Every story is a railroad story. Just ask Karl Marx

Posted yesterday by Jim Wrinn
When I was growing up in the 1970s, one of my favorite syndicated newspaper columnists was a Chicago writer named Sydney Harris. His work appeared on the op-ed page in our region’s daily paper, the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times. Among his regular opinion pieces were collections of snippets of wisdom and random and interesting facts and thoughts, which he would entitle “Things I learned while on the way to looking up other things.” This blog post is presented in the spirit of H...

Indiana Transportation Museum and 10 rules for railway preservation

Posted 11 days ago by Jim Wrinn
While we try to make sense of out of the eviction of the Indiana Transportation Museum from its home of 50 years and the resulting scramble to save locomotives and rolling stock from scrap that is underway as you read this (the deadline is July 12), let’s review basic realities of railway preservation. They should be universal knowledge, but maybe not. 1. Control your house. If you don’t own your own site, station, tracks, etc., you’re in danger. 2. Keep your relations with C...

Amtrak: What direction will you take?

Posted 16 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Half of 2018 has passed. In a normal year, Trains waits until late December to name our top railroad stories of the 12 months just passed. The top stories are the subject of staff discussion and debate. This time, I’m willing to say that at the end of the year Richard Anderson and the dramatic changes he’s making at Amtrak, barring any drastic change in his employment status, a major merger among Class I railroads, or something totally unexpected, will be the top story. It has t...

Railroad photography: That is my bag, baby

Posted 19 days ago by Brian Schmidt
On this National Camera Day 2018, it's a good time to think about keeping your cameras safe. Many photographers will spend hours talking about their favorite camera and how it improves their work. (I often wonder how much could be accomplished if they spent the same time talking about technique, but that's another blog post.) Yet, in spite of having $1,000 (or more!) hanging from their neck, they do little to think about protecting it. In my estimation, the camera bag and strap are as importan...

Aim beyond 2018. The year of the articulated is ahead

Posted 22 days ago by Jim Wrinn
A few months ago, 2018 was looking good for mainline steam. The famous and iconic American locomotives that were going to fill the spring, summer, and fall with smoke and steam -- 261, 611, 765, 844, 4449 -- promised to make this a year to remember. I was expecting to have to choose among trips this fall. Then, Amtrak in March decided to end charter trains, and in a day the year in steam went from grand to grim. There is a flicker of hope. Milwaukee Road No. 261 announced over the weekend plans...

The spirit of Promontory is alive and well

Posted 29 days ago by Jim Wrinn
For the last few days, I’ve been chasing the spirit of Promontory. On the busy Union Pacific main line east of Ogden, at the very ground where the Golden Spike was driven at that desolate spot called Promontory Summit in 1869, on the lonely trek across what is left of the Central Pacific right of way around the north side of the Great Salt Lake, I have come as a pilgrim in search of a holy grail. I’ve found that spirit everywhere I’ve looked and even some places I wasn&rs...

In search of the meaning of Promontory

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
It is time to take a trip. Yes, I can hear the groaning now. You’re on the road more than most of us, Wrinn. Why is this one any different than the others that you have to tell us about it in advance? Can’t you just take your trip, keep your mouth shut, and then revel in it later? Let me explain. Indeed, I am taking another trip on behalf of Trains magazine and its website. In 14 years, the trips and the miles, the photos, the friends, the memories have piled up into what was once...

Railroads at the Henry Ford Museum: Prepare to be overwhelmed

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Michigan’s Henry Ford museum and its sister attraction, Greenfield Village, rarely hit in the top 10 of must see places for those of us who appreciate railroad history. But they should be. The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village, are among the great institutions of American history. A recent visit to Dearborn in suburban Detroit, my first in 10 years, reinforced this notion. Far from a car museum and a collection of old buildings, they’re a lively look at how America moves, innovate...

Railroad photography: Learn from a master

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
There's an element of dedication required to master any craft. Trains Magazine columnist Brian Solomon's dedication shows with his daily railroad photography blog, Tracking the Light. Yes, that means every day. For those inclined to learn, Brian takes the time to talk about the choices that he made to record these images. For those looking for lots of great railroad photos, and maybe a lunchtime diversion each day, the site offers that, too. Solomon launched the blog in 2012, and made it dail...

Was I ever wrong about GE Transportation

Posted one month ago by S. Sweeney
Boy, was I wrong about GE Transportation. GE and Wabtec officials announced today that they'll combine their companies but keep divisional headquarters in Chicago and Wilmerding, Pa. And it all makes sense. For years, I harangued GE Transportation media people about driverless trains, automation, and artificial intelligence. Early on, they politely responded with additional information on their latest products. Deep down, I knew services to railroads or locomotive owners would be a bigger...

I went to Carolina: Here's what was on my mind

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I just returned from a few days back home in North Carolina. Even though I have lived in Wisconsin, where Trains is published, for almost 14 years, the Tar Heel State will always be home. It’s the land of great barbecue, pine forests, and a place where, to my southern ear, people don’t have an accent. Let me tell you about my visit. The main purpose of my trip was to attend a joint meeting of the Norfolk & Western Historical Society, the Southern Railway Historical Association, ...

Royal wedding reminds me there is a steam locomotive paradise in England

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
This week, the wedding of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markel has the United Kingdom in the celebrity spotlight. Expect to be bombarded with coverage and all sorts of references to England and British culture. It got started over the weekend when CBS’ Sunday Morning show, focused on the UK. It all reminds me what a paradise for steam locomotive lovers this country is. Their trains may look different and wear bright colors that many American fans might find objectionable, but as my frien...

Our Journey to Promontory begins today. We invite you to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad with us

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
My friends, it’s time to party like it’s 1869 — a year from now. I’m here to share exciting news about how Trains magazine will celebrate the 150th anniversary of America’s first transcontinental railroad and the return of Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 Big Boy steam locomotive No. 4014. We’re busy preparing special publications, videos, and today we’re launching two new blogs, and announcing a tour you can participate in that captures the “Journey to Pro...

Ross Rowland on gloves, dinner companions, Anderson's Amtrak, C&O 1309, May 10, 2019, Big Boy, and much more

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Ross Rowland has been a major figure in American steam locomotive preservation and operation for more than a half century. He is well known as the central figure of the High Iron Co. trips of the 1960s, the American Freedom Train, Chessie Steam Special, Chesapeake & Ohio No. 614, and numerous other projects. I asked Ross 20 odd questions about his affinity for steam, Richard Anderson’s Amtrak, C&O 1309, the Louisiana & Arkansas 503 in Texas, and more. Here’s what he tol...

Journey to Promontory: Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Journey to Promontory: The 1-year countdown begins We’re only days away from the 149th anniversary of the Golden Spike, the May 10, 1869 event that marked the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. It is a big deal. Among the major events in American history, this is among the most significant in so many ways. Of the images that as a people we know by heart is that of two American-type locomotives nose to nose with an assemblage of celebrants decorating them in the Utah desert...

Beebe & Clegg: Gruber & Co. shed new light on these groundbreaking railroad photographers

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
On the cover of a new book, “Beebe & Clegg Their Enduring Photographic Legacy” is a most un-Beebe-like Beebe image. It’s a westbound Union Pacific train on Sherman Hill from a far distance with profuse smoke against a cloudy sky – definitely not the sunny day, three-quarter angle, in-your-face wedge shot that Beebe and Clegg made famous. The surprise cover of this new book is the first clue that the reader is about to experience a new and different treatment of this f...

Waiting for the adults to take charge

Posted 2 months ago by S. Sweeney
Railroad bridges of St. Louis, 2014. Railroads maintain their infrastructure, why aren't the rest of us? Photo by S. Sweeney Mississippi announced recently that it will close 100 bridges to automobile traffic until further notice because of structural deficiencies.  As I began composing this blog post (3:39 p.m. Central Time April 12), the New York Times had yet to post a story on this. CNN was too busy with wall-to-wall coverage of President Donald Trump controversies and so hadn't pos...

Nashville: Hot Spot, Big Steam, and commuter trains

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I just got back from the American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn. From Sunday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon, my colleagues Mike Yuhas, Jane Brenner, and I were on hand to meet readers, advertisers, and learn more about this important side of the railroad industry. It’s one of the reasons why you saw extra attention to this business in our April issue. The trade show’s two days were packed with seminars, speakers, and networking (more...

Conversations at the short line and regional railroad's annual gathering

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Greetings from Nashville, Tenn., where we are exhibiting and writing about the nation’s more than 500 short line and regional railroads at the annual conference of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association. Here’s a quick postcard of the conversations that we’re hearing often at this gathering of industry professionals. What we’re hearing this year is among the widest ranging and wildest in terms of tone. Some samples: “I’m surprised that Amtr...

One of my hometown railroads

Posted 3 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
Joliet Junction Railroad on its first day of operations in 1994. Photo by Joe Petric Having moved around a lot as a kid, I count Joliet, Ill., as one of probably five hometown railroads. I spent my high school and college years in this area. My first apartment was adjacent to a short line called the Joliet Junction Railroad. The 6-mile former Elgin, Joliet & Eastern branch line was out of service and, during my time living there, in disarray.  The EJ&E abandoned the branch after...

Rolling back Amtrak's private car restrictions and special train ban won't be easy: Here's how to do it

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Last week, Amtrak said it would no longer run special trains or charters and would severely restrict running private cars. The railroad said it was about profitability and time keeping and customer service. The change hits the 150 or so private cars (some place the figure closer to 250) that are still fit for the mainline, big steam locomotives that venture out once or twice a year on the main, and a handful of non-profits that utilize charter trains or tack private cars on Amtrak trains as part...

About a new Trains book you'll want before you go to Europe

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Some 26 years ago, in an act of desperation, a sheltered American who’d never been overseas but was about to take his first European vacation called a well-traveled magazine editor in Vermont for advice: I’d signed up for a group tour of UK and the continent, but I still want to try to strike out on my own to see some of its railroads. I have two free days in England, the possible safest environment for a neophyte. I was nervous. What should I do? Where should I go? Mark Smith, edito...

A progress report on Union Pacific Big Boy 4014

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Deep inside the cavernous backshop at Cheyenne, Wyo., a giant is coming back to life. I saw it with my own eyes on a visit earlier this week. Here's what I saw. Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 is about as disassembled as you can get and still be counted as a locomotive. The wheels are out from underneath it – all 24 of them – and 100-ton freight car trucks support the frame. It currently holds the title of the world’s largest 0-0-0-0. The boiler is as empty as it has been since...

Railroad photography: Budget gear for beginners

Posted 4 months ago by Brian Schmidt
There are a lot of really expensive camera options available today. Thankfully, you don't need them for good railroad photography – even if you want to see your photos published in Trains Magazine. In fact, a basic $350 setup can have you on the right path to publication. The compromise, and there are always compromises when there's a budget, is that you'll be shopping on the used market. The first step when contemplating any equipment purchase is to examine what, if anything, you have al...

Railroad photography: Shooting for publication

Posted 4 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Spring is right around the corner, and for most of us that means more time trackside with a camera. For better or worse, when you send an email to photoeditor@trainsmag.com, I'll be the first one that sees it. I get a lot of questions about specific images, which we often have no immediate use for. People, it seems, want to see the photos they've already taken in print, but don't want to give any thought to shooting for publication when trackside. That's a shame because a typical issue of Trains...

A look at steam in 2018: What to anticipate, what to appreciate, where to go

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, this is the time of year when I anticipate mainline steam schedules, plan trips to see newly restored and notable locomotives, and find time to make calls and send emails to my steam friends to see who is planning to go where and where we might cross paths, or tracks in our case. We’ll see who is willing to break the bank and stretch vacation time to make one more trip. It’s an optimistic time, when we all look forward to what will excite and i...

All bragging aside, you need to see the new Raleigh, N.C., passenger train station

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
We are taught early on in childhood not to brag, especially about ourselves, and particularly not about home towns, or native states. Reckless bragging is disgraceful. A sign of poor manners. But maybe you will indulge me in a bit of gentle bragging on my home state, North Carolina. I was back recently and imposed on the good folks in the capital city of Raleigh for a preview of the new passenger station under construction and set for completion this spring. If you haven’t heard of this...

So, how does PTC drive in the snow?

Posted 5 months ago by S. Sweeney
  Where I grew up in the snow belt regions Lake Erie shadows, and where eight feet of snow in a year is an average, not a record, when someone bought a car that's new to them, you ask how it drives in the snow. Oh, you let them brag about their purchase first: The gas mileage, sunroof, third row or trunk space, how they got a "brand new" spare tire thrown in, or how much get-up-and-go it has, and how great it sounds with the aftermarket subwoofer the first owner installed. They might even...

The long road to Trains was even longer than I recalled

Posted 5 months ago by David Lassen
So we’re doing some reshuffling of office space here at Kalmbach, which means a lot of people are going through their desks and tossing out stuff that they don’t need to cart down the hall. (Trains ‘ relocation is still in the future, so my office is just as cluttered as ever. The 37 bobbleheads on the window sill are safe for now) One of the people who did make the move this week was former Trains editor J. David Ingles, senior editor at Classic Trains. During his cleaning pr...

Trains photo charter at Cumbres & Toltec: We're going back to 1968. Care to join us?

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
We’re throwing a steam-powered party this August, and you’re invited. We’re sponsoring a photo charter with the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, that 64-miles of serpentine narrow gauge tracks that seem to dart across the state line more than there are peaks in the spectacular San Juan Mountains that is home for this line (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but it sure seems like it at times). We’re there to commemorate the last runs of Rio Grande freights across 10,0...