Sterling and a restaurant in Creston in the former Erie depot in Rittman.

I will have to check out the latter. The last time I saw the ex-Erie depot in Rittman there were still tracks in front of it.

The Akron Barberton Cluster Railway serves a customer in Rittman and operates on the ex-Erie between there and Barberton.

Once you’re done hiking or biking, you can always hang out in the trailhead parking lot in Sterling and wait for trains to come to you on CSX.

One thing hasn’t changed. Traffic on the New Castle Sub remains hit and miss. I spotted four trains in Sterling during my time there, three of them westbounds.

But during the last hour and a half that I was there nothing came past or seemed to be imminent.

If you are out on the trail you might not have much advance warning of an approaching train and will have to hustle to find an opening in the trees to watch and/or photograph it.

Plans are to make into former freight station into a museum.

Joggers and bikers are 225 miles from Salamanca, New York.

Something the railroad left behind when pulling up the tracks.

A remnant of CSX stands outside the former B&O freight station in Sterling.

A trio of silos between a pair of tank cars.

If a CSX train comes as you’re out on the trail you might have to hustle to get to an open area to watch it.

Looking west at Eby Road.

An eastbound manifest freight passes a cut of cars in the siding as it approaches Eby Road.

Warwick Moment Not Likely to be Repeated on Sunday

July 29, 2017

Here is a Warwick memory that won’t be repeated for Sunday’s picnic. A late-running eastbound Amtrak train lit by the early morning sun approaches Warwick Tower on July 1, 2004. The train is the Chicago-New York Three Rivers, which was discontinued in March 2005. Under ordinary circumstances, Nos. 40 and 41 were scheduled to pass through Warwick during darkness hours.

Photograph by Robert Farkas


Ft.WRHS Gets Donation to Restore NKP Diesel

July 29, 2017

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has received a $3,000 donation that it will use to help pay for the restoration of a former Nickel Plate Road diesel.

Steel Dynamics made the donation to Project 358, which is working to restore ex-NKP No. 358, an SD9 built in 1957.

It was given to the society in 2011 by Norfolk Southern. The Fort Wayne group plans to use the 358 in excursion service and to display it at events.

The donation will be used to acquire electrical cable, paint, generators and other parts in need of refurbishment. The estimated total cost for the restoration is approximately $35,000.

Steel Dynamics is a producer of continuous welded rail and has helped to underwrite the Society’s feasibility studies for its planned Headwaters Junction project.

TSA to Require Screening of Camera Equipment

July 29, 2017

If you are going to be flying to your next railfan vacation, you’ll need to place your camera equipment in a bin to be screened at the security checkpoint.

The Transportation Security Administration has issued new regulations that requires cameras and other electronic devices to be placed in their own bin and screened separately.

The rule applies to camera bodies, lens, external flashes, laptop computers and tablets. The electronic items will be screened by X-ray equipment.

In a news release, the TSA said the rule is in response to increased domestic security measures due to an increased threat to aviation security.

TSA representatives say that as procedures to enforce the rule are implemented that travelers will need to remove electric devices larger than a cell phone from their carry-on bags and place them in a bin with nothing on top or below the item.

The procedures will not apply to travelers enrolled in the TSA Pre-Check program.

More Winter Action From Bellevue

July 28, 2017

Here are some more images from the Bellevue Yard tower on Dec. 31, 1967, the best of the rest. I’m sorry about the reflections, loss of contrast, etc., but these were taken when I was a young railfan photographer.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

GE to Cease Making Locomotives in Erie

July 28, 2017

GE Transportation said this week that it would end locomotive production at its Erie assembly plant by late 2018.

The company said that the design and develop center at the plant will remain open. The plant will also make prototypes and spare parts. Approximately 575 workers will lose their jobs.

The announcement cited downturns in freight traffic and a global market for locomotives. Locomotive production once done in Erie will be consolidated in an assembly plant in Fort Worth, Texas, which opened in 2013.

Opened in 1910, the Erie plant, which is located in Lawrence Park township, once employed 2,000. The workforce has been steadily reduced in recent years.

Aside from the Erie plant being old, it was also more costly to operate.

The Erie Times-News reported that the average salary of a production worker in Erie is more than $30 per hour where new hires at the Fort Worth plant are paid about $17 per hour.

The Erie plant was unionized but the Texas plant is not.

Earlier this year, GE Transportation CEO Jamie Miller said the the company would focus on the global new locomotive market.

In the past year GE has landed an order for 1,000 locomotives to be built for Indiana and 133 for South Africa.

In North America, GE is going to emphasis re-manufacturing older locomotives and upgrading the technology on those units to monitor performance.

Orders for new locomotives in North America have all but vanished with Class 1 railroads mothballing more than 4,000 locomotives in response to a freight recession that began in 2015 and management practices that are seeking to move tonnage in fewer trains.

General Electric itself has been in turmoil in the past few months with CEO Jeffrey Immelt stepping down an activist hedge fund pushing GE management to step up its cost cutting.

GE said earlier this year it would reduce expenses by $2 billion over the next two years.

Never Weary of Seeing the Erie

July 27, 2017

The Erie heritage locomotive was one of the last of the series of Norfolk Southern heritage locomotives that I saw and photographed. It eluded me for nearly two years before I finally caught it in late December 2014.

It was the last of the 20 H units that I physically saw, but was the penultimate one that I photographed.

I don’t see the Erie that often, but I have managed to catch it a five times since that late 2014 sighting.

I got a text from fellow Akron Railroad Club member Todd Dillon that NS 1068 was leading Norfolk Southern train 22K.

I was expecting the 22K to come through Olmsted Falls in late morning but it was just after 2 p.m. before it finally arrived. Here is sighting No. 7 of the Erie heritage unit.

Date That Almost Lived in Infamy

July 27, 2017

June 18, 2017, started as a typical Saturday. We were busy at work. My phone chimed that I had a text message around 9 a.m.

Too busy to check it at that time, I continued working. It wasn’t until I got the next vehicle in and was in the process of texting the mileage to our secretary that I read the message.

“Erie leading 25T, 9 a.m. at Johnstown.”

“Holy Cow!”

The 25T usually comes through the Cleveland area in the mid to late afternoon. Today it had the Erie heritage unit leading, one that I have not yet seen, much less photographed.

I texted the Bro back and suggested he keep me informed about its progress.

Work wrapped up and while having lunch at home, I texted Robert for an update.

“At Conway changing crews.”

I had a few errands to run this afternoon that couldn’t wait, but the yard work could. So by 3, I was ready to head trackside.

The last report was Enon Valley at 1 p.m. It would be a family affair to see the Erie today. My nephew Henry and the Grif (his son) were also going along.

Since we had a “tot” with us, we went to the Tot Lot in Bedford. It is located on Palmetto Avenue between the crossings at Grace and Glendale.

We set up here and waited. Norfolk Southern had something happening in the vicinity of CP 86.

Eastbounds were stacked up on both mains waiting to continue east. Our westbound would not be in the picture for a while.

As we waited, Henry got a phone message that the Central of Georgia H unit was coming east on a 66W oil train. It was by Amherst.

It was trailing however, so trail equals fail. But it is still one of the H Units I have yet to see or photograph. This would be a GREAT day if I could get two in one day.

We shot eastbounds for just under three hours: 20E, 20R, 24W, 24M, 18N and a couple of more that I don’t remember the symbol on.

The low man on the pole, or the crew with the most time left to work was M4N. It was sitting at a red board at CP 110 on Track 2 for the entire time we were there.

Grif entertained himself on the slides and ladders of the Tot Lot, stopping only to watch a train go by. He made three new friends who were there with their grandmother.

When the slides became old hat, they took one of Grif’s toy trucks, one a little bigger than a Matchbox, for those who remember Matchbox Cars, and were throwing it over the gym sets.

The first one to get over, under or around to the other side and find the truck got to throw it back over, and the race was on again . . . until they got the truck stuck in the tree.

About now the other kids had to leave. It was pushing 6 p.m.

Henry was convinced that the 66W was the next train but each time he was wrong. Still, he kept insisting.

“Cleveland Terminal to M4N. OK to start heading east; you’ll cross over at CP 107 after one more eastbound.”

The traffic jam was finally subsiding. We had not gotten any more updates about 25T since Enon Valley. Where was it?

As the M4N clumped by and 18N shot past him, Cleveland Terminal cleared up the situation.

“25T, take it easy down to CP 107; got an eastbound crossing over ahead of you. As soon as they clear, you’ll get a light to go west.”

“Hot &%$#”

We loaded up Grif’s toys and his bike that he brought with him and were ready for 25T. We were going to shoot it here and head to Olmsted Falls for another view.

Skies were partly cloudy, so sun wasn’t guaranteed. We had to rub our rabbit’s foots and four leaf clovers to, hopefully, get some luck.

“25T, Clear, CP 107”

Show time was just a few minutes away. We each picked out our spots. As the gates went down at Grace Street, the sun popped out. It would be a sunny shot.

The Erie roared past with its intermodal train in tow. We were off as soon as the last cars cleared the Glendale crossing. Olmsted Falls, here we come.

There had been no further updates on the 66W and we didn’t hear anything about it on the scanner, so what happened to it?

Did it go east on the Nickel Plate to Ashtabula and turn south for Conway there? Is it still around Rockport waiting for a fresh crew? We speculated as we drove west.

As we passed Rockport Yard and the Chicago Line, our questions were answered. They spun the power and the Central of Georgia was now on the lead.

I was hoping for a miracle now, two never before seen H Units in one day . . . wow! We got to the Falls, parked across from the depot and set up shop. We were ahead.

The 25T would be the only train we would see. It came past about 20 minutes after we arrived.

Going back toward the brother’s house, Henry suggested I stop on I-480 and shoot the 66W from the bridge. It would take a long telephoto, but I might get lucky.

Traffic was heavy on I-480 and I couldn’t get over fast enough to pull over on the bridge. They were still sitting there. Not a word was said about the 66W, so how long they were going to be there was anyone’s guess.

I dropped off the rest of the clan and headed home for dinner.

After dinner I had an idea. I needed to go to the airport post office, so I thought I’d check on the 66W’s progress, or lack thereof.

This time I would come up onto I-480 from the airport freeway, making the pull over onto the bridge over the Chicago Line much easier.

The 66W was still sitting there, but they were sitting short of the signal bridge at CP Max and the shadow of the signal bridge was on the C of G and they were a little too far away for my 300mm lens. It was a good idea that fizzled.

The radio finally crackled with chatter about the 66W. A fresh crew was aboard, but they were having trouble getting their marker linked up to the 8101 and other assorted problems.

They would not be departing any time soon, and the sun was now getting pretty low in the sky.

I called it a day at this point, happy about the Erie, but frustrated by the C. of Ga. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck next time.

Article by Marty Surdyk

FtWRHS to Hold Open House in August

July 27, 2017

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society will host its annual open house in New Haven, Indiana, on Aug. 18-20.

During the event there will be a live steam display of Nickel Plate Road No. 765, passenger car and railroad displays, train rides and local food trucks.

Admission is free and caboose rides are $5 with trips departing every 20 minutes.

The open hour hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Midwest Rail Group Has New Website, Logo

July 27, 2017

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association has a new website and new logo.

The organization said that the new look brings a modern feel to the association, and the new website’s layout is sharp and streamlined.

The group has long sought to promote the creation of fast, frequent, and reliable trains to the region. The site can be found at