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Better Days on the Western Maryland

Posted 6 months ago by John Hankey
It has been a rough year for the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Like most heritage lines around for decades, it is a resilient and resourceful operation. But this year has been a doozy. WMSR is like the proverbial cat with nine lives. I recall a half-dozen times over the last 30 years when the project might have folded (with good reasons) and ended up as a bike trail. Instead, it survives as a splendid example of Big Time mainline steam railroading. By late 2015, there was a realistic cha...

Unconventional approach makes Reading & Northern a model for short-line passenger service

Posted 7 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
The Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern is unique among short line and regional railroads in a number of ways, primarily having to do with the unconventional business approach of the company’s owner, Andy Muller, Jr. The northeastern Pennsylvania railroad, whose primary cash cow is hauling anthracite coal between mines and interchange points with Class I railroads, has also offered a fair amount of seasonal, excursion passenger service over its entire network. In addition to regular 10-mil...

“Land Ferry” would move trucks across Nevada on wind-powered trains

Posted 7 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
Nearly every state in the country is faced with the challenge of accommodating what is expected to be a major growth in freight and passenger traffic over the next several decades while meeting increasingly stringent energy efficiency and emission reduction targets. Many states’ transportation and freight mobility planning efforts are focusing on a mixture of highway and rail capital improvement projects. But only Nevada is seriously considering an outside-the-box idea that would truly com...

Mars Lights, Night Shots, and the Musings In Between

Posted 7 months ago by Hayley Enoch
It takes about half a day, in general, for the first wave of cell phone pictures and hastily edited DSLR shots documenting a notable steam excursion to show up on social media. So it was with the 844’s run a week ago. Those of us who were there snapped our shots and got them up as soon as possible; those at home followed eagerly to get their first, second-hand glimpse of the locomotive in service in almost three years.   Most of the discussion surrounding those earliest photographs a...

Boston entrepreneur pursues inexpensive start-up Worcester-Providence train service

Posted 8 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
Many professionals in and observers of the railroad industry are jaded and skeptical of the idea that a group of private investors could start a successful or even profitable passenger train service — beyond occasional tourist or excursion runs — in the US without government subsidy or assistance. But one 45-year-old native Bostonian with a background in consulting on electric energy technologies has quite the opposite attitude. Vincent Bono readily offers statistics from memory to s...

The SP&S 700 Boiler Inspection Effort Continues

Posted 8 months ago by Stephen P. Sedaker
The first major part of our actual inspection is about to begin, as we are finishing up the mapping of the sections of the boiler. The boiler is mapped out into 1 square foot segments after the surface has been cleaned, and then the boiler wall thickness of each segment is recorded with an ultrasound probe. The outer boiler wall has been mapped out, so soon this process will begin. We are also inspecting our supply of superheater tubes that we have had in storage (since the Brooklyn Roundhouse d...

At long last, steam on the UP mainline

Posted 8 months ago by Hayley Enoch
There are few people sitting along US-85 in northern Colorado, far few than I expected to welcome the Union Pacific’s 844 back to the rails after an absence of several years. No other group joins our party at a rural crossing just south of Greeley. Despite that, today’s chase doesn’t need the excitement that large groups of people create to infuse the air with a crackling energy. It’s enough to know that the Northern is somewhere down the tracks, that it’s hot a...

Why not carry express, parcels on US passenger trains?

Posted 8 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
Historically, American railroads have helped cover the cost of passenger operations by taking advantage of the faster, scheduled nature of passenger trains and their capacity and haulage capability to also carry high-revenue express and parcel shipments, as well as the US Mail (at least until 1967). Many railroads worldwide still load up passenger trains with “head-end” cargo. Given this history, it has perplexed me that Amtrak has been unable to develop a successful, sustainable exp...

Finding tranquility among the turmoil

Posted 8 months ago by Chase Gunnoe
We are a society that lives for tomorrow. We plan our vacations months, if not years in advance and our jobs are oftentimes concentrated on events and details in the forthcoming months. That is certainly the case with journalism and my field of study. Consumers are looking to Christmas and tourist railroads are marketing Polar Express and other holiday trains. We will soon complain that summer ended all too soon, while we focus on holiday door busters and next year’s spring break. The s...

Correcting the imbalance in US transportation policy and its influencers

Posted 9 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
My friend Benjamin Ross, an author and transportation and urban development historian from the DC area, penned an article for the current issue of Dissent magazine that reports his research into the seeming infatuation of major foundations, think tanks and environmental nonprofits with the idea of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). As a reader of a number of environmental and sustainability publications, I had been somewhat cognizant of the preponderance of articles that praise BRT as a cost-effective way...

Oh June, the places we’ve been…

Posted 9 months ago by Chase Gunnoe
  Penetrating through a deteriorating cloud deck and resting on the shoulders of the western Rockies, a June sun illuminates prairie lands of rural Colorado just outside of Trinidad. Pointed toward La Junta, a northbound Federal Railroad Administration geometry train trails Amtrak’s Southwest Chief into the remnants of a Kansas-bound thunderstorm. The skies are wide open – as with the throttle of the two-car passenger train. Track speeds are good for 60 MPH on this stretch of B...

Take us home, Mountain Rails

Posted 9 months ago by Hayley Enoch
Departing Durango makes for a somber morning. After a three night’s stay,  the elegant Strater hotel began to feel familiar and domestic. More than that, leaving our temporary habitat puts us face to face with the reality that there are only two days and two more train rides left before the tour ends and our group will part ways and scatter across the globe. We rise early and go southwards to Chama, New Mexico, for our ride on the  Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Af...

DC Metro to Disney monorail: apt comparison?

Posted 9 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
In the latest congressional oversight hearing about Washington, DC’s troubled Metrorail system held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL), whose district includes Walt Disney World, compared Metro with Disney’s monorail system. Walt Disney World is the world’s most visited theme park, located 15 miles southwest of Orlando in Lake Buena Vista, FL. “I have never seen [Disney’s monorail] broken in the 30-some years they&rsq...

Loss and Mourning on the High Rocky Rails

Posted 9 months ago by Hayley Enoch
I will say little about character and quality of the Royal Gorge Route except that it is well worth the time and cost, because a tragedy occurred in the interval between jotting down notes about the journey and sitting down to organize them into coherent prose. Rumors of a fatality on the Royal Gorge Route began to filter in as drove to Durango and settled in to our first night at the Strater Hotel. By the next morning, newspapers and various journalistic websites ran official confirmation...

The town that loves the train

Posted 9 months ago by Chase Gunnoe
Steam locomotives have a way of grabbing the attention of everyone. There’s 35 of us on board the latest Colorado Tours trip that have traveled to the Rocky Mountains from all corners of the United States, Canada, and Japan to learn about, ride behind, and experience the coal-fired creatures. It’s a fascination that spans multiple generations and cultures. This weekend alone, hundreds have also gathered trackside in Virginia, Minnesota, Tennessee, Ohio and neighboring states to see...

The Trains That Dare to Touch the Sky

Posted 10 months ago by Hayley Enoch
Leadville, and many of the other small towns nestled high up in the Rocky Mountains, make you think that you must have traveled more than an hour or two to get to them. They have a picaresque, timeless look reminiscent of colorful villages in Austria or Germany. The train station at Leadville is one of the most familiar things about the town, one of the only buildings that could be transferred to a main street in any other city in the United States. Our boarding on the Leadville, Colorado and ...

Summer Snow, and Other Lucky Contrivances

Posted 10 months ago by Hayley Enoch
Ours is one of the quietest train groups to ever depart with Special Interest Tours, our tour guide says, before he  nods to himself and follows with a confident assurance that by the time the tour ends nine days later, we’ll have turned into a loud, raucous group of friends. We exchange our names and home cities and favorite railroaders at the introductory dinner and during the bus ride from Denver to the Colorado Railroad Museum, but remain somewhat reserved during our first sc...

SP&S 700 Boiler Inspection: We Have Separation, Now Let's Go Pound Some Bricks

Posted 10 months ago by Stephen P. Sedaker
As our preparation phase for the inspection continues, we have basically cleaned up the boiler exterior in preparation for mapping and marking the measurement areas for the ultrasound. We will be using our map from the year 2000 as a reference, but we will still have to completely map out the boiler surface again for the new inspection. Earlier this month (May), when some of the equipment was being maneuvered around in preparation for Portland Train Day, we had the opportunity to wash out the in...

The worst that can happen is we'll all enjoy the ride

Posted 10 months ago by Hayley Enoch
The Cumbers & Toltec. The Colorado Railroad Museum. The Royal Gorge Route. The San Luis & Rio Grande.  Railroad enthusiasts speak these names, and the titles of all the other Colorado tourist railroads,  with the utmost of reverence. Many cite these rides as the standard by which all other tourist train trips are judged. The Trains Magazine and 2016 Special Interest Tours’ Rockies by Rail Tour covers all of them in a comprehensive, bucket-list-toppling trip through some ...

Industry innovation + regulatory adaptability = endless possibilities

Posted 10 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
Many who advocate bringing greater balance to the US transportation system, myself included, argue that planning and funding mechanisms would deliver projects that provide greater choice to travelers and improved interconnectivity between travel modes if the long-standing silos between the modes were broken down. These silos exist at all levels of government and dictate on what basis public funding is distributed, how safety and performance standards are overseen, what types of work rules and la...

TRAINS 611 chase guide: Manassas-Front Royal, Va. June 4 and 5, 2016

Posted 10 months ago by Dave Crosby
The first weekend of June may prove to be the last chance to ride behind famed Norfolk & Western 611 in 2016.  The weekend will see three round trips depart from Manassas, Virginia for Front Royal, some 51 track miles to the west.  These half day excursions – one on Saturday, two on Sunday – allow for a weekend of chasing AND riding.  At less than four hours, they are also the perfect bite-sized excursion, appealing to those who may not want to spend all day o...

My hometown route gets a new lease on life...

Posted 10 months ago by Chase Gunnoe
When I first started writing stories on railroad news, preservation and other topics, I enjoyed how it pushed me beyond a comfort zone. I broadened my interests as I learned more about different facets of the rail industry. Initially, I cared more about what I was exposed to on a daily basis. For me, a West Virginia kid entering college, I felt more confident about coal and Class I railroading than third rail electrification systems used by transit agencies. After all, here in West Virginia,...

Full Throttle, and a Seat In the Tool Car

Posted 10 months ago by Hayley Enoch
It’s very early in the morning--only a quarter of an hour or so past five.  The sun is still in full retreat., and the 611 does an expert job of camouflaging into the backdrop.  I find it by sound and by smell, not by sight. The rest of the consist, most of it painted in similarly dark colors, is likewise rendered invisible. Here and there, light from the railyard behind the train gives the outline of wheels or brake hoses, and a there are a few fleeting glances through th...

The Sky, the Rails, and All of Our Stories

Posted 10 months ago by Hayley Enoch
I begin writing this blog from the yawning halls of DFW airport, the start point on my journey to Roanoke, Virginia to cover another round of the 611’s excursions. It is one of those days where the trials of travel compound in every way they can: I have difficulty checking in curbside and must solicit the assistance of a live customer service representative--quite the endangered species these days--then I endure a TSA line roughly the same length as Terminal C. By the time I find my ga...

Last train today, first train tomorrow

Posted 10 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Greetings from Durango, Colorado, where we introduced our new Colorado Railroads magazine today to several hundred people gathered for the opening season day thank you to the people who make all of this possible and to the town that hosts the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. We had a gorgeous day, so before the event, which features great western music and free hot dogs, I had to follow the last train of the spring to go to Cascade Canyon and return.I managed to catch it once along...

There are no substitutes for being there...

Posted 11 months ago by Hayley Enoch
...But these days, at least, we can still enjoy railroad events even if we're stuck at home. Running a railroad blog and contributing to periodicals like Trains means always keeping one foot in the world of social media. Web sites like Facebook and Twitter provide an invaluable platform for building an audience and keeping in touch with hundreds of people involved in the railroad industry. I have the pleasure of being connected with so many people in the industry, in fact, that pictures of ...

Connectivity means prosperity

Posted 11 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
A recent New York Times opinion column by Singaporean public policy professor Parag Khanna echoes what many experts and observers have been saying — that in the current age, the US and other countries are increasingly being organized along the lines of mega-regions and multi-city clusters that disregard state lines and other pre-determined political boundaries. Our political system has yet to catch up with facts on the ground, Khanna argues. If we fail to invest in connecting our mega-regi...

A hundred Warbonnets, put out to pasture

Posted 11 months ago by Hayley Enoch
Two or three seconds of confusion is all it takes: I miss the exit for I-35, and end up heading through the center of Oklahoma City instead of to the north-east, where I am expected at the Oklahoma Railway Museum. Past the center of the city, the highway arcs upwards to cross over a decently sized rail yard, crowded from end to end with equipment. I catch the unmistakable flare of a a locomotive painted in the Warbonnet scheme, then another, then I see a dozen or more of them. They are strew...

The SP&S 700 Boiler Inspection: The Effort Continues

Posted 11 months ago by Stephen P. Sedaker
Last time I discussed the initial tear-down preparations, and the early activities associated with the rebuild, as well as our fundraising activities. This month I will provide an update on where we are, and look ahead to the months ahead. The jacketing and lagging on the engine are now completely removed and stored, including the jacketing on the back-head inside the cab. The fixtures and gauges inside the cab are now removed and safely stored. The water glasses are put safely away, the MU con...

Century Notes: Michael Gross comes to Denver

Posted 11 months ago by Richard Luckin
Last week, television/movie actor/model railroader and railfanMichael Gross was in Denver to do our on-camera narration.I’m always impressed with the way Michael can bring a scriptalive with his wonderful voice and his knowledge of railroadingis a true bonus.Historian and editor of Railroad History Peter Hansen also providedsome excellent on-camera material as well. Pete produceda top-notch script that is well-written and easy to follow.We are now in the process of assembling all the visua...

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