NS GP40-2 3046

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Conjuction Juction

How could you not love the old Schoolhouse Rock cartoons. My favorite just happen to be Conjunction Junction(I wonder why....). I'm glad that I don't have to switch in yard like the one in Conjunction Junction.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Amtrak's Private Rail Car Standards

Since my first train ride on Amtrak's Capitol Limited during the summer of 1993, I've been in love with stainless steel rail passenger cars. I remember very clearly the consist: a dome car, heritage diner, lounge, sleepers and Amfleet coaches. Over the years, Amtrak has sold off most if not all of its heritage fleet. Some of these cars made it into the hands other railroads, historical rail groups and private owners. Some private owner’s cars are still running, others are now static displays. Not all private car owners picked up their cars from Amtrak. Some were lucky to pick them up when railroads or the Pullman Company started selling their passenger equipment.

Some of the cars in private ownership are Amtrak compatible. To achieve that status, the car must have the following:
Amtrak PC1 - Annual Amtrak car inspection. Must be signed off by PC1 or PC2 approved Amtrak inspector.
Amtrak PC1a - Car Data
Amtrak PC2 - 40 year rebuild of trucks. Must be signed off by a PC2 approved Amtrak inspector.
Amtrak PC3 - Route/Mileage Log
Amtrak PC4 - Shop report. This must be a complete report of mechanical, electrical, and structure upgrades/repairs. Be ready to take pictures, have drawings made to document upgrades/repairs.
Amtrak PC5 - Car Clearance data.

Sound simple? These standards are just the tip of the iceberg. Performing work on a car and meeting Amtrak standards requires a lot of time, money and equipment. Depending on the car you pick up, you might need a few minor things done that will take 6 months or 10 years to complete. Some cars are restored to the way they came out of the factory while others are turned in modern plush pimp rides.

More to come on this subject.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

“Now let’s have some fun”

After completing an inspection of my train for hand brakes, retainers and closed angle cocks, I stood at the last car in amazement about the size of the train. This was the longest and heaviest train that I had anything to do with. All night in the cab, the engineer and I talked about making it up the hill. We were not sure if we could make it over the hill but wanted to find out at least how far we would make it.

I walked into the cab and informed the engineer to back up when ready as I started to peel off my wet Carhart rain pants and coat.

“You have a lot of faith that I can get this train moving and up over the hill.”

I knew that we had only 40% of making it up the hill. This would be a battle of traction effort and adhesion versus wet rail and the grade. Our duo locomotives for the evening, a GP15-1 leading the second unit, a GP35 would combine for 98,000 pounds of traction effort, 28 EMD cylinders, and 4,000 horse power. The battle against the grade started.

We started the train in run 2 to get us moving quickly. One of the tracks leaving the scrap yard had a slight down-hill grade that gave us some help, but not that much. We crossed the first crossing with no problem and slipped some on the second crossing. We were moving, but it was not the horse power that kept us moving, it was all traction effort. There was no need yet to run the engine at full throttle since this would only cause the traction motors to slip and spin on the wet rail. The train had movement of about 7-8 mph and the only goal was to keep moving. All 31 cars were on the straight grade, engines in run 5 and would soon face an uphill curve in the track. This is where the horse power would come in to provide the power needed to maintain traction effort that would result in us still moving. We enter the curve and started to slip. These two locomotives were couple short hood to short hood which allowed me to see the wheel slip light reflection flashing from the trailing locomotive in my window. Rapidly, we started to loss speed once more cars enter the curve. In a finally assault at about 2 MPH, the engineer notched up the locos only to have them pull some and slip. This lasted only about 1 car length before we stalled in notch 8. We ended up cutting 6 cars off the head end and placing them on a siding that was less than a quarter mile away. While walking back to make the cut, I noticed that the air was filled with a very fine sand dust. This was the result of the sanders sanding the railing, then being crushed by the locomotive wheel and the traction motor blowers blowing it into the air. Pulling the remaining 25 cars was no problem. We soon tied the 25 to the 6 at the side track and headed home.

This night we failed because of adhesion, not horse power. You need power at speed to keep a train moving at track speed. In slow, hard pulls, it comes down to traction effort and adhesion.

In an upcoming post, I will compare turbo charged and roots blown locomotives.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Very Busy Summer

This summer has been one of for me personally. I was able to ride Amtrak a few times, attend Trainfest2009, investing a possible caboose, working my butt off on a growing railroad and assist the Roundhouse with several projects. If you are wondering, I have plenty of pictures to share.

Please stay tuned for updates on these items.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ohio 3C Amtrak Survey

Ohio is currently working with Amtrak to hopefully bring passenger rail service to Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.

Please take some time and complete this complete the survey.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Lot More Railroading....

I have been working a lot more lately on the railroad due to the lease of a new line. By any means, I am not complaining one bit. The unemployment rate continues to climb here in Ohio and folks are struggling to find one job. I have two and will keep them both as long as I can.

I will be updating this page soon again.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

ClevelandTrains Web Existence

I was reading a post over at Trainorders about the ten anniversary of the Conrail split up between NS and CSX. This made me think about back 10 years ago. I remember the break up very well. I was in my second year of college starting my summer job as a labor for a great group of carpenters at Cleveland State University. During this time, I was able to take some great pictures of the NS, CSX and Amtrak trains due to split. Some of these pictures made it to my first website that was hosted at www.trainweb.org/clevelandtrains. Thinking about my first site at TrainWeb made me wonder how long I have been on the web and how things have changed. I don’t remember my go live date, but for this post, let’s say that I have had a web presence between 10-11 years. I have hosted over 40,000 visitors at my sites. I have noticed that my visitors span the globe. More impressive is that I receive visits from Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX, NS, CP, CN and even DB Bahn in Germany.

Now instead of mostly taking pictures of trains, I lend a hand to a great group of guys at http://www.midwestrailway.org/. I’m also so grateful for the short line that has allowed me to fulfill my dream of working on the railroad. Because of this possibility, I have a totally different view of railroading. When I’m at work, it’s just that. Safety is always first.

Since I know that staff at Class I railroads visit, I am going to ask you for a kind favor. Is there any way you could consider donating a couple of locomotives to Midwest Railway Preservation Society? The units would be used on excursions and at our open houses. We are a 503(c) organization if you might be wondering about tax status. Pretty please? Let’s talk……..

I think I can......

Remember the story about the little engine that could? Well, this is a real life railroading story about Amtrak being contracted to move 20 ex-American Orient Express (AOE) cars to Denver. Enjoy the post and pictures.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Buckingham Lining Bar Gang (Gandy Dancers)

During Trainfest 2004, I had the honor to watch the Buckingham Lining Bar Gang perform some of their songs while demonstrating how they lined track (tamping). Usually a track consisted of 8 to 12 men. The gang would lay new rail, replace rail, replace railroad ties and spread ballast. This was done manually. At the roundhouse, I had the chance to help lay about 60 feet of 90 pound rail. And I must say, laying 60 feet just almost killed me! I have nothing but the upmost respect for these men who did it day in and out no matter the weather.

I have posted my pictures of the Buckingham Lining Bar Gang in my photo gallery.

I was also able to find this short documentry on Gandy Dancers at FolkStreams.com

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

IC coach leaves BGRM 4-20-2009

This car is making its way to the Midwest Railway Preservation Society. I will post pictures of the car once it makes it to our yard.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Becoming A Better Writer

Over the last few days, I have started reviewing some of my early works taken with my old Canon Powershot A20. This model only had 2 mega pixels, but it did deliver some great shots. My review was inspired by my recent railroad readings and reviewing works by other fellow rail photographers especially Scott Lothes. I mention Scott Lothes because of his speech “Great Writers Lessons for Railroad Photographers”. I’m finding my writing is straining to convey a story, but my photography skills are improving. I’m traveling to places I have been many times with hopes to understanding my scenes better. Anyone can take a picture, but I wish to take meaningful pictures that include more than just a train. Most of my shots are taken in an urban environment. Most rail photographers try to stay away from urban areas for safety reasons. These places are not in the best of shape or the prettiest, but one could still convey a story from these scenes. If it was not for my grandmother’s Ambler street home being located next to Conrails’s Shortline route, I would have little to no exposure to trains. This is my way of paying homage and sharing the story of trains and the folks who reside by the tracks.

Below is a photo I snapped on 1-7-2003 at Cleveland’s Amtrak station of train number 43 conductors walking back to their train. The Pennsylvanian was a “junk” train when it ran between Chicago and New York City. It usually had two units, three coaches, 1 cafĂ©/coach and 20 roadrailers. This train was usually ahead of schedule that allowed an abundance of time to photograph it sitting in the station. On this day, 43 had plenty of time to kill. The assistant conductor and conductor would go into the station and talk with the station agent while the few passengers aboard who smoked enjoyed several cigarettes and the remaining passengers looked at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from the platform. Those days are now over with since the Pennsylvanian now starts and ends in Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Train Jumping In Mexico

This is the story of Latin American migrants who hobo trains in Mexico for ride north in search of a better life. Some make it, others lose body parts and a few die during this jagged quest. The rails south of the border gives new life to the phrase "magic carpets made of steel".......

The article link

Photo slide show - Be warned that some of this pictures are not pretty and contain people who are missing various body parts.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Daddy Was A Railroad Man

I used to work for The Great Train Store located in Tower City. From opening until closing, we had to play train related music. There was a 5 disc changer that had the job of playing music for 10 hours a day. After hearing the same music over and over again, it just started to drive you crazy. You started to hate some songs and love others. The best weekend I ever worked there was when the disc player stopped working. Nothing could replace the silence that filled the store all weekend.

I found a link to one of my favorite railroad songs, My Daddy Was A Railroad Man by Boxcar Willie. I did not mind hearing this song over and over for some reason.

Friday, April 24, 2009

GTW 4070

While Googling (yes, this is a word, verb, the act of using Google) for Midwest Railway, I came across this webpage about someone's first trip behind steam engine 4070.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rebuilding Rail Passenger Cars

Over the years, I have followed some folks and groups who have rebuilt their passenger rail cars to Amtrak operating standards.

Here are a few cars that I follow.
ERIX RailCar
Colorado Pine
Mt. Vernon
Dover Harbor

One car that I really like is the NKP 1. It was built for the Nickel Plate Railroad in 1929 and used by the Van Sweringen brothers.

I'm working on a post to explain what it takes(besides money) to get a private car up to Amtrak standards.


This past Friday, I was able to purchase the www.Clevelandtrains.com domain name. When I started my website at Trainweb.org, I had no need for my own domain name. A few years later, my photo collection started to out grow my space limits on Trainweb. With some suprus server equipment laying around my office, I decided to give web hosting a shot. When I had my own webserver configured and ready for use, some company had purchased the .com of Clevelandtrains and wanted $1,000 to purchase it. This is how I ended up with the .net domain name for $6.99 a year. The company holding onto the .com domain decided to give it up. I was only able to find this out by going to some webhosting companies to see what kind of rate they are charging these days for services. Something told me to check on the .com name. I'm so glad that I did follow that voice. Both sites are pointed at the same server, same files and will be for some time to come.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

CSX 1st Quarter Report

There has been a lot of folks waiting to see CSX's 1st quarter earning report. Some are using this a gauge of how the economy is expected to do this year. Usually railroads will see traffic rise or fall 4-6 months before it hits Wall Street reports.

Below is a link to the report.

There is a great table on page 9 showing the revenue by product, profit by product and the profit by unit. If you ever wondered how much a RR might earn for products carried, here you go.

CSXT 2009 1st Quarter report

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pullman Porters

When time permits, I try to read the local newspaper online and the NYTimes. The NYTimes recently ran an article about Amtrak honoring Pullman porters on National Train Day. Reading this article took me back many years to a conversation I had with my godfather, Richard Gunn.

One day while waking Smokey, his little black dog, we heard a train horn from the train tracks near his Mt. Overlook Street home in Cleveland.

“Can we walk down to the tracks to see the train?”

“By the time we walk down to the tracks, the train will have left town” said Richard.

“One day I want to work on a railroad as an engineer. Did you know anyone who worked on the railroad?”



“My father. He was a Pullman porter mostly on the C&O trains.”

“Really? Did you get to travel on trains using a pass?”

“Yes, but all railroads did not honor the passes completely or at all. Some railroads did not honor the passes because they had their own porters, not Pullman porters though.”

“Did you ever get to ride on the 20th Century Limited?’

There was a chuckle from Richard before he proceeded to answer my question.

“ The 20th Century did not stop in Cleveland. It used the New York Central track near the lake that bypassed the Terminal Tower. It would have been a schedule killer to route the train into the Terminal. Plus the Terminal did not want steam engines smoking up the building, so you would have to put on some electrics or diesels on it and then take them off at Collinwood. I don’t think the New York Central would have liked some family of a Pullman porter riding their flagship.”

After that was said, there was nothing more for me to ask and nothing more for him to say. We continued are walk around the block, stopping at the Preisler Home Lumber Center on Woodland Ave. to say hi to the staff and get me some gum from the Ford $.10 gum machine.

I'm currently doing research on my God father's father. Hopefully I can find some information out and add him to the Pullman Porter Registry.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I am #1

Sometime in January 2002, I was at Collinwood Yard taking pictures. I was lucky enough to catch CSX AC44 unit #1 coming into the yard. I was able to pull off the photo below with some luck. This pan shot was taken with an old Canon Powershot 2mp model. If you know anything about the old Canon digitals, you know how hard it was to get a picture of something if it was moving. You would press the button and hope that it would take a picture in the same life time. Lucky for me that this train was moving slow, a steady hand and a lucky aim.

You can click on this picture for a bigger view. This also applies to most pictures posted.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shortline Tour, Part 1

I work for a short line railroad that runs from Glenn Willow, Ohio to Cleveland, Ohio. Our little line hauls scrap metal from a huge junk yard in Cleveland destined for steel mills near the Ohio~Pennsylvania boarder area. Once and awhile, we receive a coiled wire type of steel that is used to make rebar. This steel arrives in very nice cars from the CN railroad for a customer along our line. We interchange with the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway (WE) at Falls Junction Yard. The WE brings us empty gondolas and sometimes coiled steel for delivery. In return, we bring them loads of scrap metal. We have a very basic and simple operation that only requires us usually to run once a day during the week. If we have more than 19-20 loads, we will usually make 2 trips to avoid stalling on our little hill.

I've decided to start posting about and sharing photos of our line to give folks a better idea of my stories. This is picture was taken in the same area of my famous bunny story.

Here is a picture taken from the Havard Road bridge near East 103 Street. Currently the crew
is sorting out cars using the passing track and house track in the 93rd Street Yard..

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Obama Express Locomotive Engineer

Who knew it was this easy to get selected to run this historic train. I know guys who fight over who gets to blow the whistle. I know one engineer that has a need for speed. Let's call him Casey for this example. No matter how many secret service agents that would have been in the cab with Casey, he would have them sitting down and holding on to something bolted down.

Here is a link to Carlyle Smith's story.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Out of Conrail GP40-2 Locomotives Pictures

As promised, the pictures I've taken of the ex-Conrail GP40-2 units.

This is the picture from which I named my last post, "Walking Away". Now you can see why.

4420 was often mated with 4410 or 4411. Here they are in the middle of the night with there rear class lights on. The front class lights were blanked out as you can see in the next picture.

4433 was one the the first Conrail units I found painted in the new scheme.

Not the famous SP 4449, but CSXT 4449.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Walking Away.....

There is a power plant in Eastlake, Ohio that receives Power River Basin coal trains from the BNSF Railway. At one time, there was always a pair of EMD GP40-2 locomotives to pull the coal cars down to the car plant for dumping. These units where kept on a siding next to a small trailer that was used a depot for the crews. The units where usually ex-Conrail units that went to CSX. The usual units that got to handle the coal traind where 4407, 4410, 4411, 4420, 4447, 4449 and others in series.. These units were once used to tow hot TV (Trailer Van) trains across the Conrail system. Soon, they where bumped to handle general freights due to displacement by newer power to handle that could handle longer trains. By the time CSX recieved these units, there where being used in local and yard service. When not being used to shuffle auto racks and pull long cuts of flat cars in Collinwood, you could find them working on the coal cars for the power plant.
Over the years, I been able to catch the bandits mentioned above around Cleveland.
I'll post the pictures tomorrow.......

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thanks to mother nature, I was able to receive my first lesson in winter railroading 101. When working in the extreme cold(10 degrees) and snow, you have to take your time when walking and dealing with the equipment. There was plenty of snow that caused problems when walking and climbing up the freight cars to tie them down. You sink into inches of untouched snow. In normal weather, it takes seconds to get to from one car to another, that is now minutes. Equipment takes on a new lifeless form. Brakes do not like to do their job on the cars when applied right away. Make a couple of reductions and keep pulling. The brakes on the car will heat up sooner and hopefully not later. Most of the times, you will come to a stop. This makes things tougher when switching in yards. Not enough time to drag the cars around to heat up the shoes to grip. A road hogger can put on his first reduction on at speed to get his brakes to heat up pretty quickly. Lucky Guys.....

Monday, January 05, 2009

This train stops for bunnies.........

I was riding on the rear platform when I heard the and felt the locomotive coming to a quick stop. I quickly entered the cab to see what was going on.
"Why did we stop" I asked the engineer?
"There was a rabbit in the tracks and I did not want to run it over"
"'What kind of rabbit was it"
"I don't know. It was one that was between the tracks. Can you go check to see if it cleared the rails?"

I walked out the fireman's door, slammed it shut behind me and proceeded to the front of the locomotive. When I made it to the front, I did not see any rabbit. I radioed the engineer to tell him that there was no rabbit in between the tracks or near them and to start moving our engine moving forward again. I returned to the cab to start my questioning.

"What kind of rabbit was it again?"
"I don't know." "It was a Playboy Bunny."
"That would been worth us stopping."
We both had a good laugh.

Other than this happening, the nightly run was uneventful. It was cold out with temps in the 20s. We ran slower than usual do the the cold. Rail has a higher chance of breaking in cold weather. I'm guessing that our rail with various dates stamped from the 20's would be prime supects for cold weather breaks.

I forgot to mention that I lost my Carhart knit hat. It might have escape from me somewhere in the depot or near my car in the yard. One of our crews is working tonight. I wonder who will find it first, a CCR crew or Wheeling. There have been hats in the yard before that just end up laying around for weeks until someone speaks up about their hat blowing off.