Archive for August, 2017

ARRC Vermilion Outing Set for Saturday

August 23, 2017

An eastbound Norfolk Southern train crosses the bridge over the Vermilion River near the boat launchy during a previous Akron Railroad Club outing there.

The Akron Railroad Club will return to Vermilion on Saturday for another day along the Norfolk Southern Chicago Line. But this outing will feature something different.

In late afternoon we’ll travel to nearby Amherst for a picnic at the restored former New York Central depot.

Vermilion features two NS lines, the busiest of which is the ex-NYC route. Also passing through is the former Nickel Plate Road line that is now the NS Cleveland District.

The Cleveland District through Vermilion isn’t much at present as far as railroad traffic, but that is expected to change once NS completes installation of a new connection from the eastbound Chicago Line to the Cleveland District a couple of miles west of Vermilion.

Intermodal trains 205, 206, 22K and 23K are expected to be regular users of the connection.

But all of that is in the future. The Chicago Line hosts 40 to 50 trains with a traffic mix of intermodal, mixed freights, tanker trains, coal trains and even Amtrak.

We will begin our day at the boat launch located on West River Road between the two railroad bridges over the Vermilion River.

Being summer there should be ample boat traffic on the river to watch between trains.

Photographs of an eastbound on the bridge is the prized shot for this location.

Shooting a westbound these days is tough. You will need your wide-angle lens.

But don’t let that deter you from enjoying some time at the boat launch. It is an enjoyable experience.

After lunch, when the light shifts to a more westerly direction, we will move to the railfan pavilion in town.

This spot sets up well for westbounds with the city’s water tank as your backdrop.

Eastbounds can be shot with the Vermilion station that sits just to the east of the pavilion. This is also a wide-angle shot due to some pine trees along the tracks.

Still, it is a nice place to hang out and watch trains. The crossings in town are quiet zones, so there is no horn blowing.

Train crews know that the crossing protection is working if the “X” at the top of the poles at each crossing is flashing.

In late afternoon ARRC members are invited to head to the depot in Amherst, about 10 miles east of Vermilion, for dinner.

The Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts is having its annual picnic there that evening and Chef Martè, a.k.a. as Marty Surdyk, would love to grill up some burgers and dogs for you.

ARRC President Craig Sanders, who is also an RRE member, will present a program titled When the IC had a G featuring images taken on the Illinois Central Gulf in the 1970s and early 1980s.

A highlight of the program will be a cab ride aboard an ICG intermodal train from Champaign to Centralia, Illinois.

As with most ARRC activities, the event begins when the first person arrives and ends when the last one leaves. Spent a few hours or the entire day, just plan to spend Saturday, Aug. 26, in Vermilion and Amherst.

To get to the boat launch go into Vermilion on Ohio Route 60. As you enter town and after crossing the single-tracked former NKP tracks, Route 60 will make a right turn at a flashing light.

About a block to the east, Route 60 will turn left but continue straight ahead on South Street to the stop sign at West River Road.

The entrance to the boat launch is a little left of straight across from that intersection. Park at the far end of the lot near the picnic table. You will have both railroad bridges over the Vermilion River in sight.

The Railfan pavilion, known as Vermilion Mainline Rail, is on Route 60 where it crosses the NS Chicago Line at the north end of Victory Park.

From the boat launch, go back west on South Street to Route 60 north at Main Street and make a right. The pavilion is on the right just before crossing the tracks.

NTSB Cites Crew Error in Aug. 2 CSX Derailment

August 23, 2017

The National Transportation Board said on Tuesday that its preliminary findings of the cause of an Aug. 2 derailment of a CSX train in Pennsylvania point to human error.

Investigators said the train had 33 handbrakes applied when it derailed.

The report said the 18,000-ton train had stopped on a descending grade and found a leak in an air line toward the rear of the manifest freight.

The crew set hand brakes on 58 cars and called a mechanical service employee to fix the leak.

The first crew outlawed under the hours of service law and a second crew was called in to take over the rain.

That relief crew believed the train still was having air brake problems. It released 25 hand brakes and switched from train braking to dynamic breaking three times as it descended the grade.

The derailment occurred as the train rounded a curve. The 35th car, an empty, left the tracks and 33 more cars also derailed.

This included hazardous materials cars that ignited and burned, forcing the evacuation of Hyndman, Pennsylvania, for more than 48 hours.

In the report, investigators said that the wheels of several cars had flat spots, built-up tread and blued steel from the hand brakes keeping wheels from turning or turning as intended.

Originating in Chicago, the train, Q388, was bound for Selkirk, New York, and had 178 cars and five locomotives at the time of the derailment.

South Shore Leases 100 Steel Coil Cars

August 23, 2017

One hundred covered steel coil cars are being placed in service by the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad to serve its largest customer, ArcelorMittal, in Burns Harbor, Indiana.

The South Shore is leasing the 100-ton capacity cars from CIT Rail.

In a news release, the South Shore said that coil cars are in tight supply.

“South Shore and ArcelorMittal share a business partnership that has been going strong for more than a decade,” the company said in a statement. “Adding equipment to support our biggest customer was the right and timely decision.”

CSX Changes How it Calculates 3 Service Metrics

August 23, 2017

CSX said this week that it is changing the way that it calculates three key service metrics — train velocity, terminal dwell and cars online.

In a news release, CSX said that the changes will more accurately reflect its operational performance.

The railroad said it will continue its required reporting weekly of EP 724 data to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board in the prescribed methodology.

The revised service are being defined as follows:

Train velocity: Revised to include a train’s end-to-end time and accordingly, speed.

The previous definition only counted time on line of road and excluded intermediate dwell time for crew changes, freight car pick-up or set-off, or other work events at an intermediate yard.

The updated definition includes intermediate dwell time, which CSX said will reflect the true speed of a train from origin to destination and help identify opportunities to move trains faster and more reliably from origin to destination.

CSX said the inclusion of additional time-in-train velocity has the effect of reducing speed when compared to the prior methodology.

Terminal dwell: The new definition has been expanded to include all car dwell time encountered on an end-to-end trip.

The previous definition excluded the amount of time a car spent at a terminal during an intermediate work event if it arrived and departed on the same train.

The updated definition includes intermediate car dwell for terminal work events when a car arrives and departs on the same train.

CSX said this change more accurately reflects all time that a car dwells and will help identify opportunities to improve asset utilization.

The inclusion of these additional dwell events has the effect of reducing terminal dwell when compared to the prior methodology, as intermediate dwell on the same train is often less than dwell events on cars that change trains, which reduces overall average dwell time.

Cars on line: The new definition measures the number of active freight rail cars on rail lines operated by CSX.

The previous definition included all cars that were last reported on a line operated by CSX, which counted several categories of inactive freight rail cars, including cars that are being repaired, are in storage, have been sold or are private cars dwelling at a customer location for more than one day.

CSX said the exclusion of these inactive car categories enables focus on movement and utilization of active cars on the system. As inactive cars become active again, they will be included in the active cars online count.

The exclusion of inactive cars has the effect of reducing the number of cars on line when compared to the prior methodology.

CSX has restated 2016 and 2017 train velocity and terminal dwell performance data using the new definitions and is making that data along with 2017 cars online data available on its website.

It noted that the new metrics differ from data reported by other U.S. railroads and are not directly comparable.

NS Contractor Using Drones for Bridge Inspections

August 23, 2017

Norfolk Southern has contacted with a Virginia company that uses drones to inspect the railroad’s bridges.

Since early 2016, HAZON Solutions of Virginia Beach, has inspected 64 bridges.

The inspections include complete coverage of the bridge using high definition still frame, video and thermal imaging cameras.

The drones fly within 15 feet of the bridges to capture the highest quality pictures possible.

HAZON drone inspection teams use proprietary techniques to fly under and inside bridge spans, “collecting imagery from angles previously unavailable,” the company said.

Conrail in Berea Cover Story of August eBulletin

August 22, 2017

When I moved to Ohio in August 1993 I set out to find a railfan spot that I had heard about while living in Pennsylvania. Berea was the epicenter of the Conrail “X” and I would quickly discover that it was as good as advertised.

But it was more than trains that made Berea a special place to be. There was a core of regulars who spent weekends in Berea and in time I got know those guys.

I’ve written about my Berea weekends in Conrail days in the cover story of the August issue of the Akron Railroad Club eBulletin.

Also in this month’s issue is a story about the July ARRC picnic at Warwick Park and information about two upcoming ARRC activities.

To request a copy of the August eBulletin or to become a subscriber, send an email to There is no charge for back issues and the subscription is free.

U.S. Class 1 Railroad Employment Fell in July

August 22, 2017

The Surface Transportation Board reported that U.S. Class 1 railroad employment fell 0.7 percent in July when compared to the previous month.

The railroads had 147,540 workers in the United States as of mid-July, which was down 3.4 percent from the same period in 2016. Employment fell in all six employment categories.

The number of executives, officials and staff assistants declined 0.24 percent to 8,678; professional and administrative staff, 0.3 percent to 12,643; maintenance of way and structures workers, 0.57 percent to 33,849; maintenance of equipment and stores employees, 0.97 percent to 27,036; transportation (other than train and engine) ranks, 0.26 percent to 5,790; and transportation (train and engine) workers, 0.92 percent to 59,544.

When compared to 2016, the July 2017 figures showed that all employment categories except one posted declines.

The number of professional and administrative staff was down 7.7 percent; executives, officials and staff assistants, down 6.5 percent;  maintenance of way and structures, down 6.5 percent; maintenance of equipment and stores, down 5.1 percent; and transportation (other than T&E), down 5.3 percent.

The number of T&E employees rose 1.04 percent.

T1 Trust Acquires Tender from New York Society

August 22, 2017

The Western New York Railway Historical Society has sold to the T1 Trust a tender that is being described as the last of its kind.

Former Pennsylvania Railroad long-haul tender No. 6659 was used behind an M1, a 4-8-2 Mountain-type locomotive.

The acquisition means that the T1 trust will not have to build a tender because the tender it purchased is essentially a T1 tender minus the streamlining.

Design, construction, and fabrication of a new tender was estimated to eat $3 million out of the T1 restoration project’s $10 million budget.

No. 6659 holds 31 tons of coal and 21,000 gallons of water. No other coast-to-coast tenders with 16-wheels are known to exist.

In a news release, the T1 Trust said that No. 6659 is in excellent condition with sealed hatches, minor surface rust and well-preserved trucks.

The WNYRHS had acquired No. 6659 with the intent of using it to replace the gutted-out short tender for its Pennsy 2-10-0 I1sa-type locomotive.

As part of the purchase agreement, the T1 Trust will fully restore the I1’s tender tank to its original specifications as part of a planned cosmetic restoration of the I1 locomotive. The tender restoration is estimated to cost $75,000.

NYC History Group to Dedicate New HQ

August 22, 2017

The New York Central System Historical Society will dedicate a new headquarters in Middleburg Heights on Sept. 23.

The group is having a grand opening and offering tours of the facility starting at 2 p.m.

The new headquarters is located at 6950 BBB Engle Road.

GATX May Expand its Terre Haute Facility

August 22, 2017

Railcar leasing company GATX appears to be seeking to expand a maintenance facility it operates in Terre Haute, Indiana.

GATX over the past year-and-a-half has invested $1.5 million in the plant. A company executive recently told a Terre Haute public works board that the expansion would cost $28 million to $38 million.

The City of Terre Haute has granted approval to GATX to use a portion of city property to build a rail line connecting the 104-acre site with CSX and Indiana Rail Road lines.

A news report said GATX is considering expansion of its Terre Haute plant due to the demand for railcar repair work and potential tax incentives. The expansion would add 60 new jobs at the facility.