Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak locomotives’

Here Comes Amtrak

June 20, 2017

This time I didn’t miss. More than a week ago I told the story of how I was railfanning with fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler in Willoughby when a very late Amtrak No. 48 came charging through town.

We had no inkling the eastbound Lake Shore Limited had yet to come through because we had not bothered to check to see if it had.

A week or so later I decided to make amends for that during a planned trip to North East, Pennsylvania.

I left home to get to Bort Road in plenty of time to catch Amtrak, which was running about 45 or so minutes late.

Here it is passing through the vineyard country near the shore of Lake Erie along the Pennsylvania-New York border.

Railfan Incompetence 101

June 7, 2017

The phrase that serves as the headline for this article was uttered by fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler.

Shown is Amtrak train No. 48 crossing Erie Street in Willoughby, Ohio. This isn’t the photo angle that I would have preferred, only the one that was available.

I didn’t know that the Lake Shore Limited was coming and that is where the incompetence comes into play. I could have known that fact had I sought out that information.

And yet three days after I made this image I recognized that while it is not a great image, it tells three stories, two of which are not obvious by looking at it. The third will be apparent only to those who like to look beyond the obvious.

It took an unexpected piece of wisdom from a man I’ve met just once for me to see more than one story and one meaning of this image.

* * * * *

Story 1 is a familiar one to many photographers. Peter and I had plans to railfan in Lake County with a list of objectives we wanted to achieve. At the top of the list was photographing an eastbound Norfolk Southern train passing the Willoughby Coal & Supply Company building.

I had heard a train call a signal on the NS radio frequency and we were standing on the sidewalk of the Erie Street crossing of the NS tracks waiting for that train to arrive.

I didn’t hear enough of the radio transmission to get the train’s location or symbol. I didn’t know if it was an eastbound or westbound.

Peter thought he heard a locomotive horn to the west, but after several minutes of waiting and no train showing up, he concluded he had heard traffic noise.

We waited several more minutes and he heard another sound that he was sure was a locomotive horn.

It was. It belonged to an Amtrak P42DC that Peter spotted shortly before it reached Erie Street.

“It’s Amtrak,” he proclaimed. He later said that as soon as he said that his heart sank. My morale plummeted. We had blown an opportunity and we knew it. All we could do was watch it from three blocks away.

I had thought about Amtrak earlier in the day, but didn’t give it a second thought.

Our outing was to begin 6:45 a.m. at the Golden Gate shopping plaza in Mayfield Heights, a place where Peter and I often rendezvous for photograph outings. I knew that before we even met up that Amtrak train 48 would be out of Cleveland already.

It is scheduled to depart at 5:50 a.m. Of the four Amtrak trains that serve Cleveland, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited is the one most likely to be running on time or almost on time.

It never occurred to either of us to call Amtrak Julie or check the Amtrak website to verify that No. 48 had already departed. That was incompetence on our part.

Had we checked the status of Amtrak 48, we could have been in position to photograph the train coming around a slight curve in really good morning light.

Had we contacted Amtrak we would have learned that No. 48 had left Cleveland an hour and 28 minutes late.

Opportunities to get that Willoughby curve image don’t come along every day for either of us. We had fumbled away a good opportunity and that hurt.

I had been so focused on getting an NS train that I had locked out the CSX radio frequency on  my scanner. Had I not done that I might have heard No. 48 calling signals and we could have gotten into position in time.

As for that NS train I had heard on the radio, it turned out to be westbound train No. 149. But we stayed with the location and got an eastbound around 9:30 a.m.

Although Peter and I achieved our objective of catching an eastbound train at the Willoughby Coal & Supply building, we struck out on all of our other objectives for the day, although that was a matter of fate and lack of knowledge rather than incompetence.

As we drove home that afternoon, we agreed that it had been, overall, a disappointing photography outing with the missed Amtrak photo op casting a pall over the day.

There is a saying that chance favors the prepared mind. We had not done as much preparation as we could have.

* * * * *

Story No. 2  unfolded on the morning of the next day. During breakfast I was reading a column published in the food section of The Plain Dealer by the former restaurant critic of the newspaper, Joe Crea.

I had started reading the column the night before, but didn’t finish it because I was tired.

I have met Crea once, but I doubt he remembers me. Ironically, I met him in a restaurant. My wife knew him because she works as a copy editor for the Plain Dealer.

The column I was reading focused primarily on Crea’s experience of the past year fighting cancer.

He had been diagnosed with cancer more than a year earlier and wrote about how his life had become a series of hospital stays, treatments, consultations with doctors, successes and setbacks.

His doctor is cautiously optimistic that he has been “cured” but that is not a certainty.

There was something about Crea’s column that resonated with me even though I’ve read similar thoughts expressed by other authors.

I’m old enough to know that my being in the same position that Crea is in is not as hypothetical as it seemed even a few years ago.

Like so many people diagnosed with cancer, Crea said he has learned to appreciate that every day is a gift, even a bad day.

As I thought about that, my thoughts immediately went to the “bad day” I had just had and the missed Amtrak photo op.

Maybe it hadn’t been so bad. Sure, it had been filled with disappointments, but it had been another day of living, another day of photography, another day of watching trains go by. Our passion for railroads had prompted Peter and I to get out trackside.

Some day there won’t be any more opportunities to go trackside. Some day my ability to get out and watch a train, even if from a distance of three blocks, may be greatly hindered and I’ll long for the days when I had easy mobility.

I had seen an Amtrak train, even if I hadn’t made the best photograph of it. I can’t remember the last time that I saw Amtrak live. It probably was last year, maybe last September.

* * * * *

I’m a big fan of the concept of framing. It is a practice that all of us do, even if we are not aware of it as we do it or even know the name of the behavior.

I’ve taught the concept in my public relations classes yet many students seem to have a hard time grasping it even though they’ve done it often.

A frame is a way of calling attention to a particular aspect of something, a way of drawing attention to one thing and away from something else. It is the essence of composition in photography.

On what do you focus and what meaning do you seek to make of it?

Joe Crea was framing when he wrote in his column that when you have a condition that could take your life away sooner rather than later even a bad day is a gift

I had been framing the meaning of my Amtrak down-the-street-image from a technical perspective. The meaning I had given to it was “missed opportunity due to incompetence.”

Framed in that manner, it is an average to mediocre image. It has a lot of clutter. The train is enveloped in shadows. There is nothing dramatic that will grab the viewer’s attention and lead him/her to conclude that he/she has seen something special.

It is another hum-drum image that many serious photographers would either have never made or would have deleted from their memory card.

That is one way to frame what this image means, but it is not the only way.

I am, at heart, a story teller. Even an average or mediocre photograph can have a story to tell and sometimes those stories are more compelling than the image might appear to be at a casual glance.

The fact that this photograph is so average is the story it has to tell.

Serious photographers think of trains and locomotives in much the same way that portrait photographers think of people.

They want the object of their desire to be posed in the most ideal manner. For a photographer that means good light and composition.

The ideal way to have photographed this train would have been a wedge view that took advantage of the morning sunlight and the train coming around a curve, thus exposing more of the train.

That is how a photographer sees Amtrak, but it is not the manner in which most people experience Amtrak.

Most people see Amtrak in the manner that I did in this photograph. It is a happenstance occurrence most likely to occur at a grade crossing or while approaching a grade crossing.

It will be a spontaneous moment surrounded by the clutter of the street that we see and hardly pay attention to during our everyday lives.

Even as a down-the-street-shot it would have been better had I stepped out into the street and been able to compose the image to avoid that street sign on the left side. But I didn’t do that because it might not have been safe.

I also didn’t have time to evaluate the setting. All I could do was react.

As it is, this image has already been cropped to eliminate a utility pole on the far left edge of the original image.

We can’t plan every moment of our days. So much of life is about spontaneity and living in and enjoying the unexpected small moments. Life is not always portrait quality and big moments.

The point of this photograph is to show one of those moments. In his column, Crea urged his readers not just to enjoy those moments but to understand that what might seem like a disappointment or setback might be something else.

It might be one of those moments that makes like worth living.

Amtrak Tests Charger Locomotive in Midwest

April 20, 2017

One of the new SC-44 Charger locomotives that will be assigned to Midwest Corridor trains was tested between Chicago and Milwaukee on Wednesday.

No. 4611 was on the point for test train 941 from Chicago to Milwaukee, running ahead of regularly scheduled Hiawatha Service No. 329.

It was the first test of a Charger locomotive in the Midwest. Testing has been conducted previously on the east and west coasts.

Two Chargers, Nos. 4611 and 4604 arrived in Chicago late last month.

Siemens built the Chargers at a factory in California as part of an order placed by the departments of transportation of Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri, Washington and Maryland. The order was for 69 locomotives of which Illinois purchased 33.

Most of the Chargers in the Midwest are expected to operate on corridor routes radiating from Chicago.

Further tests of the Chargers are expected to be performed on other Midwest routes.

Charger Locomotives Undergoing Operations Testing

February 16, 2017

The new Charger locomotives to be used by Amtrak corridor trains are undergoing national certification testing in Washington State.

Amtrak logoThe Washington Department of Transportation said the Siemens SC-44 units are being tested on Cascade service through the end of this month.

The Chargers are expected to begin regular service later this year pulling trains in Washington, California, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri.

The departments of transportation of those states collaborated to develop the 4,400 horsepower locomotives, which are being assembled in Sacramento, California.

P42DC Named for ex-Amtrak Head Boardman

September 29, 2016

Amtrak has named P42DC No. 42 after its former president, Joseph Boardman.

Amtrak logoPainted in a livery honoring the nation’s veterans, No. 42 will carry an inscription below its cab reading: “Amtrak Honors: Joseph H. Boardman, President and CEO 2008-2016, US Air Force Vietnam Veteran.”

The locomotive was officially named for Boardman earlier this week during a ceremony held at Washington Union Station that was attended by more than 100 invited guests, including Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz; BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Matt Rose; Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Sarah Feinberg; former FRA boss Joe Szabo; union officials; and dozens of Amtrak employees and managers.

Also attending and speaking were U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Amtrak Board of Directors Chairman Tony Coscia and board member Tom Carper, U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, and Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ed Hamberger.

Current Amtrak President and CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman was absent because he was on a previously-planned family vacation.

Boardman: We Need New Diesels

June 4, 2016

Amtrak needs new diesel locomotives, but its president, Joseph Boardman, said the carrier doesn’t have the money to pay for them.

Amtrak logo “Yes, we need new diesels. We need to do something different,” Boardman said.

Boardman rejected paying for new locomotive with loans financed with “profits” from the Northeast Corridor as the ACS-64 electric locomotives were, but fully paid for as state procurement contracts for diesel locomotives are being financed.

The Amtrak head said Congress won’t appropriate the money to buy the locomotives “until the public understands that this nation’s infrastructure needs to be rebuilt.”

At Last, I ‘Landed’ Amtrak P42DC No. 156

May 23, 2016
Amtrak No. 156, the Phase I heritage locomotive, led a train of a Viewliner baggage car, an Amfleet II coach, an Amfleet cafe car and a Viewliner sleeper.

Amtrak No. 156, the Phase I heritage locomotive, led a train of a Viewliner baggage car, an Amfleet II coach, an Amfleet cafe car and a Viewliner sleeper.

Until early this month, I had seen Amtrak P42DC just once. That occurred as I was leaving Chicago Union Station aboard the eastbound Capitol Limited and I got a glimpse of the 156 sitting in the coach yard south of the depot.

My memory is that it went out later that night on the point of the eastbound Lake Shore Limited.

I’m one to think that Amtrak’s Phase I livery was its best. In particular, I liked how it looked on the SDP40F locomotives, but the E and F units looked nice in the “pointless arrow” scheme, too.

The Phase I livery did not look so good on GG1 electric motors, but I never saw any of those other than in photographs.

No. 156 has been all over the country, but our paths have never crossed. I’ve seen scores of photographs of it, including some made in Cleveland.

Some guys I know in the Akron Railroad Club have caught No. 156 more than once. I, though, never even had as much as a near miss with the 156.

I didn’t know that it would be in Toledo for this year’s National Train Day event until Friday afternoon before the event when I saw a posting about it on Facebook. Needless to say, that had me quite excited.

My friend Adam and I arrived in Toledo just after 8 a.m. and there was, at long last, the 156.

Yes, I took a lot of photographs of it. To be sure, it was just sitting there, providing hotel power for an Amtrak display train.

But that didn’t matter. It’s nose was open and it looked like it was pulling a train.

Now that I finally have it, the next challenge is to catch it actually leading a train on the road. That might take some time and a little bit of luck as well.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Of course I made a roster shot of Amtrak 156.

Of course I made a roster shot of Amtrak 156.

The nose needs a little touch-up painting to cover some scratches and dings from life on the road.

The nose needs a little touch-up painting to cover some scratches and dings from life on the road.

The passenger side of the platform with the display train.

The passenger side of the platform with the display train.

If the fuel outlet is where the edge of the "pointless arrow" is supposed to go, no problem. Just paint over it.

If the fuel outlet is where the edge of the “pointless arrow” is supposed to go, no problem. Just paint over it.

Lake Shore Limited Locomotive Order Revoked

May 11, 2016

Although the Lake Shore Limited continues to operate with just one P42DC locomotive on many days, an earlier Amtrak order to isolate a second unit if it has one has been rescinded.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedThe order, which had been effective on April 14, had directed crews to isolate trailing units on Nos. 48 and 49 between Chicago and Buffalo, New York, unless operating conditions required it to provide traction.

The order was originally given in an effort to conserve fuel use.

NS 9-1-1, Amtrak 156, Ann Arbor Heritage Unit Shine Under Friday Night Lights at Toledo C.U.T.

May 9, 2016
amt156ntd01

Amtrak’s Phase I heritage locomotive was on the point of a four car display train that mimicked the consist of the Lake Shore Limited.

Here is a selection of the night photos from Toledo’s National Train Day festival that were made on Friday night.

The engineer is Engineer Steve, one of the main driving forces behind the National Train Day in Toledo and the one who set up the equipment. Lighting was provided by David Patch, a transportation reporter with The Blade of Toledo.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Norfolk Southern's  first responders tribute unit looks spiffy. Behind it is Ann Arbor GP38 No. 3879.

Norfolk Southern’s
first responders tribute unit looks spiffy. Behind it is Ann Arbor GP38 No. 3879.

Watco brought out its Ann Arbor heritage locomotive, a GP38.

Watco brought out its Ann Arbor heritage locomotive, a GP38.

Engineer Steve poses at the controls of SD60E No. 9-1-1 on display at Toledo Central Union Terminal.

Engineer Steve poses at the controls of SD60E No. 9-1-1 on display at Toledo Central Union Terminal.

Engineer Steve climbs aboard Amtrak P42DC No. 156 as he "goes to work."

Engineer Steve climbs aboard Amtrak P42DC No. 156 as he “goes to work.”

NS 9-1-1 and the photographers that captured it under the lights.

NS 9-1-1 and the photographers that captured it under the lights.

 

Railroading as it Once Was: Saluting 45 Years of Amtrak With a Look Back at an SDP40F Pairing

May 5, 2016

Amtrak in Florida

Earlier this week Amtrak observed its 45th anniversary but on May 1, 1971, the SDP40F locomotive and Phase I livery were still two years down the road and not even on the drawing board.

The SDP40F story is not one of the happiest in the Amtrak memory closet. The passenger carrier’s first built new diesel locomotives were once a common sight throughout the system.

They were initially assigned to long-distance routes, but could be seen at times pulling corridor trains.

Then the six-axle units were implicated in a series of derailments in the middle 1970s and some railroads banned the units from their property.

An investigation was inconclusive as to whether the SDP40F had one or more design flaws that made it derailment prone.

Some SDP40Fs were in service for a mere four years before being traded in to EMD for new F40PH units and then being cut up by a scrapper.

In the photograph above, it is August 1977 and a thunderstorm looms over Clearwater, Florida, as a pair of SDP40Fs pull the southbound Champion over a wood trestle on the Seaboard Coast Line.

In two minutes the Champion will be in the Clearwater station.

Photograph by Roger Durfee