Trains' Top 10 railroad preservation stories for 2017

Posted 23 hours ago by Jim Wrinn
Here’s my list for the top 10 preservation stories for 2017. 1. Texas restored for Atlanta History Center Besides the locomotives at Promontory, what pair of locomotives is more famous than the General and the Texas of Civil War Great Locomotive Chase fame? You’d be hard pressed to find a set that’s better known. Long confined to the dingy basement of Atlanta’s Cyclorama building in Grant Park, the 1849 Texas got a cosmetic overhaul prior to its placement in the Atlanta...

Beer Line exhibit ... enjoy with appropriate beverages

Posted 10 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Where would you put a photo exhibit about the famous Milwaukee Road Beer Line if you had your choice of places? A brewery, of course! That’s what the Center for Railroad Photography & Art is doing with its photographic study of the Wallace W. Abbey images that record this famous freight route that served the industry that made Milwaukee famous and that included famous Fairbanks-Morse diesels for motive power. It opened Thursday night, and the Trains staff was there to check it out whil...

Top train-watching destinations for 2018

Posted 11 days ago by Brian Schmidt
There are, without exaggeration, thousands of places across this continent to stop and watch a train. From a lonely grade crossing in Iowa to a jam-packed subway platform in Queens. (Our newest special issue "Hot Spots" details 75 of the best.) While I can't claim to have seen them all (there are a LOT of grade crossings in Iowa!), I believe that I have seen enough to make a few recommendations for our discerning readers: Northwest Ohio This is where I'm from, so of course I'm a little biase...

BNSF remembers James J. Hill in Superior, Wis.

Posted 15 days ago by Jim Wrinn
The quote about “all who wander are not lost” was on my mind over the holiday. My family and I were in Duluth, Minn., to visit family and friends. Normally, this is a cold, snowy place this time of year. We, however, were blessed with warm temperatures and no precipitation. There was snow on the ground to make it look like late fall in the Northwoods. So, that gave us opportunities to train and ship watch in this fascinating Midwestern port city. Last spring, we were here for BNSF&r...

Clinchfield Country and CSX's 75th anniversary Santa Train

Posted 22 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Clinchfield. The word conjures images of a regional railroad defined by multiple sooted black six-axle units in run 8, working against gravity and curvature, hard against slide detection fences, soaring across bridges, and diving into the cool of 55 tunnels, to move coal out of the heart of Appalachia. It brings to mind railroaders, many of them multi-generational, working locals, mine runs, coal trains, and time freights across 277 of the most rugged and beautiful mountain railroad miles ever b...

China doesn't need (or want) GE Transportation

Posted 24 days ago by Steve Sweeney
Readers and even one or two Trains correspondents have asked me in recent days why I didn’t write about China’s CRRC as a potential bidder for GE Transportation. And, to a lesser extent, Canada’s Bombardier.My plain and simple explanation: Both are poor fits for GE Transportation as it stands today.Bombardier first. The Canadian industrial giant is in trouble. It makes airplanes and passenger trains for international markets but relies heavily on support from the Province of Qu...

CSX's Santa Train: A special preview day

Posted 24 days ago by Jim Wrinn
There are some days in your career as a lover of railroads when words fail to describe the sheer enjoyment of a day spent trackside with a special subject and many good friends. Friday was one of those days.  We were with CSX and a group of people who’d made sure that Clinchfield F7 No. 800 and SD45 No. 3632 were ready to pull the 75th anniversary Santa Train on the former Clinchfield Railroad. Today was the positioning move for the Santa Train, running from Kingsport, Tenn., to Shelb...

A trip down memory lane with Model Railroader

Posted 25 days ago by Brian Schmidt
Not many people can say that their employer played a large role in their childhood – family business tycoons excluded. It is one of the perks of working for Trains (and down the hall from Model Railroader). This week, though, I was able to draw a link from my career back to my childhood thanks to some office cleaning. I started subscribing to Model Railroader in grade school, an annual gift from my parents. Soon thereafter, Trains was added to the tab, too. I still recall a lot of what'...

Bourdain's Jeremiah Tower and Lucius Beebe, The Last Magnificent

Posted 28 days ago by Jim Wrinn
If you were watching CNN this past Sunday night, you did not imagining anything you heard. Yes, you did hear the name of one of the railroad enthusiast community’s earliest and most iconic champions, Lucius Beebe, called out. Yes, it was during a most unlikely program -- Anthony Bourdain’s profile of celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower. And yes, they were talking about the same Beebe you and I know as the author of “High Iron,” “Mixed Train Daily,” “Mansions o...

CSX's Santa Train: When Union Pacific 3985 posed as Clinchfield 676

Posted 29 days ago by Jim Wrinn
CSX’s Santa Train: When Union Pacific No. 3985 played Clinchfield 676 When Clinchfield F7 No. 800, the railroad’s first diesel locomotive, heads up the 75th anniversary Santa Train on Saturday, it will be a landmark event: The 1948 unit in its original gray and yellow garb, back on home rails, and once again in charge of the world’s longest Christmas parade, a trip of about 100 miles from Shelbiana, Ky., to Kingsport, Tenn. But not that long ago, 25 years to be exact, there ...

Clinchfield Railroad between the covers: Five essential books

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
With the 75th anniversary running of CSX’s Clinchfield Railroad Santa Train on Nov. 18 just a few days  away, it’s a good time to review the Clinchfield story in print.  Several great books have been put together about the Clinchfield, a regional railroad built to outstanding engineering standards through some of the most difficult terrain of the Appalachian Mountains. Under the control of the Atlantic Coast Line and Louisville & Nashville since the 1920s, the railroad ...

Clinchfield F7 No. 800, I've been waiting a long time for this ...

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Today’s debut of Clinchfield No. 800 in Huntington, W.Va., returned to its original gray and yellow paint scheme of 1948 thanks to CSX, is a welcomed sight. When it comes to locomotives, my pecking order is steam, cab unit, and Alcos, in that order. I have nothing against other locomotives. I like them all, but to me a streamlined cab unit is a special machine, a locomotive wrapped in a distinctive dress, a celebrity who is going some place special. I’m especially happy to see this ...

Preparing Hot Spots, our next special issue, a question arises: How many places on our list have you visited?

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
On Monday, the graphic artists who work on Trains and the editorial staff gathered in a ritual we call the “pin up.” It’s the one and only time when the entire feature well of a magazine is printed out and placed on the walls of a room. We lock ourselves in this chamber for an hour or so and review what we’re about to give you, the readers. We critique layouts, argue over headlines, adjust photos, and size up the timing and placement of stories. Sometimes we change the or...

A (brief) look at Cincinnati railroads

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
I spent a few days around Cincinnati earlier this month while I was in town for a presentation at the Cincinnati Railroad Club's monthly meeting. Here are a few trains I saw during my visit: A northbound coal train cools its heels at KC Junction in Covington, Ky., just south of downtown Cincinnati. Here, former Chesapeake & Ohio and Louisville & Nashville lines converge to cross the Ohio River and access Queensgate Yard. A northbound local with a GP40-2 slug set passes the former...

Is Hyperloop a train for you?

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
Excuse me if I've asked you this before, but what do you think of Elon Musk's Hyperloop proposals?  The basic facts are both simple in concept and ridiculously ambitious. Elon Musk, who owns SpaceX, Tesla Motors, and has a gargantuan stash of cash and reserves to spend on technology, wants to build a magnetic levitation system in a low-pressure tube to convey people, and possibly freight, at high speed around the country. Remember when you used to be able to drive up to a bank branch a...

A true tale of railroading literally on the edge: Trains’ Peru tour, part 7, the end

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
CUSCO, Peru -- The engine revs up and with a lurch the aircraft begins racing forward down the runway at 11,000 feet above sea level. My heart races a little knowing that an A319 only has so much linear footage at this altitude to become airborne or spatter itself on the side of the Andes. Instead of fretting about high altitude departures, though, my thoughts instead turn to Peru, its railroads, and their people who have welcomed the Trains tour group and me for the last 11 days. What a ruggedl...

Machu Picchu, narrow gauge, and other true tales from South America: Trains’ Peru tour, part 6

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
CUSCO, PERU – Standing in the ruins of the 15th century Incan city Machu Picchu in southern Peru, you  suddenly find yourself thrust into a National Geographic cover and checking with your fellow travelers  regularly to see if you actually are standing in this world famous and ancient place that was only “discovered” a little more than a century ago. And then, as you learn about the Incans, their way of life on this mountainside, their gods, how they came here, and w...

Alcos, luxury trains, and other true tales from South America: Trains' Peru tour, part 5

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
  ON BOARD THE BELMOND ANDEAN EXPLORER – Not that long ago, entrepreneurs in North America touted the American Orient Express as the ultimate in rail cruise travel. But that ended with a resounding thud a few years ago as the market just wasn’t there. Now UK-based hotelier Belmond is experimenting with the concept in Peru with its relatively new (begun in May) Belmond Andean Explorer. I just completed a two-day, two-night journey on the train from Arequipa to Puno and from Pun...

Herding llamas by train, unexpected locomotives, and other true tales: Trains’ Peru tour, part 4

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
HUANCAYO, Peru – This day won’t be as exciting or amazing, Henry Posner told me as we boarded the C30-7 for Friday’s trip from LaOroya to Hauncayo, Peru. We were riding on a FCCA railroad branch that sees about one train a week. I’m sorry, Henry, but I have to disagree. Yes, it’s not crossing the Andes at 15,000 feet or traveling to the city that is eating itself. But this is truly a scenic beauty once we left the smelter town of LaOroya. We followed a river gorge t...

The city that is eating itself, flamingos, and other true tales from South America: Trains’ Peru tour, part 3

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Sometimes beauty and grit are next door neighbors. Thursday’s chartered FCCA train from LaOroya to Cerro de Pasco showed us that. We saw great natural beauty. And we saw scars that industry can leave on the land.  On the third day of our special tour of Peru, we took FCCA’s branch to this mining community, nicknamed the city that is consuming itself because of the continuing mining activity that causes portions of the city to be relocated on a regular basis. We climbed from aro...

Railroading at 15,000 feet and other true tales from South America: Trains’ Peru tour, part 2

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Henry Posner warned me before we left. Climbing the Andes on Peru’s  FCCA railroad would tax one adjective more than any other to the point of becoming a cliché before the day was out: Amazing. That word, however, does not do justice to this king of mountain railroads that challenges railroaders with an unrelenting barrage:  4.2 percent grades, dozens of tunnels, sharp curves, and one of the highest altitudes of any railroad in the world at 15,000 feet. It is beyond surrea...

Conrail lives and other true stories from South America: Trains’ Peru tour, day 1

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
LIMA, Peru – On a dusty hillside in the Chosica section east of Lima, we stood on the platform of a two-story wooden station befitting the classic station in Thurmond, W.Va., and celebrated a railroad more than 4,000 miles away and that has been gone 18 years: Conrail. The occasion was the dedication of a former Conrail C39-8, No. 1030, still resplendent in Conrail blue and named in appreciation of James A. Hagen, the Conrail Chairman (1989 to 1996) who agreed to lend his and his compan...

Trains tours: Next stops, Peru, India, Mid-Atlantic states, Switzerland

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I got my love of travel from my dad and Aunt Jenny. They both loved to go. Dad got an all-expense-paid trip to the Philippines at the close of World War II. Aunt Jenny traveled to the UK, Alaska, and, I’m sure other places, as well. Last week, I was delighted to note that friends were in Hawaii (getting married, no less! Yay!), England, Ireland, Switzerland, Portugal, China, and a few more places if I looked close enough. That is a delight for me. I love to see my friends out there explori...

Jerry Joe Jacobson, 1957, and paying it forward

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Once in a while, someone does something insignificant at the time but that later on blooms into something magnificent. In the case of Jerry Joe Jacobson, the steam-loving shortline entrepreneur who passed away Wednesday at age 74, that moment came on the evening of June 20, 1957. A Baltimore & Ohio crew let a 13-year-old Jerry handle the throttle while their Mikado was in a siding setting off a hotbox car. Because of this Jerry got home late, he was grounded for weeks, and, much to the ben...

Looking for railroading in the cornfields: Beatrice, Nebraska

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
One of the joys of being an avid railroad explorer is finding locomotives, trains, or  rolling stock or at least an appreciation for our mutual obsession in unexpected places. We all know what we’ll get when we venture to the main line. But it’s when you find railroading where you least expect it that it becomes a truly sweet thing. That happened to me last week on a family trip that took us to Beatrice, Neb., south of Lincoln, a place not far from the Kansas border. We got a th...

Mainline steam – Will it play in Peoria?

Posted 3 months ago by Brian Schmidt
An eastbound Toledo, Peoria & Western freight approaches Sheldon, Ind., in August 2015. Could this be the next great home for mainline steam in the U.S.? Photo by Brian Schmidt What if there was a place where mainline steam locomotives could roam, where railfans could come to see the majesty and might of the rails? While I don't buy into the lore of steam, I do see a need for a spot, a petting zoo of sorts, where mainline steam can congregate, and maybe someone can make a few bucks off it...

The vacation, part 2: On the trail of the Great Locomotive Chase

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
My wife, Cate, and I didn’t plan to go looking for signs of the Great Locomotive Chase of Civil War fame, but during a couple of days on our recent vacation down south we found ourselves between Atlanta and Chattanooga. The important trappings of the chase were all around us. We basically just fell into it. The initial inspiration wasn’t difficult. We were in Atlanta to see friends. Our first stop was the Atlanta History Center, where my good friend, Jackson McQuigg, oversees cap...

The vacation, part 1: Kentucky's Mammoth Cave and its railroad

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
My wife and I took a vacation recently. To be completely honest, it wasn’t a true vacation. We spent a lot of time with friends and family we’d not seen in a while, did some family business, and participated in some non-profit work. I sneaked in a tiny bit of work. But we did relax for a few days, and that was a good thing. Along the way there were some railroad sites and experiences, and I’d like to share a few of them with you … a “How I spent my summer vacation&...

Loose brains derail trains

Posted 3 months ago by Steve Sweeney
News this week that Al Qaeda terrorists are promoting would-be followers to make and employ do-it-yourself concrete derails is — unsurprising. The awesome mass and speed of most trains is enough to do great damage when they derail by accident in lonely locales — let alone on purpose in populated places. We expect that people who want to do us harm in North American and Europe would do almost anything to achieve their aims. And yet, because so much focus has been on airplanes and pas...

Don't get eclipsed by a lack of info on Aug. 21

Posted 4 months ago by Steve Sweeney
Ben Cooper photo, via Astronomy Magazine A total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 will be visible for much of the United States including at least one subdivision on every Class I railroad.  It's the first total solar eclipse to cross this much of the country since 1918 — meaning most people who are alive today haven't witnessed what's coming. If it's clear trackside on Aug. 21, plenty of railfans are going to want to experience the moment, so we asked for top viewing tips from Astrono...

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