Posts Tagged ‘Auto rack cars’

Open Air Auto Racks Two for Tuesday

January 10, 2023

These photographs were taken in the era when railroads still had open air auto carriers. The location is unidentified but was most likely in or near Akron. I believe the photograph was made in 1968 or 1969 according to the Fords which look like 1969 Fords.

Remember open-air auto racks? Imagine all the damage that was done to roofs, windows and other parts.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

What They Won’t See in Berea Today

August 6, 2022

Today is the annual Akron Railroad Club Dave McKay Day outing in Berea and those who attend will, no doubt, see some interesting sights on CSX and Norfolk Southern.

But here are two things they won’t see. In the top image, a westbound Conrail train led by an SD60M No. 5514 passes Berea Tower in May 1997. Conrail, of course, was split between NS and CSX in 1999. Some former Conrail locomotives on still on the motive power rosters of both companies, but all have been repainted into the liveries of their current owners.

NS ES44AC No. 8098 has been repainted into the Conrail livery as part of the Class 1 railroad’s heritage unit fleet, but whether it will pass through Berea today is uncertain. It was last spotted and reported to the website on Aug. 1 at Hudson, Pennsylvania, leading train 10Z in the Northeast quadrant of the Keystone state.

But at least there is a possibility of seeing a locomotive wearing Conrail paint in Berea. There is no chance of seeing an open auto rack car unless it is being moved to a museum. Yet in 1999 it was possible to see such a car in revenue service even by then it was uncommon.

Shown is a CN car on May 15, 1999, passing through Berea. Note the different between that car and the adjoining enclosed auto rack car.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

It’s an Auto Rack Train

April 8, 2022

Auto rack trains used to be a common sight on busy Class 1 railroad mainlines. Then precision scheduled railroading happened and management decided why run two trains and pay two crews when you can run one train and pay just one crew.

So that meant auto racks and general freight began merging in consists. In some instances it was intermodal and auto racks that were merged.

Of late, auto rack traffic has been a bit scarce because auto production has taken a hit due to ongoing supply chain issues. That has meant the auto makers are producing fewer new vehicles and that in turn has reduced the demand for auto racks to carry them to distribution centers.

That has meant fewer auto rack cars to see, even in combined auto rack and manifest freights.

So it was a pleasant surprise to find this auto rack train on the NS Chicago Line in Goshen, Indiana, back on March 20. The 17N had another surprise with a pair of relatively clean Canadian Pacific units on the point.

Savoring the Rich Detail of the Past

May 6, 2021

There is much to linger over and savor in this image made in Akron in September 1972. In fact much, but all, of what you see isn’t around anymore.

Baltimore & Ohio GP40 No. 3714 and two other geeps is leading a westbound manifest freight past the former Erie Lackawanna passenger station.

That depot was opened by the Erie Railroad in 1947. It was last used in January 1970 when the EL;s Lake Cities was discontinued and has since been razed.

Of course you can no longer see three B&O units in their dress blues as you see here. Look back in the consist and not an auto rack car without coverings all around it.

No railroad would consider shipping vehicle by rail this way today.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Middle Crossing

April 16, 2021

Norfolk Southern’s New Castle District crosses the White River in Muncie, Indiana, on three different bridges. It is not so much because the river winds all over the place but the railroad does, too.

Shown above is the middle of those river crossings. It is located in a park/nature preserve. Here we see eastbound manifest train 189 rumbling over the bridge on its journey from Oakwood Yard in Detroit to East Point, Georgia, near Atlanta.

It was a warm, but windy day in late March of this year when I caught this train.

Detroit Company Seeks to Put Containers on Empty Auto Rack Cars

February 21, 2021

A Detroit company is seeking to develop a way to use empty auto rack cars to haul auto parts.

The theory between the idea proposed by Pro-Tech Group is that auto rack cars that otherwise would be returning to assembly plants empty would be able to earn revenue.

The firm has tested the use of shipping containers filled with auto parts with the containers designed to fit within the usable space of the railcars.

The test involved hauling pallets of wheel rims from California to Dearborn, Michigan. 

Pro-Tech did not disclose the automaker or railroads involved or how many test loads were handled.

However, a video posted to the company’s website showed containers being loaded at a Union Pacific auto rack ramp.

“The benefit of this process is to eliminate the 66,000 railcars that come back empty” each year, Pro-Tech CEO Earle B. Higgins tells Trains magazine.

 “Anytime you have 66,000 auto racks moving empty, there’s opportunities to grow. And the good thing is we can build our containers at the size of the commodities we move.”

The containers are designed to fold flat when not in use.

Higgins said the containers could carry any kind of freight so long as it does not involve hazardous materials or food products.

Some industry observers are skeptical about the usefulness of the concept due to the non standard sizes of the containers being used.

“It always sounds good in theory to utilize the empty backhaul, but I see a lot of cost in all these steps,” intermodal analyst Larry Gross told Trains.

Another unnamed observer called it an interesting niche concept, “but these types of systems are very complicated because the parts don’t often come from the consuming markets where the cars are destined.” 

Higgins, who once worked for automaker Chrysler, said he researched his idea before implementing it and seeking a patent for the containers.

He said railroad executives have been receptive to the idea because it would minimize empty miles that auto racks turn in.

F40s Were Still the Motive Power of Choice

November 27, 2019

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited saunters through Berea on March 30, 1996.

No. 48 was running late that day although I no longer remember how far behind scheduled it was.

At the time, F40PH locomotives were the motive power of choice on the Lake Shore.

But not for much longer. Already P40 units were on the property and Amtrak would begin taking delivery of P42DC locomotives starting in August 1996.

For those who like to pay attention to consists, Nos. 48 and 49 in this era was a mixture of three equipment types. Heritage fleet baggage cars, sleepers and dining cars co-mingled with Viewliner sleepers and Amfleet coaches and cafe cars.

The Lake Shore also had a healthy load of material handling cars tacked on the rear carrying mail and express shipments.

That is a Conrail auto rack train passing No. 48 on Track No. 1.

5 Locomotives, 4 Auto Rack Cars

December 1, 2015

Bellevue Nov 20 03-x

I don’t know what motor vehicles were in those four auto rack cars, but they must have been high priority because five locomotives were assigned to pull them.

The train is shown in Bellevue behind a brace of four Norfolk Southern units and one Union Pacific locomotive.

Perhaps as much as anything this train was being used to move motive power. Not long after the passage of this train, a normal length auto rack train came into town pulled by a mere two locomotives.

Whether the those trains have any connection I can’t say. But it just seemed odd seeing four auto racks pulled by this much motive power.

Photograph by Craig Sanders

NS 1065 in Conneaut, Perry . . .

March 31, 2015

Norfolk Southern train I87 waits east of the grade crossing at Thompson Road in Conneaut. The train was waiting for two eastbound intermodal trains to clear the single track on the trestle over Conneaut Creek.

Norfolk Southern train I87 waits east of the grade crossing at Thompson Road in Conneaut. The train was waiting for two eastbound intermodal trains to clear the single track on the trestle over Conneaut Creek.

A side view of NS 1065 at Thompson Road in Conneaut.

A side view of NS 1065 at Thompson Road in Conneaut.


A side view of NS 1065 at Thompson Road in Conneaut.

A side view of NS 1065 at Thompson Road in Conneaut.

Crossing Conneaut Creek and the tracks of the Bessemer & Lake Erie.

Crossing Conneaut Creek and the tracks of the Bessemer & Lake Erie.

A Parrish Road west of Conneaut.

At Parrish Road west of Conneaut.

Rounding the curve and coming into Perry.

Rounding the curve and coming into Perry.

Akron Railroad Club Treasurer Ed Ribinskas along with President Craig Sanders ventured to Conneaut on Saturday to catch some Bessemer & Lake Erie action. While there, a local railfan gave them a heads up that the Savannah and Atlanta heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern was leading a westbound auto rack train.

They were able to photograph NS 1065 and its train at Thompson Road near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, crossing the trestle over Conneaut Creek, from the bridge at Parrish Road and in Perry.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Open Air Auto Rack Keeps Rolling Along

January 4, 2015


AR02I spotted this “open air” auto rack on a train in Bellevue recently. There was a time when all auto racks were open like this, but that was in the 1960s.

After too many vehicles were damaged by trackside vandals throwing rocks – and perhaps by flying objectives kicked up as the train cruised along – auto rack cars became enclosed.

After the car had passed I was able to see why it was “open air.” It had been damaged in an accident of some sort, perhaps a derailment.

But the car wasn’t damaged enough to prevent it from being moved. I don’t know if it will be repaired or scrapped.

Photographs by Craig Sanders