Archive for the ‘Railfanning News and Features’ Category

An Original Van Sweringens’ ‘Bible’

April 21, 2017

Once upon a time two brothers named Van Sweringen controlled the Erie, Chesapeake & Ohio, Nickel Plate Road and Pere Marquette.

They wanted to standardize things on their railroads so they set up a committee to come up with specific standards on everything from mixing concrete to cloth rubber lined fire hoses. You name it, they standardized it.

My girlfriend was in a junk shop near her home in Suffern, New York, and found this book, which is the “bible” of the Van Sweringens’ standards.

There can’t be too many of these 80-year-old books around. There probably weren’t many too many to begin with.

As you can see from the bottom right hand corner of the cover, this copy was used by the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad, which during this time period was controlled by the Erie.

I think it is neat that each standard is signed off by officials of all the railroads involved. I think you have to agree it is a neat gift for a railroad historian.

Article and photographs by Jack Norris

Let’s Get Behind the Horses

April 19, 2017

Many years ago when I was a kid we were on a family vacation out east. We saw a billboard that read, “let’s get behind the birds,” making a reference to the Baltimore Orioles Major League Baseball team.

The billboard had a team photo that was taken from behind the players, not in front of them.

The vast majority of the time, railroad photographs show the nose of a locomotive approaching the photographer.

This Norfolk Southern light power move — symbol 967 — is headed from Columbus to Bellevue.

With the exception of DPU units, it is not often that the rear of a locomotive is also the rear of the train.

Ex-Erie Station in Fair Lawn Being Renovated

April 18, 2017

The former Erie Railroad station in the Radburn section of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, is closing for four months for some badly needed TLC.

It is getting a new roof, ceiling and interior renovations. The station was built by the Erie in 1929 and replaced a small wood building.

The station sees about 1,500 commuters a day and is one of only a couple of former Erie stations that still has an agent, albeit only for morning rush hour Monday through Friday.

The station is styled in the Dutch style that matched many of Fair Lawn’s early homes.

Since the station is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places the appearance of the depot will not change.

The only significant change to the station was the addition of a platform canopy in the early 2000s. Compare the 1950s postcard view with the picture taken at the same angle in 2012.

The Radburn-Fair Lawn station has a special meaning for me; It is where I became a railfan.

In the ‘60s, when I was old enough to start wandering around town on my own I would go to the station every day after school and watch the trains roll by.

The Erie Lackawanna’s commuter trains were hauled by RS-3s and geeps. The train to Port Jervis was hauled by an E8.

In the early 1970s the commuter trains were replaced with brand new U34CH diesels and push-pull train sets.

The E’s would last on the Port Jervis runs a few more years. In those days the station still had a full-time agent who was there until 4 p.m.

I had many pleasant conversations with the gentleman. There was also a full-time section gang that had an office in the station, including a a kind old Italian gentlemen who would always talk to a young railfan.

My daily railfanning would end at 6:15 p.m. when the train pulled in and brought my father home from his job in New York City.

We would get in the car and drive home to become a complete family once again.

At 9:30 a.m. on Friday, April 14, the agent closed up the office and New Jersey Transit started removing the office equipment.

On Monday the station’s cozy waiting room fell silent. In about four months the refurbished building should be reopened and the waiting room and agent will be welcoming travelers once again.

I can’t wait to walk through her doors once again.

Article and Photographs by Jack Norris

A contemporary view of Radburn station.

Historic post card view of Radburn station.

Just Another ‘Routine’ Day in Marion

April 14, 2017

One highlight of my day in Marion in early March was this Kansas City Southern “Belle” helping to pull the Q106.

Every time that I plan a day railfan outing I’m always hoping for something out of the ordinary to occur.

Typically, I hope for something other than the same old, same old in motive power or train consists.

By that standard, my outing to Marion in early March was pretty average. Norfolk Southern didn’t send any heritage or special tributes through town during the nine hours that I was there.

No foreign units led any of the 30 trains that I logged. There were foreign units trailing in three motive power consists, one of which was the Q106, a run-through intermodal train from the Kansas City Southern.

The second unit in the motive power consist of that train was a KCS Southern Belle. I would have liked for it to have been leading. I would liked even more for that motive power set to have gone back west that afternoon, but it didn’t.

Motive power matters aside, I considered the outing to be a success. Train traffic was steady throughout the day. CSX was its usual hit and miss, but it provided 12 trains, although nothing ran west on the CSX Columbus Subdivision.

It took longer than I expected for the temperatures to warm to a comfortable feeling, but the skies were mostly sunny. That alone can make it a good day.

I had not been in Marion since last August when I attended Summerail so I wasn’t aware of a major change that has improved photography there.

CSX has removed the poles on the south side of the Mt. Victory Subdivision. One of those used to block the sight lines of photographs made from AC Tower.

A stub of a pole by the diamonds of the Sandusky District of Norfolk Southern with the Mt. Victory Sub holds station identifier signs for NS. It looks kind of funny, but it is what it is.

Here is a selection of some of my better images of the day.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The first “foreign” locomotive that I spotted was a BNSF unit trailing a CSX leader on a westbound auto rack train on the Mt. Victory Sub.

An eastbound NS coal train approaches the junction with CSX.

CSX grain train G646 is about to rattle the diamonds as it rumbles eastward on the Columbus Sub.

Without poles along the CSX tracks, the sight lines from AC Tower are now open for shooting eastbound trains passing Marion Union Station on the Mt. Victory Sub. The train is the Q008.

Remember that pole that you used to have to shoot around from the steps of AC Tower? I can’t say that I miss it.

An NS engineer gives a wave to railfans in Marion.

 

Turboliner Photo Brought Back Memories

April 14, 2017

A photograph that Bob Farkas sent this week of an Amtrak RTG Turboliner at Joliet, Illinois, brought back a lot of fond memories.

I rode the Turboliner when I lived in Springfield, Illinois, in the mid-1970s, but many of my memories involve watching the French-built train.

Sometimes on a late Friday afternoon I would go to the Amtrak station to see the Turboliner from St. Louis arrive en route to Chicago.

During my first semester at the then-named Sangamon State University, I had a class that met in the early evening.

It got out shortly before the evening Turboliner was to leave Springfield for St. Louis. Parking for the downtown SSU campus was in a lot next to the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio tracks, which were Illinois Central Gulf by then.

If it a searchlight signal next to the tracks was green, the Amtrak train was in the station out of sight a few blocks to the north. I’d sit in my car until the train came past and then go home.

My first ride on a Turboliner came in February 1975 when I made a trip to St. Louis to visit my grandparents.

I liked the Turboliner. It was modern, had nice large windows and lived up to its billing in a an Amtrak radio advertisement of the time with a tagline of “hitch a ride on the future.:

But not everyone did felt the way that I did. Many passengers disliked the narrow seats that barely reclined, the narrow aisles and the sometimes hard to open doors. Another drawback was limited seating in the café car.

The Turboliner had a fixed capacity of 296, so some passengers were left standing during peak travel periods.

Those who regularly rode Amtrak in the Chicago-Springfield-St. Louis corridor preferred conventional equipment over the Turboliner.

Some locomotive engineers wouldn’t work on the Turboliner because they didn’t feel they would be protected enough during a grade crossing collision with a large truck.

When they began service on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor on Oct. 1, 1973, Amtrak touted the Turboliner as the greatest advancement in transportation since the 747.

Although much was made of the capability of the Turboliner to run more than 100 mph, the fastest it could sprint between Chicago and St. Louis was 79 p.m.

But the Turboliner schedule was a half-hour faster than trains using conventional equipment and 11 minutes faster than GM&O trains of the late 1940s.

An Amtrak official conceded to Trains magazine editor David P. Morgan that the purpose the flashy-looking Turboliners was to show that Amtrak was doing something to improve passenger service other than making cosmetic improvements to hand-me-down equipment.

Morgan said the Turboliner reminded him of the low center of gravity lightweight trains that railroads tried in the 1950s but which failed to catch on.

The last Turboliner in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor ran on Trains 301/304. It was withdrawn from the route after it struck an asphalt truck at Elwood, Illinois, on Nov. 18, 1975.

About a month later, Nos. 301/304 because the first Midwest corridor trains to receive the new Amfleet equipment.

My last trip aboard a Turboliner came in November 1980 when I rode the Lake Cities from  Chicago to Toledo via Detroit.

The next time I remember seeing a Turboliner was in the mid-1990s at the Beech Grove shops near Indianapolis. One of the Turboliner sets was sitting forlornly off to the side.

I’ve seen photographs of a Turboliner sitting in a junk yard near Dugger, Indiana. One of these days I’ve got to get out there to see if it is still there.

Some Railroad Sights From Joliet, Illinois

April 13, 2017

Amtrak 62 is a French Turboliner that Amtrak used out of Chicago in the mid-1970’s. Here she is in front of Joliet Union Station on June 15, 1974.

Rock Island 654 leads three other Rock Island E8s approaching the crossing with the AT&SF on August 18, 1973.

AT&SF 314C was in Joliet on April 14, 1973. By then some passenger units were on freights as well as on Amtrak.

Mike Ondecker had heard about how Joliet, Illinois, was an excellent location to railfan and wanted to railfan it.

Never did I realize it would become a favorite location and a mandatory stop on westward trips.

Here are three photos taken when Mike and I visited Joliet on different occasions.  By this time Mike had stopped taking photos, but thankfully his being employed by the Erie Lackawanna and his knowledge of railfan locations helped each trip be a great experience.

Of course the fact that Mike loved driving and drove all the time gave me more time to try and navigate to the next location as well as check out the scenery for things of interest. We truly got along well.

Article and Photographs by Robert Farkas

Memorable Last Train of the Day

April 12, 2017

The last train that I would photograph during an all-day outing to Bellevue and the Sandusky District of Norfolk Southern last Sunday would be memorable for a few reasons, not all of them positive.

While in Bellevue around mid-afternoon, I spotted a train sitting on the Fostoria District awaiting clearance. It had a BNSF unit on the point so I waited to see where it was going.

I thought it was waiting to get into the yard, but it went to the Sandusky District and would follow the 194 and the 12V.

It turned out to be the 44G, a grain train probably headed somewhere in North or South Carolina.

The Sandusky District dispatcher had planned to have the 44G meet a 188 at Harvey just north of Marion, but those plans changed after I turned off my scanned and got out my car to await the arrival of the 44G in Bucyrus.

I met a railfan from Columbus who had a portable scanner and said the radio chatter and signal indications he had seen suggested a meet at Benson, the siding north of Bucycus.

That is, in fact, what happened. He was curious what the view on the west side of the tracks close to the diamonds with the Fort Wayne Line.

We found that it offered a straight-on view of the through truss bridge carrying the Sandusky District over the Sandusky River.

The lighting was ideal and the bright orange of the BNSF “pumpkins” was eye catching. It was my best series of images of the day.

We watched the train go by and we started to leave I reached into my pocket for my lens cap.

But it wasn’t there. I searched all of my pockets and no lens cap.

The other railfan and I looked over the area where I had been photographing but found nothing. I traced my path three times but the lens cap was nowhere to be found.

My best guess is that I put it back on my lens after shooting the 188, but didn’t attach it firmly enough to the lens.

The vibration of my moving must have jarred it off and it was difficult to find in the thick grass. It’s there somewhere but I couldn’t find it.

I can buy a new lens cap, but was bummed out about not having been more careful with my equipment.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Toledo National Train Day Set for May 6

April 12, 2017

Toledo still plans to hold a National Train Day this year, although it will not apparently have the headliner external exhibits that it has had in the past.

The event will be held on May 6 at the former Central Union Terminal – now known as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza – between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. There is no admission charge.

Thus far the only announced railroad exhibit will be Ann Arbor Railroad GP38 No. 3879.

Built in 1969, the locomotive has been painted in a commemorative livery to honor the history of the Ann Arbor, which is now a Watco Companies property.

This year’s event will be the 10th National Train Day celebration in Toledo.

Past events have featured heritage and special livery locomotives of Norfolk Southern as well as an Amtrak exhibit train.

It is not clear yet if either NS or Amtrak will be participating in the event.

The event’s sponsors say on their Facebook page that as in past years the festival will feature vendors, model railroad displays, children’s train rides, a safety workshop oriented to children, food and train watching of the nearby NS Chicago Line from the Amtrak station platforms.

Last Gasp of Winter

April 11, 2017

Where did the winter go? That’s a term more commonly heard about summer, a season  that most people embrace, and not winter, a season that most people dread.

We had snow this winter, but not as much as I remember there being in past winters and for various reasons I didn’t get out when we had it to make any photographs.

It is not that I didn’t make photographs during the winter months, but when I did get out there was little to no snow on the ground.

So here it is April and this is one of the best snow and trains photograph that I have to show for the winter of 2016-2017.

Yeah, I know it is kind of lame, but at least there is snow in the image even if little of it.

There will always be another winter and the next one might have more opportunity than I care to have. But I’ll deal with that then.

Sunday Surprise (and Prize) in Bellevue

April 10, 2017

Illinois Central No. 1028 leads the W08 off the Toledo District of Norfolk Southern in Bellevue and into the mini plant.

I knew I wanted to go to Bellevue this past weekend. The question was whether it would be Saturday or Sunday.

The original plan was to go on Saturday. But as Friday night approached I began having second thoughts. I had work to do at home over the weekend and the banquet of the Railroad Enthusiasts to attend on Saturday night.

The weather forecast for Sunday called for temperatures in the 70s and mostly sunny skies. It would be warmer than it was going to be on Saturday. And I’d have more time if I went on Sunday because I wouldn’t have to leave as early to attend an evening event.

So I went with Sunday. Of course Saturday would be the day that two Norfolk Southern heritage locomotives — the Interstate and the Norfolk Southern units — passed through Bellevue.

I would learn that four Ferromex locomotives also made an appearance in Bellevue on Saturday. So there would have been much to see had I gone out there on Saturday.

I had time to think about what I had missed on Saturday during my first hour in Bellevue on Sunday, which wasn’t too bad. Traffic was steady and a couple of trains were led by Union Pacific motive power, not that that is all that unusual of a sight in Northern Ohio.

I mentioned to the railfan who gave me the “what I missed on Saturday report” that I was hoping to something great today.

As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait long for that.

About 10:30 a.m., the railfan was looking through his binoculars and said an inbound train on the Toledo District had what looked like an Illinois Central unit in the lead.

What! An Illinois Central locomotive on an NS train in Bellevue? That seemed to good to be true.

There aren’t that many ICRR units left and they hardly ever show up in Northern Ohio, let alone leading a train.

But it was true. IC SD70 No. 1028 was on the point with a Canadian National unit trailing of the W08 making its way into Moorman Yard.

For what it’s worth, I never did see any NS heritage units on this day. I did see a Wheeling & Lake Erie train come into town and into the yard on the Brewster connection. The railfan who gave me the Saturday report said the Wheeling didn’t come in on Saturday.

If you know me, though, then you know how Sunday was the better day for me to have been in Bellevue.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders