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4

Railroads connect our economy and one another

Posted 3 months ago by Chase Gunnoe
Buried in a garden of southern California wildflowers, I chatted with friends old and new. I was more than 2,000 miles away from home, but it felt as if I was sharing stories with relatives at an Easter dinner table. Railroads do have a way of bringing people together and that’s what I want to talk about in this post. I recently traveled out west to revisit BNSF Railway’s southern Transcon between Needles, Calif., and Barstow, Calif., check out Tehachapi Pass on Union Pacific’...
12

Worth the Parking Ticket

Posted 3 months ago by George Hamlin
                                                                                                                                   (Photo by George W. Hamlin) Octobe...
6

An ode to the Garden State

Posted 3 months ago by Justin Franz
A few weeks back, when Tri-State Railway Historical Society’s Kevin Phalon tipped me off that his group would be saving Morristown & Erie C424 No. 19, I got excited. Probably more excited than your average person living in Montana about the preservation of an Alco some 2,364 miles away, but I have always had a soft spot for railroading in the Garden State. In many ways, the roots of my fascination with railroading are planted in New Jersey, despite the fact that I’ve never liv...
11

Mexico’s Copper Canyon train: a study in contrasts

Posted 3 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
The passenger train service operated by Ferromex between Chihuahua City and Los Mochis in northwestern Mexico is both a regularly scheduled intercity passenger train (the last of its kind remaining in Mexico) and a tourist excursion. It passes through the Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre, in Spanish) region (also known as the Sierra Tarahumara), an area of spectacular beauty, and serves isolated rural communities (many populated by the indigenous Rarámuri people) with no other reliable ...
10

An update on the Texas Alco-PA Restoration

Posted 3 months ago by Hayley Enoch
Last week, things fell perfectly into place: The weather was good, my schedule was clear, and I was in possession of an invitation to get hands-on at the Museum of the American Railroad in Frisco, Texas. This particular museum’s claim to fame is moving its entire collection, including a number of very large steam and diesel locomotives, from its former patch of land at Fair Park Dallas to a much larger campus in Frisco, Texas a few years ago. The MARR is still in the process of realizing ...
3

Pre-Winterail Passenger Excursion

Posted 3 months ago by Robert W. Scott
The day before Winterail in Corvallis, Oregon a special train was ran in the Willamette Valley on the Albany and Eastern Railroad. Winterail attendees as well as regional photographers descended upon the small town of Lebanon, Oregon to ride or photograph this unique passenger rail excursion. Leading the train out of Lebanon down the branch to Sweet Home, Oregon was a former Southern Pacific SD9, painted up in historic SP Black Widow paint, complete with Mars light. Under a dreary Oregon gray sk...
27

Now Leaving the Station?

Posted 3 months ago by George Hamlin
In this case, neither arriving nor departing, as Amtrak’s Silver Star is passing the joint Amtrak/VRE (Virginia Railway Express) station at Woodbridge, Virginia, on its way south on January 6, 2013.  Astute observers will note that there have been a couple of changes since then in the Star’s equipment: the heritage baggage car –a vestige of the pre-Amtrak passenger train – has been replaced with a new Viewliner II version, and now, there is no diner; only the Amfleet...
8

Surprised by Grupo México's moves on FEC? You shouldn't be.

Posted 3 months ago by Hayley Enoch
                                                           Two Ferromex units lead a train on CSX trackage at Blue Island, Ill., on Dec. 12, 2015. Trains: David Lassen What in the world is a Mexican railroad holding company doing a railroad in Florida? That’s the question on many people’s minds after news broke Tuesday th...
6

Next Generation: John Crisanti

Posted 3 months ago by Chase Gunnoe
I’m delighted to reintroduce a blog series that focuses on aspiring railroad photographers of the next generation. It’s easier than ever to share your digital photos today and there’s no shortage of talented folks capturing rail landscapes all across the world. As we bring the monthly series back to Observation Tower, I’m thrilled to share the work of John Crisanti, a Longmont, Colo., native who spends his time railfanning the former Denver & Rio Grande Western west o...
17

Taking stock of passenger-freight relations in light of court ruling

Posted 4 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
A seven-year legal battle that could have been avoided had Congress omitted a mere four words from the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act came to an end yesterday, as I reported in Trains News Wire, when a District Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found the entirety of PRIIA’s Section 207 to be unconstitutional. The section provided for the U.S. Department of Transportation and Amtrak to jointly write metrics and standards (M&S) for the perf...
8

Late trains and keeping the faith

Posted 4 months ago by Justin Franz
After an eventful weekend at Winterail in Oregon, I rolled into Whitefish, Mont., on the Empire Builder Monday afternoon, 6 hours and 41 minutes late. Unlike Assistant Editor Brian Schmidt, I didn’t give up hope on Amtrak’s ability to get me home. Ironically, it had actually been Brian’s idea in to take the train when we first started planning this trip a few months back. A few years ago, when my fiancée was in graduate school in Oregon, I was a regular aboard the Empi...
26

Selfish Shtick

Posted 4 months ago by George Hamlin
                                                        NS 958 east of The Plains, Virginia, June 4, 2016; photo by George W. Hamlin Yes, you have a First Amendment right to self-expression, which includes photography; however, that doesn’t justify being oblivious to others as you do so. You certainly were aware of our existence and location, s...
2

The Road To Winterail

Posted 4 months ago by Robert W. Scott
Well I guess, this year it should be called "Waterail" after looking at the forecast for Corvallis, Oregon for the next several days. We were anticipating Mr. Weatherman to have little sunshine icons over each of the days leading up to Winterail, instead he has given us not-so-little rain clouds in the forecast. But Hey! This is the Northwest, we all know if rains, but I guess we just don't realize how much or for how long until you are set in the fifth straight month of dreary gray drippy skies...
4

The art of planning

Posted 4 months ago by Justin Franz
I’m hitting the road to Winterail in Corvallis, Ore. this week with Assistant Editor Brian Schmidt. As with any trip, there is much to do before I leave Thursday; bags have to be packed, batteries have to be charged and memory cards have to be formatted. But perhaps the most important task ahead of me is to sit down for a few minutes and crack open my trusty Oregon Atlas and Gazetteer for some pre-trip scouting. While some railfans like to see where the road takes them and fly by the se...
26

What 'Hunterizing' CSX means...

Posted 4 months ago by Tishia Boggs
“That's the cost of doing business.” — that is the underlying sentiment of people I’ve spoken with in Appalachian coal country about E. Hunter Harrison taking the reins at CSX Transportation. CSX, you may know, has (or had) an extensive network throughout the region dating back to the C&O, B&O, L&N, and Clinchfield, among others. And Harrison, as you surely know, has successfully rescued failing railroads and brought them into the black.  And now we wo...
10

Coal mines, branches lines and E. Hunter Harrison

Posted 4 months ago by Chase Gunnoe
Welcome to Jacksonville, Hunter. You’ve acquired a 23-state railroad with assets from Florida to the Northeast and Midwest. You have acquired a surplus of rail lines unlike nothing else in your portfolio of railroad management. These include obscure, rural branch lines with aging tunnels, bridges and limited options for profitability in a post-coal environment. You have acquired a respectable amount of these types of lines. How do they fit into a precision railroading environment? What do...
32

Does Caltrain funding denial signal anti-rail stance?

Posted 4 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
Is the US Department of Transportation’s (at least temporary) deferral of a $647 million Core Capacity grant to the project to electrify the San Francisco-San Jose Caltrain corridor merely part of the momentary freeze on administrative action that takes place during any transition in executive leadership? Or is it indicative of a broader anti-rail and/or anti-transit bias, or of prejudice against California, by the Trump Administration and/or Congressional Republicans? It is too soon to te...
3

An update on our new PBS documentary 'Selling Sunshine'

Posted 4 months ago by Richard Luckin
Script writer Peter Hansen, Bonnie Hansen, production assistant, videographer Marc Ricciardi and I certainlygot to know I-95 and I-4 very well traveling from Jacksonville to Miami to Tampa over a period of 11 days.Our mission was to interview24 individuals, including historians and passengers, plus crewmembers who worked on pre-Amtrak trains. Although the focus of the program will feature pre-Amtrak trains that served Florida from the northeast and midwestern states, we also shot video of curren...
22

See the USA, in a Railfan Way

Posted 4 months ago by George Hamlin
(Photo by George W. Hamlin) Railfans, of all political persuasions, are far more likely than most U.S. residents to acknowledge the existence of what have been termed by many coastal-state denizens as “flyover” states.  Not only do they not hesitate to pass through these locations, in many cases they actually seek them out as destinations.  Steeling themselves even to avoid the Interstate Highway system when necessary, you’ll find these intrepid explorers cruisi...
9

A Proud Job For The Mighty SD40-2

Posted 4 months ago by Robert W. Scott
Oh how the mighty have fallen - or so it seems. Once holding court on the high rail of the land, the ubiquitous EMD SD40-2 lingers into well into its fourth decade of service. What was once the prime mover of main line freight for many Class 1 railroads has now been sidelined to a more tedious task of local, transfer and gulp - switching duties. Stripped of their once proud road numbers, many have been had their number boards changed several times to reflect their less than stately rank among ac...
19

Lessons from the Saginaw Timber No. 2 / Mid-Continent fiasco

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
By now, everyone who cares knows that an arbitrator ruled that Mid-Continent Railway Museum owes $200,000 to the private owner of a newly rebuilt logging 2-8-2 that once plied the non-profit’s five-mile railroad near Baraboo, Wis. They also know that the ruling also calls for the museum to pay to relocate Skip Lichter’s Saginaw Timber No. 2 to wherever he chooses. And does Skip ever have choices: So far he’s fielded proposals from 17 organizations from nearby and across the c...
6

$2.25 for a trip back in time

Posted 4 months ago by Justin Franz
There’s a time machine on the south side of Boston and it only cost $2.25 to ride. The Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line is a minuscule piece of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s sprawling transit system that connects every corner of the city but it is without a doubt the most interesting to rail enthusiasts. Decades after most American cities sidelined and scrapped their fleets of Presidents' Conference Committee streetcars, MBTA has maintained a small fleet of these or...
14

Trains Vlog: Railroaders say Harrison could be a good thing for CSX

Posted 4 months ago by Chase Gunnoe
Wall Street investors aren’t the only ones backing up former Canadian Pacific CEO E. Hunter Harrison. Some CSX railroaders see positive outcomes from a Harrison-led railroad. In this week’s video blog, we share the comments of several railroaders about what they anticipate would happen if Harrison secures the top spot at CSX. The general consensus? Management cutbacks, increased accountability, and better efficiency through consolidated operations and third party contract work...
5

BNSF's 7.8 Mile Snowshed

Posted 4 months ago by Robert W. Scott
In reading the recent blog by Justin Franz on the weather woes that BNSF was experiencing over Marias Pass, he noted some similarities between the crossing of the Rockies and the Cascades with their proximity to dangerous avalanche chutes that draw down to the rail line from high up on the mountain sides. He noted specifically a stories where avalanches had struck trains and equipment that resulted in deaths along the stretch from Glacier Park and Java. Many may also know about the tragedy that ...
8

Luck, determination, and another way out of Cut Bank, part two

Posted 5 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
Continued from yesterday's blog post: I had known from previous Builder trips that the nearest commercial airport for much of the central part of the route was in Great Falls, MT. I checked for flights from there to Seattle, finding that there were still seats on a 3:30 PM nonstop, and that the weather had not impeded other flights from departing that morning. I also discovered that Golden Triangle Transit, a cooperative of three small county bus agencies, offered two round-trips between C...
0

Luck, determination, and another way out of Cut Bank, part one

Posted 5 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
I returned to DC early Thursday morning after joining a group of railroaders and friends of the industry who call themselves the Moonlighters (as they time their annual journey to coincide with the full moon, allowing for optimal nighttime viewing of the landscape) aboard VIA Rail’s Canadian from Vancouver to Toronto. This year’s Train 2 of Feb. 10 was impressively long at 19 streamlined ex-Canadian Pacific Budd cars (four domes, two diners, one coach, a baggage/dorm car and 14 sleep...
15

Trains Vlog: Who says rail traffic is dead in coal country?

Posted 5 months ago by Chase Gunnoe
Who says rail traffic is dead in coal country? A downturn in freight business plagued the rail industry for much of 2016. Coal declines impacted Class I railroads from the deepest roots of Appalachia to as far west as the Powder River Basin. Coal, coupled with a slump in energy products, such as crude oil, left a lot of workers on furlough and even more railcars parked. If you look at the data, U.S. railroads are making a return. A railcar data report published by the Association of American ...
13

It's OK to text

Posted 5 months ago by George Hamlin
(Photo by George W. Hamlin) For that matter, it’s also OK in this situation to read; to do a crossword puzzle; to play a game on your electronic device; to use earplugs to shut the world out; and probably many more things that can’t (or shouldn’t) be done while operating a motor vehicle.  Even napping isn’t out of the question. In fairness, there are a few things that can’t be done while riding on a commuter train, such as Virginia Railway Express 309, sh...
4

A history of avalanches on Marias Pass

Posted 5 months ago by Justin Franz
For as long as there have been rails over Marias Pass, Mother Nature has thrown everything she’s got at the railroaders who work along the old Great Northern Railway across northwest Montana. This week has been no exception, as BNSF Railway employees have been tirelessly trying to reopen that railroad’s critical main line to the Pacific Northwest after a series of avalanches along the southern edge of Glacier National Park. By Wednesday morning, trains were once again rolling thro...
9

'Selling Sunshine: The Florida Trains' has a home

Posted 5 months ago by Richard Luckin
Jacksonville’s WJCT PBS-NPR station has announced that it will be the presenting station to PBS for the new program, "Selling Sunshine: The Florida Trains." This one-hour program, made for Trains Magazine, traces the history of Florida rail service from the late 19th century forward to the 21st century. Program chapters will explore why railroads expanded to Florida and tell the story about two major Florida developers, Henry Flagler and Henry Plant. Another chapter goes on to describe ...

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