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Steam running on street trackage in 2014? Narrow gauge line on the Baltic runs 20 trains per day behind steam

Posted 14 minutes ago by Jim Wrinn
BAD DOBERAN, Germany – After finishing my visit to InnoTrans in Berlin, the world’s largest railroad technology and trade show last week, I decided to stay in the country and take a trip that would put me in touch with railroad technology of 100 years ago. I rode fast and modern electric and diesel regional trains three hours north of Berlin to a resort area on the Baltic Sea for my first visit to the Mollibahn, a 10-mile-long, XX gauge branch off the main German railway system at Ba...

A CSX hat trick, in Wisconsin

Posted 20 hours ago by Brian Schmidt
Since I moved to Wisconsin from Ohio two years ago, I've seen some great sights while trackside. But, at the same time, I've missed train-watching on the well-trodden CSX lines of the lower Great Lakes region. So imagine my surprise Sept. 28 when three successive Canadian National trains through Waukesha were led by CSX units. First, a northbound showed up, led by a CSX GE and a Union Pacific EMD. I was set up on the west side of Waukesha, along the aptly named West Avenue, waiting on a northb...

Greetings from Cumberland! There’s coal smoke, blue skies, and a hint of fall color!

Posted 3 days ago by Chase Gunnoe
Abundant sunshine, steam locomotives, Amtrak’s Exhibit Train, and a variety of model train display and vendors are just a few of the amenities offered at the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad’s Steel Wheels Festival in Cumberland. Steam railroading is potent in the Queen City this weekend… I awoke early this morning to the sound of 2-8-0 No. 734’s unmistakable whistle as it disembarked from the railroad’s Ridgley shops across the river in West Virginia with its Fros...

Are Americans’ travel choices truly safe or efficient?

Posted 5 days ago by Malcolm Kenton
Safety and efficiency. These two concepts constitute the primary goals of the planning and operation of transportation systems. While transportation serves as the backbone of the economy and has a host of impacts, positive and negative, on people’s lives and livelihoods, the only factors that most people consider on a daily basis when deciding how to travel are “Is it safe?” and “Does it get me (or the goods I’m shipping) to my destination quickly?” At least t...

Part stampede, part geek fest, here’s InnoTrans in four easy lessons

Posted 6 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Commuters crowd onto the S-Bahn on their way to InnoTrans. Photo by Jim Wrinn. BERLIN, Germany – It is not even first thing in the morning but closer to 9:15 when I arrive at the zoo railway station to catch my commuter train, the S-Bahn, to reach InnoTrans, the world’s largest railroad trade and technology show. But the trains are all packed with dark suited business men and women who’ve come from 55 countries from around the world to talk railroading, gadgets, and better way...

How to illustrate delights of train travel

Posted 8 days ago by Malcolm Kenton
When advocates of increased investment in passenger train equipment and infrastructure make our case to elected officials, we generally emphasize the boost that this investment offers to the economy, the importance of providing mobility choices to otherwise isolated populations without easy access to cars and air travel, and the energy efficiency and reduced pollution that would come from shifting more car and air trips to the rails. These arguments are solid and backed by evidence, but they ten...

A few trips on the SBB confirm that Swiss precision is still among the best

Posted 9 days ago by Jim Wrinn
 Our train preparing to climb the Gotthard Pass route on the William Tell Express. Photo by Jim Wrinn. ON BOARD THE ICE TRAIN – I am doing something that seems totally wrong as I type this blog post in praise of Swiss railroads. I am doing it from a seat in the first class section on board a German ICE train that has just left the depot in Basel, Switzerland, crossed the border, and paused at the German station before zipping right up to sustained operation at 91 mph. Doesn’t s...

The best transportation museum in the world: Swiss Museum of Transportation’s ‘zoo’ includes a Crocodile, an Elephant, and a lot of great ideas

Posted 12 days ago by Jim Wrinn
The "elephant" is one of 44 pieces of rolling stock a the Swiss Museum of Transportation. Photo by Jim Wrinn. LUZERN, Switzerland – If you are a director, board member, staffer, or volunteer at one of the almost 600 railroad museums in America, print this blog post out and take it to whomever gets things done at your organization and tell them you need two first class plane tickets to Switzerland asap to see the best transportation museum in the world. Yes, you heard me right, this littl...

Dinner in the diner: it's tough to make it finer

Posted 12 days ago by Malcolm Kenton
I returned to Washington, DC from a conference in Minneapolis last weekend via Amtrak. At least I intended to go the whole way by train. In the past, I would have simply booked a through reservation from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Washington, with connection at Chicago. However, for the last few months, due to the Empire Builder’s chronically poor timekeeping, the guaranteed connections from the eastbound Builder to all trains at Chicago except the City of New Orleans and Lake Shore Limited h...

Will the NRHS Survive? Part Three: What Comes Next?

Posted 12 days ago by John Hankey
Many thanks to all of you who offered such useful (and civil) suggestions and criticism. This is the kind of discussion that is difficult to initiate, and even harder to sustain. It can be extraordinarily useful when engaged by people with a willingness to be reasonable and look forward. The next few months are going to be difficult for the national NRHS as it decides what kind of organization it wants to be, and as it fights for its life against a nasty lawsuit. It will be hard for the chapter...

Don’t do this train if you’re afraid of heights

Posted 13 days ago by Jim Wrinn
A Mount Piatus cog railway car desdends the mountain Wednesday afternoon. Jim Wrinn photo. PILATUS, Switzerland – Greetings from Switzerland, where railroads have no fear of grades. Yesterday and today I am riding the cog railway at Mount Pilatus, a peak just outside Luzern that is about 6,800-feet high and offers stunning views of the nearby Alps. To get here you have your choice – the steepest cog railway in the world with maximum grades of 48 percent – or helicopter. A fle...

There's Nothing Like a Dome Car

Posted 20 days ago by Malcolm Kenton
I had ridden Amtrak’s California Zephyr, Empire Builder, Cardinal and Adirondack routes before, and thoroughly enjoyed taking in their scenic wonders from either the Superliner Sightseer Lounge car or my coach seat. But being able to experience these four routes in a dome car took the already unmatched experience of the landscape that train travel gives you to a whole new level. The Sightseer Lounge comes close, allowing one a fairly complete view to both sides as well as upward. But addin...

Will the NRHS Survive? Part Two: Whose NRHS is it, Anyway?

Posted 22 days ago by John Hankey
Over the past couple of weeks the conversation about the future of the National Railway Historical Society has opened up considerably, and that is a good thing. I have always had great respect for the NRHS and its accomplishments. It was 1968 or thereabouts when I signed on to the Baltimore Chapter, and I've been a member of the NRHS off and on, here and there, ever since. Whether the NRHS survives and prospers is not an abstract question to me, or to anyone interested in railroading. We should...

World’s first railroad didn’t expect to carry passengers, but made money doing so

Posted 25 days ago by Malcolm Kenton
I find myself back in class this semester after having been out of school for six years. I received my bachelor’s degree in 2008 and, though I have weathered the Great Recession better than many in my cohort, I’ve decided to pursue a master’s degree as a way to improve my career prospects and eventually put myself in a position to play a satisfying role in the nascent resurgence of passenger rail and other alternatives to the drive-fly duopoly that permeates Americans’ ch...

Found: America's forgotten roundhouse

Posted 28 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Evanston, Wyo., is off most railfan radars. I doubt it is on many bucket lists. But it should be. Located just east of the Wasatch grade that made Big Boy steam locomotives both necessary and famous is a preserved roundhouse that deserves attention. A large brick structure, it is among the largest in preservation at 28 stalls. Amazingly, it is not a museum and neither is it envisioned as one in the future. Having spent countless hours as a volunteer since 1986 in what’s believed to be th...

Where is Amtrak's desire to grow and advance?

Posted one month ago by Malcolm Kenton
In the cover story of this month’s issue of railroad industry trade journal Progressive Railroading, several top Amtrak officials tout the company’s shift towards operating in a more businesslike manner, which the article describes as “taking a hard line on expenses, continually seeking to grow revenue, becoming more financially transparent and accountable, and providing the best possible customer service.” While this all sounds well and good, and many aspects of the chan...

Will the NRHS Survive? Part One: How did we get to this point?

Posted one month ago by John Hankey
Not to put too fine a point on things, but the national organization of the NRHS is in a pretty tight spot. Whether the National Railway Historical Society survives through the end of the year is in serious doubt. Their own newsletter mentions serious financial and organizational challenges, while otherwise cheerily describing business as usual. The NRHS membership has legitimate grounds to wonder just what is going on and what version of the several "truths" flying around they should heed. And...

The "Lion Gardiner": Making the Case for a National At-Risk List

Posted one month ago by Elrond Lawrence
Photo by Ernest Hunt. When New York Central No. 450 rolled out of the Pullman shops in 1914, those admiring her regal green and gold lines could scarcely imagine that this elegant heavyweight dining car – designed for service on the Central’s flagship trains – would one day be rotting in a New York field. Yet that’s exactly what happened. After a prestigious career with NYC, car No. 450 traveled through a series of owners and gained the name Lion Gardiner before coming ...

2014 Trains Photo Contest

Posted one month ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
Thanks again for sending us nearly 350 images, depicting 123 sequences for our 2014 contest. The theme was "sequence." The challenge was to send a single two- or three-photo sequence in a theme of your choosing. Check out the winners below, and please let us know what you think in the comments section below. Grand prize: Robert P. Schmidt's three-photo sequence of an Erie Lackawanna switchman at Griffith, Ind., in 1971. First prize: Misko Kranjec's three-photo sequence of a couple reunit...

Why Ferguson Should Worry Railfans

Posted one month ago by John Hankey
You may think that the events unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri, have little to do with being a casual railfan or serious historian. In my opinion, that would be unwise. Take away the violence, and there are disturbing parallels. Over a few decades of being a railfan and picture taker, I lost count of how many times I was told to a) leave railroad property, b) go get permission from someone, or c) just be careful. Once in a while, a railroad special agent would get a little brusque or choose not...

A Community is Formed Aboard a Train

Posted one month ago by Malcolm Kenton
I have come to the end of the second transcontinental train trip produced by the nonprofit Millennial Trains Project (MTP), having just returned home to Washington, DC after sharing the final two days with the group in New York City, the journey's endpoint. MTP is an endeavor founded on the idea that people can change the world through intentional, shared experiences of travel, and that trains can carry and spread ideas as easily as they can grain or lumber, and with the intent of restoring fait...

Is Echo, Utah, the best railfan rest stop in America?

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
On the morning of July 31, we witness a westbound stack train glide through Echo Canyon a few hundred feet below the I-80 rest area. Perched high on a hillside on a lonely but breathtakingly beautiful stretch of Interstate 80 just outside of Echo, Utah, must be the best rest stop in America — for railfans. With a sweeping view of the rough red sandstone cliffs of Echo Canyon, frequent trains on Union Pacific’s original transcontinental railroad, and convenient benches under sun...

A Fresh Model for Dining by Rail

Posted one month ago by Malcolm Kenton
Part of the mission of the Millennial Trains Project is to inspire ideas for a prosperous and sustainable American future by connecting Millennials to America’s landscape and history through the experience of cross-country train travel. And nothing complements a train journey quite like good food. That is why MTP brought on board Christian Ortiz and Simone Carvalho, the husband and wife team behind New York City-based C.C.O. Consulting Group to prepare meals for the close to 40 p...

Five items to look for in the upcoming Lac-Mégantic report

Posted one month ago by Justin Franz
More than a year after a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway oil train derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada will release its final report of what happened on that summer night in 2013. The TSB will hold a news conference on Tuesday in Lac-Mégantic where the report will be made public. While the main story line of what happened on July 6 is known – an eastbound MM&A oil train was parked at a siding near Nantes when ...

Millennials Bounce Ideas Off of Amtrak Official

Posted one month ago by Malcolm Kenton
Because our private cars could not be parked in Milwaukee nor easily taken back there from Chicago to pick us up, the Millennial Trains Project (MTP) participants and crew traveled to Chicago this morning aboard a reserved Horizon coach car on Amtrak’s 8:05 AM Hiawatha departure from Milwaukee’s Intermodal Center. For the entirety of the nearly two-hour ride south to the nation’s rail hub, we were joined by Chicago-based Amtrak Government Affairs Specialist for the Midwest Regi...

Milwaukee Has a Lot Going for It, But Something's Missing

Posted one month ago by Malcolm Kenton
Having passed the halfway point in our transcontinental journey, the Millennial Trains Project participants arrived Tuesday in Milwaukee (whose metro area is home to Trains Magazine's offices). After departing St. Paul Union Depot three hours late, due to waiting over an hour for our cars to be commected to the eastbound Empire Builder and a brake test to be performed, we enjoyed the ride down the Mississippi River and across western Wisconsin farmland on a crystal clear, cool summer day. As we ...

Making odds on the future of an iconic mountain grade: Rust in place Saluda

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I was going to write a sentimental post about Norfolk Southern’s sale of two lines out of Asheville, N.C., to Kansas-based shortline conglomerate Watco, which launched its brand new 91.8-mile Blue Ridge Southern on July 26. Both routes were once Southern Railway territory. One line was part of the rugged but scenic Murphy Branch and the other led to famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) Saluda grade, long known as the steepest mainline grade in North America (though the inactiv...

The Twin Cities: United by Rail Transit (and a Shared Desire for its Expansion)

Posted one month ago by Malcolm Kenton
The Millennial Trains Project made its fourth stop of the 2014 journey in Minnesota’s Twin Cities on Monday, after the young innovators on board got the chance to take in the vastness of Montana and North Dakota on Sunday. The landscape, which featured broad rolling ranch lands and textured sandstone cliffs along the Missouri River valley, and on-board mentor David Bragdon (see previous post) shared Capt. Meriwether Lewis’s journal from his exploration, with Lt. William Clark, of the...

West Virginia’s railroad coalfields take another blow: Alpha Natural Resources projects 1,100 layoffs at southern W.Va. mines this fall

Posted one month ago by Chase Gunnoe
In an announcement published on Thursday July 31, executives at Alpha Natural Resources, one of the nation’s largest coal producers said it expects to lay off 1,100 workers at approximately 11 southern West Virginia surface coal mines by mid-October, attributing the layoffs to dismal markets and rigorous federal regulations.   Eastbound empties pass the eastbound absolute signal at W.E. MacCorkle Siding on CSX's Coal River Subdivision. The train is enroute to Danville area coal mine...

Exceptional Foreign Students Share Perspectives on Train Travel

Posted one month ago by Malcolm Kenton
This year’s Millennial Trains Project (MTP) — whose inspiration comes from founder Patrick Dowd’s experience with a similar train journey of purpose for Millennials as a Fulbright scholar in India — is fortunate to have on board five Fulbright scholars representing five different countries, each of whom is a student at a US university who is traveling across America for the first time to pursue a self-guided project, as are the 25 American participants. The Fulbright prog...

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