Posts Tagged ‘CSX in Akron’

Steam Saturday: Chasing the CM&StP 261 Ferry Move in June 1996

October 31, 2020
Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261 steams out of Orchard Park, New York, on June 16, 1996. The tracks here have since been ripped out.

In 1995 Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul 4-8-4 No. 261 left its home in Minnesota and ventured east to help Steamtown National Historic Site celebrate its grand opening.

The Northern-type locomotive built by Alco in July 1944 had been restored to operating condition in 1993 by a group known as the Friends of the 261.

I was on hand when the 261 participated in the parade of steam locomotives held during the grand opening festivities on July 1.

Later that day, the 261 pulled an excursion train from Scranton to Pocono Summit filled with attendees of that year’s convention of the National Railway Historical Society.

The convention actually was held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and we had ridden chartered buses north that morning to board a diesel-powered excursion to Steamtown.

The 261 remained behind in Steamtown for the next year, participating in excursions and other events.

But by June 1996 it was time for the steamer to head home to Minnesota.

I got a telephone call from my friend Bill Stephens, who at the time was living in a suburb of Buffalo, New York, asking if I’d be interested in riding the 261 ferry move from Orchard Park, another Buffalo suburb, to New Castle, Pennsylvania.

Bill was a correspondent for Trains and may have been covering the locomotive’s ferry move for the magazine.

He also invited some other friends to ride along. All we had to do was make a donation to the Friends of the 261 group.

Arranging this outing was complicated because the ferry move was one-way. This meant having to position our vehicles so that we had transportation to and from the train.

On the Friday before the ferry move, I met up with Bill in New Castle at the CSX yard office.

He parked his vehicle there and I then drove him to a motel in Buffalo where the four of us were staying.

The next morning we drove to the former Baltimore & Ohio station in Orchard Park to board the train.

There was a crowd of people on hand train because, well, steam locomotives attract crowds.

Some local officials were having an event to publicize their efforts to acquire the ex-B&O track through Orchard Park for use as a commuter rail service to be known as the Niagara Line. That concept, though, never panned out.

The train arrived and we swung aboard the tool car to get settled. We would spend much of our time in that car because the doors of the former baggage car were open during the trip and that was the place to be to make photographs and listen to the locomotive work.

We were on Buffalo & Pittsburgh tracks to West Eidenau, Pennsylvania, where the train got onto CSX.

It is hard to believe it today, but the 261 ferry move spent a lot of time on CSX going to and from Scranton, including traveling across Ohio and Indiana.

On the rear of the train was an open platform office car carrying a Missouri-Kansas-Texas drumhead.

My memory is that Trains had written about car 403 not long before the ferry move and featured it on the cover.

I spent part of the trip sitting or standing on the 403’s platform. In theory I wasn’t supposed to be in the 403 because I wasn’t a guest of the owner.

But he tolerated me being there, at least for awhile. After the train made a service stop, he approached me and when he began by saying, “well, friend . . .” I knew I had worn out my welcome.

We had brought with us some food items purchased from a Tops grocery store on Friday night. Yet somewhere in Pennsylvania someone ordered pizza to be delivered to the train. That turned out to be dinner for everyone.

There were not many passengers and I don’t remember talking with many of them although I might have.

Someone in our group said one of the passengers was Tom Nemeth, the editor of Railpace.

It was apparent throughout the day that railfan photographers were out in force following us.

It was sunny and the train didn’t move all that fast so I presume it was easy to chase.

In looking at my photographs, I found an image of some small town where our passage interrupted a parade on a downtown street.

We also made a stop at a town in New York at which there was a large crowd at a former B&O depot.

We knew the ferry move would make for a long day, but it turned out to be much longer than I had expected. Even someone who enjoys riding trains is ready to get off at some point.

Darkness came, the chasing photographers went home and I was sitting in a coach seat trying to catch some sleep.

We spent quite a bit of time in Butler, Pennsylvania, during the night. I believe we were waiting for a CSX pilot crew.

I remember seeing a train pass by overhead in the dark on a bridge as we sat in Butler.

One of Bill’s friends got down from the train, walked up to the locomotive and climbed up into the cab. He sat in the engineer’s seat for a while and, he said, began dozing off.

In retrospect I wished I had taken the time to visit the cab, too.

By the time we reached New Castle it was around 4 a.m. We had reserved motel rooms there and needless to say I was dead tired.

I shared a room with Bill’s friend Edmund who had traveled from Washington, D.C., to ride the ferry move.

Not only were we tired, we were covered in cinders and soot. Edmund stood in the bathtub and shook all of the cinders off. He then washed them down the drain.

It never felt so good to take a shower than it did after this trip.

The ferry move left Sunday morning to travel through Northeast Ohio on the CSX New Castle Subdivision.

But I was heading back to Buffalo to retrieve my car and return to Cleveland.

* * * * *

Over the years I’ve experienced a number of tie backs to that June 1996 day.

About eight years after it occurred I was sitting in Dave McKay’s living room on a Saturday night looking at slides of images that I might use in a book I was working on.

Dave had grabbed various boxes of images he thought I might find interesting.

Onto the screen popped photographs Dave had made of that 261 ferry move.

“I was on that train,” I said out loud. Dave had not known that.

He rattled off the names of other Northeast Ohio railfans who had been chasing the ferry move as well.

It was interesting to see that day’s trip from “the ground.”

Fast forward another 11 years and more photographs of the 261 ferry move surfaced when I was working on my second Akron Railroads book.

These images, though, had not been made in New York or Pennsylvania, but in Akron.

I number of people I had met through the Akron Railroad Club were standing near the tracks by the former Akron Union Depot when the 261 made a service stop.

In early July 2017 I traveled with Marty Surdyk and Ed Ribinskas to Arcade, New York, to photograph the Arcade & Attica steam train.

We stopped in Springville, New York, to photograph a passenger station and the right of way of an abandoned rail line turned into a trail.

This placed looked familiar. Marty said it had once been the B&O line out of Buffalo.

Then it clicked. This was the station at which we had stopped during the June 1996 261 ferry move.

I looked at my slides later and found an image I made of that station from the tool car. I had been there before.

About two weeks ago Ed emailed me some photographs of the 1996 ferry move. He thought he remembered my showing photographs of it during an ARRC program years ago and my having ridden it.

I didn’t remember doing that and a check of my past ARRC programs didn’t turn up any indication that I had.

Maybe Ed remembered a story I had written about that stop in Springview I had made on that trip to the Arcade & Attica.

Whatever the case, it prompted me to write this memory of my time riding the 261 ferry move. It is the last time I’ve ridden behind the 261.

I’ve seen it once since then, a fleeting glimpe through the windows of a Metra commuter train in Chicago.

And that visit to Steamtown in 1995 remains the only time I’ve been there, too.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photographs by Ed Ribinskas

At Beaver Siding, New York. The tracks gone here, too.
At Ellicottville, New York. The next image was made there also.
This and the next image were made at Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania.
At Akron Union Depot on June 16, 1996
Steaming out of Akron.
The chase ended in Willard.

Its Chessie, Oops, CSX in Akron

August 14, 2020

You’re forgiven if you thought at first glance this was a Chessie System train. It does have a Chessie leader and four Chessie boxcars behind the motive power.

But a closer look shows the trailing locomotives are lettered for CSX. The train is westbound in Akron on April 9, 1983.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Early CSX Motive Power in Akron

May 20, 2020

CSX turns 40 this year although that anniversary date is several months away on Nov. 1.

Like Conrail the early years of CSX were marked by a rainbow of liveries of predecessor railroads.

Unlike Conrail, which decided on a livery of blue with white lettering and stood with it pretty much until the end, CSX has made a number of changes in how it has painted its locomotives.

One of its early liveries was known as blue stripe for a large blue stripe along the engine walkway.

It was a short-lived look that lasted a year but not before 178 units received it.

This CSX auto rack train is eastbound in Akron in mid-1989.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Spanning 3 Generations

April 1, 2020

At first glance, this appears to be a Chessie System train. But look more closely at the second and third units.

They are wearing Seaboard System attire. This is actually a CSX train westbound in Akron on April 9, 1988.

The lead unit carries markings for the Baltimore & Ohio and the train is, of course, on an ex-B&O mainline.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Taking the Farkas Challenge: Railroads Helped Make Akron the Rubber Capital of the World

July 11, 2016

Farkas Surdyk

Akron has long described itself as the nation’s rubber capital. That’s no longer true for the rubber industry has all but vanished here.

Even though the rubber plants have closed – and most of them have been razed – and the headquarters of most of the rubber companies have moved elsewhere, the rubber industry will always be a major part of Akron’s identity.

For the Farkas challenge, I have nominated this image by Marty Surdyk because it harkens back to the era when rubber factories were located all over town.

Shown is an eastbound CSX auto rack passing the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company plant in South Akron.

That this is an auto rack train is significant because at one time the vast majority of tires that U.S. automotive makers put on their automobiles at the factory had been manufactured in Akron.

By the time this photograph was made in August 1988, the rubber age in Akron was all but over.

Between the train and the Firestone plant is the remnants of South Akron Yard of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was used by Conrail at the time, but not for much longer.

To the right of the train is an open space where the Erie Railroad/Erie Lackawanna tracks used to be. Now all that is left is some ballast.

Akron is not as well known for railroads as some places, but they played a key role in the city’s industrial heritage. Akron could not have become was it was without the railroads.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Marty Surdyk

CSX YN2 Livery Gets Fresh Outlook on Life

June 27, 2016



CSX No. 156 a GE C40-9W led train Q015 through Akron on Sunday and I caught it passing the old Schwebel’s bakery at Cuyahoga Falls.

What makes this 20-something –year-old engine interesting is its paint. It wears what CSX calls the YN2, scheme which was the standard paint during the 1990s.

This engine is freshly painted in 2016, however. Why is that?

Well, apparently, it was involved in a wreck while offline in Mexico. It was rebuilt and received its new paint while there.

Ferromex used another CSX locomotive also painted in YN2 as the basis for this repaint.

And so the YN2 scheme has been resurrected at least for this one engine.

Article and Photographs byTodd Dillon

Then and Now At Voris Street in Akron

March 14, 2016



Erie Lackawanna No. 2552 is making up its train in Akron in this late 1960s/early 1970s image in an image made near Voris Street with the Thornton Street bridge visible. This might really be an eastbound with its power on the west end for switching purposes.

In the photo below, it is March 12, 2016, and westbound CSX No. 235 with train Q137 appears in a similar shot that shows a great number of differences between then and now.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

‘Phoebe Snow’ Does CSX New Castle Sub

July 13, 2015

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The Lackawanna heritage unit of Norfolk Southern made an appearance last Saturday on the New Castle Subdivision of CSX.

Coming over CSX from Delaware gave several days of advance notice for this trip.

Early Saturday morning, the empty oil train that it was leading pulled into the yard at Connellsville, Pennsylvania, for its 1,000 mile inspection.  This took about eight to nine hours before getting underway again.

Progress through Pittsburgh was slow going and we headed to New Castle, Pennsylvania, which would be the next crew change point.

After getting a couple pictures in New Castle we headed a little west toward Lowellville, Ohio.

About a half hour later the “Pheobe Snow” came through. We chased it to Youngstown, barely missing it there.

The next stop was Akron where I got it at the location of the old Erie freight house, which is now an apartment complex catering to University of Akron students.  Here my chase ended as the sky had clouded up.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon