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Always expect a train, indeed

Posted 5 hours ago by Brian Schmidt
The number one item on Operation Lifesaver's "Safety Tips and Facts" is, in bold letters, "Always expect a train." While the message is meant for those not versed in railroad operations, it applies equally to those who are, in fact, looking for trains already. I was visiting the Oregon Rail Heritage Center with correspondent Justin Franz on Sunday. As we were wrapping up our visit, we paused outside to photograph MAX light rail Orange Line trains passing the facility. (In fact, visitors who d...

Guilty of railfaning, nothing more

Posted 2 days ago by Steve Sweeney
So here’s the short version of what happened.  On Monday, I was photographing Union Pacific and BNSF Railway yard operations from the sidewalk of a highway overpass in Denver’s northern reaches, when a Denver city policewoman rolled up and got out to talk to me about what I was doing. And so did three other patrol cars, including one from BNSF marked “K9.” They talked to me and then went away. (Happened to your before? I now empathize, since this was my first time ...

765's non-excursion excursion

Posted 3 days ago by Jim Wrinn
With last week’s announcement that Nickel Plate Road No. 765 will pull two daily Joliet-Chicago excursions June 17 and 18, we now have something on the table that may be unrecognizable, at least to veteran devotees of steam locomotives and their use in late 20th century and early 21st century excursions. For simplicity, let’s call the June 17 and 18 runs the non-excursion excursions, a train ride to get to a 1940s-theme party with food, music, re-enactors, cab tours, and cocktails. I...

Flying -- the right decision

Posted 3 days ago by Brian Schmidt
I'm checking Amtrak train status as I wait for my plane home. The train I was supposed to be on, No. 8 of March 19, lost more than six hours before entering Montana. How will it do the rest of the way to Milwaukee? Well, I suppose that doesn't matter to me anymore, account of my arrival at the airport today. But that's still better than No. 18 of March 17, which is limping along through North Dakota today more than 40 hours late. Certainly the crews deserve recognition for keeping the faith an...

I give up

Posted 3 days ago by Brian Schmidt
I threw in the towel today on my next Amtrak expedition and booked an airline ticket home. Faced with delayed inbound trains and recurring mudslides on the Hi Line, I've opted to scratch my pending Empire Builder trek and instead fly back to Milwaukee. Trains Magazine correspondent Justin Franz is sticking with the train, though, to return to Montana. I just wasn't thrilled with the prospect of a possible bus bridge en route, a many-hours-late arrival in the Cream City, or both. (I am, however, ...

If Big Boys could talk

Posted 6 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Last week I told you about my visit to the Union Pacific steam shop in Cheyenne, Wyo., where the railroad’s steam crew is working on Big Boy No. 4014 with the aim of returning it to service in 2019. When it’s done, it will rival the Goodyear blimp in terms of its public relations prowess.  Today, I’m going to tell you about the Big Boy I visited on the way to Wyoming, No. 4005. That other 4-8-8-4 is the centerpiece exhibit of the Forney Museum in Denver. It’s cramme...

Another one rides the bus, part two

Posted 8 days ago by Brian Schmidt
Looking out the front of the chartered on Interstate 5 near Tacoma, the driver noted that on a bus you can see where you're going, but on a train you can only see where you are. Photo by Brian Schmidt The bus in question showed up at the Tukwila, Wash., station about 2:35 pm, only about 10 minutes after the train is (was) scheduled. The driver had to park on a street to the west, unable to clear a railroad underpass to access the station. So an Amtrak employee walked over to round up the peop...

Another one rides the bus

Posted 9 days ago by Brian Schmidt
Tuesday morning, upon my arrival at Milwaukee’s Gen. Mitchell Airport, I spotted a new email from Amtrak. My Amtrak Cascades train later in the day from Tukwilla, Wash., to Portland was canceled, and I should (maybe?) call Amtrak to inquire about possible alternate transportation. The stock email message was vague – it suggested that I should check with Amtrak about alternate transportation, but didn’t convey a specific need to. I called anyway while waiting for my flight and ...

Winter winds are howling on Sherman Hill, but in Cheyenne crews are working on Big Boy No. 4014

Posted 13 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I spent two days earlier this week in wind-whipped Wyoming for a good cause, although at the time, I had doubts, as 40 and 50 mph sustained winds and 70 mph gusts made it difficult to stand, let alone hold a camera steady, or take a deep breath. The reason for the trip is that we’re gathering photos and information for our latest special issue, Big Steam is Back, 100 pages of mainline-worthy steam stories and photos due out in late June. As you can imagine, one of our main feature stories ...

How could Harrison be good for passenger rail in the East?

Posted 13 days ago by Brian Schmidt
There’s a reasonable chance that passenger rail could see expansion under Harrison’s CSX Transportation. Hear me out. If Harrison continues the “Network of Tomorrow” approach, focusing on three main corridors that form a triangle, then a lot of what is left could go to new regional railroads. Would they be more accepting of passenger start-ups than CSX was? If these are marginal lines, then the new operators must look at many different scenarios for traffic and income. ...

Doing the "Harlem Shuffle" ... in Chicagoland

Posted 21 days ago by David Lassen
A few weeks ago, when our part of the upper Midwest enjoyed a Sunday with temperatures above freezing and that big yellow orb in the sky, I jumped in the car for some railfanning. With an even nicer weekend in the offing — we're talking 47 and partly cloudy on Saturday, and 59 (although cloudy) on Sunday — it seems like a good time to discuss the excellent single-day railfan plan I mapped out that day. Call it the Harlem Avenue shuffle:  With roughly 13 miles of driving — ...

CSX: Clearing the runway or lacing it with landmines?

Posted 28 days ago by Jim Wrinn
In business, when it comes to takeovers, succession, and change, there is posturing, and then there is actual stance. Understanding the difference is a fine art. Thus, I am absorbing this week’s CSX news like a college student's junior’s appreciation course. How shall we interpret CSX’s top management shakeup -- CEO Michael Ward to retire without a successor -- and the railroad’s plan to layoff 1,000 management positions? At a glance i see a picture of a company that&rsq...

About CSX: It all makes 'cents', so pray

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
CSX Corp.'s share price is up today to $48.89 a share in the middle of the afternoon on Feb. 21. It is higher, even, than rumors of a Hunter Harrison takeover could send it in January. And that's just as it should be, if you believe Chris K. Chris is one of my former editors, a mentor and a friend. And in one of those late-night bull sessions we'd raise at our newspaper long after we put the paper to bed, we'd talk. Anything was fair game: religion, office politics, politics generally, sports ...

And Mr. Railroad is...

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
First, let me thank the nomination committee for its work. I originally intended to leave this this an open-ended question, but after reading all your comments for these past few weeks I've decided to reach a conclusion. (Yes, yes, you're welcome.) With the qualifications of my first post in mind, I have selected prolific author and new Trains Magazine columnist Brian Solomon as Mr. Railroad. He has more than 60 railroad publications to his name, titles that are among the most accessible in the...

When two trains arrive at the same time

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
All of us thrill to the sight of two trains in motion at the same time. Whether it’s a meet, an overtake, or an over and under, it’s a rare and delightful treat. The opportunities are rare, but they happen more frequently than we think: Trains of the BNSF passing over Union Pacific trains at Grand Island, Neb.; trains stacking up on the flyovers at Santa Fe Junction in downtown Kansas City; CSX and NS trains saluting one another on the move at Howell Wye in downtown Atlanta. Those ar...

Chicago trains, intentional and unintentional

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Visiting Chicago is always an invigorating experience. This week was no exception. Associate Editor David Lassen, who edited our special edition, “Chicago: America’s Railroad Capital,” and who also produced the companion video of the same name, and I were in Chicago for two purposes: First, we were guests on a talk show-style segment about Windy City railroads with public television’s “Chicago Tonight” program; it will air next week. Second, we gave a presenta...

Trains takes over a small (former) depot for a day

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
If you tried to reach the Trains staff Friday, I’m here to tell you why you couldn’t get in touch with us. It wasn’t that we were too busy covering the CSX-Hunter Harrison drama to answer the phone. We weren’t out enjoying the strangely mild Wisconsin winter of 2017. We just weren’t in the office in Waukesha. We were off site for our annual planning meeting. Our Trains world headquarters for a day was unique and well positioned. The staff gathered at the Little Red...

CSX, what changed?

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Like a deer caught in the headlight of a southbound Clinchfield Railroad manifest in a tunnel near Altapass, N.C., I am a bewildered at the thought that Hunter Harrison may be about to run CSX. In my mind, Harrison is a railroad executive of the Midwest and Canada. He’s a Frisco, Burlington Northern, Illinois Central, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific kind of guy. As we say in the South, and I am a Southerner so I can say this legitimately, “He ain’t from around here.&r...

Railroading reference pops up in an unexpected place: 1953 movie 'The Bandwagon'

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I look for the intersection of railroad culture and general life everywhere I can find it. I love the nuts and bolts of our interest as much as anyone — are those 2-inch diameter tubes in that bundle? Bolted or cast pedestal trucks? Did that model have a 567 or a 645 motor? But I also love to see railroading references pop up in entertainment, news, sports — heck, anywhere. That’s one reason why the April issue, the edition that we’re finishing this week, has a 16-page re...

Time ... to figure this out

Posted one month ago by David Lassen
A word of caution: This is far less about railroading than our usual blog content. Please proceed accordingly. I’m never one to look a gift horse in the mouth. I would, however, like to know how to ride it. Let me explain. In early January, advertising director Mike Yuhas and I were in Boca Raton, Fla., for NRC — the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association convention. Like most of the major industry conventions that Trains attends, NRC has a series of speakers ...

A short line worth knowing: the Kentucky & Tennessee

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
A business developer from Oregon buying a short line and tourist railroad in south-central Kentucky normally wouldn’t merit the keystrokes it takes to prepare a 400-500 word blog post, but in this case it does: The tourist line is the Big South Fork Scenic, and I know, you’re still shaking your head and saying, “So?” Stay with me.   Many of you will know this railroad by its pre-tourist hauler name, the Kentucky & Tennessee, a coal-hauling railroad that once em...

Train watching in Chicago -- by water

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Our 100-page Chicago special magazine is available now, and that got me thinking about an extraordinary opportunity to go train watching in the Windy City that you might not have thought of. It’s not the observation deck of the Willis Tower in Chicago. It’s not from the famous L (although the Orange Line is one of my favorites). It’s a boat. Yes, you can go train watching by boat in downtown Chicago. I tried it on a beautiful sunny and warm September Sunday morning last fall. ...

Who is Mr. Railroad?

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
Now that the Green Bay Packers’ season is done, talk around Wisconsin switches to baseball, and that means interviews with “Mr. Baseball” himself, Bob Uecker. Fans of all teams – not just the Brewers – can readily admire his expert play calling and longevity in the field. Even those who don’t identify themselves as baseball fans know him, thanks to his many appearances in movies and on late-night TV. So who is "Mr. Railroad?” Nominations should cons...

Remembering the Chessie Steam Special 40 years ago

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Union Pacific’s steam program rightfully has one. Norfolk Southern’s 28-years of excursions has one (shamelessly, I will have to confess to have authored Steam’s Camelot in 2001). But nowhere will you find a comprehensive volume with the full history of the Chessie Steam Special, the rolling celebration of the Baltimore & Ohio’s 150th anniversary and later in support of grade crossing safety. And that is a shame because we’re talking about 4 years of mainline ex...

Railroading's next traffic boom: Cement for Trump's wall

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
We all know that in the classic 1967 movie “The Graduate,” a young Dustin Hoffman was advised that the world ahead was about plastics. Given that President Donald Trump is moving forward to fund a wall along the Mexican border, I would advise recent grads that the word in 2017 is “cement.” I’m not sure how the iPhone generation would receive this, but it could be good for railroading.  When we were researching, writing, and editing the special report about the...

Man enough to admit: I like small engines

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
I should have expected it, but went ahead anyway.  You see, last summer, Trains hosted a group of about 20 8-to-12-year-old boys visiting our offices and library. Just after lunch, they sat down with us editors to discuss railroad topics and eventually what their favorite locomotives were. SD70s and Dash-9s were popular, "Thunder Cabs" were not. No one mentioned a GG1, but at least two belted out "Big Boy." Then the editors took turns listing their favorite engines. When it was my turn, I...

Private car Georgia 300 was Obama's 'blue caboose' 8 years ago

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Eight years ago today, Jack Heard was still trying to figure out how his private passenger car, Georgia 300, became known as “the blue caboose” that carried President-elect Obama to Washington, D.C. On Inauguration Day, while Donald Trump was about to become the 45th president of the United States, Heard and I talked on the phone about his Jan. 17, 2009, trip with Obama, campaign trains his car has been on, and the duties of a private car operator when it’s carrying the new le...

Is Hunter Harrison headed to Washington, D.C.?

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Where is Hunter Harrison headed next? That is the question on everyone’s minds after Canadian Pacific announced Wednesday that its leader of five years will retire immediately instead of July 1. He’s definitely got something lined up. After all, he’s foregoing a package worth $118 million, won’t be bound by a non-compete agreement, and is free to work with other Class I railroads. It definitely sounds like Harrison has a better offer.   The Wall Street Journal says ...

Preparing for the Ringling preservation movement

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Money, like in the rest of the world, gets things done in railroad preservation. So now is the time to start a fundraising campaign for any museum that may want to acquire a piece of the soon-to-be-idle Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus trains. The trains are in use until May. That gives many organizations a great head start on fundraising for any possible acquisitions related to the circus trains. Even if the preservation group manages a donation of the equipment, fundraising is s...

Where you can see the Ringling Bros. circus train

Posted 2 months ago by David Lassen
Since the stunning news of the imminent demise of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, many readers have been asking us where they can go to see the circus train before it rolls into history. Sadly, fans in most of the country are out of luck — the farthest west either the circus Red or Blue units will reach is Cincinnati, where the Red Unit plays in March. But as it happens, long before Saturday's announcement, we were working — with a great deal of help from the folk...

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