Archive for August, 2021

Conrail 2 for Tuesday in Alliance

August 31, 2021

How about a Conrail two for Tuesday. Yeah, we thought you would like that.

In the top image, B36-7 No. 5040 leads an eastbound on the Fort Wayne Line in Alliance on Jan. 17, 1987. The train is crossing the Cleveland Line. Visible to the right is the double-track connection from the Cleveland Line to the Fort Wayne Line.

In the bottom image CR GP40-2 No. 3328 leads an eastbound in Alliance on Aug. 14, 1984.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

Class I Employment Fell in July

August 31, 2021

U.S. Class I Railroads employed 115,670 people in July, a decline of 0.23 percent from mid-June and down 1.33 percent from employment levels in mid-July 2020.

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board said five of six employment categories experienced decreases: maintenance of equipment and stores, down 0.79 percent to 17,519 workers; maintenance of way and structures, down 0.46 percent to 28,514; transportation (other than train and engine), down 0.42 percent to 4,731;  executives, officials and staff assistants, down 0.29 percent to 7,321; and professional and administrative, down 0.03 percent to 10,087.

Only the transportation (train and engine) category posted an increase in July over June. It was 0.11 percent to 47,498 workers.

Transportation (train and engine) was also the only category to log a year-over-year increase; the category’s employment level rose 6.09 percent.

On a year-over-year basis, these five categories saw decreases in employment levels: Maintenance of equipment and stores, down 10.39 percent; transportation (other than train and engine), down 6.78 percent; maintenance of way and structures, down 4.73 percent; professional and administrative, down 2.83 percent; and executives, officials and staff assistants, down 2.66 percent.

Amtrak, CP Wants Conditions on CSX-Pan Am Merger

August 31, 2021

Canadian Pacific and Amtrak are asking the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to impose certain conditions on the CSX acquisition of Pan Am Railways.

In its filing, CP contends that the merger will threaten the viability of the former Boston & Maine Hoosac Tunnel route that provides competition for CSX’s own New England main line.

CP said most of its New England traffic operates via Mechanicville, New York, and the former Boston & Maine route that is now part of the Pan Am Southern joint venture between Pan Am Railways and Norfolk Southern.

James Clements, CP’s senior vice president of strategic planning and technology transformation, said in the filing that if CSX becomes a half owner of PAS it will have an incentive to downgrade PAS’s competition against CSX single-line routes

“Though PAS’s Hoosac Tunnel Route hosts relatively few daily freight trains, it serves as a vital and unique competitive discipline to CSX, which dominates traffic volumes,” Clements wrote.

“CSX will have a veto over capital maintenance and other investments in the viability of the competing PAS route,” he wrote in the filing.

CP fears that NS plans to divert its intermodal traffic to the former Boston & Albany route now operated by CSX would reduce NS’s incentive to support the viability of the Hoosac Tunnel route.

CSX has proposed having a Genesee & Wyoming subsidiary, Berkshire & Eastern, serve as a neutral operator of the PAS.

But CP questioned whether B&E would be a neutral carrier due to G&W’s ownership of neighboring lines in New England, including New England Central, Providence & Worcester, and Saint Lawrence & Atlantic.

CP wants the STB to require that CSX and G&W keep open all Pan Am Southern gateways via the Hoosac Tunnel route, that PAS maintain the former B&M main line at or above pre-merger levels; and that PAS maintains current service levels, including frequency, transit times, and consistency.

The STB should also monitor the effects of the merger on the B&M and maintain the ability to impose additional conditions to “protect the viability of the route,” CP said.

CP projected that post-merger traffic on the line would fall by about a third due to the diversion of NS intermodal and auto trains and the shift of CSX-Pan Am Railways carload traffic to CSX’s former Boston & Albany line.

Clements said there is a risk that PAS would not restore service if there were another collapse in the Hoosac Tunnel as happened in 2020 when it took almost two months to reopen the tunnel.

As for Amtrak, it wants protection for current and potential expansions of passenger service in New England, noting that the CSX-Pan Am merger involves some routes on which passenger trains account for the majority of traffic.

In its STB filing, Amtrak said Pan Am has cooperated with efforts to improve Downeaster service between Boston and Maine as well as the launch of the Valley Flyer service in western New England.

“In contrast, CSXT consistently has taken the approach of obstructing the expansion of passenger rail, and to limit access to its facilities, despite the fact that CSXT is statutorily required to provide Amtrak with access to its rail lines,” Amtrak wrote. “Indeed, as the Board is aware from the current Gulf Coast dispute, CSXT has a history of stonewalling Amtrak’s requests for additional service.”

Amtrak cited CSX obstruction of an effort to launch seasonal, weekend-only Berkshire Flyer service between Albany-Rensselaer, New York, and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, which would be an extension of an existing Empire Service train.

Amtrak noted that CSX has demanded a traffic study and capacity improvements yet did not conduct a traffic study or require capacity improvements as part of its merger-related trackage rights agreement that would allow NS to divert a daily pair of intermodal trains to the former B&A route that Amtrak wants to use.

“Instead, CSXT now claims in its Application that the entire Albany-Worcester line ‘has excess capacity,’ directly contravening the position it continues to take with regard to the proposed seasonal, weekend Berkshire Flyer service that would operate over only a small portion of the line,” Amtrak wrote.

Amtrak also fears the merger could interfere with proposed service expansions in New England, including linking Boston with Concord, New Hampshire; an increase in Boston-Albany service to two daily round-trips; and increased Downeaster service from Boston to Brunswick, Maine, and a summer seasonal extension of Downeaster service to Rockland, Maine.

CSX has said that its acquisition of Pan Am would have no negative impact on passenger and commuter service in New England.

Amtrak said regulators failed to impose conditions to protect passenger service in previous merger cases and Amtrak service consequently suffered.

The passenger carrier cited CSX’s lease of the Buckingham Branch in Virginia; the split of Conrail between CSX and Norfolk Southern; Canadian National’s acquisition of Illinois Central; and the Union Pacific-Southern Pacific merger.

Amtrak wants seven conditions imposed on the CSX-Pan Am merger including requiring CSX to fulfill all of its merger-related promises regarding passenger service.

That will include a commitment that the NS trains will be scheduled to operate over CSX’s B&A line outside of the Lake Shore Limited’s operating windows and that the NS trains don’t interfere with the Valley Flyer and Vermonter service at the diamond in Springfield, Massachusettts, where their routes cross.

Amtrak also wants the STB to require that CSX negotiate in good faith with Amtrak and its state partners for service expansions, improvements, and additional weekend and seasonal service, particularly on its route between Albany and Worcester; that CSX be ordered to cooperate with Amtrak and its partners to identify what improvements would be required to raise passenger train speeds on Pan Am and CSX routes, then work in good faith to promptly make improvements.

CSX should be ordered to not make operational changes that would result in a deterioration of on-time performance of Amtrak trains and that non-emergency trackwork be undertaken during non-peak passenger periods.

Amtrak also wants CSX to be ordered to provide for the operation of up to four weekend Berkshire Flyer trips in the summer between Albany and Pittsfield within 90 days written notice from Amtrak and without any Amtrak-funded capacity improvements.

As Amtrak was being critical of CSX in its filing, the agency that sponsors Downeaster Service wrote to the STB in favor of the merger.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority said CSX had worked with it to address a number of issues, including station locations.

 “As the State Sponsor of the Amtrak Downeaster, which operates over approximately 106 miles of railroad to be controlled by CSX if this transaction is approved, NNEPRA expects to maintain strong and productive working relationships with the host railroad,” Executive Director Patricia Quinn wrote.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation said it hoped it could reach a written agreement with CSX that would satisfy the state’s concerns about ensuring that the merger does not have a negative impact on passenger and commuter service.

But it also asked the STB to order CSX to turn over dispatching of commuter lines to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and to cooperate in the launch of new passenger service west of Worcester on the B&A, and west of Ayer, Massachusetts, on Pan Am, as well as Berkshire Flyer service.

Yet more concerns about the CSX-Pan Am merger have been raised by the Vermont Rail System and the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

Both wrote to the STB to argue that having B&E operate PAS would reduce rail competition in Vermont because it would give G&W railroads “a near monopoly on interchange with VRS.”

“This seems akin to NS having to interchange all of its traffic with CSX to get to BNSF or UP in the west,” R.L. Banks & Associates consultant James Cunningham wrote in the railroad’s filing. “In this hypothetical, CSX would not know the rates under which NS traffic was moving but it would see the commodities and volumes to obtain a much better picture of the overall market. NS would never tolerate that commercial disadvantage and neither can VRS.”

But VRS, the filing notes, would be at more of a disadvantage because Berkshire & Eastern would have access to its rates.

“Choosing GWI as the third party is the wrong choice. It gives the world’s largest short line and regional railroad holding company another puzzle piece in the New England area where its presence is already one of, if not the, largest,” Cunningham wrote. “Other short lines and short line holding companies that have the ability and credentials in the industry to operate the PAS in a truly independent manner. By choosing GWI, CSX and NS have solved one problem by choosing the course of least resistance but creating another which can only be fixed by selecting another operator of PAS.”

NKP 765 En Route to CVSR

August 30, 2021

Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 left its home near Fort Wayne, Indiana, this morning en route to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

Unlike during past ferry moves, the Berkshire-type steam locomotive is being led by a diesel, Norfolk Southern SD70ACe No. 1183.

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society posted on its Facebook page that although the 765 is capable of operating on its own it currently lacks its own positive train control system.

The society set there is no set scheduled but it is posting updates at https://fortwaynerailroad.org/track-765/?fbclid=IwAR17W052zrhbYWxRi-w_OuN0MOL_9pKmR87LemV2BQVgXHPj47zwHK45a1Q

At 1:05 p.m. the 765 was reported to be in Fostoria. The ferry move will reportedly run east of Bellevue on the Cleveland District and take the connection at Vermillon to the Chicago Line to head for Rockport Yard in Cleveland.

The steamer will reportedly move to the CVSR on Tuesday. Excursions behind the 765 on the CVSR have been scheduled for Sept. 3, 10-12, and 17-19.

After completing its time on the CVSR, the 765 will head for Bellevue and participate in a series of events at the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum between Sept. 24 and Oct. 3.

EL Monday: A F Unit in Akron

August 30, 2021

Erie Lackawanna F7A No. 7131 passes the former Erie passenger station in Akron on Aug. 25, 1968. Built in March 1961 as Erie 807A, it was later renumbered by the Erie as 713A. At the time this image was made the station was still being used by EL’s Lake Cities between Chicago and Hoboken, New Jersey.

Photograph by Mike Ondecker

LSL to be Assigned Viewliner II Sleepers

August 30, 2021

Viewliner II sleeping cars will be assigned to Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited after Labor Day.

They will be assigned to the New York section and replace Viewliner I cars.

Nos. 48 and 49 typically carry three sleepers west of Albany-Rennsselaer, New York, where the New York and Boston sections of the train combine.

The Boston section has one sleeper and the New York section has two. Amtrak plans to continue operating Viewliner I sleepers on the Boston section.

Amtrak observed a milestone last week when it took delivery of the last two Viewliner II sleepers, No. 62523, Wabash River, and No. 62524, Westfield River.

That also marked the completion of the 130-car Viewliner order that Amtrak placed in 2010 with CAF USA. The order included sleepers, dining cars, baggage cars, and baggage-dorm cars.

Twenty-five cars in the order were sleeping cars although the baggage-dorm cars also have sleeping accommodations for on-board crew members.

The cars had been expected to be completed by 2015, but production delays meant the first car, a diner, didn’t roll off the assembly line and into Amtrak’s possession until late 2016.

The first Viewliner II sleeper arrived on Amtrak property in February 2019.

Amtrak has announced plans to rehabilitate the interiors of the Viewliner I sleepers as well as its Superliner fleet.

The Viewliner II sleepers have two bedrooms and one accessible bedroom. Standard bedrooms have a separate annex for the toilet and a private shower.

There also is a shower facility at the end of the car for roomette passengers. Viewliner II cars have 11 roomettes whereas the Viewliner I cars have 12 reoomettes.

In the Viewliner II cars two washrooms for community use have replaced one roomette.

Viewliner I roomettes feature in-room toilet facilities on a seat under a folding wash basin.

Trains carrying Viewliner II sleepers thus have a slightly reduced inventory of sleeper accommodations.

Amtrak has been noncommittal thus far as to whether eastern long-distance trains carrying one Viewliner sleeper will receive additional sleeping cars once the Lake Shore Limited is re-equipped.

The Chicago-New York Cardinal and New York-New Orleans Crescent each have just one sleeper in their consist although both trains also carry a baggage-dome car for the crew.

Before 2019, the Cardinal had carried a second sleeper during the spring, summer and fall.

Steamer to Operate at Indiana Museum

August 30, 2021

A 0-4-4T steam locomotive will operate on the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

Bock Lumber Company No. 1 was built in 1908 by Baldwin Locomotive Works, is the only operating example of a standard gauge Forney-type in North America.

The steamer is not expected to pull passenger excursions this year although it is expected to arrive at the museum this fall.

Museum officials said they needed time to become acquainted with steam operations.

No. 1 is owned by Fred Haberkamp who spent six years restoring it to operating condition.

He was assisted in the restoration effort by David Kloke of Kloke Locomotive Works.

Kloke created the operating replicas of the Central Pacific Leviathan and Northern Central York locomotives.

In the restoration process, No. 1 was converted from wood buring to oil burning.

The Forney design has two powered leading axles followed by two unpowered axles in a trailing truck that supports the weight of the water tank and fuel bunker.

They are able to operate cab forward, but can be operated boiler-first.

No. 1 spent its working years in Florida and was saved by a Michigan car collector, Barney Pollard, in 1965.

It later wound up in a scrap yard before being acquired by George Thaggard and moved to California.

After being stored there for a few decades prior, the locomotive was sold to Haberkamp.

Battery-Powered Locomotive Moves to Pittsburgh

August 30, 2021

A battery-electric prototype built by Wabtec left Erie, Pennsylvania, on Friday for a an event in Pittsburgh.

The FLXdrive locomotive was accompanied by ET44C6 demonstrator No. 2044.

Both are appearing at the Sept. 10 Freight 2030 event that focuses on the future of railroads.

The battery-powered locomotive had tested earlier this year in California on BNSF.

C&O 1309 to Begin Revenue Service By December

August 30, 2021

Former Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 is expected to debut in revenue service by mid December.

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad executive director Wesley Heinz said the tourist railroad is pushing as hard as it can to get the on the road and that it could debut sometime between now and Dec. 17.

The 1309 is expected to pull some Polar Express excursions in December.

Although most restoration work of the last Baldwin built for domestic rail operation remains to be done, some work remains to be completed.

The WMSR began operations on Aug. 26 after completing track rehabilitation that had been ordered by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Literally a Grab Shot

August 29, 2021

Sometimes you don’t have time to get into position to create a photograph. The photographer reports that he probably had just changed film while inside his 1967 Volkswagon when a passenger train began leaving Toledo Central Union Terminal on Nov. 29, 1968. It’s a Penn Central train but led by former New York Central E8A No. 4062.

Photograph by Robert Farkas