Archive for September, 2017

From Movie Star to Derelict

September 30, 2017

Marty Surdyk, Ed Ribinskas and I were driving home last July from an outing on the Arcade & Attica in New York State.

We stopped in Gowanda, New York, to photograph a former Erie Railroad station and ended up discovering something else.

It was Contrack coach 3573 sits neglected nearby. Many of its windows are broken or covered with plywood.

Now owned by the New York & Lake Erie, the short-line railroad has a connection to the Akron Railroad Club. In 1987 the club and the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts sponsored an excursion on that railroad.

Being a late Sunday afternoon, no one was around the depot, which is adjacent to a small yard.

I happened to look across the street and noticed something that I wanted to investigate.

It turned out to be one of the “Contrack” coaches used in the filming of the 1987 movie Trains, Planes and Automobiles, which featured Steve Martin  and John Candy.

The unlikely pair are traveling by plane from New York to Chicago en route home for Thanksgiving when the plane was diverted to Wichita, Kansas, due to a blizzard in Chicago.

The two opposites wound up taking a Contrack train out of Stubbville, Kansas, but the locomotive broke down in Missouri and the passengers were left stranded in a field.

A utility pole has fallen on one side of the car and vegetation is threatening to swallow it.

An online search yielded little information other than the car has apparently been sitting at this location for more than 10 years.

Parts of the movie were filmed in Gowanda and the scene where the locomotive breaks down occurred between Dayton and South Dayton.

As you might imagine, the car is rusting and its paint fading, but the Contrack logo and name are still visible.

The car appears to have been built or modernized during the streamliner era, but I otherwise know nothing about its heritage. It probably was used for a time in the NY&LE tourist train operation.

I’m not an expert in assessing the physical condition of passenger cars, but it appears it would require a lot of money to cosmetically restore Contrack 3573, let alone get it into operating condition.

With the car having been in one place for so many years and continuing to deteriorate, it seems likely it will be scrapped in place some day.

Trains, Planes and Automobiles was released 30 years ago on the day before Thanksgiving to take advantage of its Thanksgiving travel theme.

The film had an upbeat conclusion that was pure Hollywood, yet it will take more than Hollywood magic for Contrack 3573 to have a happy ending.

 

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The North Side is Nice, Too

September 29, 2017

The book on photographing CSX in Conneaut during the morning hours is to be on the south side of the tracks.

The classic image features the town’s water tank with an eastbound train coming around a curve.

I’ve done that before and was looking to do it again earlier this month on a Sunday morning that featured sunny skies.

I parked by the historical society, which is housed in the former New York Central freight depot on the north side of the tracks and turned my scanner on.

I figured to get enough warning to get out, walk to the other side of the tracks and to get into position in advance of a train.

However, I forgot to bring my railroad employee timetable pages for that area and couldn’t remember the mileposts on the CSX Erie West Subdivision.

That was how I got caught flat footed as I was sitting in my car and the gates started to go down. I had heard the eastbound Q116 calling signals but it was not as far west as I thought it was.

So I got out and did the best I could on the north side of the tracks. Shown in the top photograph, that photo op turned out better than I expected.

There was ample nose light and the sides of the containers were not as much in shadows as I feared they would be.  One reason for being on the south side of the tracks is to get sunlight bathing the entire train.

When an eastbound ethanol train came along about half-hour later, I deliberately stood on the north side of the tracks.

Shown in the middle, this image of a train that identified itself on the radio with symbol number 452, had some side shadows, but in the past year I’ve grown to like those because it gives an image some contrast, which in turn creates visual tension.

As much as I liked what I was getting on the north side, I still wanted to get the classic view, so when the Q388 was nearing town, I moved to the south side. The result can be seen in the bottom image, which has a BNSF unit trailing the lead CSX locomotive.

The Conneaut water tank is better positioned in this image than it is in the middle photograph. Also, standing on the south side puts the photographer on the inside of the curve.

There are multiple advantages of being on the south side of the rails when in Conneaut at the Mill Street crossing. But you can get some pleasing results on the other of the tracks, too.

Sanders Presents at Michigan Conference

September 29, 2017

Akron Railroad Club President Craig Sanders gave a presentation at the 14th Michigan Railroad History Conference titled Michigan’s Bootstrap Campaign: Passenger Rail Development in the Amtrak Era.

The conference was held on Sept. 23 at the Maas Conference Center of Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Sanders described how the now-named Michigan Department of Transportation sought to improve rail passenger in the state following the inauguration of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

Michigan’s intercity rail service in the early Amtrak years was limited to two daily roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit.

Since then service in the state has expanded to three routes linking Chicago with Detroit, Grand Rapids and Port Huron. The Detroit corridor also reaches north to suburban Pontiac.

The state has purchased much of the Chicago-Detroit corridor within Michigan, buying from Norfolk Southern 135 miles between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, and landing $511 million in federal funding to upgrade the line for higher speed service.

The state and communities served by Amtrak have also invested in station rehabilitation and many cities not served by Amtrak are linked to it by connecting bus service.

Despite these successes, the state has also had some misses. It stopped funding an Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter operation after ridership fell substantially, and a Detroit-New York train funded in part with the state of New York ended in 1979, in part due to lower ridership between Detroit and Buffalo, New York.

Several proposals to establish service between Detroit and Grand Rapids have failed to come to fruition.

The Michigan Railroad History Conference began 30 years ago at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn as an educational outreach program of the Bluewater Michigan chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

The conference features a full day of presentations on Michigan’s railroad history and is rotated among various cities in the state.

DOT Seeking Environmental Review Changes

September 29, 2017

Regulatory changes being proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation are being touted as designed to streamline the environmental review process for multimodal projects.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said the proposed changes will bring the Federal Railroad Administration’s  environmental review process into harmony with procedures used by the Federal Transit Administration and Federal Highway Administration.

A DOT news release said that the proposal, which has been sent to the Federal Register for publication, is being made so that multimodal projects are required to follow only one process rather than multiple agency processes.

Under the proposed rules, most concrete and steel bridges built after 1945 would be exempt from historic sites review.

In her AASHTO speech, Chao said that DOT is seeking to identify ways to eliminate unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy that will save states time and money, and reduce burdensome compliance costs.

“Important new regulatory and policy changes are underway at the Department to help deliver infrastructure projects faster, and in a more cost effective manner,” she said.

Chao said DOT has issued an updated guidance policy for the application of categorical exclusions for multimodal projects. The new rules allow one USDOT agency to use the categorical exclusions of another USDOT agency for certain multimodal projects.

Brother of Paul Woodring Dies

September 28, 2017

Bruce Woodring, 56, the brother of Akron Railroad Club member Paul Woodring, died last Sunday after a battle with cancer.

Bruce Woodring

Mr. Woodring was a life-long Akron area resident and he and his family rode several ARRC excursions on the Ohio Central in the 1990s and early 2000s.

He and his father, Ken Woodring, helped to install a hanging screen at the Summit County Historical Society in advance of Paul giving a program at an ARRC meeting.

Mr. Woodring was the owner of WTS Transportation Services and played the drums for many bands and at his church.

In addition to his brother Paul, Mr. Woodring is survived by his parents, Gloria and Ken Woodring; and his three children, Esteban, Stephanie and Kenny.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 30) at Advent Lutheran Church, 1516 Edison St. NW, Uniontown, OH 44685, with the Rev. Bob Cheyney officiating.

What We Don’t Want to Hear

September 28, 2017

Depending on what they are carrying, if these tank cars derail, they might make a sound that mirrors the name of the boat waiting for them to clear the Norfolk Southern bridge over the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland.

The tankers were part of the consist of BF10, which makes a daily trip from Motor Yard in Macedonia to Rockport Yard on  Cleveland’s southwest side.

The boater, though, still had a long wait after the BF10 cleared. Trains 24M, 17N and 18N all had to clear before the bridge tender raised the bridge to allow the armada of waiting boats to head for Lake Erie or up the Cuyahoga.

On its Way Back Home to Indiana

September 27, 2017

Here are four images of Nickel Plate Road No. 765’s westward ferry movement through the Bellevue area on Tuesday.

The top image is east of Bellevue at a place referred to as Kimball.

The remaining images were taken in Bellevue as the 765 headed west on the wye to the Fostoria District of Norfolk Southern.

A big thank you goes out to the crew of NKP 765 and all who brought the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s  2017 “Steam in the Valley” together. With the sweltering heat of the last couple weeks it must have been brutal!

Article and Photographs by Robert Farkas

Parting Images of NKP 765

September 26, 2017

We could not have asked for a better day from a weather standpoint than what we had this past Sunday.

Although Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 was making its final public trips on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad that day, chasing the Berkshire-type locomotive was not in my plans.

Instead, I was going to explore some new territory for me in Northeast Ohio.

But I made it a point to at least get down to the CVSR to catch the morning ferry move to Akron.

I was hoping for foggy conditions as had occurred last year, but that wasn’t to be. Although the temperatures for Sunday were going to climb into the 80s, it was still somewhat cool in the morning.

I know from previous years that cool mornings in September often yield a nice smoke and steam show from the 765 during its first outing of the day.

The ferry move left Fitzwater shops and yard just before 9 a.m. I was waiting in Brecksville just south of the station.

The 765 did not disappoint. It put forth one fine show as it chugged past, sounding as good as it looked.

Cleveland RTA Executive to Retire

September 26, 2017

A key Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority executive is retiring after a 50-year career in public transportation.

York

Mike York, who joined Cleveland RTA in 1990, will retire on Sept. 29 from his post as deputy general manager of operations.

In that position, York oversees more than 2,000 employees and an annual budget of $218 million.

He played a key role in the 1996 opening of the Waterfront Line light-rail route.

York began his public transportation career in 1967 as a bus operator.

He was later hired by Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority and played a pivotal role in the planning and development of a transit system that was a deciding factor in Atlanta being selected to host the 1996 Olympic Games.

In 1984, York was hired as assistant executive director for operations and planning for Dallas Area Rapid Transit where he conducted the initial planning and development for the agency’s light-rail system.

Elliott To Step Down From STB

September 26, 2017

Surface Transportation Board Vice Chairman Daniel R. Elliott III said on Monday that he plans to step down from his position on Sept. 30.

Elliott

In a news release issued by the STB announcing the resignation, Elliott did not give a reason for his resignation.

He was appointed chair of the STB in 2009 by President Barack Obama and served in that position until Jan. 25, 2017, when President Donald Trump designated Ann D. Begeman as acting chairman.

In a statement, Elliott said serving on the STB has been an honor and his tenure has brought rewards and challenges. He added that he has gained an appreciation for the “sophisticated rail transportation industry and its shippers that serve as the backbone of our nation’s economy.”

Elliott grew up in Cleveland and earned a law degree from Ohio State University. He practiced law in Cleveland for a time before moving to Washington.

Before being confirmed to his STB post, Elliott served as an attorney for the United Transportation Union.