24

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

Posted 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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...
5

Still a Good Place to Watch Trains

Posted 8 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 ...
1

Our community

Posted 8 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...
30

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

Posted 9 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...
10

One month later, Amtrak 501 offers one encouraging takeaway

Posted 9 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 ...
10

Select Readings for the Steam Off-Season

Posted 9 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...
1

Three years ago today

Posted 9 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...
17

Glory Days?

Posted 9 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...
5

One Wild Ride

Posted 9 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...
6

New Year’s Resolution: Taking Better Notes

Posted 9 months ago by Justin Franz
I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: I’m terrible at taking notes. That might be a concerning statement from someone who’s employed as a writer, so let me clarify. If I’m reporting a story for Trains Magazine or any of the other publications I work with, I take detailed notes. I’ve probably filled hundreds of 4- by 8-inch notebooks in the last decade. But I have a less than stellar track record taking notes while railfanning. So this year, one of my Ne...
15

Yes, It Is Cold

Posted 9 months ago by John Hankey
In winter, and especially during this kind of cold snap, my thoughts run to the folks whose work takes them outdoors in often harsh conditions. Yard men, track men signal maintainers, trainmen unlucky enough to have to flag a mainline train—a great deal of railroading remains outside work. And by definition, railroad work unfolds 24/7, 365 days a year, in all weather. I often imagine what outside railroad work was like 100 or 150 years ago, before we had warm clothing. The nasty Nor&rsquo...
6

Four Seasons at Gaylord

Posted 9 months ago by George Hamlin
Blink and you’ll miss it.  Although Gaylord, isn’t acknowledged by the Virginia official state highway map, it can still be located on Google Maps.  To put it in perspective, this is a place where passenger train service (on the N&W’s Shenandoah Valley Line) outlasted the local Post Office; there’s a sign on a building that housed the latter stating that it served as Gaylord’s P.O. until 1956; N&W numbers 1 and 2 survived several years beyond that,...
6

The year ahead

Posted 9 months ago by Justin Franz
Late December is often a time to look at the year that has passed, but also turn an eye to the future. The last 12 months have been fascinating in the world of railroading, but 2018 could be even more interesting. Here are the stories that I’ll be keeping an eye on with interest in 2018. Life After Hunter: The fate of CSX Transportation was probably going to make anyone’s 2018 storylines list before CEO E. Hunter Harrison’s shocking death on Dec. 16. Now, there is even more ...
8

Better Transit For All

Posted 10 months ago by Hayley Enoch
The wreck of Amtrak 501 near Tacoma, Washington, has the usual condolences to the victims and calls to determine what set of circumstances could have sent a brand new locomotive, thirteen cars, and more than seventy human lives barreling down a highway embankment. This time, though, the response included an uncommon sentiment. This wreck, many in the railfan community reflected, felt far too personal. Since Monday’s departure of the 501 was making its first run over a recently refurbish by...
6

Completed Staff Work; Don't Leave Anything to Chance

Posted 10 months ago by George Hamlin
Let me preface this with the thought that it might be a good idea to look at all your photos in a full-size view; gems that can’t be seen in a thumbnail-sized image may be lurking in the “full-size” versions.  Of course digital photography, where the marginal cost of additional shots is effectively zero, means that many of us now have too many photographic frames from a particular day’s shooting to make this a practical alternative in all cases. One of the highlight...
14

Top 10 passenger stories of 2017

Posted 10 months ago by David Lassen
Trains passenger columnist Bob Johnston has come up with his Top 10 Passenger stories of 2017. Here's his list and comments on each; you can vote on your choices for the top stories on our Facebook page beginning Monday afternoon: 1. Brightline debuts  All Aboard Florida is set to start service at the end of the year between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with new cars, locomotives, and stations on a recently double-tracked, formerly freight-only Florida East Coast route. The...
3

Heritage Units and Childhood Memories

Posted 10 months ago by Justin Franz
"You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory." -Thomas Wolfe, 1940 The memories of our childhood are often our most vivid. Almost anyone who reads this blog or subscribes to Trains Magazine likely has some vivi...
12

'Tis the Season

Posted 10 months ago by George Hamlin
No, you haven’t wandered into the Model Railroader site by accident.  What you’re looking at is in fact a model railroad, but it was built and (as of December 1976, when this photo was taken) owned by a real railroad.  Not just any railroad, either: the “mother of railroads” in the U.S., the Baltimore and Ohio (or, to its more ardent supporters, the “Best and Only”), which, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, was the “first steam-oper...
15

Passenger rail progress: Consensus on what; not so much on how

Posted 10 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the trade group representing the nation’s transit agencies along with their contractors and suppliers, held its annual High-Speed Rail Policy Forum yesterday here in Washington, D.C. The event featured wide-ranging seminars and spirited discussions on all the issues that hamper the growth and improvement of passenger rail in the U.S., not just true high-speed rail. The most active debate centered around how to achieve greater reliabili...
3

Giving Tuesday

Posted 10 months ago by Justin Franz
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic has long been on my list of “must see” railroad attractions. This fall, I finally had the chance to visit the railroad and within a few minutes of arriving on the property, I came to understand why so many love it. Watching a Denver & Rio Grande Western K-36 storm up Cumbres Pass with a freight train, I had to wonder if it could get any better and if the C&TS was the pinnacle American railroad preservation. But it’s not just those epic...
14

We can’t afford not to fix transit systems first

Posted 11 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
This New York Times feature story that appeared yesterday echoes same old depressing story that is playing itself out not only in New York, but also in Washington, Chicago and many other cities with rail transit systems on which tens or hundreds of thousands of residents rely nearly every day. Riders are experiencing frequent incidents that halt or delay service, and overall on-time performance is declining. While new lines and stations are opened and some cosmetic improvements are made, the sys...
3

Victor and Vanquished

Posted 11 months ago by George Hamlin
Now that Amtrak has celebrated its 40th anniversary, with the 50th not that far away, it’s hard to put into perspective the positive vibe that the arrival of the SDP40F into the fleet produced in the railfan community in the early 1970s.  Put it this way: since then, two whole generations of diesel motive power (the F40PH followed by the Genesis series) have come onto the roster.  On the electric side, the E60 was supplanted by the AEM-7, which was replaced more recently by ...
26

Encouraging words, uncertain prognoses at passenger group’s 50th anniversary summit

Posted 11 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
Revised November 21, 2017. Two weeks ago, over 250 members of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (which will soon be known as the Rail Passengers Association), of which I have been an active supporter for over a decade, gathered in Chicago (the city where the Association was founded in 1967) to celebrate the nonprofit advocacy group’s 50th anniversary. At the summit, dubbed RailNation Chicago, there were many discussions about the role passenger advocates should play, and the...
8

A train chaser’s guide to the 2017 CSX Santa Train

Posted 11 months ago by Ron Flanary
The 2017 CSX Transportation Santa Train departs the railroad’s yard at Shelby, Ky., (Shelbiana is the community name) at 5:45 a.m. This is located about 6 miles south of Pikeville, where there are plenty of lodging and food service options to be found. Between Shelby and Elkhorn City, photo ops are mostly limited to a few public grade crossings. Even if it’s a clear day, this will be mostly in the dark. There is a stop scheduled at a grade crossing at Marrowbone, Ky., at 6:20 a.m., ...
8

For a taste of the rails this holiday season just add butter

Posted 11 months ago by Justin Franz
November is a time for cooking. The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler and there is less and less to do outside. November also features that classic American celebration of culinary excess, Thanksgiving. In preparation for Thanksgiving, my fiancée and I like to throw what we call “Friendsgiving,” a dinner party a week or two before the big event. It’s a great opportunity to see friends before they head home for the holiday and it’s a good time ...
12

Don't Leave Too Soon...Just Because the Trains and Daylight Have Gone

Posted 11 months ago by George Hamlin
When I went out on what was then Norfolk Southern’s Washington District (the northern end of the former Southern Railway’s Washington, DC-Atlanta, Georgia main line) on Sunday October 25, 2009, I didn’t have great expectations for railroad photography.  I headed for the area between Calverton and Bealeton along Virginia Route 28, hoping to find something moving on the railroad; Sunday afternoons here can be quiet from a train movement perspective, but there would almost de...
3

Conference sponsors, speakers bullish on transformational technology

Posted 11 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
Technologies introduced within recent decades and those in development — the Internet, smartphones, cellular data networks, GPS, RFID, autonomous vehicles, etc. — have already begun to change how people and goods move: both the inner workings of transportation systems and the user’s experience of personal mobility and shipping. The trend towards greater seamlessness and interconnectivity, and greater use of networked systems to manage railroads, transit systems and other transp...