Posts Tagged ‘Akron Railroad Club Dave McKay Day’

Another Chilly But Sunny Dave McKay Day

May 31, 2021
The first train of the day was an eastbound NS stack train.
The second train was an eastbound CSX train.
The Herbert C. Jackson with some familiar Cleveland landmarks behind it makes it way upriver on the Cuyahoga River.
The Reading heritage unit leads the 21E at Hudson.

The annual Akron Railroad Club Dave Mckay Day at Berea was chilly but had sunny skies all day. 

Four members attended including Bill Kubas, Paul Woodring, Dave Kachinko and myelf.

I counted 21 trains during the time I was there which was 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.  It was a fair mix of NS and CSX traffic although NS had a few more trains.

No heritage units went by although NS 4001, one of the Blues Brothers, trailed on the 12Q.

The Reading heritage unit did lead westbound 21E but that didn’t show up until after 8 p.m.

After leaving at 3 p.m., I went downtown to do some boat chasing. The Herbert C Jackson was heading upriver and I caught it several times. 

I also ran into Roger Durfee during this chase so that made five ARRC members out today.

After that I went to Hudson and caught three more trains including the aforementioned 21E with the Reading heritage.  That brought the day’s total to 24 trains and one lake boat.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

ARRC Shifts McKay Day Event to Sunday

May 28, 2021

With rain likely on Saturday, the Akron Railroad Club has chosen to move its annual Dave McKay Day outing in Berea to Sunday.

ARRC President Todd Dillion noted that the forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of rain on Saturday.

Attendees are asked to park at the far west end of the Berea Depot Bar and Restaurant parking lot at 30 Depot Street just west of Front Street.

As always the event begins when the first person arrives and ends when the last one leaves. Attendees are encouraged to bring a lawn chair.

McKay Day is held in memory of the late David McKay, who served as ARRC president 1993-2004.

ARRC Plans to Resume Meeting in June

May 21, 2021

The Akron Railroad Club plans to resume meeting in June with a program by club president Todd Dillon.

However, the announcement noted that plans to meet on June 25 are tentative because the New Horizons Christian Church, where the club meets, has not yet officially said the club could resume meeting there.

If the meeting is cancelled, an email notice will be sent to members.

Dillon’s digital program is titled Off the Beaten Path: Railfanning in the Era of COVID and will feature images of sugar plant railroad operations in Florida, Tampa Bay trolleys and CSX tribute locomotives 911 (Spirit of our First Responders), 1776 (Spirit of the Armed Forces) and 3194 (Spirit of Law Enforcement).

The program will focus on Todd’s travels between Ohio and Florida.

The ARRC last met in February 2020. Meetings were suspended the following month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The May meeting has been cancelled but the ARRC will hold the annual Dave McKay Day in Berea on May 29. The club also plans to travel to Fostoria on June 27 for the annual longest day outing at the Iron Triangle Rail Park.

ARRC Eyes Resuming Meetings in June

March 23, 2021

The Akron Railroad Club expects to resume meeting in June and will hold its first outing of 2021 over Memorial Day weekend.

The New Horizons Christian Church, where the club has met since January 2007, has resumed holding in-person services but is still working out its policies and procedures for groups to hold meetings using its facilities.

The ARRC last met in February 2020. Meetings have been suspended since then due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Club officers recently met to set the slate of activities for the year.

The first of those will be the annual Dave McKay Day in Berea on May 29.

Historically, McKay Day was held on the first Saturday in April until 2019 when it moved to the first Saturday in May.

Other events this year will include the longest day outing on June 27 in Fostoria at the Iron Triangle railfan park.

The summer picnic has been set for July 18 at Waterworks Park in Cuyahoga Falls and will be a joint event with the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts.

The ARRC plans to wrap up its year with the end of year dinner in December at the New Era restaurant in Akron.

The end of year dinner and summer picnic were canceled last year due to the pandemic.

In an unrelated development, the RRE is eyeing May as its first in-person meeting since the pandemic began a year ago.

The RRE last met in March 2020 but has held virtual meetings online in January, February and March.

The group is considering having its April meeting in Berea as part of a day of railfanning there.

ARRC Cancels July, August Meetings

July 8, 2020

The Akron Railroad Club has canceled its July and August meetings.

The cancellations were prompted after the New Horizons Christian Church, where the club meets, decided to remain closed until mid September.

Programs for both monthly meetings had yet to be announced. The ARRC last held a monthly meeting in February.

ARRC also plans to hold a second Dave McKay Day outing in Berea on Aug. 1.

The original McKay Day had been set for the first Saturday in May, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, an unofficial McKay Day gathering was held that day.

The fate of the annual ARRC July picnic has yet to be decided. Officers are expected to make a decision later this week on whether to hold the picnic.

Traditionally, the picnic has been held on the Sunday following the July meeting.

The ‘Unofficial’ McKay Day

May 4, 2020

Q166 appears with its customary Canadian Pacific motive power.

Jason Worcester (standing), Dennis Taksar and Alex Bruchac watch the reduced rail action in Berea.

Alex Bruchac takes it easy as a westbound CSX train approaches in Berea.

This year’s Dave McKay Day event in Berea was officially cancelled, but unofficially it was a success. Six current and former members attended.

At least that’s who I saw; it’s possible there were others.

In attendance were Todd Dillon, Brian Szemon Alex Bruchec, Dennis Taksar, Jason Worcester and Richard Thompson.

There were many others there as well whether they knew it was Dave McKay day or not.

The parking lots were full as it turned out to be a pretty nice day although a bit windy with a high of 73 degrees.

We ended up with about 24 trains that we either saw or knew about.

Two Norfolk Southern heritage paint units and an Operation Lifesaver went by but in true club tradition we missed them all.

The Erie on the 15N arrived at 8:15 a.m. and the Central of Georgia was on 14N, which went by during lunch break.

An Operation Lifesaver unit was on 24Z which also went by before anyone arrived.

That left the most interesting power on CSX trains Q166 and Q165 which are the Canadian Pacific run-through trains.

The Q166 had CP power while Q165 had CP and Union Pacific power.

Two oil or ethanol trains 66Z and 66J, which would have run on the Fort Wayne Line a couple weeks ago but now run through Bellevue and Cleveland, added to the train count.

Missing from the train count was 22K which now takes the connection at Vermillion and bypasses Berea.

We left around 5 p.m. as there was only one westbound train on both NS and CSX which were still east of Cleveland.

On Sunday morning I returned for a few hours and got six NS and one CSX train.

In summary traffic levels are way down from previous years.

Part of this is due to the precision scheduled railroading operating model that favors longer and fewer trains, but part is the downturn in the economy with rail freight traffic levels dropping 30 percent or more in the first quarter.

A couple trains were huge. NS Train 310, for example, had two mid train DPUs and was basically two full-length trains combined.

The lone CSX train on Sunday morning was an empty tank and grain train combined.

Had these trains run separately, which they easily could have been, the train count would have increased.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

15 Years of McKay Day Memories

May 2, 2020

Marty Surdyk photographs a westbound Norfolk Southern manifest freight during the 2013 Akron Railroad Club Dave McKay Day in Berea.

More than likely I first met the late David McKay in Berea. I didn’t know him by name then, only as a guy who would show up on Saturday morning with another fellow who needed assistance in moving.

I don’t know if we ever were formally introduced, but in time we got to know each other and would talk between watching trains go by.

He sometimes would talk about a railroad club to which he belonged in Akron and that got me to thinking it might be fun to join that group.

Little did I know at the time that I would one day succeed Dave as president of the Akron Railroad Club.

Dave died in late 2004 after serving as ARRC president for 12 years, which at the time the the longest tenure of anyone to hold the office since the club evolved into the ARRC in the late 1940s.

Since 2005 ARRC has held an annual outing known as Dave McKay Day in Berea. Until the 2019 event it was held on the first Saturday in April.

The weather in Northeast Ohio in early April can be quite varied ranging from from summer-like weather with temperatures in the low 80s to January conditions with heavy snow and cold. Sometimes the weather can change rapidly on a single day.

So in 2019 the club changed McKay Day to early May. This year’s event, though, was called off due to the social distancing restricting imposed by the State of Ohio during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was to have been held today although at least one ARRC member plans to still railfan in Berea in an unofficial celebration of McKay Day.

In looking back at 15 years of McKay Day outings, one constant has been that the two railroads lines that pass through Berea have always been owned by Norfolk Southern and CSX and you could count on seeing a high volume of traffic, long lulls notwithstanding.

You also could count on a variety of traffic although in some years the motive power was a steady progression of NS and CSX units.

For this report I drew on my own memories of McKay days supplemented by the reports published in the ARRC Bulletin.

I chose one photograph for each year to represent that year’s event in some manner while collectively providing an overview of what we saw over the past 15 years.

April 2, 2005

The inaugural McKay Day was less a railfan outing than a celebration of the release of Dave’s book, Trackside Around Cleveland 1965-1979 with Dave McKay.

The book had been printed shortly before Dave’s death on Dec. 27, 2004, the same month he retired as president of the ARRC, a post he had held since 1993.

But Dave never saw a copy of his book, which was published by Morning Sun Books and printed shortly before his death.

The event was held in a restored rail car that is part of the restaurant housed in Berea’s former Big Four passenger station.

The 80 to 100 attendees ate hors d’oeuvres and a cake decorated for the occasion.

Those who had ordered Dave’s book or bought it at the event received a copy with a memorial edition sticker affixed to the first page that contained a facsimile of Dave’s signature.

Some of the proceeds from books sales went toward the expense of the McKay bronze memorial plaque that sits near the tree where Dave used to set up a folding chair on weekends to watch and photograph trains in Berea.

Between four to six inches of snow fell during the inaugural McKay event and I didn’t make any photographs that day so my representative image shows the first day sticker in my copy of Dave’s book.

April 4, 2006

The first McKay Day to be billed as a railfanning event drew 17 participants who saw 66 trains over 12 hours. The rule established that day as to the train count was that so long as someone saw a train in Berea it counted. That rule was later expanded to include trains seen outside of Berea provided the train would pass through the Berea interlocking or had already done so.

It was not a good day for photography. Although the temperature was in the low 50s, the skies were cloudy and there was a brisk wind.

My image for that day shows an eastbound coal train on CSX with Union Pacific motive power. Looking for foreign power would be a pursuit of every McKay Day and in the early 2000s coal trains were still a common sight.

April 7, 2007

It snowed again. Those who braved the winter conditions saw 49 trains in 10 hours. My highlight of that day is Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited passing BE tower in an image I made from the Front Street grade crossing of the NS Chicago Line. No. 48’s appearance surprised us but I was ready for it. It would be the only McKay Day in which Amtrak made an appearance while an ARRC member was present.

April 5, 2008

At last we had good weather with the temperature topping out at 58 degrees. The day began with fog but it eventually burned off. Between 6:45 a.m. and 9:05 p.m. we logged 70 trains.

My image for that year is a crowd standing near the McKay memorial watching an eastbound CSX train pulled by a motive power consist that included two NS units. It wasn’t a common sight then or now in Berea to see motive power of the other railroad on “enemy” tracks.

The report in the Bulletin said 17 ARRC members attended with some bringing friends and family members as can be seen here.

April 4, 2009

It was sunny although quite cool when the day began. By the afternoon it had turned pleasant. There were 18 ARRC members on hand and counting their friends and family members total attendance was 35. These were the halcyon days for the McKay event as far as attendance. Shown is a westbound on NS passing BE tower with a BNSF leader. The NS Cleveland terminal banner on the side of the tower has a photograph made by ARRC members and then NS conductor Roger Durfee. The train log showed 45 trains that day.

April 3, 2010

This was a memorable McKay Day for me because it was only the second time I had been able to get out and photograph railroad operations. In January I had had retina surgery on my left eye and the recovery precluded railfaning for a couple months.

The day began sunny and the high temperature reached the low 80s.

Construction of the Front Street bridges over the NS and CSX tracks was underway and those of us who were there in the morning spent our time on the bridge.

However, in late afternoon a front moved through and the temperatures dropped into the low 60s in short order. It was a busy day on the railroad though and we logged 67 trains.

A highlight of the day was ARRC member and then NS locomotive engineer David Mangold getting called to take train 15N west from Rockport yard.

Seven of us gathered in Olmsted Falls to watch Dave go past as he gave us plenty of horn and bell.

My image for the day shows a westbound CSX tank car train that I made from the Front Street bridge because of how much I enjoyed being able to hang out there.

April 2, 2011

It was another busy day with 71 trains logged over 15 hours. Former ARRC member Tony Dannemiller was at the throttle of an eastbound CSX train that came through during the afternoon. Otherwise there weren’t that many highlights that day.

Even my chosen image of a westbound NS train passing beneath the new signals by BE tower is pretty ho hum. Yet it features the new signals that NS had installed to replaced the venerable Type G signal heads that dated to the New York Central days.

I remember enjoying dinner at a Mexican restaurant that used to operate on Front Street with some of the guys, including Alex Bruchac.

April 7, 2012

The weather was pleasant with sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s. The 16 attendees logged 49 trains, which was probably lower than the previous two years because guys were not arriving as early or staying as late. Few of the trains we saw on this day had foreign power leading. It was my first McKay Day after switching to digital photography and my image for the day was made on the Front Street bridge of an eastbound CSX stack train in good morning light passing the Berea station, which would be the site of many an enjoyable dinner during future McKay Days.

April 6, 2013

It was the first McKay Day after NS created its heritage units fleet. We didn’t see any NS heritage locomotives, but we did meet one of the co-founders of the website Heritageunits.com. He was there with a large video camera. The ARRC Bulletin described the trains we saw as work-a-day CSX and NS because we only saw two sets of foreign power all day.

It was a busy day, though, with 62 trains logged between 8 a.m. and midnight.

In looking at my images there wasn’t much that caught my eye and it didn’t help that the weather alternated between cloudy and sunny.

I chose an image of the conductor of a westbound CSX train watching the assembled railfans.

That evening some of us had dinner at the restaurant in the Berea Big Four station, a tradition that continued for a few more years.

April 5, 2014

It would be the first of three McKays days to feature the NS Wabash heritage unit. This year it was a trailing unit on NS train 15N and it would be the only time that anyone photographed it.

It was the first McKay Day at which I was the first to arrive and among the last to leave. The 15 attendees logged 65 trains between 8 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.

The image for this year is a Wheeling & Lake Erie train transitioning from CSX to NS in Berea. In the early years of McKay Day the W&LE train to Campbell Road yard on NS was a regular, but by now sightings of it had become scarce.

April 4, 2015

The good news is that the Wabash H unit made an encore performance. Better yet it was the leader on crude oil train 67W.

The bad news is that it was almost dark when it came through and no one got a photograph. We only saw it while having dinner at The Station restaurant.

We logged 69 trains during the day. The Bulletin report said the record was 74, but in going through the newsletter year by year I was unable to verify what year that was. If anything that number appears to be a case of faulty memory.

It was sunny but chilly and it became windy late in the afternoon.

There was a range of foreign power to see, including units of Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, BNSF, Union Pacific and Kansas City Southern.

I chose one of those trains, an eastbound tanker train on CSX led by BNSF power, as the image for that year’s event.

At one point we could see headlights of three westbound trains at the same time split between NS and CSX.

A Loram railgrinder came through on CSX and we saw 13 trains while having dinner.

April 2, 2016

The day’s highlight was the Dave Mangold show on the NS road channel.

Dave was called to recrew a 16G and take it from the Berea siding, where it was tied down, to Conway Yard near Pittsburgh.

As soon as Dave got into the cab of the lead unit he reported it lacked operating cab signals.

It would be the first of many lengthy discussions Dave would have with the dispatcher and the NS trouble desk in Atlanta.

Among other things Dave discussed his problems logging into the computer on the second unit, which did have functioning cab signals, and oil seeping out onto the walkway of another unit.

There was also a lot of discussion about how Dave would take cut the motive power away from the train, take it down to the Knob and spin it on the wye there before returning to Berea and tying back onto his train.

All of this started in late afternoon and by the time we left that evening Dave still had not left town.

Only three people showed up, perhaps because of the unpleasant weather which was as varied as any McKay Day.

The morning was sun and clouds conditions but by afternoon intermittent snow showers had moved in followed by partial clearing and then overcast skies.

During dinner with Todd Dillon and Paul Woodring at the Berea station restaurant we saw 10 of the 54 trains that I logged for the day.

There were no heritage units sighted, but we did see the NS GoRail unit.

My image from this day shows a westbound CSX train with a clear signal while up ahead the skies look ominous in a bit of foreshadowing of what was to come.

Another memorable event from the day involved a guy who was not part of our group. He had set up his camera on a tripod next to his vehicle.

As he sat in the vehicle gust of wind blew the tripod over and it landed on the ground camera first, breaking the camera into two pieces. He left shortly after that happened.

April 1, 2017.

Once again the NS Wabash heritage unit showed up and once again no one got a photograph of it.

It was leading NS Train 394 and we knew it was coming but when it got to us it caught us by surprise.

We might have gotten photographs of NS 1070 had we gone to dinner at the Berea station restaurant when we had planned and not tarried to get a photograph of a westbound CSX train.

By the time NS 294 arrived at 6:19 p.m. we were getting up from the dinner table and not everyone even saw it.

Attendance was 12 and we logged 49 trains between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The day was overcast and chilly until the sun broke through about 5:30 p.m.

This was the first McKay Day after E. Hunter Harrison had taken over CSX and implemented the precision scheduled railroading model.

That was the subject of some conversation between a CSX dispatcher and trains crew during the morning.

That same dispatcher also read a pertinent passage over the radio word for word from the CSX rule book regarding inspecting a train carrying hazardous materials after said train went into emergency twice while en route to Collinwood Yard on the Short Line.

Part of the discussion involved whether an eastbound intermodal train on another track could pass the train at restricted speed or even at all.

The dispatcher said he had checked with his boss who in turn had checked with his boss.

The image of that day’s event shows a westbound CSX auto rack train after dinner. Where was that good weather earlier when we needed it.

April 7, 2018

From the perspective of diversity of traffic, this was easily my favorite McKay Day.

During a day that was sunny but cool, we logged more than 40 trains – I didn’t get a firm count – and saw the NS GoRail unit leading the 17N, the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit leading the 65N and a Southern Belle of Kansas City Southern leading CSX Q272.

I also saw the W&LE train and a Pan Am Railways SD40-2 in the motive power consist of NS Train 309.

Any of those would have made a good image for the day, but I chose an image of three NS eastbounds at the west end of the CP194 interlocking plant. They are, left to right, the 16T, 294 and M6G.

Getting the Pennsy H unit was not without some drama. As it approached on the Lake Front line we could see a westbound headlight on CSX.

The PRR H unit and its train beat the CSX train into Berea by just two minutes.

We got hosed from photographing a BNSF warbonnet on an NS train when it was blocked by another NS train coming through Berea as the same time.

The tradition of eating dinner at the Berea station restaurant ended this year, in part because the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts was having its annual banquet on this night at Tony K’s restaurant in Berea.

Before I headed for Tony K’s I saw two former Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus train cars pass through on a westbound NS manifest freight. It was that kind of day where there was much to see.

There were 10 attendees, some of them members of both ARRC and the RRE.

May 4, 2019

Thinking the weather in early May would be more favorable then early April, the ARRC officers moved McKay day to the first Saturday in May.

As it turned out the weather on the first Saturday in April was better than the foggy and overcast conditions of the first Saturday in May.

There were six in attendance and no one stayed beyond mid afternoon. Also ending was the tradition of keeping a train log.

I only made a handful of photographs and spent more time watching than photographing trains.

My image for the day is CSX train Q020 coming out of the fog shortly before 8 a.m.

Summary

As I was compiling information for this report I was reminded of how many ARRC members are now deceased, those who have since left the club and those who attended McKay Day in some years but have since stopped coming.

It used to be standard operating procedure to take a group photograph at the McKay memorial in the afternoon, but we last did that in 2015 and even then there were just four people in the photograph, two of whom were former members.

Although the event is described as way to remember Dave, in truth we seldom talked about him during the the day named for him.

I wonder how many current active ARRC members knew Dave, who conducted his last ARRC meeting in November 2004 and died about a month later.

Looking at my photographs over a 15-year span also reminded me that although the railroads are the same their operations have changed.

There are fewer trains now and both railroads are mingling traffic that used to operate in single-commodity trains.

Some commodities are seen far less often now, coal most notably but even crude oil shipments aren’t what they used to be due to market changes.

It wasn’t just the trains we saw that I remember from McKay days, though. It was the people we met and the conversations and camaraderie that we shared between trains.

McKay Day was typically the ARRC’s first railfan event of the year and it felt good to get out regardless of the weather.

It was not unlike opening day in baseball, a day of optimism that anything this year is possible even if it’s not always likely.

At one time or another McKay Day featured everything on rails you could expect to see in Berea.

Had he been able to join us I’m sure Dave would have enjoyed it.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Coming Saturday: 15 Years of McKay Day Memories

May 1, 2020

This year’s annual Akron Railroad Club David McKay Day in Berea has been wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, but we’re got 15 years of memories to enjoy.

On Saturday the feature post will highlight one photograph from each of the 15 McKay Days along with summaries of what attendees saw that year and other highlights.

The event got its start in April 2005 as a way to celebrate the release of the book Trackside Around Cleveland 1965-1979 with Dave McKay.

The next year the event became an all-day railfan outing.

The weather wasn’t always pleasant but we could also count on a mixture of freight traffic passing through on the busy parallel lines of Norfolk Southern and CSX.

Traditions associated with McKay Day came and went, including the group portrait made in the afternoon by the McKay memorial in Berea.

Had it not been for the pandemic, the 2020 McKay Day would have been Saturday, May 2.

Shown on April 6, 2013, above are (left to right) are Eli Akerib, Dennis Taksar, (unidentifiable), Marty Surdyk, Rick Houk, Craig Sanders, Alex Bruchac, Paul Woodring, Ron McElrath, J. Gary Dillon (seated), Jim Mastromatteo and Richard Thompson.

ARRC Cancels 2020 McKay Day Outing

April 29, 2020

The Akron Railroad Club has canceled its annual Dave McKay Day outing in Berea that had been scheduled for this Saturday. The event was called off due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions.

The annual outing, which began in 2005, is in memory of the late McKay, who served for 12 years as ARRC president until stepping down in December 2004.

ARRC President Todd Dillon that although the outing has been canceled as an official club event, individuals can still railfan in Berea.

He noted the weather forecast for Saturday calls for sunny skies and a high temperature of 65.

ARRC Cancels April Meeting

March 28, 2020

The Akron Railroad Club has canceled its April 24 meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program that night was to have been a slide show presented by Rick Varga showing trains of CSX, Conrail, Amtrak, Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, and the Chicago & North Western.

An alternative date for that program to be presented has not been announced. The club is planning to move its member’s night event to October.

No announcement has been made yet on the fate of the annual ARRC Dave McKay Day outing in Berea now scheduled for May 2.

The ARRC last met in February and canceled its member’s night and pizza party, which had been slated to be held on March 28.

The ARRC is next scheduled to meet on May 22 when a program devoted to the 30th anniversary of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway is scheduled to be presented by Richard Antibus and Jim Mastromatteo.