Posts Tagged ‘CSX New Castle Subdivision’

Oops, There’s a Train

May 26, 2018

I took my camera with me during a recent walk on the Portage County Hike & Bike Trail near Kent.

The trail runs parallel to the CSX New Castle Subdivision and passes through where the Erie Yard and shops used to be.

There are a couple of benches along the trail, one of which faces the tracks. There are even some open areas to make photographs.

Unfortunately, the area right in front of the bench facing the tracks is not one of those.

I didn’t have my radio with me so I was counting on hearing an approaching train.

How much in advance you hear it depends on conditions. I heard an approaching train all right but saw it at the same time that I heard it.

I scrambled toward an open area, which was not the one that where I wanted to be.

The top image was far as I could get to get an open view of the lead engine of what I believe is the Q015.

The bottom image was made in the clearing where I’d prefer to photograph a westbound train.

Although it didn’t quite work this time, there is always another day and another train. Next time I’ll make sure to take my scanner.

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Near Miss in the H Unit Lottery

May 15, 2018

National Train Day wasn’t too bad depending on where you were.

Railfans in Rochelle, Illinois, got treated to two of Union Pacific’s heritage units on the same train.

Closer to home something unusual started to unfold. The Lehigh Valley heritage unit was leading an eastbound intermodal spotted at Chesterton, Indiana, early that morning.

That’s isn’t so unusual. We typically get more than our share of heritage engines in Northeast Ohio on Norfolk Southern.

Also that morning the NS Honoring First Responders unit was leading an eastbound CSX freight. This turned out to be the S370 which takes the New Castle Sub through Akron.

As both were still hours away I settled in at Rootstown to railfan Norfolk Southern yet still be close enough to jump over to CSX if need be.

As the day progressed I relocated to Ravenna where the two lines cross on a bridge.

Checking on the progress of both trains, it was going to be close. I began hoping for an over and under meet which is difficult enough but with two special painted engines that’s like hitting the lottery.

Well, the Lehigh Valley arrived first and the 9-1-1 engine came within 10 minutes. I didn’t get an over and under but I did get the two engines at the same location. Not a bad day at all.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Somethin’ Different on CSX in Kent

April 16, 2018

On Saturday the Lackawanna heritage unit of Norfolk Southern led CSX train S370 through the Akron area at about 4:30 p.m. I caught it passing under the Erie station in Kent. The train originated in Chicago on Friday.

Photograph by Todd Dillon

Northeast Ohio Memory

February 3, 2018

We don’t usually think of images of CSX as being vintage until they are showing one of its predecessor railroads still wearing a fallen flag livery.

Yet CSX has been around since 1986 and although it remains a major player in the Northeast Ohio railroad scene that you can seen every day, even it has a history worth retelling.

Consider, for example, this image made by Akron Railroad Club member Bob Farkas.

It is early 1999 in Kent and CSX 8185 is passing the ex-Baltimore & Ohio freight station.

The freight station has since been razed and although standard cab locomotives are not extinct at CSX, they are far less common than they used to be, particularly when running in pairs.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

CSX Will Keep New Castle Sub

January 24, 2018

The review of the future of the CSX New Castle Subdivision turned out to be brief.

Trains magazine, which reported earlier this week that the former Baltimore & Ohio route between Baltimore and Greenwich, Ohio, was among 8,000 miles of routes that CSX was looking to potentially sell or lease, reported a day later that CSX plans to continue operating the route.

Trains said that new Executive Vice President of Operations Edmond Harris pushed for keeping the line, which passes through Akron, Kent and Youngstown.

In both reports, the magazine did not name its sources, saying only that the information came from “people familiar with the matter.”

The New Castle Sub begins at Greenwich and extends eastward to West Pittsburgh. If CSX were to sell or lease the line that hosts about 24 trains a day it would in effect be pulling out of Pittsburgh.

The Baltimore-Greenwich route was once the B&O’s primary route between Chicago and Baltimore/Washington and hosted such passenger trains as the Capitol Limited, Diplomat, Shenandoah and Ambassador.

Trains said that a CSX spokesman would not confirm the decision to exclude the Baltimore-Greenwich line from consideration for sale or lease, nor would the carrier affirm the accuracy of the list that the magazine published on its website.

The ex-B&O route west of Greenwich is CSX’s primary freight route between Chicago and the middle Atlantic and New England regions of the East Coast.

Anthony Hatch of ABH Consulting told Trains that he expects CSX to reveal more information about its potential line sales or leases during an investor’s conference to be held on March 1 in New York.

Hatch said he was surprised that CSX would consider selling or leasing as much as 8,000 miles of track, calling it “serious stuff.” The 8,000 route miles would represent a third of the railroad’s 21,000-mile network.

In its initial report, Trains said that not all 8,000 of those miles were expected to actually be sold or leased to a short line, regional or startup operator.

A few routes in Illinois and Florida have already been offered by CSX for sale or lease.

CSX May Sell or Lease New Castle Sub

January 23, 2018

CSX may seek to sell or lease its New Castle Subdivision that operates through Akron, Youngstown and Kent.

Trains magazine reported on Monday that the line is among 8,000 miles that CSX is reviewing, although not all of the route miles are expected to be sold or leased.

In its report, Trains said CSX is eyeing sale or lease of the former Baltimore & Ohio mainline between Baltimore and Greenwich, Ohio. If that is the case, CSX would no longer be serving Pittsburgh.

Also reported to be under scrutiny are the Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal and unidentified branch lines in Ohio.

One of the latter could be the former Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling subdivision that operates between Cleveland and Lorain, and the New Castle Sub at Sterling.

The intermodal terminal at North Baltimore became an underused facility last year when CSX closed it. It might be attractive to a western railroad.

Trains said that the review encompasses more than a third of the railroad’s 21,000-mile network and is being motivated for a desire to cut costs to boost profitability.

CSX would be able to reduce labor and maintenance costs by shedding thousands of miles of track.

The railroad had signaled last year that it was going to review all of its assets.

“Everything we’ve got out there is going to go through some scrutiny. If it creates shareholder value to sell it, we’re going to sell it,” the late E. Hunter Harrison said at a conference last November. “If it creates shareholder value to keep it, we’re going to keep it.”

Other CSX routes that Trains reported as being under review are:

  • The former Boston & Albany main and associated branch lines in Massachusetts.
  • The former Louisville & Nashville between Cincinnati and Atlanta.
  • Most of the former B&O between Cincinnati and East St. Louis, Illinois.
  • Former Pere Marquette trackage in Michigan.
  • CSX routes to Canada and related U.S. trackage.
  • The Appalachian coal network, including portions of the former Clinchfield.
  • Large sections of the Florence Division in the Carolinas.
  • The Dothan sub in Alabama and Georgia.
  • The Auburndale sub in Florida.
  • Branches and redundant trackage in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and New York.

The first four subdivisions were put out to bid last week. They included the Decatur and Danville subdivisions in Illinois, and the Tallahassee and PA Subdivisions in Florida.

Trains said CSX is expected to put a handful of subdivisions up for sale or lease every few weeks.

CSX acknowledged in a statement that it was reviewing its network and operations, but gave few details about which routes are under scrutiny.

The review process has attracted the attention of short line and regional railroads as well as private equity investment firms.

Among those reported to be expressing interest have been Genesee & Wyoming, Watco, OmniTRAX, and RJ Corman.

Before Harrison arrived at CSX last spring, the carrier had announced a program known as CSX of Tomorrow that concentrated capital spending on a triangle of routes extending from Chicago to Florida to New Jersey and back to Chicago.

Also given priority were routes to New England, St. Louis and Baltimore with the latter including the former B&O mainline via Cumberland, Maryland.

That 9,200-mile network handles 84 percent of CSX train miles and produces two-thirds of its originating and terminating traffic.

However, CSX at the time said that other routes would continue to be maintained, albeit at a lower level of maintenance and speed.

Those routes originated a third of CSX traffic and then-CSX CEO Michael Ward was reluctant to give them up through sale, lease or abandonment.

Under the latest management review, CSX appears to believe that it will continue to handle most of the traffic originating or terminating on the lines it is seeking to dispose of, only without having to pay for them.

Back When We Still Were Wearing Shorts

December 23, 2017

Remember last July? Remember the day of the Akron Railroad Club picnic? It was warm that day and most of us had shorts on with t-shirts or short sleeve shirts.

CSX cooperated and ran some trains. Nothing out of the ordinary came past that day. Unlike at the 2016 picnic, a report of a heritage unit on the Fort Wayne Line of Norfolk Southern didn’t send several of us scurrying to intercept it at Massillon or some other point.

As is typical of the CSX New Castle Subdivision, there were some long lulls between trains.

The action picked up some late in the day. Those of us still there even walked down the street and stood next to the easternmost building in “downtown” Warwick to catch the K182 as it rolled into the nice early evening light.

About 15 minutes earlier, the photo line had captured local D750 returning to its home base after working in Akron and Barberton.

It remains to be determined if the ARRC will return to Warwick in 2018 for its annual picnic or go elsewhere. The officers will hash that out in January.

In the meantime, here are a few memories of this year’s picnic.

The K182 had a hopper car still wearing the Family Lines markings.

After a long day, the D750 returns to its home base in Warwick.

The rear of the U700 lumbering eastbound.

Westbound train Q375 makes an appearance.

The westbound Q299 had a road slug in its motive power consist.

Here comes the Q299 making some smoke as it accelerates.

The Q235 rolls around the curve and into Warwick. It was one of two auto rack trains that came through town during the late morning hours.

SEPTA, MARC Motors Pass Through Region

December 11, 2017

Last Friday CSX train W991 was a complete surprise. When it hit the detector west of Warwick, the detector said there were 22 axles.

Needless to say, I expected something like a work train with a few gondolas. Instead I was able to photograph CSX 340 eastbound with one SEPTA and three MARC locomotives. The number on the SEPTA unit looks like 90 while the MARC units appear to be 82, 81, and 80. While the detector said 22 axles, there appears to be an extra locomotive at the end. That would give 26 axles.

Also shown are CSX 1513 and its partner are the power for CSX train D750.

The locomotives are ACS-64 electrics that left the Siemens factory in Sacramento, California.

The SEPTA unit is the first ACS-64 to be delivered to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which serves the Philadelphia region.

SEPTA awarded Siemens a $118 million contract in 2015 to supply 13 ACS-64s to replace its eight AEM-7 and ALP-44 locomotives on Lansdale-Doylestown, Paoli-Thorndale, and Wilmington-Newark commuter services, and expand the electric locomotive fleet to meet additional ridership demand.

The ACS-64s will operate with SEPTA Regional Rail’s existing fleet of 36 Bombardier double-deck coaches as well as 45 new coaches ordered last year from CRRC Tangshan, which are due to be delivered from 2019 onwards.

The motors are expected to begin revenue service in early 2018.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

Vindication of Sorts on the New Castle Sub

November 30, 2017

Yesterday I wrote about an outing I had on the CSX New Castle Subdivision near Kent in which I had hoped in vain to get a westbound train in gloriously warm late-day light. It didn’t happen.

It was the second time I had come up empty hoping for a westbound on the New Castle Sub in the nice late-day sunlight.

With CSX operations still in a state of flux as the precision scheduled railroading operations model is implemented, I’ve treated my recent visits to the New Castle Sub as learning experiences.

Some trains have been annulled while others have been consolidated.

Railfanning the New Castle Sub has always tended to be a feast or famine proposition and now that is even more the case.

But if E. Hunter Harrison is trying to implement train operations that run on a schedule, then with enough observations I should be able to discern a pattern as to when those trains are likely to operate.

Four days after striking out on getting a westbound near Kent in late-day light I decided to try it again.

This time I got an earlier start, arriving at about 1:15 p.m. along the tracks where they run alongside the Portage County Hike and Bike Trail.

Aside from gathering information on how the New Castle Sub is operating these days, another benefit of these outing has been getting exercise. It is a mile walk in and a mile walk out.

This time I bought my scanner and camera bag. I set them down on a bench and began the waiting game.

I had seen trains operating westbound on the New Castle Sub in early afternoon during forays to Kent last October. Those included the Q015, the Q137 and the Q299.

I had been waiting about a half hour when the radio came to life. It was the Q015 calling the signal at “Davey Tree.”

I scrambled to get into position. The sunlight at about 2 p.m. is not as warm as that in late afternoon, but still quite nice.

That’s due to the low sun angles of this time of year and the fact that it provided more side lighting than would be the case in another two hours.

Q015 came rumbling around the curve with CSX ES44AC-H No. 721 on the point and a BNSF “pumpkin” trailing.

I suppose it would have been nice had the order of the locomotives been reversed, but I didn’t want to be too greedy.

I got the westbound that had eluded me a few days earlier, albeit in light that was not as warm as that of the earlier outing.

I debated whether to stay a little longer and hope for another westbound. I had to be home by about 4:30 p.m. so I didn’t have much time to work with.

It would take time to walk the mile back to my car and I also had a hankering to get a Norfolk Southern train crossing the Cuyahoga River by the Akron water treatment plant along Ravenna Road.

I elected to try to get the NS shot on the theory that I had a higher chance because the NS Cleveland Line has far more traffic than the CSX New Castle Sub.

I relocated to Tower’s Woods park and set up my big antenna with my scanner. I continued to monitor the CSX frequencies out of curiosity.

Sure enough, shortly after I arrived at Towner’s Wood, I heard CSX auto rack train Q299 calling signals followed not afterward by a westbound coal train.

However, I also got wind of an NS dimension train coming west and I was able to get the photograph I wanted of that train crossing the Cuyahoga. It was, for once, a win-win afternoon.

Where Was a Westbound When I Needed it?

November 29, 2017

Photographers crave late day light. It casts a golden glow and hence the hour before sunset is often called the golden hour.

Although the golden hour can be found all year around, we are now in a time when there is also a low sun angle as we move toward the December solstice, which this year will occur on Dec. 21.

On a recent walk on the Portage Hike and Bike trail I took my camera in the hopes that CSX would send a train my way when I reached the portion of the trail that runs alongside the CSX New Castle Subdivision just north of Kent.

The light was, indeed, very sweet, and it favored a westbound.

I sat on a bench and waited. It took awhile before I heard what sounded like a CSX locomotive horn. Alas, the sound was coming from town, which suggested an eastbound.

I got into position and sure enough the sound of the locomotives of an approaching train confirmed that I was about to get an eastbound, which turned out to be the Q016.

That is a stack train that runs from Chicago to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and usually passes through Northeast Ohio in daylight hours.

On this particular day, though, it had more bare tables than containers.

I made an image of the last bare table going away and was pleased, overall, with the results.

It was nearly 4 p.m. and I knew that only about an hour of daylight was left and even less time for that light to illuminate a westbound.

I found an open location that was high above the tracks and waited.

I didn’t have my scanner with me so I would have to hope to hear an approaching train in time to be ready to photograph it.

That would be a challenge because across the tracks a worker was doing some work at the Standing Rock Cemetery that involved the use of a loud power tool.

As luck would have it, the worker quit for the day just after 4.

I was hoping to get the Q015, the westbound counterpart to the Q016. I’ve seen it in late afternoon passing through Kent.

The minutes continued to tick by and the sun continued to move. I noticed that it was slowly edging out onto the tracks.

Even if I got a westbound there would be little, if any, light on the side of the train. It would be all nose light.

I was fine with that because that can create an interesting effect of light and shadows.

It was getting to be 4:30 and the temperature was becoming noticeably colder. The wind had an increasing bite to it.

As my “drop dead” time approached, I decided to admit defeat and begin the mile-long walk back to my car.

The trail veers away from the CSX tracks and into a grove of trees. Then the former Erie Railroad mainline comes back alongside the trail to the right.

If a CSX train were to pass I’d be able to hear it but not see it. Yet all I heard was the wind.

I paused on the bridge that carries the trail over the double-track CSX New Castle Sub.

The intermediate signals that the crews refer to as “Davey Tree” were dark. They are approach lighted so nothing was imminent.

I didn’t go home empty handed. I had the going away image of the Q016 and I had the top image of the tracks and my long shadow to remind me that some days all you get is air over the rails.