Archive for July, 2020

Sampling Marion in Spring 1990

July 31, 2020

A westbound Conrail train on the on ex-Erie on April 29, 1990.

Marion is one of Ohio’s most popular railroad hotspots. At one time four railroads crossed here, the New York Central, Erie, Chesapeake & Ohio, and  Pennsylvania.

Railroad consolidations of the 1970s left just three railroads and today there are two railroads using three rail lines.

Back in 1990, the railroads of Marion included Norfolk Southern, CSX and Conrail.

Here is a sample of some of Ed’s favorites photographs made in Marion in spring 1990.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

A northbound CSX train on the former C&O. AC Tower still stood tall on the north side of the tracks in April 1990.

Riding an excursion train pulled by Norfolk & Western 1218 on NS (former PRR) tracks on May 20, 1990.

An eastbound NS train on former Pennsy, later N&W, tracks passing AC Tower.

Northbound, But Railroad Westbound, in Marion

July 31, 2020

The wayback machine has landed us outside of Northeast Ohio, but that’s all right because Marion is one of our favorite places to visit.

A three-unit set of Norfolk & Western locomotives heads northward across Penn Central and Erie Lackawanna tracks in June 1973.

From a railroad timetable perspective, this is a westbound train on what is today the Sandusky District of Norfolk Southern.

Photograph by Robert Farkas


R&N Steam Locomotive to Run in August

July 31, 2020

Reading & Northern plans to use 4-6-2 No. 425 to power the first weekend of tourist train service to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, by its Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway.

The trips will run on Aug. 14, 15 and 16.

Tickets are $17 for a standard coach seat and $20 for an open window coach. Children (ages 2 to 12) tickets for those accommodation s are $9 and $10.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 570-3258485. The trips are 70 minutes in duration.

Trains will depart at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Friday; and at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

No. 425 was built by Baldwin in 1982 for the Gulf, Mobile & Northern, and was purchased by the Reading & Northern in 1984. It began running for the R&N in 2007.

Intermodal Dipped 11.9% in 2nd Quarter

July 31, 2020

Intermodal traffic was down 11.9 percent in the second quarter compared with the same period of 2019 the Intermodal Association of North American reported this week.

The trade group attributed the decline largely to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was a 15.4 percent drop in international shipments while domestic containers fell by 7 percent and trailers by 14 percent.

“Second-quarter results showed the full impact of the economic downturn attributed to COVID-19,” said IANA President Joni Casey in a statement.

“Slowing imports and declining diesel prices affected both international and domestic volumes. We anticipate that the Q2 drop off should be a floor going forward.”

FTA Has Funding to Expedite Capital Projects

July 31, 2020

The Federal Transit Administration said it will make available $225 million in grant funding to be used to expedite completion of new transit capital projects.

The funding is being made available under a pilot program authorized by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

Eligible capital projects must use public-private partnerships, be operated and maintained by employees of an existing public transportation provider, and have a federal cost share not exceeding 25 percent of the project cost.

Currently, $100 million of the grant funding is available for allocation. Up to eight projects can be awarded funding.

Cart Before the Horse?

July 30, 2020

The phrase putting the cart before the horse is an idiom that often denotes something that is being done contrary to conventions or an expected relationship.

Everyone knows that a caboose is placed on the end of the train, right?

That is not always so when doing a switching move.

In the photo above, made in the early Conrail years, a switcher works at the east end of the yard in Canton with a transfer caboose that still has its Penn Central markings.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

A New York Central E7A in Painesville

July 30, 2020

We’re in Painesville along the New York Central — or is is Penn Central now? — sometime in the time frame of 1967 to 1969.

When this image was made, it sure looked like a New York Central scene with EMD E7A No. 4030 leading a train.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

ARRC Resets McKay Day Outing in Berea

July 30, 2020

The Akron Railroad Club has reset its annual Dave McKay Day outing in Berea for Saturday (Aug. 1).

Normally, the event is held in the spring, most recently in early May, but stay at home orders in effect earlier this year during the COVID-19 pandemic led to the event being canceled on its original scheduled date.

The event involves club members and their families and friends meeting in Berea for a day of train watching of the parallel CSX and Norfolk Southern mainlines.

It is named for the late Dave McKay, who served as ARRC president for 12 years before his death in late 2004.

Dave often spent weekends watching and photographing trains in Berea and the ARRC was involved in funding and overseeing the installation of a memorial plaque in his honor that sits near a tree where Dave often sat watching trains.

The event is informal and begins when the first person arrives and ends when the last person leaves.

Members are asked to bring a lawn chair and sit in the grassy area between the McKay memorial and the parking lot for the Berea Depot Restaurant.

NS Operating Revenue down 29% in 2nd Quarter

July 30, 2020

Second quarter operating revenue at Norfolk Southern plunged a whopping 29 percent to $2.1 billion.

In announcing its quarterly financial results, the carrier said the steep dive was driven by a 26 percent decline in total freight volume compared with the second quarter of 2019.

It was the largest second quarter 2020 drop among Class 1 railroads.

NS posted net income of $392 million, down 46 percent, and diluted earnings per share of $1.53, down 43 percent compared with the same period a year ago.

Railroad officials cited the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on freight volume as a major factor in the dismal quarter performance.

Operating expenses during the quarter were $1.5 billion, down 21 percent from a year ago due to lower fuel, compensation, benefits and purchased services expenses.

In a statement, NS CEO James Squires said the railroad will continue to further trim its infrastructure, including reducing the number of hump yards that it operates and operating longer trains.

Income from railway operations was $610 million, down 43 percent. The railroad’s operating ratio for the quarter was 70.7 percent compared to 63.6 percent a year ago.

During an earnings call on Wednesday morning, Squires declined to predict how the railroad might fare from a financial perspective for the remainder of the year because it remains to be seen how durable the economic recovery will be.

However, he and other NS executives expressed guarded optimism, saying the carrier has seen a strong rebound in intermodal and automotive traffic.

One commodity NS does not expect to bounce back is coal, which sank by 57 percent during the second quarter.

NS Chief Marketing Officer Alan Shaw said coal will continue to be depressed due to competition from low-cost natural gas and weakness in export metallurgical coal markets.

During the second quarter, merchandise traffic dipped 29 percent while intermodal traffic was down 16 percent.

Shaw said the growth of consumer demand and tightening truck capacity could bode well for intermodal volume growth.

The resumption of auto manufacturing and rising manufacturing output have boosted merchandise volume.

“The consumer segments are doing really well,” Shaw said noting that intermodal and automotive volume in July have outpaced those of June.

Average train weight was up 6 percent due to NS moving more tonnage on fewer and longer trains.

Train starts were down 28 percent and Chief Operating Officer Michael Wheeler said many of the train suspensions are likely to be permanent even as traffic volume recovers.

Wheeler said train starts are down 20 percent thus far in July as NS has amalgamated various types of traffic into its merchandise trains.

Wheeler said NS still is able to add volume to existing trains without having to add train starts.

The second quarter saw the closing of hump operations in Linwood, North Carolina, and Bellevue, Ohio, and NS expects to close additional terminals.

Closing Linwood and Bellevue is expected to save the railroad $20 million to $30 million a year.

Rail Traffic Slump Continued Last Week

July 30, 2020

Rail freight traffic continued to slump last week the Association of American Railroads said on Wednesday.

For the week ending July 25 weekly rail traffic was 481,331 carloads and intermodal units, down 9.9 percent compared with the same week in 2019.

Total carloads were 215,171 carloads, down 17.8 percent compared while intermodal volume was 266,160 containers and trailers, down 2.4 percent compared with 2019.

Just one the 10 carload commodity groups tracked by AAR posted a weekly gain.

That was farm products excluding grain, and food, which was up 218 carloads, to 16,406.

Commodities that posted declines compared with the same week in 2019 included coal, down 23,517 carloads to 57,769; metallic ores and metals, down 8,690 carloads, to 15,464; and nonmetallic minerals, down 7,369 carloads, to 30,946.

For the first 30 weeks of 2020, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 6,332,339 carloads, down 16.1 percent from the same point last year; and 7,217,246 intermodal units, down 9.4 percent from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 30 weeks of 2020 was 13,549,585 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 12.7 percent compared to last year.