So, how does PTC drive in the snow?

Posted 6 days ago by Steve 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 7 days 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 11 days 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...

Late winter when a man starts thinking about steam locomotives

Posted 15 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I usually start thinking about planning travel to enjoy what little steam is left running about this time of year. I blame it on Southern Railway and Jim Bistline, who set the railroad’s steam excursion schedule every winter. It was the most anticipated piece of mail that I can recall as a teenager or a young adult in the late 1970s and early 1980s: You could see what locomotives Southern was running, where, and when, and plan a whole year’s worth of steam railroading fun. There were...

What other unthinkable things await us?

Posted 16 days ago by Steve Sweeney
Ask the editors at Trains. When I read the statement from Amtrak at 12:49 p.m. (Central) in my email inbox, I swore — a lot. One trainset of the one and only high-speed rail service in the Western Hemisphere pulled apart on the Northeast Corridor.  The New York Post reports that Acela Express train 2150 was moving at 125 mph when it separated in Maryland. The news organization shows a photo of what appears to be a loose drawbar on the semi-permanently coupled trainset hanging betwe...

It's the end of Amtrak as we know it

Posted 19 days ago by Brian Schmidt
As we learn more this Sunday morning about the overnight collision between Amtrak's Silver Star and a CSX Transportation freight, I can't help but think that the national passenger carrier is on the cusp of a major change – for better, or worse. With three high-profile incidents in less than 60 days, Amtrak is undoubtedly under scrutiny from regulators, legislators, and host railroads. It's possible (but not likely) that none of those will be found to be Amtrak's fault; it's also possible...

My first railroad photos turn 40 years old

Posted 22 days ago by Jim Wrinn
They were neither well executed nor worth much as great art. Some were poorly composed, and others were over or under exposed. But they were amazing sights to me -- my first action railroad pictures with a good 35mm camera. And they were made 40 years ago this month. The occasion was the first good weather in the winter of 1978 when, as a 16-year-old fan, I was ready to try out the Nikkormat FT-3 that my parents had given me the Christmas before. They’d heard my disappointment in my Kodak...

My top 10 best train watching Hot Spots

Posted 27 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Our special issue, Hot Spots, is available now, and it has me excited about traveling to great train watching places this year. We broke down our 100-page guide into three categories: Places to watch a lot of trains. Places that are scenic wonders. And places that are icons in our common obsession. Like everyone else, I have my favorites. Here’s my top 10, and be sure to get your own copy of Hot Spots at https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/special-issue/vt-tr05180101-c.   1. The ...

About the most famous passenger car in the U.S.: Ferdinand Magellan

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
What would you say is the most famous passenger car in the United States? The well-traveled PV Caritas? Lucius Beebe’s office car Virginia City. Amtrak office car 10,000? It’s a debatable list, and one that would have to include in its top 10 an office car that I have heard about all my life and visited for the first time recently while on business in Florida: Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s office car Ferdinand Magellan. This classic heavyweight Pullman makes its home at the Gold...

Clinchfield 800's winter vacation to Florida

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
The Appalachian Mountains, where the Clinchfield Railroad operated, was a place of heavily forested mountains, dense hardwood forests, and rushing whitewater streams. The environment last week in which I found the railroad’s most famous diesel locomotive, F7 No. 800, was much different. It was a relatively flat expanse of land with numerous lakes. The exhaust tossled palm tree leaves and tickled the Spanish moss. Yes, this is a fish out of water story, the tale of a locomotive on winter br...

Brightline, Florida East Coast steam -- 100 years of Sunshine State railroading

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I was in Florida last week. No, I was not on vacation, neither at a beach nor Mouse World. In fact, it was rainy the first half of the trip, and down right cold (for Florida) on the second half (38 degrees Sunday morning. The primary railroad topic, as it has been in the Sunshine State for generations, was passenger trains. The newest of these trains, Brightline, was days from the start of revenue service. The oldest have been in museums for decades and date back to the early 20th century. Both ...

The hurt behind the crash of Cascades No. 501

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
It has been a rough few days for all of us who love railroading. Everybody is heartbroken about the tragic Amtrak Cascades derailment. Many of us know people who were on the crew or who were among the passengers who were injured. Friends have lost colleagues or pals. It is our worst nightmare come true. Compounding it all is the chatter that goes on in the fog that lingers in the minutes, hours, and days after a catastrophe. One of the safest ways to travel doesn’t seem so safe in the eye...

Children’s holiday artwork featuring trains

Posted 2 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
Nothing warms my heart more than looking at children’s artwork. It’s so innocent, intense, and uninhibited. Furthermore, I love to see railroads as the focus. Talgo sent its holiday email greeting by way of the winner of their holiday art contest. Here’s 12-year-old Roland Richards’ Talgo-themed Christmas card. Great job, Roland! Here are other winners from Talgo's contest. Trains are so relevant to our lives in so many ways and can be shared with our children and gr...

Trains' Top 10 railroad preservation stories for 2017

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Here’s my list for the top 10 preservation stories for 2017. 1. Texas restored for Atlanta History Center Besides the locomotives at Promontory, what pair of locomotives is more famous than the General and the Texas of Civil War Great Locomotive Chase fame? You’d be hard pressed to find a set that’s better known. Long confined to the dingy basement of Atlanta’s Cyclorama building in Grant Park, the 1849 Texas got a cosmetic overhaul prior to its placement in the Atlanta...

Beer Line exhibit ... enjoy with appropriate beverages

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Where would you put a photo exhibit about the famous Milwaukee Road Beer Line if you had your choice of places? A brewery, of course! That’s what the Center for Railroad Photography & Art is doing with its photographic study of the Wallace W. Abbey images that record this famous freight route that served the industry that made Milwaukee famous and that included famous Fairbanks-Morse diesels for motive power. It opened Thursday night, and the Trains staff was there to check it out whil...

Top train-watching destinations for 2018

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
There are, without exaggeration, thousands of places across this continent to stop and watch a train. From a lonely grade crossing in Iowa to a jam-packed subway platform in Queens. (Our newest special issue "Hot Spots" details 75 of the best.) While I can't claim to have seen them all (there are a LOT of grade crossings in Iowa!), I believe that I have seen enough to make a few recommendations for our discerning readers: Northwest Ohio This is where I'm from, so of course I'm a little biase...

BNSF remembers James J. Hill in Superior, Wis.

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
The quote about “all who wander are not lost” was on my mind over the holiday. My family and I were in Duluth, Minn., to visit family and friends. Normally, this is a cold, snowy place this time of year. We, however, were blessed with warm temperatures and no precipitation. There was snow on the ground to make it look like late fall in the Northwoods. So, that gave us opportunities to train and ship watch in this fascinating Midwestern port city. Last spring, we were here for BNSF&r...

Clinchfield Country and CSX's 75th anniversary Santa Train

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Clinchfield. The word conjures images of a regional railroad defined by multiple sooted black six-axle units in run 8, working against gravity and curvature, hard against slide detection fences, soaring across bridges, and diving into the cool of 55 tunnels, to move coal out of the heart of Appalachia. It brings to mind railroaders, many of them multi-generational, working locals, mine runs, coal trains, and time freights across 277 of the most rugged and beautiful mountain railroad miles ever b...

China doesn't need (or want) GE Transportation

Posted 3 months ago by Steve Sweeney
Readers and even one or two Trains correspondents have asked me in recent days why I didn’t write about China’s CRRC as a potential bidder for GE Transportation. And, to a lesser extent, Canada’s Bombardier.My plain and simple explanation: Both are poor fits for GE Transportation as it stands today.Bombardier first. The Canadian industrial giant is in trouble. It makes airplanes and passenger trains for international markets but relies heavily on support from the Province of Qu...

CSX's Santa Train: A special preview day

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
There are some days in your career as a lover of railroads when words fail to describe the sheer enjoyment of a day spent trackside with a special subject and many good friends. Friday was one of those days.  We were with CSX and a group of people who’d made sure that Clinchfield F7 No. 800 and SD45 No. 3632 were ready to pull the 75th anniversary Santa Train on the former Clinchfield Railroad. Today was the positioning move for the Santa Train, running from Kingsport, Tenn., to Shelb...

A trip down memory lane with Model Railroader

Posted 3 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Not many people can say that their employer played a large role in their childhood – family business tycoons excluded. It is one of the perks of working for Trains (and down the hall from Model Railroader). This week, though, I was able to draw a link from my career back to my childhood thanks to some office cleaning. I started subscribing to Model Railroader in grade school, an annual gift from my parents. Soon thereafter, Trains was added to the tab, too. I still recall a lot of what'...

Bourdain's Jeremiah Tower and Lucius Beebe, The Last Magnificent

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
If you were watching CNN this past Sunday night, you did not imagining anything you heard. Yes, you did hear the name of one of the railroad enthusiast community’s earliest and most iconic champions, Lucius Beebe, called out. Yes, it was during a most unlikely program -- Anthony Bourdain’s profile of celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower. And yes, they were talking about the same Beebe you and I know as the author of “High Iron,” “Mixed Train Daily,” “Mansions o...

CSX's Santa Train: When Union Pacific 3985 posed as Clinchfield 676

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
CSX’s Santa Train: When Union Pacific No. 3985 played Clinchfield 676 When Clinchfield F7 No. 800, the railroad’s first diesel locomotive, heads up the 75th anniversary Santa Train on Saturday, it will be a landmark event: The 1948 unit in its original gray and yellow garb, back on home rails, and once again in charge of the world’s longest Christmas parade, a trip of about 100 miles from Shelbiana, Ky., to Kingsport, Tenn. But not that long ago, 25 years to be exact, there ...

Clinchfield Railroad between the covers: Five essential books

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
With the 75th anniversary running of CSX’s Clinchfield Railroad Santa Train on Nov. 18 just a few days  away, it’s a good time to review the Clinchfield story in print.  Several great books have been put together about the Clinchfield, a regional railroad built to outstanding engineering standards through some of the most difficult terrain of the Appalachian Mountains. Under the control of the Atlantic Coast Line and Louisville & Nashville since the 1920s, the railroad ...

Clinchfield F7 No. 800, I've been waiting a long time for this ...

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Today’s debut of Clinchfield No. 800 in Huntington, W.Va., returned to its original gray and yellow paint scheme of 1948 thanks to CSX, is a welcomed sight. When it comes to locomotives, my pecking order is steam, cab unit, and Alcos, in that order. I have nothing against other locomotives. I like them all, but to me a streamlined cab unit is a special machine, a locomotive wrapped in a distinctive dress, a celebrity who is going some place special. I’m especially happy to see this ...

Preparing Hot Spots, our next special issue, a question arises: How many places on our list have you visited?

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
On Monday, the graphic artists who work on Trains and the editorial staff gathered in a ritual we call the “pin up.” It’s the one and only time when the entire feature well of a magazine is printed out and placed on the walls of a room. We lock ourselves in this chamber for an hour or so and review what we’re about to give you, the readers. We critique layouts, argue over headlines, adjust photos, and size up the timing and placement of stories. Sometimes we change the or...

A (brief) look at Cincinnati railroads

Posted 4 months ago by Brian Schmidt
I spent a few days around Cincinnati earlier this month while I was in town for a presentation at the Cincinnati Railroad Club's monthly meeting. Here are a few trains I saw during my visit: A northbound coal train cools its heels at KC Junction in Covington, Ky., just south of downtown Cincinnati. Here, former Chesapeake & Ohio and Louisville & Nashville lines converge to cross the Ohio River and access Queensgate Yard. A northbound local with a GP40-2 slug set passes the former...

Is Hyperloop a train for you?

Posted 4 months ago by Steve Sweeney
Excuse me if I've asked you this before, but what do you think of Elon Musk's Hyperloop proposals?  The basic facts are both simple in concept and ridiculously ambitious. Elon Musk, who owns SpaceX, Tesla Motors, and has a gargantuan stash of cash and reserves to spend on technology, wants to build a magnetic levitation system in a low-pressure tube to convey people, and possibly freight, at high speed around the country. Remember when you used to be able to drive up to a bank branch a...

A true tale of railroading literally on the edge: Trains’ Peru tour, part 7, the end

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
CUSCO, Peru -- The engine revs up and with a lurch the aircraft begins racing forward down the runway at 11,000 feet above sea level. My heart races a little knowing that an A319 only has so much linear footage at this altitude to become airborne or spatter itself on the side of the Andes. Instead of fretting about high altitude departures, though, my thoughts instead turn to Peru, its railroads, and their people who have welcomed the Trains tour group and me for the last 11 days. What a ruggedl...

Machu Picchu, narrow gauge, and other true tales from South America: Trains’ Peru tour, part 6

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
CUSCO, PERU – Standing in the ruins of the 15th century Incan city Machu Picchu in southern Peru, you  suddenly find yourself thrust into a National Geographic cover and checking with your fellow travelers  regularly to see if you actually are standing in this world famous and ancient place that was only “discovered” a little more than a century ago. And then, as you learn about the Incans, their way of life on this mountainside, their gods, how they came here, and w...

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