75th Anniversary Banquet Weekend

Trains magazine editor Jim Wrinn comments about the books he has just been presented by Akron Railroad Club President Craig Sanders. They were "Akron Railroads" and "Canton Area Railroads." The presentation came at the conclusion of Wrinn's presentation to the ARRC 75th anniversary banquet. (Photograph by Roger Durfee)

The Akron Railroad Club celebrated its 75th anniversary at a banquet held Saturday, April 23, 2011, at the Martin Center of the University of Akron. Highlighting the evening was a presentation by Jim Wrinn, editor-in-chief of Trains magazine titled “Steam Engines I have Known and Loved.”

Wrinn’s talk was full of stories about steam locomotives large and small that have played a major role in his life, whether because he rode behind them or had operated them. Illustrating the presentation were several photographs, many of which are part of the Kalmbach Publishing archives and haven’t been widely available for public viewing.

Of course, Jim also regaled us with tales about how a native North Carolinian has managed to adapt to living in the cold and snow of cheesehead land (Wisconsin) where Trains is published. He demonstrated his Southern heritage with a greeting of “y’all.”

Following his presentation, Jim answered a wide range of questions from the audience of just over 50 members and guests.

Two programs featuring music and images were also part of the banquet program. One was a 14-minute program compiled by Roger Durfee that showed how the railroad scene in Akron has changed during the club’s existence. The other program was put together by Craig Sanders and focused on the people and events that have been part of the ARRC during its long history.

ARRC members also gave Wrinn a guided tour of Akron and Cleveland railroad sites during his visit here. That began with a Saturday morning visit to the Fitzwater shops of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Wrinn rode the head end of the first southbound train to Akron that morning. Accompanying him in the cab of B&O No. 800 was ARRC President Craig Sanders.

ARRC members Peter Bowler and Roger Durfee chased the train, catching it at Brecksville, Peninsula and other locations. Also on hand when the train arrived at Akron Northside station were ARRC members Paul Woodring, Richard Thompson and Cody Zamostny.

The CVSR train was late arriving in Akron. The crew had been unable to get the power car going at Fitzwater, forcing them to rely on beneath-the-car generators for power. An attempt to fix the power car at Peninsula failed.

Another delay occurred just north of the Botzum station when the train hit a tree limb hanging over the tracks. The crew piled onto the ground, chainsaw in hand, to remove the “trespasser.”

After an abbreviated tour of downtown Akron railroad sites, the ARRC entourage drove to Kent to meet up with Bob Rohal for lunch at the Pufferbelly restaurant, located in the former Erie Railroad passenger station and division headquarters.

After lunch, Rohal gave Jim a tutorial on operating the Shelly Materials SD18M, nicknamed “Flash.” Jim was at the throttle as the locomotive made a foray into Kent on the former Erie tracks. Craig and Peter ventured onto Flash’s front, back and side porches to make photographs from vantage points they rarely get to do otherwise. Bob then gave everyone a tour of the train room of his home in Kent.

The weather cooperated beautifully on Saturday with mostly sunny skies by afternoon and a high of 77 degrees. Jim quipped later that it was the first time he had felt warm in six months.

Alas, everyone woke up Easter Sunday to rain and gloomy skies. As it that wasn’t bad enough, the restaurant that had promised that it was open for breakfast on Easter Sunday wasn’t. So Craig and Peter took Jim to a nearby Bob Evans, the unofficial eatery for ARRC longest day and other outings. They were joined by Craig’s wife, Mary Ann Whitley. We appeared to be the first customers of the day.

After breakfast, Jim, Craig and Peter drove to the Green Road Rapid station in Shaker Heights and took a Green Line train to Tower City where they met up with Marty. En route to the former Cleveland Union Terminal, Jim was amazed at the various signs and placards inside the car and photographed several of them, saying he might write a blog entry about all the things you are not allowed to do aboard a Greater Cleveland RTA train.

The shops at Tower City were closed and security seemed ultra sensitive to anyone being in the building. Twice, Marty was asked what he was doing there. As we were making our way to the parking garage, a security guard stopped Peter to ask him where he was going. And to think that we weren’t even attempting to take photographs.

Having finally escaped the withering scrutiny of the Tower City security personnel, we drove off for a tour of the railroad sites in the Flats, Steelyard Commons and the steel works district of Cleveland. As we crossed the tracks on Jennings Avenue near B&O Crossing, we spotted a headlight in the distance.

Marty parked his jeep and we piled out to see what was coming. It was a Norfolk Southern local with three Conrail SD40s, all still wearing blue. Jim was quite excited by the sight and took several photographs. He joked about finding three blue Easter eggs and thought aloud about calling a fellow Trains editor to brag about his find.

The train passed the crossing, stopped and backed up and out of sight. We moved on to view the Cleveland Works Railway operations from Independence Road, which bisects the ArcelorMittal steel plant complex.

Seeing some switchers adorned in the blue and white “The Crow” livery of the CWR, we stopped and photographed them out the windows of Marty’s vehicle. We then spotted a switcher taking a cut of bottle cars across the street, but we were too far away to get there in time for photographs.

We made a few more passes through the complex on Independence Road, but upon seeing a security vehicle sitting at one entrance we decided that maybe we had been spotted and it was time to move on.

Our next stop was CSX’s Marcy trestle. An eastbound manifest freight was sitting on the bridge, but the rain, fog and overcast conditions precluded photography. We heard the Marcy detector go off, but after waiting several minutes concluded it had been another eastbound.

It was then on to Berea. Despite it being Easter Sunday, NS and CSX were running trains fairly regularly. It was a show unlike what Jim said he would see in the Milwaukee area. After a lunch stop at an Arby’s on Bagley Road – from which we saw two eastbound CSX trains – it was back to Berea, where we were soon joined by Richard Thompson.

After another couple trains, we moved on to Olmsted Falls, where we spent the remainder of the afternoon. It had stopped raining and visibility and lighting had improved. The first train we saw there, an eastbound NS manifest freight, had a Conrail unit on the lead, making it the fourth blue “Easter egg” that Jim had found that day. He would later blog (brag?) about all of the Conrail locomotives that he saw on this day.

As we sat at the Olmsted Falls depot between trains, Jim told us a few jokes he had neglected to tell the night before. That was too bad. Not only is Jim a true gentleman, he’s got quite a sense of humor, too.

All too soon, it was time to take Jim to the Akron-Canton airport to catch his flight back to Milwaukee. He thanked us as we parted ways for all of the hospitality that we had shown him. The pleasure was truly ours.

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