Posts Tagged ‘tourist railroads’

Cincinnati Tourist RR Faces Uncertain Future

August 27, 2021

A Cincinnati area tourist railroad faces an uncertain future due infrastructure work that could reach $2.5 million over the next decade.

Much of that involves replacing bridges along the route.

The Lebanon, Mason & Monroe Railroad is operated by the Cincinnati Scenic Railway, which also sponsors excursions in western Ohio operating as The Ohio Rail Experience.

The LM&M uses track owned by the city of Lebanon, which helps fund the tourist train’s operations.

The current operating agreement will expire on Jan. 1, 2023, and the CSR is negotiating a new agreement with the city. The costs of replacing bridges has become a sticking point in the talks.

An LM&M spokesman said the tourist railroad is “aggressively pursuing” grant opportunities to help fund the repairs.

However, some fear that the LM&M will cease operations at the end of 2022.

City manager Scott Brunka said negotiations over the new agreement are in their early stages. He characterized supporting for the railroad as “a sound investment in Lebanon’s future, as well as the right thing to do.”

WMSR Names New Executive Director

August 27, 2021

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad has named Wesley Heinz as its executive director.

He replaces John Garner who stepped down from the position temporarily in June to attend to health and family concerns.

Heinz has been acting executive director in the interim. He previously was executive director at the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum in Portland, Maine, and has a background in

Historic preservation, fundraising, and marketing.

His work has included serving on operating and restoration crews for numerous steam locomotives, including Western Maryland’s project to restore Cheasapeake & Ohio  2-6-6-2 No. 1309.

WMSR Using Dome Car on Excursions

July 6, 2021

A former Amtrak done car has begun revenue service on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

The car is former former Great Northern Railway full-length dome Ocean View.

It has been repainted and lettered  for the WMSR and will make regular runs between Cumberland and Frostburg, Maryland.

The car was built in 1955, one of six full length-domes built for GN and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy.

Amtrak acquired all six of the domes and assigned them to its Empire Builder between Chicago and Seattle until the domes were replaced with new Superliner Equipment in 1979.

In recent years, Amtrak’s last dome car on its active roster was used for special occasions on select trains, including the Adirondack and Downeaster.

Retired in 2018, Ocean View was offered for sale in 2019, eventually being purchased by Paxrail.

Chasing the NY&LE (Part 2)

June 16, 2021

Second of two parts

After the New York & Lake Erie excursion train arrived at South Dayton, passengers disembarked for a 30-minute layover.

We watched and photographed as the locomotive ran around to the other end of the train for the return to Gowanda.

We then toured the station, which was open during the layover. We enjoyed the displays and photo albums from local residents of Robert Redford, Steve Martin, John Candy, and the former Grand Trunk Western 2-8-4 No. 4070 during the visits in the 1980s.

Many of the locals were very lucky to have photos of and with the celebrities.

At about 3:15 p.m. the train departed for the return trip. We chased it and got a few more photographs.

In the images above we see changing ends at South Dayton, approaching Markhams Road after passing Dole Street, the train at East Hill Street dropping down into Gowanda.

Back in Gowanda, we see the train passing a derelict Contrack coach that Marty, myself and Craig Sanders had seen in 2017 during a trip to Arcade & Attica.

Finally, here is No. 1013 as it appears today and No. 1013 as it appeared during an Akron Railroad Club/Railroad Enthusiasts charter trip on April 26, 1987

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

WMSR Resumes Excursions This Weekend

May 28, 2021

Excursions will resume this weekend on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

The 90-minute trips will be pulled by diesel locomotives and include a new open-air car and a dome car.

They will be the first excursions on the tourist railroad in more than a year with service having been suspended for most of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The trips are scheduled to depart on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Capacity for each trip is limited to 250 people.

Excursions pulled by former Chesapeake & Ohio steam locomotive No. 1309 will be announced at a later date.

Rebuilding WMSR 734 Seen as Years Away

April 24, 2021

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad said it plans to stabilize and evaluate its 2-8-0 steam locomotive No. 734, but has no plans to resume operations with it.

 “Our new mechanical team has found accounts and inspection forms that indicate the locomotive was performing well below peak efficiency during her final years in service,” officials said.

“The locomotive was often pushed far beyond its normal operating capabilities, which has resulted in extreme wear and tear of many key components, particularly the running gear.”

WMSR forces have in the past couple years been focused largely on restoring former Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309, which was steamed up earlier this year and is expected to begin revenue service this summer.

No. 734 is a “Consolidation” type built by Baldwin in 1916 for the Lake Superior & Ishpeming as No. 18 and later had roster number 34.

It was retired by the LS&I in the early 1960s and ran on another tourist railroad and sat on static display at Illinois Railway Museum.

WMSR restored the 734 in the early 1990s and it was featured in many photo charters over the years. The locomotive last operated in 2016.

WMSR officials said the 734 is in extremely worn mechanical condition and will need a lengthy and expensive overhaul.

“If undertaken, it would also mean a significant investment in a locomotive that no longer meets the daily needs of the railroad, though this does not remove the possibility of 734 operating on the lighter, off-season trains and as stand-by power for 1309,” officials said.

The officials said the WMSR cannot commit to rebuilding the 734 until it determine the cost and scope of the needed work.

They indicated that review would not be completed until after the 2021 operating season and is likely to require a fundraising campaign.

Nonetheless WMSR officials expect that it will be a few years before overhaul work on the 734 begins in earnest.

The railroad plans to resume operations on May 29 after being shut down since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maryland County Assumes WMSR Track Maintenance

March 16, 2021

A Maryland County has agreed to assume responsibility for track maintenance of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

Allegany County will take on that duty in the wake of an order by the Federal Railroad Administration last month that 50,000 ties be replaced before the railroad can resume revenue service.

The heritage operation has been shut down since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FRA-manmdated work is expected to enable the WMSR to be classified as a Class 2 railroad.

That would enable passenger trains to operate at a top speed of 30 miles per hour.

County officials said they believe the tie work could be completed at a cost of $250,000, a much lower estimate than an earlier $2 million projection.

Pandemic Set Rail Preservation Back About a Decade

January 4, 2021

Thomas the Tank Engine appears on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in May 2018. Lost of revenue from special events has contributed to the financial struggles of tourist railroads.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have set North American railway preservation back about a decade an analysis published on the website of Trains magazine concluded.

The pandemic forced hundreds of museums and tourist railroads to shut down or operate at reduced capacity, thus depriving them of needed revenue to pay bills and loans.

The analysis did not provide any details, but noted that some operations have closed permanently while others will find it difficult to reopen this year.

Some operations will need donations and/or government grants to get rolling again.

The scope of damage the pandemic caused to rail preservation operations may become clearer in the first and second quarters of this year as they make plans 2021 operations, the analysis said

One of the key money makers for some tourist railroads, The Polar Express and Thomas the Tank Engine, were unavailable in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Trains noted that at some railroads specials event revenue contributes more than 50 percent of the operating budget.

In Northeast Ohio, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad initially began Polar Express excursions, but halted them after about a week later due to surging COVID-19 virus rates in the state and region.

The Polar Express is the largest U.S. licensee of railroad-based performance event. In 2019, 62 locations hosted Polar Express trains. Those trains attracted 1.4 million riders in 2015.

The analysis noted that if there was an upside to the pandemic it was that some railroads that were closed were able to get work done on repair and restoration projects without the distraction of regular operations.

Trains wrote that railroads and museums that have endowments, generous trustees, creative staffs, and major financial supporters should be able to weather the pandemic in reasonably good condition.

Colebrookdale Railroad Resumes Operations

October 6, 2020

Pennsylvania-based Colebrookdale Railroad has resumed operating excursion trains and plans to offer fall foliage trips through early November.

The tourist railroad based in Boyerstown said the foliage trains will run Oct. 10-11, 17-18, 24-25, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, Nov. 7-8, with three departures on Saturdays and two on Sundays.

Colebrooke will operate Christmas specials starting on Nov. 21.

In a news release the railroad said it is observing COVID-19 regulations including trains operating at 50 percent capacity and subject to enhanced cleaning protocols, limited food and beverage options, and mask requirements for passengers.

It’s the Little Details That Can Make a Picture

August 2, 2020

At first glance, these two photographs appear to have little in common.

The top photograph depicts former Lake Superior & Ishpeming 2-8-0 No. 33 at Sugarcreek on April 19, 2008, during one of its few outings under Ohio Central ownership.

In the bottom photograph is Oil Creek & Titusville Alco S2 No. 85 in Titusville, Pennsylvania, on April 20, 2006.

Both images feature good composition that invites you to linger over them for a moment or two.

But what these have in common are little things that maybe you noticed but might not have stopped to think about the role they play in creating a story.

In the photograph of No. 33 there is a figure standing next to the locomotive looking it over.

He appears to be a crew member and is wearing a broad brim hat. No. 33 is a smallish steam locomotive, but even if dwarfs a person standing next to it.

In the OC&T image, there is a portion of a pole line visible along the tracks. That combined with the large and old red brick industrial building in the background suggest another era.

The boarded up windows of the industrial building indicate that era is well past.

It used to be common to see pole lines along railroad right of ways, but in the past decade or so railroads have pretty much removed them as they rely on other technology to communicate.

Of course nothing says “another era” like a steam locomotive. And Alco has been out of the business of building diesel locomotives since 1969.

There is another link between these two images as well. Both locomotives were used in tourist train service and part of the rational for having tourist trains is to provide a glimpse of the past.

Railroading hasn’t gone away and figures to be around for a long time to come. But in many ways subtle and obvious it is always changing. Hence it’s nice to have reminders of the past, including those things we may have forgotten from it.

Photographs by Robert Farkas