Posts Tagged ‘Cuyahoga Valley National Park’

Wonderful Day for a Picnic and Steam

September 18, 2017

The photo line is out as Nickel Plate Road No. 765 passes the Valley Picnic Area en route back to Akron with the first excursion of the day.

It was a perfect day for a picnic. Under sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 70s, 17 Akron Railroad Club members and guests descended on the Valley Picnic Area in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to watch Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 pass by four times as it carried excursionists out of Akron on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

The Berkshire locomotive built in Lima, Ohio, performed flawlessly and cameras were out to record its passage.

At least one ARRC member, Vice President Emeritus J. Gary Dillon, was aboard the train, riding in car 165 on the afternoon trip with his niece Lisa.

As always, Chef Martè fired up the grill and served up hamburgers and hot dogs.

It was the second time the ARRC has held a September picnic in the CVNP in conjunction with a visit by the 765.

Last year we also held a picnic at the same location when the 765 was operating as the 767. Attendance at that picnic was 27 and may have been boosted by the novelty factor of NKP 765 operating with a different number.

We observed that there didn’t seem to be quite as many photographers out chasing the 765 as there had been last year or in some previous years.

To be sure, there were still a lot of people in the park with cameras. But the posse chasing 765 along Riverview Road as the steam train passed by wasn’t as long as in previous years and we didn’t recognize anyone we knew.

However, the steam trains appeared to be well patronized and as in past years the premium seats in the open window and dome cars were sold out.

Between runs of the steam train we also observed the passage of the regular CVSR train, the National Park Scenic, three times.

It had FPA-4 No. 6771 on the north end and Alco C424 No. 4241 on the south end. Most of the CVSR’s feature cars were on the steam train so the Scenic had an abbreviated consist that included a caboose.

For the record the steam train had RS18u No. 1822 on its north end.

If you missed the 765 this past weekend, it will be pulling another slate of trips on Sept. 23 out of Rockside Road station and on Sept. 24 out of Akron.

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society is paying tribute to the late Jerry Joe Jacobson, a lifetime ARRC member, by placing his name beneath the cab widows on both sides of the 765 above the number.

Jacobson, who died on Sept. 13, was the developer of the Age of Steam Roundhouse as well as a friend of the steam locomotive preservation community.

The chef has another round of burgers on the grill while hungry members go through the serving table.

When two old railroaders get together they are going to talk a little shop. Paul Woodring (left) and Bob Rohal try to solve the problems of the industry while agreeing it’s not what it used to be.

The engineer of NKP 765 gives us some whistle as the train passes the ARRC picnic. The locomotive paid tribute to Jerry Jacobson on the cab.

A few ARRC members can be seen at right photographing the northbound excursion in mid afternoon.

The sunlight was still barely over the tree line as the last excursion of the day headed for Akron along Riverview Road.


CVSR to Run Fall Foliage Specials

September 14, 2017

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad plans to operate two-hour fall foliage trains in October in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The trains will depart from Rockside Road station and run nonstop to Indigo Lake before reversing direction and returning to Rockside.

The specials will operate on Saturdays and Sundays and consist of coach, ADA and dining car seating. Snacks, drinks and merchandise will be available for purchase in the concession car.

Tickets will be $20 for coach and $25 for deluxe seating at tables in the dining car

All passengers ages 3 and over require a ticket. Passengers ages 2 and under do not require a ticket, but must sit on a parent’s or guardian’s lap.

CVSR Now Running 6 Days Each Week

June 3, 2017

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad has resumed its summer schedule, operating six days a week, which is a change from past seasons when trains ran five days a week during the summer.

Also new this year is that the National Park Scenic will make just two roundtrips on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The Scenic will make three roundtrips on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Trains will not operate on Mondays.

On Tuesday and Thursdays, the train will depart Rockside Station in Independence at 9 a.m. and 12:50 p.m. Akron departures at 10:55 a.m. and 2:50 p.m.

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays the same schedule is in effect plus a 4:45 p.m. departure from Rockside and a 6:45 p.m. departure from Akron.

Intermediate stops include the Canal Exploration Center, Brecksville, Boston Mill, Peninsula, Indigo Lake, Botzum and Big Bend.

Coach tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children and are good for travel all day.

Upper level dome tickets are available for $28 for adults and $23 for children. These tickets are good for one continuous roundtrip and passengers may not disembark at an intermediate stop.

The same conditions also apply for first class tickets, which are priced at $23 for adults and $18 for children.

Tooling With Thomas

May 25, 2017

Most railroad photographers give little thought to getting out to photograph Thomas the Tank Engine. I didn’t either until this year.

It is hard to take seriously a pint-sized steam locomotive that’s not really a locomotive but a “shoving platform” that is a cartoon character designed to appeal to children.

I’ve done my share of mocking Thomas by referring to him as “Thomas the tanked engine” and “man, is our Thomas tanked.” The word tanked in this context refers to being intoxicated.

The fictional steam locomotive first appeared in The Railway Series books by British authors Wilbert and Christopher Awdry and later became the star of a television series.

There is nothing small about Thomas, though, when it comes to money. For many tourist railroads, Thomas pulls in badly needed dollars to fund restoration and maintenance work. Trains magazine recently described him as “Thomas the bank engine.”

The Thomas franchise operates worldwide and is worth $1 billion annually in sales.

Since making his first appearance on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in May 1998, Thomas has become the second most popular special event behind the Polar Express – another children’s story – and draws 25,000 to 26,000 passengers a year.

That is far more than who ride behind a real steam locomotive, Nickel Plate Road No. 765.

There are multiple versions of Thomas that tour the United States, often appearing on tourist railroads. One Thomas was converted from a 1916 steam locomotive that served Brooklyn Dock & Terminal in New York City.

Google “Thomas the Tank Engine” and you’ll find that in some quarters there is an intense dislike of Thomas, with one commentator saying the TV program featuring Thomas is filled with messages of classism, sexism and anti-environmentalism bordering on racism.

Other parents have been critical of Thomas by saying he and his friends are nasty, negative and set a bad example for children, particularly in their shirking of their responsibilities, showing off and competing against each other.

Such thinking, though, hasn’t kept Thomas from becoming a superstar among children or kept many parents from taking their children to see and ride behind Thomas.

Earlier this year when I was working on my book about the CVSR, I decided I would get out to see Thomas this year. I wanted to document Thomas because, like him or not, he is a part of the story of the CVSR.

The half-hour Thomas excursions leave from Boston Mill station every hour at half past the hour.

As I approached Boston Mill while driving southbound on Riverview Road, there was a long line of people waiting to get into a large tent, presumably the passengers for the 9:30 a.m. trip.

I knew from reading the CVSR website that various ancillary activities surround the visit of Thomas – most of which are designed to appeal to children – but I was surprised at how much the area around the station resembled a carnival minus the Ferris wheel and tilt-a-wheel rides.

Much of the carnival was located on the west side of Riverview on the property of Boston Mill ski resort. You can’t gain access to the site without a ticket.

So much for my idea of walking around and getting a feel for the Thomas experience.

On every other excursion, Thomas would meet the CVSR National Park Scenic train in Peninsula.

So that was where I waited. At 10:44 a.m., Thomas came steaming into town and went into the siding.

Maybe “steaming” isn’t the right word to use since Thomas is not a live steam locomotive. But he does make smoke, although not consistently.

Thomas has a steam whistle, which isn’t that loud, but it’s a whistle. There is one light on his right side that at first glance resembles a ditch light.

His eyes go back and forth and his mouth moves, too. I didn’t know that Thomas could talk, but he does.

The Thomas specials on the CVSR were being pulled and propelled by CVSR FPA-4 No. 6777. A crew member in the cab of Thomas communicated with the 6777 by radio.

Shortly after the arrival of Thomas and his train, the southbound Scenic arrived. Thomas departed and the Scenic did its station work.

My plan to photograph Thomas next to CVSR 4241 was marred somewhat by people standing in front of Thomas when the Scenic arrived.

A small crowd of onlookers was drawn to Thomas with their smart phone cameras out.

I stayed in Peninsula until the next meet occurred between the Scenic and Thomas. This time the Scenic did its station work before Thomas got there and I was able to get a clearer view of No. 4241 and Thomas. The Scenic left and Thomas followed it out of town a few minutes later.

I had made enough photographs of Thomas, to satisfy my curiosity and to fill a void in my CVSR collection so I left, too.

Thomas takes the siding at Peninsula to allow the CVSR Scenic to pass on the mainline.

Thomas is modeled after a British steam locomotive design.

Here comes Thomas minus his friends.

CVSR crew members have their smart phones out as Thomas chugs into Peninsula for a meet with the CVSR Scenic.

Children aboard the CVSR Scenic get a glimpse of Thomas as the two trains pass in Peninsula.

Thomas steams out of Peninsula to return to Boston Mill.

Thomas Returns to CVSR this Weekend

May 19, 2017

Thomas the Tank Engine is returning to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad this weekend with trips from Boston Mill station on Saturday and Sunday.

Thomas will make a return visit on May 26-28, also departing from Boston Mill station.

The CVSR said that only those who have purchased Thomas tickets or a site ticket will be allowed into the boarding and festival area at Boston Mill. A site ticket grants admission to the Boston Mill station area, but does not include the half-hour train ride.

The site will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and include magicians, bounce houses, balloon artists, live entertainment and railroad displays.

Fares are $18 for all trips on Friday and $20 or $22 for Saturday and Sunday trips.

The $20 tickets are good for the 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. trips.  The $22 tickets are for the 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. trips.

Passengers are advised to arrive at the site an hour before departure time.

Speed Limit Drops on Riverview Road in CVNP

April 8, 2017

I got an email this week from fellow Akron Railroad Club member Paul Woodring letting me know that the speed limit on Riverview Road through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park fell to 35 mph on April 4.

Although a new state law mandated the change, a story in the Akron Beacon Journal said the lower speed limit was requested by Summit County engineer Al Brubaker.

He told the Beacon Journal he wanted the speed limit lowered for safety reasons due to joggers, bicyclists and pedestrians mingling on “curvy and hilly” highways with motor vehicles.

“While drivers, riders and pedestrians will still need to use common care and caution within the park, at least we will now be able to post the county’s park roads at a more reasonable speed limit,” Brubaker said in a statement.

As Paul sees it, though, the slower speed limit makes it difficult if not impossible to chase steam trains on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

Before the recent change, Riverview Road had a myriad of speed limits. From north to south it was 25 mph from Pleasant Valley Road to Ohio Route 82, 35 mph to the Cuyahoga-Summit county line, 40 mph to Peninsula, 35 mph in Peninsula to Ohio Route 303, 25 mph to the Peninsula border, 35 mph to just north of the diagonal crossing of the CVSR tracks, and 45 mph to Cuyahoga Falls where the speed limit again dropped to 35 mph.

The speed limit will be dropping on other roads in the CVNP, but Riverview is of special interest to railroad photographers because it is parallel with the CVSR tracks.

I have chased Nickel Plate Road No. 765 and Ohio Central No. 1293 on Riverview Road, but found plenty of other obstacles other than the speed limit to chasing a steam train on the CVSR.

Most notable among them is the traffic light at Riverview and Route 303 where traffic backs up when the chase is on. I’ve missed out on more than one photograph because I got hung up at that signal.

It also can be difficult to catch up with a steam train on the CVSR if you photograph it in Peninsula. The weather is usually nice in September and the town is crowded with tourists.

Finding a parking space is tough and navigating your way out of town after getting your photographs is time-consuming due to traffic. I’ve missed the photo runbys at Boston Mill because it took so long to get out of Peninsula.

Some of the photo locations that I favor require some walking to get in and out. That often means being one and done with that particular trip of the steam train.

The lower speed limits are not going to change my strategy for photographing NKP 765 – or whatever number it operates with this year – if it comes back to the CVSR in September.

I’ll determine my photo locations for the day and travel on Riverside when the train is doing its photo runbys at Boston Mill or sitting in the station where trips begin and end. In short, it requires realistic planning and not being so reactive.

Anyone who has chased a steam train has stories to tell about photographers who drove recklessly to get to their next photo op, putting not only themselves at risk of injury but other photographers and motorists who were not there to chase a train.

I also remember a time when I was standing by the CVSR tracks near the Valley Picnic area.

I thought it odd that there was little traffic on Riverview going the direction of the train.

As the train came into view I could see why. A vehicle with a guy making video was pacing the steam locomotive and traffic was backed up behind him.

It doesn’t matter what the speed limit is when someone is behaving like that.

Merriman Valley CVSR Station Being Sought

March 25, 2017

In late 1989, the Federal Railroad Administration condemned a railroad bridge over Howard Street in Akron, which effectively prevented the Cuyahoga Valley Line from reaching its Akron boarding site.

The bridge was eventually rebuild using federal money and CVL service returned on Aug. 1, 1993.

In 1991 and 1992 CVL trains terminated in the Merriman business district along Riverview Road in far northwest Akron.

Now merchants in that area want to see the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad as it is known now resumed stopping there.

The Merriman Valley Business Association has posted a petition at seeking support for establishing a Merriman Valley station  in land owned by the Summit Metro Parks.

The site would be somewhere between the Greater Akron Motorcycle Club and the Valley Dental Group.

Aside from the cost of building and maintaining the station, another potential hurdle is the fact that the land in question is a wetland.

A spokeswoman for the National Park Service, which owns the tracks used by the CVSR, said the NPS has yet to be contacted by anyone concerning the station proposal.

Likewise, a Metro Parks spokesman said no one has contacted his organization although it is aware of the petition.

If the petition receives at least 500 signatures, it will be presented to the Akron City Council, the CVSR and the Conservancy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The business association sees stopping CVSR trains in the Merriman Valley as one of many steps they hope to undertake to attract more visitors.

They also plan to host a farmer’s market and are pushing for signs along the Towpath Trail to direct hikers and bikers to the business district.

CVSR Volunteers Set Service Record in 2016

March 6, 2017
A CVSR crew member watches for the arrival a steam train during a meet in Peninsula in September 2016.

A CVSR crew member watches for the arrival a steam train during a meet in Peninsula in September 2016.

Volunteers contributed a record 93,000 hours of service to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in 2016.

CVSR said that the service was provided by 1,740 volunteers and their work was the equivalent of approximately 45 full-time employees.

The previous record was 91,000 hours of service set in 2015.

“They are an integral part of every aspect of our organization and their support and dedication allowed us to bring quality programs to more than 214,000 passengers in 2016,” said Sherri Lemley, CVSR manager of trustee and volunteer relations.

CVSR volunteers fulfill a range of duties, including providing on-board service, developing safety initiatives and promoting CVSR and Cuyahoga Valley National Park at community events.

In a related development, the CVSR said that volunteer Mary Stewart has been named the recipient of the CVNP’s 2016 Safety Award. The award is given by the CVNP Safety Advisory Council.

Stewart served as chair of the CVSR Fire Extinguisher Committee and has overseen efforts to assure the readiness of CVSR’s fire extinguishers.

Her team has installed fire extinguishers at Fitzwater Yard and Shops, om stations and aboard CVSR’s rolling stock.

Stewart has contributed 3,000 hours of service to the CVSR as a volunteer since June 2013 and has served as a trainman and a regular steward on the Saint Lucie Sound observation-lounge car.

CVSR Service Expands Today

March 4, 2017


Starting today the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad will expand service to Saturdays and Sundays on weekends. Since mid January the railroad had operated only on Saturdays.

Service will expand to Friday, Saturday and Sunday in May when  service also begins at intermediate stations at the Canal Education Center, Brecksville,  Boston Mill, Indigo Lake, Botzum and Big Bend.

The new schedule has trains departing from Rockside Road station in Independence at 10 a.m. and 1:50 p.m. and arriving at 1:20 p.m. and 5:10 p.m.

Times are Peninsula are 10:45 a.m., 12:35 p.m., 2:40 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Arriving in Akron are at 11:30 a.m. and 3:25 p.m. while departures are at 11:45 a.m. and 3:40 p.m.


Silent Monuments to the Valley’s Industrial Heritage

February 14, 2017
This bridge over the Cuyahoga River once led to the Jaite Paper Mill, but has not been used since the middle 1980s.

This bridge over the Cuyahoga River once led to the Jaite Paper Mill, but has not been used since the middle 1980s.

I’ve long known that there was a paper mill in Jaite that was served by a spur off the Baltimore & Ohio’s Valley Line between Cleveland and Akron.

Maps at such online sites as Google, Mapquest and Bing still show the rail spur diverging from the Valley Line, which is now owned by the National Park Service and used by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

But I always thought that those maps were in error and that the rail spur had been removed years ago. It turns out that I was mistaken and not the maps.

While doing research for my CVSR book, I was able to determine where the paper mill had been located. I thought it had been west of the Cuyahoga River, but it was east of the river and southeast of Jaite.

I also discovered that the spur to the paper mill, which had been established in 1909 and closed in 1984, crossed the Cuyahoga on a through truss bridge.

That this bridge existed at all was news to me. I’d never seen a photograph of it and no railfan I know who is a native of Northeast Ohio has ever talked about it.

In reviewing satellite images, I discovered the bridge and most of the railroad spur still exist. I wanted to find them and the best time to do that is during the winter when there is less vegetation to deal with.

Saturday, Jan. 21 turned out to be an ideal day for railroad archeology in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

There was no snow on the ground, no precipitation was likely to fall and the temperatures rose into the lower 60s.

After having lunch with fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler at the Winking Lizard in Peninsula, we drove to Jaite, parked in the lot of the CVNP headquarters and began walking southward along the CVSR tracks.

The switch for the paper mill spur has been removed, but its location was easy to find because there are still long cross ties that once held the diverging rails.

The spur has been cut a short distance from the Valley Line and it was apparent that it is used as a trail by fisherman and bird watchers.

As we made our way through the brush along the spur, we talked about how this location would make a good place for a nighttime ghost walk.

The spur is a virtual continuous curve and I could hear in my mind the shrieking and squealing of flanges combined with the low rumble of a Geep’s prime mover as it moved boxcars in and out of the paper mill.

Given the layout of the spur switch, the paper mill must have been worked by a northbound B&O local that backed cars in and pulled them out.

In short order we reached the bridge that carried  the single-track spur over the Cuyahoga.

I’ve always had a fondness for the visual aesthetics of through truss bridges.

Online background information about the bridge indicates that it was built between 1907 and 1909 and known as B&O Bridge No. 451/1.

The spur has not been used since the paper mill closed and the switch connecting it to the Valley line was removed in 2002, probably during a track rehabilitation project.

I’m not a bridge expert or structural engineer, but I could see that although the bridge appears to be in good condition, much work would need to be done to enable rail operations over it again.

Of course there is little to no likelihood that that is going to come about.

The paper mill spur and the bridge are silent monuments to the industrial past of the Cuyahoga Valley.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Still spanning the Cuyahoga River decades after the last train rolled over it.

Still spanning the Cuyahoga River decades after the last train rolled over it.

No way would I walk across this bridge to the other side although I'm sure some people have done so.

No way would I walk across this bridge to the other side although I’m sure some people have done so.

Come spring the vegetation covering the rails on the bridge will turn green again.

Come spring the vegetation covering the rails on the bridge will turn green again.

Nature-made tunnel

Nature-made tunnel

Some rail has started to disintegrate.

Some rail has started to disintegrate.

Rails amid the weeds and trees.

Rails amid the weeds and trees.

The vegetation covering the spur is quite high in some places.

The vegetation covering the spur is quite high in some places.

Today, the Jaite Paper Mill spur is used as a trail by some.

Today, the Jaite Paper Mill spur is used as a trail by some.

Where they cut the rails of the Jaite Paper Mill spur.

Where they cut the rails of the Jaite Paper Mill spur.

Long ties mark the spot where the switch for the Jaite Paper Mill spur was located on the B&O Valley Line.

Long ties mark the spot where the switch for the Jaite Paper Mill spur was located on the B&O Valley Line.