THE magazine of railroading


Enter keywords or a search phrase below:


Treading trodden trails of railroad photography

Posted yesterday by Brian Schmidt
I attended a railroad slide show this weekend with 23 of my closest friends. Without fail there were multiple shows on the most popular topics of the times: Florida East Coast and Montana Rail Link. Add Raton Pass and you have the unholy trifecta of over-exposed railroad subjects in the early 21st century.Full disclosure: I traveled to photograph Florida East Coast already this calendar year. I had a blast. It was worth the trip. But I fully recognize that, since Fred Frailey's January 2015 issu...

Where do you take visitors when they come to call? In our case, Canadian National’s Byron Hill

Posted yesterday by Jim Wrinn
It is a universal truth that we Americans rarely visit the sights that are in our own backyards. It is also a universal truth that when company comes to visit, we eagerly and gladly take our friends and family to visit these attractions. So it was when Trains photo contributor Samuel Phillips and his friend Jonathan McCoy came to visit us last weekend here in Trains home turf in southeastern Wisconsin. Byron Hill is the significant railroad geographical feature in the region. It’s long be...

212,000 grade crossings in the U.S. Can we close more of them?

Posted 5 days ago by Jim Wrinn
After Tuesday’s Metrolink grade crossing collision that injured 28, four critically, and the Feb. 3 Metro-North collision that killed six and caused $3.7 million in damage, I think it’s time for a serious discussion about aggressively closing more grade crossings in the United States. This isn’t a complex equation. More trains are hauling more commuters, passengers, and freight than at any other time in modern history. I used to wait for hours in a small town in the Carolinas ...

Two Union Pacific diesels that hold a special place in a steam lover’s heart

Posted 7 days ago by Jim Wrinn
SOMEWHERE IN EASTERN IOWA – I had to be in Iowa overnight last weekend, and while driving both coming and going, I photographed Union Pacific diesels on the main line that warmed the heart of this steam lover on a chilly weekend. On the way west, I got on U.S. 30 just east of DeWitt, Iowa, and immediately noticed the tail end of a westbound autorack train. So I did what any of us would do and gave chase. Now UP’s mainline, when it is fluid, is a thing of beauty – trains zip ri...

What a difference a year makes: Chicago & North Western 1385

Posted 8 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Last weekend, Mid-Continent Railway Museum held its second annual open house for the most famous of the steam locomotives in its fleet, Chicago & North Western 4-6-0 No. 1385. The 1907 Alco has been out of service since 1998, needs a new boiler, and the push is on to return this Ten-Wheeler to steam. Mid-Continent hosted the open house at SPEC Machine in Middleton, Wis., a shop located northwest of Madison in about the most unlikely place you’d expect to find a 108-year-old steam loco...

Eight questions for a man who wrote and sings a song called “Norfolk Southern”

Posted 11 days ago by Jim Wrinn
If you haven’t heard it yet, there’s a new song out called “Norfolk Southern” by Nashville’s Jason Lee McKinney. (Watch the official music video for "Norfolk Southern.") As you can imagine, it’s pretty popular with a southeastern railroad that paints its locomotives black, shows its history and pride with heritage units and steam excursions, and turns a nice profit. Heck, NS even has its own band, The Lawmen, and unless I’m mistaken, the company is the o...

The ‘tough’ part of working for Trains: a day on the Quad Graphics private cars

Posted 12 days ago by Jim Wrinn
SUSSEX, Wis. – I like to think that I work hard. I know the Trains staff works hard. But I have to admit, some days at Trains are so embarrassingly good that what we do doesn’t seem like work at all. Such was the case Wednesday when we held our annual staff planning meeting on board a private car that belongs to our printer, Quad Graphics. Our meeting site was a 1948 stainless steel dome car built for the legendary California Zephyr. Today, it and three sisters serve as a stationary...

10 questions and answers for the T1 Trust

Posted 14 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I asked Brad Noble, chairman of the T1 Trust that plans to build a replica Pennsylvania Railroad T1 4-4-4-4 steam locomotive, 10 questions about the project. The non-profit educational organization’s aim is to construct PRR T1 No. 5550, the 53rd locomotive of its class for mainline excursions and to set a world speed record for steam locomotives. Here’s what he told us. Question: Who makes up The T1 Trust that is pushing this project? Tell us about their experience and qualification...

Train-watching weenies?

Posted 18 days ago by Brian Schmidt
 Fifteen years ago, as a newly independent railfan, I could not wait to get out trackside each weekend. I would gas up the car, stock the cooler, grab a few rolls of film, and set out in search of adventure. Some weekends were more fruitful than others, but I always had fun doing it. There used to be an adventurous, almost pioneering spirit to railfans. A bright, warm day was all it took to set out in search of trains. You could almost count on running into some other railfans when tracksid...

Admiring Union Pacific’s Blair bridge across the Missouri River

Posted 21 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I am a sucker for overwhelming structures, and on Sunday, I got to spend time admiring one of the big bridges in the Midwest, this one over the Missouri River at Blair, Neb. It is a big, imposing, through truss structure that soars into the air. Trains approach it and climb up to it from the Iowa side. American Bridge Co. built the three spans, totaling about 1,335 feet, in 1924 when the Chicago & Northwestern was running this route. Today, it’s part of the Union Pacific main line acr...

Recreating a moment when Norfolk & Western steam was king

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I’ve always admired this photo – the one of the magnificent three — Norfolk & Western’s best steam locomotive creations, from left, the J, the Y, and the A. The image was made April 13, 1943, when building these incredible machines was an every day occurrence at the Roanoke, Va., shops. The aim was to move coal, merchandise, and people between N&W’s namesake Tidewater city and Cincinnati, Ohio. The result was mechanical bliss. Just imagine, the world’s...

The end of an era on Christiansburg Mountain

Posted one month ago by Samuel Phillips
After many years of service, the classic Norfolk & Western color position light signals between Salem and Christiansburg, Va., are falling to progress. Norfolk Southern has installed new Safetran signals at Arthur, Montgomery Tunnel, and Christiansburg, with the old ones currently standing beside them. These CPLs have been photographed by countless photographers over the years, and witnessed the era of mighty N&W steam locomotives like the Class A, J, and Y in regular service.  The...

Full metal jacket: Putting a blanket on a Mikado

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I recently had a great day with eight other steam fans working on a privately-owned 2-8-2 being restored to operate at Wisconsin’s Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom. We spent a day installing the jacketing and lagging on Skip Lichter’s Saginaw Timber Co. No. 2. The 1912 Baldwin Mikado has been under restoration since soon after its last run in 2000. That was the last time steam ran at this long-time center of ancient locomotives and wooden passenger cars. It looks like 20...

Why 2015 may be a frustratingly good year for mainline steam

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I have good reasons to be optimistic that you and I will run into each other trackside this year while we’re both waiting on a steam train. There are more mainline steam locomotives that are either ready now or being prepared to roll than any time in the last 25 years. The 1,472-day inspections of two famous 4-8-4s — Norfolk & Western No. 611 and Southern Pacific No. 4449 -- have been completed and those engines are well on their way to being operational. Union Pacific said last...

Serendipity on board the Silver Star

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
 I'm typing this from on board Amtrak train No. 92, the northbound Silver Star, as I pass the new SunRail commuter service layover yard, somewhere north of Orlando. It's been a fun run so far out of Hollywood on my trip north to Jacksonville. A morning obligation kept me from taking the earlier train, No. 98, which does not make the detour to Tampa. So I've trekked from one side of Florida to the other, and now I'm headed back to the coast from where I started. I had a few o...

Exploring the main line across Iowa is more fun than a silo full of corn

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I’ve come to throw myself at the mercy of the Iowans out there. For years, I’ve been thinking their state would be a dull place to watch trains -- a flat, uninteresting, straight as an arrow trip through endless cornfields. I’ve held that view for much of my adult life. Then in the last year family obligations prompted me to take frequent trips to Iowa or across the state. Now I have come to ask forgiveness and to praise the tracks in the farms. Being a child of the south, my ...

6 happenings I want to see in 2015 and one resolution

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
The start of the new year has me thinking about railroading in 2015. The year just past was incredible in so many ways, but the year ahead could be even more amazing. Here’s what has me eagerly anticipating the days and months ahead. I can’t wait to see how these turn out: The first Tier 4 diesel locomotives (probably for BNSF next spring), Positive Train Control installation, and winter operations on main lines nationwide. One thing I’d love to see come to a conclusion: Th...

Allegheny Central’s Jack Showalter inspired many

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I had a phone call recently from an old friend who had sad news to share. Sally Showalter called to tell me about the passing last month of her dad, Jack, one of the true greats in U.S. steam railway preservation. When the list of folks who kept steam alive between the regular service era and today, Jack’s name will be among those brave souls who put everything they had into making sure that old locomotives would continue in operation. Jack’s stage was the Allegheny Central tourist ...

Making the website better

Posted 2 months ago by Steve Sweeney
When Trains' new website appeared in October, you loyal and attentive readers out there let us know what you thought. Much of what you wrote to us in emails and called us on the phone about was positive. Before long though, you found problems. So we listened and learned. We took what you told us and started working. I'm happy to say that as of this morning, the good website people in our building added new computer codes that make the website better. No, really, it's improved. Here's what to lo...

An East Texas junction worth visiting

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
BIG SANDY, Texas – One of my favorite things to do when I am traveling is to explore places that I’ve read or heard about all my life, but I also love to visit little-known gems. This is about one of those unremarked hot spots. A friend of mine suggested that while I was in Tyler, Texas, for business last month that I take the time to drive about 25 miles north to a place called Big Sandy. What would I find there, I asked? When Patrick Flynn wrote about it in the March 1994 issue of...

Of dome cars and sentiment

Posted 3 months ago by David Lassen
I spent the Friday of my long holiday weekend on a round trip from Chicago to Springfield, Ill., solely to get some seat time in Amtrak’s lone remaining dome car, the “Ocean View.” As part of the passenger system’s response to the Thanksgiving rush, the full-length dome, built in 1955 for Great Northern’s Empire Builder, was placed in service on Chicago-Milwaukee and Chicago-St. Louis runs. As I watched the landscape pass from the always-coveted front seat, I tho...

About that ‘other’ Alco PA, Santa Fe, 59L in Texas

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
FRISCO, Texas – In the midst of the collection of rolling stock lined up at the new Museum of the American Railroad is a wrecked and worn out celebrity awaiting a makeover and a comeback: Santa Fe Alco PA No. 59L. Right now, this 1948 diesel passenger locomotive in tattered and fading Delaware & Hudson blue and gray looks as if a giant had crumpled it, tossed it against a canyon wall, and ripped it apart. But the museum’s Robert Willis and Bob LaPrelle assure me that it can be f...

Caption this image

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
RUSK, Texas – This is Santa Fe 4-6-2 No. 1316, also known as Texas State Railroad No. 500. The 1911 passenger locomotive last steamed 12 years ago, and the railroad, then part of Texas State Parks, built an all new welded boiler for the locomotive for installation. Trouble is, the new boiler has technical issues (too complex to go into here), and so the cylinders, frame, and running gear, have been like this for years. Iowa Pacific runs the railroad now, and their mechanical forces are try...

Permitted daydreaming: Trains 2015 calendar

Posted 4 months ago by Steve Sweeney
The staff at Trains occasionally receive calls or letters referring to the "current" issue of Trains magazine. We work on three or four different issues at a time and each one is in a different stage of production or editing. So, if the letter writer or phone caller does not refer to a specific month, we have to pause and look up the right information in a calendar. Everyone on staff has at least two calendars. I use three: the one built-in to the company's email system, to keep track of meetin...

That old Trains feel

Posted 4 months ago by Kevin P. Keefe
Some of you will know why this picture, taken last evening, is here. It’s been 27 years since a bunch of talented Trains magazine (and Model Railroader) editors and graphic designers made magic behind that door, 27 years since our company left downtown Milwaukee for the suburbs. The time just flew! But I’m happy to report that, inside this stolid old building on 7th Street, it still looks like 1975. Still looks like you might bump into D.P.M. or Rosemary Entringer or Gil Reid at an...

10 years goes by fast when you have the world’s greatest job

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I won’t lie to you. I have the world’s greatest job. Ten years ago today, I walked into Kalmbach Publishing Co., and began my editorship of Trains. For me, it was the dream job that I had wanted as a daily newspaper journalist and as a Trains reader since childhood. I started doing photography and writing for Trains in 1982 when I was still in college. I wrote feature stories for years. But things changed in 2004 when I went to work full-time, and I want to thank you for this privile...

Official non-profit foundation for Cass Scenic Railroad will continue efforts in collaboration with new operator

Posted 4 months ago by Chase Gunnoe
Today, as the West Virginia Rail Authority voted to accept a lease agreement of the railroad assets of the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park from the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, many have questioned the future sustainability and involvement of Mountain State Railroad & Logging Historical Association and how it will be integrated into the operations of the new railroad operator. As a board member for the Association, executives from the foundation appointed a Transition Comm...

More questions about Western Maryland Scenic and C&O 1309? We’ve got answers!

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Earlier this month, we asked Western Maryland Scenic Railroad General Superintendent Mike Gresham 10 questions about the popular railroad between Cumberland, Md., and Frostburg, Md., and its groundbreaking project, the restoration of Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309. The railroad’s 1916 2-8-0 No. 734 is well known, too. Mike generously consented to answer eight more questions from our Trains Facebook page. Here’s what he told us. 1. From Brian Hedrick: Has expanding the scen...

75 years in one book

Posted 4 months ago by Steve Sweeney
A little more than a year from now, Trains Magazine will be 75 years old - a complete lifetime away from when Trains' founder A.C. Kalmbach printed the first official issue in November 1940. Celebrating this anniversary means that we'll have a party sometime in 2015 (I'll save you some cake.) We'll also have a couple of trips and a memory book. And right now, this memory book intrigues me the most. It's called "Great American Railroad Stories." My copy is a pre-distribution soft-cover version ...

Occasionally, it pays to take a chance on a photo

Posted 4 months ago by David Lassen
I hadn’t really planned to post another photo from the recent Pullman Rail Journeys “Varsity” operation between Chicago and Madison, Wis., having put a few up on the Trains Facebook page. But this one (click on the image to see a full-size version) received so much favorable comment from friends — even those not interested in railroading — that I thought it might be worth passing along as an illustration of the value of occasionally trying to shoot in less than op...