8

Micro to Macro

Posted yesterday 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...
20

Fred Goes Macro, I Go Micro

Posted 3 days 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...
4

Are We Turning the Corner on PTC?

Posted 3 days 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...
24

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

Posted 3 days 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...
3

CP’s magnificent multimark turns 50

Posted 4 days 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...
11

Farewell, Locust Point

Posted 16 days 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...
21

Leaves Me Cold

Posted 19 days 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...
6

Lessons from Jim Shaughnessy

Posted 20 days 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...
8

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

Posted one month 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...
20

Harpers Ferry needs more trains to handle more tourists

Posted one month 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...
8

Rediscovering Beebe and Clegg

Posted one month 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...
8

Indisputable Visual Evidence

Posted one month 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.&...
18

Funding up, service quality down at Amtrak

Posted one month 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...
3

A conversation with a master of rail photography

Posted one month 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...
15

Rapping at Brunswick

Posted one month 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...
41

The case for long-distance trains

Posted one month 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...
26

Photos that You Wish You Had Taken

Posted 2 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...
4

A tale of last-minute Moonlighting - Part Two

Posted 2 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 ...
5

A tale of last-minute Moonlighting - Part One

Posted 2 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...
12

The mirrorless revolution?

Posted 2 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...
13

Shooting Frogs at Cumbo

Posted 2 months ago by John Hankey
The recent kerfuffle over steel tariffs brings to mind an incident from 40 years ago. Chessie had two system maintenance of way shops. They were under the jurisdiction of the Operating Department, not the Mechanical Department, and provided traditional services Chessie preferred to maintain in house. Barboursville, WV (not far from Huntington in the Ohio River Valley) was the site of the C&O’s facility for reclaiming used rail and other track materials (OTM), heavy steel work (as for...
11

Serendipity

Posted 2 months ago by George Hamlin
“Sure, you’ll not be going before the other one comes, will you?”  In fact, I had been about to depart, after concluding that an unexpected encounter with one live steam locomotive in an out-of-the-way location in Ireland was quite fortuitous.  However, in light of the newly-proffered information, I certainly wasn’t going to leave before doubling my good luck. The afternoon’s ‘official’ activity was a drive through Counties Limerick and Tipp...
1

High tech planning

Posted 2 months ago by Justin Franz
I have dedicated a fair amount of space on this blog to the art of planning in railroad photography. As I noted nearly a year ago, while some enjoy flying by the seat of their pants, I’ve always subscribed to the idea that while film (or pixels) are cheap, your time isn’t. Whenever I’m about to embark on a railfan adventure to a new area, I spend a fair amount of time doing research, either on Google Maps or perhaps my favorite, RailfanAtlas.com. However, I recently started u...
5

Ride it While You Can

Posted 2 months ago by John Hankey
This summer represents the 95th Anniversary of the Dover Harbor, one of the oldest and most historic passenger cars in service on the Amtrak national network. It is the centerpiece of a decades-long program of the Washington, D.C. Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. The D.C. Chapter is one of the most accomplished railway heritage organizations I have ever encountered. The fact that an elderly passenger car remains in service is not news. Classic cars operate throughout the US a...
2

Ride the Sundown Limited

Posted 2 months ago by John Hankey
I have a headcold, generously shared by someone during a recent flight. It isn’t a bad one, and at least it isn’t the flu. As often the case, when my head if full of fuzz and the old bones ache, I park in front of a screen and wander off into American popular culture from the last 200 years or so, looking for amusing railroad bits. Growing up, the “media content” on the 1950s B&W television we had was pretty primitive. Baltimore offered three TV stations, and we cou...
13

Classic Simplicity

Posted 3 months ago by George Hamlin
As noted in my previous post (Still a Good Place to Watch Trains), there often is a tendency in the rail enthusiast community to look back fondly on the past.  This seems particularly applicable to passenger trains. While there is no doubt that the heyday of the privately-operated intercity passenger train (i.e. non-Amtrak) did occur back when rail was the only practical, or economic, travel alternative, and the railroads competed vigorously with each other for passenger business, ...
24

From Chase to Cayce: Is justice served by “no fault” contracts?

Posted 3 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
My last column raised some questions regarding the legal principle of the common carrier and the extent to which railroads actually are obligated to carry any passenger or cargo as long as a ticket is purchased or a waybill is paid. Now I investigate another legal reality that colors the relationship between passenger train operators and host railroads, one that received some welcome coverage from the Associated Press in a story that appeared in many newspapers on Sunday or Monday. An aerial vi...
21

Whither the common carrier?

Posted 3 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
Recent events in railroading have gotten me cogitating over two important legal constructs that have particular bearing on the relationship between passenger train operators and their host railroads, typically freight carriers. I am not a lawyer, but I have an M.A. in transportation policy and a B.A. in political science and have read considerably on legal theories and court cases. I broach these topics in hope of spurring broad dialogue and consideration of a way forward that keeps host railroa...
8

Tough times for the front line

Posted 3 months ago by Justin Franz
The last few weeks have been hard for the nation’s passenger railroad. Since mid-December, Amtrak has made headlines for all the wrong reasons, most notably for two fatal derailments that have put its safety record in question. Some have gone as far as calling it a “crisis.” I don’t know if I’d go that far; one only has to look back to the mid-1990s for another rash of fatal incidents, including the September 1993 crash of the Sunset Limited that killed 47 people, ...
9

Chagrin and Apologies

Posted 3 months ago by John Hankey
Off and on, for the past 50 years I have been a dues-paying member of the National Railway Historical Society. Do I get a 50 Year pin? Absolutely not. It is the “off and on” thing. I don’t deserve it. Likewise I have been a member—off and on—of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society for decades. Again, I don’t deserve so much as a nod and a “thank you.” That is the source of my chagrin, which I have long and often understood as one of th...

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy