THE magazine of railroading


Enter keywords or a search phrase below:


Loose brains derail trains

Posted 3 days ago by Steve Sweeney
News this week that Al Qaeda terrorists are promoting would-be followers to make and employ do-it-yourself concrete derails is — unsurprising. The awesome mass and speed of most trains is enough to do great damage when they derail by accident in lonely locales — let alone on purpose in populated places. We expect that people who want to do us harm in North American and Europe would do almost anything to achieve their aims. And yet, because so much focus has been on airplanes and pas...

Don't get eclipsed by a lack of info on Aug. 21

Posted 6 days ago by Steve Sweeney
Ben Cooper photo, via Astronomy Magazine A total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 will be visible for much of the United States including at least one subdivision on every Class I railroad.  It's the first total solar eclipse to cross this much of the country since 1918 — meaning most people who are alive today haven't witnessed what's coming. If it's clear trackside on Aug. 21, plenty of railfans are going to want to experience the moment, so we asked for top viewing tips from Astrono...

Should our images represent reality or the way we want it to be?

Posted 8 days ago by Jim Wrinn
When we choose a Trains cover should we select an image of the way we want things to be or the as they are, even if a portion of the shot depicts something that’s not 100 percent right? That’s the question I asked myself after the feedback we received about our August issue and readers were critical of our cover image showing the last Ringling circus train crossing a bridge in West Virginia. It’s a great picture, and it accomplishes something that’s a difficult task: It ...

Q&A with owners of a West Virginia railfan inn

Posted 11 days ago by Jim Wrinn
One of the good things about editing Trains magazine is the travel. We get to visit a lot of places. The biggest problem is that some of the most interesting places are what I call “one and done” – we don’t get back to them for long periods of time – or ever. One such place is Norfolk Southern’s main line in West Virginia, which I first encountered in January 1985. I was on the way home from chasing Chesapeake & Ohio 4-8-4 No. 614 in the snow, and friends ...

For better or worse, 2017 is the year of the Nickel Plate Road

Posted 14 days ago by Brian Schmidt
It's not often that the legacy of a fallen flag, now gone almost 53 years, is so readily apparent. And yet, here in 2017, the late, lamented Nickel Plate Road is front and center in railroad news. As an Ohio native, I'm taking some extra interest in these developments. FOR THE BETTER: Former Nickel Plate Road 2-8-2 No. 624 will move from its longtime home of Hammond, Ind., across the state to join 2-8-4 No. 765 at the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society. Prep work is complete and the loco...

Murphy Branch memories: A Norfolk Southern train departs Andrews, N.C., July 1986

Posted 15 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Like you, I love contemporary railroad action, and my favorite photo or riding expedition is the next one ahead of me. But I am developing a great affinity for some of the images I made earlier in my life. This picture is one of them. It depicts an eastbound freight on Norfolk Southern’s scenic and celebrated Murphy Branch. The train has just left Andrews, N.C., where it tied up the night before on a turn out of Waynesville. There was no more traffic west of Andrews, so it was the Murphy B...

End of an Erie

Posted 21 days ago by Steve Sweeney
The headline is an intended pun, but a sad one. In case you didn't know or hadn't heard, GE will end locomotive production in Erie, Pa., by the end of 2018.   As railfans and rail industry observers, we always kinda knew that was going to happen. I wrote about it four years ago on this blog.   As an Erie-built myself (St. Vincent Hospital - 1981) I feel pride in Erie and locomotives, but I've become numb to the ups and downs in GE employment. In talking to people who still live in t...

Cat got your train? In the UK, Felix does at Huddersfield

Posted 23 days ago by Jim Wrinn
It’s time to let you all in on a secret. Railroaders are into cats. Yes, this predominantly male occupation and avocation is full of feline fans. I have several friends in the business and on the edges who adore cats and have agreed to be owned by them (those who’ve been there or who are there now will understand the phrasing of this). Adoration for Chessie, Peak, and their clan has not diminished through the years since Chesapeake & Ohio employed the cat to sell its passenger se...

'Selling Sunshine' is almost ready. What would you like to see next?

Posted 25 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Last week we put the final touches on Rich Luckin’s latest documentary video for Trains. “Selling Sunshine, the Florida Trains,” will be available next month available directly from us (see the link at and also coming to a PBS station near you. The video is a great tribute to the Florida railroads that built the Sunshine state and continue to influence its growth and development. Fans of Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Air Line, Seaboard Coast Line, Florida East...

'What are the odds?!' Two office car specials in one day!

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Do we have any odds makers out there? If so, read on. We’re feeling lucky. On Tuesday, not one but two office car specials visited the Milwaukee area on two different Class I railroads. One office car special in town is a rare event, but two? That’s unheard of. As my wife, Cate, likes to say when describing a rare event, “What are the odds?!” Here’s the story. Union Pacific was first. It ran an 8-car engineering department inspection train from Chicago to St. Paul...

Locomotives in print, on video, and one of EMD's best alive and well

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Locomotives are on my mind. It’s not that they aren’t normally too far from my thinking, but in this case, they’re even closer to the forefront than usual. The reason is that on Monday, we’ll be meeting with Greg McDonnell, editor of our annual publication, Locomotive, to review the feature story layouts that you’ll soon find in the 2017 edition. I got a sneak peek last week: The graphic artists we work with post their completed layouts, and I found a delightful mix...

Flashback from 1987: Rainy morning at the Spencer roundhouse

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Some pictures that I took early on still make me smile more so than others. This one, from a rain drenched Labor Day weekend 1987, is one of them. It’s the memory of a turning point. The Kodachrome slide depicts 1926 Buffalo Creek & Gauley 2-8-0 No. 4, one of the early 1960s last regular steam stars, in drag as “Southern Railway No. 604” building pressure just outside the Spencer roundhouse for the first scheduled on-site train ride in the history of the N.C. Transportatio...

Heritage units five years after the big party

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Where were you five years ago this coming Monday and Tuesday? For 4,000 of you, you were with me, sweltering in the heat at the Norfolk Southern heritage unit event at Spencer, N.C., on July 3 and 4, 2012, and delighted with the amazing never-to-be-repeated show of new diesel power in retro colors. We were watching an ES44 / SD70 ACe kaleidoscope, desperate for shade, and giddy with our good fortune. We measured walks to the viewing area known as Heritage Hill in how many bottles of water the t...

On Wick Moorman leaving Amtrak ... we didn't have you there long enough

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
It was only a few minutes after I’d gotten a “heads up” message from Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari about a new CEO announcement this morning that Wick Moorman was on the phone to speak a good word for his freshly named successor, Richard Anderson. Anderson is known for being former CEO of Delta and Northwest airlines. I’d no more than dashed off a note to columnists Fred Frailey, Bob Johnston, and Don Phillips and given Associate Editor Steve Sweeney, who handles our on...

Three weeks to better railroad photography

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
Sometimes you get lucky, but most of the time you've got to work for it. That's how life goes, and railroad photography is no different. I got a catalog in the mail today, highlighting the continuing education classes available at my local community college. There are two photography classes listed for the fall, a three-week basic digital photography course for $43 and a five-week travel photography course for $100. Both meet one day a week and offer help with basic photography skills and cam...

I found the silver bullet at WRI

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
We’re on the verge of something big. Until just this morning, when I paused to reflect on the 23rd Wheel Rail Interaction conference from Montreal in early June, I thought there was no silver bullet out there for railroading to cure all real and perceived problems; no steam-to-diesel-like transition waiting in the wings.I was wrong.Data from more machines and sensing devices will drive railroading changes fast enough to make heads spin — just as in nearly every other industry. My evi...

Train delays: So what?

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Help me out, folks. I see railroad discussion forums overrun these days with inquiries about late trains, and I don't know why. "48(31) lost 13 minutes between Buffalo and Erie. Why?" Why indeed. Years ago, I rode the Silver Star from Hollywood to Jacksonville where some friends were to pick me up. The train was, to little surprise, running late. Maybe it was the crowds of people boarding in Tampa, pictured here, that put us behind. Maybe it was bad dispatching. Maybe it was the lack of a pr...

Get lost in your photography, or not

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
There's something to be said for riding a train and getting lost in the moment. To not have a care other than to gaze out the window and watch the miles go by. Unfortunately, if you're taking photos on that journey, it still pays dividends to keep track of where you are. I learned this upon my return from the 2016 Trains Magazine tour of Ireland, England, and France. A number of factors contributed to my disorientation on this trip. First, I was with a tour group, so I had done virtually no p...

A Prayer for Railroaders

Posted 2 months ago by Steve Sweeney
In the past couple of years, I've read plenty of comments on Facebook and heard stories over beers from train crews and dispatchers about mergers, layoffs, and work policies they disagree with. Or that day they remember when they hit a trespasser. Or the way the schedule works, they'll be away from home for awhile — but at least they're making a trainload of money. Ha. Long story short, I asked a railfan pal, Michael Murray, if he would conjure or cajole a kind of prayer for today's railr...

Portland’s nod to its railroad past

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Northern Pacific F units gather near the Hoyt Street Roundhouse in Portland's River District in 1964. The present-day Tanner Springs Park would be at the far left, where the passenger cars rest. Photo by J.W. Swanberg How do you tell the tale of railroading to a reluctant public? True railfans will, of course, endure countless eccentricities to learn more about their interest. Hot days at the museum looking over rusty machines and esoteric artifacts. But John Q. Public isn’t so hardy. T...

A glimpse of the industrial past in Portland

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
I had the opportunity to explore Portland, Ore., earlier this year on my trip to attend Winterail 2017 in Corvallis. I spent one rainy day exploring the city, doing my best to be on some form of rail transit during the heaviest downpours. During a break from the precipitation, I found myself on the edge of the Pearl District, northeast of downtown hard along Interstate 405. There I stumbled onto one of the last remnants of Portland's one-time extensive industrial switching districts in NW 15th A...

Of Big Steam, a 2-10-4, video, and Baldwin diesels

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I’ve been away for a few more days than I anticipated, so I want to catch up on a few housekeeping notes. First, our new 90-minute video, Big Steam is Back, has returned from the replicator, which gives me great joy, having just taken a ride and done some chasing with Norfolk & Western No. 611 earlier this month. I’m excited about this video project because it captures all of the big locomotives out there running today and gives a preview of many of the projects that are in the ...

Judge not, lest you too lose your situational awareness

Posted 3 months ago by Steve Sweeney
And so it begins. Brandon Bostian surrendered to police in Philadelphia today (May 18) to face criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter, among other things, related to the May 2015 crash of Amtrak Northeast Regional train 188. That crash killed eight passengers and injured hundreds more on-board. Bostian was the Amtrak engineer at the throttle when the crash happened. Local prosecutors declined to charge Bostian for lack of evidence of a crime and the National Transportation Safety Board d...

Rainy day people

Posted 3 months ago by Brian Schmidt
The northbound 'Silver Meteor' pauses at Palatka, Fla.,  on a rainy January 2015 day. Photo by Brian Schmidt This past weekend the Center for Railroad Photography & Art held its annual "Conversations" conference at Lake Forest College in suburban Chicago, which brought together some of the continent's best railroad photographers. The weather for the weekend, by most accounts, was abysmal. It was cold, rainy, and windy. Not the most pleasant weather to be standing trackside waiting fo...

Texas debut party notes... before today's clothes go up in smoke

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
So I am beat from a 12-hour day in the field. Preparing our live streaming gear for today’s debut of the steam locomotive Texas put me on site at the N.C. Transportation Museum early this morning and I’ll be  back again Saturday. I am pretty well fried. I want to take a shower at the hotel and burn my clothes. But first, I want to share a few things that surprised and delighted me at the debut of the restored Civil War locomotive, rolled out today for the first time for its rest...

Buffalo's now-superfluous station

Posted 3 months ago by Steve Sweeney
Buffalo Central Terminal in 1999. Photo by Matt Van Hattem Buffalo, N.Y., residents and newcomers rebuilding the City of Good Neighbors say they'll need a good train station to support their urban renaissance — but not Central Terminal. I fear a local board's decision this month to replace the long-decrepit Exchange Street Station in downtown is the end of any grand plans to restore and use the New York Central's former Buffalo Central Terminal on the east side of the city. It's the en...

Live streaming the Texas brings to mind history and a childhood recollection

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
On Friday and Saturday, I’ll be in Spencer, N.C., at my home museum, the N.C. Transportation Museum, where Trains will live stream the rollout of the cosmetically restored 1856 steam era locomotive Texas of the Civil War Great Locomotive Chase fame. You can watch along with us at, and be sure to check out coverage on Newswire as well as our Facebook page. In addition to the Texas, you’ll see Norfolk & Western No. 611 and Lehigh Coal 0-6-0T No. 126 in st...

Spring steam 2017: No. 261 makes it a complete serving of hot heavy metal

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I’ve been excited about this year’s steam season for many reasons: Lots of trips, major restorations, our Big Steam is Back special issue and DVD are set for June release and almost finished. As you’ll learn in our video and special magazine, it’s a new golden age for mainline steam. Let’s talk about trips. All of the big mainline engines have interesting and unique schedules between now and July. Union Pacific No. 844 leaves for Boise Tuesday and is also called ...

All the dope on Big Steam is Back

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
We’re in the home stretch of finishing up our next special issue, Big Steam is Back, due from the printer in June, and its companion DVD, available at the same time. To get this or any magazine out the door, we rely on two pieces of paper to see us through: A dope sheet and a planning sheet. The dope sheet is the document that gives each story a place in the pecking order and a page allocation, as well as the editor-and-author pairing. I like to think of it as sheet music for a publicati...

Where's Jim? Here I am!

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I had a sinking feeling Sunday afternoon. I knew it had been a while since my last post, but when I checked, it had been almost two weeks since I touched base with you all here. Where have I been? Working is part of the answer. We’ve got some great content coming up for you, and that’s been demanding every minute of my attention. We’re finishing up the June issue, our annual issue with significant short line and regional railroad coverage in it, and I prepared a feature stor...