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Do What the Light Lets You, and ...

Posted 4 days ago by George Hamlin
Yes, that’s a Norfolk Southern ‘heritage’ unit pictured, and this is how I intended to photograph it.  Among other things, there was no need to worry about whether the nose of the lead locomotive would be adequately lit.  And no, It wasn’t the case that I arrived at this spot too late to do anything else; it was with intent aforethought. Furthermore, I don’t think that I’m in need of any sort of rehabilitation process to cure me of taking sho...

What’s in your bag?

Posted 4 days ago by Justin Franz
A few weeks ago, I was preparing for a trip to British Columbia when I decided it would be a good opportunity to clean out my camera bag. I frequently reorganize and repack my camera bag because it almost always becomes a disorganized mess over the course of a trip (I purchased a mid-priced camera bag on Amazon a few years ago and, well, I got what I paid for). However, the exercise of unloading and loading my camera bag got me thinking about a conversation I had recently had with Assistant E...

Where's the Camera?

Posted 18 days ago by George Hamlin
In places where there are still active passenger stations (think Amtrak and commuter trains), you’ll often find railfans there, observing their favorite subject matter.  In today’s world, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to obtain information about operations other than passenger trains (agents/operators employed by railroads other than Amtrak are long-gone, with rare exceptions), but between the internet, including social media, and technology, including scan...

European trains? I’d rather have their stations.

Posted 21 days ago by Hayley Enoch
Travelers pause to take in the decorations at Stockholm City Station. In surmising our inauguratory experience with European railroads, I will spare the well-worn but valid observations about how much better that part of the world does intercity rail service. By now, we in the United States have thrown our weight behind a system that favors road and freight rail traffic. Instead, I’ll take the space of this blog to present a different observation. Traveling through Sweden and N...

Conn. could further capitalize on its gem of a trolley museum

Posted 22 days ago by Malcolm Kenton
There are many streetcar and trolley museums in the US that have unique equipment collections and scenic rights of way. The Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, Conn. offers a superb combination of both, and has benefitted from public and private grants that have allowed it to build new, more flood-resistant storage barns and maintenance facilities. The only thing lacking is a longer right-of-way, ideally taking historic trolleys down East Haven’s Main Street. The SLTM is one of the o...

Farewell to the great Canadian hopper fleet

Posted 24 days ago by Justin Franz
Most freight cars today are unembellished objects. Many come in simple colors (like boxcar red, which is really just a fancy word for brown) and have reporting marks, numbers, maybe a herald and not much else. That was not always the case. In the past, many railroads put a lot of thought into how they painted their freight cars. My beloved-Bangor & Aroostook had its iconic “State of Maine” red, white and blue boxcars; the Rio Grande painted some of its freight equipment orange...

The struggle for on-time trains continues

Posted one month ago by Malcolm Kenton
Last week's Eighth Circuit US Court of Appeals ruling invalidating passenger train on-time performance standards enacted by the Surface Transportation Board means that Congress must act in order for there to be a mechanism for fixing ongoing failures of host railroads to keep passenger trains running punctually. The STB wrote its definition of OTP — which considered a train’s punctuality at all stations, not just its final terminus — after the DC Circuit overturned the standard...

Little history books

Posted one month ago by Justin Franz
This weekend, a friend and I headed to one of my favorite railfan haunts: British Columbia’s East Kootenay. After chasing a few trains, we decided to finish the day with a beer in Kimberley. Neither one of us had been to Kimberley before and as we circled downtown looking for the local brewery, we saw a sign pointing to the Kimberley Underground Mining Railway. Taking a quick break from our search for suds, we followed the signs and came upon a stretch of tiny narrow gauge tracks. I knew...

From the Cockpit to the Cab

Posted one month ago by George Hamlin
An Alco, by the way, and an operating steam locomotive.  Well outside the United States, however; in fact, an ocean away.  And the crossing of that ocean, in this case the Atlantic, provides the title reference for the first portion of this narrative. For, on September 26, 1992, I was fortunate to fly on an aircraft exceeding the speed of sound, by a factor of slightly more than twice.  On my way to Toulouse, France, I left my home in northern Virginia and traveled to JFK air...

I'll never know the man, but I will carry his torch

Posted one month ago by Hayley Enoch
Last week, we lost a legend. I am heartfelt in using this phrase, not ironic, because to me Bill Withuhn was one of those figures that seemed to loom larger-than-life above the railroad preservation industry. He was a sage, dolling out parcels of advice in the forward of railroad history books. I stood in away of his record as a tireless advocate who set a  high bar for restoration projects and interpretive museum displays. I heard other people relate their interactions with the man and s...

'Can’t do' attitude does CSX, Gulf Coast economy a disservice

Posted one month ago by Malcolm Kenton
CSX Assistant Vice President for Passenger Operations David Dech penned a letter to the editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, published on Monday, essentially saying “no can do” to the mayors, chambers of commerce and other city, county and state government and business leaders along the Gulf Coast who have been working for over a decade to bring passenger train service back to the New Orleans-Florida route that has been without it since Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. The s...

Playing devil’s advocate for signs and other icons

Posted one month ago by Hayley Enoch
The white house along the tracks used by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum isn't owned by the organization, but is likely one of the most iconic structures in the entire hobby of railroad photography. In my time as a railroad writer--and I am approaching the respectable point at which I can round upwards towards a decade--I have been consistent in espousing the belief that when it comes to historic equipment goes, train enthusiasts ought to ignore small changes made to locomotives an...

Trains and Trucks

Posted one month ago by George Hamlin
Mortal enemies, right? Maybe so, especially in the eyes of some railroad executives, but there have been signs in recent times, particularly in the form of the massive number of domestic containers from trucking companies such as J.B. Hunt; Schneider; and Swift, among others, found on intermodal trains that cooperation can be a very good thing, indeed. In reality, both modes have had to become more cost competitive and more service-oriented in today’s competitive economic world. ...

The new golden age of steam

Posted one month ago by Justin Franz
My Dad likes to tell a story of watching Union Pacific No. 844 (then No. 8444) and No. 3985 storm up Peru Hill in 1981. He and his brother were chasing the two locomotives west on their way to the California State Railroad Museum’s Railfair 1981 and had ventured to Wyoming to witness what was commonplace just a quarter century earlier. As the excursion roared west, the two locomotives blanketed the countryside with thick black smoke. My Dad says it’s still one of the best steam show...

Firestorms, Falsehoods and Facebook

Posted one month ago by Chase Gunnoe
Digital media is a company’s best friend and its own worst enemy. Keyboards give everyone a voice and while there are limitless perks to having such information readily available, there are just as many times when the technology can create for unnecessary heartaches. At the end of the day, digital tools like Facebook are great for consumer-focused companies and tourist destinations, but there are other times when half-truths, incomplete information, and emotions leave people picking up the...

Texas Eagle revisits ancestor's home turf

Posted one month ago by Malcolm Kenton
Over the past five weeks, the Texas Eagle has swooped through parts of its namesake state where it was once a common sight, but is now a rare bird. To allow Union Pacific to make repairs to the section of its normal route over the former Texas & Pacific between Big Sandy and Dallas, the southbound Eagle diverged at Big Sandy southbound, using parts of the former Cotton Belt, Southern Pacific and Missouri Pacific before rejoining the normal route at Taylor, while the northbound used the ex-Mo...

Small-town stopovers on the national network

Posted one month ago by Malcolm Kenton
A number of small and mid-sized American cities are served by Amtrak and regional commuter rail that aren’t thought of as tourist destinations, but offer much for a visitor to enjoy during a layover of several hours between trains. The most forward-thinking of these cities offer the visitor arriving by train a choice of ways to get around without having to rent a car, including bus and rail transit, bikesharing or bike rental, and carsharing by the hour. These cities also offer their resid...

Investing sweat equity and reaping dividends

Posted one month ago by Malcolm Kenton
I was rousted awake at 4:30 AM on Saturday morning. I was aching all over, and my weekend of volunteer manual labor had barely started. I had managed to sleep for three hours sitting (well, slumping) in a lounge chair on the Wisconsin Valley, an ex-Milwaukee Road car belonging to the Friends of the 261 in Minneapolis. The car was sitting in the Rocket Yard, Metra’s former Rock Island coach yard on Chicago’s south side. It had arrived there at 8:30 PM on Friday night as part of the co...

As close to 'real' as it gets

Posted one month ago by Hayley Enoch
It should have been a grand celebration.Several decades have elapsed since a steam locomotive visited Joliet, Illinois  and Chicago's LaSalle Street Station. This weekend, though, the 765 is bringing that drought to a close. The exact moment at which that clock was reset comes in the early morning, a few hours in advance of the Joliet Rocket's first departure. The crew has the need to bring the train down to the station to practice lining the train up at the platform and making a f...

Unexpected, but meaningful big steam encounters

Posted 2 months ago by Hayley Enoch
"It looks like it’s heavier than the stuff on the rails today, doesn't it?"   A pair of van drivers have wandered up to the side track where the 765 and its train have halted, in repose but tumescent with enough steam to lift the safety valves at least once. For a time they watch from a distance, arms folded across their chests, rolling their body weight from their ankles to the balls of their feet, watching raindrops evaporate into little cotton-puffs of steam as they fall onto ...

It's All About Money

Posted 2 months ago by George Hamlin
(Photo by George W. Hamlin) It used to look better than it did in the photo above, which was taken in July 2012; here’s a better-looking example from the year 2000:  For that matter, it looked considerably different at points earlier in its career, as well.  For what appears to be a New York Central E8 in the classic “lightning stripe” passenger livery is in fact “none of the above”.  Wh...

Things are Looking Up at the Texas State Railroad

Posted 2 months ago by Hayley Enoch
To say that the Texas State Railroad has had a turbulent spring would be an understatement to the same degree as confusing the 610, the railroad's resident Texas & Pacific 2-10-4, with a diminutive Hunslet switcher.  The future of the East Texas railroad has been uncertain since January, when a press release sent in error to numerous media outlets stated that the railroad was closing indefinitely and all of its employees had been laid off.  The first part was soon stated to be fal...

What happens where the wheel meets the rail (conference)

Posted 2 months ago by Tyler Trahan
This week in Montreal, railroad professionals are meeting to learn from each other about the interaction between flanged wheels and steel rails at the 23rd annual Wheel-Rail Interaction conference. Trains Magazine is the presenting sponsor again this year, the magazine's sixth year.And the conference is just as focused and technical as it sounds.On Tuesday, presenters immersed about 75 attendees in the physics and math behind phenomena such as rolling contact fatigue, wheel creepage, truck hun...

Donate before you shoot

Posted 2 months ago by Justin Franz
Last weekend, Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261 was steaming through Minnesota and North Dakota. In two weeks, Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 will be storming across Chicagoland. And a week after that, Southern Pacific No. 4449 will be rolling through the stunning Columbia River Gorge. Along the way, thousands of railroad enthusiasts will be trackside looking for that perfect shot. I’ll be there too, shooting No. 4449 as it runs from Portland to Bend and back. But before I pack my bags for ...

What's in a Name?

Posted 2 months ago by George Hamlin
Once, many of the passenger cars in the U.S. displayed distinctive names, in addition to  indicating the railroad that owned them.  In some cases, the naming custom effectively replaced the more mundane assignment of a specific number as an identifying device; sometimes both were used, an example being the New York Central, which by the 1960s was routinely including both on the sides of its by-then mostly streamlined fleet. Utilizing a custom that began with the widespread use of ...

Exploring the backyard

Posted 2 months ago by Justin Franz
I was sitting in my living room one night last week, when the sound of two GP38s kicking cars wafted through the window. I looked outside and saw the sky lit up by a setting sun and decided to grab my camera bag and walk outside. Two minutes later, I was on the overpass that crosses BNSF Railway’s Whitefish, Mont. yard shooting photos of the two locomotives switch a ballast train while a grain train came in off the main line. While the light was beautiful, the pesky chainlink fence on the ...

Extreme Nausea

Posted 2 months ago by David Lester
Apparently, there is a lot of nausea in Washington, D.C. these days.  The former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation recently told Congress that it made him “mildly nauseous” to think that his actions may have impacted the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.  A longtime confidante of Donald Trump said last week that the president bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia made him “want to puke.”   After reading reports about and sectio...

A streamliner in middle Tennessee

Posted 2 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
If you are along the former Tennessee Central line east of Nashville on a Saturday between spring and fall, you might chance to see an apparition from a half-century ago: a long, gleaming stainless steel streamlined passenger train, complete with a dome car, pulled by a 1953-built ex-New York Central E-unit. You can even buy a very affordable ticket and ride on it on a round-trip from Nashville to a picturesque small town along the route, with eating and shopping to be done downtown during a two...

Pizza is nice, but complete information is essential

Posted 3 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
A story about a Wilmington, Del.-area pizza shop delivering pies to passengers on stranded Amtrak Northeast Regional train 161 on Sunday evening has been making the rounds on social media. The story touched a nerve that has been opened in the wake of many other recent stories about travel mishaps, particularly the dragging of a passenger off of a United Airlines flight to make way for deadheading crew members. Particularly in the Northeast, where most are familiar with Amtrak and many have exper...

Non-Traditional View

Posted 3 months ago by George Hamlin
I’m surprised that I took this photo, at Suffern, New York, in June 1965.  Hardly a ‘traditional’ three-quarter shot of railroad equipment, that’s for certain; as well as the horror of the details obscured by the wires between me and the trains.  What possessed me to seek out this overhead view (or how, exactly, we got up there) is now lost to me.  The photo resulted from inducing the driver to stop at Suffern for me to see the rail facilities there whi...

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