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6

The pendulum returns, too

Posted 4 days ago by Brian Schmidt
 Many people are familiar with the so-called “Doomsday Clock,” a symbolic countdown to some man-made catastrophe. Respected scientists use the clock as a reminder that humanity is no infallible. Lately I’ve wondered if it’s not time to setup a similar device to remind railroads of the likelihood of pending reregulation. Before the Staggers Act of 1980, U.S. railroads were strangled by regulations that limited their ability to compete both with each other and oth...
8

Silverton's living history offers 'rocky' memories

Posted 6 days ago by Steve Sweeney
You expect two things on a visit to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad: trains and mountains. And if you happen to dig deeper and find that this railroad is living history, so much the better. But during an early June trip with a Trains tour group to Durango, Colo., I found a new living history unfolding because of train tourism that most visitors are likely to miss. Our group had taken the 8:45 a.m. train from Durango to Silverton. We saw plenty of trains at the roundhouse, in ...
15

A trip out West, part 1: Montana Rail Link, at last

Posted 22 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Westbound MRL train with BNSF power exits Bozeman Pass tunnel on June 20, 2015 and passes the old bore that was bypassed in 1945. Jim Wrinn photo. LIVINGSTON, Mont. – I have managed to wander across most of North America and to see a lot of great railroading in this land. But one railroad that escaped me, until now, has been Montana Rail Link. Everyone that I know who has been there comes back captivated by this 900-mile regional railroad that operates the former Northern Pacific main lin...
5

All in the family; a visit to a joint meeting of two railroad historical societies: UP and C&NW

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Look at all that power on display for the Union Pacific and Chicago & North Western historical societies in downtown Omaha earlier this month. Jim Wrinn photo. OMAHA – I stood on a bridge at Crescent, Iowa, Sunday before last to watch spanking clean Union Pacific SD70AH No. 8897, the last two unpatched Chicago & North Western units, Nos. 8646 and 8701, and a UP geep head east on the point of a long manifest. Buried deep in the train was a single distributed power unit, UP’s ...
10

This is how the 611 chase went for me

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
We’ve written plenty about the glory of the return to the main line for Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611, and I thought that before the memory of last Saturday’s chase from Spencer, N.C., to Roanoke, Va., fades, it might be a good idea to relate a personal tale of how it went from the perspective of one of the motorcade. Those in hot pursuit of a hot steam locomotive are often ignored, but we are part of the show too. We watch the train and those on the train watch and often lau...
10

Of steam, power, emotion, and reality: Norfolk & Western No. 611 is back

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
No. 611 thrills the crowd at Villamont, Va., on May 30, 2015 on its homecoming journey to Roanoke, Va. Jim Wrinn photo. On Saturday, I stood trackside at Villamont, Va., on the eastern slope of the Norfolk & Western’s fabled Blue Ridge Grade to watch Class J No. 611 effortlessly move its 18-car passenger consist across the ridge that’s just outside its hometown of Roanoke. As the engine paddled by, whistle tied down for the grade crossing at Tower Road and not even working hard,...
5

Norfolk & Western No. 611 -- 16 hours with Elvis

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
SPENCER, N.C. – Imagine that Elvis came to live with you. He is putting his career back on track and needs to get up to speed, and it takes him a year. He’s his old self again, ready for the main stage, but before he goes, A. You pack a lunch and wish him well. B. Take him to the bus station. Or C. ask him to sing a concert in your living room for a few friends, and then you’ll pack a lunch and take him to his bus. The answer, of course, is C. You’re no idiot. You want to...
13

Thoughts and notes on Norfolk & Western No. 611’s first mainline run in almost 21 years

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
SPENCER, N.C. – The steam event of 2015 – Norfolk & Western No. 611 in steam on the main line – is underway, finally. I was fortunate to be among the small group of fans who gathered trackside Thursday to see it in person, and none of us were disappointed. No. 611 lived up to her legendary ability to accelerate and sprint while looking graceful at the point of a passenger train. The good thing about this all: It was only the first day of more than two dozen in the next six ...
6

Talk about timing: a derailment during a presentation about derailments.

Posted 2 months ago by Steve Sweeney
Talk about timing. A Metra train derails at low speed going through a switch in downtown Chicago, while a thousand miles away, wheel-rail experts talk about switches being a top cause of derailments in the United States. Here’s what we know about Metra first: about 1 a.m. on Wednesday, a Metra Electric train headed to Millennium Park Station from University Park (inbound to downtown) was moving through a switch at 10 mph when it derailed and damaged two tracks. Five passengers and three c...
4

You never give up on a good locomotive

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
SPENCER, N.C. – I was late to the party Tuesday. An old friend, Buffalo Creek & Gauley 2-8-0 No. 4, was leaving town, and even though my flight from Milwaukee to Charlotte was on time, by the time I got to the North Carolina Transportation Museum, the boiler had already been loaded onto a truck. I did get to see the cab, flues, and running gear loaded up, but to me the heart of a locomotive is the boiler – it’s the vessel where the locomotive’s soul lives. I came to...
10

Chasing No. 611 from Spencer to Lynchburg, Va. on May 30

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Amtrak's northbound Carolinian crosses the Yadkin River bridge as seen from an overlook just north of the bridge. Photographer Samuel Phillips talked about places to photograph Norfolk & Western No. 611 on its home rails in his blog post a few days ago. Since then, we’ve had questions about the route of the May 30 homecoming trip from Spencer, N.C. to Roanoke, Va. While I was in North Carolina last week to see 611 take its first baby steps, I drove the route and checked out locations...
10

Chasing Norfolk & Western No. 611 out of Roanoke

Posted 3 months ago by Samuel Phillips
Most of you who arereading this are probably just as excited about the restored Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611 as I am. We are roughly just a month a way from witnessing the return of this beautiful and classic N&W steam locomotive that will parade across home rails just as it did back in the 1950s. That’s just awesome! In addition, we’ve got more excursions with No. 611, Nickel Plate Road No. 765 and Southern Railway No. 4501. We have an exciting summer coming up, and we ...
6

Sunday afternoon train watching in the digital age

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Canadian Pacific train 281 rolls westbound through Wauwatosa, Wis., on April 26, 2015. Jim Wrinn photo. Last Sunday was a day when I could chose to play or work. Associate Editor Steve Sweeney had promised I could join him watching trains on the Canadian National main line north of Waukesha, Wis., and graphic artist Rick Johnson had invited me to ride with him on the Bug Line bicycle trail built on a Milwaukee Road grade. It was a beautiful day to be outside playing. But I was behind at home. S...
12

Mail from No. 611 is welcomed; all others go to the recycle bin

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
It is hard for me to get excited about mail any more. The physical mail that shows up at my house is mostly junk mail, promotions, or bills. So I was delighted Friday night to come home to find a truly welcomed letter from my friend Bev Fitzpatrick at the Virginia Museum of Transportation telling me that it’s time to buy tickets to ride behind Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611. Now, we’d all already heard about the public trips in June and July by reading it here online. But j...
11

Reading 2100 in steam: ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Reading No. 2100 begins the journey back East. But is it enough to satisfy the fans, who always seem to want more? Jason Sobczynski photo. Reading T-1 No. 2100 is on the move this week. Last seen on a flatcar in a BNSF Railway train in a yard in Minnesota, it left long-term storage in Washington State, and is bound for Cleveland, Ohio, and work to convert it back to coal fuel and operate it. I hope that works out. I’ve never seen a Reading T-1 run, and because of that I feel deficient in...
8

Timing is everything, Part 2: Amtrak P32 on the point of the Empire Builder

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
A rare catch, Amtrak P32-8 No. 503 leads the Empire Builder into Milwaukee on April 18, 2015. Jim Wrinn photo. MILWAUKEE -- Recently I wrote about my fortunate timing at the flyover in Grand Island, Neb., when BNSF Railway and Union Pacific unit coal trains came into the same photo at the same time. Happily, I had good timing again last weekend with the appearance of a rare P32-8 on the point of Amtrak’s Empire Builder. Here’s how it happened. On Saturday, I was at work, preparing ...
9

Notes and observations on Norfolk Southern’s 2015 steam schedule

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Southern Railway No. 630 and two diesel helpers leave Spencer, N.C., in June 2012. Jim Wrinn photo. Studying Norfolk Southern’s 2015 steam excursion calendar is a lot like going back to the mid-1980s. It begins in Spring and continues into the fall. OK, it’s not as extensive as the old days when trips began in March and ended in November and rare was the open weekend in between. But it still covers 14 weekends from early June to early October, three different locomotives, and puts i...
0

10 reasons why you should enter Trains Photo Contest

Posted 3 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
I looked up at the cobalt-blue sky contrasting with the salmon Davis Amtrak Station in Davis, Calif., and I couldn't help but capture the colors and the vintage Southern Pacific signage on March 13, 2015.  Angela Pusztai-Pasternak photo Inspired by Jim's post earlier this week, I came up with this list of reasons why you should enter Trains 2015 Photo Contest with the theme, "It's all in the details."  There are prizes. Your photo will appear in the magazine. You can make your ...
21

Chasing 765: a battle plan for Upstate New York

Posted 3 months ago by Steve Sweeney
UPDATED YEEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!  Nickel Plate Road No. 765 is going to steam in Western New York on the old Erie Railroad mainline Aug. 1 and 2. It's the first time since 1985 that that beautiful, black 2-8-4 steaming iron horse has visited where I grew up. Thir-tee looong years. Little 'ol me was barely able to print my name in crayon or work the antennae on the television set in 1985, let alone remember the brief presence of a thundering Berkshire. When she steams between Bu...
4

10 things I learned — or was reminded of — at the Center for Railroad Photography & Art annual conversations last weekend

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Noted photographer J. Parker Lamb discusses his photography on stage. Photo by Brian Schmidt. The Trains staff attended the Center for Railroad Photography & Art annual conference in Lake Forest, Ill., last weekend. Almost 175 attendees from across the continent and four foreign countries were represented. Here's what I learned while at the conference. 1. Charlie Castner, long-time spokesman for the Louisville & Nashville and long retired now, can still play a doggone good piano at age...
8

Timing is everything: BNSF over UP at Grand Island, Neb.

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Eastbound UP train shows up at Grand Island, Neb. Jim Wrinn photo. GRAND ISLAND, Neb. – I was visiting Nebraska last Saturday on a bird watching (crane migration) / train watching expedition when an old cliché came up from behind me and grabbed me by the throat and tossed me to the ground: “Timing is everything.” I hate to use a cliché, but this one truly fits. Hear me out. I  put this well-worn phrase to use time after time, as I was trying to execute phot...
18

Norfolk & Western No. 611: From ‘train of tears’ to a reason to celebrate

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
A lot of us cried when Norfolk & Western No. 611 was sidelined in 1994. The engine was in good shape mechanically. The train was in good shape — Norfolk Southern had just overhauled the coaches a couple of years before. There was no reason to quit, except that the corporate will was no longer there. There were literally tears flowing from the faces of passengers standing in the open door of a baggage car behind the engine that rainy December night in Alabama. We listened to the exhau...
16

Three habits of highly effective train watching

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
UP No. 4019 leads another SD70M, No. 5057, SD70ACe No. 8605, and AC4460CW No. 7074, still with its "We will deliver" lettering, at Round Grove Road between Morrison and Sterling, Ill., on March 28, 2015. Jim Wrinn photo. I was in Illinois Saturday on a quick overnight road trip to central Iowa and stopped at a favorite crossing on the Union Pacific, where I’ve had good luck before. My hunch was right: The headlight of an eastbound mixed freight was on the horizon at Round Grove Road betwe...
0

Ahead for steam in the second quarter of 2015

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
The first three months of the year have passed with a few significant steam outings. Nevada Northern’s annual photographer’s weekend produced stunning images as usual (See Robert Scott’s report here.);  a private charter on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic did likewise; and John and Barney Gramling’s roaming 0-6-0T No. 126 put on a show with a mixed train in the snow at my own home road, the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer. The next quarter of the year...
6

A snow train experience

Posted 4 months ago by Mark Boncher
What do you do when it is -40 degree Fahrenheit outside? Ride a train of course! OK, so that might not be what first comes to mind, but that’s exactly what my wife and I did for Valentine's Day weekend. To be honest, I don’t love trains, but have always been fascinated by them, the people who work them, and the areas they serve. We rode the "Snow Train" from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, straight up to what seemed like Santa’s front yard. Truthfully, it was only a couple hundr...
4

Sleepless in Dubai

Posted 4 months ago by Steve Sweeney
Not sleeping is usually bad, but we've all done it: staying up late enjoying adult beverages with friends, moonlighting at a second job, or pulling an all-nighter to coddle a crying infant. And come morning you hope for a second-wind and go to work and pretend you're just fine. What's worse is when you want to sleep and can't. You're wary that you'll screw up the next day in a drowsy stupor. That's what I was worried was going to happen to me on the Trains adventure to Dubai, United Arab Emirat...
3

Two weeks of Wisconsin train watching

Posted 4 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Thursday marked my 14th consecutive day photographing at least one train. The rules were simple: It had to be a genuine, full-size train. No display equipment, no cars on sidings or in yards, and no models. To share my achievement, here are 10 favorite photos from the past two weeks: The westbound 'Empire Builder' splits the Milwaukee Road-era searchlight signals at Duplainville, Wis., on March 7. In the distance is a Canadian Pacific freight on Track 1 approaching the diamond. March 8 w...
11

My first was its last: Winterail 2015 in California

Posted 4 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
I attended my first Winterail in Stockton, Calif., this past Saturday, March 14. Winterail seems to be the rite-of-passage railfan event of the West, attracting about 550 people nationwide this year. In its 37th year, Winterail, a railroad photography and railroadiana show, celebrated its final year at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center. There was a bittersweet mixture of excitement, nostalgia, and melancholy as the attendees all knew that next year the event will be held in a new location. It was...
6

Lincoln, the law, and a bridge that was in the way

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Abraham Lincoln has been on my mind, thanks to a new book. At Trains, we ran a story about Lincoln’s connection to railroading in 2009 during the 200th anniversary of the 16th president’s birth. Most people know that Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act in 1862 that authorized the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, today’s Union Pacific. Most know that Lincoln’s body returned from Washington to Springfield, Ill., via a funeral train on board a special...
11

Put your camel on the shelf. I'm going to Dubai.

Posted 4 months ago by Steve Sweeney
The picture you see of a kitschy camel and a scaled-down streetcar represent stereotypes. The streetcar is what I think most Americans picture when they think of light rail: a 1930s-styled steel behemoth that trundles along. The camel is a stand-in for what I hear too many Americans say about Middle Eastern or Arab nations. Like the toys in the picture, these stereotypes belong on the shelf. In their place I submit to you a light rail system in Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emira...

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