Posts Tagged ‘Ohio’

Chicago-Columbus Passenger Line Hearings Set

October 17, 2018

Four public meeting have been scheduled in Indiana and Ohio to discuss a proposed intercity rail passenger route between Chicago and Columbus via Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The meetings are being conducted by the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association and will cover recent work that has been done to bring the service to fruition as well as how to secure funding for the service.

The only Ohio hearings will be held Oct. 23 between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in Lima at the Lima Municipal Center.

Other hearings are set for Oct. 24 between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne; Oct. 24 between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the city hall council chambers in Warsaw, Indiana; and Oct. 25 between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.  at the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce in Valparaiso, Indiana.

At each meeting, there will be a brief presentation from HNTB, a consulting firm hired to complete an analysis required under federal law in order for the rail project to receive federal funding.

The analysis includes a purpose and need assessment, a public involvement plan, an analysis of the route options, development of service alternatives along the preferred route, and preliminary engineering to develop cost estimates of the service alternatives.

That work is being done in phases and the meetings and analysis to be presented will focus on the corridor between Lima and Gary, Indiana.

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Toledo Short Line Sold

August 24, 2018

United Rail has purchased U S Rail Holdings, a short-line railroad in Toledo.
The Toledo short line offers transloading, private industrial rail car switching, track maintenance services, rail car repair, and rail car storage.

It also leases and operates about 72 miles of rail lines in Kokomo, Indiana, that United Rail plans to consolidate under the United Rail brand.

The Toledo offices of U S Rail will become the operations hub for the acquired companies into the United Rail network.

In a news release United Rail said it expects to operate five railroads by the end of the year.

Ohio Company Completes Loop Track

July 20, 2018

An Ohio company has completed a rail loop construction project at its facility in Hannibal.

Long Ridge Energy Terminal is the first in the Appalachian Basin to offer unit-train and barge transloading capabilities to its terminal, which is served by CSX.

In a news release, Long Ridge said the project was completed in response to the rapid increase in demand for frac sand and natural gas liquids associated with the Marcellus and Utica shales in Eastern Ohio and the West Virginia panhandle.

Long Ridge said it has put into service a rail unloading pit, a frac-sand conveyor belt system and frac-sand silos with total storage capacity of 23,000 tons. The company plans to commission a second barge dock in August.

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.

Could Brightline be Duplicated in Ohio?

April 23, 2018

The launch of the privately-funded Brightline intercity rail passenger service in Florida has some thinking about visualizing a similar service in Ohio.

Brightline, which currently operates between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach but expects to begin service soon to Miami and, longer term, to Orlando, was the subject of the lead article in Ohio Passenger Rail News, the publication of All Aboard Ohio.

AAO said it would study the concept and its applicability to Ohio, but acknowledged that a private operator would need to step forward. It is not clear if that is likely to happen.

Although much has been made about how Brightline is a private company that does not receive public funding to cover its operating expenses as does Amtrak, AAO noted that Brightline is a public-private venture.

What makes Brightline different, though, is that as a private company it laid out its vision and business plan and then public entities helped it.

Brightline benefited from millions in state and local funds plus a $1 billion federal loan.

But what makes Brightline move is that it is as much a real estate venture as it is a transportation mode.

The genesis of Brightline began with the Florida East Coast Railway establishing a subsidiary, All Aboard Florida, which operates under the Brightline trade name.

FEC owns a freight line between Miami and Orlando that hosts Brightline trains. However, Brightline plans to build a new 40-mile stretch of high-speed track west of Cocoa, Florida, on a state-granted right of way to serve the Orlando airport.

Based on cell-phone data, Brightline projects that 500 million trips are made each year between South Florida and Orlando.

The company said if it can divert 2, 3, 4 or 5 percent of that traffic off the highways it will make a meaningful difference.

Brightline didn’t always have a clear block to implement its service, which began in January.

It was bombarded by attempts by public officials, NIMBYs and Astroturf groups seeking to derail it before it got started.

It is still fighting lawsuits from opponents of the Orlando extension.

Although the FEC has since been sold to Mexican industrial conglomerate Grupo Mexico, All Aboard Florida still has access to FEC tracks and has real estate to market.

The concept of pairing real estate development with public transportation is not limited to Florida. Numerous studies  and articles have described how public transportation arteries have stimulated commercial and residential development.

Brightline Chief Operating Officer Patrick Goddard told The Blade of Toledo that decades of studies showed the potential for rail service in a region that is experiencing population growth and is hemmed in by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Everglades on the other.

“There’s nowhere to go and no room for more roads,” Goddard said.

That is not, though, the situation in Ohio. Nonetheless, Goodard said the potential for a Brightline-type service exists in “any city pairs that are too far to drive and too short to fly.”

Goodard sees a high level of interest in trying the Brightline concept elsewhere where “there’s the possibility for government to intercede for mobility in the region.”

Efforts to institute corridor rail service in Ohio have fallen short.

In 1982 Ohio voters rejected a penny increase in the state sales tax to pay for development of a high-speed rail program in the state.

In 2010, Ohio won $400 million in federal funding for capital outlays associated with developing rail service in the Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Corridor.

The funding would have paid for track, signals, station construction and the purchase of train sets.

After defeating Gov. Ted Strickland in the November 2010 gubernatorial election, John Kasich killed the project and returned the money to the federal government.

Kasich had actively campaigned against the 3-C corridor trains, saying he didn’t want to see the state underwriting the operating costs of the service.

The same criticism was leveled in earlier years against other proposals that never came to fruition that were promoted by the Ohio Rail Development Commission and Ohio Department of Transportation to launch 3-C service, including a proposal in April 1998 to mitigate traffic congestion on Interstate 71 between Cleveland and Columbus during a 10-year rebuilding of the highway.

At the same time that Ohio was moving forward with the 3-C Quick Start project under Gov. Strickland, Florida was also planning an intrastate rail network linking Miami with Tampa vial Orlando and received federal funds to help develop it.

But newly-elected Gov. Rick Scott killed the project and returned the federal money just as Kasich had done in Ohio.

Like Kasich, Scott didn’t want the state paying for the operating costs of the service.

All of this has left Ohio with just three intercity trains, all of which operate through the state primarily between midnight and 7 a.m.

Until Brightline came along, Florida was served by two New York-Miami Amtrak trains, and the Auto Train operating between Lorton, Virginia, and Sanford, Florida.

But the Sunshine State also had commuter rail service in Miami and a new service in Orlando.

AAO sees Brightline as a potential template to kick start the long-stalled efforts to revive 3-C and promote development of other routes.

“Brightline takes us back to the past in some ways  . . . [to] the notion that transportation and real estate go hand-in-hand,” said AAO CEO Ken Prendergast in an interview with The Blade. “It has changed the dialogue about how passenger rail in this country should be going forward.”

Prendergast said transit-oriented development in several cities should encourage the belief that trains and real estate can grow symbiotically in Ohio.

He said that some “pretty remarkable development” is occurring near a bus rapid-transit corridor in Columbus, along the HealthLine busway in Cleveland, and next to the Cleveland RTA Blue Line rail station in Shaker Heights at the site of the former Van Aken shopping center.

Of course, Brightline benefited from being birthed by a railroad. There is little likelihood that either Norfolk Southern or CSX, which make up large segments of the 3-C corridor, would be as receptive to intercity rail passenger service as is the FEC.

Closer to Ohio, the Michigan Department of Transportation acquired from NS the route used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit Wolverine Service trains.

MDOT owns the tracks between Dearborn and Kalamazoo while Amtrak owns the rails between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana.

The two agencies have been cooperating in the past few years to upgrade the line for higher speed service with a top speed of 110 mph.

Michigan’s efforts could benefit Ohio, Prendergast said, by creating a dedicated passenger corridor between Detroit and Toledo

CSX, Norfolk Southern and Canadian National have parallel routes between the two cities and consolidation of those routes would leave a line available for passenger use.

Prendergast said it is unlikely that NS would agree to allow additional passenger trains between Cleveland and Toledo so a new line for passenger trains would be needed for high-speed rail service.

He speculated that this would be an opportunity for the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission to get involved, “now that it has the legal authority to do things other than highways along the highway corridor.”

AAO also sees potential for combining various existing underused rail lines that railroads might be willing to sell that could lead to a Columbus-Fort Wayne-Chicago corridor.

Prendergast said ORDC is soliciting public comments for a 2020 update to an Ohio rail plan, but has no funds have been set aside for passenger train startup projects.

ORDC created a plan in 2002 that it updated in 2007 for a statewide passenger rail network known as the Ohio Hub. It has never gotten beyond paper and public hearings.

As AAO looks for a private sector initiative to materialize in Ohio, Prendergast warned not to expect any help from Amtrak, which he said “only reacts in response” the efforts of others.

Aside from questions of whether a private developer is interested in a Brightline style project in Ohio – and that is a big IF – there is also the question of whether Ohio units of government would respond as they did in Florida.

“If they, or someone like Brightline, came in with a similar message, I think it would resonate,” Prendergast said.

Historic Toledo RR Bridge Available for Free

January 5, 2018

If you’ve driven on the Ohio Turnpike past Toledo you’ve probably seen an abandoned railroad bridge over the Maumee River alongside the highway.

It once carried the tracks of the Toledo Terminal Railroad, which made a loop around Toledo. It was in its day the only complete railroad beltway in the country to form a complete loop.

Now The Wood County Port Authority and the Ohio Department of Transportation have a deal in place that will allow the bridge to be removed.

The agreement, which also includes the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, requires the bridge to be documented and, if possible, reused.

The bridge was built in 1902 and in its current condition cannot be used for railroad, highway or even trail uses. CSX conveyed it to the port authority in 2011.

The port authority is willing to give the bridge to a community or park system if they will place it somewhere else.

ODOT has agreed to preserve the spans before and after they’re removed. The swing spans are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places because they are an example of an uncommon type of bridge.

A commemorative plaque and display about the bridge and railroad will be placed near its present site and parts of the bridge could be used along the Chessie Circle Trail.

Before the bridge is removed, it will be documented using Historic American Engineering Record standards. So far, no one has come forward to claim the bridge.

Ohio Short Line Rebuilding Track

September 29, 2017

A western Ohio short-line railroad will get a makeover in a $900,000 track rebuilding project.

OmniTRAX, two Ohio counties and the City of Tiffin Port Authority are funding the track rebuilding of the Northern & Ohio Western.

Workers will replace 7,000 ties and resurface 24 miles of track. Earlier this year, new gates and lights were installed at two crossings and a road crossing was rebuilt in Gibsonburg. The state funded that project at a cost of $500,000.

Last year six rail crossings were rebuilt at a cost of $100,000, which brings to $1.6 million the money that has been spent or is planned to be expended over the past two years.

“The short line is a valuable asset to business in Seneca and Sandusky counties,” said port authority Chairman Jim Supance in a statement. “We are committed to continuing to invest in the rail and appreciate the partnership with OmniTRAX on day-to-day operations and projects like these.”

N&OW uses 25 miles of former Pennsylvania Railroad track southeast of Toledo, extending from Woodville to Tiffin, Ohio.

The Tables Were Bare

September 7, 2017

In my experience, you can count on a CSX intermodal train to roll through Marion anywhere between late morning, say after 11 a.m., to very early afternoon, say by 1 p.m.

With its UPS trailers train Q008 is one of the hottest things on rails. Typically, the Q008 and the Q010, a train from Chicago with a similar consist, will come through Berea in late afternoon.

But on a Sunday visit to Marion in early July, the Q008 seemed to be uncharacteristically late. Furthermore, it was following the Q254, an auto rack train

The Q008 finally got to Marion shortly after 3 p.m. There was nothing out of the ordinary about its passage.

But on the end was a long string of bare tables. I’m not sure if “bare table” is a railroad jargon term or something that railfans made up. More to the point, these are empty well cars.

At Last I Can Check Galion Off My List

August 19, 2017

Photographing an eastbound CSX train passing the former Big Four passenger station in Galion has been on my “to do” list for a long time.

How long? I was still shooting slide film when I first became interested in getting the image.

I’ve been digital since July 2011 so that is at least six years. And I know photographing in Galion has been on my mind for at least a few years before that.

I’ve driven through Galion numerous times while en route to Marion. But I never stopped to get the Galion photograph.

Marion has far more traffic than Galion. Yes, everything that passes through Marion on the Mt. Victory Subdivision also goes through Galion.

And Galion gets some traffic off the Columbus Line, which joins the Mt. Victory Sub in Galion a short distance south of the Big Four station.

But Columbus Line traffic has dwindled to a trickle. There is a stack train that originates in Columbus (Q022) and some other traffic here and there.

Getting the Galion image I wanted comes with a small window. It must be done in the morning and it works best for an eastbound.

It also takes determination and not giving into the temptation to say “the hell with it I’m going to Marion” after an hour of waiting and hearing nothing on the radio.

I arrived in Galion around 8:30 a.m., which I feared might be too late to catch the Q022. It must have been because I never saw it.

I waited for nearly an hour before catching a train, the westbound Q363. It was a monster freight that kept traffic waiting at the grade crossings for a long time.

It would be nearly an hour before another train came along. It was the eastbound U700, a coal train.

I debated about whether to photograph on the east side of the tracks or next to the umbrella shed that runs the length of the platform on the west side of the tracks.

I liked that view better, but it would mean one side of the train would be in shadows. I opted for the east side to get all of the train in sunlight.

After the passage of the U700 I headed for Marion. That was a wise decision. There would not be another eastbound go through Galion until around 3 p.m., by which time the sun had shifted to the west side of the tracks.

I’d still like to go back to Galion and get that umbrella shed shot and take my chances with the shadows.

One thing I know is that it will take some patience and maybe arriving earlier than I did on this trip.

More Winter Action From Bellevue

July 28, 2017

Here are some more images from the Bellevue Yard tower on Dec. 31, 1967, the best of the rest. I’m sorry about the reflections, loss of contrast, etc., but these were taken when I was a young railfan photographer.

Photographs by Robert Farkas