Posts Tagged ‘Farkas challenge’

Taking the Farkas Challenge: Final Akron Memory

August 16, 2016


How does one end a challenge? Some would end it simply by thanking those who took the challenge, but that is not enough.

How do I thank some of you for moving out of your comfort zones? You may never have posted on the Akron Railroad Club blog prior to the challenge.

It took both hard work to get your image right and courage to write the blog entry. You did it once, you can do it again (and again and again.) You have so much to share, so please continue to do so.

For others, you have contributed to the blog before the challenge. Thank you for the time-machine glimpses of a past many of us haven’t lived.

You chose an image for the challenge, wrote the entry, and again brought Akron’s past back to life. Keep up your blog entries.

Thank you, Craig, for putting this together in your own unique way. For some members, you were their voice when they had no words.

Last of all, I’d like to thank the readers of this blog. Each of us who participated in the challenge touched your lives with a photo or memory, and you touched our lives with your comments both spoken and written.

Here is one last memory. It is June 27, 1983, at the Norfolk & Western (ex-Akron, Canton & Youngstown) yard, and Nickel Plate Road No. 765 is preparing to leave for Fort Wayne.

The past, present, and (hopefully) the future meet in this image. What memories this brings. When I first started railfanning, this was the N&W’s ex-AC&Y engine facility and blue or yellow FMs and ALCOs still lettered for the AC&Y sat ready to move the tires and other freight Akron was known for producing in the mid-1960’s.

Friendships were started. Thanks to ARRC member Paul Woodring and Mark Perri, I had a chance to see NKP 765’s first public showing under steam in September 1979. We even had short cab rides.

Who would have believed that NKP 765 wouldn’t become a stranger but would instead grace many days of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s Steam in the Valley excursions, but she has done so and is scheduled to do the same this year.

The names have changed from AC&Y to N&W to Norfolk Southern and finally to Wheeling & Lake Erie.

The paint schemes have changed even more, but the fun of railfanning and the great friendships brought on by it haven’t changed at all.

Thanks again to all of you. By the way, does anyone have a new challenge?

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas


The Story Behind the Farkas Challenge

August 16, 2016

Last May, Akron Railroad Club member Robert Farkas issued a challenge to club members.

“With the Akron Railroad Club about to celebrate its 80th year, I have a challenge. Pick one photo from your many that captures an Akron railfanning memory,” he wrote.

“Perhaps it will be from your early years or one you took this week, but chose one with meaning to you.

“Let’s post a memory on the blog from as many members as possible. Let this be a blog ‘celebration’ of our heritage. If you would, tell a little bit about why this is special to you.”

Bob’s selection was the westbound Lake Cities of the Erie Lackawanna arriving in Akron and passing Akron Union Depot.

I liked Bob’s idea but I also knew that it was unlikely that many ARRC members would take him up on his offer.

In fact, just myself and one other club member did that. Another member sent in a photograph after I had “nominated” and posted an image on his behalf.

I didn’t want to see Bob’s challenge wither on the vine so I kept it alive by going through the considerable archive of photographs of Akron railroad operations that I’ve amassed during the process of writing two books, both of which are titled Akron Railroads.

I have enough images made by ARRC members that I could do a members night for them using what I have digitized.

It would not surprise me if some ARRC members whose photographs I nominated for the Farkas challenge are unaware that their image was chosen.

In making nominations, I sought to choose images that illustrated something significant about the history of railroads in Akron.

As I made my “nominations” I also found myself choosing subject matter that I associated with the photographer.

Roger Durfee, for example, is a fan of the Erie Lackawanna. So I chose on his behalf a photo posted in late 2015 of the Lackawanna heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern leading a CSX train past the site of the former EL yard in Akron.

That prompted Roger to send in a photo of an actual EL train taken in the same location as the CSX train.

Likewise, Jim Mastromatteo has a passion for the Wheeling & Lake Erie, so I chose an image he submitted for Akron Railroads of a W&LE train on the former Akron, Canton & Youngstown in north Akron.

Of course “nominating” images on behalf of members had the downside of my not being able to know for sure whether the images I chose had any particular meaning to the photographer.

Perhaps all of those whose photographs I nominated would have chosen something else had they taken the time to do so.

In a few instances, I nominated an image on behalf of a deceased member. In three of those cases, the image I selected was one of favorite images made by that photographer.

For that matter, some of the images that I selected that were made by ARRC members who are alive and well are among my “faves” of their work.

Above all, though, I chose images that helped to tell a larger story, which more often than not was about change.

As I noted in the introduction to my second edition of Akron Railroads, the period 1960 to the present has seen more change in railroad operations in Akron than any other era with the possible exception of the time when the railroads were being built.

I’ve tried to highlight those change in my choices of images that I “nominated” for the Farkas challenge.

I also sought to select photographs that gave a larger perspective of life in Akron. It might be a little thing such as a billboard in the background or a long-since closed business.

But as much as anything it was a way of life that I sought to portray. As much as things have changed, though, other qualities have remained the same.

So long as there are trains, there will always be that feeling of anticipation that a track side observer gets upon seeing a train coming.

It doesn’t matter what railroad company is operating the train, what color the equipment is painted or even what type of equipment that it has.

There also will always be that feeling of awe and wonderment at seeing something that seems larger than life in a place that is quite familiar to the bystander.

The Farkas challenge has shown what that might have been had you lived or spent time in Akron, Ohio.

Article by Craig Sanders

Taking the Farkas Challenge: Amtrak Comes to Akron in 1990 Amid Vestiges of the Old and New

August 9, 2016

Farkas Ribinskas

Amtrak didn’t want to serve Akron when it began service on May 1, 1971. For that matter, it didn’t want to serve Cleveland, either, so the only intercity passenger train in Northeast Ohio on Amtrak inauguration day was the Chicago-New York Broadway Limited, which stopped in Canton.

Some Akron Railroad Club members remember driving to Canton to catch Amtrak.

On occasion an Amtrak train detoured through Akron during the 1970s. Amtrak even showed up in Akron a couple of times when an inspection train came through.

Conrail was created with a mandate to abandon or sell surplus rail routes and it accomplished this, in part, by consolidating traffic on fewer lines.

This process affected two routes in Akron proper, including the former Erie Lackawanna and Penn Central routes, and would also lead to Amtrak coming to Akron.

That came about because Conrail downgraded the Fort Wayne Line of the former Pennsylvania Railroad in western Ohio and across Indiana.

An Indiana congressman brokered a deal that kept the Broadway Limited operating on the Fort Wayne Line during the 1980s, but by the end of that decade it was apparent that Amtrak would have to pay the route’s maintenance costs or move elsewhere.

Amtrak decided to use CSX between Chicago and Pittsburgh for Nos. 40 and 41.

It has long been Amtrak’s practice to operate a public relations special to introduce service on a new route.

On Nov. 7, 1990, a PR special came to Akron to promote the reroute of the Broadway Limited to Akron.

This publicity special ran to Pittsburgh and then operated back to Chicago via Cleveland to promote the new route of the Capitol Limited on Conrail from Pittsburgh to Cleveland via Cleveland and thence over the route used by the Lake Shore Limited.

This image of the publicity train arriving at Quaker Square in Akron on the former Baltimore & Ohio mainline is my nomination on behalf of Edward Ribinskas for the Farkas challenge.

Like so many railroad scenes in Akron, there are vestiges of the old and the new.

In this scene, the old is Akron Union Depot, a portion of which can be seen above the train toward the right edge of the image.

The concourse that over the tracks that connected with the Greyhound bus station can be seen, although it has been remodeled from the appearance it had during the station’s passenger train days.

The depot itself had by 1990 been taken over by the University of Akron and converted into a continuing education center.

Another vestige of the past is the signal bridge spanning the Amtrak station platform and CSX Track No. 2, which once held signals controlling movements through Union Depot that were controlled by operators in JO Tower.

The Amtrak station is out of view to the left and was a modular structure. But the platform is new as evidenced by the bright white concrete. In reality, the Amtrak platform was installed on the footprint of Akron Union Depot.

The PR special is pulled by two F40PH locomotives, which was the standard motive power used on Amtrak trains at the time.

The train is a mixture of Amfleet and Heritage Fleet equipment, which mirrored that assigned to the Broadway Limited.

A good-sized crowd has turned out to view the special and hear a few speeches. Considering that it was a Wednesday, this is a good turnout.

They must have felt a sense of enthusiasm, hope and optimism. It had been more than 19 years since you could board an intercity passenger train in Akron.

Of course, to ride Amtrak to or from Akron meant staying up late or getting up early because Nos. 40 and 41 were scheduled to pass through during darkness hours.

As it turned out, the Broadway Limited served Akron for not quite five years. It was discontinued on Sept. 10, 1995, during a budget shortfall that led to a route restructuring.

Amtrak came back to Akron a year later when the New York-Pittsburgh Three Rivers was extended to Chicago. But the train didn’t begin accepting passengers until August 1998.

The Three Rivers lasted until March 7, 2005, when it was annulled due to low patronage and Amtrak’s decision to exit the mail and express business.

Reportedly, the Akron Metro bus transfer station built on the site of the former Erie Railroad freight yard could be used as a train station if Amtrak were to reinstate service over the adjacent CSX line.

But given the current state of affairs with passenger rail in the United States, that seems unlikely to occur anytime soon if at all. The optimism felt by many on this November day more than 25 years ago has flamed out.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Edward Ribinskas

Taking the Farkas Challenge: One Afternoon When Akron’s First Railroad was in its Final Days

August 1, 2016

Farkas Antibus

The first train chugged into Akron on July 4, 1852, amid much celebration. It came from Hudson on the Akron Branch of the newly-built Cleveland & Pittsburgh.

Akron’s first rail line eventually became part of the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad network and the Akron Branch was extended to Columbus.

Shown is a CSX rail train on the former Akron Branch on Sept. 30, 2001. It would be one of the last trains to use the line within Akron proper.

The image was made by Richard Antibus and is my nomination on his behalf for the Farkas challenge.

A CSX train is on these rails because the railroad had considered rehabilitating the Akron Branch and using it as a second mainline between AY (Arlington Street) and Cuyahoga Falls.

Instead, the Akron branch was abandoned and the rails were pulled up. The track remains in place between Cuyahoga Falls and Hudson, having been railbanked by Akron Metro. But those rails have been dormant for several years.

Likewise it has been a while since the PRR position light signals here have been used and one signal head has been turned to show that it is out of service.

The other signal was probably used as a “distant signal” in advance of AY, a role it will no longer be serving for much longer.

So much of Akron’s railroad history is “what used to be.”

Sic transit gloria mundi is a Latin expression that has been widely interpreted to mean “wordly things are fleeting.”

And so it would seem are railroad lines. The Akron Branch served Akron well for more than a century, so we wouldn’t necessarily call its existence fleeting.

Yet for those in the Akron Railroad Club who grew up in or near Akron, their acquaintance with the Akron Branch has been quite fleeting.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Richard Antibus

Taking the Farkas Challenge: Akron’s Railroad of the 21st Century is the Wheeling & Lake Erie

July 27, 2016

Farkas Mastromatteo

The story of the Wheeling & Lake Erie has two distinct chapters.

The original W&LE was founded in the 19th century and lasted through 1949. The modern W&LE arose in May 1990 and remains a viable railroad in Northeast Ohio today.

The original Wheeling never served Akron per se. It skirted the edge of the Akron metropolitan area, passing through Mogadore and Kent.

But the modern W&LE has a major presence in Akron because when it came to life by taking over from Norfolk Southern the tracks and facilities of the former Akron, Canton & Youngstown.

Arguably, the W&LE is Akron’s major railroad today. CSX may run more trains, but the W&LE has more freight customers.

This image of a W&LE westbound train on the former AC&Y north of downtown is vintage modern Wheeling and is my nomination for the Farkas challenge on behalf of Jim Mastromatteo.

The two locomotives do not match, which is a common theme you find in any photo collection of W&LE operations.

Let’s play nice and say that over the years the Wheeling has had an “eclectic” collection of locomotives.

The trailing unit of this train still has its Southern Railway markings, albeit with the W&LE name. The lead unit is reflective of the Spartan nature of some Wheeling locomotives although the railroad would later settle on an attractive black livery with orange speed lettering and stripes.

This train is in the vicinity of the former AC&Y passenger station on the north edge of downtown Akron. At one time, there were numerous warehouses and other freight customers here.

They are all gone now and W&LE trains merely pass through. A block to the north was the Baltimore & Ohio Valley Line between Cleveland and Akron.

This railroad corridor may was not as busy or developed as the railroad territory on the south edge of downtown, but its history is just as significant.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Jim Mastramateo

Taking the Farkas Challenge: B&O on ‘The Hill’

July 18, 2016

Farkas Woodring

If you have spent any time railfanning in Akron you already know about “the hill.”

It is a railfanning spot that has been frequented by Akron railroad photographers for generations.

Name a member of the Akron Railroad Club who has photographed trains in Akron and chances are he has spent time on “the hill” making photographs.

The late Robert E. Redmond hung out there a lot in the late 1950s documenting the last days of steam motive power on the Baltimore & Ohio.

In his younger years, Paul Woodring spent time there, too, documenting the B&O in a different era.

His image of four B&O GP40s all wearing the same 1960s era solid blue livery is my nomination on his behalf for the Farkas challenge.

He made this image of an eastbound train in September 1984 when it was still the Chessie System. By then such a motive power consist would not have been common.

Paul’s photo of the “blues brothers” as he called it, will appear in the color version of Akron Railroads that will be released later this year.

It is a photo that he really liked and wanted to see it included in the book.

“The hill” goes by a number of names, including “Bettes Corner” and “Home and Tallmadge.” These names refer to the nearby streets.

Although most often associated with the B&O, “the hill” also had tracks belonging to the Pennsylvania Railroad. In fact, that track cutting across the lower right-hand corner is the ex-PRR.

Most of the images you’ll see that have been made here are of eastbound trains. Photographing westbound trains just doesn’t seem to work out as well because the train is going away from you into an S curve.

Another reason to favor eastbound trains is because they are working up a 1.05 percent grade from Akron Junction to Cuyahoga Falls, the steepest on the Akron Division of the B&O.

In steam days, as many as four locomotives might be coupled together to get a train up the hill. But even one steamer pulling a train up that grade could make for an impressive sight.

Many photographs made of trains working up the hill have featured the A. Schulman, Inc., facility in the background. It’s hard to miss and is as much an Akron landmark here as the railroads themselves.

Over time, change came to the hill. The PRR became Penn Central which developed into Conrail. Today, the former Pennsy line here has been removed.

The A. Schulman facility has expanded but otherwise has been a constant for decades. Of course the B&O morphed into the Chesssie System which evolved into CSX.

The hill has never been among Northeast Ohio’s premier railfanning spots and I’m not sure that it is the favorite of Akron fans today.

Brush and weeds growing along the top of the hill overlooking the tracks present a challenge in getting a clear look. At times, railfans have voluntarily trimmed the weeds at the site.

Although you can see everything that CSX puts through Akron on “the hill,” Voris Street not only has clearer sightlines but also features Akron Barberton Cluster trains exercising their CSX trackage rights.

Nonetheless, no story of the history of railroads and railfanning in Akron is complete without paying tribute to “the hill.”

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Paul Woodring


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

Taking the Farkas Challenge: A Second Life for the B&O Valley Line at Howard Street in Akron

July 4, 2016


Farkas Bowler

Few who ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad from or into Akron Northside station probably are aware of the history of the site.

The Valley Line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad once had a station and freight house here. Some in the 19th century Akron thought the Howard Street station was too far from downtown, so they successfully lobbied for the construction of another station on Market Street.

The depot didn’t last long, perhaps because it was a stub-end facility that required backup moves. Perhaps Akronites just got used to using Howard Street station.

B&O passenger service to Howard Street station ended in January 1963 and the station was razed.

That might have been the end of the story, but for the decision of the Cuyahoga Valley Line to begin bringing passengers into Akron and taking them by bus to Quaker Square.

For several years, the passengers disembarked at a vacant lot. Then the CVL became the beneficiary of money flowing from the National Park Service, which purchased the Valley Line after CSX abandoned it in 1985. The Park Service was helping to preserve CVL service,

In time the CVL renamed itself the CVSR and began developing stations that have the appearance of a railroad station even if they are minimalist structures.

The vacant lot where B&O’s Howard Street Station had stood soon sported a new station with an expansive paved parking lot.

That resurrection was about having a second life.  The Valley Line got a second life by providing transportation to and within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The involvement of the Park Service brought the CVL a second life for it didn’t operate in 1986 and 1987 after the Valley Line was abandoned.

The site of Howard Street station received a second life and became Ohio’s busiest railroad stations in terms of passengers handled annually.

Steam motive power on the Valley Line also has received a second life. In the early years, CVL trains were pulled by a former Grand Trunk Western steam engine.

But that ended after the 1990 season and it would be 17 years before a steam locomotive whistle again echoed through the Cuyahoga Valley.

In recent years, former Nickel Plate Road No. 765 has been a regular visitor to the CVSR and thousands have ridden behind it and/or come out to watch it.

Not every railroad line in Akron has been able to enjoy a second life, but in the case of the Valley Line at Howard Street it has bounced back from the dead quite nicely and its future is assured.

This image of the NKP 765 arriving at Northside station in September 2010 was made from the Y bridge before the fencing was added. It is my nomination from the collection of Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler for the Farkas Challenge.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Craig Sanders

Taking the Farkas Challenge: An Historic Month in the Twilight of Passenger Trains Era in Akron

June 29, 2016

Farkas Beach

Being invited to visit the home of John Beach to view his slides is akin to attending a private dinner party at the home of Iron Chef Michael Symon. You are in a treat you will long remember.

John has dutifully and skillfully chronicled the Northeast Ohio railroad scene in color slides since the 1950s. When he dips into his collection you are going to feel that you’ve gone back in time.

Much of his work has been done around his hometown of Massillon, but he got up to Akron at times.

In January 1970, the Erie Lackawanna was about to discontinue its last intercity passenger train, the Chicago-Hoboken, New Jersey, Lake Cities.

John and his son Dave, an outstanding photographer in his own right, got out on a cold day to shoot the Lake Cities a few days before it made its last runs.

But John also photographed a Baltimore & Ohio train that also was days away from making its last trip west of Akron.

Shown is the westbound Diplomat at Akron Union Depot in what is my nomination on John’s behalf for the Farkas challenge.

This image has made at a historic time with the EL about to exit the intercity passenger business and the B&O curtailing its service to what would prove to be its final pre-Amtrak offering.

By the end of the month, Akron would have just one passenger train to Chicago, the B&O’s famed Capitol Limited. But on this day it had three.

In 16 months Akron won’t have any intercity passenger service at all, a situation that would not be remedied for another 20 years.

Train stations have historically been the front door to places large and small in America.

Akron fought a decades-long campaign to get a new station, which opened in April 1950. It was a fine facility, but would be used for just over 20 years.

The consist of B&O train No. 7 reflects the twilight era of railroad-operated intercity passenger service.

Just one E8A is needed to pull a train that has three head-end cars and three passenger cars. Chances are the on-off count today was not very high.

Before the end of the month No. 7 and its counterpart No. 8, the Gateway, will be operating between Akron and Washington as the Shenandoah.

Also in the image is another Akron landmark that has appeared in countless photographs of Akron railroads.

The twin spires of St. Bernard Catholic Church soar over Akron from its home at Broadway Street and University Avenue.

St Bernard has been the one constant in all of those railroad photographs made in downtown Akron. Railroad companies have come and gone, but the church has always been there as though acting as a silent witness to the changes going on around it over time .

Photograph by John Beach, Article by Craig Sanders

Taking the Farkas Challenge: Sampling The Consummate Chronicler of Steam in NE Ohio

June 21, 2016

Farkas Redmond

The late Robert E. Redmond was the last of his kind in the Akron Railroad Club. When he died in 2015 the club lost its last chronicler of the steam era in Northeast Ohio.

I don’t know if I saw all of his body of work, but I saw much of it, which he kept in albums at his home in Kent. We would sit around his dining room table and I’d look over his photographs to determine which ones I might want to use in my railroad history books published by Arcadia Publishing.

Because much of his work from the steam era was done in black and white, few ARRC members got to see it other than what was published in books and magazines.

Toward the end of the steam era, Bob began making color slides. Perhaps you remember his photographs of Roanoke, Virginia, during the final years of Norfolk & Western steam.

I got my first glimpse of that work at the ARRC member’s night in 2004. On the way back to Cleveland, the late Dave McKay commented that Bob’s work had stolen the show.

Much of Bob’s photography was done around Kent and the east side of Akron, particularly on “the hill” near Home and Tallmadge avenues.

Among his photographs was a quadruple header of Baltimore & Ohio stream locomotives leading a train up “the hill,” all of them working hard.

But my nomination on Bob’s behalf for the Farkas challenge is this image made in March 1957 in Cuyahoga Falls of a westbound double-header. It has always been my favorite image of steam from Bob’s collection.

On the point is Big Six No. 524, an S-1 class 2-10-2. It’s big time steam power and it was an everyday sight in Akron.

This image appeared in black and white in Akron Railroads and I’ve showed the color version of it twice, including last June during a program devoted to remembering Bob.

At the time I commented that as I looked at this image I could imagine a young Jerry Jacobson walking to the tracks from his home in Cuyahoga Falls and taking in scenes like this. Jerry has said that his passion for steam developed while watching B&O steam trains pass by in the Falls.

The B&O was the last railroad serving Akron proper to use steam locomotives in regular service. A year from now, work-a-day steam will be gone as the B&O and the Nickel Plate Road retire the last of their steam locomotives and complete the process of switching to diesel locomotive power.

But on this day, you didn’t have to imagine what steam was like. You could see it, feel it, hear it and even breath it.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Robert Redmond