Archive for November, 2020

Conrail Monday: Westbound Out of Massilon

November 30, 2020

Conrail SD40 No. 6297 leads a westbound out of Massillon on May 8, 1981. Today this stretch of the Fort Wayne Line is single track with no pole line and most of the background industry is missing.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

There Was Still Some Fall Color

November 30, 2020

I wasn’t expecting to find any colorful fall foliage when I set out in mid November to chase trains on the Champaign Subdivision of Canadian National in east central Illinois.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find some maple trees still showing off their October best.

Better yet they formed a line of fall foliage along the former Illinois Central mainline.

Shown above is a southbound grain train passing through Pesotum, Illinois.

Columbus Train Show Canceled

November 30, 2020

Not that this will come as any surprise, but the Dec. 12 Buckeye Model Train and Railroad Artifacts show has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The show had been slated to be held in the Lausche Building of the Ohio Expo Center of the Ohio State Fair in Columbus.

The show sponsor, Golden Spike Enterprises, conducts two shows annually in Columbus, which it bills as the largest combination model train and memorabilia show in the state.

The pandemic also led to the April show being canceled earlier this year.

The Golden Spike website shows that shows scheduled in December in Altanta, Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Deland, Florida, have been canceled as well.

The website said shows are scheduled in Columbus in 2021 for April 17 and Dec. 11.

Thanksgiving Travel Relatively Quiet at Amtrak

November 30, 2020

The Thanksgiving 2020 travel period was a relatively quiet one for Amtrak.

In the past the intercity carrier has leased equipment from rail commuter agencies to offer additional service in the Northeast, added additional cars to long-distance trains, and operated extra sections on some Midwest Corridor routes out of Chicago.

But this year it was just business as usual with little additional capacity being added.

A report on the Trains magazine website indicated that the only extra trains added this year were a Boston-Washington Northeast Regional roundtrip and one Acela roundtrip between New York and Washington.

The COVID-19 pandemic depressed holiday travel this year although airlines reported their highest single day loads since the pandemic began in earnest last March.

The Trains report said few trains were sold out this year although some sellouts occurred on corridor and long-distance trains on certain days.

Due to the pandemic Amtrak is limiting coach class travel to 50 percent of capacity.

Amtrak has since October operated nearly all of its long-distance trains three days a week.

That meant that some trains did not operate on days that would ordinarily have a seen a high demand for travel.

On Sunday, which airlines say is historically the busiest travel day of the year, Amtrak had just one long-distance train, the Texas Eagle, departing from Chicago.

Some long-distance trains did experience sell outs, including the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

Nos. 29 and 30 in recent months has been operating with just four cars, two coaches, a sleeper and a food service car.

But No. 30 departing Chicago on Saturday (Nov. 28) and Monday (Nov. 30) had no available seats available, the Trains report said.

The report said the Texas Eagle had no available coach seating between Chicago and St. Louis on Friday or Sunday in either direction.

The Trains report said space on many long-distance trains that experienced sell outs sold out weeks in advance of the Thanksgiving travel period.

However, Amtrak declined to add additional capacity to those trains.

With health officials seeking to discourage holiday travel, some long-distance trains experienced cancellations as the holiday period drew near, thus opening seats on the day of departure.

Railfanning and Minor League Hockey

November 29, 2020

Few people in Northeast Ohio have probably heard of the Mentor Ice Breakers, a minor league hockey franchise in Mentor that shut down recently after playing just two seasons.

The Ice Breakers were in the Federal Prospects Hockey League and played their games in the small, but intimate Mentor Civic Center.

Ed Ribinskas, Marty Surdyk and I attended a pair of Ice Breaker games in March 2019.

Both games faced off on a Sunday afternoon and afterwards we went out to dinner at a local restaurant before heading home.

I’ll always associate watching the Ice Breakers play with railfanning before the games.

Ed and I went out before the first game, getting as far east as Albion, Pennsylvania, after chasing a train there from Conneaut on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie.

Marty joined us for some railfanning before the second game on a day that featured dramatic winter weather even though it was officially spring.

It had rained and then snowed overnight, leaving a coating of white on nearly everything.

We caught quite a few trains that day on the CSX Erie West Subdivision and the NS Lake Erie District, including a work train with a caboose.

Ice Breakers owner Dan Moon told the News-Herald that he and business partner Chris Brynarski lost more than $500,000 operating the team during its two-year existence.

Although they thought about suspending operations for the 2020-2021 season as two other teams in the league have done, after looking into it they decided it wasn’t financially feasible.

Ed and his wife, Ursula, attended several Ice Breakers games including what turned out to be the final one played before the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March and shut down the league.

“I’m glad we had the chance to see a few games while they existed,” he wrote in an email. “I know Ursula and myself enjoyed it very much.

“[I] never would have realized the game I saw with Marty back in March would be the last game the team would play.”

In the top image, CSX westbound intermodal train Q009 kicks up some snow as it passes through a winter wonderland near Unionville on March 31, 2019.

In the middle image, an eastbound CSX train led by a pair of Union Pacific units passes the Nickel Plate Road Berkshire-type steam locomotive on static display in Conneaut on March 10, 2019.

In the bottom image, the Ice Breakers celebrate after scoring the winning goal in a game that featured an improbable ending.

With a minute left in the game and the Danville (Illinois) Dashers holding a 7-5 lead, it looked like the home team would lose yet again.

But the Dashers committed two minor penalties and the Ice Breakers scored twice, including the game-tying goal with 4.5 seconds left to play.

In overtime, Mentor scored on a breakaway at the 1:04 mark to win in sudden death.

I don’t know if any of the Ice Breakers made or will ever make a National Hockey League roster, but they provided inexpensive entertainment on the two Sunday afternoons that I saw them play.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

It Only Looks Like the New York Central

November 29, 2020

It is the summer of 1968 in dpwntown Akron. Three Penn Central locomotives. al of them still wearing a New York Central livery, are bound for Hudson and beyond.

The fancy building on the other side of the bridge is the Erie Lackawanna freight house. The train is passing the still-in-use at that time EL passenger station.

Both former Erie Railroad structures have since been razed.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Steam Saturday: Lesser Known Iteration of the 4070 Tender

November 28, 2020

Over the years former Grand Trunk Western No. 4070 carried many heralds and letterings on its tender. That was particularly the case when it worked on the Cuyahoga Valley Line, now the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.

It has carried heralds and lettering for the CVL and during its time when it was filmed for the movie The Natural, it even carried a Burlington Route herald.

In the image above, it carries lettering for the Midwest Railway Historical Foundation. This might be the least remembered of the tender’s many identities.

That is the name of its owners at the time, an organization based in Cleveland that has since renamed itself the Midwest Railway Preservation Society.

The 2-8-2 light Mikado is shown working in Peninsula in September 1982.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Steam Saturday: Together Again

November 28, 2020
Southern Pacific 4-6-2 No. 2467. Originally retired in December 1956

To railroad enthusiasts the 1950s was the steam to diesel transition era when both types of motive power were in revenue service at the same time.

I’m sure both often many cross paths prior to the steamers being retired.

Southern Pacific was very generous when it comes to preservation. More than 60 steamers of various sizes were donated to cites and museums.

The same applies to vintage diesels with more than 40 having been donated.

Shown in this post are a few examples of both type of motive power that were all retired by SP. They were all restored to active service later and were together at some time again in the 1990s.

All of the photographs are from the California State Railroad Museum’s Railfairs held in 1991 and 1999.

SP2472 was at the 1991 event while SP2467 was at the 1999 event. All the others were present at both festivals.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Southern Pacific 4-8-4 No. 4449. Originally retired in October 1957.
Southern Pacific 4-6-2 No. 2472. Originally retired February 1957
Southern Pacific E9A 6051. Built 1954
Southern Pacific GP9 No. 5623. Built 1955
Southern Pacific DRS66-1500 No. 5208. Built 1949.

How You Used to go Downtown on Black Friday

November 27, 2020

Today is Black Friday, the name given to the day after Thanksgiving when merchants do so much business that they go “into the black” for the calendar year.

But in the midst of a pandemic Black Friday, like so many other traditions, has been upended.

Merchants continue to bombard the public with Black Friday advertising and even before the pandemic there was so much of it that it seemed as though the entire month of November was being transformed into Black Friday.

Let’s go back in time, though, when people on the east side of Cleveland would ride the Shaker Rapid downtown on Black Friday to visit Higbee’s for a day of shopping that included lunch at the famed Silver Grille.

You would step off the car at Cleveland Union Terminal and made the short walk to the department store located in the Terminal Tower complex on Public Square.

Shown above is Shaker Heights Rapid No. 90 cruising past the high-rise apartment buildings just off Shaker Square along what is known today as the Green Line of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

This image was made in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Highbee’s was still much an institution in downtown Cleveland then as was its rival Halle Brothers further down Euclid Avenue.

Then again, maybe you rode Car 90 to go to Hallee’s to visit Mr. Jingeling on the seventh floor where he served as Santa’s keeper of the keys.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

How You Go Downtown Now

November 27, 2020

By the time I moved to Cleveland in August 1993 the yellow PCC cars used on the Shaker Rapid Transit lines were long gone, having been replaced by Breda cars built by an Italian manufacturer.

Also long gone by then was Higbee’s and the Silver Grille, and Hallee’s and Mr. Jingeling, all of them venerable Cleveland traditions referenced in the post above of a Shaker Heights PCC car photographed by Robert Farkas.

Seeing Bob’s photo reminded me of how I used to think it was a thrill to ride the Rapid.

Riding the Rapid and passing the high-rise apartment buildings near Shaker Square that can be seen behind the PCC car in Bob’s photograph both made me feel like I lived in a “big city.”

Sure I had lived in Indianapolis for a few years in the late 1980s and early 1990s but it didn’t and still doesn’t have a light rail line. All of the other places I’ve lived were too small to have such a mode of transportation.

None of them had a row of high-rise apartment buildings either.

The town where I grew up didn’t even have public transportation. You either walked or drove everywhere.

Bob’s photo also reminded me of how much I didn’t photograph the Cleveland RTA rail lines during my time living there.

The closest I came to photographing a Rapid car passing those high-rise apartment buildings was getting a car chartered by the Akron Railroad Club passing the Coventry Station during a photo runby.

Coventry station is located at the far east end of that line of apartment buildings that has an “urban” feeling.

Even if there wasn’t a pandemic doing on, I doubt that many people would be riding the Rapid to downtown Cleveland for Black Friday.

If they are going to get out on Black Friday they will drive to their favorite big box store that is more than likely located somewhere in a suburb.

If they have lunch that day it will probably be from a fast food chain outlet.

People continue to ride the Rapid to downtown Cleveland although they are far less likely to do it on Black Friday to go shopping.

Downtown department stores are a thing of the past and the retail that is left is a shadow of what it used to be.

I even wondered if the day after Thanksgiving was known as Black Friday back in the era when Bob made his photograph.

The day after Thanksgiving has been regarded as the start of the U.S. Christmas shopping season since 1952 with the “Black Friday” term dating to at least 1961.

However, one of the earliest known uses of the term in advertising didn’t occur until 1975. Even a decade later the term wasn’ that commonly used by merchants.

But the term has gained widespread currency in more recent decades and has been expanded to refer to marketing efforts that transcend the day after Thanksgiving. There are even “Black Friday” sales in October.

In writing the article that accompanies Bob’s photograph I was trying to capture a holiday tradition even if might be a greatly diminished one.

Some day there will no longer be people around who remember riding the Rapid to downtown to visit Higbee’s or Hallee’s.

There will be others, though, who can associate riding the Rapid to go downtown for other traditions.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders