Posts Tagged ‘Ashtabula’

Amtrak Dangles Service Prospect in Ashtabula

February 1, 2021

Amtrak officials recently contacted city officials in Ashtabula to discuss making the county seat community a stop for a proposed new Cleveland-New York corridor.

It is not the first time Ashtabula has been talked about as an Amtrak stop.

 A few years ago city officials asked Amtrak to consider stopping the Lake Shore Limited at the former New York City depot.

However, that request yielded nothing and CSX razed the station in 2018.

Judging from the content of a story published by the Ashtabula newspaper, the Star Beacon, Amtrak’s outreach efforts to Ashtabula are part of a larger effort to win political support for a proposal to establish a series of corridor services.

The intercity passenger corridor plan Amtrak is hoping to get Congress to approve would provide seed money for would establish the corridors between major urban areas.

In the case of Ohio, that would be a corridor between Cleveland and New York via Buffalo, and the long-discussed but never developed 3C corridor between Cleveland and Cincinnati via Columbus and Dayton.

Amtrak officials also are talking up the prospect of reviving service between Toledo and Michigan points, a series that existed until April 1995 when it was discontinued as a cost-cutting move.

They also are discussing development of a Chicago-Cincinnati corridor.

Ashtabula City Manager Jim Timonere told the Star Beacon that the corridor development proposal is expected to be contained in legislation creating a new surface transportation law.

Apparently Amtrak is dangling the prospect of being added to its network in front of local government officials in an effort to win their support for the legislation.

 “This stop would be an amazing opportunity not only for tourism here in our area, but to provide another option to our residents who may work in Cleveland or along the route at one of the stops,” he said. “Access to transportation of this magnitude opens up a whole set of opportunities for our area and we will advocate strongly for the passage of this bill.”

Ashtabula would be a stop on the Cleveland-New York corridor. It is unclear if Ashtabula would also be a stop for the Lake Shore Limited.

No. 48 passes through Ashtabula around 7 a.m. while No. 49 comes through around 2:30 a.m.

Currently, Erie, Pennsylvania, is the only stop for Nos. 48 and 49 between Cleveland and Buffalo.

Amtrak was poised to begin stopping the Lake Shore Limited in Dunkirk, New York, in the late 1990s.

Local officials there pushed hard for the stop, putting up fliers in support of it and handing out leaflets seeking to build public support. The community held an Amtrak rally day.

Some Amtrak timetables showed service to Dunkirk to begin on a date to be announced.

However, the proposal fell victim to the breakup of Conrail by CSX and Norfolk Southern and Nos. 48 and 49 never did serve Dunkirk.

All of the corridor proposals that Amtrak officials mentioned in their call to Ashtabula have been proposed in the past but never materialize due to lack of funding.

Amtrak has been telling state and local officials that stand to gain service from these corridors that the passenger carrier will put up the money for some initial capital costs and pay the operating expenses for the corridors for a few years.

But state and local governments would have to absorb those operating costs eventually.

Still Standing

January 15, 2021

Over the years I photographed CSX trains passing beneath this signal bridge at the far west end of the yard in Ashtabula.

But with the conversion to positive train control, CSX like many Class 1 railroads, decided to replace many older signals on busy main lines with newer signals.

In some instances, the new signals were in a different location than the signals they replaced.

Such was the case in Ashtabula. As you can see, the new signals are closer to the yard itself.

This image was made near sunset on a very cold January day in 2018. I was hoping to get a westbound coming into that late day light but had no such luck.

But it made for a nice image anyway. I haven’t been back to this location since making this image so I don’t know if this old signal bridge that dates to the New York Central years is still standing or has been removed.

Ashtabula Train Disaster Documentary Delayed

July 12, 2020

Production of a documentary about a 19th century train disaster in Ashtabula has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The documentary was to have premiered in November but director Len Brown has put completion of the film on hold.

Brown said the film is about 85 percent complete. Some filming was done in a former New York Central passenger station in Jefferson in February 2019 with other scenes filmed on the Strasburg Rail Road in Pennsylvania.

“We still have the Pymatuning Valley Dam, Center Village in Burton, Williamsfield Community Center and Ohio Village in Columbus,” Brown said.

Work on the documentary has been ongoing for nine years.

The disaster occurred Dec. 29, 1876, when the bridge carrying the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern over the Ashtabula River collapsed as the Pacific Express was crossing it.

The train had originated in Buffalo, New York, and was bound for Chicago with through cars from New York.

The official death toll from the disaster is 83, but historians have noted that it could have been as high as 200.

CSX Razing Historical Abandoned Facilities

June 20, 2018

CSX has been active of late swinging the wrecking ball and razing vacant stations and former interlocking towers along its right of way.

In a statement, CSX said it is considering safety and historical preservation in deciding which structures to take down.

However, in some instances the railroad has generated controversy by razing structures that local communities were seeking to preserve.

Such was the case last spring in Abbeville, South Carolina, where a station was razed even though preservationists contended that they had reached an agreement with CSX to save the station.

News reports in May said a state preservation society had negotiated with the railroad for the depot to be preserved and moved if $50,000 could be raised for the depot’s preservation.

However, CSX contended that the preservation group indicated it could not meet those financial requirements and the 128-year depot was razed.

Closer to home, the former New York Central station in Ashtabula was demolished on May 31, although preservation efforts in that case did not get to the stage of offering money for the building.

CSX has also removed Chesapeake & Ohio-built interlocking towers at A Cabin in Alleghany, Virginia, and CW Cabin in Hinton, West Virginia.

Also catching the wrecking ball was the C&O Balcony Falls, Va., station.

In a statement CSX said it has been identifying structures that are vacant, have structural issues and overgrown vegetation. It also contended that it decides what to tear down on a case-by-case basis.

Ashtabula Depot Demolished

June 4, 2018

The former New York Central passenger station in Ashtabula was demolished late last week by CSX.

The demolition occurred despite some efforts to save it, including an idea to transform it into an Amtrak station.

That idea was put forth by the 21st Century Ashtabula Depot Rail Experience, a non-profit group created three years ago. It received backing from the city, but never got any further.

Ashtabula County historian and author Carl Feather told the Star Beacon that the lesson of the loss of the station is that people shouldn’t think in terms of museums only when attempting to save historic structures.

He cited the example of the Hotel Ashtabula, which was saved by linking its preservation to the county’s mental health needs.

“Historic preservation is shifting toward finding new uses for these old buildings,” Feather said. “Unfortunately, the depot was located in an area that is not conducive to re-use. If it was located in a different area, it might have been an excellent site for a restaurant and party center.”

Feather said Ashtabula is a small town and lacks the income level needed to support a higher-end venture.

“The county cannot support the museums we already have, and they are begging for volunteers and funds to keep the doors open. Most are open only a couple days a week and three months out of the year,” he said.

CSX said it demolished the 117-year structure, one of the oldest in Ashtabula, because of safety concerns.

However, the railroad said it has contacted local officials about salvaging materials from the depot.

Although Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited has passed by the station since it was inaugurated in late October 1975, it has never had a scheduled stop in Ashtabula.

The last passenger trains scheduled to stop in Ashtabula were four Penn Central trains that operated between Chicago and Buffalo, New York, and were discontinued with the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

The station was a stop for John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign train and sat within 1,000 feet of the deadliest train bridge collapse in U.S. history, which killed 83 people in 1876.

NKP 765 Assaulting Carson Hill in Ashtabula

July 26, 2015

Hearing the seeing the Nickel Plate Road 765 work up Carson hill in Ashtabula was quite an experience. This is my favorite photo of the day.

Hearing and seeing the Nickel Plate Road 765 work up Carson hill in Ashtabula was quite an experience. This is my favorite photo of the day.

While photographing Nickel Plate Road No. 765 on Thursday in Ashtabula as it made a service stop, I heard Rich Melvin of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society talk about there being a “hell of a hill” on the Youngstown Line of Norfolk Southern leaving town.

On Saturday afternoon I decided to check it out as the 2-8-4 Lima-built Berkshire assaulted the hill with a load of passengers on the return leg of a public excursion between Youngstown and Ashtabula.

I decided to forego going into town to look for the train in favor of scouting photo locations. I liked Plymouth Road because the tracks curve to the south here and the location is fairly open and parking would not be difficult.

A handful of other fans were on hand, including Drayton Blackgrove, a Michigan college student I had met while chasing the 765 last year on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. He runs an outfit named Delay in Block Productions and posts videos on YouTube.com.

This year he had a drone and it was the first time that I got to see someone up close operate one of those things. I was amazed at how quickly that thing can take off.

Although I heard the 765 talking on the radio when it was ready to leave, what I was really listening for was the sound of a steam locomotive working upgrade.

I was not disappointed. Melvin was at the throttle as the 765 ascended Carson hill, putting on a show that was a pure delight for the eyes and the ears alike.

I later caught the 765 just south of Dorset, although I got there a little too late, and again at the U.S. 322 crossing at Wick. With that I decided to head for home. It had been a most enjoyable day chasing the 765.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Coming into the curve on Carson hill near the hamlet of Plymouth Center.

Coming into the curve on Carson hill near the hamlet of Plymouth Center.

Blowing the whistle for Plymouth Road. Until about five to 10  minutes before the train arrived, two NS signal maintainer were working to get the grade crossing flashers back in working order.

Blowing the whistle for Plymouth Road. Until about five to 10 minutes before the train arrived, two NS signal maintainer were working to get the grade crossing flashers back in working order.

NKP 765 and its train are 26 miles out of Ashtabula on a former New York Central line that now known as the Youngstown Line of Norfolk Southern. The train is approaching Wick.

NKP 765 and its train are 26 miles out of Ashtabula on a former New York Central line that now known as the Youngstown Line of Norfolk Southern. The train is approaching Wick.

About to cross U.S. 322 at Wick en route back to Youngstown.

About to cross U.S. 322 at Wick en route back to Youngstown.

Easing past the cemetery south of Dorset. Cloudy conditions were a challenge here.

Easing past the cemetery south of Dorset. Cloudy conditions were a challenge here.

The crew of the helper locomotive greets the locals as the train rolls through Wick.

The crew of the helper locomotive greets the locals as the train rolls through Wick.