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SP&S 700 Boiler Inspection Update: Superheater Removal Complete!

Posted 9 months ago by Stephen P. Sedaker
One of the big tasks related to the boiler inspection is the removal of all superheater assemblies in the locomotive. This effort took place over a period of several workdays on different weeks, to avoid interference with the operation of the Oregon Rail Heritage Center on its operating days (Thursdays through Sundays). It is a very dirty job that creates a lot of pesky soot and dirt that drifts throughout the building, and so we must mitigate the mess by covering and protecting furniture and ...

Moorman listens to front-line feedback during commute on the Crescent

Posted 9 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
America’s passenger train faithful have placed a great deal of expectations on the shoulders of Wick Moorman. Even though the former Chairman and CEO of Norfolk Southern officially took the helm of Amtrak on September 1, he has spent much of his first few weeks on the job on a previously scheduled vacation to New Zealand. He is on the job this week, and at least one initial report gives me great confidence that he is approaching the role from the perspective of passengers and front-line em...

Give the media a break

Posted 9 months ago by Justin Franz
Imagine for a moment that you’re sitting at work when your boss walks over and tells you he needs you to write a report and he needs it now. Right now. Not an hour from now or a day from now, but right now. Not only does he need the report now, he needs you to write it about a topic that you’re not that familiar with. Under those pressures, it’s unlikely you’re going to put out a stellar report. That is exactly what happened in newsrooms and controls rooms all across New...

Positive Train Control and last week's Hoboken crash

Posted 9 months ago by Tyler Trahan
Last Thursday's wreck in Hoboken, NJ, where a New Jersey Transit (NJT) train overshot the end of track and crashed into the platform and station building has renewed mainstream conversation — and confusion — about Positive Train Control. First, we don’t know the cause of this crash and this article will not speculate. Here’s what we do know: On September 29th, NJT train No. 1614, a diesel-hauled push-pull set, was operating in push mode, with the engineer operating ...

Taking your photography to new heights the old fashioned way

Posted 9 months ago by Justin Franz
If you’re raifanning in 2016, chances are you know someone who has taken the plunge and purchased a drone. Just last week, after seeing yet another friend buy a drone and capture spectacular images, I went online to look at one. After seeing the price, I promptly shut my computer (Let’s be honest, journalists aren’t exactly swimming in cash). But besides the cost, there’s another reason I have yet to take my railroad photography to new altitudes with a drone. Railroad...

By the sweat of their brow, and the grace of their paperwork

Posted 10 months ago by Hayley Enoch
The briefest introduction to steam locomotives makes it clear that nothing about the technology comes easily.   Their size and bulk makes any aspect of maintaining them a struggle of iron against flesh; coaxing them into full pressure and then making the best use of that potential energy takes skill and patience. Simply keeping a locomotive in good working order is a notable accomplishment all to its own, but the logistics of moving one out of an enclave of preservation and onto the...

Revolution vs. evolution towards the future of railroading

Posted 10 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
I returned to the city I grew up in this past weekend (by train, as always) for a major folk music festival. The shindig encompassed a very broad array of musical styles, all of which are connected to traditions that go back decades, if not centuries. While several of the styles, such as Dixieland jazz, are often thought of as old-fashioned and of a particular time, the artists at these festivals demonstrated that these idioms are living, evolving art forms. In music, as in biology, every new th...

Searching for the perfect image of autumn

Posted 10 months ago by Justin Franz
I took a drive this past weekend up Marias Pass, site of the Great Northern Railway’s legendary mountain crossing along Glacier National Park. It was cold and rainy (and snowy in some places) and not exactly an ideal day to go trackside. Even when the weather is less than perfect though, I push myself out of bed with the idea that railroading is a 24-hour business and trains don’t just run on sunny days. If you want to document the industry in its entirety, you have go out on the ...

Better Days on the Western Maryland

Posted 10 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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 one year 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,...

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