Durango & Silverton on steam, diesels, and the future

Posted 5 days 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 12 days 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 13 days 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 15 days 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 27 days 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 one month 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 one month 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 one month 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 2 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 2 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 2 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 2 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 2 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...

Coronavirus vs. tourist railroads and museums

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
This is usually the time of year when most tourist railroads and museums are holding their collective breaths and hoping to make it financially to the first big event of the spring that will bring in a surge of visitors. For most operations, it’s a long, lean winter between the hustle, fast pace, and big bucks of Polar Express or a locally grown Christmas substitute. Those holiday events usually restock most railroad bank accounts for a time, but there are winter locomotive overhauls t...

Take aways from the Nevada Northern Railway Museum

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
EAST ELY, Nev. – It has been 10 years since I last visited the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, located far from the maddening crowds of Las Vegas about 3 or 4 hours north of the live entertainment capital of America. Of course, how long it takes to get there (it depends on how fast you drive) is inconsequential. The Nevada Northern is the real deal, in the same league as the Cumbres & Toltec and the East Broad Top. Its locomotives are original. Its rolling stock is original. The en...

Trains and SIGMA present the 2020 photo contest

Posted 2 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
This year’s photo contest theme is “In the City.” I hope you enjoy this completely different photographic direction after 2019’s “Go West!” theme. Don’t get hung up on the definition of city. One could make a case that everyone lives in a city. We’re not just looking for Chicago or Los Angeles railroad landscapes. I know the definition of city indicates that it is “an inhabited place of greater size, population, or importance than a tow...

It's time to fire up Baldwin's last steam locomotive

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
The following appears in the Preservation column of the March 2020 issue.  Dear Trains readers:  For the first time in the 80-year history of this publication, we are committing to an ongoing fundraiser for a preservation project. We’re asking you to help steam the Baldwin Locomotive Works’ last engine built for domestic use: Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309, a rare articulated under restoration at Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, a non-profit educational or...

What's ahead for the steam scene in 2020

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
It’s shortly after the first of the new year and it’s time to dust off the crystal ball that John Craft and I fashioned 20-something years ago for his Steam Central Website. The crystal ball was and still is about coming attractions in the U.S. steam scene. A heads up back in the day when the internet was in its infancy and before there was social media. Today, it’s time to break out the big ball and gaze into what 2020 may bring.   If 2019 was the year of the articulate...

Railroad Maps Vol. 2, and the process behind it

Posted 5 months ago by David Lassen
We’re about to deliver our special issue, Railroad Maps Vol. 2, and thought there might be some interest in a look at the map-making process — in this case, how it looks from the editing side. (We showed a little bit of the design process in Matt Van Hattem’s editor’s note in the original printing of Railroad Maps Vol. 1, back in 2013.) First, a few notes, based on some questions I’ve received online: — None of these maps were included in Railroad Maps Vol. ...

On the road with Big Boy No. 4014: The end of the beginning. What it means

Posted 6 months ago by Jim Wrinn
No. 4014 rolls south near Black Rock, Utah, in early October 2019. Jim Wrinn photo Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 is set to return to the steam shop in Cheyenne, Wyo., today. When fireman Austin Barker shuts off the oil fire, the pressure starts to slowly drift south of 300 psi, and the stack cap goes on for the last time in 2019, it will mark the end to an unexpectedly spectacular year for the first 4-8-8-4 to steam under its own power in 60 years. UP didn’t just run the engine o...

Take A Train To Work on Nov. 22

Posted 6 months ago by Steve Sweeney
Now, you can interpret that headline at least two ways.  If you can, I hope you choose to both, A.) Take a commuter train into the office (a cab ride if you are a qualified railroader) and B.) Take one of your model trains, toy trains, or old lanterns, switch locks, or pocket watches to work. Why? Because Kalmbach Media is making a holiday out of it by re-starting Take A Train To Work Day. The holiday started back in the early 2000s with our friends at Model Railroader, who chose a day i...

On the road with Big Boy No. 4014: Texas

Posted 6 months ago by Jim Wrinn
MARSHALL, Texas – Everything is bigger in Texas … except Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014.   On a cloudy rainy Monday as the cold front swept through, UP’s steam public relations mega force sat on display and entertained crowds in this former Texas & Pacific shop town. In fact, the locomotive and its display train occupied the site of the now demolished T&P shop.   In the last few days since we met No. 4014’s train in College Station for the donat...

Postcard from Cass, W.Va.: A Climax in Shay country

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
CASS, W.Va. – This former lumber mill town and logging railroad center along the Greenbrier River is a familiar place to me. I came here for the first time some 44 years ago as a broken-hearted teenager whose favorite steam-powered railroad (North Carolina’s Graham County Railroad) had just closed down. My parents thought a visit to the former logging railroad turned tourist hauler in the Back Alleghany Mountains of West Virginia might do me good. They were so right.   So I&...

A visit to the Grand Canyon Railway: Deep ballast, steam, pocket streamliners

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
WILLIAMS, Ariz. – Our Trains Magazine photo charter last weekend saw me return to a landmark preservation railroad for the first time after 10 years. The Grand Canyon Railway, I am happy to report, is doing well.   I found the 65-mile railroad’s track to be well surfaced with deep ballast, 115-pound rail, and a contour that some Class I railroads would envy. The motive power and the passenger car fleet were in outstanding shape. It is a model for anyone who wants to see the ...

“What makes for an exceptional photo?” according to 22 railroad photographers

Posted 7 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
Photo by John Gruber. See caption below. After nearing the end of a yearlong stint curating the “Gallery” for the 2019 issues, I was reflecting on how much I enjoyed putting them all together. I’m sure I was supposed to be doing something else at that moment, which was the real reason why I was dreaming up this idea. Normally, I let things simmer a bit before acting on them, but not this time. I wrote up an email July 12 that I intended to send to all the photographers fea...

Pennsylvania tour: Horseshoe and the Altoona experience

Posted 7 months ago by Brian Schmidt
I have to confess, this went better than I expected. Perhaps I've been jaded by my seven years in Wisconsin that one can sit by the tracks for less than two hours and not see a train. Well, in 90 minutes at Horseshoe Curve on Wednesday morning, our group got four trains, including the Southern-painted heritage unit! Best of all, the group made it to track level (by funicular or by stairs) before the first train passed!  Having not been to Altoona for about 25 years, I'm reminded of just ...

Pennsylvania tour: Everett escapade

Posted 7 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Our first exposure to the Everett Railroad was looking through the bus windows and down into the yard at Hollidaysburg. Our power for the day would be Cooke-built 2-6-0 No. 11, which previously served the Narragansett Pier Railroad in Rhode Island and the Bath & Hammondsport in New York. Throughout the day we took advantage of more than a dozen photo runs on our chartered run to Martinville over former Conrail trackage. The train included a boxcar, flatcar, combine, and coach. It...

Pennsylvania tour: PRR 1361

Posted 7 months ago by Brian Schmidt
The folks at the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum are about to reach another milestone in the restoration of former Pennsylvania Railroad K4 class 4-6-2 No. 1361. Guests on the 2019 Keystone Railroad Delights tour were told that the tender will be painted in the next month, virtually completing its restoration. The tender was on display in the roundhouse and tour attendees were able to get up close for inspection. The trucks are converted to roller bearings, and the water scoop is operation...

Pennsylvania tour: Milk & Honey

Posted 7 months ago by Brian Schmidt
There's something great about having your own train. Your very own train. Sure enough, guests on the 2019 Keystone Railroad Delights tour got their own train today on the Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad, known colloquially as the Milk & Honey Line. Our centercab GE and three coaches made for a fine sight rumbling down Brown Street in Middletown, so named for its position between Lancaster and Carlisle. We were let off at the west end of the street trackage segment and wandered the f...

Pennsylvania tour: The overwhelming Strasburg experience

Posted 7 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Perhaps this is obvious to someone who's been there, but before this past weekend I had not. There is a lot to do at Strasburg. Even when No. 611 isn't in town, the Strasburg Rail Road has a lot to offer. There are, of course, train rides, but also gift shops, a restaurant, and kids' rides. While I can't see myself returning for a special event (it was that crazy with No. 611), I'm already plotting my return to Paradise. Just across the street is the wonderful Railroad Museum of Pennsylvan...