Archive for November, 2019

Amtrak’s Westbound Broadway Limited in 1978

November 30, 2019

Although Amtrak’s Broadway Limited was assigned new SDP40F locomotives in the mid 1970s, but that assignment proved to be relatively short lived.

The units became embroiled in a controversy over whether they were derailment prone after being implicated in several derailments.

Some railroads banned the units whiles others imposed speed restrictions on them on certain types of curves.

By the late 1970s Amtrak had replaced most of the SDP40Fs on its long-distance eastern trains with E units.

Later these trains began receiving F40PH locomotives although for a time there were still locomotives with steam generators in the motive power consist to provide steam for heating and cooling.

Starting in late 1979 equipment with head-end power capability came onboard, starting with the Lake Shore Limited. Once Heritage Fleet equipment was permanently assigned to eastern long-distance trains the last of the E units with steam generators in revenue service was retired from long-distance service.

But all of that was a few years down the road on June 3, 1978, when Bob Farkas caught a tardy westbound Broadway Limited in Wooster, Ohio, at Prairie Lane.

His notes from that date indicate that the third unit might have been the first E unit painted for Amtrak.

Lead E8A No. 447 should feel right at home on these rails. It was built in May 1952 as Pennsylvania Railroad No. 5790A.

During the Penn Central era it carried roster number 4250 and was initially assigned Amtrak roster number 277.

It was renumbered to 447 in November 1975 after being rebuilt in March 1974, which was just before the second order of SDP40Fs began rolling out of the EMD shops in LaGrange, Illinois.

Amtrak retired No. 447 in July 1981 along with several other rebuilt E units as they by then had become surplus as F40s and Heritage Fleet equipment had become the norm on eastern long-distance trains such as the Broadway Limited.

Glint Photograph and Amtrak

November 30, 2019

I’ve photographed Amtrak in countless places over the years but never shortly after sunrise and coming out of a rising sun.

Glint photograph is a staple of railroad photographers, particularly when a train is coming out of low light at sunrise or just before sunset.

I’ve made many glint images of freight trains but never an Amtrak train.

Doing a glint with Amtrak was more challenging than I expected. I soon learned that the stainless steel sides of Amtrak cars reflect light like a mirror.

I found that getting a glint of Amtrak seemed to work best when part of the train was in a shadow such as that cast by an adjacent building.

That was particularly the case with the top image of the westbound Capitol Limited arriving in the station in Waterloo, Indiana.

No. 29 was an hour and a half late, which was why I was able to capture it in the first place.

Had it been on time it would arrived before sunrise. As it turned out, The Capitol motored into Waterloo just after 8 a.m.

About a half hour behind it was the westbound Lake Shore Limited, which was nearly an hour late.

As seen in the bottom image, there was more ambient light by then, but I learned from photographing the Capitol Limited to under expose the image to compensate for the bright reflection from the sides of the passenger cars.

That also drew out the sky and clouds.

Something to be Thankful For

November 29, 2019

Sometimes we forget local railfan history, or how blessed we are to have been a part of it.

It is the late 1960s/early 1970s in Barberton at the Akron & Barberton Belt engine facility. A&BB No. 28 (Baldwin S12) is at the front left with A&BB No, 5408 (Alco RS-3) behind it.

On the right is Norfolk & Western 2547 (Alco RS-3). Whatever day I took this around 50 years ago, I never realized how thankful I can be for having photographed these fallen-flag builders’ locomotives on a fallen-flag railroad. Even the engine facility as seen here is gone.

Yes, we have the Akron Barberton Cluster here with a different engine facility, but it just isn’t the same. On Thanksgiving Day, also count your railfan blessings. You might be surprised.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas

ORHS Offering Throttle Time Program in 2020

November 29, 2019

The Orrville Railroad Heritage Society will resume its Throttle Time with GP7u No. 471 in May 2020.

For $471 participants will be able to operate the 1,500 horsepower locomotive on track at the ORHS rail yard located at DABO, Incorporated in Orrville.

The session will last for an hour and include safety and operation training as well as 20 minutes in the engineer’s seat at the throttle.

There will also be a look inside the locomotive’s engine compartment.

Participants must be 18 years or older to purchase a session, which also comes with an honorary engineer certificate and one year membership in the ORHS.

The information and order form can be downloaded at the ORHS website at

Long pants and closed toe footwear is required and gloves are recommended.

The application form notes that participants must have a clean driving record, must follow directions from ORHS staff, and must assume all liability during the session.

NORM Seeking Volunteers for 2020

November 29, 2019

The Northern Ohio Railway Museum is seeking volunteers for its 2020 season.

Volunteers conduct such tasks as painting the equipment; car moving; serving as docents, conductors, motormen; and touring old abandoned trolley lines turned rail-trail.

Those interested should express their interest on the museum’s Facebook page, by calling 330-769-5501, or sending an email to<>

The museum is located at 5515 Buffham Road, Seville, Ohio, near Chippewa Lake.

In recent news from the museum, the Youngstown & Southern short line railroad has donated a vintage iron railroad crossbuck to NORM.

The crossbuck has “Railroad Crossing” on one arm and “Look out for the Locomotive” on the other.

The crossbuck will be restored and used at the museum.

NORM also announced that it will offer for sale or trade in 2020 the trucks to former Reading No. 1088. They are now located under the car and will be available to would-be buyers for inspection.

A sister car of this type once operated on the Akron, Canton & Youngstown.

F40s Were Still the Motive Power of Choice

November 27, 2019

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited saunters through Berea on March 30, 1996.

No. 48 was running late that day although I no longer remember how far behind scheduled it was.

At the time, F40PH locomotives were the motive power of choice on the Lake Shore.

But not for much longer. Already P40 units were on the property and Amtrak would begin taking delivery of P42DC locomotives starting in August 1996.

For those who like to pay attention to consists, Nos. 48 and 49 in this era was a mixture of three equipment types. Heritage fleet baggage cars, sleepers and dining cars co-mingled with Viewliner sleepers and Amfleet coaches and cafe cars.

The Lake Shore also had a healthy load of material handling cars tacked on the rear carrying mail and express shipments.

That is a Conrail auto rack train passing No. 48 on Track No. 1.

W&LE Motive Power on CSX in Akron

November 27, 2019

Here are two grab shots of Wheeling & Lake Erie SD40-2 No. 7009 pushing its train east on CSX in Akron on Nov. 26. The 7009 had already passed under the Wilbeth Road walk bridge as I got there.

As you can see, that is a small part of industrial Akron in the background of image one as seen through the fence webbing.

The bottom image is actually a zoomed in shot from the same location.

No. 7009 was used in the making of the 2010 movie Unstoppable and for the filming received a specially painted fictional Allegheny & West Virginia Railroad livery of gray, yellow and black.

It has been given a positive train control apparatus.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas


ORHS to Hold Christmas at the Depot on Saturday

November 27, 2019

The Orrville Railroad Heritage Society will hold its annual Christmas at the Depot event on Saturday (Nov. 30) from noon to 4 p.m.

Santa Claus will arrive at the restored former Pennsylvania Railroad station at 4 p.m.

The depot will be decorated for the holidays and have operating train layouts and refreshments.

The gift shop will be open and with any luck at all Norfolk Southern will send a train or two past during the festivities.

ORHS has also announced that it will hold its annual membership dinner on Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. at Top of the Viaduct Restaurant at 607 Lincoln Way West in Massillon.

Dinner will be served at 6 p.m. and include two meats, potatoes, pasta, vegetable, salad and coffee or soft drink.

The cost is $15 person and ORHS members are welcome to bring a guest and/or family members.

An automatic 18 percent gratuity will be added to each bill. Meal charges will be collected at the restaurant.

Following dinner, members of the board of directors will be elected for 2020.

Worthington Museum Sets Letters to Santa Event

November 27, 2019

The Ohio Railway Museum will hold its annual Letters to Santa event on Dec. 8, 14, 21 and 22.

Attendees will be able write a letter to Santa Claus that they can mail to the North Pole in one of the museum’s Railway Post Office cars.

There will also be visits with Mrs. Claus and opportunities to make Christmas crafts and ornaments.

Interurban car No. 64 will be providing rides throughout the day on an as-needed basis.

There will be no pre-sale tickets for this event. Tickets can be bought on the day of  visit in the depot.

Admission for adults is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and $7 for children is $7. Children age 3 will be admitted for free. Hours of the event are noon to 4 p.m.

The museum is located at 990 Proprietors Road in Worthington. The museum phone number is 614-885-7345.

Rail Executives Insist PSR is a Growth Strategy

November 27, 2019

Critics of the precision scheduled railroading model have zeroed in on the cost-cutting measures that have followed in the wake of its adoption.

E. Hunter Harrison

Employee headcounts have been reduced, yards and service facilities have been closed, and fewer and longer trains are operated as a way to decrease the number of crew starts.

All of that saves money, which looks good on the balance sheet.

Yet during the RailTrends 2019 Conference held last week, executives of CSX, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific insisted that PSR is not about cutting your way to greater profitability.

They said PSR is a traffic growth strategy even as they acknowledged that they have sought to adopt the philosophy of the late E. Hunter Harrison of having a “lean” operating structure.

CN CEO J.J. Ruest said adopting PSR leads to just a one-time cost-cutting exercise that by itself doesn’t lead to volume or market share growth.

“Precision Scheduled Railroading helps you to fix your costs one time,” Ruest said. “But it does not really address how you’re going to grow after that.”

He said the challenge for the industry is not just having an efficient railroad but creating a product that’s appealing to those who ship by highway instead of rail.

Harrison brought PSR to the Illinois Central and later Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and CSX.

He died in December 2017, nine months after taking over as CEO of CSX and implementing the PSR model there.

Mark Wallace, the executive vice president of marketing and sales at CSX, worked with Harrison at CN and CP.

He told the conference that PSR is a blueprint for providing better service and that will enable railroads to increase their share of traffic volume.

Currently, railroads have just an 8 percent slice of the $980 billion transportation market.

“Truckers have been eating our lunch for decades,” Wallace said. “The uncomfortable truth is that many former and potential rail customers have, however reluctantly, demonstrated a willingness to pay a premium for the superior reliability offered by the trucks.”

Wallace said CSX is seeking to grow and not shrink its business and it believes it can do that by diverting traffic now moving on highways to rail cars.

“Recapturing just a tiny slice of the overall transportation spend can be a very big deal for an individual carrier,” he said.

Considering that CSX’s share of the overall transportation market is slightly more than 1 percent, Wallace said a quarter or a half a point of market share in would mean “billions and billions and billions of dollars of opportunity.”

John Scheib, the NS chief strategy officer, echoed the point that PSR has resulted in a more efficient operation that is poised for growth.

He said NS yards and main lines are much more fluid because it has reducing switching and is moving tonnage on fewer but longer trains.

“All that yields a capacity dividend, which means we can move more freight on the same assets,” he said. “We can sell that. And we do want to sell that.”

CN has been practicing PSR the longest of the North American Class 1 carriers and has also become the fastest growing.

It has adopted a strategy of becoming more of a supply chain partner with its shippers. That’s important because manufacturing and natural resource traffic is declining in some regions of its network.

One railroad executive who worked with Harrison at CN did offer a word of caution about cost cutting as a component of PSR.

If you cut the management ranks too deeply there will be fewer people around to hunt for shipping business.

Eric Jakubowski is now the chief commercial officer at railroad short line holding company Anacostia Rail Holdings. He said some Class I railroads have reduced management too deeply.

Sales forces have been slashed and trainmasters are spread too thin.

“These are people who had relationships, these are people who could solve problems, these are people who could go chase opportunities,” he said.

Harrison often said that a railroad practicing PSR would offer service was that was so good that it would sell itself.

Jakubowksi is skeptical of that thinking. “That’s a problem,” he said. “You can’t replace front line managerial people who are empowered to make decisions with people sitting at corporate headquarters running spreadsheets.”