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"No, that's impossible" and other myths about railway preservation

Posted 7 days ago by Jim Wrinn
NASHVILLE – Impossible. Never will happen. Can’t be done. American railway preservation has many of those. I hear about them in casual conversation. I read about them online. They are the least hopeful railroads, locomotives, rolling stock, depots, etc., on the earth. Sometimes that assessment is true. Other times, it is for lack of trying. But from time to time someone or some group or organization punches a gaping hole in steely impossible. It makes things happen. It gets the j...
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Sampling Brightline: a trip report

Posted 8 days ago by David Lassen
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — As I begin writing this, I am sitting in an airport terminal notably lacking in sufficient seating for passengers waiting for flights. Before having the good fortune to find this seat — nowhere near my gate, but you can’t have everything — I was herded through slower-than-usual security (truthfully, I don’t really blame the TSA people who aren’t being paid if they’re calling in sick), and had a mediocre, overpriced breakfast. Luck...
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No. 576 and the Shawshank Redemption

Posted 9 days ago by Jim Wrinn
NASHVILLE – There is a scene in my favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, in which escaped prisoner Andy DuFresne (actor Tim Robbins) is smiling broadly as he drives a convertible along gorgeous cliffs overlooking a spectacular seashore. Narrator Morgan Freeman describes the moment like this: “Andy Dufresne, headed for the Pacific.” If you’ve seen the movie, you know what sort of hell DuFresne has endured as a wrongly imprisoned man, and how he outwitted his captors ...
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20 questions for retiring Colorado Railroad Museum Executive Director Don Tallman

Posted 19 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I first met Don Tallman in November 2006 at the annual meeting of what we now know as the Heritage Rail Alliance, the industry trade group for tourist railroads and museums. As is my normal stance at these meetings, I try to meet as many new people as possible, and Don’s was a face that I didn’t recognize when I boarded a bus for a field trip. I sat down next to him, and a conversation quickly began. As it turned out, Don knew little about railroads or railroad history, but he ha...
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Railway preservation’s end of the year dollars and sense

Posted 26 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Between now and next Monday, I want to make modest financial contributions to two railway preservation groups that excite me with the work they’re doing. I suspect many of you are thinking about doing the same thing. I’d rather the money be spent on staybolts, boiler tubes, and paint than go to the taxman, right?  Most of you have heard my sermon on regular giving to railway preservation so if you already know what I’m about to say on that topic, skip to the next paragrap...
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A tribute to a great railroad photographer

Posted one month ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
Associate Editor David Lassen walked into my office in October and said he was talking with Editor Jim Wrinn and suggested we do an all John Gruber gallery. I couldn’t have agreed more. So I held what I had planned for the February 2019 issue and quickly dove into indexes and bound volumes to immerse myself in nearly 60 years of a very prolific photographer. How do you choose only a handful of photos to honor this man who seemed to only know how to capture great imagery? Gruber, founder...
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Waiting in traffic: Good for the economy

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
Driving to the office on Wednesday morning I was stopped by a northbound Canadian National train in Waukesha. Traffic was backed up in both directions, and through an intersection, for quite a while as what seemed like an endless stream of empty centerbeam flatcars rolled by. But that's a good sign, you see. Long strings of empty centerbeams moving north to Canada means construction in the U.S. is ongoing and investment is being made. When those empty moves – and the carloads that prece...
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A look ahead at steam in 2019

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
It’s starting to be the time of the year when we reflect on the year past and what went well and what went off the tracks. For the railway preservation community, there were many strides forward. My friend Aaron Isaacs, the editor online magazine for the industry trade group Heritage Rail Alliance, reminds me that more than 60 projects were completed in the tourist railroad and railway museum field. That’s a lot of new metal, new paint, a lot of muscle, and a lot of bucks.  The...
16

Why Norfolk Southern is moving its headquarters move to Atlanta

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Back in 2013, I penned a two-page feature for Trains called “How cool is your railroad?” We prepared a chart that analyzed various aspects of the corporate makeup, posture, and outward presentation of the seven big U.S. freight carriers. Among the topics we reviewed was headquarters city. For Norfolk Southern, of its world headquarters I wrote this: “Possibly the deadest downtown of any railroad HQ. If Norfolk wasn’t in the company name and Lambert’s Point wasn&rsqu...
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20 questions for John Garner at Western Maryland Scenic Railroad about the restoration of 2-6-6-2 No. 1309

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Western Maryland Scenic Railroad’s restoration of 2-6-6-2 No. 1309, the last steam locomotive Baldwin produced for domestic service in 1949, has been an on-going struggle for four years since its acquisition from the B&O Railroad Museum. The railroad and the project have faced significant challenges, including landslides, funding, employee theft of unique parts, and others. In the last six months, the project surged ahead with a new burst of funding that produced a steam test of the ...
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Memories from George H.W. Bush's 1992 presidential campaign train

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
The death of President George H.W. Bush and the planned funeral train for him on Thursday brought back memories of a day some 26 years ago, when Bush and railroading were together, and I was a witness to it. Oct. 21, 1992 was not an ordinary day at work for me. I was a newspaper reporter for the Charlotte Observer’s bureau in Concord, N.C. But instead of calling on residents of Cabarrus County, N.C., for their news, I was standing in a bored and restless crowd along a double track main ...
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Golden spike, photos from the transcontinental railroad, create a powerhouse exhibit

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
OMAHA, Neb. – It’s common knowledge that on May 10, 1869, Central Pacific and Union Pacific locomotives and their entourages met at Promontory Summit, Utah, where a ceremonial golden spike was gently tapped into a laurel tie to commemorate the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. The spike would become an iconic emblem marking the completion of this monumental task. It’s also widely known that a photographer assembled those present for an image of the two locomot...
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Thoughts on railway preservation: the Heritage Rail Alliance meeting in Santa Fe

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I just returned from Santa Fe, N.M., where the Heritage Rail Alliance meeting concluded. I have attended these meetings regularly since 1997 and as a volunteer at the N.C. Transportation Museum served as one of the hosts of the 2001 meeting of the old Association of Railway Museums and the Tourist Railroad Association Inc., which merged a few years ago to become the Heritage Rail Alliance. We also hosted the 2008 meeting of the tourist group here at Trains magazine in Milwaukee. The tone of the...
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Why we're at the Heritage Rail Alliance meeting learning about tourist railroads and museums

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
SANTA FE, N.M. – We’re here in this capital of desert Southwest arts and culture for the annual Heritage Rail Alliance. It’s a meeting that brings together dozens of professionals and volunteers from the tourist railroad and railway museum industries to talk about their common challenges and successes. I expect to see dozens of people, from car hosts to the CEOs of major tourist railroad holding companies. Everyone who cares about the future and well-being of the past is here....
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An overdue visit to a special railroad tunnel that never saw the first train

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Have you ever put off doing something so long that you just didn’t think you’d ever get around to doing it? I had an experience like that late last month when I went home to the Carolinas to see family and friends. This tale involves a partially completed railroad tunnel. All of my life I’d heard the legendary Blue Ridge Railroad, a route between the Atlantic seaboard at Charleston, S.C., through the mountains of South Carolina and Georgia, and onto Knoxville, Tenn., and e...
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The power of first-person storytelling

Posted 2 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
I just can’t help but get emotional. I am closing a book. Not The Book. But it’s the end of an era for me. I’ve edited the last chapter of your stories. Your personal stories. With the December 2018 issue of Trains, I have edited my last “In My Own Words” story. [I lovingly refer to it as IMOW (read: eye-mow) in the office, so expect that reporting mark for the duration.] By my best count, you’ve allowed me to help you tell your stories 173 times. I am honor...
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Sending thoughts to heaven while following a Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum excursion

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Mr. Bob Soule Mr. Paul Merriman The Great Roundhouse in the Sky   Gentlemen: I’ve long wanted to speak with both of you again since you departed this Earth. But I’ve not felt the urge to contact you so strongly as I have this week. You were both giants in the preservation of steam locomotives, and your creation, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, has compelled me to write. Last Sunday, I had the good fortune to follow and photograph a TVRM excursion train from Chattanoo...
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I am a gearhead: Silver Creek & Stephenson's Heisler No. 2 confirms it

Posted 3 months 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...
2

“Grandpa” John Gruber had a twinkle in his eye

Posted 3 months 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...
2

Railroad photography: A death in the family

Posted 3 months 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...
4

Thank you, John Gruber, my friend

Posted 3 months 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...
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Tour of Colorado, Day 7: That's all, folks

Posted 3 months 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...
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Tour of Colorado, Day 6: The favorite child

Posted 3 months 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...
3

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

Posted 3 months 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, ...
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Tour of Colorado, Day 3: Gorge-ous

Posted 3 months 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...
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Tour of Colorado, Day 2: Friends old and new

Posted 3 months 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...
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Tour of Colorado, Day 1: Shay? Nay.

Posted 3 months 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...
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765, 1309, 611 add up to thoughts and observations on big steam

Posted 3 months 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...
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MetroLink, Gateway Arch, a loaded coal train, and candied bacon

Posted 3 months 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...
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Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 in motion: The chiseled good looks of a Greek god

Posted 4 months 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...