Archive for October, 2022

EL Monday: An F3A in Akron

October 31, 2022

Erie Lackawanna F3A No. 8014 in shown in downtown Akron in 1968. In the background are the spires of St. Bernard Catholic Church at 44 University Avenue. Those spires have appeared in countless photographs of Akron railroads that have been made over the years. The church opened in 1905 so it has seen many railroad companies come and go over the decades.

Photograph by Mike Ondecker

The Scene, Not Just the Locomotive

October 30, 2022

Sometimes it’s the scene and not just the locomotive. It is the summer of 1967 in Dennison, Ohio.

My friend Mike Ondecker and I have left our usual railfanning locations to go to see the Pennsylvania Railroad in Dennison.

In a few months, Penn Central will change everything, but for today, this is still Pennsy history.

PRR U25B No. 2608 is working the yard and has come east of the road at the east end of the yard. Soon, the GE U boat will back into the yard and resume work, but for now let’s soak in the summer sun and the scene.

There is so much to see. As an example, check out the Insulbrick on the East End Restaurant. Insulbrick was similar to the shingles that you might find on a house.

It is made with a brick design and used on the sides of a building.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas

NYC Geeps in Painesville

October 30, 2022

It’s been a while since the wayback machine has taken us back to the New York Central in Painesville. A pair of GP7s, Nos. 5740 and 5757 are in Painesville waiting their next assignment in February or March 1968. This was during the transition to the Penn Central era.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

4 Class 1s Must Continue Reporting Service Data to STB

October 30, 2022

Four Class I railroads will continue to submit data about performance and employment to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board for another six months.

The regulatory authority last May ordered BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific to submit service reports in the wake of freight service deficiencies that were the subject of STB hearings.

The railroads have since been giving updates pertaining to their performance and labor force targets, and any service recovery plan modifications.

The reports the railroads must submit are in addition to similar data they had already been providing to regulators.

The additional reporting called for the four carriers to further explain efforts to correct service deficiencies.

In its most recent order, the STB said the early reports “revealed extensive service delays and reliability problems.”

That included one carrier that failed more than half the time on average to deliver railcars in manifest service within 24 hours of the original estimated time of arrival.

Another carrier reported failing more than one-third of the time on average to deliver grain and ethanol unit trains within 24 hours of the original ETA.

In an order released Oct. 28, the STB said, “The most recent data show that the four carriers are currently meeting some of their six-month targets for service improvement, and many key performance indicators are trending in a positive direction.

“However, the data continue to validate the anecdotal information that continues to be reported to the Board regarding significant service issues. Key performance indicators, such as velocity, terminal dwell, first-mile/last-mile (FMLM) service (i.e., industry spot and pull), operating inventory, and trip plan compliance show that railroad operations remain challenged generally, and particularly when compared to pre-pandemic 2019 levels.”

The Oct. 28 STB order, though, said the four carriers will not be required to continue to participate in individual biweekly conference calls with the Board’s Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs and Compliance.”

A PATrain RDC in Pittsburgh

October 29, 2022

Starting on Feb. 1, 1975, the Port Authority of Allegheny County began operating commuter trains between Pittsburgh and Versailles, Pennsylvania, in the Monongahela Valley.

The Port Authority took over the service from the Baltimore & Ohio, which operated six roundtrips between Pittsburgh and Versailles at the time of the Port Authority takeover.

The service used a standard locomotive-hauled train as well as Rail Diesel Cars that often ran in sets of four at one time.

It became known as the PATrain and for awhile under Port Authority operation ridership increased over what it had been during B&O operation.

But ridership began declining after it peaked in 1981 and the Port Authority discontinued the commuter trains to Versailles after they made their final trips on April 28, 1989.

RDC 9171, shown in Pittsburgh on June 27, 1981. The car was built for use by the B&O as a baggage-coach RDC for us in Pittsburgh-Washington-Baltimore Daylight Speedliner service.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Let’s Go to Channel 1

October 29, 2022

I’m standing at the west end of CP 194 on Conrail’s Chicago Line in Berea. Shown is an eastbound train just about to clear the eastbound home signals on the signal bridge. Note the sign to the right of the last car reminding crews that there is a change of radio frequency here. That remains the case today in the Norfolk Southern era.

During Conrail days no one said anything about railfans walking out to the vicinity of the west end of the CP 194 plant. But once NS took over that became off limits territory and I never went over there again.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Amtrak Says Its Changing Adverse Condition Practices

October 29, 2022

In the wake of an incident involving a Wolverine Service train in early October, Amtrak said it is changing its policies for handling situations in which trains suffer severe mechanical issues that adversely affects passenger comfort.

Amtrak said it will seek to get passengers off trains that lack heating, air conditioning, electricity, and working toilets whether that involves moving the train to the nearest station or finding other transportation.

“We need to get people off these trains as soon as possible when the comfort systems aren’t working properly,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told “That’s a strong position that we have.”

MLive, which also publishes newspapers in Michigan and is owned by Advance Publications, the same company that owns The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, reported that Amtrak president Roger Harris sent an email message this week to passengers who were aboard Train 351 on Oct. 7 to apologize for the conditions they experienced.

“The service fell far short of what we hold ourselves accountable for and that we promise to deliver to our customers and our partners at the State of Michigan,” Harris wrote.

On Oct. 7, Train 351 suffered numerous mechanical issues while en route, including a locomotive failure that knocked out head-end power to the passenger cars.

News reports said several passengers fled the train in East Chicago, Indiana, as it waited for a new crew after the original crew exceeded the federal hours of service rule.

Those passengers opened doors, walked across active railroad tracks and waded through tall grass to reach a nearby highway where they summoned ride sharing services to pick them up.

Train 351 eventually reached Chicago Union Station shortly after midnight, just over 13.5 hours late.

By then it had been combined with Wolverine Service Train 353, which was operating three hours behind it.

Harris said in his email the crew made “well-intentioned efforts” to keep the train going but Amtrak should have canceled the service and provided alternative transportation.

Magliari told told MLive that buses were not available “because of insufficient vehicles, drivers or both.”

The MLive story said Amtrak plans to streamline service recovery efforts by setting up an operation center in Delaware.

“Instead of having regional decision making, which could vary depending on which part of the country you’re in, our effort here is to consolidate it and make it consistent and make it accountable,” Magliari said.

Amtrak refunded the fares of about 400 passengers on Trains 351 and 353 that day while Harris offered them a $100 travel credit.

“I hope that you will consider riding on Amtrak again soon, and I would like to repeat my apology for our clear failure to provide the service that we expected, and intended, to deliver,” he wrote.

Passengers who incurred additional expenses in getting to their destination can submit receipts and claims to

MLive had earlier reported that some passengers aboard the trains said vouchers or refunds of their fare were not enough to satisfy them.

They said they wanted more information from Amtrak as to what happened and why.

“This is just a really frustrating experience with the lack of communication from Amtrak,” said Sarah Pisarczyk, 21, who was traveling from Ann Arbor to Chicago to attend a Harry Styles concert.

Amtrak reimbursed Mark Hovermale of Novi and his wife $80 — the cost of two one-way tickets — but he wants the passenger carrier to also pay expenses he incurred for hiring an Uber driver, hotel fees and his return trip to Ann Arbor.

I don’t want to get back on it,” he said before boarding the train on the Monday after his initial trip. “Renting a car at this point would be $400 or $500 to come back. A last-minute flight is too expensive. We made these arrangements. Most of us are jokingly but very scared to get back on the train.”

Amtrak did pay for passengers who missed their connections to another train to stay in a hotel in Chicago.

FRA Sets Hearing on Crew Size Rule

October 29, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration will conduct a public hearing on Dec. 14 on a proposed minimum crew size regulation.

The hearing will be held between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. in Washington. It will be carried through at least one online site.

The proposed regulation would set minimum safety requirements for the size of train crews.

A notice published in the Federal Register said public comment is being accepted through Dec. 21.

The FRA proposed in late July that trains have a minimum of two crew members with exceptions for operations that do not pose significant safety risks to railroad workers, the public or environment.

CVSR Akron North Pole Trains Shifted to Rockside Station

October 28, 2022

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s North Pole Adventure trains that were to have departed from Akron in November and December have been shifted to the northern end of the line.

A notice posted on the railroad’s website indicated that trains that had been set to depart from Akron will now depart from Rockside Road Station in Independence due to track closures.

The National Park Service, which owns the track used by the CVSR, closed a significant portion of the route earlier this month due to erosion near the Columbia Run Picnic area north of Boston.

As a result, departure times have also changed. Trains that had been slated to leave Akron at 7 p.m. will now depart Rockside Road at 5:30 p.m.

Trains that had been scheduled to depart Rockside Road at 7:30 p.m. will now leave at 8 p.m. Seat assignments remain unchanged for all North Pole Adventure trains.

The notice did not say directly say if North Pole Adventure riders will still visit the North Pole.

In past years, the North Pole has been the Peninsula station where volunteers dressed as elves greeted the trains. The station also had Christmas-themed decorations.

However, Peninsula is several miles south of the area where the Cuyahoga Riverbank erosion has occurred.

An alternative could be to set up the North Pole at Brecksville station, Jaite, or the Fitzwater maintenance facility.

The notice, which was presented as a letter from Santa Claus told Akron ticket holders, “you will have more time with me.”

It went on to say, “And for the first time, you will ride with me to see my North Pole workshop up close with all of my elves hard at work making all of your holiday dreams come true.

“Along the way, onboard elves will ensure you have plenty of hot chocolate and cookies and your letters to me will be delivered directly through the North Pole Postmaster.”

That suggests Santa will board the train at Rockside rather than at the North Pole in Peninsula and that an abbreviated North Pole will be set up somewhere along the route.

The trip time will be 75 minutes. Akron passengers who are unable to travel to Rockside station will offered a refund of their fare.

In a related development, the CVSR said it is placing additional tickets for North Pole Adventure trains on sale for 5:30 p.m. departures.

The North Pole Adventure will operate Nov. 11-12, Nov. 25-30, and Dec. 1-21. Coach tickets are $45 per person for weekday trips and $47 per person for weekend trips.

Other seating classes include Deluxe ($65 and $67), executive St. Lucie ($85 and $87), executive Solarium ($85 and $87), first class ($90 and $92), and premium ($75 and $71).

More information is available at

A Weekend That Exceeded Expectations: 5

October 28, 2022

We started our walk to Brush tunnel from Helmstetter’s Curve at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday, arriving at the tunnel at 11:14 a.m.

Again, we encountered hikers and bikers on our trek to the tunnel, inside and outside and on the other side.

Before the train arrived we were joined by a rail photographer from Buffalo, New York.

Just after 12:15 p.m.the train popped into the tunnel. Fifty-five seconds later it popped out with the steamer’s smoke pulled out with it as in the final photos. What a conclusion to a fantastic weekend.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas