Archive for March, 2022

Westbound Early CSX in Barberton

March 31, 2022

CSX SD60 No. 8621 is westbound in Barberton on April 9, 1988. The unit was built for the Seaboard Coast Line in January 1985 as an SD50.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Amtrak to Cease Serving Michigan City

March 31, 2022

Amtrak plans to end service at Michigan City, Indiana, on April 4.

In a service advisory Amtrak advised passers to instead travel to New Buffalo, Michigan, to board its trains or travel to Chicago via the South Shore Line, which offers commute rail service throughout the day.

The service advisory did not give a reason for why service to Michigan City is being dropped.

Michigan City lies on the route used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) but not all trains stop there.          

Eastbound, Wolverine Service Nos. 350 and 354 stop in Michigan City while the only westbound train to stop there is No. 355.

Amtrak’s Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan Blue Water, and Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pere Marquette also pass through Michigan City without stopping.

The Michigan City boarding platform is located near the former Michigan Central passenger station.

Remembering Jim Wrinn

March 31, 2022

Jim Wrinn in the engineer’s seat of Shelly Materials SD18M No. 421 on April 23, 2011

Jim Wrinn was a giant in the world of railfanning. If you need proof just read the dozens of tributes that have been posted on his Facebook page since his death became known on Wednesday.

Those accounts of the second-longest serving editor-in-chief of Trains magazine are accompanied by photographs of Wrinn in locomotive cabs and watching or photographing trains from numerous locations around the country.

What I will remember first and foremost, though, about Wrinn is not a photograph he took of a steam locomotive or a story he wrote about a railroad or even an experience he shared involving railfanning.

It won’t be the presentation he gave to the Akron Railroad Club n April 23, 2011, at the club’s 755th anniversary banquet or the railfanning I did with him that weekend around Northeast Ohio.

No, what I will remember most was how he “covered” his struggle with pancreatic cancer and exhorted the hundreds who followed him on Facebook to get busy living.

That became a signature line of his although it wasn’t original with him. It came from the movie The Shawshank Redemption.

It also is something I think about often since I first read it in one of Wrinn’s Facebook posts. In short, I found inspiration that someone facing a life-threatening situation was trying to cheer us up.

I am not surprised Wrinn saw his medical condition as another story to be covered. He was a reporter doing what reporters do in the manner that they do it.

His accounts of chemotherapy sessions and other medical procedures were detailed and straight forward.

He mixed in some folksy whit in those reports as when he wrote, “As I said a year ago when we started this journey, I’m like an old hound on the porch back in NC, licking my wounds, but ready to get back out there. So, cross your fingers and toes that it’s something easily solved. Meanwhile, all of y’all have a great day.”

That post dated March 14 was one of his last and addressed how he was feeling a lack of energy.

He vowed to beat cancer but knew it would be a tough fight. Many he met through a cancer support group didn’t live as long after receiving their diagnosis as he did.

Yet his determination made me believe for a time that maybe, just maybe, he would win the fight.

I can’t say that Jim and I were friends although we knew each other, largely by my having written a few articles for Trains.

We were introduced in June 1999 by a mutual friend at the rail festival in Sacramento, California.

We were not railfanning buddies and our interactions were infrequent. Yet he would “like” my posts on Facebook as though we were longtime friends. I have long admired the career he was able to have in journalism.

The last time I remember seeing him was on a late April Sunday afternoon when we dropped him off at the Akron-Canton Airport after a day of railfanning in the Cleveland area with Peter Bowler and Marty Surdyk more than a decade ago.

It might also be the last time I ever spoke with him.

That weekend was a memorable one. I picked him up at CAK on a late Friday afternoon and we had dinner at Bahama Breeze in Beachwood. He had arranged to meet an old friend there after we finished eating.

The next day we had arranged for Jim to have a cab ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. After lunch in the restaurant at the former Erie passenger station in Kent, we visited the Shelly Materials facility in Kent where Jim got to run its SD18M named “Flash.”

That night he addressed the ARRC banquet. On Sunday morning I picked Jim up at his hotel and we began our day of railfanning by riding the Greater Cleveland RTA Green Line to Tower City.

From there Marty showed Jim around Cleveland a bit before we spent the balance of our time in Berea and Olmsted Falls.

The weather that day wasn’t great but Jim still posted on the Trains website a photo he made that day of some former Conrail units leading a train still wearing their CR blue livery.

It was Easter Sunday and he played off that by writing about the Easter bunny bringing him some blue eggs.

A Wrinn tribute written by Kevin P. Keefe, himself a former Trains editor, featured a self-assesment Wrinn wrote in 2009. “I could not write like [David P.] Morgan. I could not be a diesel locomotive expert like Dave Ingles, I could not write as eloquently as Kevin P. Keefe, I could not be an industry insider like Mark Hemphill. But I could bring great enthusiasm to the job, a great love for the subject, and the passion and curiosity of a journalist. The other guys put together fantastic issues of Trains, but nobody ever had a better time in this job than me.”

I can’t and won’t speak to his comparisons of himself and his predecessors, but I can say I thought one of Wrinn’s greatest achievements after taking over Trains was returning the magazine more to its roots of being a railfan publication while continuing to cover the railroad industry as the business it is.

In doing this, Trains under Wrinn took a more middle of the road approach than had his predecessor, which as a reader I felt more comfortable with.

I would look forward to his accounts of his travels to see steam locomotives I’ve never seen in action. Reading Jim’s accounts and seeing his photographs was like being there.

Wrinn’s life ended in much the same place as did Morgan’s, dying of cancer at a far too young age and leaving behind a message for those who would survive him.

Both men in their final writings urged their readers to not become complacent.

Whereas Wrinn told his friends to get busy living, Morgan in his last article written for Trains noted that railroading is always changing and enthusiasts should “look away, look away” become someday what exists now may be gone.

Now Wrinn is gone, too, but what memories we will have of the hours of enjoyment reading his articles and viewing his photographs and even sharing some time with him even if it was minuscule.

Commentary by Craig Sanders

Trains Editor Jim Wrinn Dies at 61

March 31, 2022

Jim Wrinn presents a program on steam locomotives at the 75th Anniversary celebration of the Akron Railroad Club on April 23, 2011. Richard Jacobs photo

Jim Wrinn, who served as editor of Trains magazine for 17 years, died Wednesday of pancreatic cancer. He was 61.

Wrinn, a North Carolina native, had battled the cancer for 14 months and chronicled his fight in regular posts on his Facebook page.

He sought to maintain an upbeat but realistic outlook, vowing to beat cancer while acknowledging that many who had fought the disease with him had not survived.

Those posts described the ordeal of chemotherapy sessions – which he likened to taking rat poison – and exhorted his many hundreds of followers to cherish every day while going about the business of daily living.

In terms of longevity, Wrinn was the second longest-serving editor of Trains, eclipsed only by the late David P. Morgan, who helmed the magazine for 33 years and died of cancer at age 62.

Morgan and Wrinn shared a heritage of having grown up in the South and having a passion for steam locomotives.

Wrinn’s first photograph to be published Trains appeared in the October 1982 issue and featured Graham County Railroad Shay No. 1925.

His first bylined story in Trains appeared in the December 1989 issue, a news story about the effects of Hurricane Hugo on Southeastern railroads.

Tributes to Wrinn posted on the websites of Trains and Railfan & Railroad noted that Wrinn came from a railroading family.

His great-grandfather was a laborer on the Southern and an uncle was a Railway Post Office clerk.

Born March 21, 1961, Wrinn grew up in Franklin, North Carolina, and during his childhood would watch Southern Railway trains while visiting his grandparents in Westminister, South Carolina, on the Washington-Atlanta mainline.

“We would visit my grandmother in Westminster on Sundays,” Wrinn told Railfan & Railroad in 1989. “We’d often take the whole family down to the depot. It was kind of a Southern tradition of welcoming the train as it went through.” 

After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1983, where he majored in journalism and political science, Wrinn worked as a reporter for newspapers in Gastonia and Fayetteville, North Carolina, before landing a job at the Charlotte Observer.

He left the Observer to become editor-in-chief of Trains on Oct. 27, 2004.

Wrinn was involved in various railroad preservation efforts with the Southern Railway Historical Association, and the North Carolina Transportation Museum. 

He also wrote articles for railfan magazines and published a comprehensive chronicle of the Southern Railway, later Norfolk Southern, steam program.

That book, Steam’s Camelot, was issued by TLC Publishing in 2001. He also was the author or co-author of four other railroad history books.

Even after being diagnosed with cancer in 2020, Wrinn continued to oversee Trains and traveled the country to watch and photograph steam locomotives in action.

Railfan and Railroad editor Steve Barry wrote on his magazine’s website after Wrinn’s death that he never considered Wrinn to be a competitor but a friend.

“We go back about 30 years to when he invited me to his beloved Tar Heel State to help with night photo sessions at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer (and to join him in enjoying some fine barbecue and Cheerwine). I’ll miss his dedication to rail preservation and his passion for the hobby and his readers. But most of all, I’ll miss his friendship,” Barry wrote.

In a tribute posted on the Trains website, former Trains editor Kevin P. Keefe said Wrinn aspired during his youth to become editor of Trains, which he began reading at age 6.

Keefe said that during his tenure in the editor’s chair Wrinn sought to serve readers who had like himself grown up reading Trains while also expanding the magazine’s appeal to those more attracted to digital content.

This included the creation of podcasts and videos. Trains’ parent company, Kalmbach Publishing, also began sponsoring railfan-oriented events and publishing special issues devoted to topics of widespread interest.

“Wrinn also showed a flair for the big moment, capitalizing on important news developments and effectively using a variety of media platforms,” Keefe wrote.

Wrinn is survived by his wife, Cate Kratville-Wrinn. Services will be private. Memorial contributions can be made to the North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation at P.O. Box 44, Spencer, N.C. 28159, or via the website at

Running Along the Tuscarawas in Massillon

March 30, 2022

Conrail B36-7 No. 5059 is eastbound in Massillon with an intermodal train on July 28, 1988, on the Fort Wayne Line. To the right is the Tuscarawas River.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Biden Wants Increased Transportation Spending

March 30, 2022

The Biden administration has proposed increasing funding on railroad and public transit programs in federal fiscal year 2023 in a $5.79 trillion budget proposal.

The administration sent its budget recommendations to Congress this week.

Biden proposed spending $105 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation with another $37 billion in advance appropriations provided for by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The budget calls for $4.66 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration. The agency received $2.86 billion in the past two fiscal years.

Amtrak would get $3 billion, including $1.8 billion for the national network and $1.2 billion for the Northeast Corridor.

The Federal Transit Administration would receive $16.87 billion, which includes $300 million for rail car replacement.

Some funding in the proposed FTA budget would cover work on the Portal North Bridge replacement project in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, and $100 for engineering work on the Hudson Tunnels project between New York City and New Jersey.

Other notable transportation funding includes $2.85 billion for Capital Investment Grants, $500 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grants, $555 million for the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program, $245 million for the Railroad Crossing Elimination program, and $1.5 billion for Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grants and the new National Infrastructure Project Assistance Grant program,

The figures for those programs do not include funding authorized by the infrastructure act approved last year. All funding proposals are subject to congressional approval.

SEPTA Increases Capital Budget by $95M

March 30, 2022

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has increased its capital budget by $95 million to take into account expected funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

That will bring the Philadelphia-based public transit agency’s capital budget up to $713.85 million.

In a news release, SEPTA said projects the agency plans to undertake include stepping up design work for station accessibility upgrades on the Market-Frankford Line, Broad Street Line and Regional Rail network.

The additional investment in design will also ensure the agency is prepared for the federal competitive All Stations Accessibility Program, which is a new program funded under the federal infrastructure bill, SEPTA officials said.

SEPTA said it also plans to proceed with the design and implementation of several major projects, which include a trolley modernization, King of Prussia Rail project and rail vehicle replacement.

A BAR Two for Tuesday

March 29, 2022

Bangor & Aroostook Nos. 30, 32 and 31 were being leased by Lehigh Valley when they were found by the photographer working the yard in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on July 8, 1973. Note the plethora of fallen flag railroads represented on the boxcars in the yard.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Maybe the Amtrak Expansion Train Was Never Coming to Ohio

March 29, 2022

A headline on Page 1 of the Monday issue of The Plain Dealer wondered whether the proposed Amtrak expansion in Ohio is a train that has already left the station.

If you read the story carefully you’ll find the answer.

That train never reached the station. There was talk about how it might be coming, but in reality it was no more than a concept on paper and in words.

For more than a year Amtrak has floated the idea that Ohio would see a major expansion of service under its proposed Amtrak Connects US plan.

There would be new service between Cleveland and Cincinnati via Columbus and Dayton, additional service between Chicago and Cincinnati, and additional service to Cleveland from New York and Detroit.

The service expansion seemed to get a boost last fall when Congress approved the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act with its much ballyhooed $66 million in funding for rail passenger service.

Since passage of the infrastructure bill, the Federal Railroad Administration has been formulating guidelines that will govern how it allocates funding to establish new intercity rail passenger service.

Those guidelines are expected to be released around May 14 but a few hard truths are already clear about what is and is not likely to happen with that program.

The infrastructure bill lacks enough funding to pay for the entirety of the new services proposed in the Amtrak Connects US plan.

What money is available will be awarded through a competitive process. Neither the Ohio legislature nor Gov. Mike DeWine have shown enthusiasm for seeking grant money for new Amtrak service.

DeWine has not opposed it, but he’s been noncommittal, which may as well be opposition because it signals his heart isn’t in it.

The Plain Dealer story noted a resolution introduced in the legislature supporting Amtrak expansion in the state has generated little attention and has yet to receive a hearing.

An Ohio Rail Development Commission spokeswoman told the PD the agency has not even begun conversations about the possibility of expanded passenger rail service.

And, the newspaper account noted, just one Republican state legislator has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Amtrak expansion resolution.

That’s not a promising sign in a legislative body where the GOP has a supermajority.

Expanding Amtrak in Ohio has received support from a few local government agencies in the state, including planning and economic development bodies.

In theory one of those agencies could seek an FRA grant but such a proposal would need to be in partnership with the Ohio Department of Transportation to be taken seriously.

Those planning and economic development entities lack a say about whether Ohio will continue to fund new rail passenger service if it does get started.

The FRA grants are most likely to go to states already well along in the planning process for new or expanded Amtrak service, including having committed state funding to those efforts. Ohio has done little to none of that.

The Amtrak Connects US plan proposes using federal money to get new corridor services started but once they are up and running the states will be required to assume over time – up to five years – the full responsibility of paying the operating costs of the trains.

That alone is enough to make any Amtrak expansion in Ohio a dicey proposition.

It is not just Ohio. Amtrak has proposed ambitious expansions in several states that have little or no experience in funding intercity rail passenger service.

Although All Aboard Ohio and the Rail Passengers Association are seeking to prod state transportation departments to seek one of those FRA grants, the leaders of those advocacy organizations know that’s unlikely to happen in some places.

 “I think Ohio runs the risk of essentially getting left behind in the dust of other states,” said Stu Nicholson, executive director of All Aboard Ohio, in an interview with the Plain Dealer.

 “We’re seeing other states starting to take advantage of the fact that there is this huge amount of money on the table. We’re still waiting for Ohio to raise its hand,” he said.

The lone GOP Ohio legislator to support expanding Amtrak service in Ohio is Rep. Haraz Ghanbari, who represents a district near Toledo.

Ghanbari used Amtrak regularly when he lived outside of Washington.

Speaking like a rail passenger advocate, he said transportation is an economic development proposition that would drive population and business growth in Ohio.

“We need to think outside the box a little bit,” Ghambari said. “I can’t answer for why more of my colleagues haven’t been more on board with this. I can’t answer for the governor.”

More than likely Ghambari knows more about why other legislators are ambivalent about if not opposed to funding intercity rail service than he’s willing to acknowledge.

In the meantime, Gov. DeWine failed to mention transportation in last week’s state of the state speech. That’s not a promising sign, either.

Grain Shippers Complain About Poor Service

March 29, 2022

 A shippers group has written to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to complain about poor service being offered to grain producers by three Class 1 railroads.

The letter was sent by the National Grain and Feed Association and said crew shortages related to the practice of precision scheduled railroading have led some of its members to shut down flour mills and feed mills.

“At rail origins, NGFA members are unable to purchase grain from farmers because they are full while awaiting loaded trains to be moved out by the railroad,” CEO Michael Seyfert said in the letter addressed to STB Chairman Martin Oberman.

In some cases, the letter said, livestock producers lack alternatives to rail-hauled grain shipments.

The letter contained numerous anecdotes of hardships faced by members of the trade association, including a member having to spend $3 million on alternative transportation to try to keep animals fed for a month.

The three railroads named in the letter were Norfolk Southern, BNSF and Union Pacific.

On NS, grain trains were said to have averaged 53.74 hours of delay at origin with an average of four trains held per day. There were 423 loaded grain hoppers and four empties that did not move for 48 hours or more.

In a statement, NS acknowledged having service issues but insisted it is making progress in alleviating them with a large class of conductors in training and offering hiring bonuses in areas where it has worker shortages during a tight labor market.

The letter can be read at