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0

WRI school is cool for railroaders

Posted 2 years ago by David Lester
While school graduation ceremonies have been going on throughout the country, the attendees at the 21st annual Wheel-Rail Interaction conference have been hard at work in the classroom learning about the principles and of wheel-rail interaction, and strategies for managing it to ensure long life for wheels and rails. Christopher Ono, a young engineer with ATS Consulting who is new to the railroad industry, said “I’m having flashbacks of being in college!,” after completing Tues...
1

Steam Returns to Cheat Bridge, 200 photographers gather from around the country

Posted 2 years ago by Chase Gunnoe
The Mountain State Railroad & Logging Historical Association (MSR&LHA) recently completed its annual Cass Railfan Weekend in partnership with the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad (DGVRR). As many are aware, the DGVRR began operating the Cass Scenic Railroad, in addition to continued operation of its Elkins and Durbin operations in January. The new operation has allowed the railroad to expand on preexisting tourist train operations and sequentially, allowed MSR&LHA, a non-profi...
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Derailment should spur concerted bipartisan effort to make train travel safer, better

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
The hearts of everyone in the railroad industry and who cares about passenger trains are heavy with the losses suffered in last week’s tragedy in Philadelphia. I started writing this from aboard an Acela Express traveling from Boston to New York on Friday. I was headed to Philadelphia for my cousin’s law school graduation, using the New Jersey Transit Northeast Corridor Line to SEPTA West Trenton Line bridge that had been set up to bypass the site of the derailment. I had been schedu...
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Who you gonna call? WRI!

Posted 2 years ago by David Lester
If you’re in the engineering department of any transit, passenger or heavy haul railroad, chances are good that you’re periodically gnashing your teeth over problems with interaction between wheel and rail. You are expected to be the Sherlock Holmes of your railroad when wheel/rail-related accidents, transverse defects, wheel and rail breaks, or uneven rail wear occurs, and solve the case as quickly as possible. Fortunately, help is available at the Wheel-Rail Interaction Conference...
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What 611’s revival says about NS and passenger excursions

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
The revival of Norfolk and Western Class J No. 611 to once again power passenger trains over the main lines of Virginia and neighboring states is truly an inspiring occasion. Restoring a steam locomotive is a proposition that requires great quantities of labor, time, persistence and money, and the coming together of those ingredients is a major feat. But more than that, the iconic No. 611 running under her own power on Saturday represented the culmination of both individual and institutional sup...
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Profiling Young Talent in Railroad Photography: Jeremiah Lietke

Posted 2 years ago by Chase Gunnoe
May 2015: Jeremiah Lietke Our second installment in a monthly series profiling up-and-coming railroad photographers joins us from Vancouver, Washington at the age of 16 years old. Jeremiah Lietke, a high school student attending Mountain View High School has had an interest in railroads since a three-way meet between Amtrak’s Cascades, Coast Starlight, and the Portland section of the Empire Builder during a visit to Vancouver’s Amtrak Station as a toddler. He attributes this encount...
6

Why you often don't pay a premium to ride Acela

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
As much as I love the long-distance trains, because of where I live and where the people I most often visit live, the bulk of my train travel is along the Northeast Corridor, particularly Washington, DC to New York, and occasionally to Boston. Being somewhat price sensitive (though not enough so that I would opt for an intercity bus over the train), one would think that I would almost always be aboard a Northeast Regional as opposed to an Acela Express. Oddly enough, over the past two years, at ...
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30 minutes in Kenova: The NS/CSX Crossroads of the Mountain State

Posted 2 years ago by Chase Gunnoe
Freshmen finals are in the books, the cherry trees are in bloom, and we are fast approaching an action-packed summer season of mainline steam, railroad photography-driven vacations, and some much-appreciated warm temperatures and blue skies. While the upcoming months in Appalachia will bring us some exciting times with N&W 611, doubleheaders on the mountain at Cass, and never-ending variety of colorful heritage power in the coalfields, I'm taking a few hours this Monday May 4 to soak up the ...
3

Passenger updates and views from Capitol Hill, Amtrak and FRA

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
Amtrak and Obama Administration officials provided a host of legislative and administrative updates and insights to passenger train advocates last Monday (April 20) when they addressed the annual Washington, DC conference of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP). “They won’t call this the ‘do-nothing Congress,’” Joe McHugh, Amtrak’s Vice President for Government Affairs and Corporate Communications, offered in summary. “They’ll do ...
4

Milwaukee Road Track Alive – Small Successes

Posted 2 years ago by Robert W. Scott
It was March 1980, 35 years ago, when the Milwaukee Road left Washington State. On the far reaching end of the Milwaukee system was Centralia, Wash. Centralia and nearby Chehalis are locally known as the “Twin Cities." The rail route through Centralia was a part of its route south of Tacoma, Wash. At Chehalis, the Milwaukee left its own rails to use Burlington Northern to access Portland, Ore., and a new gateway that was opened in 1970 as a condition of the Burlington Northern merger.&nb...
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Amtrak: Want to shrink your operating deficit? Don’t devalue your product.

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
I’ve said this a few times at Observation Tower, and it is once again evident: when it comes to increasing revenue and improving the customer experience, Amtrak management thinks reductively. This is true systemwide, but particularly when it comes to the long-distance trains, which could benefit from some expansive, outside-the-box thinking. Witness this week’s announcement that, for an 8-month trial period from this June through next January, the traditional dining car will be remov...
3

Next Generation: Hunter Richardson

Posted 2 years ago by Chase Gunnoe
Photographer Spotlight: Profiling young talent in railroad photography April 2015: Hunter Richardson Through a new series designed to profile the photography of aspiring rail enthusiasts, each month, the Observation Tower blog will highlight a young photographer that features samples of his/her work and a brief biography, enlightening us on how he/she developed an interest in the hobby, and how rail photography has potentially guided them with their college pursuit or career choice.  For...
22

Railroad Ends Service in Washington State

Posted 2 years ago by Robert W. Scott
It’s been repeated countless times over the years as railroads come and go – the closure of a railroad or rail line. The endless parade of mainline Class I trains makes it difficult to look to the more obscure lines for what they have to offer. On March 9th, 2015, it came to an end for Patriot Rail’s Weyerhauser Woods Railroad at Longview, Wash. Trains have plied the rails and climbed the foothills of the Cascades for the past 87 years, but the rails will now be silent. Flori...
19

Nebraska rail artist designs modern-day renderings of BNSF predecessor locomotives

Posted 2 years ago by Chase Gunnoe
Here's a little extra color for your Thursday morning... An appreciation for railroads and fallen flags has inspired high school artist August VanCleave of Lincoln, Nebraska to design a series of BNSF predecessor locomotive drawings, representing the families of Santa Fe, Burlington Northern, and St. Louis – San Francisco Railway. August, a 16 year old 11th grader at Lincoln Southeast High School has had an interest in railroads since he was a young child. “I’ve enjoyed train...
7

The greatest advantage of Amtrak's new baggage cars: bike racks

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
The “Viewliner II” series of baggage cars, built by CAF USA, are starting to enter revenue service. I have seen reports that they have already taken the place of Heritage baggage cars (many of which were built in the 1950s and 1960s as coaches, then retrofitted into baggage cars) on the Silver Service, Palmetto, Carolinian, Crescent and Cardinal. And I witnesses a string of four Heritage baggage cars at the head of the westbound Capitol Limited leaving Washington, DC on Saturday afte...
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Cascades trains south of Portland could end if budget plan is approved

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
Revised Friday 3/27/2015 at 4:15 PM EDT - reaction from State Sen. Richard Devlin added at bottom. Amidst all the media attention on Indiana and Illinois, it is easy to overlook other state-supported Amtrak routes that could be in jeopardy. One state where you would least expect short-distance corridor service to be cut back is Oregon, which recently purchased two new articulated trainsets from Talgo (two of the four made at Talgo’s short-lived Milwaukee plant, the other two having been o...
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Progress towards freer flow of passenger trains across the US-Canada border

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
This week’s announcement that the United States and Canada have reached an agreement that will allow US Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) agents to pre-screen US-bound rail passengers at Montreal’s Central Station — and potentially at other stations in Canada — is certainly welcome news. It means that passengers on Amtrak’s Adirondack, and on a future northward extension of the Vermonter, will no longer have a scheduled delay of an hour or more at the border to ...
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What the Supreme Court has, and has not, ruled about Amtrak

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
I am nestled into a Roomette aboard the northbound Silver Meteor, hustling up the Northeast Corridor to New York after spending a few days in South Florida. This trip comes amidst a momentous week for passenger trains in America, with the same day bringing news of a key Supreme Court ruling regarding Amtrak, and of the Indiana Department of Transportation’s decision to terminate the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State in light of a forthcoming Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) determina...
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Breaking down Wednesday’s House floor action on passenger train policy

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
Early Wednesday afternoon, the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives passed a bill that would authorize Amtrak and intercity passenger rail programs to be funded at fiscal 2015 levels through fiscal 2020. While the bill, dubbed the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (PRRIA, H.R.749) contains some troublesome provisions and is far from perfect from the perspective of most rail passenger advocates, it passed the House by a convincing margin of 316 to 101, with 132 Republi...
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Who does it take to bring a railroad museum to life? To find out, just visit the Nevada Northern

Posted 2 years ago by Robert W. Scott
In my last blog post, I talked about the fantastic time that I had at the Nevada Northern in Ely, Nevada, when I participated in the railroad’s annual Winter Photo Spectacular, Feb 13-15, 2015. There is not enough that can be said about the operation in Ely. It is truly a class A operation. Executive Director Mark Bassett was a wonderful host to our group and allowed us to experience firsthand what steam railroading in the early 1900s was all about. His cadre of staff and volunteers m...
11

America’s front porches on rails

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
Passenger trains offer a safe, efficient, accessible, environmentally sound means of travel that also creates jobs, sparks economic activity and fosters walkable development patterns. But is it these qualities that people think about when they decide to take a train trip, particularly a long-distance one? And is it these factors that motivate people to advocate for the expansion and improvement of America’s passenger train network? In a recent column for the blog Next City, Danya Sherman,...
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A first-timer visits the Nevada Northern, and oh! What a steam show!

Posted 2 years ago by Robert W. Scott
“Its four hours from anywhere” is the quote that would stick in my head as I planned my trip to the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely, Nev., to be a part of the annual Winter Photo Spectacular. Ahead for me was an experience that I would not soon forget and will look forward to returning to participate in. In my years being a railroad photographer and enthusiast, I have often not given steam operations and preservation groups a second look. For two consecutive weekends in February the ...
19

A wish list for the next generation of single-level intercity coaches

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
25 new baggage cars delivered to Amtrak in November are currently undergoing testing in hopes of being added to passenger train consists in place of 50-plus-year-old Heritage baggage cars this year. Soon, new sleepers, diners and bag-dorm cars should be delivered and put into service. This will hopefully result in more sleeper capacity on Eastern long-distance trains, thereby lowering accommodation charges to more closely match those of Superliner-equipped trains on a per-mile basis. But once th...
13

New photos from West Virginia Crude Oil Derailment

Posted 2 years ago by Chase Gunnoe
Greetings,  In a series of recent crude-by-rail incidents, the latest derailment comes to us from southern West Virginia, southeast of the capital city of Charleston. As reported on the magazine's New Wire yesterday with periodic updates, an initial generalization of the derailment includes approximately two dozen derailed tank cars, with as many as 13 of those cars on fire. The derail occurred at approximately 1:20 PM EST on Monday, February 16. A series of explosions accompanied the dera...
7

Gazing out the Carolinian window, admiring nature's engineers

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
Written February 13, 2014 I’m back aboard Amtrak’s southbound Carolinian, headed to see family and friends in Greensboro, NC, where I grew up. I went for Business Class, as usual. I’m such a regular on this train that the Business Class attendant, who works the southbound on Fridays and the northbound on Sundays, knows me. I also usually know the volunteer North Carolina Train Host, who boards in Rocky Mount and acts as an ambassador for the state, under a program sponsored by...
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Dispatches from TRB: Equipment standards, multi-state corridors, shared-use challenges, accessibility and project financing

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
Here is a synopsis at some of the presentations on the technical, financial and administrative aspects of passenger rail development that were given at the Transportation Research Board’s Annual Meeting in Washington, DC last month. Next Generation Corridor Equipment Pool Committee approves revised requirements for dual-mode locomotives — Jack Madden, Project Team Leader with the New York State Dept. of Transportation The committee, consisting of Federal Railroad Administration, ...
13

Riding Amtrak's Crescent

Posted 2 years ago by Wayne Laepple
It's been a long, long time since my wife and I have made a long-distance trip on Amtrak. Not since the early days of our marriage had we the time and money to make such a trip. Since we needed to be in New Orleans from Jan. 25-30, we booked on the Crescent for the round trip. What follows are a few thoughts and observations of the trip. One should not book a roomette to share with another person unless one is very fond of the other. The walk-in closet in our apartment is larger. Fortunately, m...
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Are freight railroads starting to take passenger trains more seriously?

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
For most of the last half of the 20th century and into the start of the 21st, the apparent prevailing attitude of the large private, primarily freight-carrying railroads towards passenger trains was to treat them as a necessary nuisance and a hindrance to efficient, fluid freight movement. But there are signs that senior management at the Class I’s are starting to take passenger trains more seriously, and look to passenger train operators and the government agencies that sponsor passenger ...
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How do you predict how many will ride a train?

Posted 2 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
Deciding whether or not to introduce a new passenger train service or make changes to existing service comes down to one question: how many (more) people will ride the trains after the changes are made? This is true for both government transportation agencies and private companies. Ridership forecasting is a famously inexact science, and the entity performing the forecasting is liable to either overestimate or underestimate demand based on which approach best suits its interests. However, some m...
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When did running a railroad become optional?

Posted 2 years ago by John Hankey
As the last flake fall on what clearly was a historic winter storm in New England, I have to ask a historian's question: At what point in the relatively recent past did it become optional for Amtrak and other entities to run passenger trains? This is not a snarky question. It is a serious strategic issue.I am old enough to have ridden pre-Amtrak trains, and to have a vague cultural memory that when other modes of transportation shut down because of inclement weather, at least you could depend on...