Archive for February, 2021

How About a Grand Trunk Geep?

February 28, 2021

The late Mike Ondecker and I found Grand Trunk Western GP9 4544 in Port Huron, Michigan, on April 20, 1976, at the locomotive service facility. It is teamed up with SD40 No. 5917.

Built in March 1957, the 4533 would be retired by GTW in 1991 but go on to serve such short line operations as the Kansas Southeastern Railway, Northern Plains Railway and the Renville Elevator Company.

Photograph by Robert Farkas


SEPTA Board Approves Rail Extension Funding

February 28, 2021

The governing board of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has approved using $40 million in COVID-19 relief money for its King of Prussia rail extension.

The board said this will free up other funds for work on the rail extension.

The relief fund money will be paid to lease track from Amtrak.

Also approved by the board was a five-year strategic plan that includes the King of Prussia project as one of five that would speed economic growth.

CSX Removes Homeless Encampment in Akron

February 28, 2021

CSX police and local authorities removed a homeless encampment from railroad property in Akron earlier this month.

The encampment was near Grace Park, which has long been a hangout for the homeless.

Contractors working for CSX used a backhole and a dump truck to clear the debris from the encampment.

A CSX spokesperson told the Akron Beacon Journal the action had been planned for some time.

“This didn’t happen overnight – we’ve been giving them warnings for two years,” said Sherilee Bowman.

Bowman said the railroad acted to address health and safety issues, but said it had held back on acting sooner because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A city official said it supported the removal of the encampment because it was “dangerously close to active railroad tracks.”

Since June 2019, CSX trains have struck and killed three people in the area, including two east of Grace Park. The third fatality occurred on the other side of Ohio Route 8.

Federal Railroad Administration records show that those killed had been walking on the tracks.

CSX spokesperson Bowman said those removed from the encampment were living on railroad property and had been notified that they had to leave.

“Cleanup was scheduled after conducting a series of outreach efforts and engaging community partners to identify alternative living arrangements,” she said.

“We worked with stakeholders well in advance of scheduling and removal of trespassers in order to protect the safety of the community and our property.”

Advocates for the homeless, though, were critical of the encampment’s removal and said its residents received just 20 minutes notice of the impending action.

Mike Lucas, a co-founder of Akron Food Not Bombs said his group and others have been providing food and supplies for more than a year to homeless residents living in and near Grace Park.

He said various individuals have come and gone from the area over the past year but 15 people were living between the East Market Street and the Perkins Street bridges over the CSX New Castle Subdivision tracks.

Advocates for the homeless told the Beacon Journal some of those disrupted by the CSX action will simply move to other areas because they are unwilling to go to a homeless shelter such as Haven of Rest in Akron.

Pittsburgh Light Rail Line May Reopen

February 28, 2021

The Port Authority of Allegheny County has released a 25-year plan calling for improvements in Pittsburgh’s light rail system by reopening a now-closed rail line.

The plan also envisions reducing service on the lightly used Library line.

Although the Port Authority wants to create a route to the Pittsburgh International Airport the plan did not say what mode of transportation will be used to do that.

The plan also calls for increased service in a number of areas but did not list many specifics.

CSX Files Pan Am Merger Plan with STB

February 28, 2021

CSX has formally notified the U.S. Surface Transportation Board of its plans to acquire Pan Am Railways.

The merger application said the transaction will improve service, capture business from trucks, and boost railroad competition in New England.

The deal had been announced on Nov. 30. Pan Am operates 1,700 miles of track and haulagae rights from Albany, New York, to Maine.

In what some industry observers see as a concession to Norfolk Southern, which had expressed initial opposition to the news of the pending acquisition, CSX will have a Genesee & Wyoming subsidiary operate the Pan Am Southern, a joint venture of Pan Am and NS.

G&W’s Pittsburg & Shawmut subsidiary operating as Berkshire & Eastern, will operate Pan Am Southern of which NS is a 50 percent owner.

CSX will own half of Pan Am Southern while NS will retain its ownership share.

NS had sought a neutral party to operate the Pan Am Southern.

The Atlanta-based Class 1 also will gain trackage rights over CSX, Providence & Worcester, and Pan Am between Albany and Ayer, Massachusetts, for intermodal and automotive traffic.

That will provide a faster route for NS intermodal trains 22K and 23K as well as a route that avoids the clearance restrictions in 4.75-mile Hoosac Tunnel in western Massachusetts.

Using CSX track on the former Water Level Route and the Boston & Albany via Worcester, Massachusetts, is expected to reduce the running time for the 22K and 23K by three hours and eliminate a single-stacking operation at Mechanicville., New York.

In return NS has agreed to help pay for clearance work between Worcester and Aye and will rebuild its former Delaware & Hudson route from Delanson, New York, to Voorheesville, New York.

Two NS manifest freights will continue to operate daily over the Pan Am Southern between Albany and the Pan Am classification yard at East Deerfield, Massachusetts.

The Pan Am Southern, which has 425 miles of rail lines and trackage rights routes, is now operated by Pan Am’s Springfield Terminal subsidiary.

G&W already connects with Pan Am Southern through its New England Central, Providence & Worcester, and Connecticut Southern.

The STB filing did not estimate cost savings or revenue gains that CSX expects from acquiring Pan Am.

“While CSXT expects rail traffic on the PAR System to grow over time, CSXT does not expect to make any significant changes in traffic routes or traffic volumes in the next few years,” the filing said.

Having Pan Am will extend CSX’s reach into Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Saint John, New Brunswick.

CSX is already the dominant Class 1 freight railroad in New England but said that because it is an end-to-end merger there will be no adverse effects on competition.

The petition said no short line railroads will lose competitive access and the Berkshire & Eastern will independently set rates on Pan Am Southern.

FRA Orders Train Crews to Wear Face Masks

February 28, 2021

Starting Monday, train crews in the United States will be required to wear face masks.

The Federal Railroad Administration issued an emergency order effective March 1 that it said will comply with an order aboard forms of transportation as issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to an executive order by President Joseph Biden.

In a statement, the FRA said it acted after its inspectors observed inconsistent use of masks among rail personnel, and inconsistent rules among railroads regarding mask use in a locomotive cab and other rail facilities.

The order directs individual railroads to establish procedures for those who do not comply with the mask requirement.

At a minimum, the FRA said, those procedures should include removing the individual from performing his or her duties and removing the person from the facility as soon as possible.

Railroad workers not complying with the FRA directive will also be subject to FRA enforcement actions while their employer will be subject to a penalty of up to $118,826 per day with personnel also subject to civil penalties.

Steam Saturday: Surrounded by the Milwaukee Road

February 26, 2021
Canadian Pacific 2816 before its departure on Aug. 29, 2007

Over the years I’ve photographed and ridden trips behind Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261. However in 2007 and 2008 there were trips in which we were surrounded by visions of the Milwaukee Road but 261 nowhere in sight.

In August 2007, Jeff Troutman and myself Amtraked to Minneapolis to ride a ferry move excursion from Minneapolis to Milwaukee behind Canadian Pacific 4-6-4 No. 2816.

During our layover in Chicago we had time to take a Metra commuter train to Franklin Park and return in time to catch the Empire Builder to Minneapolis.

The following August I returned again to Minneapolis with my brother Ronnie and two of his boys, Alex and Ryan for two ballgames at the Metrodome.

All the photos except for one have something tied to the Milwaukee Road.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

At Franklin Park, Illinois
This city bus in Minneapolis caught us by surprise in August 2007
The former Milwaukee Road passenger station in Minneapolis is now a hotel. We stayed there in 2008
The Mary Tyler Moore statue in downtown Minneapolis on the the spot where she threw her hat up in the air in the opening of the show every week.
Steaming east on former Milwaukee Road rails in August 2007
The old and the new on Canadian Pacific
Jeff Troutman during the service stop in Portage, Wisconsin.
At Sturtevant, Wisconsin

Hanging Out With NS in Alliance

February 26, 2021

Under normal circumstances the Akron Railroad Club would be holding its February meeting tonight. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic the club won’t be meeting. In fact it last met in February 2020 and who knows when the next meeting will be.

In past years I sometimes would drive to Alliance on the afternoon of ARRC meetings and spend a couple hours watching NS trains there.

In late afternoon I’d put the camera and scanner away and head north out of town and eventually west on Interstate 76, stopping for dinner at the Cracker Barrel in Ravenna or the Bob Evans on Gilchrist Road in Akron right around the corner from the club’s meeting site.

Shown above is an eastbound headed by SD70 No. 2563. The train is about to take the connection from the Cleveland Line to the Fort Wayne Line as it continues its trip toward Pittsburgh.

This locomotive was built for Conrail and Chris Toth’s NS locomotive website reports it has since been retired.

A Favorite Grab Shot

February 26, 2021

This is one of my favorite grab shots. It’s an early May or June 1978 morning at Voris Street in Akron where eastbound and westbound Baltimore & Ohio trains are meeting. On the right are parts of the crossing signal and a view of some of the front of my 1976 Pinto.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Winter Weather Depresses Weekly Freight Traffic

February 26, 2021

Winter weather disruptions last week had a ripple effect on U.S. freight traffic during the week ending Feb. 20.

The Association of American Railroads said that for the week ending Feb. 20 total U.S. rail was 377,904 carloads and containers, a decline of 21.7 percent compared with the same week in 2020.

Carloads, and intermodal containers and trailers alike posted double-digit losses.

Carloads were  171,642, a decline of 26.3 percent while intermodal was 206,262, a fall of 17.4 percent.

It was the first time the weekly intermodal volume had sustained losses compared with the previous year since the week ending Sept. 12, 2020.

It also was the first time since the week of Oct. 3, 2020, that intermodal traffic did not offset losses in carload traffic.

None of the 10 carload commodity groups saw gains in the latest AAR report.

Among the losses were coal, down 14,856 carloads, to 48,745; nonmetallic minerals, down 13,765 carloads, to 16,088; and chemicals, down 9,400 carloads, to 23,864.

For the first seven weeks of 2021, U.S. railroads have handled a cumulative volume of 1,539,758 carloads, a decrease of 6.3 percent from the same point last year.

Railroads have handled 1,917,967 intermodal units, a rise of 6.5 percent from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first seven weeks of 2021 was 3,457,725 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.4 percent vs. last year.