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4

It's hard to think of only ONE top story ...

Posted 21 hours ago by Steve Sweeney
Time Magazine named its person of the year this week. This annual occurrence, among other signs of the season, signaled me to pause and reflect on what this year has been in the world of railroads. At the top of my mind right now, there has been what seems like a slew of crashes and accidents around the world this year, with back-to-back passenger train accidents throughout November, killing hundreds of unfortunate passengers. The passenger news here in the U.S. is that Amtrak agreed to purcha...
6

The art of the 'heads up'

Posted 4 days ago by Brian Schmidt
Sometimes the train-watching hobby is a solitary pursuit, while other times it's a group activity. Oddly, it can be both at the same time. Sitting in the car trackside you see a special move go by your location. What do you do? Tell your friends down the line, of course! But there's a science to doing it properly. 1. What did you see? This seems so simple, yet many messages that are intended to aid people down the line don't always make this clear. "NS 1070" – while cryptic to those ou...
11

Pearl Harbor anniversary makes me think of dad and the Daylight

Posted 5 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Wednesday is the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, plunging the United States into World War II, ending the country’s isolationist era, and sending the railroad business into an overdrive frenzy. When I think of that conflict, I think of my father, John, an agricultural agent who had graduated from Clemson with an Army ROTC scholarship. At the start of the war, he was called to active duty with the U.S. Army, and assigned to the infantry school at Fort Benning, Ga. I...
10

The railfan gifting dilemma

Posted 7 days ago by Brian Schmidt
The holidays are upon us now, and that brings a sense of dread for many railfans – well-meaning relatives who think anything railroad related is "good enough." Who among us hasn't received a train-shaped empty Avon bottle or generic bargain-table railroad book as a gift? I'd wager more than a few. Most railfans are passionate – borderline obsessive – about the hobby. That's especially true for modelers. (Nevermind just getting the right scale, a gift giver should also know h...
6

I thought I'd caught an SD45

Posted 10 days ago by Jim Wrinn
It had been a long drive. I’d been watching the tracks along U.S. 53, searching in futility, but the flash of blue and the hint of motion caught my eye at 72 mph: Train! I pulled off the four lane highway at Chetek, Wis., and started backtracking on a side road paralleling the tracks. Still, nothing, for miles. I know I didn’t imagine the units or the movement. More empty tracks. And then, suddenly, near a frac sand plant, I saw two units in the woods shoving back to a coupling. And ...
4

A shortline survivor and the loneliest Soo Line Decapod

Posted 11 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Last weekend on the way back from Thanksgiving, my wife and I drove through north-central Wisconsin and found two rarities that I wanted to share with you. One is a shortline steam locomotive, Marinette Tomahawk & Western 2-6-0 No. 19, on display in its hometown. The other is a one-of-a-kind locomotive on its owner’s roster, Soo Line 2-10-0 No. 950. The 1923 Mogul lives in Tomahawk, Wis., and the 1900 Decapod in Ashland, Wis. Thankfully, both of these fine Baldwin products have roofs o...
10

Pullmans to everywhere, no more

Posted 16 days ago by Brian Schmidt
On this, the traditional busiest travel day of the year, I found sobering map from Trains' past. In brief, red lines show Pullman service active in 1967 that also operated in 1927, while black lines show Pullman service discontinued in the intervening years. The map supports a five-page feature story in the October 1967 issue by Frank E. Shaffer. Contrasted with Amtrak's current route map, the Trains reader of 1967 must not have realized just how good he still had it when choosing travel by ra...
4

Help wanted: With a generation ready to retire, railway preservation needs a few good leaders

Posted 19 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Earlier this month I was in Savannah, Ga., for the annual meeting of the Association of Tourist Railroads & Railway Museums, now to be known as Heritage Rail Alliance. I’ve been thinking about all the things I want to tell you about that gathering, the buzz that is always on when this group congregates, and over the weekend one of the chief impressions I took away came rushing at me while watching college football: There’s a lot of leadership, brain power, creativity, and known-h...
9

Trump's transportation secretary: Can one former passenger train supporter be redeemed?

Posted 21 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Now that the buzz about the Trump presidency is about cabinet makeup, those of us interested in railroading’s fate under the new administration are laser focused on transportation secretary. I’ve seen a few names mentioned so far. One is James S. Simpson, a trucking company executive and a former Federal Transit Administration head and New Jersey Department of Transportation secretary under Gov. Chris Christie. Another is Mark Rosenker, former head of the National Transportation Saf...
7

Preservation’s crossroads: They’ve forgotten why we saved this stuff

Posted 23 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Two events this week snapped me back to reality from the good mood I was in after attending the Savannah, Ga., conference of the Association of Tourist Railroads & Railway Museums (which is rebranding itself Heritage Rail Alliance — more on that later) and a stop in Plains, Ga., to attend President Carter’s church and visit the depot that was his campaign headquarters 40 years ago. http://cs.trains.com/trn/b/staff/archive/2016/11/14/a-visit-with-jimmy-carter-and-the-plains-ga-dep...
13

Shooting unprotected?

Posted 23 days ago by Brian Schmidt
I’m revisiting one of the oldest debates in photography lately: do I keep a UV or clear filter on my lenses to protect them from front element damage? The premise is simple – use a piece of glass that’s expendable to protect a much larger investment from flying ballast, sand, rain, etc. The trade off is that head-on telephoto shots, like this view of Canadian National in Richfield, Wis., this past weekend, have a higher likelihood of producing funny image artifacts with the ...
13

A visit with Jimmy Carter and the Plains, Ga., depot are good for me

Posted 25 days ago by Jim Wrinn
No matter what your party affiliation, or whether you voted for Trump or Clinton, this election season has been difficult on us all. We need a break. So let me share an experience about an encounter with a humble man and a simple country depot that to me was a ray of sunshine. For the most part, I believe that most Americans like to get along with each other and find ways to compromise and cooperate. So it was in this spirit that I found myself Sunday in Plains, Ga., home to the 39th presid...
7

Don't listen to the old farts (all the time)

Posted 28 days ago by Brian Schmidt
Last weekend I went out to explore a new (to me) photo spot: Lake interlocking on the south side of Milwaukee. At one time the Milwaukee Road had a small yard and interlocking tower here. Today, College Avenue – the dividing line between Milwaukee proper and suburban Oak Creek – sails overhead leaving a view of just the double track main line, a single siding, and a sign in place of the wood frame tower. Sure, it could be better. Those wires could go away, and the Milwaukee airpor...
12

How will Amtrak, infrastructure funding, and safety regulation fare under Trump?

Posted 29 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I’m still in Savannah, Ga., for the tourist railroad and museums conference, but my thoughts today turned to a national issue: How will Amtrak, infrastructure funding, and safety regulation play out under President Trump? Those have to be the questions on the mind of every railroad executive, labor union, and almost brand new Amtrak President Wick Moorman. With a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, will the party take aim at Amtrak? Will the party in charge cut it back to the ...
2

Shopping around: A visit to the Central of Georgia roundhouse in Savannah, Ga.

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Today is the first day of the four-day Association of Tourist Railroads & Railway Museums conference in Savannah, Ga., and the host organization, the Coastal Heritage Society, kicked off the meeting with a visit to its preservation project and museum in the former Central of Georgia roundhouse in downtown, within walking distance of the convention hotel. About 200 preservationists from across North America and around the world are here for this gathering, a time to learn, network, and share ...
5

Preserving rail history, one document at a time

Posted one month ago by David Lassen
If you’ve heard of Baraboo, Wis., a town of 12,048 north of Madision in the south central part of the state, it’s likely because of the Circus World Museum, established here because the community was the original winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus.Just blocks away, on the opposite side of the Baraboo River, is a lesser-known organization that is, or at least should be, a significant resource for those interested in railroad history.The Lake States Railway Historical Associ...
1

Live streaming from the Association of Tourist Railroads & Railway Museums Nov. 9-12, 2016

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I'm on the road again next week, traveling to Savannah, Ga., for the annual meeting of the Association of Tourist Railroads and Railway Museums. I'll be blogging, and we'll announce the winner of the 2016 $10,000 preservation award on Saturday night about 9 p.m. Eastern We'll be live streaming several seminars and sessions, including the awards. Here's the schedule. Please join us! Here’s the schedule of events that you can find on our Website at www.TrainsMag.com/bigsteam: Nov. 9, 5-7 ...
5

Falling behind with railroad photography

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
Amtrak's westbound Empire Builder pounds the diamond at Duplainville, Wis., just minutes out of Milwaukee on a beautiful November afternoon. It was certainly a great moment to be trackside: beautiful sun, unusual warmth for November, decent color yet. Yet, the moment is fleeting, for this Sunday we turn our clocks back one hour and lose much of the opportunity to photograph trains after work – at least for those of us who live up north and work "normal" hours. Sure, I'll make an effort ...
9

30 years in railway preservation ... watch out rust!

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
30 years ago this month, I began volunteering in railway preservation. I date my direct involvement to November 1986 because it was the first time that I had been around trains when I wasn’t trying to ride them or take pictures. I was going to scrape rust or flaking paint, mark trucks with chalk stone, or tighten bolts. The work was nothing spectacular, and I’m sure neither were my efforts: I do not profess to be a mechanic of trains, cars, or anything else. But if shown how, I can d...
12

Is The Tide, southeastern Virginia’s light rail system, rolling in? (Or going out?)

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
When I was in Norfolk last week, I decided to collect some overdue mileage on the light rail system that’s been in place for 5 years. I’ve never been enthusiastic about transit or commuter trains, mostly because I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s South, a region devoid of public transportation outside of buses. But over the years, I’ve come to appreciate and even like light rail and commuter trains as I’ve ridden them in cities from Los Angles to Frankfurt. So, at breakf...
1

Thinking about Colorado (never a bad thing)

Posted one month ago by David Lassen
It was 70 degrees and partly sunny yesterday at Trains world headquarters. Today it’s gray and 50. All of which has me thinking about Colorado, and not just because with Wisconsin winter is fast approaching, other places start having a certain allure (at least for a California native).One reason I was thinking about Colroado is that those sorts of temperature changes — and ones far more dramatic — are a big part the Centennial State. I think we had a range of more than 60 degre...
4

Remembering Jim McClellan: Will we see his like again?

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Remembering Jim McClellan: Will we see his like again? I returned to Milwaukee today after attending the funeral for Jim McClellan, one of the masterminds of American railroading in the last half of the 20th century, and a real hero to many in the industry and its cadre of followers. Ever since Jim’s passing on Oct. 14 at age 77, I’ve been wondering, who will be the next Jim McClellan? Is that person already out there in the business? Would the railroad business tolerate or even en...
9

'Brown bagging' on the train

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
Amtrak's Hiawatha service trains do not have food service offerings, and that's fine by me. Here, a northbound approaches the Sturtevant, Wis., station. Photo by Brian Schmidt It's been said that nothing could be finer than dinner in the diner, but there's nothing wrong with "brown bagging" it, either. Fred Frailey noted in a recent blog post that he stopped off for provisions before an overnight trip on the Silver Star. I think this is a marvelous approach. Last year, my wife and I set off o...
5

Today is a big day for 4-8-4s

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Today is a special day for steam locomotive lovers. Two 4-8-4s are in operation in the United States. Most days, a census of such machines would result in the most empty number there is: Zero. The number of days that locomotives this big are in steam in the early 21st century is as rare and as fleeting as a solar eclipse over every existing roundhouse in the country. But take comfort, friends, relax, and have another black coffee, hazelnut latte, or coke as your personal preference guides you an...
4

Trains live streaming: 844, IC-painted passenger trains, Santa, and more

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
One of the most frequent comments we hear from you, our readers, is how much you’d like to go with the staff or correspondents in the field. You’d like to be with us to see the things we get to see on your behalf. That’s understandable. Thanks to the miracle of live streaming webcams, we’ve got some exciting opportunities for you this fall.  If you’re online Saturday morning, next Wednesday, or Oct. 29-31, be sure to check out our live streaming Webcam (www....
8

Thoughts on Jim McClellan's life on the rails

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Much has been written about Jim McClellan, who passed away Friday at age 77. I cannot add to the accolades given Jim for his accomplishments with regards to the railroad industry – the creation of Amtrak, setting up Conrail, the combination of Norfolk & Western and Southern Railway to make Norfolk Southern, the subsequent split of Conrail between CSX and NS, and so much more. I will let others who knew him better dwell on this aspect of his life. What I do want to make sure doesn&rsquo...
3

The photographer's best friend

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
It was a dark Saturday in Duluth. The sun was out earlier in the day up on the Iron Range, but downtown on the lakefront, the clouds had won for the day. I was chasing the Lexington Group inspection trip from Two Harbors back to Duluth, and fighting the diminishing light along the way. Luckily, I had an ace up my sleeve for the final shot of the day: a 1.8 lens. I was able to keep shooting until the end of the chase, at a reasonable ISO setting, too. Yes, the classic 50mm f/1.8 SLR lens is a ...
0

Two Superstar Steam Locomotives and their new Documentaries

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
A recent Saturday morning was cloudy and rainy here in southeastern Wisconsin. It was the perfect morning to watch new documentary videos about two of the superstar mainline excursion steam locomotives of our time: Norfolk & Western 611 and Southern Railway 4501. Both locomotives are significant, and both deserve the kind of treatments that videographers Rex Teese (611) and Evan Lofback (4501) have devoted to them. I was glad I took the time to watch. If you’ve ever wanted to follow a...
5

A-No.1 to Sugar Creek on No. 19 ... thoughts on a Pacific Northwest logger heading to the Heartland

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Yreka Western No. 19’s sale to Jerry Joe Jacobsen for the Age of Steam Roundhouse last week marks the end of an era for this short line Mikado as a resident of the Pacific Northwest and the start of a new chapter for this western logging locomotive as part of a private collection in the Heartland. It is difficult to see locomotives leave their historic regions; I am a big believer in displaying and running them in their native environments; but I am also relieved to see it going to a new h...
13

Of misleading headlines and keeping things in perspective

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
When I was reading about and listening to the initial coverage of last week’s NJ Transit accident in Hoboken, I was on the road and truly worried about the people on board and in the station. I feared that the first reports of mass casualties meant that scores of people were dead. Thankfully, that was not the case. My sympathies to the family of the one passenger on the platform who died; we all want railroading to be safe for every worker and every rider.  The crash generated tremen...