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Swiss (and German) adventure: the postscript

Posted 7 hours ago by David Lassen
I touched down at O’Hare Airport on Friday afternoon, closing the book on my second European trip for Trains, my fifth journey across the Atlantic overall. As always, I found time overseas to be memorable and enriching, and as always, I was ready to get home. A few final thoughts before getting back to the day-to-day routine, before going to work on the first of a few stories from the trip that will eventually appear in the magazine: • It would be difficult to understate how dis...

What excites me about steam in 2017: This (among other things)

Posted 3 days ago by Jim Wrinn
My good friend and videographer Kevin Gilliam visited the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad shops at Ridgeley, W.Va., on Friday. He’s working on a documentary video for Trains about the restoration of Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 for release next year after the locomotive runs in early 2017. He got good shots of the crew working with the steam pipes that lead to the smokebox, the restored tender, and the lead engine being prepped for the day coming soon when the engine will be r...

A lend-lease program for rail preservation

Posted 3 days ago by Brian Schmidt
I was down at the Illinois Railway Museum earlier this month for the annual Museum Showcase Weekend, which sees some of the museum's "best" equipment in operation. For me, that meant a chance to ride the Nebraska Zephyr train set and photograph 2-10-0 No. 1630 under steam. But one of my most-anticipated displays wasn't even part of the special event hype. That was the display of two Chicago & North Western diesels, C44-9Ws Nos. 8646 and 8701, on loan from Union Pacific. I had photographed...

Steam, the Internet, and strong emotions

Posted 4 days ago by Jim Wrinn
A friend of mine restores steam locomotives for a living. He does good work, is a self-confident individual, and enjoys a good reputation. He’s a pretty cool guy, except when it comes to the Internet. He has nothing but disdain for the medium and, as he sees it, people who sit behind computer screens, hide behind made-up names, and critique the hard work that he and others do in the name of fixing and running steam locomotives.  If it were up to this locomotive mechanic, the Internet...

Swiss adventure, Part 5: The original Gotthard tunnel

Posted 9 days ago by David Lassen
The last chapter in this Swiss adventure, which has focused on the new Gotthard Base Tunnel, was a visit to the bore it will replace. On Friday, about half of our tour group visited Goschenen, at the north portal of the 9.3-mile tunnel that opened in 1882, and learned a bit about the high price the engineering marvel of its day exacted on those who made it possible. Historian Kilian Elsasser led us on a walking tour of Goschenen, a village that swelled almost overnight from a few h...

Serendipity by Pewaukee Lake

Posted 10 days ago by Brian Schmidt
As my mind wandered Thursday afternoon I decided to check the status of the westbound Amtrak Empire Builder, just for grins and giggles, and found that it was already more than 40 minutes down at its suburban Chicago stop in Glenview. Seeing this as an opportunity to photograph Amtrak without cutting out of work a little early, I finished up my projects and headed off to Pewaukee, a few miles west of the office and the west end of Canadian Pacific's double track territory. I parked in the munici...

On Amtrak, no changes can be nice

Posted 11 days ago by Steve Sweeney
SOMEWHERE, On the Northeast Corridor — It’s 5:24 a.m. and southbound Northeast Regional No. 67 is loping through early morning dark to get down to Newport News, Va. Me? I’m headed to Washington today for meetings with old-time friends of Trains, and a few people we ought to know a little better. But the train, it’s pretty full so far. The Amfleet coaches are identical to what I’ve ridden on the Lakeshore Limited. About half of the passengers in my car are s...

Light (rail) thoughts in Philadelphia

Posted 12 days ago by Steve Sweeney
Would you believe it? In Philadelphia, streetcars run ... like streetcars: often and quickly. I treated a few of you to my quick pics from the Nos. 11 and 13 lines from Monday on Facebook. And as good as the action above ground is, 30th Street Station underground is where you can see dozens of trolley and elevated vehicles an hour on four side-by-side tracks separated only by an open platform and what appear to be two wrought iron fences — sorry, I didn't cross the tracks to find ...

Swiss adventure, Part 4: The tunnel

Posted 12 days ago by David Lassen
Today I walked around in the Gotthard Base Tunnel. In the very near future, Swiss Railways will hope no one has that opportunity. Because, after November 27 of this year, the only time any passenger should alight in the world’s longest tunnel — a 57-kilometer (35.4-mile) bore under the Alps — is in an emergency. For now, though, this very long hole through the mountains is a tourist attraction. Beginning in August, and concluding in November, it is possible, once a ...

Crossing fingers for a good ending to this Philadelphia story

Posted 13 days ago by Steve Sweeney
PHILADELPHIA — The message came on Monday shortly after I mailed a post card at Benjamin Franklin's original post office, but before I ate an obligatory cheesesteak.  The email was brief, but polite: There was more trouble with the Silverliner V cars over the weekend and I needed to speak with SEPTA's public relations' person. The immediate reason is that I have an interview scheduled this week with a SEPTA manager and the PR people needed me to know that some of the answers to my ...

Swiss adventure, Part 3: Golden goodness, and beautiful Bern

Posted 14 days ago by David Lassen
Falling behind a bit here, so before I get into today’s activities, a few words about Montreux, where I stayed on Sunday night. I can’t really tell you much about the city, since I arrived at 6 p.m. on a Sunday and left at 8:30 this morning. The promenade along the lake (7 kilometers long, according to the tourist literature) is quite beautiful, with extensive gardens along the path. It was alive with people on Sunday evening — families, couples, friends. With c...

Peer review may be the next step for preservationists

Posted 14 days ago by Jim Wrinn
In November, people who care deeply about the future of railway preservation will gather in Savannah, Ga., for the annual meeting of the Association of Tourist Railroads & Railway Museums. For those who are still getting used to that name, it’s the merged organization of the former Tourist Railroad Association Inc., and Association of Railway Museums. ATRRM is a bit more of a mouthful than ARM and TRAIN, acronyms that slide right off the tongue, but the job is still the same: Advocacy ...

Swiss adventure, Part 2: The slow express

Posted 15 days ago by David Lassen
It’s called the slowest express train in the world for a reason. Switzerland's Glacier Express takes an extremely modest 8 hours, 13 minutes to cover the 180 miles from St. Moritz to Zermatt, meaning it races along at an average speed of a little over 20 mph. But then, no one’s taking this train as basic transportation. This is truly a case where the trip is more about the journey than the destination, and it’s a journey 200,000 people take each year. In addition to th...

Swiss adventure, Part 1: Do you know the way to St. Moritz?

Posted 15 days ago by David Lassen
On a normal Friday, I would have turned left out of my apartment parking garage and headed to the Trains magazine. This day was anything but normal: I turned right and headed to Switzerland. OK, so the right turn actually sent my on my way to Chicago and O’Hare airport, where I would catch my flight to Zurich. But there was no mistaking it for a normal day.  Having handed off our upcoming special issue “Chicago: America’s Railroad Capital” to the art departme...

You gotta know the (home) territory

Posted 19 days ago by Brian Schmidt
Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern SD40-2 No. 6454 leads an eastbound Canadian Pacific freight through Pewaukee, Wis., on June 12. Early in the summer, I made an effort to spend more time around Pewaukee than previous years. Photo by Brian Schmidt I was a bad railfan this summer. We all have our home territory. For me that was once northern Ohio and Indiana. I knew when all the locals went on duty, I knew all the shortline radio frequencies, and I knew when all the special moves were coming. W...

Why there's no picture with this post

Posted 19 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Usually, I start out a blog post with a photo that I took in the field. Sadly, this is a post without a picture. Here’s why.  I figured the Labor Day holiday plus the diminished traffic levels of recent months would turn a Tuesday drive along U.S. 30 in eastern Iowa into a boring trip. Ever the optimist, I got off I-80 at Iowa City, ducked into my favorite Subway for a six-inch BMT on wheat only to find a busload of college kids so that was a no-go, and picked up 30 along the UP (Chi...

Paying it forward: A short story about the next generation of railroaders

Posted 25 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Sometimes the good you do is repaid many times over, but it takes a while to find out. Some times you know about it. Sometimes you don't. This tale comes to me from my good friend and our ad sales guy, Mike Yuhas. I'll let Mike take it from here. "On the trade show floor at the American Railway Engineering Maintenance of Way Association in Orlando earlier this week, I heard a voice call 'Hello Mr. Yuhas.' I turned and smiled at the gentleman who said it, trying to put a name to the familiar fac...

Summer 2016 reading challenge recap

Posted 26 days ago by Brian Schmidt
I must confess, I didn't take a terribly difficult route with this project. Chalk it up to the travel – on the road three of four weekends in the month. But, I believe, that I still made progress, and pushed myself to do a little more reading. While I was sifting through my home library for something to read, I stumbled on the books I purchased last summer in Colorado, had shipped home, and never really looked at again. Shame on me. So, this month, I made a effort to go through each bo...

When transportation works, it's a wonderful thing

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
The eastbound Lake Shore Limited rolls through Rochester, N.Y., in December 2011. Photo by Brian Schmidt I walked in to the Trains Magazine offices in suburban Milwaukee about 1 p.m. today. Many people would think that's grounds for dismissal, until they learned that I woke up the same morning somewhere between Toledo and Sandusky, Ohio. I was returning from a long weekend in Rochester, N.Y., on the Lake Shore Limited. Upon my arrival at Chicago Union Station, I was able to make a hasty t...

Good advice across 126 years went into picking Wick Moorman as Amtrak's new president

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Amtrak, for once, was right on time. The passenger carrier today named its replacement for President Joe Boardman, selecting former Norfolk Southern Chairman Wick Moorman to start Sept. 1. Boardman plans to retire at the end of September after serving since November 2008. A lot of observers had bet on others to lead the company. Moorman is a surprising choice, given that he’d said that he’d promised his family that he wouldn’t take another full-time job after leaving NS earlie...

Donner Pass and the snowsheds that have faded away

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I can remember as a child reading about this place. The Southern Pacific’s Donner Pass crossing of the Sierras in northern California near the Nevada line held almost mythical qualities — dazzling cliffs, deep tunnels, miles of snow sheds. In the 1960s, it was the land of scarlet and gray F units, funky German hydraulics, and growing ranks of six-axle diesels. This was the Southern Pacific’s mightiest mountain crossing, where the ghosts of 256 Cab forward 4-8-8-2s, the last o...

Messing with success – and winning

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
I'll just come out and say it: I'm glad railfan multimedia show Summerail moved to Marion, Ohio, and I wouldn't be sad one bit if it stayed there. The new venue is, in a word, great. The theater is spacious and comfortable. The theater doors don't cast light on the screen when opened, so attendees can sneak in late to a presentation. There were even food trucks out front so we didn't have to drive across town for lunch. The famous Marion Union Station museum complex is just down the street, w...

Trains' 2016 Preservation Award, and how you can help save railroad history for $3 a day

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
We announced the availability of our annual Trains Preservation Award earlier this week. It goes to a worthy non-profit for restoration or preservation of a locomotive, rolling stock, or structure, or for an archive. This will be the 17th year for the $10,000 award, so with it, we’ll crest $170,000 spent on railway preservation. You can look back on previous award winners and their projects here: The 2015 winner, Chesa...

Turns out, digital isn't always easier

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
Railfans peer out the windows while locomotive No. 071 shoves its excursion train around the connection at Limerick Junction, Ireland, in May 2016. From here, the train will head straight out across the diamond for Dublin Connolly. Photo by Brian Schmidt You know, I've been home from the Trains Magazine tour of Europe for more than two months, but have barely started on editing the hundreds of photos that I returned with. A decade ago, we were sold on convenience of digital photography. In...

Shays in the Sierras: Riding the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I make no secret about being a fan of geared steam locomotives, and a recent visit to California’s Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad got me back in touch with a Shay superstar, former West Side Lumber Co. No. 10, the largest narrow gauge Shay built. I was surprised to find the 84-ton superheated engine sitting under steam, ready to pull the 12:30 p.m. train without the diamond stack that’s been on it since soon after it left West Side in 1967 and started pulling tourist trains...

A visit to a California roundhouse: Is there a more captivating place?

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Is there, a more beautiful venue in which to repair, display, and view steam locomotives than a roundhouse? The reason I ask that that while on vacation in California earlier this month, I dropped by the state park service’s Railtown 1897 historic site in Jamestown for a brief glimpse inside the 1910 roundhouse. The former Sierra Railway wood roundhouse, clad in red-brown-painted corrugated metal and expanded in 1922, is a circular cradle for a host of engines. Standing in a convenient ind...

Interview with Kevin P. Keefe about his new book, "Twelve Twenty-Five"

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Former Trains Editor Kevin P. Keefe is the author of a new book, “Twelve Twenty-Five, the life and times of a steam locomotive,” now available from Michigan State University Press. The book is the history of Pere Marquette 2-8-4 No. 1225, the Berkshire made famous through its mainline excursions and as the model for the steam locomotive in the blockbuster movie, “Polar Express.” The locomotive is the centerpiece of the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, Mich. Kevin ...

Leaving a mark for the future

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
A westbound Conrail freight crosses the Norfolk Southern diamond at CP 317, between Delta and Wauseon, Ohio. Bjorklund labeled the slide as Delta, which is nearby, but not the clearest explanation for future generations. John F. Bjorlund photo, Center for Railroad Photography & Art collection It feels good to help out. I was recently reminded of that when Scott Lothes from the Center for Railroad Photography & Art recently asked for some help in identifying photo locations in the grou...

Trains' summer 2016 reading challenge

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
Reading is FUNdamental, I've heard. In that spirit, I'm going to challenge our readership for August: read more. Read a chapter a day in a heavy history, or read a feature story in your favorite railroad magazine. Pick 20 pages to cover in a photo-heavy "color" book, or read a favorite book from the past. Just read more. To play along as home, all you need to do is try to read just a little more about trains and railroading than you normally do. You can do it in the air conditioning, you can d...

Goodbye high short hoods: Norfolk Southern's former Southern GP38-2 roster dwindles

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I wasn’t surprised last week when Blackmon Auctions announced it is selling off 50 Norfolk Southern high short hood GP38-2s built in the early 1970s. They’re great, versatile locomotives; they’ve been well maintained; and they’re valuable in today’s shortline and regional railroad market as those railroads snap up good power. The earliest of the units were built 44 years ago, and that’s plenty of time for NS to get its money’s worth for them. NS, which...

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