13

Train travel lets us be be human beings, not human doings

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
In the middle of another westbound Amtrak trip, I was able to take advantage of another seven-hour layover in Chicago. After taking in the well-done holiday decorations in the Great Hall, I decided to walk from Union Station to the Chicago Cultural Center, where I remember seeing engaging exhibits on previous visits. It did not disappoint. I arrived just in time for a free guided tour of the great number of temporary installations filling the two buildings (one the former main branch of the Chic...
20

The World Through a Coach Window

Posted one year ago by Hayley Enoch
There are a few prerequisites to be achieved before one can comment on past and future railroads with authority. One should know the major branches of the Class I family tree by memory, should have a working technical knowledge of past and present railroad technologies, and should posses an idea of where the major railroad routes exist and what sort of cargo rolls over each of them. There are also experiential lessons: A visit to a dispatching center and a few moments spent in awe of how an ind...
35

Why environmentalists should be rail backers, and vice versa

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
I consider myself both an environmentalist and an avid railroad booster, and I do not see these as being at odds with each other. My broad definition of environmentalism includes anything having to do with maintaining earth’s life support systems and its ecological functioning, both of which are preconditions for all human activity — without a healthy planet, there is no economy and no quality of life. It also has to do with sustaining the human presence on this planet for the long t...
5

CSX Santa Train completes 73rd running

Posted one year ago by Chase Gunnoe
The 73rd Santa Train rolls by the S.E. Trammel Siding and into Sandy Ridge Tunnel. Ron Flanary photo. Going into Santa Train weekend, many fans and hobbyists were calling the 73rd running “bittersweet”, ahead of what they speculated to be the final running of the CSX Santa Train. This following the railroad’s decision in October to close its Erwin, Tenn. terminal, affecting 300 jobs and diverting all run-through train traffic away from the Clinchfield route. Saturday’s...
38

CP+NS: What's in a name? Plenty

Posted 2 years ago by Steve Glischinski
As railroad fans, it’s always an interesting guessing game to try to figure out what name a railroad merger might produce. Railroads themselves seem to struggle with it — in the 1960s when the Hill Lines were preparing to merge, the company was to be called Great Northern Pacific & Burlington Lines — until cooler heads prevailed and settled on the less tongue twisting Burlington Northern. If the Canadian Pacific/Norfolk Southern merger goes through, leaders of the new comp...
1

Next Generation: Gage O'Dell

Posted 2 years ago by Chase Gunnoe
After a brief hiatus from the Observation Tower, we are back in the hot seat and happy to feature the work of Kentucky-based Gage O'Dell in the November segment of Next Generation. O'Dell is a 20-year University of Kentucky student currently pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism. A lifelong railfan and one of the biggest supporters of UK sports, O'Dell shares a little with us in this month's blog. Q: When and how did you get involved in railroad photography? Have you always had an interest ...
4

P3s: A useful tool, but no replacement for public investment

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
In my last column, I discussed why American political leaders at all levels of government need to stop fretting that we can’t afford to invest in our infrastructure and start finding ways to pay for the building we need. One idea that is often suggested, given budget concerns, is greater use of public-private partnerships (P3s). I am currently enrolled in a seminar course on P3 policy in the Master’s program in Transportation Policy, Operations and Logistics at George Mason Universit...
9

Yes, we can afford a better future

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
Nobody who is familiar with American passenger rail, or infrastructure in general, can deny the great need for rebuilding and renewal on a number of corridors, most notably the Northeast Corridor but also many others — and long-distance routes should be thought of as multiple corridors served by one train, each of which has the potential to expand.  But sadly, when questions are asked as to why we have failed to make these investments, many in government and the industry lament &ldquo...
0

A quest for Century B-roll

Posted 2 years ago by Richard Luckin
Nearly two dozen people have been interviewed since I started on this film. The quality of the interviews has been outstanding! They range from people who worked on the "Century," rode and saw the train, plus railroad historians and photographers. However, the program will not consist of talking heads, which often translate into boring television. The documentary will be far from boring. Here's why. We'll cover each interview with what we call "B-roll," visuals that illustrate what the person ...
3

Steam in 2015: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

Posted 2 years ago by Dave Crosby
With the 2015 mainline excursion season drawing to a close and the “big engines” returning to their respective homes for the winter, many would think that the excitement of the steam season is just about over. Nothing could be further from the truth. While the Nickel Plate Road No. 765, Norfolk & Western No. 611, and Southern Railway No. 4501 may have drawn the most attention through the summer and fall, there are still new and exciting things taking place in the steam departmen...
9

After a bumpy start, Amtrak-Iowa Pacific Hoosier State getting clear signals ahead

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
Last weekend’s (Oct. 16-18) annual fall conference of the National Association of Railroad Passengers’ (NARP) volunteer leadership was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (occupying much of the former Union Station, next to the current Amtrak/Greyhound station) in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. This location gave passenger advocates and frequent train travelers from across the country the opportunity both to tour Amtrak’s Beech Grove Shops, where heavy maintenance and overhauls of ...
24

The Long Shadow of Departed Trains

Posted 2 years ago by Hayley Enoch
There are, really, two Texases. There is Dallas and Houston and Austin and their satellites, cities large in size and reputation, and vibrant enough to have attracted what feels like half of the other forty-nine states. Then there is the other half: Small towns, removed from the major highways and  too far away from large cities to host a commuting population. Bonham, Texas, is part of the other Texas. It has not been revitalized by population migration during the recession, and too few pe...
6

Century Notes

Posted 2 years ago by Richard Luckin
I just returned from a ten-day video shoot that took us to New York City, Albany, NY and Washington, D.C. and had the pleasure of interviewing 15 individuals. Some of the interviews were with people who rode the train, operated it or worked on the train. Other interviews included sessions about the famous "Hudson" locomotives, childhood memories, and today's Lakeshore Limited.  Several interviews explored the reasons why the train was discontinued in 1967 and menti...
19

New Amtrak baggage policy: sensible, but should be less rigid

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
Amtrak’s new systemwide checked and carry-on baggage policy goes into effect today. It marks the first time in the company’s history that passengers will be charged for carry-on baggage — but only if it exceeds the maximum quantity and size allowed, which remain quite generous, especially compared to airlines.  The new policy adds financial penalty and steps up enforcement of pre-existing guidelines that limited passengers’ total carry-on baggage weight to 150 pound...
1

Chasing 4501 Macon-Tennille, Ga., Sept. 26 and 27, 2015

Posted 2 years ago by Nikos Kavoori
NS Local G02 heads east across the Ocumulgee River in Macon,GA, this view has been obscured by tree growth since this 2011 shot but a similar view is possible from the Macon Riverwalk for the afternoon westbound trip. As the heat of summer finally gives way to the cooler days of fall it’s time to prepare for the next round of 21st Century steam excursions in the south. This year’s fall trips will feature Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum’s Southern Railway 2-8-2 No. 4501 and w...
21

The House Beside the Railroad Tracks

Posted 2 years ago by Hayley Enoch
The blistering summer heat has been late coming to North Texas this year, but when it does finally arrive, it seems to feel a need to make up for lost time. The highest temperatures this August approach one hundred and ten degrees. This time of year, it’s too hot for train watching to be a pleasurable pursuit, especially if the object of the chase is the kind of locomotive that cultures fire in its belly. Several weeks of sequestration in my air-conditioned home has not cut me off from ...
7

Piedmont Chase

Posted 2 years ago by Nikos Kavoori
NS transfer job P26 grinds upgrade at CP Birmont in Atlanta, this will be a great spot to see and hear 4501 working up the grade to Howell. One of the staples of the original Southern and later NS steam program was the annual Autumn leaf specials on the Piedmont mainline between Atlanta and Toccoa. These trips were host to nearly every engine used by the Southern steam program from the 4501 in its first career to exotic and short lived participants such as the C&O 2716 and T&P 610 so it...
1

Railroading Just For Fun – TVRM Railfest

Posted 2 years ago by David Lester
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum Railfest on Saturday, September 12, 2015.  4501 returns to Grand Junction from Cleveland, TN while attendees admire Norfolk Southern SD60Es painted to honor first responders and military veterans. Photo by Steve Freer. With all of the serious news generated by the railroad industry, it’s easy to forget that railroading can be – well, downright fun! Nowhere was this more evident than this past weekend at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM...
3

How will you fare under the redesigned Amtrak Guest Rewards?

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
Revised 2:00 PM EDT 9/15/2015 Major changes to Amtrak Guest Rewards, the railroad’s 15-year-old point-earning loyalty program for frequent travelers, announced last month and set to take effect on Jan. 24, 2016, have been met with nearly universal disappointment and derision from those already most loyal to Amtrak who are devotees of train travel, particularly of the long-distance trains. It is being seen as yet another instance of the national carrier favoring Northeast Corridor passenge...
1

Shooting Photos in Fall

Posted 2 years ago by Robert W. Scott
Some places around the country summer will hang on well into the early to mid Fall. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we can have times where a few lingering warm days greet us in September and maybe into October. For us this means a lot cooler temperatures, the return of the rain, and gloomy days. There are however, those rare days that we can get some sun. The light is lower in the sky and the leaves are starting to turn on the trees which makes for some very impressive images to capture. As ...
10

Four ways American travel could live up to Swiss standards

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
I returned just over a week ago from my first extensive experience with intercity travel outside of North America. I was spoiled to have at my disposal for two weeks the Swiss Travel System, perhaps the world’s densest interconnected system of public conveyances. While it may be unrealistic to expect that America’s public transportation network will ever grow to truly rival — in size, scope and quality — that which the Swiss enjoy, I will share a few areas in which I feel...
6

What's happening at the Cass Scenic Railroad?

Posted 2 years ago by Chase Gunnoe
The Cass Scenic Railroad operating season is more than 80 percent complete under its first year of operation by the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad (DGVR). The operation of Cass has expanded DGVR’s Mountain Rail Adventure portfolio to now include the four tourist train destinations of Elkins, Cheat Bridge, Durbin, and Cass.  In addition to an expanded operating area, the DGVR is also working on other in-house projects that may interest members of the railfan community. One of...
5

TRAINS Chase guide: Nickel Plate Road 765, Scranton, Pa., to the Delaware Water Gap

Posted 2 years ago by Dave Crosby
Steam fans will long consider 2015 as one of the most exciting years in recent memory, considering the return to steam of Norfolk & Western 611 as well as Southern 4501 on the mainline for the first time in decades. As if these events weren’t enough, as a grand finale to the summer steam excursion season, Nickel Plate Road 765 will power on trips over routes that would have seemed unfeasible just a few short years ago. For the first time ever, No. 765 will operate on the former Delawa...
13

Interconnectivity enables trains, buses & planes to do what each does best

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
This Friday, I will be departing for my first visit to Switzerland, a two-week tour of the country — primarily by train — that is a gift from my aunt for my 30th birthday. One of the things that has most intrigued me about Switzerland, aside from its spectacular alpine scenery and the wonderful variety of passenger train services that span the country, is how well its entire public transportation system works seamlessly as a whole. Standard-gauge trains connect with narrow-gauge trai...
7

Streetcars are an Engine Behind Uptown Dallas’ Success

Posted 2 years ago by Hayley Enoch
Streetcar number 143, not currently in service, is on display at the streetcar barn around 2004 and advertises new Uptown construction. Some sixty years ago, a drama of public transportation played out in the streets Dallas, Texas. For much of its history, a variety of urban railroad and transit companies had operated streetcars along the city’s most populated thoroughfares. By the middle of the twentieth century, though, pressure from the automobile industry to free up road lanes and cur...
1

Next Generation: D. Collin Reinhart

Posted 2 years ago by Chase Gunnoe
This month, we look at the work of photographer and volunteer fireman Collin Reinhart, a 21-year old Penn State - Altoona student from Quakertown, Penn. Reinhart has had an interest in the rail industry and model railroading since he was a young kid, enjoying his first trackside experience on Conrail's Reading line near Allentown at at just a few months old.  "I started taking pictures as soon as I could hold a camera. My dad and I would railfan almost every weekend and when I was old enou...
3

Norfolk Southern Shines in Unit Dedicated to Emergency Responders

Posted 2 years ago by Robert W. Scott
Spencer, N.C. May 28, 2015. Norfolk Southern has done it again....they have added yet another special scheme to their growing number of uniquely painted locomotives. This time is in the form of SD60E #911 painted up in a special livery to honor the sacrifices and service and of America's first responders; fire, police and emergency medical services. Almost immediately after the freshly painted loco was out-shopped it was already being displayed with fire engines and police cruisers as a once in...
2

#NerdTrain: An annual rolling hangout for transit buffs

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
Five years ago, Matt Johnson and Ashley Robbins, friends who were then living in Washington, DC and Atlanta respectively and who were (and still are) both involved in urban planning and transit advocacy, had a Twitter conversation in which they issued one another a friendly challenge to see who could ride the most miles on Amtrak that year. That evolved into planning a train trip from Minneapolis to DC, in which another friend, Adam Froehlig (who grew up around the Twin Cities), invited himself ...
18

Following 611, but Chasing More than Trains

Posted 2 years ago by Hayley Enoch
Both the Cumbres & Toltec and Durango & Silverton exist and operate in enclaves. They create a one-foot-in-the-past, one-foot-in-the-present illusion along the tracks and within the limits of their yards. What draws people to these places is the invitation to pretend for that for a few hours, they are someone else, somewhere else, living sometime in the past. The draw is so strong that people come from the far ends of the country, sometimes from the other side of the world,to visit the...
10

CSX motive power roster at a crossroads?

Posted 2 years ago by Chase Gunnoe
A few nights ago, I watched as two General Electric C40-8W’s eased into Saint Albans with a Portsmouth, Va. bound intermodal container train. The two matched pair of 7800 series wide cabs glistened in the night as they passed a used car lot adjacent to the mainline. Momentarily, I thought back to the VHS train videos that absorbed my attention years before showing C&O piggyback trains barreling through Saint Albans. Chessie System painted GP40-2’s blurring by the same car lot &n...

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