I am a gearhead: Silver Creek & Stephenson's Heisler No. 2 confirms it

Posted 2 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I am a gearhead. All locomotives fascinate me. Diesels excite me. Streamlined cab units are especially a favorite. Electric is good. Steam power is truly a passion. Big steam definitely thrills me. But if you asked me what my most personal favorite is, it would be a geared steam locomotive. Give me a Shay, a Heisler, a Climax. Those strange but powerful backwoods locomotives of the late 19th and early 20th century that slaved away in obscurity. They are my best locomotive buddies. Yes, I am a ge...

“Grandpa” John Gruber had a twinkle in his eye

Posted 6 days ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
John Gruber signs a copy of "Railroaders:Jack Delano's Homefront Photography" at the Chicago History Museum, April 5, 2014. Photo by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak There are folks worthier than me of writing about John Gruber who passed away Oct. 9, 2018. Certainly, the list includes his family, his close friends, railroaders, photographers, business associates, and railfans who admire the books he wrote, the photos he took, all the beautiful work he’d done personally and professionally, es...

Railroad photography: A death in the family

Posted 6 days ago by Brian Schmidt
I still remember vividly the image of the scrunched cap reflected in the window glass. It seemed an odd inclusion to this young railfan by a magazine called “Trains” that billed itself as “The Leading Magazine of Railroading.” That photo was taken by none other than legendary photography John Gruber, who died this week at age 82. It accompanied his May 1994 feature story “A death in the family” recounting the end of the Green Bay & Western. It wasn&rsquo...

Thank you, John Gruber, my friend

Posted 6 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I am going to miss John Gruber. The affable photographer, writer, editor, and found of the Center for Railroad Photograph & Art who passed away Tuesday at age 82 gave me many things.   As a kid, he showed me Southern Railway No. 4501 in the pages of Trains and in David P. Morgan’s book about that beloved locomotive. And then he showed me the Rio Grande narrow gauge in its final days. And so much more.   As an adult, he gave me a good friend in his son, Rich. We both liked...

Tour of Colorado, Day 7: That's all, folks

Posted 8 days ago by David Lassen
DENVER, Colo. — That’s a wrap. The fourth year of Trains tours of Colorado wrapped up Monday with our final train ride, from Alamosa to La Veta on the Rio Grande Scenic, followed by a bus ride to Denver and our farewell dinner at our hotel. Tomorrow, everyone flies home. The ride on the Rio Grande Scenic was a bit sobering because it took us through the path of the Spring Creek Fire, which closed the railroad, burned down its concert venue at Fir, and destroyed 140 homes as it spre...

Tour of Colorado, Day 6: The favorite child

Posted 9 days ago by David Lassen
ALAMOSA, Colo. — If you ask a parent if he or she has a favorite child, the answer is usually going to be “I love them all equally.” It’s almost like that with the tourist railroads on the Trains Tour of Colorado. Almost. Every one of these railroads has something to recommend it, and I enjoy every one of them. But I must admit I have a favorite child: the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, a 64-mile railroading time capsule that is as close to a narrow-gauge operatio...

Tour of Colorado, Day 4: Returning to normal in Durango

Posted 11 days ago by David Lassen
DURANGO, Colo. — There’s no bad time to visit the Durango & Silverton, but this was a particularly good time for three reasons: — The railroad is finally running its full route on its regular schedule, after a summer disrupted by fire and mudslides. — The fall colors are spectacular. — The area can use the support. The last point may be the most important. As we noted on Trains News Wire in late August, Durango & Silverton ridership was down 27 percent, ...

Tour of Colorado, Day 3: Gorge-ous

Posted 12 days ago by David Lassen
CANON CITY, Colorado — In the days before our group arrived in Canyon City for its ride on the Royal Gorge route, I was exchanging text messages with Jody Moore, the railroad’s assistant general manager, to set up a video interview for an upcoming Trains project At one point, he dropped in a short aside: “Your timing is good. We just put the F7s back on the train this weekend.” Now, that was a truly welcome bit of news. When last I was on the Trains Tour of Colorado, in...

Tour of Colorado, Day 2: Friends old and new

Posted 13 days ago by David Lassen
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Day Two of the Trains Tour of Colorado featured a visit to an old friend of our tour groups, and a new stop with a notable place in the state’s railroading history. Up first today was a visit to the Leadville, Colorado & Southern, a regular feature of our tours and one that I think has been a new experience to a majority of our travelers. I’m delighted we can introduce them to it; the highest standard gauge railroad in North America (the tracks re...

Tour of Colorado, Day 1: Shay? Nay.

Posted 14 days ago by David Lassen
GEORGETOWN, Colo. — Steam locomotives are complex machines. As such, they can be a bit temperamental. We were all reminded of that during today’s Trains Tour of Colorado. This is the first full day of this year’s Colorado tour, which has been a regular part of the Trains tour schedule since 2015. This year’s itinerary is much the same as it has been since we began offering the trips with our partners at Special Interest Tours. The first day features a visit to the Color...

765, 1309, 611 add up to thoughts and observations on big steam

Posted 16 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I took a much-needed big steam sabbatical in Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina last week. The occasion was Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765’s now annual fall visit to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, continuing restoration work on Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 at Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, and Norfolk & Western No. 611’s only mainline appearance this year, an unpublicized ferry run between Spencer, N.C., and the Class J’s hometown in Roanoke, V...

MetroLink, Gateway Arch, a loaded coal train, and candied bacon

Posted 22 days ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
An eastbound MetroLink light rail train arrives at Delmar Loop on Sept. 22, 2018. Angela Pusztai-Pasternak And, let me tell you, that's a wicked way to spend a Saturday! I had the pleasure of visiting St. Louis this past weekend and riding MetroLink. What a great service! It was easy to use, clean, and had a smooth ride. My husband and I took the Red Line from Delmar Loop to Laclede’s Landing to see the Gateway Arch. However, you can disembark at Eighth and Pine to be closer to the...

Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 in motion: The chiseled good looks of a Greek god

Posted 23 days ago by Jim Wrinn
There was a time, friends, when I was a mere lad. As a mere lad I had model trains before I had a good camera and a driver’s license with which to chase real trains. They were Lionel and HO, and they were good. So, I did things that model railroaders do and I exchanged printed passes to my imaginary basement short line with other modelers who did the same. And when I did, I soon learned that the profile of a Nickel Plate Road Berkshire is an icon that is not only held in great revere not o...

Swiss Tour Day 10: 48% grade uphill outside Lucerne

Posted 26 days ago by Steve Sweeney
LUCERNE, Switzerland — Unable to hop out of the Pilatus Bahn cog railway cars to get a better picture, I opted to show you an approximation of what it was like to ride the Pilatus near Lucerne today. Please accept my apologies. The picture above does the railroad some justice. But man, oh man, there’s not a stick of what you might call tangent track on the entire line. It’s simply “up” and “down”: On curves, through tunnels, over stone arches, and nex...

Swiss Tour Day 9: Narrow-gauge mountain cog steam railway with open air cars WOW

Posted 27 days ago by Steve Sweeney
cs_setInnerHtml('video_f27b781b-563b-4869-892c-0aa9820244b3',''); LUCERNE, Switzerland — Wow. That was one heck of a day.  Trains’ Swiss Tour 2018 visited Brienz, Switzerland, today for a ride to near the top of the Brienz Rothorn Mountain. At the base is the small lake-side town with an 800-mm narrow-gauge rack railroad that uses mostly steam locomotives with diesel back-ups and diesel work trains. It was our ninth day of true summer-like temperatures — 75 to 85 degr...

Swiss Tour Day 8: 10 train changes in one day

Posted 28 days ago by Steve Sweeney
INTERLAKEN, Switzerland — Quantity and quality are often traded off one another as mutually exclusive choices. But if you think those are your only choices, you obviously haven’t been on a Trains tour of Switzerland. Because today, after about 10 hours and thousands of feet difference in elevation, our group changed trains 10 times. Yes. TEN TIMES.  (And you smarty pantses out there, we didn’t lose anyone.) We began the day at Montreux and headed just a couple of mile...

Swiss Tour Days 6 & 7: Swiss Family ‘Trains’

Posted 28 days ago by Steve Sweeney
MONTREUX, Switzerland — That’s my tour group.  Get that?! MY group. In the picture above, we’re waiting on a train to take us from the Chillon Castle on Lake Geneva back to Montreux, where we’re staying two nights. Sunday and Monday were designed to be two easy days because we needed it. We’ve been walking constantly. Eating meals late, getting up early, and keeping each other awake.  We were polite with one another from the first night, but after all...

Swiss Tour Day 5: Where fantasy meets reality visiting the Matterhorn

Posted 29 days ago by Steve Sweeney
ZERMATT, Switzerland — Alright. I admit it. I wanted to show off with the picture above.  And after I bragged to fellow photogs on the Trains’ 2018 Switzerland tour, they all went for their own version: on Canons, Nikons, in 4K, and on film. This particular shot is not iconic, but it is less common, if only because the Matterhorn (that spiky mountain in the background) is often shrouded in clouds or fog, even on otherwise nice days.  Of course, since we were on a rail t...

Swiss Tour Day 4: Volunteers make memories on the Furka Pass excursion

Posted 29 days ago by Steve Sweeney
cs_setInnerHtml('video_6b003981-4c95-4d46-a924-92a0011c56c5',''); ZERMATT, Switzerland — The headline is plain so you know where I want to go with this blog post. But I really wanted to write: “The importance of being Kurt and Tony.” These two men, you see, are volunteers with the Dampfbahn Furka Bergstrecke (DFB) or Furka Cog Railway. I’ll just call it the Furka train from here on out.  We met Tony first. He is a tour guide and interpreter for the Furka train w...

Super Kind and Danny Trejo say, "Wait your turn to get on the train."

Posted one month ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
LA Metro’s relatively new video and print campaign to promote good conduct on its trains and buses looks more like something my 6-year-old son would watch than those that purport to be adults using transit. Have you seen these? My two favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyjHFYtz5hY#action=share https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uUFf8IomLg#action=share But see them all here: www.metro.net/manners Japanese anime superhero Super Kind shows riders how to have manners in various s...

Swiss Tour Day 3: One picture perfect day

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
CHUR, Switzerland — Take a good look at that picture above. I took it just as we were departing Bergun, Switzerland, on Thursday afternoon. The guests on Trains’ Swiss tour were all smiles after about 10 miles of twists, turns, curves, tunnels, and scenic bridges. No, I mean it. Our day began in Lugano with a bus ride to Tirano, Italy, and varied pizza/spaghetti/panini lunches. That was all preparation so our group of 36 people could board meter-gauge coaches of the Rhaetian Rail...

Swiss Tour Day 2: A team building exercise in Italy

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
LUGANO, Switzerland — Picture it: Zurich, about 9 a.m. this morning. We were finished with breakfast in our hotel and waiting in the lobby waiting on our tour guide to check the train schedule. We were supposed to start in Zurich and end up in the large Italian-Swiss city of Lugano for dinner after a few hours at Bellinzona (also Swiss) looking at castles and old stuff. We ended up on a round-about tour of northern Italy by train and finished our day by finding out what a kumquat tastes ...

Traveling in Queen Victoria's footsteps in Switzerland

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
By the time most of you in Trains Nation read this, I will be in Switzerland for a Trains tour. (Book now for 2019)   In my preparations, I've pored over maps of Swiss Railways, looked into the engineering of famous places and even considered which camera lens I should take with me.  But I had not considered anniversaries. It turns out that 2018 is the 150th anniversary of Queen Victoria's (Yes, that Queen Victoria) trip to Switzerland in 1868.  Back then, she needed ...

For Trackside with Trains, a new format

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
We've heard a few comments of late that our biweekly Trackside with Trains photo contest is growing stale, and I agree. So starting with September we're going to mix it up. The contest is now on a monthly schedule and we're treating each theme as an assignment: go make an image with it in mind rather than digging through your archives for something relevant from long ago. The first email newsletter each month will announce the previous contest's winner and the theme for the next contest. Contes...

My $6 history lesson

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
  A couple years back my I took my wife, father, and oldest children to an auto show/flea market/local charity fundraiser event. You know the kind: hot day in summer, smoke from various grilled meat stands, flies, and a range of stuff for sale from immaculate to junk. On one of those ubiquitous junk tables I found a Railway Express Agency "Guide for Supervisors" for sale for just six bucks. Yep. Six dollars. You bet I picked it up. Flipping through pages to see what knowledge REA had fo...

Two plumes up Cumbres Pass: Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the last Rio Grande narrow gauge freights

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Where were you in 1968? For me, I was a kid growing up in North Carolina. In my mind, it is hard to believe that 50 years have passed. But they have, perhaps, with the exception of that timeless railroad location, Chama, N.M. This is where the Rio Grande prepared its forces to battle against gravity for the summit of Cumbres Pass, and where for the last 46 years the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic has sent its tourist trains across 64 miles of Rio Grande’s San Juan extension in a quest to tu...

Understanding the 'Southwest Chief' with a ride

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
ON BOARD THE 'SOUTHWEST CHIEF' – “When I hear them talk about doing away with this train, it just breaks my heart.” The source of that statement was a middle-aged woman slowly pecking at a burger and chips in the dining car of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief. She had just returned from Ireland and was on her way to southern California for family business. The train, she said, has always been a part of her life. She’d rather ride than drive. On Tuesday and Wednesday, my wi...

I'm all for LA Metro's body scanners

Posted 2 months ago by Steve Sweeney
If LA Metro's new body scanners work out, I want them rolled out nationwide at commuter and passenger train stations — airports too. If you're cursing me out as a nanny state worshipper, please hear me out.  My support is mostly to boost the psychological well-being of passengers, myself included. In major transportation hubs we already have plenty of armed, combat-ready police; metal detectors; bomb sniffing dogs; drug dogs; and other safety-security contrivances. (At Philadelphia...

Why Scouts on a train is a good thing

Posted 2 months ago by Steve Sweeney
Boy Scouts on the Capitol Limited. Bob Johnston Bob Johnston's story this week about the Southwest Chief and Scouting reminds me of the time I could have traveled by Amtrak to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, but:  I was too busy.  I didn't have enough money.  That's a lot of time to be gone.  I have a girlfriend. Et cetera. Et cetera.   I'm not old, but I'm old enough now to understand those arguments from long ago kept me from a unique experienc...

Railroad photography: Keeping 'it' together

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Do you have little yellow or green boxes with 38 slides strewn across your desk? Do you look for a better way to organize and catalog them? I ditched the developer boxes years ago, but still struggle to organize my slide collection in a meaningful way. I'm hoping that with this post other film dinosaurs such as myself will share their methods. First, let's start with an example. I've always been a Milwaukee Road fan, even before my relocation to America's Dairyland. That includes modern railf...

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