Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania Railroad’

Survivors From Penn Central and PRR

February 20, 2018

I went railfanning in Trenton, New Jersey, recently and in keeping with the Penn Central birth/Pennsylvania Railroad demise theme, I would like to present some reminders of those railroads that are still in service today.

These include position light signals (now colorized) and former Metroliner cars serving as cab cars on Keystone Service (New York-Harrisburg) trains.

My New Jersey Transit trains clicked away the miles at a steady 105 mph between Trenton and New Brunswick under the heavy catenary of the former PRR mainline.

Photographs by Jack Norris


Pa. Tourist RR Debuts PRR Lookalike FP7

February 20, 2018

A Pennsylvania tourist railroad has placed into revenue service a Pennsylvania Railroad look alike locomotive.

The Stourbridge Line debuted during President’s Day weekend a former Canadian Pacific GMD FP7 in a variation of the PRR’s FP7 livery.

The unit is painted Brunswick green with five yellow stripes and lettered “Pennsylvania.” Originally, the Pennsy’s FP7s featured a single solid stripe.

The Stourbridge Line provides service in the Pocono Mountains on a former 25-mile Erie Lackawanna branch.

Running along Lackawaxen Creek for most of its way, the tourist railroad is formally named the Delaware Lackawaxen & Stourbridge Railroad. Trains run on weekends and Wednesdays. ​

The PRR replica locomotive once carried CP roster number 1306 but is now No. 9880.

The owner of No. 9880, Tom Myles, said he has a second FP-7 and a B-unit that he plans to rebuild and repaint.

Well Weathered

February 17, 2018

Traces of Conrail can easily be found despite the fact that it has been 18 years since it was divided between CSX and Norfolk Southern.

The most likely vestige of Conrail that you can find are freight cars still carrying the carrier’s herald and name. It will be awhile before those vanish.

But if you pay attention, you can find Conrail in other ways, too.

Many railroad signs along the right of way of former Conrail routes continue to wear Conrail colors, even if the paint is peeling and the color has faded from years of exposure to sunlight.

That includes this station sign in Minvera, Ohio, that still stands along a former Pennsylvania Railroad branch line that at one time extended to Marietta, Ohio.

It is hard to believe that this line was once part of Conrail, but it was.

Conrail was created, after all, to get rid of branches such as the line to Marrietta and it did. Much of the route is abandoned west of Minerva.

The short-line railroad Ohi-Rail operates the remaining rails between Minerva and Bayard, where it interchanges with Norfolk Southern.

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.

Some Penn Central Memories

February 6, 2018

At the beginning of the Penn Central era — around 1968/1969, former New York Central No. 8073 (a Baldwin road switcher) worked out of Canton Yard on the former Pennsylvania Railroad. Here she is with one of Canton’s steel mills for a background.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

50 Years Ago Today Came Penn Central

February 1, 2018

A fading Penn Central herald atop a Pennsylvania Railroad keystone adorns a covered hopper car on the Wheeling & Lake Erie in Monroeville, Ohio. Some former PC rolling stock is still in active service.

It was 50 years ago today that the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central System merged to form Penn Central Transportation Company.

We all know that the merger turned out badly. There were clashes between the cultures of the two one-time largest railroads in the nation, leading to the terms “red team” and “green team.”

Five decades later, some railfans are still fighting the red-green “civil war” even if in jest.

Both the Pennsy and the Central had been struggling financially for years and the result was an even larger railroad that continued to struggle.

Just over four years later, Penn Central sought bankruptcy protection. It was at the time the largest corporate failure in history but has since been eclipsed by the Enron bankruptcy of 2001. A little over eight years after it began, Penn Central the railroad was gone.

We also remember how the PC bankruptcy played a role in nudging Congress into creating the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, a.k.a. as Amtrak; had a role to play in the creation of the Consolidated Rail Corporation, a.k.a. as Conrail; and helped set up passage of the Staggers Act of 1980, which was a major step in transforming how railroads in the United States are regulated by the federal and state governments.

I’m oversimplifying things here because the creation of Amtrak, Conrail and deregulation were complex processes that can’t be traced in any one single event.

But Penn Central played an out-sized role in all of those because of the sheer magnitude of its failure.

Much has been written about the woes of Penn Central, including three books and countless articles.

As I pondered the legacy of PC, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a fellow Akron Railroad Club member at a train show a couple of years ago.

Noting that there is a Penn Central Historical Society, my fellow ARRC member wondered why anyone would be interested in celebrating a failed railroad.

In its day, Penn Central was known for bad tracks; frequent derailments, including trains that derailed while standing still; lost shipments; hostility toward passenger service and financial losses.

I don’t belong to the PC historical group, but I can explain why a “failed” railroad would have appeal to some.

Penn Central came about during a time when many people were coming of age and starting to learn about railroad operations in some detail.

Although the problems that Penn Central had have been magnified due to its bankruptcy, it was far from the only railroad in the late 1960s and early 1970s that was struggling. Indeed Conrail grew out of the ashes of several bankrupt railroads.

Arguably, Penn Central and all of it problems needed to happen for America’s railroads to make the transition from a highly regulated era to one of relative economic freedom.

Of course, that meant that dozens of flags had to fall and thousands of miles of track had to be pulled up. Thousands of people would lose their railroading careers.

The railroad network of the late 1960s was not economically sustainable. The manufacturing economy of the Midwest and Northeast was crumbling and railroads were suffering with it. There was too much railroad infrastructure for the business to be had.

This is not to say that the industry was without fault in bringing about its own struggles. But it’s a complex story involving a multitude of factors.

We can always speculate about how things might have been different had Penn Central been given the freedom from government regulation that Conrail enjoyed.

Some of the route rationalizations that Conrail was able to pull off had been objectives that Penn Central sought to achieve, but was thwarted by the regulatory structure at the time.

The political climate in which Penn Central was created was not conducive to implementing those grand plans.

As bad as Penn Central was, I find myself at times looking back at it with a certain nostalgic longing.

I would not want to see railroads operate today as Penn Central did, but time has a way of putting things into perspective. Penn Central was the last gasp of railroading as our parents’ and grandparents’ generations knew it when they came of age. My generation was able to taste only some of it.

Every generation has one or more things that it laments having lost from its youth whether it is steam locomotives, a favorite railroad or a rail line that you grew up with.

And so it was with Penn Central. It was once a major presence in my life and then like so many other things it was taken away. These losses tend to have greater effect on you during your young adult years. They also tend to stay with you in ways that later losses in life do not.

Some might say “good riddance” about the demise of Penn Central, but I find it a compelling story and one worth remembering and even celebrating.

T1 Trust Buys Boiler Courses

January 30, 2018

The Pennsylvania Railroad T1 Steam Locomotive Trust recently announced that it purchased the first and second boiler courses of new-build 4-4-4-4 No. 5550.

The order was placed with Continental Fabricators of St. Louis. In a news release the T1 Trust described the acquisition as a major milestone because the boiler courses represent the largest parts yet built for the streamlined duplex locomotive.

The two sections are more than 93 inches in diameter and nearly 12-feet long. The boiler code steel is 1-inch thick and weighs more than 12,000 pounds.

All welds will be x-rayed to ensure perfect seams. The sections will include wash-out plugs and openings for water delivery.

The T1 trust is seeking to raise the $25,000 to complete the third and final cylindrical boiler section. The goal is to have donations pledged by April 15. If so the trust said it can have 25,000-pounds of boiler complete by summer 2018.

3 From the 1960s

November 14, 2017

Here are three local photos that show long-gone pieces of Northeast Ohio history from December 1966 and January 1967.

In the top images are boxcars on the now-removed Pennsylvania Railroad line to Orrville crossing the southbound Baltimore & Ohio tracks at Warwick.

Looking down the string of boxcars, the main road is there, but the railroad crossing cross bucks and the side road aren’t. Also, there is a bridge under Ohio Route 21 in this photo. How quickly the past is removed.

In the middle is Akron, Canton & Youngstown X991 big hook in Akron.

The bottom image shows Erie No. 21576 at the north end of the A&BB yard that served Columbia Chemical and PPG.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

Quest for Keystone Fall Foliage: 3

November 2, 2017

NS westbound 19G approaches the east portal of the Gallitzen tunnels as fall color fills the hillsides of the east slope.

Last of Three Parts

My next destination was Cresson, where I didn’t plan to stay long, but NS had other ideas.

But first I had to find my way out of Lilly. I had no trouble getting onto Pennsylvania Route 53, but I missed a turn in downtown.

I swear there was no sign showing that you have to make a right turn at the intersection where Route 53 juts eastward.

I went straight and wound up on a dead-end street. I had to zig zag my way back.

I had brought maps of all the towns I planned to visit, but hadn’t studied the map of Lilly enough determine how to get out of Lilly other than to stay on Route 53.

There is a large parking lot next to the railfan viewing platform in Cresson. I parked and walked up onto the platform. There was just one other person there and he spotted me and came over.

He was from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and we had a nice conversation about railroad operations in Pennsylvania and the highways in the Keystone State.

He been headed toward State College on U.S. 322, but got into heavy traffic of football fans leaving town. Those would have been the fans who stayed overnight after the conclusion of the Saturday night game.

That traffic led him to go another direction on his motorcycle and he wound up in Cresson.

We had plenty of time to talk because NS decided to go on siesta again. My radio was silent for a long time until the 21M showed up around 2:30 p.m.

Across the tracks from the viewing platform were three R.J. Corman locomotives that weren’t going anywhere. At least I got to see some bright color on a locomotive.

Not long before the 21M showed up, the Pittsburgh East dispatcher called the signal gang foreman to report that he couldn’t get switch 11 to show as having been thrown.

There was a good reason for that. The crew that had been digging around that switch earlier in the day inadvertently had severed a cable. They found some spikes and spiked the switch into position.

Think someone on Monday morning was going to have to answer for that one?

After the 21M headed for points west, I bid farewell to the guy from Lancaster and headed for Gallitzin.

As had happened in Lilly, I made a wrong turn coming town and had to zig zag to where I was going. I knew I was going the wrong way when the street on which I was driving went beneath the NS tracks. Had I followed the proper route I would have remained north of the tracks at all times.

I parked at the railfan park at the west end of the tunnels, but my stay here was brief. Nothing was going on so I motored up the hill to an overlook just off Tunnelhill Street.

The overlook offers an expansive view to the east, although it is somewhat obscured by trees and other vegetation.

But it is open enough to get decent photograph of trains on the east side of the tunnels.

By now the temperatures had finally reached the 70s and I no longer needed to wear a jacket.

I looked up to see a jet high overhead. I had my longest telephoto lens on my camera and snapped a couple of image.

When I enlarged the image on the camera screen I could see that it appeared to be a Boeing 747. But I could not make out any airline markings.

The radio came to life with a detector going off to the east and a westbound 19G calling signals. It was what I wanted to hear.

I could make out the outline of a train through the trees and waited until the head end came into an open area.

As much as anything, it was this image that I had driven to Pennsylvania to get. I wanted a photograph of a train grinding along with the mountainsides in the background wearing their palette of autumn colors.

I got it even if the colors were more muted than I would have liked. But the image says autumn and the lighting was good.

Having gotten “the shot,” it was time to slowly begin making my way west toward home.

I spent some time at the park by the tunnels, getting the helpers on the 19G, a westbound helper set and an eastbound intermodal train.

There was one last spot I wanted to check out and it would turn out to be the one with the brightest color.

I had been told by a guy at Cassandra that the color by the Pennsylvania Route 53 bridge over the NS tracks between Cresson and Gallitzin was particularly good. It was.

Shortly after I arrived, an eastbound trash train came along. I photographed it from both sides of the Route 53 bridge.

I noticed that an abandoned bridge abutment would offer a better place to stand on the south side of the tracks.

I walked over there and caught an eastbound intermodal train. A couple of young railfans joined me and we talked some.

What I really wanted, though, was a westbound. The light favored westbounds and there was good color at the bend where the five-track mainline curves as it heads into Gallitzin.

I had planned to leave for home at 5 p.m. NS had about a half-hour to send me a westbound. But the railroad wasn’t cooperating.

As I walked to my car I heard a scratchy voice on the radio say something like “3 west.” Was it west of Cresson or somewhere east of Gallitzin?

I thought about going back, but the day was getting late and I had a long drive ahead of me.

As I got on U.S. 22 at Cresson, I saw another eastbound coal train passing below.

The skies began clouding up the further west I went. But shortly after cresting ridge of the Laurel Highlands in Jackson Township of Cambria County, I looked to my right at the open view of the valley below and saw the best autumn color I had seen all day.

I was going too fast to pull over, so I found a ramp to reverse direction. I then had to go up and over at an exit to head westbound again.

This time I was able to pull over, put on my flashers and get out for some photographs of color on the hillsides.

Dinner was at a burger and beer joint in Murraysville named Crave.

By the time I left it was nighttime. I had entered Pennsylvania in the dark and I would leave it the same way.

But at least I didn’t have to contend with any more “highway robbery” incidents at the state line.

One of Pennsylvania’s many quirks is that you pay through the nose to enter the state on the Pennsylvania Turnpike from Ohio, but they let you leave without paying a dime.

Come back soon Buckeye and don’t forget to bring $7 with you to get in.

A broader perspective of the east slope as the 19G makes its way uphill toward Gallitzin.

Westbound intermodal train 21M splits the old signals and the yet to be turned on new signals in Cresson.

The helpers on the rear of the 19G in Gallitzin.

A westbound helper set running light is about to emerge from Gallitzin Tunnel.

An eastbound stack train casts shadows in the late day light as it passes through Gallitzin Tunnel.

An eastbound empty trash train in the first of a seven-image sequence. The view is looking west off the Pennsylvania Route 53 bridge just outside of Cresson.


Last train of the day in a four-shot sequence. The view is near the Pennsylvania Route 53 bridge at Cresson .

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.