The Road To Winterail

Posted 6 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...

The art of planning

Posted 6 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...

What 'Hunterizing' CSX means...

Posted 6 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...

Coal mines, branches lines and E. Hunter Harrison

Posted 6 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...

Does Caltrain funding denial signal anti-rail stance?

Posted 6 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...

An update on our new PBS documentary 'Selling Sunshine'

Posted 6 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...

See the USA, in a Railfan Way

Posted 6 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...

A Proud Job For The Mighty SD40-2

Posted 6 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...

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

Posted 6 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...

$2.25 for a trip back in time

Posted 6 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...

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

Posted 7 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...

BNSF's 7.8 Mile Snowshed

Posted 7 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 ...

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

Posted 7 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...

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

Posted 7 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...

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

Posted 7 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 ...

It's OK to text

Posted 7 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...

A history of avalanches on Marias Pass

Posted 7 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...

'Selling Sunshine: The Florida Trains' has a home

Posted 7 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 ...

BNSF Snow Dozer day on Stevens Pass

Posted 7 months ago by Robert W. Scott
Winter and railroads. Something that every year at least a few places around the country requires specialized equipment to keep things moving fluid and the lines cleared of snow. This winter has seen plows and rotaries up and running in the northern Plains and spreaders and flangers working in the Sierra's. This would also be a year that the Pacific Northwest had some snow removal action.  This past Thursday was a special day on the BNSF Scenic Sub in Washington State. It was the first usa...

Investment Grade

Posted 7 months ago by George Hamlin
Evidence of longevity at Calverton, Virginia; photo by George W. Hamlin Admittedly, I don’t spend a lot of my time trackside examining rails.  While they are a foundational part of railroading, typically something else causes me to appear trackside, camera in hand.  For that matter, their sides are typically not well-lit, and they are often in the shadows, both literally and figuratively.  They spend most of their time waiting for relatively brief (in most locations) in...

The next Ely?

Posted 7 months ago by Justin Franz
Three years ago, I stood along a muddy road in the woods of western Washington and listened to the rain. The weather was exactly what you would expect for the Pacific Northwest: gray, grungy and wet. After a few minutes, a low rumble emerged from the forest in front of me. As the rumble grew louder it was joined by the squeal of wheels rolling along rusty rails. A few minutes after that, a loud horn interrupted the rumble and the squeal and a red SW1200 poked its noise around the corner lead...

An infrastructure agenda, or “alternative facts?”

Posted 7 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
I and many other longtime rail passenger advocates were buoyed somewhat, at a time when there is a lot of troubling news coming from the high levels of the federal executive branch, by last Monday’s release (via McClatchy Newspapers) of a document claiming to show a list of 50 nationally significant infrastructure projects that were priorities for the Trump transition team. Included on this list were 11 rail projects, among them the vital Gateway Project to ease the cross-Hudson River bott...

Railroading: A nocturnal craft

Posted 8 months ago by Chase Gunnoe
If you liked my Facebook post this morning, you are the reason I’m writing this blog. This morning was one of those rare instances when I woke up before the coffee pot. My day started a shade after 4 a.m. eastern this morning – and no for particular reason. As with any day, I started with a quick swipe through missed text messages and a morning cup (or pot) of coffee. A few moments later, I heard a train descending off ‘Scary Hill’ across the river from the house…...

People change and so do our railroads...

Posted 8 months ago by Chase Gunnoe
By now, we’ve all learned about the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus closing its circus tours after 146 years of performances. And for us who enjoy trains, we know that’s the end of traveling circus shows by rail. Not just a couple of coaches and some flat cars, but the end of operations for a fleet of more than 120 cars. It means forthcoming lost jobs, a presumable disposition of rail equipment, and another American icon destined for the history books… or tab...

The Circus is Leaving Town

Posted 8 months ago by Hayley Enoch
The Red Unit passes through Waco, Texas, in 2008. Photo credit Bradley Linda. I got my first glimpse of the Ringling Brother’s Circus Train about a decade ago, during a brief residency in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The sighting came before I began writing about railroads as a profession, long before I was even aware that there was a community of train-watchers who put great effort into having the kind of experience that I had at the Uintah Street overpass. ...

Why not trains to move masses to, from and within Disney World?

Posted 8 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
I spent New Years week with extended family at Walt Disney World in Florida at the behest of my step-nieces who are six and nine years old. This was my only visit to the gigantic theme park complex since a high school class trip in April 2004. Of course, one of my favorite things about the Disney parks is the plethora of train rides and train-themed rides, which exist thanks mainly to Walt Disney's own unabashed love of trains.  Mickey Mouse came into Disney’s imagination over the co...

The return of Kodachrome?

Posted 8 months ago by Justin Franz
Earlier this week, PetaPixel reported that Kodak was “investigating” what it would take to bring one of its most iconic films back into production: Kodachrome. For decades, Kodachrome was the first choice of film for railroad photographers. My father Tim Franz was long a believer in the red and yellow box and had they not stopped processing the stuff eight years ago I’m positive he would still be shooting it today (in fact, part of me thinks had he secured a stockpile before ...

1309 Update

Posted 8 months ago by John Hankey
The one question most asked about the 1309 project is the most difficult to answer: When will it be done? We have a best guess, but that is really all we can do. This is a complex and unpredictable project. WMSR has to “get it right” the first time around. This is a “return to specification” overhaul. The locomotive will be a superior machine to the one that rolled out of Eddystone in late 1949. It will have a more modern air brake system (26L), forced lubrication of man...

SP&S Boiler Inspection Continues into the New Year

Posted 8 months ago by Stephen P. Sedaker
A lot has been accomplished in 2016 toward the Pacific Railroad Preservation Association efforts toward the 700's 1472 Day Inspection, in regards to our tear-down, and rebuilding of major boiler components. All appliances that limit access to inspection points have been removed, and all of the superheater assemblies have been removed, as well as all of the firebrick in the firebox. The boiler surface has been mapped out, and the tedious task of making all of the ultrasound measurements...

Harder than Iron, Colder than Steel

Posted 9 months ago by Hayley Enoch
Long-time Texas residents know to keep one eye warily turned to the sky, to regard the horizon with suspicion. The weather is capricious here: A winter day might dawn warm enough for  enough to break a sweat inside of thick cotton overalls, but it’s not uncommon for the temperature to fall severely enough to freeze standing water by the time dusk arrives.  The last time such a forecast was drawn up finds me stationed on the left side of the cab. Which particular locomotive that...