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A visit to Colorado's Royal Gorge Route

Posted 3 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I was at the Royal Gorge Route railroad earlier this month. This Colorado tourist line, based in the south central Rockies at Canon City, came along after Union Pacific shelved its former Rio Grande main line across Tennessee Pass in 1997. Royal Gorge Route was in the news last month when the conductor on a train backing to the station tragically fell from the rear of her train and was killed. A small memorial of candles and flowers in memory of Leslie Cacy was evident on a sidewalk at the for...

Striking a balance in giving back

Posted 4 days ago by Brian Schmidt
A steam-powered train rolls through the hills of northern Delaware on the Wilmington & Western on June 19. It is a great volunteer-driven railroad that is in no way affiliated with the unnamed Nonprofit Tourist Railroad in the Midwest mentioned elsewhere in the story. Photo by Brian Schmidt A friend of mine volunteers with a Nonprofit Tourist Railroad in the Midwest. He's there, almost religiously every weekend in the summer, helping to run trains. Recently, however, he confided in me th...

About this longest day of the year ... the best time to follow Southern's Murphy Branch in the 1970s

Posted 6 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Winter in Western North Carolina, where I grew up, isn’t bad. The nights don’t get frightfully cold, and the days are still decently long even in the dead of winter. But as a kid, they seemed unmercifully slow, and the coming of spring and summer were most welcomed. I associated both of those seasons with the smell of the first grass cut on a Saturday, the planting of a garden, the budding of tree leaves high on the mountain tops, and, of course, the return of favorite steam locomoti...

'I have come to ride with you ... one last time': For Dan Ranger

Posted 10 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Steam locomotive authority, author, and railroader Dan Ranger, a friend and mentor to me since 1973, passed away last December. On Monday, his birthday, several of us who knew him well gathered for a celebration-of-life ride on the regular excursion train at the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. We were there as Dan’s wife, Karen, spread his ashes on the trip across Cumbres Pass. After we returned, I wrote this for Dan. ------------------ I have come to ride with you, old friend, one...

Flag Day 2016

Posted 12 days ago by Brian Schmidt
A westbound Norfolk Southern freight with Union Pacific power approaches Burns Harbor, Ind., in March 2013. Photo by Brian Schmidt It's Flag Day 2016, and I want to ask you a simple question: Should Union Pacific continue to use Old Glory on the side of its locomotive? Why or why not? Budweiser, a Belgian-owned beer brand, is changing its name to "America" for the summer in a thinly veiled attempt to leverage pride in one's country into sales. In contrast, UP is a decidedly American company,...

One frame, three generations

Posted 16 days ago by Brian Schmidt
Three generations of Irish railway equipment rest at Westport on May 16: A 22000 Class DMU at left, an 071 Class diesel at center, and 2-6-4T No. 4 at right. Photo by Brian Schmidt I learned a lot on the Trains Magazine tour of Ireland, England, and France in May. One of the most important lessons was to keep my eyes open, and take in all that I could around me. This one photo at Westport, County Mayo, Ireland, on May 16 best exemplifies that philosophy with three generations of railroading o...

Shall we shame all trespassers then?

Posted 16 days ago by Steve Sweeney
Having just re-read the news article on UK railway police publishing aerial images of trespassing railfans, I ran through a series of thoughts, from "serves 'em right" to "there goes Big Brother" to "why are you singling out railfans?" News Wire carried the story on Friday about the images published in the wake of what seems to be massive trespassing on the rights-of-way after a May 14 Flying Scotsman run. But what if Norfolk Southern sent out helicopters along Norfolk & Western 611's route...

The South Shore and Metra look ahead

Posted 17 days ago by David Lassen
I made a wholly worthwhile trip to Chicago Wednesday, for presentations to the Sandhouse Gang by Don Orseno, Metra’s executive director, and Mike Noland, general manager of Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, operator of the South Shore Line. They were speaking about the future of the South Shore and Metra Electric operations, and the joint appearance made a lot of sense, given the close relationship between the two operations. (The South Shore, of course, runs on Metra the ...

‘Galesburg Zephyr’ Nickel Plate No. 765 train-watching guide

Posted 18 days ago by Brian Schmidt
Amtrak's westbound 'Carl Sandburg' stops at Mendota, Ill. The railroad makes a broad S-curve through downtown, providing the first morning nose light for photography since Chicago. Photo by Brian Schmidt Galesburg Railroad Days will mark its 39th anniversary this year with a bit of the past: former Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765! The high-speed service Berkshire will pull excursions Saturday and Sunday June 25-26 from Chicago Union Station to Galesburg in conjunction with the event. The tri...

Notes on a connect-the-dots trip back East

Posted 19 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I have always prided myself on being a good traveler. As a child, I pored over maps, directing my parents the proper road to take to reach our annual vacation destination at Daytona Beach. But the trip I finished today tells me that I may have become too good at plotting out a trip that takes me from point A to B, C, D, E, F, and sometimes G and beyond. Anyway, here are highlights from my trip back East as I zip across Ohio at 40,000 feet. First, riding the Washington, D.C., Metro is an easy wa...

'The Varsity' Nickel Plate No. 765 train-watching guide

Posted 21 days ago by Brian Schmidt
A Wisconsin & Southern freight passes the former Milwaukee Road depot at Walworth, Ill. Mike Gramm photo Steam is coming back to Wisconsin later this month, with former Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 powering an excursion, dubbed "The Varsity," to Janesville on June 12. Now, I'm a transplant to Wisconsin, and haven't spent much time on the Wisconsin & Southern's Illinois extension, because much of the regular traffic runs overnight. So I've enlisted the help of local railfan Mike G...

No. 611 vs. wet rail ... wow!

Posted 21 days ago by Jim Wrinn
No. 611, you and your crew know how to climb a mountain. I was supposed to ride Norfolk & Western No. 611’s excursion train Sunday. But I didn’t, and I am glad I stayed trackside or I would have missed an incredible show. My long-time steam pal, railroad dispatcher, and all-around great guy Dave Crosby and I chased together Sunday afternoon after my live streaming gear had big problems that morning. Lunch with a group of friends and Dave’s companionship in the afternoon ke...

To vest, or not to vest

Posted 25 days ago by Brian Schmidt
 You wouldn't think something as fundamental as safety would be so controversial, but here we are. Just about every railfan has an opinion on wearing brightly colored safety vests when trackside. In a recent blog post, contributor Dave Crosby makes an appeal to railfans chasing former Norfolk & Western J Class 4-8-4 No. 611 to leave the vests at home: "Leave the safety vests at home. You’d be surprised how the general public assumes anyone in a yellow vest is employed by the rail...

Thoughts on a bad weekend in railway preservation

Posted 26 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Last weekend was a bad one for preservation railways in the U.S. We lost a 28-year-old conductor at Royal Gorge Route in an incident involving a shove move. And two preservation railways, one in the Northeast, and one in the Southeast, shut down when their landlords booted them. There are lessons in all three of these sad situations.  First, in the loss of a life, our condolences go out to the family of conductor Leslie Cacy, who lost her life, and to the close-knit railroad family at Roya...

Be a sport this summer, buy a ticket and say thanks

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
We’re at the beginning of the tourist railroad season and just about all of the 200 or so locomotives that steam at least once a year for the public will be out and about in the next six months. Big engines are plentiful, too. Milwaukee Road 261 is running over BNSF out of Minneapolis June 4, 611 is under steam on Norfolk Southern in Virginia the first weekend in June, Nickel Plate Road 765 is under steam and pulling excursions on Metra and BNSF in Chicagoland for two weekends. Other e...

Why I fear for the Rio Grande main line through the Rockies

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I stood in the middle of the horseshoe curve at Plainview, Colo., last Wednesday morning to watch a short BNSF trackage rights train descend the hill to Denver via the Big Ten Curve. Not long after, the westbound Amtrak California Zephyr came charging into view, and I chased that train to Tolland, just shy of Moffat Tunnel. Right behind the Zephyr was an empty hopper train rolling at a steady clip. And then silence. No more trains on the Front Range for hours. I took off for lunch at a nearby ...

CREATE's 75th Street project: Lots of benefits, but no funding

Posted one month ago by David Lassen
Around here, we pay a lot of attention to CREATE, the program to address railroad bottlenecks in the Chicago area. This is because of the obvious advantages if trains, freight or passenger, are able to move more quickly between Point A and Point B. There are other people in Chicago who think about CREATE in loftier terms — like what it could mean for addressing pollution, or economic development, or even the quality of life. Several of those people gathered last Thursday night for a pa...

A Colorado railroads respite: Rails in the Rockies that renew

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
One of the joys of railroading is the places that it takes you. This dispatch is about the unique hijacking of the spirit and soul by train, and how it takes you to physical and emotional places, both new and familiar. I spent the last week with my wife, Cate, in Colorado. It was meant to be a promotional tour for our new Colorado Railroads magazine and DVD: Visits with employees and friends of the Durango & Silverton and members of the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club. It was all that and ...

It’s all about the megapixels. But why?

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
A TriMet MAX light rail train rolls through the Rose Quarter Transit Center in Portland, Ore., in September 2015. Photo by Brian Schmidt When I was younger, back in junior high and early high school, I was a tech junkie. I built my own computers, mastered the Internet download, and, yes, even dabbled in Linux. But as time wore on I found myself wanting more stability from my technology, and lost the desire to ride its cutting edge. At the time my photography was entirely film-based. I learne...

First train to Silverton, 2016: A special day for the narrow gauge

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Trains have been running from Durango to Silverton for 134 years. But you would have never known that Saturday if you’d been in Colorado to witness the first steam train of 2016 to go between those two places. Make that not one, but two steam-powered passenger trains of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, the tourist railroad that operates the ultimate reach of the Denver & Rio Grande’s San Juan extension. Extra touches were everywhere. The locomotives, 2-8-2s Nos...

WRI: What you can learn in 75 minutes

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
It’s 8 a.m. Do you like heavy-haul railroading? Good, let’s geek out. Brad Kerchof kicks off the Heavy Haul portion of the Wheel Rail Interaction conference here in suburban Las Vegas with Norfolk Southern’s research on superelevation and train speed in relation to curves.  Superelevation is how much higher the outside rail, or high rail, of a curved track is compared to the inside, or low rail. Like a low-key version of banked curves on an automobile race track, thi...

Finding pennies IN the rail

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
Organizers are already on the ground in Las Vegas putting the finishing details on what has to be the most in-depth, collegial, and informative rail industry conference around. Of course, I'm talking about Wheel-Rail Interaction. Trains Magazine is entering a fifth year as WRI's presenting sponsor. And it's my fourth year covering the conference. And what a conference. May I say that my first year, in 2013, my head hurt from absorbing information they don't remotely begin to teach in liberal a...

Blue-chip railroad publisher

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
I can still remember back in high school getting my first “good” railroad book: Detroit, Toledo & Ironton in Color. It was, after all, written about my hometown railroad, a topic close to my heart. Since then there have been many, many more additions, a lot of them from the same publisher: Morning Sun Books. Clinchfield in Color? New York Central Trackside? Penn Central Power? Yes, yes, and yes. This legacy is the work of Robert J. Yanosey, former railroader and founder of Morn...

This old backpack... the stories it could tell of trips and trains

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
My backpack is resting up between trips. Earlier this month, I was back home in the south, gathering material for Trains and for a special magazine we’re doing about big steam locomotives in operation or under restoration. Next week, I’m off to Durango, Colo., to promote our latest special release, Colorado Railroads magazine and DVD. I’m excited about the travel but worried that this could be the last trip for my trusty and much beloved Swiss Army backpack.  I got the ba...

And with 576 that makes 15 big steam locomotives to stir the soul

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
 Tuesday’s announcement that a group will try to liberate Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis 4-8-4 No. 576 from her Nashville park berth of 63 years and restore her to operation on the Nashville & Eastern brings the total number of big steam locomotive restorations planned or underway to nine. I thought the 1980s and early 1990s before the insurance crisis hit was a great time to be a steam fan. I was wrong. The period we’re in now and for the next 10 to 20 years may tur...

Where were you the day Chernobyl blew 30 years ago? I'll tell you where I was

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
We all remember where we were on certain dates of great national and international tragedy. 9/11, space shuttle Columbia’s loss, President Kennedy’s assassination. Because of an excursion 30 years ago, I always remember the anniversary of the biggest environmental disaster of our lifetimes, the nuclear power plant explosion at Chernobyl.  The date was April 26, 1986 — 30 years ago. A long-anticipated excursion on Seaboard System’s former Louisville & Nashville l...

Purple rain, purple train: The locomotive that Prince would have loved

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
 When I learned that musician Prince had died Thursday, my mind immediately went back to a concert I’d attended in college in 1982 and to a locomotive and a time and place 32 years ago. The concert was at Chapel Hill, N.C., and the locomotive was Atlantic Coast Line E3 No. 501, which was running excursions on the short-lived Seaboard System Railroad (think in between Family Lines and CSX) out of Erwin, Tenn. There’s not much I can tell you about the concert except that it was f...

Trains’ time lapse camera: Norfolk & Western No. 611, Spencer-Asheville, N.C.

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
How fast can you travel 145 miles by rail? We can do it in 1 minute 13 seconds with the time-lapse camera we strapped to the back platform of the private car Dearing, which was the tail car on Norfolk & Western No. 611’s excursion from Spencer, N.C. to Asheville, N.C. on April 10. I set the timer to record an image every minute, so we’ve boiled what was a 7-hour trip down to mere seconds. You’ll see the train back out of the N.C. Transportation Museum, meet No...

Colorado Railroads on tour: I’d like a Durango & Silverton dog with ketchup and slaw

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Our new 104-page magazine about Colorado Railroads and the companion 1-hour DVD are winging their way to your mailbox or to your favorite retailer. They are packed with stories and images of main line operations, narrow gauge favorites, and some surprises — the rebirth of Denver Union Station, Denver’s bold light rail and commuter train initiatives, and an inside look at the railroad test center in Pueblo. We think you’ll like them as much as we like Colorado railroads, which i...

Where's Jim? The Connect the Dots road trip nears the end

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Let’s play connect the dots:  Where has Jim been? I write these words to you from beautiful Princeton, W.Va., on the way to Cleveland for a live streaming event Wednesday at 3 p.m. We’ll be doing an interview and locomotive preview of Reading Co. 4-8-4 No. 2100. Look for it at I’ve been away from the keyboard for the last week on the road in search of big steam, short lines, and 611. This is the first night I’ve gotten back to the room b...

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