Archive for May, 2021

EL Monday: Working for Conrail Now

May 31, 2021

It’s two days before America’s Bicentennial celebration as well as the first year of Conrail operation. This Conrail switcher remains in full Erie Lackawanna paint as it works in Akron on July 2, 1976.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Another Chilly But Sunny Dave McKay Day

May 31, 2021
The first train of the day was an eastbound NS stack train.
The second train was an eastbound CSX train.
The Herbert C. Jackson with some familiar Cleveland landmarks behind it makes it way upriver on the Cuyahoga River.
The Reading heritage unit leads the 21E at Hudson.

The annual Akron Railroad Club Dave Mckay Day at Berea was chilly but had sunny skies all day. 

Four members attended including Bill Kubas, Paul Woodring, Dave Kachinko and myelf.

I counted 21 trains during the time I was there which was 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.  It was a fair mix of NS and CSX traffic although NS had a few more trains.

No heritage units went by although NS 4001, one of the Blues Brothers, trailed on the 12Q.

The Reading heritage unit did lead westbound 21E but that didn’t show up until after 8 p.m.

After leaving at 3 p.m., I went downtown to do some boat chasing. The Herbert C Jackson was heading upriver and I caught it several times. 

I also ran into Roger Durfee during this chase so that made five ARRC members out today.

After that I went to Hudson and caught three more trains including the aforementioned 21E with the Reading heritage.  That brought the day’s total to 24 trains and one lake boat.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Friendly Wave at Alliance

May 30, 2021

It’s July 1972 in Alliance. The fireman of Penn Central Alco C628 No. 6314 is giving a friendly wave as the train enters the Bayard Branch on its way to Conway Yard near Pittsburgh. Also in the motive power consist are PC 6314, 6300, and 6317. The track under the rear trucks of No. 6314 is the Fort Wayne Line to Canton and Chicago.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Dayton Rail Festival Canceled

May 30, 2021

The 2021 Carillon Park Rail and Steam Festival in Dayton has been cancelled.

An announcement of the cancellation cited “events beyond our control” but did not elaborate.

The event was to have been held Aug. 21-22 at Carillon Historical Park. The festival expects to return in 2022 on June 25-26.

The 2020 festival also was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden Budget Proposal Boosts Amtrak Spending 35%

May 30, 2021

Amtrak would get a 35 percent boost, most of it for capital projects, if Congress adopts the Biden administration budget.

The administration has proposed $2.7 billion for Amtrak with a major share of that funding set to be used for track and station improvements, fleet refreshment, and systemwide maintenance. Another $625 million would create a new grant program, Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization and Expansion, to develop and expand rail corridors across the nation.

The U.S Department of Transportation would receive $88 billion in total.

This includes $13.5 billion for transit projects of which $2.5 billion is for Capital Investment Grants, a $459 million increase, to accelerate projects already in process and support new projects seeking approval.

Another $550 million would go toward Transit Infrastructure Grants of which $250 million is for the Zero Emission Bus Program.

The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program would receive $1 billion in funding.

Steam Saturday: NKP 759 in Conneaut

May 28, 2021

The wayback machine has landed us in Conneaut on May 4, 1969 when Nickel Plate Road  2-8-4 No. 759 powered the westbound Golden Spike Centennial Limited across the Norfolk & Western (ex-NKP) trestle.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

Steam Saturday: Some May 2013 NKP 765 Favorites

May 28, 2021

Here are some favorites from the Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 outings in late May 2013.

On Memorial Day weekend, the 765 pulled three roundtrip excursions from Lewistown to Gallitzin, Pennsylvania via Horseshoe Curve.

Jeff Troutman and I photographed the first trip on Saturday and rode the second trip on Sunday.

On Monday we set up and photographed at Horseshoe Curve before heading home.

A few days later NKP 765 worked its way home, too, to New Haven, Indiana.

In the top image, the steamer is shown at Fostoria, Pennsylvania on May 25. Next up is on Horseshoe Curve on May 27 and then in Cleveland heading westbound on May 30.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Amtrak Seeks $75B to Develop New Service

May 28, 2021

Amtrak elaborated this week on its “Connect US” plan, which calls for a 15-year $75 billion federal investment to add 39 new routes and enhance service on 25 other routes.

Calling the plan “Corridor Vision,” Amtrak said it would lead to the carrier providing intercity rail passenger service in 47 of the 48 contiguous states and new stations in more than half of those states.

If implemented, the network expansion would generate $8 billion in annual economic benefits by 2035 and an additional $195 billion in economic activity resulting from capital projects during the same period.

In a letter to Congress, Amtrak CEO William Flynn outlined details of the plan, many of which have already been reported.

This includes Amtrak paying all initial costs for new or improved service but with states eventually assuming responsibility for those costs.

Amtrak proposed to pay upfront the estimated cost for stations, rail cars, locomotives, and infrastructure.

Amtrak also is seeking a dedicated funding source, the Passenger Rail Trust Fund, and called for passage of the Rail Passenger Fairness Act, which would enhance Amtrak’s ability to enforce its right of operating preference over freight trains.

In an effort to prevent host railroads from stalling the launch of new routes, Amtrak wants Congress to clarify existing law that provides Amtrak with access to host railroads.

“Too often host railroads resist and stall any efforts to expand service,” Flynn wrote.

In a statement issued with a news release, Flynn said new and improved rail service has the ability to change how Americans move while providing cleaner air, reducing highway congestion and providing a more connected country.

Details of the Connect US plan are contained in a report Amtrak issued titled Amtrak’s Vision for Improving Transportation Across America.

Among the cities that would receive new or improved service are Houston, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, Nashville, Columbus, Phoenix, and Wichita.

Amtrak said the added service could increase its ridership by 20 million riders annually.

Amtrak said the plan is not a final proposal and does not lay out a specific order or priority ranking for route development.

It said many factors, including available funding levels, post-pandemic travel demand, state interest, host railroad conditions, and equipment availability, will play a role in determining final implementation plans for the Connect US program.

If a corridor is not mentioned in the plan, Amtrak said that doesn’t mean it opposes development of that service.

The passenger carrier cautioned that just because a corridor is shown in its plan doesn’t mean it is certain to be implemented.

“The corridors proposed here are intended to be additive to Amtrak’s pre-COVID-19 route network,” Amtrak said.

Amtrak expects to implement its corridor services over a 15-year period.

The Amtrak report also sought to downplay the idea that these will be high-speed routes.

“While high speed rail service may be right for certain corridors, current state-supported Amtrak services such as the Pacific Surfliner and the Hiawatha show that intercity passenger rail can be successful with conventional operating speeds,” Amtrak said.

“As corridors which begin at conventional speeds build ridership and demand, they can be considered for future conversion to high speed service.”

Funding for Connect US would come from a variety of sources, including direct federal funding to Amtrak for corridor development and operation, and discretionary grants available to states, Amtrak and others for corridor development, the report said.

“This vision does not propose to replace existing grant programs. Rather, it would augment them with dedicated and reliable funding from an intercity passenger rail trust fund … or other source needed to execute on a long-term vision.”

Class 1 Railroads Told to Report on Preparedness for post-pandemic Demands

May 28, 2021

Class 1 railroads have been instructed by U.S. Surface Transportation Board Chairman Martin Oberman to provide information about their preparedness to meet service demand as the nation continues to recovery economically from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to the railroad CEOs, Oberman said he was concerned about service problems reported by some shippers and expressed fear those issues might be related to a broader trend of rail labor reductions over the past several years, in addition to the furloughs and quarantines brought about by the pandemic.

The railroads were asked to provide information about the sufficiency of operating personnel and railroad equipment availability going forward, as well as longer-term expectations for hiring.

“The freight-rail industry has performed admirably during the COVID-19 pandemic and, as the nation’s economy recovers, I want to be fully informed as to the Class I railroads’ preparedness to meet forecasted demand, including the railroads having the necessary labor and equipment resources in place to provide safe, reliable and efficient service to customers,” Oberman wrote.

He acknowledged that the pandemic disrupted rail operations and lauded the carriers for their communication with the board and stakeholders during the past year.

On another matter, the STB also has asked Class I railroads to continue reporting revenues from demurrage and accessorial charges.

Regulators say that information has allowed them to monitor trends in such revenues.

“In light of the Board’s close oversight of Class I railroad rules and practices related to demurrage and accessorial charges, including our policy statement and final rules related to warehouseman liability and minimum requirements for demurrage bills, it is important for us to continue to receive quarterly updates on these revenue streams,” the STB said in a news release.

WMSR Resumes Excursions This Weekend

May 28, 2021

Excursions will resume this weekend on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

The 90-minute trips will be pulled by diesel locomotives and include a new open-air car and a dome car.

They will be the first excursions on the tourist railroad in more than a year with service having been suspended for most of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The trips are scheduled to depart on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Capacity for each trip is limited to 250 people.

Excursions pulled by former Chesapeake & Ohio steam locomotive No. 1309 will be announced at a later date.