A National Route System

Posted 5 days ago by George Hamlin
A relevant question:  on Amtrak day one in 1971, how much rail travel was truly ‘national’?  Yes, the brand-new timetable had a route map that extended across the country as far east as Boston (a first in U.S. railroad circles, but nothing out of the ordinary for our Canadian neighbors, who had accomplished this almost ninety years earlier, and with an actual operating railroad, no less), but getting from one coast to the other typically required one or more changes, or...

Father’s Day

Posted 8 days ago by Justin Franz
We all came to this hobby in different ways. For some it was a childhood spent living near the tracks. For others it was a chance train ride that launched a lifelong fascination. For me it was my dad, Tim Franz. My dad grew up in New Jersey in the 1960s and often went down to the station with my grandmother to get my grandfather off the evening commuter train. A daily dose of Erie Lackawanna RS-3s on commuter trains is sure to make any young kid a railroad enthusiast. Not long after high scho...

Fire season

Posted 11 days ago by Justin Franz
If you don’t live out west, it can be hard to understand what it’s like to live through a fire season. The dramatic images that dominate the evening news when a fire explodes across the mountains would make outsiders think that everyone is constantly running from a wall of flames, but it is rarely that chaotic. For many in the west, fire season is a natural disaster that unfolds in slow motion. Yes, homes are lost and sometimes, if the winds suddenly change, people do have to leave...

Richard Anderson's boxed-in thinking

Posted 12 days ago by Malcolm Kenton
Greetings from aboard the Sightseer Lounge car on Amtrak’s California Zephyr, gliding across north-central Illinois farm country on the way to Denver, where I am covering the American Public Transportation Association Rail Conference for Trains. Coming from my home in Washington, D.C., I connected in Chicago from a 3-hour-late Capitol Limited, on which I experienced for the first time Amtrak’s cold, boxed replacement for cooked-to-order dining car meals, which the company dubs &ldquo...

British steam trips, from the sublime to the lavish

Posted 18 days ago by Malcolm Kenton
During my 11-day first visit to the U.K., I got to sample three of the country’s dozens of regularly-scheduled steam-hauled train services. They ranged from the simply pleasant to the absolutely sumptuous. As mentioned previously, the website UKsteam.info is the go-to source for all British mainline steam operations, which run nearly every week throughout the year. The U.K. boasts 52 active main line steam locomotives, more than five times as many as remain in operation stateside. In addit...

Sampling some of British trains' many flavors

Posted 21 days ago by Malcolm Kenton
I’ve heard fellow train travel aficionados sing the praises of Great Britain’s extensive and diverse passenger train services and its large and thriving heritage railway industry. I finally made it across the pond to see for myself on an 11-day jaunt that barely scratched the surface, despite the fact that I probably rode an average of over 250 rail miles each day I was there. The trip was mostly solo, but partially coordinated with my friend Sam, a retired Amtrak conductor who had p...

Corridors and Long-Hauls, Continued

Posted 22 days ago by George Hamlin
It strikes me that at least a fair amount of the concern being expressed recently that Amtrak’s long-haul routes might be in peril stems from history, and, to some extent, nostalgia for a more glorious time.  Railroads helped knit the country together (for that matter, Canada, also), making possible routine round-trip travel from coast to coast possible.  As recently in our history as the World War II era, the rail mode was the only reasonable alternative for long-distance trav...

Mayfly Memories

Posted 24 days ago by John Hankey
This is a fine time to reminisce about mayflies at Brunswick, an old B&O division point in the Potomac River Valley. They will have just made their annual appearance, as they have for a very, very long time. I am sure there are lots of stories about railroads and mayflies, as there are tales about railroading and other critters. I recall hearing tales from western railroaders about encounters with rattlesnakes while out flagging or changing broken knuckles. Mayflies are benign, elegant, de...

Preservation progress around the world

Posted 24 days ago by Justin Franz
One of the best parts of being a correspondent for Trains Magazine — or just a writer in general — is that I’m always getting to meet new and interesting people. Bruno Crivelari Sanches from Brazil is one of those people. Sanches is a volunteer with the Regional Sul de Minas Chapter of the Brazilian Association of Railroad Preservation, and I had the opportunity to exchange emails with him last year when images of an Alco locomotive pulled up to a gas station began to circula...

Riding trains in Israel

Posted one month ago by Malcolm Kenton
I recently joined my aunt, who has spoiled me with many wonderful travel experiences, on a two-week guided tour of Israel. Our side of the family (my father’s side) is Jewish with Eastern European ancestry, while my mother’s side is Scots-Irish Presbyterian. But our trip was not a religious one. Rather, we went to get a first-hand sense of the many layers of history, culture and identity in a fascinating and eternally conflict-ridden part of the world. And although seeing and riding ...

Micro to Macro

Posted one month ago by John Hankey
            Thanks so much for your comments. They have been fascinating. Allow me to mix a little Micro with a little more Macro—and a few cautions.             Amtrak’s existence is not now, and never has been, truly safe, stable, and assured. It is a unique and fragile national institution premised on financial and political fictions. At this point it may be like American...

Fred Goes Macro, I Go Micro

Posted one month ago by John Hankey
Fred Frailey’s recent post as to Amtrak’s recent changes and possible alternatives is—as usual—well-informed, insightful, and spot on. This is the kind of analysis that Fred is so uniquely positioned to do, and that seems to be lacking at 60 Massachusetts Avenue. His is classic “Macro” thinking. So I am going to go classically “Micro.” My intention is not to gripe, but to sincerely wonder out loud: What in the Hell is Amtrak thinking? I have been...

Are We Turning the Corner on PTC?

Posted one month ago by David Lester
The debate around PTC has dominated rail technology discussions for several years.  The controversy came to a head when the original December 31, 2015 deadline approached, and carriers could not have PTC up and running by then.  The drama intensified when carriers drafted documents for shippers and governments saying they would no longer provide service on lines that required PTC.  These lines, of course, included the nation's major rail freight arteries.  The industry forced...

Tale of Two Trains, and Some Thoughts about Amtrak's Future

Posted one month ago by George Hamlin
(Amtrak 176) (Amtrak 20) Photos by George W. Hamlin, Sweetbriar, Virginia, May 11, 2018 Last week I had the opportunity to photograph two Amtrak trains in close proximity.  One was a long-haul train with a historic name; the other was a nameless Northeast Regional schedule.  They were Amtrak 176 on its way to Boston from Roanoke, and Amtrak 20, the northbound Crescent.  The location is Sweetbriar, Virginia, north of Lynchburg. Let’s make it clear that this is not a...

CP’s magnificent multimark turns 50

Posted one month ago by Justin Franz
If the last decade or so has proved anything in the world of railroad paint schemes, it’s this: What’s old is new again. Nearly every Class 1 railroad in North America has adopted a corporate image that includes some sort of nod to its past. BNSF Railway’s orange and black is a clear nod to predecessor Great Northern; CSX’s contemporary blue and yellow is clearly inspired by the Baltimore & Ohio and Chesapeake & Ohio; Kansas City Southern adopted its famous &ldquo...

Farewell, Locust Point

Posted one month ago by John Hankey
  The recent Newswire piece reporting on CSX’s decision to close the former B&O yard at Locust Point in Baltimore was of no surprise. Industry had been deserting the area for decades, and CSX has three other substantial yards in its Baltimore Terminal. Still, it is painful to see the yard shut down and likely redeveloped as residential/industrial land. There are a few rail customers in the area. But the demise of Locust Point as a railroad facility is merely part of a 50-year tr...

Leaves Me Cold

Posted one month ago by George Hamlin
A year ago, I splurged, and booked a roomette on Amtrak’s “Lake Shore Limited” from New York to Chicago.  Included in the fare were two meals, dinner and breakfast, in the diner.  No, I wasn’t expecting meals that I would be urging my friends to take the train just for the food, but the menus posted on Amtrak’s website sounded like good, hearty fare, and in the event, that proved to be the case.  I also was aware that the equipment being used on th...

Lessons from Jim Shaughnessy

Posted one month ago by Justin Franz
I briefly met Jim Shaughnessy on a gorgeous winter day about 10 years ago at Greenwich Jct., New York on the Batten Kill Railroad. I don’t even think I had the courage to say anything to the legendary northeastern rail photographer beyond a cordial greeting, but I do remember the brief conversation a friend of mine had with Shaughnessy. It went something like this: “Sir, you’ve shot it all, probably with better motive power and better light too, so why do you keep coming out h...

Patience and Persistence; Last Light and the Last of their Kind

Posted 2 months ago by George Hamlin
If you photograph trains with any frequency, you’ve probably developed at least a modest amount of patience already, whether you wanted to or not.  Unless you’re near places like the Northeast Corridor; BNSF’s “Racetrack” west of Chicago; or the Powder River Basin; it’s probably become apparent that there can be long waits between trains in many instances.  While this can be shortened by arriving at the photo location “just in time” f...

Harpers Ferry needs more trains to handle more tourists

Posted 2 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
Harpers Ferry, W.Va. is an ideal getaway destination. The small town at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers is steeped in American history. Its 19th-century layout and architecture, circumscribed by its setting, lend it an almost Old World ambience. Free museums (operated daily by the National Park Service), shopping and dining are enough to fill a day’s worth of activity, and the settings for hiking and bicycling within striking distance of the town are sublime. All of th...

Rediscovering Beebe and Clegg

Posted 2 months ago by Justin Franz
A few months ago, I was talking to a friend when the subject of famed railfans Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg came up. “They couldn’t take anything more than a three-quarter wedge shot,” my friend said. I tried to correct him, telling him I had seen an amazing presentation a few years ago about the pair and that there was so much more to their images than he knew. But my friend just didn’t believe me. Now, thanks to a new book from the Center for Railroad Photography a...

Indisputable Visual Evidence

Posted 2 months ago by George Hamlin
I’m aware that a number of railfans are also railroad modelers, whether “scale”, or “tinplate/toy trains”.  While the scale field for many years has had a plethora of models available to suit a wide variety of prototype interests, both in terms of equipment types and road names, the tinplate/toy field has been more constrained in its offerings. There is, of course, a lengthy history of art imitating life, in terms of toy trains modeled on famous prototypes.&...

Funding up, service quality down at Amtrak

Posted 2 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
Updated April 1, 2018 at 10:40 PM EDT For ‘America’s Railroad,’ this is a best of times, worst of times moment. The federal omnibus spending bill President Trump signed a week ago, covering the rest of the current fiscal year, gave Amtrak almost $2 million more than it asked for. This might be the the second time that’s ever happened, the first being the 2009 stimulus bill. How the railroad will spend that unexpected cash — which is roughly evenly split between its...

A conversation with a master of rail photography

Posted 2 months ago by Justin Franz
I was an impressionable teenager when I saw a slideshow that would forever change how I thought about railroad photography. My Dad and I were visiting my grandparents in New Jersey in the early 2000s the same week as EastRAIL, an annual multimedia slideshow (much like the famous Winterail) that was held throughout the 1990s and 2000s, and we decided to take in that year’s show. Like its west coast counterpart, the shows at EastRAIL were always top notch, but all these years later one pr...

Rapping at Brunswick

Posted 3 months ago by John Hankey
  I understood from the get-go that working at Brunswick might be a challenge.             I was from Baltimore, a brand-new Fireman-Trainee, and according to custom and conventional wisdom, “lower than whales**t” in the pecking order. John Schaefer, the Chief Clerk in the Road Foreman’s Office on the second floor of Camden Station in Baltimore (a B&O office for at least 123 years) had assigned me to begin my tw...

The case for long-distance trains

Posted 3 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
There are credible indications that a serious review of operations is underway at Amtrak headquarters, being undertaken at the behest of President & CEO Richard Anderson. While the press is not privy to the specifics of the discussions at this point, such radical ideas as splitting long-distance routes into multiple short-distance routes — which the states they serve would then be responsible for funding, under the requirements of the 2008 passenger rail policy law — may be on th...

Photos that You Wish You Had Taken

Posted 3 months ago by George Hamlin
I suspect that virtually all railroad photographers suffer from the same malady:  they didn’t start photographing railroads and trains soon enough.  Usually, this was due to the lack of a camera with which to take the photograph, but a related concern is the time period, experienced by many, before that first ‘good’ camera was acquired. As a result, we’re forced to rely on memories of trains that we saw, or rode.  These can remain vivid, even after man...

A tale of last-minute Moonlighting - Part Two

Posted 3 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
Passengers load their gear into the baggage car as VIA train 1 waits on time to depart Foleyet, ON on Mar. 4. All photos by Malcolm Kenton. Sunday, the first full day of the trip, went just about perfectly. The Canadian has become notorious for consistently being delayed in the double digits of hours, but the recent trend of more-favorable-than-usual dispatching by host Canadian National when the Moonlighters are on board continued, as it did for the entirety of the preceding ...

A tale of last-minute Moonlighting - Part One

Posted 3 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
I spent the past week taking my fourth transcontinental journey aboard North America’s last great streamliner, VIA Rail Canada’s Canadian, and my third with an informal group of both current and retired railroaders and train travel connoisseurs called the Moonlighters because its annual winter trips are timed to coincide with a full moon for optimal nighttime viewing from a darkened dome car. I wasn’t sure that I would make this year’s trip, being pressed for both time an...

The mirrorless revolution?

Posted 3 months ago by Justin Franz
If you’ve gone trackside in the last year, you may have noticed something different about the cameras some railroad photographers are toting around. Smaller mirrorless cameras are slowly gaining popularity among railfans and photographers. In fact, according to LensVid, mirrorless cameras made up 16.4 percent of the camera market in 2017. That may not seem like much, but it’s a considerable increase from 2013, when mirrorless cameras made up just 5 percent of the market (point-and-sh...

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