Archive for the ‘Other News’ Category

Ohio Rail Experience Sets 3 Trips in 2022

May 23, 2022

The Ohio Rail Experience has announced that it will offer three all-day trips this year, all of then running on two weekends in September.

The Spirit of Urbana is set for Sept. 10, operating from Washington Court House to Urbana and return. The next day the Lima Limited will run from Springfield to Lima and return.

On Sept. 17 the Return to the Big Four will operate from Cincinnati to Greensburg, Indiana, and return.

Tickets are expected to go on sale within the next 14 days.

The Ohio Rail Experience is a project of Cincinnati Scenic Railway, which operatives the Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad in Lebanon.

More information is available at https://www.ohiorailexperience.com/2022-schedule

Amtrak Expansion in Ohio Remains Uncertain

May 21, 2022

Whether Ohio seeks federal funding to develop new Amtrak services in the state may hinge in part on who wins this year’s governor’s race.

Democrat Nan Whaley has said she would seek the funding to create the service while incumbent Republican Mike DeWine has been noncommittal although he did order the Ohio Rail Development Commission to conduct a study of Amtrak’s proposals to launch new service in Ohio.

Through its Amtrak Connects US plan, the passenger carrier has proposed developing service between Cleveland and Cincinnati via Columbus and Dayton.

Amtrak would also create service between Cleveland and Detroit, boost service between Cleveland and New York City, and between Cincinnati and Chicago.

Amtrak has proposed fronting the money to develop routes and pay at least some of the operating expenses not covered by ticket revenue for up to five years.

After five years, the state would be expected to pick up the costs of the routes.

A story published by The Plain Dealer quoted Ohio Senate president Matt Huffman (R-Lima) as expressing doubt that intercity passenger trains are needed in Ohio.

He said it might make sense to have trains in large, dense cities such as New York, but said there’s a question about whether enough Ohioans would prefer to travel via a train instead of by car.

“I’m not enthusiastic about it,” Huffman said of the Amtrak expansion proposal. “It’s kind of fun to talk about, but until someone can figure out why it’s better than taking a car, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) said when asked about the Amtrak proposals, “At this point, I don’t have any thoughts.”

DeWine said he has an open mind about passenger train development in Ohio and noted he and his family have traveled on Amtrak to go on camping trips in the West.

He added that he wants to see the results of the ORDC studies before taking a position on seeking federal funding for development of Amtrak routes.

More than a decade ago, the Federal Railroad Administration awarded Ohio $400 million to develop the Cleveland-Cincinnati route.

But after being elected governor in 2010 John Kasich returned that money to the federal government and plans to develop the 3-C corridor collapsed.

There have been no serious efforts to develop the corridor or any other intercity rail passenger route in Ohio since then.

The funding Amtrak plans to use to develop new routes comes from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act approved by Congress last year.

However, the $66 billion in the IIJA that was dedicated toward passenger rail is not enough to fund development of all of the routes shown in the Amtrak Connects US plan.

The route development funding is being funded through the FRA, which earlier this month released guidelines for those interested in seeking funding to develop routes.

The FRA is not expected to begin accepting proposals until this fall.

The ORDC study is expected to take eight months, although an ORDC spokeswoman told The Plain Dealer it is not clear how long the study will take because it is in “the very, very early stages.”

DeWine’s mandate to the ORDC was to determine the feasibility and cost of expanding passenger rail service in Ohio.

During a meeting with news reporters this week, DeWine did say that if the ORDC finds the 250-mile Cleveland-Cincinnati route would run at an average speed of 39 miles per hour, “that’s just not going to work.”

The 39 mph average speed figure came from the 2010 proposal. In its Amtrak Connects US plan, Amtrak said it envisioned three day roundtrips between Cleveland and Cincinnati with a running time of 5.2 hours.

In a statement, Whaley, a former mayor of Dayton, said she has been a long-time supporter of the Cleveland-Cincinnati route and pledged that if elected to “use the full power of her administration to make these proposed routes a reality.”

Earlier, 11 Ohio House Democrats and one House Republican introduced a resolution in support of expanding Amtrak service in Ohio, but it has yet to receive a hearing or a vote in the House.

In a related development, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and Columbus Partnership announced support of the development of the Cleveland-Cincinnati route.

MORPC executive director William Murdock said Columbus is one of the largest regions in the country without access to a rail system.

“What we’re proposing is multiple trips a day from Columbus to Cleveland, Columbus to Dayton and Cincinnati,” Murdock said. “And we’re even investigating lines from Columbus to Pittsburgh and Columbus to Chicago.”

Amtrak has three routes in Ohio with stations in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Sandusky, Elyria, Toledo, Bryan and Alliance.

All three routes link Chicago with cities on the East Coast, including Boston, New York and Washington.

The Chicago-New York route via Cincinnati operates tri-weekly while the other two routes operate or soon will operate daily.

SEPTA Seeks Upgrade of Regional Rail Network

May 20, 2022

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has begun the second phase of a project to improve its regional rail services with the goal of making them more useful.

In a news release, SPETA said it is working toward three goals, including providing consistent service every 30 minutes throughout the network; offering more frequent service (every 15 minutes) in some areas with higher demand; and offering faster and integrated services across all agencies, providing express services all day.

As part of the project SEPTA is offering a virtual questionnaire that asks riders about their travel habits and suggests a scenario based on that information.

The information gathered will be used to implement plans later this year.

The project is part of the SEPTA Forward initiative that seeks to transform the agency’s transit services into a “lifestyle transit network” that would provide all-day, all-week frequent service to riders, officials said.

Lolly the Trolley Rolls Out of Cleveland

May 19, 2022

An era in Cleveland ended this week when Lolly the Trolley rolled out of town.

To be accurate, Lolley was never a trolley in the traditional sense. It was a motor vehicle on rubber wheels designed to have the appearance of a trolley car.

Trolley Tours of Cleveland sent eight of the iconic Lolly vehicles to Clearwater, Florida, on Tuesday, thus ending Lolly’s 37-year time in Northeast Ohio.

Owners Sherrill Paul Witt and Peter Paul said a variety of factors led to Lolly leaving town, not the least of which was the COVID-19 pandemic.

But other factors included insurance issues and what the owners termed burdensome city regulations.

The Lolly trolleys have not plied Cleveland streets for more than a year. The first trolley ran on April 15, 1985.

Over the years Lolly ventured as far away as Kent, Canton, Ashtabula, Geneva and Sandusky.

No matter where the rolling ambassadors for Cleveland would go, they would bring a smile to the faces of passersby and passengers alike.

Lolly took passengers to museums, on sightseeing tours, to sporting events and even on short rides as part of weddings.

Witt said Lolly was involved in more than 4,000 weddings and carried wedding parties of some of the children of people who were married and sat aboard the trolley.

“It’s a memory you don’t forget,” Witt said. “And I think our ability to highlight Cleveland, to change people’s minds and to really, at the end of a tour, say ‘I never knew Cleveland was like this.’”

The operation once had 15 vehicles but the fleet size fell to eight in recent years, each of which could hold 38 passengers.

Lolly the Trolley employed about 150 people over the years and covered 3.1 million miles.

ORDC Will Study Development of Amtrak Routes

May 18, 2022

The Ohio Rail Development Commission will talk with Amtrak about the feasibility and costs of establishing the routes specified in the passenger carrier’s Amtrak Connects US proposal.

Gov. Mike DeWine ordered the action, which is his first indication that the state is willing to at least consider development of the routes.

Amtrak has proposed establishing service between Cleveland and Cincinnati via Columbus and Dayton.

It also would connect Cincinnati and Chicago and add service between Cleveland and Detroit and New York City; and extend the route of the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian to Cleveland.

The governor’s spokesman, Dan Tierney, said in a statement that the feasibility determination is still in process.

Speaking on Tuesday, Tierney told reporters that previous administrations had determined these routes to be unfeasible.

“An updated feasibility determination is wise before proceeding with significant public expenditures of this nature,” he said.

Stu Nicholson, executive director of passenger rail advocacy group All Aboard Ohio, said the group is “cautiously optimistic” about DeWine’s request.

“We’re also, at the same time, grateful to the governor for taking this step,” Nicholson said.

The ORDC study would be a first step in a long process. Although Amtrak has said it would help states fund route development and provide operating support for up to five years, the passenger carrier also expects states to eventually cover all operating losses.

Ohio has never funded Amtrak service although in 1971 is approved its share of paying for the short-lived Chicago-New York Lake Shore, a service that was discontinued in January 1972 because the states served declined to help fund it.

In 2010 newly-elected Ohio Gov. John Kasich returned to the federal government a grant that was to have been used to establish the Cleveland-Cincinnati route.

Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner had said last year that developing the Cleveland-Cincinnati route would cost approximately $100 billion.

The Amtrak Connects US proposal projects that three daily roundtrips on the route would carry an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 passengers annually.

DeWine’s directive to the ORDC comes a week after the Federal Railroad Administration published its guidelines for a corridor development program created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The FRA plans to solicit proposals for corridor development later this year.

The Ohio study is expected to take between eight months and a year to complete.

Nicholson said he expects the study to show why passenger rail will work in Ohio, the need for such a system, its environmental impacts and what needs to be done to the rail corridor to make it usable by faster, more frequent trains.

“I think Amtrak’s plan is frankly an even better plan in a lot of respects because it really opens up more of the state, not just the 3C+D,” he said. “You’re looking at being able to create mini-hubs for Amtrak … as well as restoring service to the most heavily traveled and densely populated corridor in the state.”

Marion Railfans to Meet Saturday

May 18, 2022

The Marion Railfan Society will meet Saturday at Marion Union Station at approximately 7 p.m.

The problem will be a slide show presented by George Vergamini showing trains and railroad stations of Ohio and New York state.

After the program has concludes attendees will be invited to show slides during an open projector segment of the meeting.

No digital imaes will be shown this month.

Station Inn in Cresson Sold

May 16, 2022

A popular central Pennsylvania railfan hangout has been sold.

The Station Inn in Cresson was sold to Alex and Leah Lang. Alex Lang is chief information officer for Transtar, which owns several short line railroads in the Northeast and Midwest.

The bed and breakfast inn is located next to Norfolk Southern’s Pittsburgh Line. It was founded 30 years ago by Tom Davis, who died in 2021.

SEPTA Takes Step to Buy New Trolley Cars

May 16, 2022

Philadelphia’s trolley cars are being set to be replaced.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority last week issued a request for proposals to replace the trolley fleet.

The RFP is a step toward acquiring new cars and a major step of the agency’s trolley modernization plan, SEPTA said in news release.

One goal of the program is make the trolleys more accessible with higher capacity, wider pathways, improved messaging systems and open space for those with wheelchairs and strollers.

Most existing trolleys were constructed in the 1980s.

The project also will seek to build new on-street stations and rebuild underground stations to make them more accessible.

SEPTA has eight trolley routes operating over 68 miles of track to connect Philadelphia and Delaware County with the region’s two largest employment and health care centers.

T1 Trust Shows Work Done on New Engine

May 16, 2022

The Pennsylvania Railroad T1 Steam Locomotive Trust held an open house last weekend to show the combined cab, boiler shell, and prow of steam engine No. 5550.

The Trust is working to recreate a PRR T-1-class 4-4-4-4 locomotive. The Pennsy had 52 of the locomotives, which it used for passenger service. All have been scrapped.

The open house was held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, during the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society.

If all goes according to plan the Trust hopes to have the 5550 operating by 2030.

The group has raised $1.715 million thus far for the project and construction of the locomotives is 39 percent, officials said.

For more information about the T1 building project, visit https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/t1-trust-displays-progress-in-building-new-steam-locomotive/

FRA Releases Criteria for Corridor Program

May 16, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration last week published in the Federal Register its guidelines for its Corridor Identification Program.

The program was established by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and allocated $1.8 billion in funding.

Eligible corridors must be less than 750 miles; an enhancement of an existing route of less than 750 miles; the restoration of service over all or portions of a route formerly operated by Amtrak; or an increase of service frequency of a long-distance intercity passenger-rail route.

By law eligible entities that may participate in the program include Amtrak, states, groups of states, entities implementing interstate compacts, regional passenger-rail authorities, regional planning organizations, political subdivisions of a state, federally recognized Indian Tribes and possibly other entities.

The FRA expects to begin soliciting proposals to participate in the program during the last quarter of this year.

The guidelines published by the FRA sets forth 14 criteria that will be used to evaluate corridors.

These include whether the route was identified as part of a regional or interregional planning study; projected ridership, revenues, capital investment, and operating funding requirements; anticipated environmental, congestion mitigation and other public benefits; projected trip times and their competitiveness with other transportation modes; anticipated positive economic and employment impacts; committed or anticipated non-federal funding for operating and capital costs; and benefits to rural communities.

Also among the criteria are whether the corridor is included in a state’s approved state rail plan; whether the corridor serves historically unserved or underserved and low-income communities or areas of persistent poverty; whether the corridor would benefit or improve connectivity with existing or planned transportation services of other modes; whether the corridor connects at least 2 of the 100 most populated metropolitan areas; whether the corridor would enhance the regional equity and geographic diversity of intercity passenger rail service; whether the corridor is or would be integrated into the national rail passenger transportation system and would create benefits for other passenger rail routes and services; and whether a passenger rail operator has expressed support for the corridor.

FRA officials said the agency will “work with the entity that submitted the proposal, the relevant states, and, as appropriate, Amtrak to prepare or update a service development plan.”