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Report from Colorado: narrow gauge, the Zephyr, a new museum, and a visit to two favorites

Posted 12 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I was in Colorado late last week and early this week. Here are notes and observations I made from a short visit to the Centennial State, which, for once, was green and flush with snowpack and rushing streams.   Colorado Railroad Museum. I was honored to be a part of a day-long symposium on the transcontinental railroad last Saturday. The videographer of our made for PBS video, Journey to Promontory, Rich Luckin, put the program together with museum education curator Elizabeth Nosek. It w...
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Thoughts on Big Boy No. 4014's return: The day after

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
It is over. The long-awaited debut of Big Boy No. 4014 is in the books. By all observations, it was an amazing success. Even though the restoration came down to the last hours before the May 4 debut, the UP did it. On May 19 when the UP steam crew shepherded their charge off the main line and into the shop at Cheyenne, they’d come more than 1,000 without a serious mechanical problem or schedule delay. Even the derailment of two driver wheels in Rawlins on the return trip was handled with...
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Big Boy, Peru Hill, and Green River with the Trains chase van

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Big Boy locomotives were made for Wasatch grade in Utah. They later migrated east to include Sherman Hill in their regular assignments. Those are well known challenges to these muscular steam locomotives. But there is a third grade that was synonymous with the Union Pacific 4000s: Peru Hill. This grade begins at the bridge over the Green River in its namesake city and ends five miles to the west after a twisting and curving climb with a .82 percent grade. You are familiar with this grade wh...
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So, this is what Big Boy No. 4014 looks like climbing Wasatch grade

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
EVANSTON, Wyo. – See Elvis on the stage where he first performed? Go to the Beatles original performance venue? If you could, you know you would, especially, if the king or the original Fab Four were there. And so it was for those of us fortunate enough to be in northern Utah and western Wyoming Sunday, where Big Boy No. 4014 made a triumphant return to the route for which it was designed, the legendary Wasatch grade. There’s been much talk over the last week about how the UP steam ...
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A quick look at Spike 150: The first transcontinental railroad anniversary, May 10, 2019

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
It was a day for prayers, speeches, music, and thought-provoking words. It was the 2-hour Golden Spike 150th anniversary celebration at the National Park Service site at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 2019. More than 10,000 spectators attended, drawn by the need to be where history was made in 1869. Here's a quick look at the ceremony that attracted anyone and everyone interested in railroad history. Performers present a live musical, "As One."  Traffic on the entrance road to th...
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A look at Big Boy's home turf on the eve of No. 4014's return

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
WAHSATCH, Utah – While Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 laid over in Evanston, Wyo., Tuesday, we went west to explore the original grade for which UP designed these locomotives. We stood at the top of Wasatch grade and then drove Echo and Weber canyons through which it passes in a most model railroad-like landscape. It is a heavy-duty railroad with an abundance of scenic charms – steep canyon walls, red rocks, boulders that seem to defy gravity. The combination is alluring and unbeatab...
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The value of five minutes and Big Boy No. 4014

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
What is five minutes worth? On Monday, I found out twice today while following Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 on its trip from Rock Spring, Wyo., and Evanston, Wyo. The first occasion took place at Green River, where I’d set up to try for a dawn shot of the doubleheader with 4-8-4 No. 844 at the classic bridge shot with Castle Rock in the back ground. The place has been photographed since the construction of the original transcontinental railroad in the late 1860s. Big Boys were often ph...
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What is it like to ride the cab of Union Pacific No. 4014?

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I have thinking all day about how to describe to you all how it feels to ride in the cab of Union Pacific’s Big Boy No. 4014. I had the chance to ride some 60 miles in the locomotive Sunday.  I hope I do it justice. I have been riding locomotive cabs since age 12. In September 1973, engineer Dan Ranger invited me into the cab of Graham County Railroad Co. Shay No. 1925 for a ride I will never forget. Since then, either as a fan or as Trains editor since 2004, I’ve been lucky ...
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Fear the Deer; don’t fear Milwaukee’s streetcar The Hop

Posted 2 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
No actual deer or bunnies were harmed during the making of this blog. Parental guidance is advised.  “Hey, kids! Wanna ride The Hop Easter weekend?” I asked with enthusiasm a few days ago. And, cue the crickets. Ah, well. We did it anyway. Today, we rode Milwaukee’s The Hop streetcars from Milwaukee’s Intermodal Station stop to the northeast end of the line at Burns Commons, which is part of the Milwaukee Parks system, and return. The 2.1-mile line, which opened...
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What celebrities might show up to watch Big Boy this year?

Posted 2 months ago by Steve Sweeney
Well, Trains Nation, here's the day dream: "Imagine you think you know which celebrities and "famous" people like trains or model trains — and who might have the time, money, and inclination to splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime event. Who do you think will be on-scene, in person, for the biggest railfan party in history in May?!" I'm of course talking about the expected first runs of Union Pacific Big Boy 4-8-8-4 No. 4014 since the 1950s in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontin...
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Brightline photography, a cautionary tale

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Before you set out to photograph Brightline/Virgin Trains USA, here are some tips you may find helpful: The trains are quiet, and all the crossings are quiet zones. Sometimes, the only advance warning I had that a train was imminent was the “singing” of the rails ahead of it. If you are close to a crossing, you will have a little more warning if you can see or hear the gates go down. The non-traditional locomotives lack common visual cues we use to frame railfan pictures, like ...
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Flagler’s legacy: steam locomotives and space travel

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
It was pure serendipity. I was having dinner tonight in Cocoa, Fla., when I overheard some of the restaurant staff talking about the upcoming SpaceX launch at Cape Canaveral. The launch, scheduled for earlier in the week, would be Thursday evening now. So I hightailed it to the beach to watch. It was a great experience and there were lots of people on the beach to share moment. I turned to leave and saw on a street sign the railroad connection. I had inadvertently chosen the public beach acce...
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If you build it, they will build

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
If you want to see the progress that Brightline has brought to southeast Florida, look up. There are new buildings going up around the stations in West Palm Beach and Miami. In the coming days I’ll have more observations and thoughts on the Brightline experience, but this was the most striking observation of the days. The large tower nearest the West Palm Beach station, just across the street in fact, has housing for lease and also parking for passengers. It soars above the station and ...
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Big Steam in 2019

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Did I tell you I won the Power Ball? Yeah, I’m that guy who picked up millions by buying a lottery ticket at a convenience store in New Berlin, Wis. Now, after waking up rebuilders Scott Lindsay and Gary Bensman to start working three shifts a day until their done on my top 20 list of locomotives I want to see run (another topic in itself), I still have stupid money to go watch big mainline steam this year. Here’s what I plan to do.   I start off next month in Wyoming and Ut...
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Rail suppliers highlight shortline industry’s innovation, endurance

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association’s CONNECTIONS meeting brings together railroads and suppliers each year. This year’s show in Orlando runs April 6-9 and features a number of both new and traditional industry suppliers. CorrSolve Corrosion Solutions is a first time exhibitor at the show. The company was founded 30 years ago to supply the aerospace industry and is getting more involved in the rail industry. Inside Sales Manager Leonel Rodriguez says that the...
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The two kinds of Trains Magazine fans

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
We meet a lot of people at trade shows, and today at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association CONNECTIONS show in Orlando was no exception. They can generally be distilled down to two categories. The first group comes up to us and gushes: “Oh, I LOVE the magazine. I’ve been getting it for 40 years.” Often, that statement is follow with, “And my dad had a subscription before that.” I fall in to this category as my first Kalmbach subscription, Model...
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Trains magazine chase guide to Big Boy No. 4014's Cheyenne-Ogden route, May 2019

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
So, it’s less than a month away from the day when Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 leaves Cheyenne, Wyo., on its epic inaugural journey across original Big Boy territory to Ogden, Utah. I can’t believe it. You can’t believe it. But believe it. It’s going to happen.   A lot of people are coming from a long way to see this. Most have not been to this part of the UP before. So, let’s get you some suggested locations for viewing and photography. Let’s take th...
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Forecast: Sunshine (State) ahead

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
I'm heading to sunny Florida April 7-9 for the 2019 American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association "Connections" convention near Orlando. The short line show is my favorite because it brings everyone together: shortline, regional, and Class I railroads; suppliers; and analysts. I last attended the show in 2016, held at National Harbor, Md., which is pictured here. I'm planning to share lots of photos on social media while I'm at the trade show to bring you all the latest in the rail ind...
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An unsanctimonious ending to my first ride on the Chicago L

Posted 3 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
My family planned a visit to the city to visit my brother at DePaul University on a sticky, hot day. We met him at his dorm and then walked through the Student Center building. It was a Friday afternoon and it was teeming with vendors. I had brought a few dollars and purchased a couple of handwoven bracelets. I tied them on as soon as I had them. I was a teenager and dressed up a little, knowing that I’d be visiting my big brother at college. We’d only been living in Joliet, Ill., fo...
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Lessons learned from trackside and on board with Skookum at Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
We concluded our Trains magazine-sponsored photo charter Monday at the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, where we enjoyed several days of steam preservation operations. There, we were reminded of some important truths. We learned a few new lessons, too while taking in all of the motion in the running gear of 2-4-4-2 Skookum, the classic good looks of Polson Logging 2-8-2 No. 2, and the well- proportioned and mighty McCloud River 2-6-2 No. 25 along Tillamook Bay and in the foothills of the Coast Rang...
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Skookum Lives: Trains Oregon Coast Scenic photo charter, day 2

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
  GARIBALDI, Ore. – Day two of our Trains magazine photo charter at Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad defied a lot of odds. In the rainy Pacific Northwest we had sun. And for the long awaited return of Skookum, the engine made its longest trip to date: Skookum, which Oregon Coast Scenic restored to operation after what should best be described as a near death experienced for the locomotive in 1955, had a journal bearing issue Thursday. Another tender bearing gave the crews fits for a fe...
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A day with Skookum and friends on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
GARIBALDI, Ore. – A few years , ago, a day like the one we experienced today at the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad would have been impossible. Who would think that three legendary locomotives of Western logging railroad history would be on one magnificently scenic railroad, much less all of them in steam. But on Thursday, the first day of our Trains-sponsored photo charter at Oregon Coast Scenic such a scenario unfolded for myself and 43 participants from the Pacific Northwest, nationwide...
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Skookum and Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Today is a travel day for me. I’m on the way from Milwaukee to Portland (currently bumping along over Iowa at 40,000 feet -- surely not even the Rock Island in its dying days was this bad!) and eventually the Pacific shores at Garibaldi, Ore., a lovely seaside village and world headquarters of the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. I’m heading there for our Trains magazine-sponsored photo charter with the legendary 2-4-4-2 No. 7 Skookum. An update on some last-minute drama with the photo ...
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Bill Withuhn's book of a lifetime: American Steam Locomotives

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
There is a sad tender full of irony that the late Bill Withuhn’s masterpiece work on U.S. steam locomotive development has been published in the days before we get to see one of the all-time masterpieces of steam, Union Pacific’s Big Boy, on the high iron for the first time in 60 years. Withuhn, who died in 2017, was the steam locomotive aficionado and curator of transportation for the Smithsonian. His life’s work was this book, “American Steam Locomotives: Design and de...
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What's good for a late winter afternoon? Union Pacific Winter Olympics unit No. 2001

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Some late winter days after work are great for going home, making dinner, and binge watching college basketball. And some days are great for shutting off the computer at work, grabbing the family, and heading trackside. Wednesday was one of the latter days. For a good bit of Wednesday, the Wisconsin railfan grapevine was aflutter with talk of Union Pacific SD70M No. 2001, one of two specially-painted units for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics 17 years ago, that was headed south on a Canadia...
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On the passing of Joe Boardman: Appreciation for a bit of wit and wisdom

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Everyone comes into your life for a purpose. That advice is well known, but it is also something of a mystery: Some people are givens as to their role in your being. Your life partner, your friends, your employers or employees, and so many others are easy to understand how they impact your life. Others are not so easy. And some are there some who, if you are a careful listener, will share advice or just a particular view of looking at things that is worth holding onto. The death early this morni...
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Big Boy 4014: Waiting on a schedule

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
So, you and the rest of Train World are waiting on Union Pacific to announce the schedule for Big Boy 4-8-8-4 No. 4014.  It was supposed to be out a month ago. But now it’s late (as if delays are anything new in railroading) and you’re frustrated. You want to take time off. You want to make travel plans. You want to revel in the thought of standing trackside with significant amounts of the rest of humanity in the likes of Creston, Wyo., or Morgan, Utah, in approximately two mont...
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Where will the next Trains photo charter be?

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Our Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad photo charter is next week with legendary steam locomotive Skookum. Skookum is the 1909 Baldwin-built 2-4-4-2 that rolled over in the woods and was left for dead in 1955. It’s a locomotive that should definitely adopt Mark Twain’s quote about reports of its demise being great exaggerated as its own tag line. Skookum is back in steam, and about 85 Trains customers will get to enjoy its first public outing in a pair of sold out events. If you’re a...
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In praise of the bandana

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
At lunchtime I read a wonderful essay in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal (yes, I’m days behind in my reading) called “In Praise of the Ever-Practical Handkerchief,” by Rutgers law professor Stuart Green. I can relate to this for two reasons: First, my late father was a handkerchief guy. I never knew a day when he didn’t carry a carefully folded white hanky in his pocket, except for days when he was mowing the lawn, working in the garden, or clearing our fence row. S...
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The existential life of a female railfan

Posted 3 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
I’m an elephant. Not my favorite metaphor, but it works in this case. I am one of few elephants, anyway. I’m a female immersed in this hobby that if measured by our readership is 99.5 percent (maybe higher) male. Even in the railroad industry, females are a minority. I don’t know the precise statistics, but I know it’s not 50-50. I’m not one to use the girl card. In fact, I’ve avoided writing about this for that precise reason. I’d like to think there&rs...