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The day when two icons met in Iowa: Big Boy and the electric

Posted 4 days ago by Jim Wrinn
There are certain events that bring dissimilar characters together for brief but unforgettable moments. They give us iconic moments. They give us lasting memories. One of those moments for Train World took place Tuesday in Mason City, Iowa, a place known as the hometown of “Music Man” playwright Meredith Willson and for its Frank Lloyd Wright hotel. Shortly before 2 p.m., Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014, traveling on the former Rock Island Spine Line, where no Big Boy has gone befo...
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On the road with Big Boy No. 4014: When numbers just won't do

Posted 5 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Railroads love to quantify everything. The obsession with the operating ratio is a perfect example. Aim for that magic number under 60 and you’ve got real gold. Steam locomotives on Class I railroads and excursions with them are harder to quantify their value to the numbers people. Yes, you can break down the cost per mile, the fuel consumption, factor of adhesion, you name it. But what you cannot quantify is the value of the emotional connection between spectators and locomotive and cre...
2

On the road with No. 4014, Grand Island-Omaha

Posted 7 days ago by Jim Wrinn
OMAHA, Neb. – Big Boy No. 4014 is in residency today at UP’s Homeplate display outside the baseball park where the College World Series is played. Even at this early hour for a weekend, crowds are already making their way into the display for the city’s Railroad Days festival. Late Friday we watched No. 4014 and its canteens, backup diesel and three tool cars arrive, link up with their passenger train, and take a zig-zag route across downtown to reach this location. It was the ...
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The most famous Big Boy photo you'll never see ... and one that you will right now!

Posted 9 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Some days begin well and end rough. Others start out on the wrong foot and end up in a waltz. Today was one of the latter as many of us chased Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 on its eastbound trek across the Midwest. The day started off at one of the most iconic locations on the Omaha-North Platte, Neb., route, the s-curve known as Buttermilk Curve, about 20 miles east of North Platte near the village of Brady. We arrived early and enjoyed a procession of one freight train after another in bot...
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Will Big Boy run Thursday? The rail and rain gods will say soon

Posted 10 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Here’s a quick note from North Platte, Neb., on Wednesday night. Whether Big Boy runs to Grand Island on Thursday, as scheduled, will remain a mystery until tomorrow morning. There’s still flooding at Gibbon, Neb., where the Wood River is overflowing due to locally heavy rains. I stopped by the site Wednesday on the drive in to watch the work. It appears that UP had to remove the pavement leading up to a crossing to let water drain. I saw several trains walk through the site wit...
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Who are the rockstar railfans? Besides you, of course

Posted 17 days ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
Before I had a mortgage, I went to A LOT of concerts. It was and still is one of my favorite activities. In my top 10 performances is Paul Simon and Bob Dylan when they toured together in 1999. I scored tickets for their July 4 show at the former Marcus Amphitheater (now American Family Insurance Amphitheater) in Milwaukee. (I can't believe that was 20 years ago!) Their performance felt American, spiritual, appropriate for the holiday. I felt privileged to be breathing their same air. This w...
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Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014's Midwestern tour and what the trip means

Posted 17 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Big Boy No. 4014 goes out on the road again next week. It’s the first time for the newly restored locomotive to tour a big chunk of the Union Pacific system, and this time we’ll see a Big Boy in steam in places we don’t associate with a 4-8-8-4: Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois. OK, it’s not the rugged west. There are no Wasatch Mountains, Peru or Sherman hills to climb. But this outing does have its attributes. It’s a 30-day, 1,500-mile extravaganza that will see t...
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What does Genesee & Wyoming's sale mean for railfans?

Posted 19 days ago by Brian Schmidt
There are a lot of unknowns around the $8.4 billion sale of shortline holding company Genesee & Wyoming to Brookfield Infrastructure. What railroads will be sold or retained? Where will the headquarters be? How will the locomotives be painted? The list goes on. One change I fear is the tightening of information around the railroad operations. As a publicly traded company, G&W has historically provided great access to financials and traffic figures aggregated from its component rail...
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Report from Colorado: narrow gauge, the Zephyr, a new museum, and a visit to two favorites

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I was in Colorado late last week and early this week. Here are notes and observations I made from a short visit to the Centennial State, which, for once, was green and flush with snowpack and rushing streams.   Colorado Railroad Museum. I was honored to be a part of a day-long symposium on the transcontinental railroad last Saturday. The videographer of our made for PBS video, Journey to Promontory, Rich Luckin, put the program together with museum education curator Elizabeth Nosek. It w...
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Thoughts on Big Boy No. 4014's return: The day after

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
It is over. The long-awaited debut of Big Boy No. 4014 is in the books. By all observations, it was an amazing success. Even though the restoration came down to the last hours before the May 4 debut, the UP did it. On May 19 when the UP steam crew shepherded their charge off the main line and into the shop at Cheyenne, they’d come more than 1,000 without a serious mechanical problem or schedule delay. Even the derailment of two driver wheels in Rawlins on the return trip was handled with...
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Big Boy, Peru Hill, and Green River with the Trains chase van

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Big Boy locomotives were made for Wasatch grade in Utah. They later migrated east to include Sherman Hill in their regular assignments. Those are well known challenges to these muscular steam locomotives. But there is a third grade that was synonymous with the Union Pacific 4000s: Peru Hill. This grade begins at the bridge over the Green River in its namesake city and ends five miles to the west after a twisting and curving climb with a .82 percent grade. You are familiar with this grade wh...
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So, this is what Big Boy No. 4014 looks like climbing Wasatch grade

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
EVANSTON, Wyo. – See Elvis on the stage where he first performed? Go to the Beatles original performance venue? If you could, you know you would, especially, if the king or the original Fab Four were there. And so it was for those of us fortunate enough to be in northern Utah and western Wyoming Sunday, where Big Boy No. 4014 made a triumphant return to the route for which it was designed, the legendary Wasatch grade. There’s been much talk over the last week about how the UP steam ...
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A quick look at Spike 150: The first transcontinental railroad anniversary, May 10, 2019

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
It was a day for prayers, speeches, music, and thought-provoking words. It was the 2-hour Golden Spike 150th anniversary celebration at the National Park Service site at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 2019. More than 10,000 spectators attended, drawn by the need to be where history was made in 1869. Here's a quick look at the ceremony that attracted anyone and everyone interested in railroad history. Performers present a live musical, "As One."  Traffic on the entrance road to th...
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A look at Big Boy's home turf on the eve of No. 4014's return

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
WAHSATCH, Utah – While Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 laid over in Evanston, Wyo., Tuesday, we went west to explore the original grade for which UP designed these locomotives. We stood at the top of Wasatch grade and then drove Echo and Weber canyons through which it passes in a most model railroad-like landscape. It is a heavy-duty railroad with an abundance of scenic charms – steep canyon walls, red rocks, boulders that seem to defy gravity. The combination is alluring and unbeatab...
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The value of five minutes and Big Boy No. 4014

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
What is five minutes worth? On Monday, I found out twice today while following Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 on its trip from Rock Spring, Wyo., and Evanston, Wyo. The first occasion took place at Green River, where I’d set up to try for a dawn shot of the doubleheader with 4-8-4 No. 844 at the classic bridge shot with Castle Rock in the back ground. The place has been photographed since the construction of the original transcontinental railroad in the late 1860s. Big Boys were often ph...
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What is it like to ride the cab of Union Pacific No. 4014?

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I have thinking all day about how to describe to you all how it feels to ride in the cab of Union Pacific’s Big Boy No. 4014. I had the chance to ride some 60 miles in the locomotive Sunday.  I hope I do it justice. I have been riding locomotive cabs since age 12. In September 1973, engineer Dan Ranger invited me into the cab of Graham County Railroad Co. Shay No. 1925 for a ride I will never forget. Since then, either as a fan or as Trains editor since 2004, I’ve been lucky ...
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Fear the Deer; don’t fear Milwaukee’s streetcar The Hop

Posted 3 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
No actual deer or bunnies were harmed during the making of this blog. Parental guidance is advised.  “Hey, kids! Wanna ride The Hop Easter weekend?” I asked with enthusiasm a few days ago. And, cue the crickets. Ah, well. We did it anyway. Today, we rode Milwaukee’s The Hop streetcars from Milwaukee’s Intermodal Station stop to the northeast end of the line at Burns Commons, which is part of the Milwaukee Parks system, and return. The 2.1-mile line, which opened...
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What celebrities might show up to watch Big Boy this year?

Posted 3 months ago by Steve Sweeney
Well, Trains Nation, here's the day dream: "Imagine you think you know which celebrities and "famous" people like trains or model trains — and who might have the time, money, and inclination to splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime event. Who do you think will be on-scene, in person, for the biggest railfan party in history in May?!" I'm of course talking about the expected first runs of Union Pacific Big Boy 4-8-8-4 No. 4014 since the 1950s in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontin...
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Brightline photography, a cautionary tale

Posted 3 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Before you set out to photograph Brightline/Virgin Trains USA, here are some tips you may find helpful: The trains are quiet, and all the crossings are quiet zones. Sometimes, the only advance warning I had that a train was imminent was the “singing” of the rails ahead of it. If you are close to a crossing, you will have a little more warning if you can see or hear the gates go down. The non-traditional locomotives lack common visual cues we use to frame railfan pictures, like ...
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Flagler’s legacy: steam locomotives and space travel

Posted 3 months ago by Brian Schmidt
It was pure serendipity. I was having dinner tonight in Cocoa, Fla., when I overheard some of the restaurant staff talking about the upcoming SpaceX launch at Cape Canaveral. The launch, scheduled for earlier in the week, would be Thursday evening now. So I hightailed it to the beach to watch. It was a great experience and there were lots of people on the beach to share moment. I turned to leave and saw on a street sign the railroad connection. I had inadvertently chosen the public beach acce...
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If you build it, they will build

Posted 3 months ago by Brian Schmidt
If you want to see the progress that Brightline has brought to southeast Florida, look up. There are new buildings going up around the stations in West Palm Beach and Miami. In the coming days I’ll have more observations and thoughts on the Brightline experience, but this was the most striking observation of the days. The large tower nearest the West Palm Beach station, just across the street in fact, has housing for lease and also parking for passengers. It soars above the station and ...
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Big Steam in 2019

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Did I tell you I won the Power Ball? Yeah, I’m that guy who picked up millions by buying a lottery ticket at a convenience store in New Berlin, Wis. Now, after waking up rebuilders Scott Lindsay and Gary Bensman to start working three shifts a day until their done on my top 20 list of locomotives I want to see run (another topic in itself), I still have stupid money to go watch big mainline steam this year. Here’s what I plan to do.   I start off next month in Wyoming and Ut...
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Rail suppliers highlight shortline industry’s innovation, endurance

Posted 3 months ago by Brian Schmidt
The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association’s CONNECTIONS meeting brings together railroads and suppliers each year. This year’s show in Orlando runs April 6-9 and features a number of both new and traditional industry suppliers. CorrSolve Corrosion Solutions is a first time exhibitor at the show. The company was founded 30 years ago to supply the aerospace industry and is getting more involved in the rail industry. Inside Sales Manager Leonel Rodriguez says that the...
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The two kinds of Trains Magazine fans

Posted 3 months ago by Brian Schmidt
We meet a lot of people at trade shows, and today at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association CONNECTIONS show in Orlando was no exception. They can generally be distilled down to two categories. The first group comes up to us and gushes: “Oh, I LOVE the magazine. I’ve been getting it for 40 years.” Often, that statement is follow with, “And my dad had a subscription before that.” I fall in to this category as my first Kalmbach subscription, Model...
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Trains magazine chase guide to Big Boy No. 4014's Cheyenne-Ogden route, May 2019

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
So, it’s less than a month away from the day when Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 leaves Cheyenne, Wyo., on its epic inaugural journey across original Big Boy territory to Ogden, Utah. I can’t believe it. You can’t believe it. But believe it. It’s going to happen.   A lot of people are coming from a long way to see this. Most have not been to this part of the UP before. So, let’s get you some suggested locations for viewing and photography. Let’s take th...
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Forecast: Sunshine (State) ahead

Posted 3 months ago by Brian Schmidt
I'm heading to sunny Florida April 7-9 for the 2019 American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association "Connections" convention near Orlando. The short line show is my favorite because it brings everyone together: shortline, regional, and Class I railroads; suppliers; and analysts. I last attended the show in 2016, held at National Harbor, Md., which is pictured here. I'm planning to share lots of photos on social media while I'm at the trade show to bring you all the latest in the rail ind...
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An unsanctimonious ending to my first ride on the Chicago L

Posted 3 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
My family planned a visit to the city to visit my brother at DePaul University on a sticky, hot day. We met him at his dorm and then walked through the Student Center building. It was a Friday afternoon and it was teeming with vendors. I had brought a few dollars and purchased a couple of handwoven bracelets. I tied them on as soon as I had them. I was a teenager and dressed up a little, knowing that I’d be visiting my big brother at college. We’d only been living in Joliet, Ill., fo...
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Lessons learned from trackside and on board with Skookum at Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
We concluded our Trains magazine-sponsored photo charter Monday at the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, where we enjoyed several days of steam preservation operations. There, we were reminded of some important truths. We learned a few new lessons, too while taking in all of the motion in the running gear of 2-4-4-2 Skookum, the classic good looks of Polson Logging 2-8-2 No. 2, and the well- proportioned and mighty McCloud River 2-6-2 No. 25 along Tillamook Bay and in the foothills of the Coast Rang...
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Skookum Lives: Trains Oregon Coast Scenic photo charter, day 2

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
  GARIBALDI, Ore. – Day two of our Trains magazine photo charter at Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad defied a lot of odds. In the rainy Pacific Northwest we had sun. And for the long awaited return of Skookum, the engine made its longest trip to date: Skookum, which Oregon Coast Scenic restored to operation after what should best be described as a near death experienced for the locomotive in 1955, had a journal bearing issue Thursday. Another tender bearing gave the crews fits for a fe...
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A day with Skookum and friends on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
GARIBALDI, Ore. – A few years , ago, a day like the one we experienced today at the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad would have been impossible. Who would think that three legendary locomotives of Western logging railroad history would be on one magnificently scenic railroad, much less all of them in steam. But on Thursday, the first day of our Trains-sponsored photo charter at Oregon Coast Scenic such a scenario unfolded for myself and 43 participants from the Pacific Northwest, nationwide...