Posts Tagged ‘Akron’

CSX May Sell or Lease New Castle Sub

January 23, 2018

CSX may seek to sell or lease its New Castle Subdivision that operates through Akron, Youngstown and Kent.

Trains magazine reported on Monday that the line is among 8,000 miles that CSX is reviewing, although not all of the route miles are expected to be sold or leased.

In its report, Trains said CSX is eyeing sale or lease of the former Baltimore & Ohio mainline between Baltimore and Greenwich, Ohio. If that is the case, CSX would no longer be serving Pittsburgh.

Also reported to be under scrutiny are the Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal and unidentified branch lines in Ohio.

One of the latter could be the former Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling subdivision that operates between Cleveland and Lorain, and the New Castle Sub at Sterling.

The intermodal terminal at North Baltimore became an underused facility last year when CSX closed it. It might be attractive to a western railroad.

Trains said that the review encompasses more than a third of the railroad’s 21,000-mile network and is being motivated for a desire to cut costs to boost profitability.

CSX would be able to reduce labor and maintenance costs by shedding thousands of miles of track.

The railroad had signaled last year that it was going to review all of its assets.

“Everything we’ve got out there is going to go through some scrutiny. If it creates shareholder value to sell it, we’re going to sell it,” the late E. Hunter Harrison said at a conference last November. “If it creates shareholder value to keep it, we’re going to keep it.”

Other CSX routes that Trains reported as being under review are:

  • The former Boston & Albany main and associated branch lines in Massachusetts.
  • The former Louisville & Nashville between Cincinnati and Atlanta.
  • Most of the former B&O between Cincinnati and East St. Louis, Illinois.
  • Former Pere Marquette trackage in Michigan.
  • CSX routes to Canada and related U.S. trackage.
  • The Appalachian coal network, including portions of the former Clinchfield.
  • Large sections of the Florence Division in the Carolinas.
  • The Dothan sub in Alabama and Georgia.
  • The Auburndale sub in Florida.
  • Branches and redundant trackage in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and New York.

The first four subdivisions were put out to bid last week. They included the Decatur and Danville subdivisions in Illinois, and the Tallahassee and PA Subdivisions in Florida.

Trains said CSX is expected to put a handful of subdivisions up for sale or lease every few weeks.

CSX acknowledged in a statement that it was reviewing its network and operations, but gave few details about which routes are under scrutiny.

The review process has attracted the attention of short line and regional railroads as well as private equity investment firms.

Among those reported to be expressing interest have been Genesee & Wyoming, Watco, OmniTRAX, and RJ Corman.

Before Harrison arrived at CSX last spring, the carrier had announced a program known as CSX of Tomorrow that concentrated capital spending on a triangle of routes extending from Chicago to Florida to New Jersey and back to Chicago.

Also given priority were routes to New England, St. Louis and Baltimore with the latter including the former B&O mainline via Cumberland, Maryland.

That 9,200-mile network handles 84 percent of CSX train miles and produces two-thirds of its originating and terminating traffic.

However, CSX at the time said that other routes would continue to be maintained, albeit at a lower level of maintenance and speed.

Those routes originated a third of CSX traffic and then-CSX CEO Michael Ward was reluctant to give them up through sale, lease or abandonment.

Under the latest management review, CSX appears to believe that it will continue to handle most of the traffic originating or terminating on the lines it is seeking to dispose of, only without having to pay for them.

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CSX Will, First and Foremost, Protect Its Own Financial Interests in Line Sales or Leases

January 23, 2018

Many years ago when I was a college student intern at the Illinois Department of Transportation, one of my co-workers in the Bureau of Planning schooled me on what CSX is seeking to do today.

The Illinois Central Gulf Railroad was slimming down its route network much as CSX is doing today.

ICG was seeking to abandon a web of former Illinois Central Railroad branch lines in Illinois whose primary commodity handled was grain.

My fellow planner quoted officials of the ICG as saying “we’re going to get that grain one way or another.”

Even if the grain was taken away from those scores of small town grain elevators that dotted the Illinois prairie like rural skyscrapers by truck rather than in covered hopper rail cars, it had a long way to go to reach its final destination.

Those trucks leaving the elevators were not bound for a port on the Gulf of Mexico or the Mississippi or Ohio rivers.

The grain traveled by truck a relatively short distance to a regional grain facility such as the one operated by Cargil in Tuscola, Illinois, where unit trains were made up to move the grain onward toward its final destination, whether for export or domestic use.

ICG would continue to make good money hauling grain while getting rid of the expense of maintaining hundreds of miles of branch lines and paying union scales wages and benefits to the railroaders whose trains ran once a day or less on those branches.

The routes that CSX is seeking to lease or sell are not necessarily 25-mph or 10-mph branch lines in need of millions of dollars of rebuilding as was the case with many of the lines the ICG abandoned in the 1970s. Some of them, like the New Castle Sub, are significant mainlines handling much overhead traffic.

But they do cost a sizable amount of money to maintain and the CSX employees who operate the trains on those routes make Class 1 union scale wages and benefits. CSX would rather see that money wind up in the pockets of its shareholders or used for other purposes, such as buying back its stock.

Like the ICG in the 1970s, CSX will do all that it can to keep most of the business generated by its “surplus” routes while not having to pay to maintain or operate them.

CSX doesn’t do much business in Akron. What business there is could be handled by the Wheeling & Lake Erie, which already has a considerable presence in town.

But the Wheeling won’t be hauling most of that freight to its final destination. How that freight reaches its destination will come down to how those sale or lease contracts are written.

The ICG also spun off most of the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio mainline between Chicago and St. Louis to an upstart known as the Chicago, Missouri & Western.

ICG was careful to keep for itself the more financially attractive elements of the route, including ownership and operation of the track between Chicago and Joliet, Illinois.

CM&W quickly found the traffic it received from the ICG was not what it thought it had been promised.

CM&W had overpaid for the ex-GM&O and couldn’t earn enough to pay its debts and get back its investment.

There are, of course, numerous success stories in which a short line or regional leased or purchased a route from a Class 1 and was able to make a go of it due to lower labor costs and more attentive customer relations policies.

Such was the case when the late Jerry Jacobson leased some track from CSX for his Ohio Central System.

It remains to be seen how much, if any, of the New Castle Sub that CSX will be willing to part with.

Aside from whatever business there is to be had in Akron, there is considerable auto rack business at Lordstown and some business in the Youngstown area.

CSX is not going to put itself in a position where it is likely to lose most of that business to Norfolk Southern for the long haul.

We’ve seen this game played before. Route rationalization has been the modus operandi of Class 1 railroads for years. That is how the modern W&LE got started. We’re about to see it play out again.

Merry Christmas From Bob Farkas

December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas to all the Akron Railroad Club members. Here is Baltimore & Ohio No. 1455 at the Akron Union Station. It is the fall of 1968 and the Diplomat will soon head west.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

An Alco Treat

December 18, 2017

With digital technology, a 35mm slide can have a small portion cropped out and enlarged to make a “second” into an acceptable image.

Three six-axle ALCO Centuries are eastbound through Akron in July 1976. Reading 5305 and her two Lehigh Valley companions certainly made early Conrail more interesting to Akron-area railfans.

Photograph and Article by Robert Farkas

Where the Capitol Limited Once Stopped

November 17, 2017

Photographs that are a mere five years old don’t necessarily qualify as being “oldies,” but this March 2012 image shows the end of something that had been associated with Akron for 62 years.

In early 2012, workers came through Akron to lower the tracks of the CSX New Castle Subdivision as part of a clearance project associated with development of the National Gateway.

This included removing the last section of umbrella shed on the platform to the west of the former station concourse.

It is not clear why a portion of the umbrella shed was left in place. Perhaps it was to serve as a monument to what this building had once been.

The last intercity passenger train to stop at this location was Baltimore & Ohio No. 5, the Capitol Limited, which pulled away at 2:37 a.m. on May 1, 1971.

The next day, Akron no longer had intercity rail passenger service for the first time in more than 100 years.

The December 2017 issue of the Akron Railroad Club eBulletin will have a feature about the final decade of B&O passenger service in Akron.

Sanders to Appear at B&N Author Event

November 15, 2017

Akron Railroad Club President Craig Sanders will be participating in a local author exhibition on Saturday at the Barnes & Noble book store in Akron.

Sanders, whose book Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, was recently released by Fonthill Media, will be among 11 authors who will sign their books and discuss their work with B&N customers.

The authors will appear at tables on the upper level of the store located at 4015 Medina Road in the Fairlawn-Montrose area.

The B&N store has set up a Facebook page about the event: www.facebook.com/bnfairlawn

Other authors and their books scheduled to be at the event are: Louise Richards, A Christmas Story a Day; Wes Locher, Unit 44; Anita Fox, Bobby’s Journeys…; Kristen Lepionka, The Last Place You Look; Mike & Janice Olszewski, Cleveland Radio Tales; Dave Bair, The Lasso; Carmen Williams, FitOverIt and That Too; Robert J. Roman, Ohio State Football: The Forgotten Dawn; Brendan Bowers, LeBron James vs The NBA; and Irv Korman, Antuan was Hear.

DePaul University Study Finds that Akron, Columbus, Dayton are Among Transportation ‘Pockets of Pain’

August 25, 2017

Columbus has been identified in a study as one of the nation’s most prominent “pockets of pain” when it comes to intercity public ground transportation.

The capital of Ohio ranks toward the top of the list because of its lack of Amtrak service and express bus service.

It was joined by another state capital, Phoenix, which also lacks Amtrak service. Also on the list are Akron and Dayton.

Amtrak’s New York-Kansas City National Limited halted in Columbus and Dayton for the last time on Oct. 1, 1979. Megabus pulled out of Columbus this past January.

The study was released by Chicago-based DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

It focused on large cities that lack rail and express bus connections to other major cities. Cities outside Ohio that also made the list included Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Fort Myers, Florida.

“Columbus has been cursed in terms of ground transportation, largely because of geography,” said Joseph Schwieterman, co-author of the study and director of the Chaddick Institute. “It’s a little far from cities such as Chicago and Washington to make bus service a good success.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • Cleveland-to-Columbus is the fourth-busiest route (ones with the most point-to-point travel) in the country that lacks both intercity express bus service and rail service.
  • Chicago-to-Columbus is the seventh-busiest such route.

“The study validates what we already knew: The central Ohio region does have gaps in ground transportation options for passengers connecting to other regions,” said William Murdock, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. “That is why we are working hard with our community partners across four states, including Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

“These efforts include a Columbus-to-Chicago passenger rail connection and the Midwest Connect Hyperloop Corridor (Pittsburgh to Chicago via Columbus), as well as (other) regional efforts.”

Last year, Columbus won the national Smart City Challenge and was awarded $40 million by the U.S. Department of Transportation and $10 million by Vulcan Inc. Another $90 million has been pledged by a Columbus public-private partnership, bringing the total to $140 million.

That funding was not intended to go toward development of conventional rail or bus intercity service. However, Schwieterman said the Smart City projects can only help.

“Innovation in urban areas could morph into providing true intercity service,” Schwieterman said. “It’s only a matter of time before services like Uber and Lyft start offering van service between cities, for example.”

He also believes the federal government should track ridership of private express bus services the way it does with airline passengers in order to better understand the demand on various routes.

Schwieterman would like to see local governments encourage bus service by helping companies establish convenient curbside stops and providing incentives to renovate bus stations.

“Some people will consider an express bus, but are resistant to taking Greyhound,” Schwieterman said. “It’s a culture change.”

To see the study, go to http://bit.ly/2xd2LEb

Difference of 42 Years at Voris Street

August 2, 2017

Few places in Akron have shown the changes in the railroad scene more than Voris Street. It was once the far west end of the lead tracks to the Erie Railroad’s McCoy Street Yard.

At one time, the Baltimore & Ohio, Pennsylvania and Erie railroads all sent trains through here.

A cluster of buildings once served by rail stood there for decades.

The yard was removed after the Erie Lackawanna was taken over by Conrail in 1976. The buildings near Voris Street have been razed within the past year to make way for a new highway ramp.

The top photograph was made in 1975 when the EL was still in operation. The bottom photograph was made recently from the Thorntron Street overpass.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Changing Faces at Cotter Merchandise Storage

July 21, 2017

Cotter Merchandise Storage was using LTEX 1231 (Ex-Canadian National GMD SW1200RS) at its facility in Akron on July 18. Its 95 ton GE No. 9 (Ex-PPG in Barberton) was nowhere to be seen. In the top image, CMS 9 was working on June 28, 2017. In the next image LTEX 1231 was working there on July 18, 2017.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

 

Getting Lucky on a W&LE Chase

May 24, 2017

On May 7, Rich Antibus and I heard on the scanner that the Wheeling & Lake Erie train 561 crew had engine No. 200, the Ohio Bicentennial unit.

The crew indicated to the dispatcher that they had seven loads and engine No. 101, the Pittsburgh & West Virginia tribute unit, on the other end of the train.

Both engines are GP35-3s. Armed with this new information, the dispatcher gave the 101 a track warrant on the Cleveland Subdivision from Mogadore to milepost 52 at Middlebranch.

The 561 was headed down to the Essroc Cement Facility in Middlebranch to switch them out.

Rich and I first caught up with the 561 at Skelton Road in Mogadore, which is a very tight shot.

The chase was easy from here as the train is limited to 10 mph on the Cleveland Sub.

We got it again at Waterloo Road., which is old U.S. Route 224, in Suffield. A large friendly yellow dog named Brutus always comes out to see us when we photograph here.

Our next spot was Wingfoot Lake with the Goodyear Blimp in the background. The blimp was unable to fly today due to the high winds.

Next we drove behind a storage facility north of Hartville, then it was on to the Hartville Fire Station, which is located south of town.

We did an across-the-field shot in Middlebranch before the 561 reached its destination.

This move of the 561 was a bit unusual in that the 261 road train from Brewster usually switches the plant on its way to Akron. The 561 crew only comes down here on days that the 261 doesn’t run.

While the 561 crew switched the plant, we contemplated our shots for the return trip. The 101 would lead going back to Akron.

Both of us agreed we were quite lucky to find the 561 going south this day. We’d never seen anything like this before.

Having swapped out the seven loads for seven empties, the 561 was now ready to head back to Akron.

We shot it on the siding into the plant, dodging clouds to do so. From here it was back to the Hartville Fire Station, then again to the storage units north of town.

We were going to go back to Waterloo Road but thought the light might be better at Mogadore Road, so we opted to downtown Mogadore.

We barely beat the train to our favorite spot at Die-Gem Way at the east end Brittain Yard.

By now both of us were low on film. Rich did expose a few pixels today, but he still shoots some film.

This would be the only train we would see on this day, but the effort was worth it. A move that was new to us and the chance to see the W&LE serving a customer was a good day. We hope for many more to come.

Article by Jim Mastromatteo