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Thoughts on a bad weekend in railway preservation

Posted 29 minutes 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...
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Be a sport this summer, buy a ticket and say thanks

Posted 6 days 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...
49

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

Posted 14 days 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 ...
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CREATE's 75th Street project: Lots of benefits, but no funding

Posted 15 days 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...
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A Colorado railroads respite: Rails in the Rockies that renew

Posted 16 days 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 ...
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It’s all about the megapixels. But why?

Posted 21 days 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...
9

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

Posted 22 days 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...
2

WRI: What you can learn in 75 minutes

Posted 26 days 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...
1

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...
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Blue-chip railroad publisher

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

Posted one month 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...
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And with 576 that makes 15 big steam locomotives to stir the soul

Posted one month 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...
11

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

Posted one month 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...
8

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

Posted one month 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...
0

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

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

Posted one month 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...
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Where's Jim? The Connect the Dots road trip nears the end

Posted one month 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 www.TrainsMag.com/BigSteam. 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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Positive train control's 'CSI effect'

Posted one month 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...
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Big Steam is back road trip 2016

Posted one month 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...
11

Join me for a Day with a Shay

Posted 2 months 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 ...
9

Colorado! You can never have enough

Posted 2 months 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...
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Crazy diesel guys...

Posted 2 months 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...
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A boxcab and a Yellowstone walk into a bar ...

Posted 2 months 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...
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When a flat tire leads you to railroad history (and a cup of coffee) in Minnesota

Posted 2 months 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...
8

It's spring, sir!

Posted 2 months 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 ...
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Kevin P. Keefe, we will miss you at Trains

Posted 2 months 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...
8

Is it my imagination or is traffic picking up?

Posted 2 months 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...
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Trump: Hunter 'can't be so soft' [satire]

Posted 2 months 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...
16

Rare endcab switchers are still among us

Posted 3 months 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...
11

It's springtime for railfans ... in Wisconsin

Posted 3 months 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...