Posts Tagged ‘Bob Rohal’

Flashback: When Santa Used to Ride No. 321

December 6, 2021

For several years Shelly Materials SD18M No. 321 would deliver Santa Claus to downtown Kent as part of the city’s annual Festival of Lights.

A Shelly Locomotive this year again delivered Santa to town, but it was not No. 321.

The company earlier this year assigned Horizon Rail SD40-2 No. 6089, a former Norfolk Southern unit, to its Kent facility located along the ex-Erie Railroad mainline west of town.

And it was No. 6089 that was dressed up with Christmas lights this year to deliver Santa.

No. 321 has been renumbered 319 and reportedly will be sent to another Shelly facility in Northeast Ohio.

The photograph above was made on Dec. 6, 2008. That was a memorable day.

Veteran transportation reporter Don Phillips was in town to speak to the Akron Railroad Club’s December banquet held at the Martin Center at the University of Akron, a visit arranged by Paul Woodring.

We gave Don a tour of some of the region’s railroads that included a cab ride on the Canton Polar Express train of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, watching CSX trains in Akron, and riding aboard No. 321 that afternoon. Lunch was at the restaurant in the former Erie station in Kent.

Back in those days ARRC member Bob Rohal worked at Shelly and was at the throttle when Santa came to town aboard No. 321.

As the locomotive approached the West Main Street crossing, Bob would “play” Jingle Bells on the locomotive horn.

Bob had nicknamed No. 321 “Flash” and designed the livery. Both paid tribute to Kent State University, whose athletic teams are the Golden Flashes.

Bob fired up the 321 and let Don, myself and Peter Bowler operate the locomotive for short periods of time.

I never got to see “Flash” bring Santa to Kent because the event always occurred the same night as the ARRC banquet.

The banquet has since morphed into an end of year dinner that still is held on the same night s the Kent Festival of Lights although at least once the dinner was held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Bob has since retired from Shelly but some of the traditions he started live on even if carried out by a different locomotive and locomotive engineer.

How Santa Rode the Rails Into Kent

December 6, 2019

Back in the day, as we like to say, the first Saturday night in December was a special time on the former Erie Railroad in Kent.

Santa Claus would ride into town in the cab of Shelly Materials SD18M No. 321. At the throttle was Akron Railroad Club member Bob Rohal.

Bob would “play” Jingle Bells on the locomotive horn as the locomotive named “Flash” brought Santa Claus to town.

The occasion was the annual Kent Festival of Lights and if you look on You Tube you can find a video of the 2011 rendition.

I never saw this event because it was always held on the same night as the ARRC banquet.

But on a Saturday afternoon in 2011 I made my way out to the Shelly facility where Bob was setting up Flash for its appearance that night, complete with lights and wire reindeer on top of the cab.

Santa was back aboard Flash on Dec. 7 this year to make his entrances to the annual Festival of Lights celebration.

Santa Still Riding the Rails In Kent

December 4, 2016


Tonight [Dec. 3, 2016], there was an emotional event for me. This was the first time in 18 years I was not involved with the decorating and operation of the Santa train here in Kent for the Festival of Lights.

My only involvement now was to give my friends a theme to use for the Christmas lights on the locomotive.

I had planned to use the star theme and they did a great job putting it into reality.

It was wonderful to see the guys I worked with and to be greeted with hugs and wishing I would have stayed working.

And, yes, Dan Ashley from the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway brought Santa into town on time.

I was very pleased to see a tradition continue just as you would as you nurture a child from birth to see them develop into a life of their own.

The picture is not the best as I never took good night pictures.

Article and Photograph by Robert Rohal

Winter Solstice From a Locomotive Cab

December 28, 2014


I got up early on a Monday morning and traveled to Cleveland to switch a train. I was able to enjoy a special day.

In years past a most memorable day was being able to enjoy the warm weather and a celebration at Chichen Itza., Mexico, where there were lots of people waiting for the sun to cast a shadow on a Pyramid to show a snake crawling down the edge of the Pyramid for the Winter Solstice. You just take a seat a watch the grass grow and then watch the Sun Set.

It was pretty much the same for me on this day in Cleveland. Take a seat and watch the long black train snake through the switches.

I took the picture shown above as I was on the last pull of the day. I thought it was neat to see the sun setting and I wouldn’t be able to reproduce the scene again.

It’s a picture from a safety video screen in the cab. I was warm and marking the end of another season waiting for the sun to rise tomorrow.

Article and Photograph by Bob Rohal

David Rohal Forms Investment, Consulting Firm

March 27, 2014

David Rohal has helped form an investment and consulting firm in San Diego that specializes in ground transportation, energy and infrastructure.

Rohal, who is the son of Akron Railroad Club member and former president Bob Rohal, helped to form Dahlman Rohal & Associates along with Ernie Dahlman.

Dahlman is a Wall Street investment banking firm partner while Rohal has 30 years of experience in railroad management operations and transportation.

“We have combined our diverse talents to create a cohesive force for pursuing large, complex projects that often have multiple stakeholders with different objectives. An early focus of ours will be on unlocking stranded value in the Cali-Baja Mega Region”

Rohal previously worked at CSX, Genesee & Wyoming, RailAmerica, Florida East Coast and Patriot Rail. Most recently, he was with the Pacific Imperial Railroad in California.

The two partners first met and became interested in the Mega Region when originally recruited to form a management team for the dormant Pacific Imperial.

Dahlman Rohal & Associates has formed strategic associations with The Charlton Group, whose managing member, Charlie Patterson, is a sales and marketing executive in the rail industry, and with Main Line Transportation Professionals, whose managing partner, David Arganbright, is also a railroad veteran who has worked in the development of public-private partnerships.

“We have combined our diverse talents to create a cohesive force for pursuing large, complex projects that often have multiple stakeholders with different objectives,” said Rohal. “An early focus of ours will be on unlocking stranded value in the Cali-Baja Mega Region.”

Meanwhile in Sunny, Warm California

January 8, 2014


Akron Railroad Club member sent along these pictures of the Pacific Imperial Railroad that is being rebuilt between Mexico and El Centro Calif. He reports that he is in San Diego for 10 days to get three locomotives ready for service.

“I have been over this entire line and it is unlike anything I have ever experienced,” Bob writes.

Shown are three of PIR’s GP40s at Plaster City, Calif., and three F7s at Acumba, Calif.







Bob Rohal Inspects his Son’s Railroad

December 16, 2013



Last week I flew out to San Diego to visit with my son, David, and grandson. David was named president of the Pacific Imperial Railroad earlier this year.

While I was out there, I accompanied David and others on a hi-rail trip from the U.S.-Mexico border to Plaster City, Calif., over 70 miles of the Desert Division of the railroad.

It is absolutely beautiful country that goes in 40 miles from desert to mountains, from 200 feet below sea level to 4,600 feet.

This territory was almost impossible to build, a challenge to run and unforgiving to operate.

Below is a link to video on YouTube of a cab ride on this territory. The video is 1 hour and 42 minutes in duration so you might want to fast forward it to get to the mountains.

 Article and Photographs Courtesy of Bob Rohal

David Rohal New President of Califronia Railroad

November 26, 2013

David Rohal has been named president of the San Diego-based Pacific Imperial Railroad. Rohal, who is the son of Akron Railroad Club member and past president Bob Rohal, will begin his new post on Dec. 1

David Rohal has 30 years of railroad experience in management roles with various class 1 and short line railroads.

He most recently held senior positions with Patriot Rail and RailAmerica. He also previously worked for CSX.

Rohal has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and an MBA from The Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

“I’m excited to bring this rail line back to life,” Rohal said in a news release. “Pacific Imperial Railroad has a significant opportunity to service the maquiladoras, a dense cluster of manufacturing facilities in northwest Mexico. My goal is to lead PIR to achieve its goal to provide the fastest, most cost efficient, and safest opportunity for these companies to move freight by rail.”

PIR signed a 99-year lease with San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway Company and San Diego Metropolitan Transit System in December 2012.

Upon completion of a planned rebuilding of its 70-mile Desert Line , PIR will be the only company providing railroad freight services in the Tijuana-Tecate region of Baja California, Mexico and eastern San Diego County. In total, PIR operates 130 miles of track.

The rail line joins BNSF and the San Diego and Imperial Valley railroads at the southwestern tip of San Diego County with the UP Line from El Centro, Calif. It is the only rail line that runs directly adjacent to approximately 755 manufacturing facilities (known as maquiladoras), located approximately 14 miles south of the U.S.- Mexico border.

Its website is:

‘Flash,’ Rohal Almost Finished for the Year

November 26, 2013

This past Saturday marked the last day of operations for the year at Shelly Materials in Kent. Akron Railroad Club member Bob Rohal was at the throttle of Flash, which is Shelly’s SD18M that is used to shuffle cars around the company’s Kent facility.

He reports that although the day started sunny but cool, with temperatures in the 40s, a cold front moved through in the afternoon and then came snow.

“We barely got this train emptied as valves on the cars were freezing and we were not able to open the doors for unloading,” he said. “We had to heat the valves on the last three cars so we could deliver the train back to CSX.”

But Flash and Bob still have one last assignment for 2013. On the night of Saturday, Dec. 7, they will bring Santa Claus to town on a 2-mile run for Kent’s Festival of Lights celebration.

As always, Bob will have Flash decorated for the occasion.

“My theme for my decoration of the locomotive this year is the “candy cane,” Bob wrote in an email message. “Google ‘the candy cane’ and the meaning might not surprise you.

“Before you do, though, should the stripes go clockwise or counter clockwise?”

Recreating a 1976 Moment

August 30, 2013


Here is a photographs my meeting with my sons David and Dennis in Roanoke, Va., recently for a recreation from 1976 with engine No. 1776. In 1976, Norfolk & Western Railway painted an engine for the nation’s bicentennial. The unit came to Akron so I took the boys over to see it and we took some pictures.

As it turned out, the boys had a picture of myself and the engine enlarged and framed. They gave it to me for my birthday.

I’ve had that picture hanging in my train room for years and said for the past five years that I would like to recreate another picture with the same locomotive as it is in the museum in Roanoke.

It was another of the miracles of this year that we were all available and able to get together as we all lived over 400 miles away and had the weekend off.    We met at the Hilton on a Friday as it was just across the street from the museum and it would be fun to just sit on the deck overlooking the city and talk and drink. Or is it drink and talk?

On Saturday morning, I dressed about the same as I did in 1976 and we went to the museum to recreate the picture.

It was 90 degrees but the humidity felt like 95 and my shirt and jeans were really too hot and I was totally awash for the day.

We had a great time and took a day trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains, following the railroad and stopping to have a picnic at an old abandoned station.

The pictures that accompany this post are from Dave’s girl friend, Julie, who graciously went along with us.

Article by Bob Rohal