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

Posted 9 days 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 21 days 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 22 days 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 24 days 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 27 days 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 29 days 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 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...

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...

Photos that You Wish You Had Taken

Posted one month 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 one month 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 one month 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 one month 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...

Shooting Frogs at Cumbo

Posted one month 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...


Posted one month 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...

High tech planning

Posted one month 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...

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...

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...

Classic Simplicity

Posted 2 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, ...

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

Posted 2 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...

Whither the common carrier?

Posted 2 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...

Tough times for the front line

Posted 2 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, ...

Chagrin and Apologies

Posted 2 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...

Still a Good Place to Watch Trains

Posted 2 months ago by George Hamlin
TRAINS readers having considerable seniority in their relationship with the magazine may recall the evocative double-page spread that appeared on pages 16 and 17 in the June 1963 issue.  Titled simply “Train-watching in Selma, N.C.”, it combined the classic prose of the then-editor, David P. Morgan, with a pair of wonderful black & white photos by well-known photographer J. Parker Lamb.  To take a look, click on the link below: 7762.Train-watching in Selma N.C.-TRAINS ...

Our community

Posted 2 months ago by Justin Franz
This weekend, thousands of railroad enthusiasts descended on the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass. for the Amherst Railway Society’s 50th annual Railroad Hobby Show. The event is hailed as one of the largest railroadiana shows in the country and usually attracts more than 25,000 people. The pilgrimage to Springfield was always one of my favorite weekends of the year when I was a kid and in the Franz household it arrived with the same excitement as Christmas. Unfortuna...

Who will break the status quo in U.S. passenger rail?

Posted 3 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
A trend of recent developments has given me more reason to believe that the future of passenger rail in the U.S. is not, and should not be, wrapped up with the future of Amtrak, at least not in its current iteration. Amtrak is not providing the necessary level of vision and commitment to the long-term growth and success of its product, and all indications are that this trend is continuing under the leadership of new President & CEO Richard Anderson. Unless Congress or the administration forc...

One month later, Amtrak 501 offers one encouraging takeaway

Posted 3 months ago by Hayley Enoch
November 1, 1918, found the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company in a tough spot. Competent train crews were in short supply due to World War I, thankfully to draw to a very welcome close within a fortnight. The Spanish Flu epidemic cut a swath through all walks and further culled the numbers of available transportation workers. That particular morning brought a more industry-specific challenge: The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, which represented the crews operating the company's elevated ...

Select Readings for the Steam Off-Season

Posted 3 months ago by Hayley Enoch
The beginning of each new year brings a bittersweet reality for participants and observers of the railroad preservation industry. After the last Christmas train returns to the station, there will be no more trains for at least two months. Winter weather and the necessary yeary inspections and maintenance force a interlude in operations.  This is welcome news, in some ways: Holiday departures follow a grueling schedule, and by the end of the year, most of the engines are as beleaguered a...

Three years ago today

Posted 3 months ago by Chase Gunnoe
Facebook memories have a way of reminding us where we were and what we were doing at a moment otherwise unimportant. It’s one of the few perks of social media. A few days ago, I was notified that I had shared a photo on that date three years ago of NS’ Virginian Railway heritage SD70ACe in operation on the railroad’s Princeton-Deepwater District east of Mullens, W.Va. At the time, it was just another Saturday morning exploring NS’ coalfields in south central West Virgin...

Glory Days?

Posted 3 months ago by George Hamlin
Since this shot, of C&O’s train 4, the eastbound “Sportsman” departing Clifton Forge, Virginia was taken on January 26, 1967, I suspect that some readers will quarrel with the description contained in the title; hence, the question mark following the words. By this time in the 1960s passenger trains were in serious trouble virtually nationwide in the U.S., and in many cases, freight railroading was under considerable pressure, as well.  In fact, in just over a yea...

One Wild Ride

Posted 3 months ago by John Hankey
I’ve had some interesting experiences out on the railroad. By far, the wildest ride I ever experienced was a trip over the Chicago & North Western in late Spring of 1991.  The B&O Railroad Museum had sent a few pieces out to participate in Railfair ’91, the tenth Anniversary of the opening of the California State Railroad Museum. Our contribution was the operating replica of the “Tom Thumb,” the operating replica of the 1837 Norris 4-2-0 “Lafayette,&rd...

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