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CSX: Clearing the runway or lacing it with landmines?

Posted 2 days ago by Jim Wrinn
In business, when it comes to takeovers, succession, and change, there is posturing, and then there is actual stance. Understanding the difference is a fine art. Thus, I am absorbing this week’s CSX news like a college student's junior’s appreciation course. How shall we interpret CSX’s top management shakeup -- CEO Michael Ward to retire without a successor -- and the railroad’s plan to layoff 1,000 management positions? At a glance i see a picture of a company that&rsq...

About CSX: It all makes 'cents', so pray

Posted 4 days ago by Steve Sweeney
CSX Corp.'s share price is up today to $48.89 a share in the middle of the afternoon on Feb. 21. It is higher, even, than rumors of a Hunter Harrison takeover could send it in January. And that's just as it should be, if you believe Chris K. Chris is one of my former editors, a mentor and a friend. And in one of those late-night bull sessions we'd raise at our newspaper long after we put the paper to bed, we'd talk. Anything was fair game: religion, office politics, politics generally, sports ...

And Mr. Railroad is...

Posted 5 days ago by Brian Schmidt
First, let me thank the nomination committee for its work. I originally intended to leave this this an open-ended question, but after reading all your comments for these past few weeks I've decided to reach a conclusion. (Yes, yes, you're welcome.) With the qualifications of my first post in mind, I have selected prolific author and new Trains Magazine columnist Brian Solomon as Mr. Railroad. He has more than 60 railroad publications to his name, titles that are among the most accessible in the...

When two trains arrive at the same time

Posted 6 days ago by Jim Wrinn
All of us thrill to the sight of two trains in motion at the same time. Whether it’s a meet, an overtake, or an over and under, it’s a rare and delightful treat. The opportunities are rare, but they happen more frequently than we think: Trains of the BNSF passing over Union Pacific trains at Grand Island, Neb.; trains stacking up on the flyovers at Santa Fe Junction in downtown Kansas City; CSX and NS trains saluting one another on the move at Howell Wye in downtown Atlanta. Those ar...

Chicago trains, intentional and unintentional

Posted 9 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Visiting Chicago is always an invigorating experience. This week was no exception. Associate Editor David Lassen, who edited our special edition, “Chicago: America’s Railroad Capital,” and who also produced the companion video of the same name, and I were in Chicago for two purposes: First, we were guests on a talk show-style segment about Windy City railroads with public television’s “Chicago Tonight” program; it will air next week. Second, we gave a presenta...

Trains takes over a small (former) depot for a day

Posted 13 days ago by Jim Wrinn
If you tried to reach the Trains staff Friday, I’m here to tell you why you couldn’t get in touch with us. It wasn’t that we were too busy covering the CSX-Hunter Harrison drama to answer the phone. We weren’t out enjoying the strangely mild Wisconsin winter of 2017. We just weren’t in the office in Waukesha. We were off site for our annual planning meeting. Our Trains world headquarters for a day was unique and well positioned. The staff gathered at the Little Red...

CSX, what changed?

Posted 17 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Like a deer caught in the headlight of a southbound Clinchfield Railroad manifest in a tunnel near Altapass, N.C., I am a bewildered at the thought that Hunter Harrison may be about to run CSX. In my mind, Harrison is a railroad executive of the Midwest and Canada. He’s a Frisco, Burlington Northern, Illinois Central, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific kind of guy. As we say in the South, and I am a Southerner so I can say this legitimately, “He ain’t from around here.&r...

Railroading reference pops up in an unexpected place: 1953 movie 'The Bandwagon'

Posted 18 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I look for the intersection of railroad culture and general life everywhere I can find it. I love the nuts and bolts of our interest as much as anyone — are those 2-inch diameter tubes in that bundle? Bolted or cast pedestal trucks? Did that model have a 567 or a 645 motor? But I also love to see railroading references pop up in entertainment, news, sports — heck, anywhere. That’s one reason why the April issue, the edition that we’re finishing this week, has a 16-page re...

Time ... to figure this out

Posted 19 days ago by David Lassen
A word of caution: This is far less about railroading than our usual blog content. Please proceed accordingly. I’m never one to look a gift horse in the mouth. I would, however, like to know how to ride it. Let me explain. In early January, advertising director Mike Yuhas and I were in Boca Raton, Fla., for NRC — the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association convention. Like most of the major industry conventions that Trains attends, NRC has a series of speakers ...

A short line worth knowing: the Kentucky & Tennessee

Posted 24 days ago by Jim Wrinn
A business developer from Oregon buying a short line and tourist railroad in south-central Kentucky normally wouldn’t merit the keystrokes it takes to prepare a 400-500 word blog post, but in this case it does: The tourist line is the Big South Fork Scenic, and I know, you’re still shaking your head and saying, “So?” Stay with me.   Many of you will know this railroad by its pre-tourist hauler name, the Kentucky & Tennessee, a coal-hauling railroad that once em...

Train watching in Chicago -- by water

Posted 25 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Our 100-page Chicago special magazine is available now, and that got me thinking about an extraordinary opportunity to go train watching in the Windy City that you might not have thought of. It’s not the observation deck of the Willis Tower in Chicago. It’s not from the famous L (although the Orange Line is one of my favorites). It’s a boat. Yes, you can go train watching by boat in downtown Chicago. I tried it on a beautiful sunny and warm September Sunday morning last fall. ...

Who is Mr. Railroad?

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
Now that the Green Bay Packers’ season is done, talk around Wisconsin switches to baseball, and that means interviews with “Mr. Baseball” himself, Bob Uecker. Fans of all teams – not just the Brewers – can readily admire his expert play calling and longevity in the field. Even those who don’t identify themselves as baseball fans know him, thanks to his many appearances in movies and on late-night TV. So who is "Mr. Railroad?” Nominations should cons...

Remembering the Chessie Steam Special 40 years ago

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Union Pacific’s steam program rightfully has one. Norfolk Southern’s 28-years of excursions has one (shamelessly, I will have to confess to have authored Steam’s Camelot in 2001). But nowhere will you find a comprehensive volume with the full history of the Chessie Steam Special, the rolling celebration of the Baltimore & Ohio’s 150th anniversary and later in support of grade crossing safety. And that is a shame because we’re talking about 4 years of mainline ex...

Railroading's next traffic boom: Cement for Trump's wall

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
We all know that in the classic 1967 movie “The Graduate,” a young Dustin Hoffman was advised that the world ahead was about plastics. Given that President Donald Trump is moving forward to fund a wall along the Mexican border, I would advise recent grads that the word in 2017 is “cement.” I’m not sure how the iPhone generation would receive this, but it could be good for railroading.  When we were researching, writing, and editing the special report about the...

Man enough to admit: I like small engines

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
I should have expected it, but went ahead anyway.  You see, last summer, Trains hosted a group of about 20 8-to-12-year-old boys visiting our offices and library. Just after lunch, they sat down with us editors to discuss railroad topics and eventually what their favorite locomotives were. SD70s and Dash-9s were popular, "Thunder Cabs" were not. No one mentioned a GG1, but at least two belted out "Big Boy." Then the editors took turns listing their favorite engines. When it was my turn, I...

Private car Georgia 300 was Obama's 'blue caboose' 8 years ago

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Eight years ago today, Jack Heard was still trying to figure out how his private passenger car, Georgia 300, became known as “the blue caboose” that carried President-elect Obama to Washington, D.C. On Inauguration Day, while Donald Trump was about to become the 45th president of the United States, Heard and I talked on the phone about his Jan. 17, 2009, trip with Obama, campaign trains his car has been on, and the duties of a private car operator when it’s carrying the new le...

Is Hunter Harrison headed to Washington, D.C.?

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Where is Hunter Harrison headed next? That is the question on everyone’s minds after Canadian Pacific announced Wednesday that its leader of five years will retire immediately instead of July 1. He’s definitely got something lined up. After all, he’s foregoing a package worth $118 million, won’t be bound by a non-compete agreement, and is free to work with other Class I railroads. It definitely sounds like Harrison has a better offer.   The Wall Street Journal says ...

Preparing for the Ringling preservation movement

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
Money, like in the rest of the world, gets things done in railroad preservation. So now is the time to start a fundraising campaign for any museum that may want to acquire a piece of the soon-to-be-idle Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus trains. The trains are in use until May. That gives many organizations a great head start on fundraising for any possible acquisitions related to the circus trains. Even if the preservation group manages a donation of the equipment, fundraising is s...

Where you can see the Ringling Bros. circus train

Posted one month ago by David Lassen
Since the stunning news of the imminent demise of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, many readers have been asking us where they can go to see the circus train before it rolls into history. Sadly, fans in most of the country are out of luck — the farthest west either the circus Red or Blue units will reach is Cincinnati, where the Red Unit plays in March. But as it happens, long before Saturday's announcement, we were working — with a great deal of help from the folk...

End for Ringling's train merits a return to where it all began

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
As news spread Sunday that the vaunted Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus will end its more than 130 year run in May, there was only one place for me to go, the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wis., about 2 hours west of Trains’ world headquarters. This place is hallowed ground for circus history -- the town of 12,000 today where five brothers in 1884 came up with the idea for the show that would go worldwide, the place that was once Ringling’s circus headquarters, and ...

Timetables, a railfan's request

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
A westbound South Shore Line train holds up cross traffic on Washington Street in Michigan City in September 2013. Photo by Brian Schmidt I don't think it's any secret that I like to watch trains. So I like to know when trains are coming, and that's of course easiest with passenger trains. Passenger train operators publish their schedules, or at least they used to. A few months ago I was looking to photograph a train in Michigan City, Ind., on the famous trackage down 11th Street through d...

The steam fan's 2017 dilemma: How to fit it all in

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
So, my fellow steam locomotive fans… we have an issue here. No famous locomotive is going away. No locomotive is being defiled with a pink paint scheme with purple handrails (although I swear I dreamed about this not long ago). No, this time we have too much of a good thing. And we all remember what Mae West said about that… ok, well some of us old geezers do. Anyway, suffice it to say that Ms. West was right. More is better. Here’s the situation. Just this week, tickets for...

'Wired' to a work train

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
PHILADELPHIA — While colleague David Lassen basks in the sunshine of new passenger equipment in Florida, I got into the nitty gritty of keeping older service running with an early morning tour on one of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's catenary repair, or Wire Trains.  How early you ask? Fellow rail photographer Michael Murray and I drove up to SEPTA's Market Street headquarters for a 2 a.m. meet with SEPTA managers who escorted us to the train that was position...

Big times for Brightline

Posted one month ago by David Lassen
Spent a big part of my Wednesday in West Palm Beach, Fla., attending Brightline’s media unveiling of its first passenger trainset (our News Wire report is here), then joined Trains passenger columnist Bob Johnston and correspondent David Lustig (in this case representing, as they say, another publication) in touring the new Brightline station in downtown West Palm Beach, and wanted to offer a few thoughts on each. I am tremendously impressed by the thought that went into the design of the...

Wednesday ... a big day for Trains but I'm stuck at the desk

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Every day is a big day at Trains. We get to explore our favorite subject and share what we learn with you. Some days are just bigger than others. Today is one of those.  Three staff members are in the field. That doesn't happen every day. Heck, I get bored and lonely here, but I am glad that we're out there on the front lines of railroading. While we freeze on the tundra here in Wisconsin, Associate Editor David Lassen is in Florida, checking out the new Brightline train set to debut later...

The lunch break

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Let’s talk willpower. You know, it’s that thing inside you that allows you to deny yourself even when you really want something badly. How good is your willpower? Mine, it turns out, is pretty lousy when presented with the following situation: A new bucket list camera lens, two mainline trains executing a meet, and a gorgeous, sunny winter day. I mean, who could resist all of those temptations lined up perfectly? That is why, even through it’s deadline week for the March issu...

In Chicago, a reminder that change is constant

Posted one month ago by David Lassen
To paraphrase a line of the narration in our DVD, Chicago: America’s Railroad Capital, railroads have been serving the city for more than 160 years, but they continue to evolve. Some of that evolution is coming in 2017 to one of my favorite spots — River Forest, on the Union Pacific and Metra’s UP West line. The change will no doubt be good for the railroad and commuter passengers. For photographers? Probably not so much. Just yards west of the River Forest Metra station is t...

Will Donald Trump top railroad news in 2017?

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
When we put together list of the top 10 railroad stories of 2016, we put Donald Trump’s election as the next president as No. 10 and Wick Moorman’s appointment to Amtrak’s president as No. 1. Our choices were more of a predictive designation, not unlike President Obama’s Nobel Peace in 2009: It’s about what we expect they’ll do. I’ve been thinking about that, and I’m going to predict that 11 months from now, when we compile a new top 10 list, that ...

What's ahead in railroading for 2017

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Are you ready for a new year? It’s upon us. And no one is more surprised than I am that it’s time to plan the year ahead. The railroad world is already busy. Here’s a month-by-month calendar of what we’ve got on the radar so far. Check back here often for additions. January 8-12, Transportation Research Board. Big-time gathering of the best and brightest minds in railroading and other modes with an eye toward the future. Associate Editor Steve Sweeney, who edits our tec...

Looking back at Trains -- 1967

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
As we 're about to flip our calendars over to 2017, I'm continuing the sentimental tone this week with a look back at Trains 50 years ago, in 1967: Jan. 3 Chicago South Shore & South Bend control acquired by Chesapeake & Ohio. February IC replaces diamond with split-rail logo. March 22 Jersey Central files for bankruptcy. March 24 Last run of last “true” Soo Line passenger train, the Winnipeger to St Paul. April Great Northern introduces Big Sky Blue livery. Apri...

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