If you tried to reach the Trains staff Friday, I’m here to tell you why you couldn’t get in touch with us. It wasn’t that we were too busy covering the CSX-Hunter Harrison drama to answer the phone. We weren’t out enjoying the strangely mild Wisconsin winter of 2017. We just weren’t in the office in Waukesha. We were off site for our annual planning meeting.
Our Trains world headquarters for a day was unique and well positioned. The staff gathered at the Little Red Store in Wauwatosa, Wis., just a few miles down the Canadian Pacific (that’s the Milwaukee Road for the veterans reading this) main line. The tiny wood frame store is a city landmark, built in 1854, and it was used for, among a long list of things across the decades, a post office, library, and, yes, -- wait for it -- a railroad station. You’d expect as much, and so would we. A location with a railroad history is essential. While the store’s history is extensive, its size is not: The store is about the size of a two-car garage. It was renovated just a few years ago and the Wauwatosa Historical Society offers it as meeting space for rent, which is what we did last week. It’s nicely equipped with tables, chairs, a blackboard, kitchen, and restrooms. Oh, I mentioned earlier how well it is positioned: It’s right next to the double-track CP main line between Chicago and Minneapolis.
Our work was to discuss the issues of the day facing enterprising magazine editors, our editorial director, our corporate art director, and a special guest, correspondent Chase Gunnoe, who came in all the way from West Virginia. We spent time on refreshing the design of our magazine departments, working to keep the attention of our younger customers, maximizing our internet presence, and brainstorming feature story ideas for 2018. Those and other topics meant we were there for an entire day, save for a lunch break at an eatery within walking distance. But do not weep for us. Do not fret. We were properly entertained by the good folks of CP, who sent us three trains, a grain train just as we were getting started with Union Pacific power, a manifest with BNSF and CSX power, and a westbound with CP power that sneaked up on us in the middle of the morning (and turned out to be the only train of the day that we did not document). We took a break to get good pictures of the eastbound Empire Builder. Alas, the westbound Amtrak train got out of Chicago an hour late, so we did not get to use it as I’d hoped, as the ending exclamation on our day’s deliberations. Such is life on a mainline railroad.
So that’s where we were, holed up in an old railroad station, working to make Trains better, and taking a few well-earned train breaks from time to time. Thanks again to the Wauwatosa Historical Society and CP for a great day. Most of all, my personal thanks to the staff and crew who always amaze me with their incredible passion, wit, and talent that makes producing Trains for you all a pleasure every day, no matter where we are.