Blogs

  • Blog Post: Drew's Fantastic Train Photo Adventure: Catching up!

    July 22 A Union Pacific distributed power unit pushes the rear of a westbound coal train on the Adams line in Merton, Wis. Canon EOS 30D, 7/8/2011, 1/1250 sec, f/8, ISO 250, 141mm. Drew Halverson photo What I like: The black-and-white treatment. This motif isolates the gleaming rails...
  • Blog Post: Riding through the floods Part 3: Bob Johnston's Canadian notebook

    Guest blog series from Bob Johnston Covering the passenger rail beat is always a challenge, but sometimes you stumble across more opportunities than you bargained for. That was especially true this past May and June, when massive flooding turned a train trip to North Dakota into a week-long rail...
  • Blog Post: Riding through the floods Part 4: Toronto to Chicago by rail… and taxi

    Covering the passenger rail beat is always a challenge, but sometimes you stumble across more opportunities than you bargained for. That was especially true this past May and June, when a simple train trip to North Dakota turned into a week-long, international rail odyssey after Mother Nature unleashed...
  • Blog Post: Matt finds the trains in TRAINS’ backyard: A historic Wisconsin depot

    Throughout the month of August, I want to try a photography project that focuses on the trains in TRAINS Magazine's backyard. How many different pictures can be taken in a circle extending 10.27 miles from downtown Waukesha, Wis.? In this photo, Amtrak's Empire Builder passes one of the oldest...
  • Blog Post: In Amtrak's 40th anniversary display train’s dust, observations on the exhibits, glassy-eyed fans, Amtrak’s young bucks, and a question about the future

    Uniforms, posters, models, china, and more fill out Amtrak's 40th anniversary display train. Jim Wrinn photo MILWAUKEE – Amtrak’s 40th anniversary display train spent last weekend at the downtown Milwaukee depot at the corner of St. Paul and Fifth. The railroad opened the train...
  • Blog Post: A great way to get new people interested in trains

    Riders enjoy their trip on Amtrak’s Piedmont as part of a daylong event in Greensboro, N.C., devoted to passenger rail, cosponsored by Trains magazine. Matt Van Hattem photo Here’s a great idea to promote more interest and awareness of trains among the general public: Take the folks...
  • Blog Post: 2011 Trains photo contest winners

    For this year's photo contest, we were looking for creative use of light and shadow. Overall, the quality of photos submitted was very high, making the task of choosing the winners even harder than usual. Take a look at the winners below and please leave your comments. Thank you. Grand Prize...
  • Blog Post: Fighting the good fight in Michigan

    People who fight for better passenger-train service never get combat pay, but they deserve it. That’s a conclusion I reached last Saturday after attending the annual meeting of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers ( www.marp.org ), which is celebrating its 40 th year. Founded by John...
  • Blog Post: North America's finest passenger train

    In a blog titled Amtrak’s Best Train? We’ve Got a Winner , I wrote that the Coast Starlight between Los Angeles and Seattle has become the premier U.S. passenger train. And I promised, in the due course of time, a bake-off between it and VIA Rail Canada’s Canadian, which operates between...
  • Blog Post: Amtrak up and down and up and down

    One of the benefits of not punching a clock but instead being a gentlemanly freelance writer is the ability to just get away for a day. I’ve wanted to do a circle trip from Washington to Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and back to Washington. You go up and over the Alleghenies going west via Sand Patch...
  • Blog Post: Will Fred ever grow up?

    I am a man in full. I am photographed with presidents. Corporate boards desire my input. Younger women steal glances at me as we pass. I know the secret formula for Classic Coke and possess Michael Ward’s cell phone number. Yet when it comes to a passenger train, I simply turn to putty, a 10-year...
  • Blog Post: Bad dreams and late trains

    I had That Dream again last night. In That Dream, it is late in the school semester and I have not bothered attending the biology/geometry/chemistry class I had enrolled in. Now the final examination is coming up and I will not be able to answer a single question. Disaster looms. Panic and depression...
  • Blog Post: Lake Shore Limited races the clock

    When last you heard from me, the Lake Shore Limited had left Toledo more than two hours late, and the pregnant question was whether I would have gourmet pork belly for lunch at Blackbird or settle for a tuna sandwich from a Chicago Union Station newsstand. For pork belly, the train would need to get...
  • Blog Post: This is how it all ends

    I left you with these questions: Would the Lake Shore Limited reach Chicago before the connecting Texas Eagle leaves, and if not, would the Eagle wait? We do get, more or less, a perfect shot from South Bend, "more or less" meaning we cross over at 45 mph between main tracks a lot, but the Chicago East...
  • Blog Post: Bouncing through The Great State

    When last you heard from me, Mark the Amtrak red cap in Chicago had met my four-hours-late Lake Shore Limited and hustled me onto the Texas Eagle , which was being held for our tardy train. Also held were all the other westbound streamliners trains that afternoon. Good hustle! I was impressed. But what...
  • Blog Post: Why your next trip will induce heartburn

    I’ve said before that any train I’m on can be as late as you like. I believe my exact words were “more train-riding pleasure for the same low price.” Well, forget that. I’ve changed my mind. Even idiots like me have their limit, and mine has been breached. Any train more...
  • Blog Post: Help Mr. Big save the Auto Train

    The alienation of Auto Train passengers continues unabated. It’s now the only long-distance train (other than the Cardinal , which has neither kitchen nor dining car) on which you cannot be served a grilled flat iron steak, accompanied by a baked potato. This is what Amtrak calls its “signature...
  • Blog Post: Recommended: “21st Century Limited”

    Novelist Kevin Baker’s report on the present state of the American passenger train, in the July issue of Harper’s Magazine that goes on sale next week, begins thusly: “We start in darkness. After fighting our way through the dingy, low-ceilinged, crowded waiting room that serves as...
  • Blog Post: The passenger train as you know it is dying

    About a decade ago the Editor of Trains Magazine asked if I would like to write a monthly column. Before answering no, not yet, I tried to think of provocative ideas. Two came immediately to mind. One I called “Why Doesn’t Dick Davidson Know It’s Time to Go?” The chief executive...
  • Blog Post: Last-minute decisions (and the Dining Car From Hell)

    How would you solve this problem? You've used a jillion Guest Rewards points to book bedrooms on the Coast Starlight from San Jose, Cal., to Los Angeles, the Sunset Limited to New Orleans and the Crescent to Washington, D.C. The Starlight arrives in LA at 9 p.m., the Sunset leaves at 10 p.m., and therein...
  • Blog Post: Cuff notes* on a rainy day

    I'm writing this in western Pennsylvania, less than an hour after leaving Pittsburgh. Out my window is a dark day, with rain and mist--not the best way to end a four-day trip across the country. I'd rather it be the other way around, that is, raining across the Sierra Nevada range and sunny in the Alleghenies...
  • Blog Post: Outrages on the rails: The real story

    Be on notice: Any rational observer would predict that American railroads are in for a terrible winter a few months hence — that is, if it is a normal, mild winter of the sort we had before last winter. How can I say that in the middle of August? Follow the trail of evidence, please. My correspondent...
  • Blog Post: The Joe Boardman-David Gunn summit

    In many respects, Joe Boardman couldn’t be less like David Gunn, his predecessor twice removed as president of Amtrak (there was a former Union Pacific vp between them, but he came and went before anyone bothered to ask his name). Boardman is skilled at maneuvering through the political jungles...
  • Blog Post: Amtrak has stalled out, and here's why

    Thanks to all of you who read and responded to my blog The Joe Boardman-David Gunn Summit . I enjoyed all your comments. C.P. Crosby, in particular, made me reflect on something: Why haven’t states that subsidize Amtrak trains lavished more attention on them? To my knowledge, only Washington and...
  • Blog Post: Where is Amtrak's desire to grow and advance?

    In the cover story of this month’s issue of railroad industry trade journal Progressive Railroading , several top Amtrak officials tout the company’s shift towards operating in a more businesslike manner, which the article describes as “taking a hard line on expenses, continually seeking...