Archive for the ‘Railfanning News and Features’ Category

Massively Overshadowed

February 21, 2017

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One in a series of posts of photographs that I made last summer.

The driver of this Norfolk Southern track car had authority on the Sandusky District as far as the mini plant in Bellevue.

That wasn’t the driver’s final destination. As I recall, the track car needed to get into the yard, but the dispatcher had traffic to run so the truck sat and sat and sat.

One of those trains was an outbound move with a pair of Union Pacific units in the motive power consist.

Those UP engines also overshadowed an NS high-nose GP38-2 that was trailing them.

I wondered what it would be like to be sitting behind the wheel of a track car and seeing this massive train coming at you.

It must have made for an interesting site provided, of course, that it was on another track and stayed on that track.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

What We’ve Lost over Time on the EL in Kent

February 18, 2017

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Sometimes when a railroad becomes a fallen flag, much of the rails and other infrastructure disappear and only memories are left. Compare this view of the Erie Lackawanna trackage in Kent in the late 1960s with what the Wheeling & Lake Erie operates now. We are looking toward West Summit Street and into downtown Kent. What a difference almost half a century makes.

Article and Photograph by Bob Farkas

 

Pa. Excursion Trip Set for May 18

February 17, 2017

Three organizations are teaming up to offer a rare mileage excursion over the Pennsylvania Railroad and Reading Railroad’s Shamokin Valley Branch.

PennsylvaniaThe May 18 trip will cover a 27-mile branch that is the third oldest railroad in the United States, having been chartered as the Danville & Pottsville Railroad in 1826.

The train will include a Pullman car, baggage car, three restored coaches and a PRR N8 cabin car.

The tracks are now used by the North Shore Railroad, which is operated by the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority.

The train will depart from Sunbury, Pennsylvania, with bus transportation provided to the boarding site from Camp Hill, Wyomissing and Lancaster.

Tickets are $89 per person for those departing from one of the bus locations and $45 for those driving to Sunbury on their own.

The fare includes a bag lunch. Other sandwiches and drinks will be available for purchase on the train.

This trip is subject to cancellation due to insufficient and/or late registration.

Tickets can be purchased by sending a check made payable to the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society.

Send payments to Iron Ore Special, 1624 Suzanne Drive, West Chester, PA 19380-1573. Registration and payment are due by April 10,

For further information send a email query to ironorespecial@gmail.com.

Trip sponsors are the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society, the Reading Company Technical & Historical Society, and the Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

A Place Time Forgot on the Toledo District

February 16, 2017

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One in a periodic series of images that I made last summer.

I wound up at this rural grade crossing on the Toledo District of Norfolk Southern by happenstance.

We were checking out potential sites to photograph a train even through there were no trains that we knew of to photograph on this line.

The crossing is near Williston, Ohio. I immediately liked this location because it had that quality of a place that time forgot.

The block signals in the distance guard the east end of Williston siding and are the search light type signals once common on the Nickel Plate Road.

Off to the side of the tracks is a pole line. Yes, the wires don’t seem as connected as they once were, but along many mainlines the pole line has been removed altogether.

Searchlight signals and pole lines remind me of another time. I have memories of riding in the backseat of my Dad’s car going and the road running parallel with railroad tracks.

I remember seeing searchlight signals and pole lines. You can still find those in some places, but they are not as common as they used to be.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Silent Monuments to the Valley’s Industrial Heritage

February 14, 2017
This bridge over the Cuyahoga River once led to the Jaite Paper Mill, but has not been used since the middle 1980s.

This bridge over the Cuyahoga River once led to the Jaite Paper Mill, but has not been used since the middle 1980s.

I’ve long known that there was a paper mill in Jaite that was served by a spur off the Baltimore & Ohio’s Valley Line between Cleveland and Akron.

Maps at such online sites as Google, Mapquest and Bing still show the rail spur diverging from the Valley Line, which is now owned by the National Park Service and used by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

But I always thought that those maps were in error and that the rail spur had been removed years ago. It turns out that I was mistaken and not the maps.

While doing research for my CVSR book, I was able to determine where the paper mill had been located. I thought it had been west of the Cuyahoga River, but it was east of the river and southeast of Jaite.

I also discovered that the spur to the paper mill, which had been established in 1909 and closed in 1984, crossed the Cuyahoga on a through truss bridge.

That this bridge existed at all was news to me. I’d never seen a photograph of it and no railfan I know who is a native of Northeast Ohio has ever talked about it.

In reviewing satellite images, I discovered the bridge and most of the railroad spur still exist. I wanted to find them and the best time to do that is during the winter when there is less vegetation to deal with.

Saturday, Jan. 21 turned out to be an ideal day for railroad archeology in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

There was no snow on the ground, no precipitation was likely to fall and the temperatures rose into the lower 60s.

After having lunch with fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler at the Winking Lizard in Peninsula, we drove to Jaite, parked in the lot of the CVNP headquarters and began walking southward along the CVSR tracks.

The switch for the paper mill spur has been removed, but its location was easy to find because there are still long cross ties that once held the diverging rails.

The spur has been cut a short distance from the Valley Line and it was apparent that it is used as a trail by fisherman and bird watchers.

As we made our way through the brush along the spur, we talked about how this location would make a good place for a nighttime ghost walk.

The spur is a virtual continuous curve and I could hear in my mind the shrieking and squealing of flanges combined with the low rumble of a Geep’s prime mover as it moved boxcars in and out of the paper mill.

Given the layout of the spur switch, the paper mill must have been worked by a northbound B&O local that backed cars in and pulled them out.

In short order we reached the bridge that carried  the single-track spur over the Cuyahoga.

I’ve always had a fondness for the visual aesthetics of through truss bridges.

Online background information about the bridge indicates that it was built between 1907 and 1909 and known as B&O Bridge No. 451/1.

The spur has not been used since the paper mill closed and the switch connecting it to the Valley line was removed in 2002, probably during a track rehabilitation project.

I’m not a bridge expert or structural engineer, but I could see that although the bridge appears to be in good condition, much work would need to be done to enable rail operations over it again.

Of course there is little to no likelihood that that is going to come about.

The paper mill spur and the bridge are silent monuments to the industrial past of the Cuyahoga Valley.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Still spanning the Cuyahoga River decades after the last train rolled over it.

Still spanning the Cuyahoga River decades after the last train rolled over it.

No way would I walk across this bridge to the other side although I'm sure some people have done so.

No way would I walk across this bridge to the other side although I’m sure some people have done so.

Come spring the vegetation covering the rails on the bridge will turn green again.

Come spring the vegetation covering the rails on the bridge will turn green again.

Nature-made tunnel

Nature-made tunnel

Some rail has started to disintegrate.

Some rail has started to disintegrate.

Rails amid the weeds and trees.

Rails amid the weeds and trees.

The vegetation covering the spur is quite high in some places.

The vegetation covering the spur is quite high in some places.

Today, the Jaite Paper Mill spur is used as a trail by some.

Today, the Jaite Paper Mill spur is used as a trail by some.

Where they cut the rails of the Jaite Paper Mill spur.

Where they cut the rails of the Jaite Paper Mill spur.

Long ties mark the spot where the switch for the Jaite Paper Mill spur was located on the B&O Valley Line.

Long ties mark the spot where the switch for the Jaite Paper Mill spur was located on the B&O Valley Line.

Another Rail Ride for Mail on Shortest RPO Route

February 13, 2017

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Since we have been talking about Railway Post Office service, I thought you might like to see this.

This postcard was mailed via the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western’s Summit & Gladstone R.P.O. route on April 13, 1954.

This was reportedly the shortest R.P.O. route in the United States at 22 miles in length.

Trains still operate over this line as New Jersey Transit’s Gladstone Branch, but the mail is no longer carried. Since the 1930s, trains on this line have been electric MU cars and the Lackawanna had RPO trailer cars that were attached to the MU trains.

As you can see, the RPO was carried on train No. 426. The Gladstone Branch today is a busy NJ Transit commuter line.

NJT still runs a train 426 over the Gladstone Branch. Last April 13 I took this postcard for a ride on train 426 over the very same route it traveled in 1954. Who says you can’t go home again?

Article and Photograph by Jack Norris

The Ins and Outs of CVSR Food Service

February 11, 2017
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Relaxing in the lounge section of the Saint Lucie Sound while having a continental breakfast. The car also has sleeping car accommodations, but no CVSR trains operate overnight.

You won’t find a dining car on a Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train in the traditional sense.

The railroad does not employ or have volunteers who freshly prepare meals on board the train.

Yet there are four cars on the CVSR National Park Scenic that are devoted to food service. The quality of the fare you enjoy depends on how much you are willing to pay.

If you want to ride in observation-lounge car Saint Lucie Sound, you will be treated to a continental breakfast.

Board at Independence and ride to Akron and back and you’ll be served breakfast. Board at Akron and ride to Independence and back and you’ll be served brunch.

And if you’re riding in the coaches and having hunger pangs, you can go to the concession car and buy something to eat. The offerings there are similar to what you’d find in an Amtrak food service car on a Midwest corridor train.

However, the CVSR concession car offers more souvenirs for sale than does Amtrak.

The meals served in the “dining cars” are prepared off the train by a catering company.

Dining along the Cuyahoga is not inexpensive. Brunch from Akron costs $32 per person and features a choice of three entrees: grilled pork, vegetable primavera, or hunter’s style chicken. The meat dishes come with a side of mashed potatoes and vegetables.

If you are bringing a child, a ticket costs $27 and features a choice of mac and cheese, or chicken tenders.

Breakfast costs $30 per person for adults and $25 for a child. The CVSR website doesn’t say what is served other than it is a four-course meal.

Although not mentioned on the website, I was told by a trainman that alcoholic beverages are available during meals. Presumably, those cost extra.

The CVSR offers beer tasting (Ales on Rails) and wine tasting trains (Grape Express). Those events are not held aboard the Scenic, instead operating as “extras” once a month. Each is devoted to a particular type of beer or wine.

The cost of a ticket for the Ales on Rails is $50 for a coach seat, $70 for a seat at a one of the table cars used for breakfast and brunch trains and $94 for a seat in the lounge car Paul Revere.

Tickets for the wine tasting trains are slightly more expensive at $60, $80 and $96.

The departures for both types of alcohol trains alternate by month between Independence and Akron. The alcohol trains tend to operate at night so you may not see much scenery unless y are riding during the summer.

Passengers get five samples of beer or wine plus appetizers.

I’ve never ridden one of the food service cars or purchased any food items aboard a CVSR train.

Most of the images shown with this post were made in Akron during the station stop while the concession car photo was made during an Akron Railroad Club outing on the CVSR in March 2012.

I was able to get make a few images from the vestibules of the food service cars with the permission of a CVSR trainman.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Snacks and sandwiches are for sale in the concession car.

Snacks and sandwiches are for sale in the CVSR concession car.

These two ladies noticed me making photographs on the platform at Akron and began waving.

These two ladies noticed me making photographs on the platform at Akron and began waving without being prompted.

The car that serves brunch.

The car that serves brunch upon departure from Akron.

Inside the car that serves breakfast.

Inside the car that serves breakfast upon departure from Rockside Road station in Independence.

Despite Massive Snow NJT Still Ran On Time

February 10, 2017

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A severe snow storm hit New Jersey on Thursday. Since I live within walking distance of the old Erie/Erie Lackawanna Bergen County Line I wandered down to the station at the height of the storm to see the action. All the trains I saw (except for one) were on time to the minute. Our station is seeing its 88th winter, still doing its job sheltering passengers from the weather. The trains keep rolling on the old Erie, moving passengers just like they have for over a century.

Photographs by Jack Norris

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Yes, GATX Also Has Box Cars for Lease

February 10, 2017

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When I think of GATX I think of tank cars. The Chicago-based equipment finance company has its initials on thousands of tank cars.

In fact, the company says that it has a fleet of more than 125,000 railcars and 600 locomotives. Of its railcars, more than 59,000 are tank cars.

But GATX has a few boxcars, too. I ran across this one on a Norfolk Southern train in Bellevue last summer.

The GTAX website doesn’t say how many boxcars that it has for lease, only that they come in 50-, 60- and 86-foot lengths.

This particular car is carrying reporting marks for the Laurinburg & Southern, a short-line railroad with 28 miles of track in North Carolina.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Like a Bright Red Sports Car Gone Cruising

February 8, 2017
Despite gathering clouds overhead those matching FPA-4s looked sharp cruising along the Cuyahoga River.

Despite gathering clouds overhead those matching FPA-4s looked sharp cruising along the Cuyahoga River.

The FPA-4 locomotives on the roster of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad are hardly new. All were built in early 1959, which makes them 58 years old.

Yet ever since No. 6771 rolled out of the paint booth last year and No. 6777 emerged this year, they have drawn attention from photographers due to their “like new appearance.”

It doesn’t hurt that the new paint job also includes a new look on the nose, a V stripe that has replaced the CVSR winged herald that many wags have likened to the logo for the hamburger chain Steak ‘n Shake.

Put those FPA-4 together as a matching set and you have a must photograph motive power consist.

I caught a glimpse of No. 6777 in sunlight nearly three Saturdays ago. But it turned cloudy and when I returned the following Saturday clouds also were blocking the sun, taking some of the luster away from that new paint.

I finally got my chance to see those beauties in full sunlight last Saturday morning. It was well worth the trip.

I started in Peninsula, catching the first southbound run of the day. Before the train arrived, fellow Akron Railroad Club member Todd Dillon joined me and reported that, indeed, the matching FPA-4 units were on the point.

The train was late arriving in Peninsula due to having made an unscheduled stop at Boston Mill.

I don’t know if this has anything to do with that, but a CVSR trainman later told me there was a group from Pennsylvania on board and they were fascinated to see a ski resort there even if they thought it rather small.

I had parked on Main Street in Peninsula so I was easily able to get to my next photo location.

The plan was to get the train on the bridge over Furnace Run near Szalay’s Market, but after seeing some cars parked alongside Riverview near the curve south of the diagonal grade crossing, I pulled over there.

ARRC member Roger Durfee and two guys I know from Cleveland were already set up.

I then stopped near Smith Road to get the matched set across the frozen pond at the motorcycle club and then made my way into Akron where I spotted yet another ARRC member, Bob Farkas, at Northside Station, making photographs.

After getting the train leaving Northside, I weaved my way out to Ohio Route 8, getting off at Steels Corner Road.

I headed west on Ira Road only to see the northbound train already at the crossing. Even worse, a car stopped at the intersection with Riverview Road kept me from being able to make a right turn.

He wanted to go west on Ira, but vehicles waiting at the crossing were ahead of him. As luck would have it, he pulled up just enough to enable me to get by.

The CVSR wasn’t running all that fast, so I was able to pull into the access road to a field across from Szalay’s and get the Furnace Run bridge image.

From there it was on to Boston Mill to get the train passing the ski resort and then to Brecksville for images of the train and the Route 82 bridge and the Cuyahoga River.

I called ARRC member Peter Bowler to see if he was out today chasing and we agreed to car pool to Pleasant Valley Road and then to the bend of the Cuyahoga River by the tracks alongside Riverview Road near the Columbia Run picnic area.

There was still good sunlight, but clouds were gathering to the west. That didn’t matter at Pleasant Valley, but near Columbia Run the light was slightly filtered.

That wasn’t a problem because the clouds were still thin and the reflection on those shiny FPA-4s still looked great.

It probably is a matter of time before the 6771 and 6777 are broken apart and, in fact, I am surprised it hasn’t happened already.

Perhaps the CVSR takes a lot of pride in the appearance of these units and plans to run them together for a while longer.

Yet in time dirt and grime will build up on both units, and wear and tear will take its toll. The thrill of seeing matching FPA-4 units will fade in time, too.

But for now Nos. 6771 and 6777 have the appeal of a bright red sports car that has just been driven off the dealer’s lot after getting a wash and wax job.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The wide angle view at Pleasant Valley Road . . .

The wide angle view at Pleasant Valley Road . . .

 . . . and the telephoto shot at Pleasant Valley Road.

. . . and the telephoto shot at Pleasant Valley Road.

Of course I had to made an image with the Ohio Route 82 bridge in the background.

Of course I had to made an image with the Ohio Route 82 bridge in the background.

Another photo op beside the Cuyahoga River.

Another photo op beside the Cuyahoga River.

Passing the "rather small" ski resort at Boston Mill.

Passing the “rather small” ski resort at Boston Mill.

I didn't have much time to spare, but got the train crossing Furnace Run as planned.

I didn’t have much time to spare, but got the train crossing Furnace Run as planned.

Pulling out of Akron Northside Station.

Pulling out of Akron Northside Station.

A crew member checks out something with the 6777 during the station stop in Akron.

A crew member checks out something with the 6777 during the station stop in Akron.

Note the bright gold reflection on the frozen pond near Smith Road.

Note the bright gold reflection on the frozen pond near Smith Road.

Is this a drag race on Riverview Road?

Is this a drag race on Riverview Road?

Arriving at Peninsula in mid morning.

Arriving at Peninsula in mid morning.