Posts Tagged ‘Conrail’

A Difference of 31 Years at Warwick

August 19, 2015

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While the white building and grassy bank are the same, here are two Warwick photos 31 years apart.

Both were taken looking east from Chippewa Avenue at the east end of Warwick Park. Image one (top), taken on Nov. 13, 1981, is a westbound Conrail freight going either to Massillon or Orrville.

Image two is a westbound CSX freight taken on Nov. 21, 2012. CSX surely wishes it had the old double track back.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

DTE Project to Close Dangerous Grade Crossing

July 7, 2015

DTE Energy plans to extend its track will eliminate a hazardous grade crossing in Trenton, Michigan, the company recently announced.

The track extension will allow for longer trains to be held for periods of time that will eliminate about 12 train shipments a year

The change is also expected to result in fewer trains moving through the city, thus reducing the number of times automobile drivers will have to wait at crossings.

The project, which will get underway on July 13, will remove the crossing on Toledo Avenue over track at Hoover Street and end the need for trains to park on track at the Lathrop Street crossing.

The track there is owned by Conrail and DTE, and used by CSX trains.

In 2003 the Michigan Department of Transportation recommended removal of the crossing.

In a news release, DTE said its rail yard holds trains delivering coal to its Trenton Channel Power Plant.

“We are happy to be able to undertake this project that should improve traffic safety and traffic flow in the city of Trenton,” said Brian Kincaid, Trenton Channel Power Plant director. “We appreciate the assistance and cooperation of MDOT and city officials in helping plan this project.”

Watching Steel Rust on the Fort Wayne Line

June 24, 2015
The first NS train through Orrville arrived a half-hour after I did. Then I had a four-hour wait for the next one.

The first NS train through Orrville arrived a half-hour after I did. Then I had a four-hour wait for the next one.

Last winter the railfan cyberspace world was abuzz with reports that Norfolk Southern was rehabilitating the tracks of the Fort Wayne Line west of Bucyrus.

This was remarkable news for a number of reasons. First, NS doesn’t own these tracks. CSX does.

Second, CSX doesn’t use this line. The Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern does.

Yes, NS does have the right under the terms of the Conrail breakup to operate as many as six trains a day west of Bucyrus, but it has seldom taken advantage of those rights.

But after the meltdown on the Chicago Line last summer, railroad officials began looking for alternative routes for some trains.

One of those alternatives was the Fort Wayne Line. Even before the Conrail breakup, this former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline in western Ohio saw little traffic.

The segment between Crestline and Alliance was moderately busy under Conrail, but once NS took it over the traffic levels dropped precipitously.

NS operates a pair of Conway-Bellevue manifest freights over the line daily. The route also sees locals out of Mansfield that operate as far east as Orrville. There are some coal trains.

But otherwise, traffic on the Fort Wayne Line is rather sparse.

As I read the reports that traffic on the Fort Wayne Line was picking up, I made a mental note that I needed to get down there this summer and see just much more traffic is using the line.

In particular, NS is routing eastbound crude oil trains over the route. I had seen posted photos taken of some of those trains, which led me to believe that they operated during daylight hours.

On the first Saturday in June, I set out for Orrville. I wasn’t expecting to see a flood of new traffic, but I was hopeful that there would be enough to make it worth the trip.

I got a later start than I wanted so it was about 10:30 a.m. when I arrived, parked next to the tracks, set up my scanner and waited.

Shortly after 11 a.m. I could hear the scratchy sound on the radio of a train calling signals.

The signal became stronger and clearer. That a train was coming a half-hour after I had arrived was a good omen.

It was a westbound coal train and it had one of those massive ex-Union Pacific SD90MACs as the second of two locomotives.

Then things got quiet, real quiet. And that was the way it was for the next four hours. That’s right, four hours.

To pass the time I read that day’s Akron Beacon Journal and the latest issue of Trains. The Fort Wayne Line has a long and colorful history and I had plenty of time to think about it.

I had expected lulls between trains, but not this long. I was about to give up for the day when I heard a scratchy sound on my scanner.

Shortly after 3:30 p.m., an eastbound oil train showed up with a set of helper units on the rear.

I was curious how far I’d be able to hear that train call signals over the radio so I stuck around and listened.

That train must have been past Massillon when I thought I heard the oil train crew speaking with the crew of another train.

Could it be that a westbound was waiting at Massillon for the oil train to pass? I decided to wait awhile longer. It was an agonizingly long wait.

I was, again, about to pack it in when I thought I heard a distant radio transmission. It took awhile but it got stronger and my earlier hunch had been right. There had been a westbound near Massillon.

That train, another coal train with an ex-UP SD90MAC in the motive power consist, finally reached Orrville at almost 4:30 p.m. After its passage, I headed home.

I’d like to give Orrville and the Fort Wayne Line another try, preferably getting there in the early morning.

It has always seemed as though more trains pass through Northeast Ohio in the morning hours than during the middle of the day.

Maybe that’s not true for the Fort Wayne Line, but I’d like to give it a try.

I’d also like to go down during the week when the locals are running and when the R.J. Corman train for Wooster comes and goes.

It may be technically accurate to say that there is more traffic on the Fort Wayne Line than there used to be.

But when the previous traffic levels were already quite thin, adding another couple of trains a day isn’t going to make that much of a difference.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The tower at Orrville used to be on the other side of the tracks and farther west. I can't remember a time when it wasn't where is is today. But my first visit to Orrville came in 1995.

The tower at Orrville used to be on the other side of the tracks and farther west. I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t where is is today. But my first visit to Orrville came in 1995.

This former Pennsy cabin car has been in display for years in Orrville, but no one has gotten around to restoring the PRR keystone and markings.

This former Pennsy cabin car has been in display for years in Orrville, but no one has gotten around to restoring the PRR keystone and markings.

After a wait of four hours I could not believe my eyes. There is training coming on the Fort Wayne Line.

After a wait of four hours I could not believe my eyes. There is training coming on the Fort Wayne Line.

The first and (only) eastbound of the day (for me at least) passes the Orrville station. The view was made from the steps of the former Orrville Tower.

The first and (only) eastbound of the day (for me at least) passes the Orrville station. The view was made from the steps of the former Orrville Tower.

What a nice surprise. There were helper locomotives on the rear of the 66W, the eastbound crude oil train.

What a nice surprise. There were helper locomotives on the rear of the 66W, the eastbound crude oil train.

Orrville is located at milespost 124 on the Fort Wayne Line. I had plenty of time to memorize this fact.

Orrville is located at milespost 124 on the Fort Wayne Line. I had plenty of time to memorize this fact.

The rear of the morning westbound coal train passes the restored Orrville depot, now the home of the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society.

The rear of the morning westbound coal train passes the restored Orrville depot, now the home of the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society.

CSX, L&I Finalize Easement Agreement

June 19, 2015

CSX and the Louisville & Indiana have completed an agreement whereby the Class I carrier will receive a permanent easement to use L&I tracks between Indianapolis and Louisville, Kentucky.

The 106-mile long route is a former Pennsylvania Railroad line that once carried the fabled South Wind passenger train between Chicago and Florida. CSX will pay L&I $10 million for the easement.

The agreement also sets out terms for a $90 million program of track improvements that will take place over the next several years.

The project calls for laying 20 miles of new rail on the southern section of the route as well as other infrastructure improvements.

The two railroads have also been meeting with local officials and residents along the route since May to explain the track rehabilitation project as well as address concerns related to public safety, anticipated increases in freight volume and construction plans.

“As we undertake the first phase of construction, we will continue to collaborate with local officials to plan and execute construction activities to minimize disruptions to communities along the corridor,” said L&I President John Goldman in a news release.

The two railroads began talking about upgrading the route and CSX’s use of it in 2011.

L&I, which is based in Jeffersonville, Indiana, acquired the route from Conrail in 1994.

“CSX’s investment of approximately $100 million will provide enhanced rail access for the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville, increase capacity and efficiency along this corridor and improve connectivity to CSX’s broader network,” said Oscar Munoz, president and chief operating officer of CSX in a news release. “These critical infrastructure improvements include the installation of new rail, upgrades to the rail bed structure and bridge improvements to enhance safety and service for customers in the Midwest and provide more efficient rail service throughout the region.”

The L&I is one of several short-line railroads held by Anacostia Rail Holdings. Anacostia’s railroads operate in seven states and also include the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad, Gulf Coast Switching Company, New York & Atlantic Railway, Northern Lines Railway, LLC and Pacific Harbor Line, Inc.

Once Upon a Time in NE Ohio

May 31, 2015

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Over the years Northeast Ohio has been an interesting area to railfan. Here are a couple images from the mid 1980s.

If you look carefully, you’ll see many changes in trackage, buildings and motive power from what these scenes look like now.

Surroundings have changed and locations may not be available now because of trees and brush.

In the top image, Conrail 8222 is ready to take its high and wide load into the yard at Orrville on Oct. 11, 1985. One change is that this is now a single track line east of here.

In the other image, Baltimore & Ohio No. 7615 leads a westbound Chessie System freight through Clinton (Warwick) in early 1987. Notice that this trackage is still double-tracked.

Article and Photographs by Robert Farkas

On Photography: Nailing It

March 29, 2015

Nail it

David P. Morgan was feeling pensive. His friend and traveling companion Philip R. Hastings had died the year before.

Now he was thinking about all of the places he and Hastings had visited, including a stretch of the New York Central on the Illinois prairie.

It was there in 1954, while traveling to make images for their “Smoke Over the Prairies” series in Trains magazine, that they had encountered NYC Hudson No. 5403.

It was pulling a mail and express train westward out of Mattoon

As Morgan drove his Ford convertible, which he had purchased new earlier that year, Hastings crouched in the back seat.

The 5403 and its train came from behind, moving slowly at first and then accelerating as though it was a rocket blasting off into space.

When Morgan and Hastings broke off the chase, the train was going 85 mph and pulling away.

The image that Hastings captured merited a handwritten note of congratulations from Trains publisher and founder A.C. Kalmbach, something that Morgan said Kalmbach did not do often.

In writing about that image, again, 34 years later, Morgan quoted Lucius Beebe: “to know that one has it, cold turkey, is one of the great delights of the business of living.”

To use a contemporary phrase, Morgan meant that Hasting had “nailed it.”

It is a moment of triumph akin to the exhilaration of hitting a home run, executing a slam dunk, or putting the puck past the goalie.

It is a moment of pure emotion. All that you worked for has come together and you can proclaim to yourself, “I got it!”

But what is the “it” that you nailed or captured or whatever? And how do you know that you have “it” whatever “it” may be.

Often, recognizing that a photographer “nailed it” can be explained the way that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once attempted to define obscenity in a 1964 case. I know it when I see it.

Actually, Stewart was explaining why he was NOT attempting to give a tangible definition of obscenity, because, he wrote, “ . . . perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so . . .”

Stewart’s words became the butt of joking over the years among Supreme Court law clerks when reviewing materials that had been deemed to be obscene.

Yet Stewart had a point. When trying to use mere words to describe something that people feel, the words often come up short.

Maybe that is why the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” came to be.

If photographs are the medium of emotional reaction, words are the medium of explanation.

Consider the photograph shown above. It was made in May 1983 in approximately the same location where Morgan and Hasting chased NYC 5403 three decades earlier.

A Conrail rail train that is barely visible in the distance has lifted the rails from the former New York Central line that once extended to St. Louis.

Of all the images of that process that I created on this day, this one gives me that feeling of having “nailed it.”

The “it” of this image is a place. It is a story about the place. It is the essence of the story about the place.

Look at that ruler-straight right of way. Look at the open spaces surrounding it. Look at the blue sky . . . the parallel highway . . .  the small portion of the machine to the right . . . the spec of blue that is the bus to carry the Conrail workers . . . the ballast, the ties and the tie plates that the workers have temporarily left behind.

Do you feel the emotion? Do you feel how something that has lasted for more than a century is in the process of going away?

Do you feel the sense that you always had that “it will always be there” is now evaporating into that open space and blue sky?

Do you feel the disappointment that something that has been a part of you all of your life is being ripped away and there is nothing you can do about it except to record its passing?

If you do, then you know why I look at this photograph and know that I “nailed it.”

This is what it looks like when the railroad leaves town, never to return again.

Not everyone will see or feel what I did because they did not experience what I did.

Morgan visited this location on Dec. 1, 1988, and his story was published in the September 1989 issue of Trains.

I would like to think that Morgan knew that he was on short time and that he wanted to leave something for future generations of railroad enthusiasts.

So he used the story of his return to the site of a previous memorable experience as a cautionary tale. Enjoy it now because it won’t necessarily always be there.

Morgan had a way with words, a gift really, that few have. I don’t know if he was a photographer.  I do know that he was a superb wordsmith whose words often conveyed and invoked emotion.

And yet other than to explain what you are seeing in this image, are words necessary to describe it? If not, that means that the photographer has nailed it.

Commentary by Craig Sanders

‘Grab Shot’ Helped Bring Back Fond Memories

March 16, 2015

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Sometimes I tell people that a certain image was a “grab shot,” but this image certainly backs up that statement.

First, my 1976 Pinto is in the photo instead of being moved out of scene. Second, the Pinto’s door is open showing my hasty departure.

Third, there were better angles than this. Still, I like this image.

It brings back memories I would not have had the Pinto not been in it. Only the year before my Pinto had faithfully taken three 6-footers to Maine and back and here it was being photographed in all its beauty.

It is June 29, 1978, and Conrail No. 6146 leads Amtrak “pumpkins” east through Massillon, Ohio.

Story and Photograph by Robert Farkas 

One Day in May the Railroad Went Away

February 28, 2015
A former Pennsylvania Railroad cabin car bears witness to the removal of a former New York Central route. West of Terre Haute at least, the Pennsy won one. It was a different story east of there where the Central survived.

A former Pennsylvania Railroad cabin car bears witness to the removal of a former New York Central route. West of Terre Haute at least, the Pennsy won one. It was a different story east of there where the Central survived.

It was a mostly sunny spring day. My recollection is that it was late afternoon when I drove out on Illinois Route 16 west of Mattoon, Ill., to look for a Conrail rail train.

The line had been abandoned more than a year earlier, but by law Conrail had to wait at least 120 days in case someone wanted to buy it. There had been talk of that, but nothing materialized.

On this day the rails were being removed to be sent somewhere to be refurbished and, eventually, reused.

My mission was to make a few photographs to document the rail removal.

This day had been years in the making. It began when Penn Central decided it didn’t need two routes between Terre Haute and St. Louis.

PC had expected to abandon or dramatically downgrade the former New York Central route, but that didn’t happen.

Even with a mandate to rationalize the rail network that it inherited from PC, it took Conrail seven years to finish the job.

I didn’t spend much time at the site where the workers were pulling up the rails.

I didn’t have the documentary mindset that I have now. Back then, making photographs was a sometime thing.

How I wish today that I had done more to document the abandonment of a rail line that had played a significant role in my life.

It was over these rails that I made my first railroad journey in the 1950s aboard an NYC passenger train to St. Louis.

I saw these rails often as I went about my life activities while growing up and later working in Mattoon.

As a reporter for the Mattoon Journal Gazette I had written about the process that led to the ex-NYC being abandoned between Paris and Pana, Ill.

But when the rail train came through Mattoon to pick up the rail, I was at home. I made no effort to go see, let alone photograph, the rail removal operation in my hometown.

I must have figured that the photographs that I made the day before west of town were a good enough record.

Today you would hardly know there had been a railroad here. Farmers have claimed the right of way and extended their fields.

The only traces of the railroad are a few small concrete bridges left behind and linear empty space in the towns where the rails had been.

Shown are a few of the better images that I made on that 1983 day. They were scanned from the original color print film negatives.

For the most part, I consider these images to be nothing special. Most of them are not composed well.

And yet they are very special because they show something that happened once and won’t happen again. They have historical significance.

Regardless of the quality of these images, I’m very pleased that I made them.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The lead locomotive of the last train to travel over the rails of the former New York Central mainline west of my hometown of Mattoon, Ill. For the record, the direction of travel was east.

The lead locomotive of the last train to travel over the rails of the former New York Central mainline west of my hometown of Mattoon, Ill. For the record, the direction of travel was east.

After getting fixed up, these rails will be put down again elsewhere on the  Conrail system.

After getting fixed up, these rails will be put down again elsewhere on the Conrail system.

Just another day of picking up rail on just another Conrail abandonment. A lot of those occurred during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Just another day of picking up rail on just another Conrail abandonment. A lot of those occurred during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

A side portrait of No. 1921, the trailing unit in the rail train.

A side portrait of No. 1921, the trailing unit in the rail train.

It would have been appropriate had the lead locomotive been 1855, the year that these rails reached Mattoon from the east.

It would have been appropriate had the lead locomotive been 1855, the year that these rails reached Mattoon from the east.

All that was left behind was some ballast, ties and tie plates. Crews will be back later to pick that up. Today the ex-NYC right of way is part of a farm field and you might not know that a railroad once ran here that hosted the Central's finest passenger trains between New York and St. Louis.

All that was left behind was some ballast, ties and tie plates. Crews will be back later to pick that up. Today the ex-NYC right of way is part of a farm field and you might not know that a railroad once ran here that hosted the Central’s finest passenger trains between New York and St. Louis.

What Were They Thinking About?

February 21, 2015

Conrail MTO loco

Conrail MTO caboose

It’s early April 1982 in my hometown of Mattoon, Ill. I have just finished my work shift at the Journal Gazette.

I was a reporter there, but on this day I filled in as wire editor for a guy who had the day off. That meant having to start early, very early. It was around 5 a.m. or so when I walked in.

For reasons I no longer remember, after work I drove downtown. An unusual spring snow squall had descended upon east central Illinois as I left the office.

There had been a going away party for a guy in the advertising department who I had gotten to know.

We shared an interest in photography and had spent hours talking about making photographs.

I had taken my personal camera to work to make some color photographs of his last day at the newspaper. My work camera would have had black and white film loaded in it.

I don’t remember how I learned of this approaching train. I might have gotten out of my car to walk somewhere or maybe I saw the crossing gates go down.

But I heard a train horn blowing on the former New York Central mainline to St. Louis, which was owned by Conrail at the time.

At the time, seeing any train on this line was a rarity. The overhead traffic had been removed in summer 1980. A local worked on the line for a while.

Less than a month earlier, Conrail had received permission to abandon the ex-NYC between Paris and Pana, Ill.

Within a year, these rails would be ripped up. But for the next 120 days the rails must remain in place in the event that someone wanted to buy the line and operate it as a railroad.

I scrambled to get into position to get off the top photo, which is the best of the three frames I made of this train approaching the crossing at North 16th Street.

To the left is what is left of the passenger platform for the NYC station, which is out of sight to the left.

In the bottom photo the train is about to cross North 15th Street. I’ve often wondered why this train was out here.

Perhaps the crane had been out picking up things to be removed in preparation for removing the rails.

Or maybe the crane had been stored elsewhere and needed to be moved off the line now that it was no longer being used to haul freight and Conrail was in the process of walking away from it.

I also often have wondered what was going through the minds of the two railroaders on the back of the caboose.

Were they making the last trip they would ever make over these rails? If not, it was likely one of their last trips.

What are they thinking? Are they reflecting on their railroad careers?

It is a mystery for which I will never know the answer. More than three decades later, I’m glad that I was in the right place at the right time and had a camera with me.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

 

 

Black and Blue at Brady Lake 36 Years Apart

January 26, 2015

 

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Once I got word that the Conrail/Penn Central heritage duo would be through my area in daylight (thanks to all for updates), the choice of location was a no brainer for me.

I have been photographing from this location since the 1970s, all through Conrail’s existence.

It’s been said “you can’t go home again,” but the Norfolk Southern heritage program provides a close stand-in for how the past might look like today.

The top photo is, of course, the 24M from Sunday and the second photo is from January 1979 of a Conrail eastbound with an earlier blue/black duo. Who’d a thunk it?

Overgrowth has hidden the former Lake Erie & Pittsburgh (New York Central) northern flyover track and the trough truss bridge came out in the clearance project of the mid 1990s.

The south connection is still in as the Hugo lead for about two miles but is currently out of service.

Also included in the sequence are two more earlier Conrail photos from Brady Lake that were created in February 1979.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee


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