Blogs

  • Blog Post: It's a great time to be in railroading

    The Transportation Research Board is holding its 91st Annual Meeting this week in Washington, D.C., and I’m here looking for ideas for technology columns, seeing old friends, and meeting new contacts who can help bring the latest in the rail industry to Trains’ pages. Just yesterday morning...
  • Blog Post: Wheels, rails, and what really matters

    I'm in Philadelphia this week for the Joint Rail Conference, in which professionals and engineering students present papers on their research into or application of new railroad technology. The primary reason I'm here is to find ideas for our Technology column for 2013. So far, I've got...
  • Blog Post: Where the steel hits the rail

    I'm spending this week in Chicago with some dear old friends, and a whole lot of wonderful new ones at the Wheel/Rail Interaction Seminar in Chicago. It's Trains ' new publisher Diane Bacha's first industry event, and I'm really enjoying introducing her to this industry I love so...
  • Blog Post: Part volksmarch, part theme park, part party city, all business: It’s InnoTrans

    Like ants flocking to their hill, visitors to InnoTrans flood into the fairgrounds at Berlin for the world's largest railway trade and technology show. Photo by Jim Wrinn Here's a typical exhibit booth with plenty of people, big-time graphics, and video displays. The trains are outside! Photo by...
  • Blog Post: Bigger than the shift from steam

    I’ve been wrapping my arms around the announcement this week that BNSF Railway will test-fuel locomotives with liquefied natural gas (LNG), with a view toward starting large-scale conversions away from diesel fuel as soon as 2014. This is a game-changing development, and holds out the promise of...
  • Blog Post: I'm back: Things you may not know

    Natural gas as locomotive fuel. Within six months BNSF Railway will be testing six high-horsepower locomotives, three each from General Electric and Caterpillar’s Electro-Motive, using liquefied natural gas. A switch from diesel fuel would cost BNSF billions of dollars up front, but could pay for...
  • Blog Post: A new face with a new assignment: Wheel/Rail Interaction Conference 2013

    Hi Everyone! Most readers are aware that TRAINS magazine just hired a new associate editor. That's me, Steve Sweeney. But since most of you still don't know much about me yet, fellow editors here thought it would be a good idea to blog an introduction. But first, a little plug. For the two weeks...
  • Blog Post: UP is next to test gas locomotives

    Edited April 23, 2013 By early next year or even sooner, Union Pacific will begin experimenting with locomotives fueled by natural gas. This follows tests that began last year on Canadian National and BNSF Railway’s announcement that it may decide by 2014 whether to substantially convert its...
  • Blog Post: Tom Hoback on Wheel/Rail Interaction 2013: "brilliant"

    When something is important to Tom Hoback, he lets you know. The Indiana Rail Road, of which he is founder, president, and CEO, is one. Railroading, in general, is another and lately, so is the Wheel/Rail Interaction Conference. So important is the conference coming next week, that Hoback paused...
  • Blog Post: How WRI friendships grease squeaky wheels

    CHICAGO - You could describe the 2013 Wheel/Rail Interaction conference here in Chicago by highlighting the bright minds gathered in one room at one time or by the scope of knowledge each presenter offers to the audience. Yet the connections forged during the four-day conference might be the most...
  • Blog Post: The cloud over crude oil by rail

    I salute the Association of American Railroads for getting out in front of the issue of tank car safety today with recommendations for retrofitting most cars that haul hazardous materials, particularly crude oil. A spate of accidents involving spillage and explosion of crude oil call into question the...
  • Blog Post: More on the Great PTC Train Wreck

    Last week I wrote about the problem that has brought a big piece of the costly process of installing Positive Train Control (PTC being collision-avoidance technology) on 60,000 miles of railroad to a grinding halt. That problem is the conflict between the mandated deadline of completing PTC by the end...
  • Blog Post: Norfolk Southern's cab units: Among the most technologically advanced streamliners around

    Norfolk Southern's four executive cab units roll through Harrisburg, Pa., in August 2012. The units have seen substantial internal upgrades since their debut in 2007. Jim Wrinn photo ALTOONA, Pa. — We’ve all come to admire Norfolk Southern's set of four tuxedoed cab units' two As and two...
  • Blog Post: Fear at headquarters

    The folks who run the big freight railroads are a frightened lot these days. If they are not, they ought to be. Three times in six months, unit crude oil trains have derailed and cars of oil exploded. Forty-seven people are dead . . . so far. The railroad executives are frightened (or, again, should...
  • Blog Post: California dreamin’ – railroad style

    An eastbound Union Pacific stack train climbs California's Beaumont Hill from Loma Linda to Beaumont, Calif., on Tuesday. It was followed closely by a merchandise train on the former Southern Pacific Sunset Route. Jim Wrinn photo PALM DESERT, Calif. – While much of the nation has suffered mightily...
  • Blog Post: Awaiting the revolution

    Last year, BNSF Railway’s Matt Rose startled the industry by revealing that his company would test locomotives fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG), with the possibility of full-scale implementation of this new (for railroads) fuel source starting as soon as the end of 2014. At the time, I called...
  • Blog Post: More on the camera caper

    Those of you who read Trains Magazine may have run across my column in the April issue, wherein I ridicule the moves afoot to put inward-facing cameras in locomotive cabs. Actually, that’s not really correct. I sought to beat the living hell out of the notion that such cameras will prevent accidents...
  • Blog Post: 5 reasons why WRI is right for you

    Trains is sponsoring the 20 th annual Wheel Rail Interaction conference. As official media partner for this event, we want to start our coverage by offering five really good reasons for attending: 1.) Wheels and rails are important. Train wheels interact with rails every day. It’s only in...
  • Blog Post: Day 1 of WRI 2014, rail transit: remember to talk (to each other)

    LAS VEGAS, Nev. - An old saying goes, "Every time you point a finger, three more are pointing right back at you." So it goes that before blaming other railroad departments, an agency, or a contractor, engineers at the Wheel-Rail Interaction conference were reminded to check first for more basic human...
  • Blog Post: WRI 2014 Day 2: Cut the 'creep'

    LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Squeeeeeeak. Squeeeeeeak. Wrummmmmmp. Wrummmp. Wrmpp. Pup. Pup. Pup. "Not the squeak, it's the low frequency noise we're talking about," says one research engineer from a Class I railroad talking about the "wrummmmp." This engineer showed an audience at the 2014 Wheel-Rail Interaction...
  • Blog Post: WRI 2014 Day 3: Three reasons these sessions are just plain heavy

    LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Officially, the Wednesday and Thursday sessions at the Wheel-Rail Interaction conference come under the title "heavy haul." They should rename the two days to just plain "heavy" and get it over with. Here are three good reasons: 1.) We're talking weighty freight In recent decades...
  • Blog Post: WRI 2014 Day 4: Riddle me this

    LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- What is as loud as a chainsaw, seemingly random, and bothers neighbors in Australia? Did you guess right? Squeaky wheels on a freight train. It is the random nature of this noise that caused an Aussie acoustical engineer to travel thousands of miles to present his problem...