'Big Projects' arrives, with stories both timely and timeless

Posted 15 days ago by David Lassen
Our latest special issue, “Big Projects: Tracks, Trestles & Tunnels,” will soon be on its way to those who’ve made advance purchases, and will be showing up at newsstands, hobby shops, and other sales locations on Dec. 1.   As the issue's editor, I like to think Big Projects is a Big Deal. It’s a 92-page collection of some of our best infrastructure articles from the last decade, along with new articles addressing our enduring fascination with big things th...

Trains magazine celebrates its 80th year with Soo Line No. 1003

Posted one month ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
Trains is turning 80 in November and what better way to celebrate than with a steam engine near and dear to Wisconsin’s heart. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic quashing the plans for our evening soirée (stay tuned to next year for that), our celebration remains with 50 lucky registered folks who will enjoy a day with Soo Line No. 1003 on Nov. 15. Editor Jim Wrinn has hosted several photo charters across the U.S. in recent years. These events are complicated on so many levels, not just...

When railroads changed the world — looking for stories

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
We know railroads have changed the course of history.From making frequent, long-distance travel practical and affordable to lowering the transportation costs of heavy or distant goods, railroads have done their bit. Away from obvious, well-documented stories such as those about the Transcontinental Railroad and New York's legendary subway system, are quips and tales, anecdotes on the edges of memory — all-true — of when railroads made THE difference.But unfortunately, these sto...

Steaming the Last Baldwin, 1309: With these rings, I thee steam

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I touched base Friday with the team working on Western Maryland Scenic Railroad 2-6-6-2 No. 1309. They are busy at the shop in Ridgeley, W.Va., working on multiple fronts at one time, in an effort to complete Baldwin’s last domestic product for all of us to enjoy in steam once more.   While work on the brake rigging, main rod brass, and the stoker are paramount in the effort to complete the massive engine, I was curious about some of the last parts from outside to arrive. Among thes...

Steam the Last Baldwin: 1309 work progresses thanks to your donations

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
If you have been involved in the restoration of a full-sized steam locomotive you know there are long periods of time between the big events that mark progress. There’s the hydrostatic test of the boiler, which isn’t much visually but is critical to success. Without it, there’s no heart of the locomotive. There’s the steam test. There’s the setting the locomotive on its wheels. Test running. Lots of major milestones, and a million and one details in between that c...

CSX at 40: A visit to Cowan, Tenn., where helpers still rule

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
We put together a special issue called CSX at 40 to mark the four decades of this Eastern giant. In editing that special issue (available here https://bit.ly/3lk12G4), I kept looking at one great image after another in the stories about CSX’s vaunted triangle – the Chicago-Florida, Florida-New England, New England-Chicago corridors that the railroad considers its core franchise.   Scott Hartley wrote about the I-95 corridor along the Atlantic seaboard. I know it well, having...

Rebuilding a railroad above the clouds: Pikes Peak's cog

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
  PIKES PEAK, Colo. — We have driven in a pickup up the dirt road that for 128 years has been The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway. We have reached a spot approximately 11,000 feet above sea level. The spot is below Windy Point, just below milepost 6. Here, the road ends and construction crews are rebuilding the cog railroad on the original right of way in a $100 million project that is designed to keep the cog, a Colorado landmark and a national treasure in extreme rai...

First impressions of scrappy Rio Grande Southern 20 at the Colorado Railroad Museum

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
GOLDEN, Colo. — Since my first visit to the Colorado Railroad Museum in 1987, I have walked by the stuffed and mounted Rio Grande Southern 4-6-0 No. 20 and admired the displayed locomotive many times. When it left for restoration in 2004, I was as surprised as anyone that the engine would return to steam. Last weekend, I met No. 20 on its inaugural weekend, and I am glad to say that the engine met all my expectations.   No. 20 was loud with a commanding bark and an exhaust befitti...

It's time to Steam the Last Baldwin: A final push!

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
For the last six months, dear readers, you’ve patiently endured my calls to support the Steam the Last Baldwin campaign, the effort to restore the 1949 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 at the non-profit Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.  It’s an expensive engine, but the payoff is incredible. We can steam the last locomotive constructed for domestic service of more than 60,000 that the iconic builder made in Pennsylvania. We can see it perform on 17 miles of the former Western Maryland Railway...

An open letter to the Forest Service about the Durango & Silverton

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
U.S. Forest Service San Juan National Forest Headquarters15 Burnett CourtDurango, CO  81301 Attn: Supervisor Kara Chadwick Dear Ms. Chadwick: You and I have never met, but I hope you will allow me to speak frankly about an issue dear to my heart and the hearts of the 80,000-plus readers of Trains magazine and the quarter million who use our web site. I would like to express my concern for how your office treats the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Of recent issue is th...

Rio Grande Southern 20: An iconic photo, a careful restoration

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
There are iconic American steam locomotives that appropriately have national and even worldwide followings. Most are big mainline rigs that exude personality and charisma as they blast down the mainline. But not all of them are giants. This is the story about a narrow gauge engine with a lot of charm. This is the story of a photograph that made it a cult hero. And it’s a story about how life comes full circle in ways that make you feel like an unseen hand must be guiding things somewhere...

Railroading is everywhere, just look around!

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
A quick note from me to remind you to look for railroading all around you as you are out and about this summer. You never know when some slice of railroading will present itself. I was reminded of this last weekend when my family and I were taking a socially distanced day trip along Lake Michigan.   We arrived in Manitowoc, Wis., and drove toward the docks just in time for me to spot a familiar silhouette, the former Chesapeake & Ohio carferry Badger coming into port. Now set up t...

Two yanks in Montreal (in 2017) in pictures

Posted 4 months ago by Steve Sweeney
Your humble correspondent once had high-minded aspirations and sincere intentions of saying something appropriately meaningful about a 2017 visit to Montreal as a part-work trip part-vacation visit coinciding with the annual Wheel-Rail Interaction conference.  Having spent three years waiting for an inspiring muse, I gave up. Here are fun pictures and some captions.   ...

Signaling complicates positive train control

Posted 5 months ago by Steve Sweeney
Let's talk about signals. Why do railroads even have them? Why are they different? And what does that mean for positive train control? For starters ... signals control trains. You knew that, of course. So let's state the obvious: A railroad with only one train, like many small shortline or industrial railroads (or the typical toy train under a Christmas tree), does not need signals.When signals come in handy is when railroads want to run two or more trains along one stretch of track. Tra...

CSX's Sand Patch Grade: A place I should have visited long ago

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
SAND PATCH, Pa. – I am now at a stage in life where I am grateful for my life’s experiences, especially those that I’ve had in the enjoyment of train life. At 59, I’m far from done, but I am also feeling a sense of urgency to get to places that I’ve long read about in the pages of Trains or on www.TrainsMag.com. Today, was one of those days.   I’ve heard about Sand Patch grade on the Baltimore & Ohio for all my life. It’s the busy mountain...

Rewheeling the last Baldwin: Of cranes, heroes, and invocations

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
RIDGELEY, W.Va. – In 1995 when Steamtown opened as a National Park Service site in Scranton, Pa., after years of debate and derision, there was a ceremony. At the conclusion of the speech making, ribbon cutting, and other hoopla, a priest was invited to the podium to give the benediction. I recall well that in his blessing he specifically called out a certain group for scorn. “And to those who said this day would never come,” he said to a breathless crowd on a hot humid Jul...

Colorado Railroad Museum on the restoration of Rio Grande Southern 20

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
The Colorado Railroad Museum is restoring a legendary Centennial State narrow gauge locomotive to operation. Rio Grande Southern No. 20, a 3-foot gauge 4-6-0 built in 1899 for the Florence & Cripple Creek and last run in 1951 when the RGS shut down, is nearing completion. Schenectady Locomotive Works built the engine, and the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club saved the engine. In 2006, the club transferred ownership to the museum, and a significant donation began a restoration the following year....

Durango & Silverton on steam, diesels, and the future

Posted 6 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Colorado’s Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is arguably one of the best and highest profile steam tourist railroads in the country. The remnant of the Rio Grande’s famed Silverton Branch through the spectacular Animas River Canyon. It’s a railroad in the process of making major changes to its locomotive fleet, converting some locomotives to oil firing and buying diesels. To learn more about the railroad’s motive power, we posed 17 questions by email to Genera...

Why Norfolk & Western Y6 No. 2156 should stay in Roanoke

Posted 6 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I can remember buying one of the bumper stickers as a teenager on a late 1970s visit to what was then called the Roanoke Transportation Museum. I didn’t fully understand it, but I got the joke. It said, “Free the Y6A, more than 7,000 days in captivity.” The sticker was the sentiment of N&W fans and an eye poke at what was then called the St. Louis Transportation Museum, now the Museum of Transport for not returning the last of the Norfolk & Western’s Big Three mag...

What we lost with the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad

Posted 6 months ago by Jim Wrinn
The news that American Heritage Railroads is closing permanently the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad is a tragedy on numerous levels. It’s an incredibly beautiful railroad in the Pacific Northwest with deep forests, beautiful steams, and plentiful wildlife. The railroad has some fantastic bridges curved wooden bridges as well as a long deck girder bridge across the Nisqually River. Add to that steep grades, sharp curves, and Milwaukee Road heritage, and you get it. It was a great show. &n...

Two undeniable truths about Coronavirus and railway preservation

Posted 6 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic prompted a nationwide shut down of tourist railroads and museums, I rarely have a conversation with friends in railway preservation that does not include two troubling questions.  Everyone wants to know what the new normal will look like — what will preservation railroads have to do to reopen and draw the crowds they need to survive. What will the physical act of being open and relevant to the public look and feel like. Relatively speaking, that&rsquo...

Downgrading Norfolk Southern's Asheville line: This time it's personal

Posted 6 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Most of you know that North Carolina is my home state. Most of you know that I was blessed to grow up in the western part of the state, where mountains touch the sky and railroads follow. Railroading there has been an art form for 141 years, since the first railroad arrived in Asheville. The names and places are legendary: Saluda, Murphy Branch, Clinchfield Loops. Many of you know I have a special affinity for the Loops near Old Fort, N.C. This is a love letter to that line at a critical point...

We're starting to see what the reality of preservation railroading will look like with COVID-19 lingering

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
We’re starting to see what U.S. preservation railroading is looking like with COVID-19 lingering in the land. It’s not a pretty picture. With some states beginning to open (my dog can get a haircut; I on the other hand cannot), with federal health officials warning that sports may be on hold for this year, and with airlines not selling middle seats, it’s a mess out there. I’d say this is the toughest environment that modern railway preservation has dealt with.   ...

Coronavirus vs. tourist railroads and museums: What will recovery look like?

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
As a nation, we’re starting to talk about flattening curves, fewer hospitalizations, and declining fatalities from Coronavirus-19. We’re talking about reopening slowly, carefully, thoughtfully. That is good news. We all want to get back to normal, whatever that looks like. But we’re nowhere near being ready to reopen the country full throttle. In the halls of railway preservation, the talk is still about cutting staffs, digging into reserves, and trying to keep vandals from c...

Coronavirus vs. NYC: Acela as an ambulance?

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
It’s apparent that New York City’s hospital system has been overrun by COVID-19. State and federal officials are converting a convention center and a U.S. Navy hospital ship into overflow beds. New York is also one of the few major cities in the nation that is well connected to the region with high-speed trains. I’d like to think that it’s time to put some of those trains to work to move stabilized patients to other cities and other hospitals that are under less stress. ...

Railroad photography: Keeping the faith - indoors

Posted 7 months ago by Brian Schmidt
You may have run into some roadblocks in your pursuit of railroad photography in the past month. Many of us have. Here are a few ideas to keep your creative juices flowing while you wait to get back outside: In response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Madison, Wis.-based Center for Railroad Photography & Art has moved its fantastic "Conversations" photography and art conference online. Best of all, it's now free. The event will take place Saturday, April 18 on a computer near yo...

An interview with Nevada Northern Railway Museum's Dirt the Cat

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
On Wednesday, we followed up with a promise to Dirt the Cat, shop feline and spokescat for the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in East Ely, Nev., to conduct a formal interview with him after our live ambush journalism interview was carried on the Trains Facebook page March 7. Our thanks to Dirt for the interview and to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum's Eric Mencis for interpreting and transcribing on behalf of Dirt. - Jim  Q. Dirt, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. How ...

Union Pacific No. 3985's next stop

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
By now, it’s sunk in for many steam fans that Union Pacific Challenger No. 3985 has been retired. A lot of people expressed surprise earlier this year when Union Pacific steam boss Ed Dickens announced this in an online message. It was really no surprise. It was old news in the same vein that has haunted the actor Abe Vigoda for years (for the truth, see isabevigodead.com). The fact that the 4-6-6-4 has been retired has been no secret either: It hasn’t run since 2010 because it n...

Railroads vs. coronavirus: Not just truckers! Railroaders are heroes, too!

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
As we endure the evolving Coronavirus pandemic, railroads are not getting their due in the general media for the role they play in the economy. They’re not getting noticed for moving the coal that keeps the lights on in many homes and that creates the consumer goods that families need in an emergency – yes, we are talking about that elusive toilet paper!   All week long, I’ve been monitoring major television news sources. They’ve rightly given the bulk of their p...

Coronavirus vs. railroading: Cleaning those locomotive cabs

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
A railroader’s workspace is never his own. A locomotive cab, if you’re on a Class I railroad or a regional railroad, passes from one user to another. That happens sometimes with only a matter of minutes between the time when one crew alights after a long stint and the next one boards for another lengthy trip. Think about it if you are an office worker: Railroaders basically share cubicles, one shift to another. They operate the throttle, brakes, and other controls in the space th...

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