THE magazine of railroading


Enter keywords or a search phrase below:


Blue-chip railroad publisher

Posted yesterday 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...

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

Posted yesterday 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 3 days 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 6 days 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 7 days 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 8 days 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 16 days 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...

Positive train control's 'CSI effect'

Posted 22 days ago by Steve Sweeney
There is still a mark on my forehead where I slapped it after reading the following Wednesday morning: "(Reuters) — Sunday's fatal Pennsylvania Amtrak accident may have exposed possible blind spots in a nationwide collision prevention system that is meant to stop crashes on U.S. railroads. ... A dilemma facing railroads is whether to spend funds expanding [positive train control] systems to service vehicles like the backhoe involved in Sunday's crash, or put money into upgrades of aging r...

Big Steam is back road trip 2016

Posted 27 days ago by Jim Wrinn
 We didn’t suffer through a ferocious winter in Wisconsin this year. That usually builds up a pent up demand to escape to someplace warm. Nevertheless, I am ready for a spring road trip in search of steam (thank you Mike Eagleson of Railroad Magazine for that delightful phrase!), and this year, thanks to many factors, it’s a road trip in search of Big Steam. Best of all, thanks to the magic of modern technology and live streaming gear, we get to take you along with us as we en...

Join me for a Day with a Shay

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I’ve been a visitor to West Virginia’s Cass Scenic Railroad since my parents took me there as a teenager to try and mend a broken heart. I wasn’t down because a girl had dumped me. I was sad because my favorite short line had just closed down before my very eyes. The year was 1975, and the Shay-powered Graham County Railroad had just shut down. We made the trip to Cass a few weeks later where there were steep grades, switchbacks, and lots of Shays running around. It was just ...

Colorado! You can never have enough

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Next year marks the 30th anniversary of my first trip to Colorado, land of snowy peaks, narrow gauge Mikados giving it their all, streamliners in deep canyons, and burly freights grinding out tonnage. On that May 1987 trip, I literally hesitated to get onto the plane going home to Charlotte after a week with friends exploring the Moffat Tunnel route, Joint Line, Georgetown Loop, and Manitou & Pikes Peak cog railway. It was a great introduction, and to this day I’m still enamored with...

Crazy diesel guys...

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
I think I've finally figured out the diesel guys. They're crazy.  I found that out this week because we've had two stories recently on Norfolk Southern Dash 8s. One story said they would be scrapped, another said they would be rebuilt.  And I stopped in my tracks. Editing the first story, on scrapping, wasn't much of a problem. I trusted the author to get the model numbers right. The second one, a day later, on rebuilding (to Dash 8.5 standards of all things) threw me for a loop. S...

A boxcab and a Yellowstone walk into a bar ...

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Railroad museums, like all good institutions of preservation, need a signature piece: A T-Rex, a space shuttle, a Model T, world’s largest ball of twine (don’t laugh too hard; it’s in fabulous Cawker City, Kansas), or something. The Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth, Minn., one of my favorite historic railroad places in America (and somewhat overlooked by many enthusiasts), has two such signature pieces: A Milwaukee Road boxcab electric from 1915, No. 10200, and Missabe R...

When a flat tire leads you to railroad history (and a cup of coffee) in Minnesota

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Sometimes dumb luck, or in my case, a flat tire, can steer you to railroad history that is still alive. Case in point: Yesterday my wife, Cate, and I were traveling in our car along the Mississippi River. Near Red Wing, Minn., we both heard a loud pop, which I hoped was backfire from a passing truck. Unfortunately, our Ford Fusion had picked up a nail, and the left rear tire was sagging fast. I decided that changing a tire or waiting on AAA on the side of a busy road in the day of distracted dri...

It's spring, sir!

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
I was running some errands on Sunday and came to a startling discovery and my local shopping mall: The massive piles of parking lot snow were gone. That, folks, is a sure sign that spring has arrived in the Midwest. This fact should not have been a surprise to me. Saturday morning, for the first time in 2016, I set off on foot in the pursuit of trains, capturing this photo of a southbound Canadian National freight in my Waukesha neighborhood. No, it's not an overly dramatic photograph, and I ...

Kevin P. Keefe, we will miss you at Trains

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
March 18, 2016 marks a big change for our Vice-President of Editorial, Kevin P. Keefe. Kevin will retire after 28 years at Kalmbach Publishing. During that time he worked as an advertising copywriter, associate editor, and served as editor of Trains for eight years, 1992-2000. It is a reluctant farewell for me: You see, Kevin is not only my boss, but he’s also a friend who I can go to and talk about steam power, favorite railroads, and personalities in the railroad business, as well as t...

Is it my imagination or is traffic picking up?

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I read the Association of American Railroads traffic reports just like you do. Coal, oil, and metallic stuff – ie, things that make steel for China, which the Chinese don’t want right now, are all down. This February is off about 10,000 carloads of freight from February 2015. Let’s just say that most trains are about 100 cars long; if so, there were 100 fewer trains this February. It may be even less than that — remember the big push among the Class I railroads is to make...

Trump: Hunter 'can't be so soft' [satire]

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
NEW YORK — Donald Trump says Hunter Harrison is too "soft" to takeover another railroad. In a brief interview with Trains News Wire on Wednesday, the billionaire Republican Presidential candidate spared a few moments to offer counsel to the veteran Tennessean railroader turned Canadian Pacific CEO. "I like Hunter. I know Hunter, good man. But, he's using too few small words," Trump says about Harrison. "Take that 'precision scheduled railroading' thing. Means nothing. If he wants pe...

Rare endcab switchers are still among us

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I was train watching Saturday at Wisconsin’s undisputable epicenter of railroad activity, Duplainville, where Canadian Pacific and Canadian National cross on a diamond. The first northbound of my visit was pulling an end-cab, or butthead, in some camps (including the Southern Railway retirees I used to hang out with at Spencer, N.C.) switcher in the engine consist. I was surprised because this was an Illinois Central rebuild of an SW7, and most Class I railroads have downsized their swit...

It's springtime for railfans ... in Wisconsin

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Saturday was a sunny day in Wisconsin. In the almost 12 years that I’ve lived here, this was the mildest winter of all. 95 percent of the snow has melted at my house, and Sunday set a record temperature, 61 degrees. I made no attempt to rise early Saturday, but even taking my time, I was ready to go by 8:30, and decided to do a little train watching before a couple of hours at the office, where I finished writing an 8-page feature story on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic for our 100-pag...

10 questions for the manager of this year's Norfolk & Western No. 611 trips

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Running a steam excursion train on a Class I railroad in 2016 is a demanding job. This year with Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611, the job falls to Adam Auxier, a private car operator. I posed 10 questions to Adam, and here's what he told me. 1. Tell us about your role with the excursion train in 2016? In 2015 Virginia Museum of Transportation brought me onboard to manage mechanical issues and overnight servicing for the excursion train. In 2016 I was upgraded to excursion train manager. I...

Atlantic Coast Line 1504: Looking good, but she still needs a roof

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – I was in Jacksonville last week on a three-fold mission: 1. Give an after dinner talk to the Atlantic Coast Line / Seaboard Air Line Historical Society (nobody feel asleep that I could tell, whew!); 2. Interview CSX Chairman and CEO Michael Ward (news flash, if you didn’t read Trains Newswire earlier this week, he’s staying three more years; read the rest of my Q&A with him about coal traffic, PTC, mergers, and more in the May issue); and 3. Get out of ...

Playing the heritage unit game

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
The train-watching hobby community has made the sighting of the Norfolk Southern and other heritage units into a game of sorts. Railfans, it seems, are always trying to best each other with who has seen more, or who has seen a particular unit on "home" rails. (Nevermind that none of these units actually turned a wheel for the railroads they are painted for.)  Now I've never really put much effort into tracking them down, but if the opportunity presents itself I will usually make the effort ...

10 minutes at Brookfield: Good for the common cold

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
10 minutes in Brookfield: Good for the common cold BROOKFIELD, Wis. – Saturday was a gift in southeastern Wisconsin: A winter thaw, a rare January day in the 40s. I was just back from a quick road trip for work, fighting a head cold, and trying not to think about how much fun my friends in Mississippi or North Carolina were having riding or photographing Iowa Pacific special trains operating that day. I suffered through moving boxes around the house my wife and I bought last fall, did a f...

Elmer Lam's wonderful life

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I write this to you from Virginia, which is very appropriate because the subject of this message is about a true gentleman from Virginia you should know. He passed away Wednesday night. His name was Elmer Lam, and he was the son of the air brake shop head at the Norfolk & Western shops in Roanoke, Va. When he died in Charlotte, N.C., he had done a remarkable thing: He’d saved a railroad museum, one that is close to me, North Carolina Transportation Museum, and one that is well known to...

Is the CP+NS combination worth $3.48 a share?

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
There is a lot of talk about operating ratios when it comes to Canadian Pacific’s proposal to acquire Norfolk Southern. CP’s Hunter Harrison, the master of operating ratio at Canadian National and now CP, says he can shave a full nine percentage points off NS’s operating ratio of just over 69 percent. What does that mean in real numbers? Now, I’m no math guy. That’s why I went into journalism. Words are my friends. Numbers, not so much. But I still figured that we ...

TRAINS chase guide: Norfolk & Western No. 611 Spencer-Asheville, N.C., April 10, 2016

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
One of the most incredible railroad journeys in the Eastern U.S. is about to see big steam for the first time in 22 years. Norfolk & Western No. 611 will traverse the famous Southern Railway Loops near Old Fort, N.C., on April 10. This offers an incredible opportunity for those who want to experience a true engineering feat from on board, and those who want to photograph this legendary 4-8-4 in a unique and amazingly scenic area.   I grew up not far away from the Loops, and for the la...

Three theories about why CP wants NS

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
In the February issue of Trains magazine, which has been in subscriber hands for better than a week now and is available to newsstand buyers now, I wrote an editorial in opposition to Canadian Pacific’s proposed takeover of Norfolk Southern. My reasoning is that there is little business incentive to combining tese two railroads. They do a slim amount of business together and the cultures are dissimilar. I’ll let you read the editorial on page 4 and decide if I got it right or not. &...

Swiss model railroads, oil train crashes, and more, all at TRB

Posted 3 months ago by Steve Sweeney
WASHINGTON, D.C. — There is a story around every corner at the Transportation Research Board conference.  Google is giving a presentation on self-driving cars, the University of Illinois has a seminar on concrete ties, and I just left a presentation given by a European researcher on how to optimize Chinese freight railroad operations based on customers' needs. There’s more than 1,000 separately planned meetings, sessions, or workshops packed in between Saturday and Wednesday fo...

Ticket to ride? Taking stock of 2016 excursions with N&W No. 611

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
OK, now we know what NS’s 2016 excursion schedule for Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611 looks like. Thank you to NS for seeing the value in getting steam out on the main line once more. While compact – the window of opportunity is a slim eight weeks from early April to early June – the steam schedule is filled with some great classic steam excursion trips behind the biggest steam locomotive in excursion service in North America. There are some exciting changes this year, ...

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Trains free email newsletter
Connect with us

Search the Community