Posts Tagged ‘excursion trains’

Tuscarawas Eyes Excursion Service

April 23, 2018

Tuscarawas County officials are eyeing a former Baltimore & Ohio rail line for use as excursion trains, including the annual Polar Express trips made from Dennison.

The line in question extends from Dennison to Dover and is owned by CSX but leased to R.J. Corman.

The route begins at the Aleris plant south of Uhrichsville, crosses the former Pennsylvania Panhandle rail line at Uhrichsville, and then goes through Midvale, New Philadelphia and Dover.

A mile-long section of track would need to be built between Uhrichsville and the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum. That would cost an estimated $1 million to $2 million.

New Philadelphia Mayor Joel Day is describing the proposed service as an economic development proposal.

“It would generate revenue from those tourism dollars and create another tourism attraction,” he said.

Scott Robinson, president of the Tuscarawas County Chamber of Commerce, said the project would create a great train ride but said “it would take a tremendous effort by a lot of different parties to make it work out.”

Day also said that, “restoring the rail lines from New Philadelphia to Dennison would connect the northern communities of the county with the southern, and give us direct access to the rail corridor that runs between Columbus and Pittsburgh. Plus, with the abundance of natural gas we have in eastern Ohio, technology could be developed (if it hasn’t already) that allows train engines to be powered by natural gas.”

Day recently met with the Ohio Rail Development Commission to discuss the plan. They talked with Tim Brown, project manager for the rail commission.

“Tim was there to gather information,” Day said. “He wasn’t a decision maker. That was sort of disappointing in a way, but he was a good resource for us. What he’s going to help us do is get a meeting with CSX to talk about the rail line through New Philadelphia.”

Brown told the Tuscarawas county contingent that railroads in Ohio are more interested in earning revenue from freight than operating passenger or excursion trains.

“But we hope that if we can get in front of CSX and explain the plan and the benefits of that, we can convince them it’s a good idea,” Day said.

He noted that the railroad is not making a lot of revenue off the line, but if the connection to Dennison was made, CSX could earn money off tourism dollars.

The excursion train, if it comes about, would be operated by the Dennison museum.

“We’re exploring the options to tie Dennison into Schoenbrunn and New Philadelphia and Warther’s Museum in Dover with train rides,” said Wendy Zucal, the director of the museum.

She said the depot already has passenger cars, excursion insurance and volunteers trained in railroad safety.

It operates the Polar Express train ride in December from Dennison to Newcomerstown in cooperation with the Genessee & Wyoming Railroad.

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Planned Pennsylvania Excursion Canceled

April 23, 2018

A planned excursion train in Pennsylvania in conjunction with the 50th anniversary celebration of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society has been canceled, a victim of a recent Amtrak policy change banning most special moves and charters.

The train, which would have featured the PRR E8A passenger locomotives and former Pennsy passenger cars owned by Bennett Levin, had initially been approved by Amtrak.

But Levin received a phone call from an Amtrak official saying Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson had ordered an end to special trains.

Although the Amtrak policy change had allowed for exceptions in narrow circumstances, a recent clarification of the policy indicated that Amtrak will not approve excursions that operate on lines not used by the carrier’s scheduled trains.

The PRRT&HS excursion was to operate from Philadelphia to Altoona, Pennsylvania, on May 9 via the Buffalo Line of Norfolk Southern and the Nittany & Bald Eagle short line railroad using former PRR routes via Williamsport and Tyrone.

Levin had submitted a detailed request to Amtrak in December to operate the excursion and he agreed to Amtrak’s price for the trip in early February.

As late as early April Amtrak was still agreeing to operate the trip before backing out in mid April.

ITM to Run Easter-Theme Trains

February 26, 2018

The Indiana Transportation Museum will sponsor a series of Easter-themed trains to be called the Bunny Hop Express in mid to late March.

Trains will depart at 10 a.m., 11:40 a.m., 1:20 p.m., 3 p.m., 4:40 p.m. and 6:20 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1 p.m., 2:40 p.m., 4:20 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Tickets are being sold online only at http://www.itm.org and cost $20 for coach and $28 for the presidential car. Children age 2 and under can ride for free.

Trains will depart on March 17 from 2165 Stoney Pike in Logansport and on March 18, 24, 25 and 31 from Allied Tube & Conduit in Kokomo.

Passengers will ride to Walton’s Volunteer Fire Department, where kids can exit the train for 70 minutes to enjoy an Easter egg hunt, bunny hop sack race and tug-of-war games.

Each child will receive an Easter egg tote, seven Eggs and a cuddly bunny to take home.

Old Enough to Be Nostalgia

February 22, 2018

Early in its history, the modern Wheeling & Lake Erie held a competition among its employees to design a locomotive livery.

The winner was a bright combination of red and gold that was applied to two GP35s, Nos. 2662 and 2679. W&LE CEO Larry Parsons often referred to them as the “painted ladies.”

Parsons believes that the best color for a locomotive is black so the red and gold look was not widely applied.

No. 2679 has since been rebuilt and repainted in the W&LE’s standard livery, but No. 2662 remains on the active roster in its red and gold appearance.

The two units are shown together in the above images in Akron on May 8, 1994.

They had led an excursion train from Bellevue into town and parked it near Summit Street.

Passengers were taken by bus to Quaker Square for dinner. I remember that it was Mother’s Day.

The two “painted ladies” are shown ready to return to Bellevue. The train was sponsored by the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum and operated under the name Bradley Memorial Limited in honor of a boy who had died far too early.

The fact that No. 2662 is still in service means the image is not yet lost history, even if it is historic.

The images also qualify as nostalgic because the W&LE no longer will agree to host excursion trains such as these.

This would be the only time that I saw the two “painted ladies” paired together on the same train.

Cost of Installing PTC May Sideline PRR E8A Locomotives from Mainline Excursion Service

February 16, 2018

Two former Pennsylvania Railroad E8A passenger locomotives are likely to be sidelined once positive train control systems are switched on.

Bennett Levin, who owns Tuscan red Nos. 5711 and 5809 told Trains magazine that the cost of PTC to prohibitive for two diesels that are used only about twice a year.

“Based on what we know at this time, there’s no practical way to continue,” he said.

Levin estimated the cost of installing PTC at six figures per unit. “Nobody is going to spend that kind of money,” Levin said in reference to mainline passenger excursions.

He also said another potential stumbling block is uncertainty about the future of private car operations on Amtrak.

The last road trip for the Pennsy units may be this May when they pull an excursion being sponsored by the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society.

That trip will run from Philadelphia to Altoona, Pennsylvania, on May 9 for the group’s 50th annual convention. The train of parlor cars will return on May 13.

Congress in 2008 mandated that railroad lines hosting passengers service and/or hazardous cargo must have a PTC system. The deadline for installing the systems is Dec. 31.

Levin described that mandate as “unfortunate and untimely.”

Calling it an unfunded Congressional mandate, Levin said it would not exist had the locomotive engineer of a California commuter train that collided with a Union Pacific locomotive been doing his job and not using his cell phone just before the collision. That crash helped to prompt the 2008 legislation mandating PTC installation.

The PRR E8A units have passed through Northeast Ohio a handful of times in the past decade and pulled a private car train on the Ohio Central on July 31, 2004, from Dennison to Sugar Creek and return.

Cass to Hold Heritage Weekend in May

January 11, 2018

A three-day railfan event will be hosted May 18-20 at the Cass Scenic Railroad.

Billed as a heritage weekend, it is oriented toward railfan enthusiasts, historians, and photographers with an appreciation for geared steam locomotives and rail preservation. Tickets are $275 per person.

The opening events on May 18 include a special dinner and night photo session at Whittaker Station, the first in more than 10 years.

On Saturday, there will be a daytime photo session to Spruce, featuring steam-powered freight and passenger consists.

That evening another photo shoot will be held at Cass and feature views inside the Cass Shops and an opportunity to take photos of multiple locomotives under steam.

Railroad officials will hold a question-and-answer session and provide an update about the railroad’s restoration efforts.

On Sunday morning, an excursion will depart from Cass and travel north on the Greenbrier Line toward Durbin, West Virginia.

This route is currently under construction and is expected to connect with the southernmost end of the Durbin line in late 2018.

Passengers on the excursion will be able to inspect some of the new track.

“The revenues generated from these events directly benefit projects such as our Greenbrier Line rehabilitation and steam locomotive restorations. Our railfan community gets to enjoy and capture parts of the railroad otherwise inaccessible, and we get to earmark the funds for ongoing projects,” said Durbin & Greenbrier Business Development Manager Chase Gunnoe. “This will be unlike previous events. We’re sitting down now with our operations team and determining how we can make this most impactful for our followers who want to see something different.”

Holiday Trips to Operate out of Huntington

October 25, 2017

A holiday theme train using Amtrak and private equipment will operate out of Huntington, West Virginia, in December on the CSX Kanawha Subdivision.

The Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society is hosting the Huntington Holiday Express between Dec. 14 and 17.

The train will make a 25-mile roundtrip excursion on former Chesapeake & Ohio tracks to Barboursville, West Virginia.

The train will have Amtrak P42DC locomotives on each end. Tickets are $55 for adults and $45 per child.

Each trip will take approximately an hour. The consist is expected to include six passenger cars, including three Amtrak café cars and three private cars.

Onboard amenities will include hot cocoa, cookies, and such Christmas activities as a visit from Santa Claus.

Best known for its New River Train fall foliage excursions, this will be the society’s first Christmas train on CSX rails.

ITM has OK to Use Indiana Rail Line for Polar Express

October 11, 2017

The Indiana Transportation Museum has an agreement to use the Central Railroad of Indiana for its Polar Express trains this year.

The trains will operate between Kokomo and Logansport, Indiana. A railfan publication in the Hoosier State said ITM is negotiating for cars, locomotives to use on the trains.

Coach attendants and presentation staff will be volunteers. The report said ITM is also talking with a group in Logansport for space to be able to run on some city-owned track.

Nickel Plate Road 759 at Conneaut

July 17, 2017

Before Nickel Plate Road 765 was restored, there was NKP 759. Here NKP 759 is heading eastbound over the Norfolk & Western (ex-NKP) trestle in Conneaut on Sept. 8, 1968. This was her first excursion after rebuilding in 1968.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Catching Up With Arcade & Attica No. 18

July 6, 2017

Arcade & Attica No. 18 approaches Genesee Road near Arcade, New York, during its last run of the day.

For years the Arcade & Attica has operated its 2-8-0 Alco steam locomotive with its nose facing northward on its excursion from Arcade to Curriers.

The engine runs around the train at Curriers and returns to Arcade with its tender leading.

But on two weekends this year the New York-based tourist railroad has reversed that.

It turned No. 18 on a wye behind its shop in Arcade and ran tender first to Curriers and had the nose pointed southward for the 7.16-mile return trip.

From a photography standpoint, it is better to have the locomotive nose pointed southward because the lighting is better.

One of those weekends when the nose was pointed southward preceded Independence Day. Ed Ribinskas and I piled into Marty Surdyk’s Jeep Patriot to make the trek to Arcade for a day of steam locomotive chasing.

It had been 25 years since Marty had been to the A&A. My last visit had been in September 2012. Ed saw No. 18 pointed southward just over a month ago during Memorial Day weekend.

By the time we caught up with No. 18 it was in Curriers where the A&A excursion train has a layover.

Chasing the A&A is easy because it travels at about 10 miles per hour.

But there aren’t that many places to photograph a train en route because most of the grade crossings are in Arcade.

There is Genesee Road, but not much else. Marty thought he remembered there being two crossings, but other than Genesee Road all other crossings are on private roads outside of Arcade.

Our primary concern in chasing the first return trip of the day to Arcade was cloudy skies. Large, puffy clouds filled the sky and sun breaks were infrequent and short-lived.

Trips leave Arcade at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. After chasing the first of those, we headed for a Subway in a shopping center located next to a Topps grocery store.

Subway is Marty’s official railfanning restaurant so of course that was where we would go. He also got to eat his entire foot-long meatball sandwich.

During the Akron Railroad Club longest day outing in Bellevue Marty had ordered a foot-long meatball sub. He placed half of it on his vehicle as he was eating the other half back at the mini plant.

But the wind blew it onto the ground. In Arcade, we ate inside the restaurant and there was no danger of half of Marty’s sandwich being blown by the wind onto the floor.

Photographing at Genesee Road had reminded me of Genesee beer, a brand I’ve heard about but never tasted.

As Ed and Marty were finishing their sandwiches, I walked over to the Tops grocery store to see if I could buy a couple of “Gennies.” But Genesee beer wasn’t being sold by the bottle there or, or that matter, by the six pack.

I ended up instead buying two bottles of IPA beer from two different Buffalo craft breweries and some large chocolate chip cookies for the guys.

The A&A had already left Arcade by the time we got rolling after lunch.

By now the weather had much improved with the clouds breaking up and ushering in mostly sunny skies.

There had been a pack of railfans chasing and photographing No. 18 earlier in the day, but they were mostly nowhere to be found during the afternoon trip when the locomotive was bathed in sunlight.

We got to Curriers just ahead of the train and got photographs of it coming and going.

Then it was off to do some across the field shots from along Curriers Road.

That was followed by stops at Genesee Road, the Arcade fire station and the street south of the depot where we caught No. 18 going back to the shop.

It was an easy chase that yielded some quite pleasing images.

The train was in the station at Curriers when we first encountered it.

The first photo op at Genesee Road occurred as the sun hid behind a cloud.

Crossing Cattaraugus Creek in Arcade during the return trip.

Doing the runaround move in Arcade. After getting this image it was Subway time.

Patrons are lined up to make a visit to the cab of No. 18 during the layover in Curriers.

A baggage cart load of flowers, a depot and a steam locomotive make for a pleasing sight.

Getting underway at Curriers to return to Arcade while blowing the whistle for Chaffee Road.

Leaving behind a trail of smoke.

Yonder comes a steam train in a view that could have been made several decades earlier.

Skirting the driveway of the fire station.

The train at Curriers as seen in the sunglasses of a trainman wearing a Penn Central conductor hat.

Watching the tracks ahead from the engineer’s seat.

Back in Arcade the locomotive has cut away from its trains as passengers disembark at the station platform.

Heading back to the shop at the end of the last trip.

Yes, it’s an Alco.

At the end of the day at the shop in Arcade.