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Skookum and Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad

Posted 4 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 4 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 4 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 4 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 4 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 4 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 4 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 4 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...
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20 questions for advisors of the John Emery Rail Heritage Trust

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
On Tuesday, the John Emery Trust announced its 2019 grant recipients. The trust made its largest grant amount to date, $500,000, to 29 organizations. [See the item here: http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2019/02/26-emery-trust-awards-500000-to-29-railway-preservation-projects] Before the choices were announced, I asked the trust's advisors to tell us more about this increasingly important mission, how it is working, and how others can get involved. 1. What is the trust’s mission? The ...
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The loneliest diesel in America

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
The loneliest diesel locomotive in America lives with two steam locomotives that will be the subject of great attention this year. I’m talking about the General Electric 25-tonner at Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit, Utah. The little critter, when I was on site last June to do research for our forthcoming special anniversary issue “Journey to Promontory” and our made-for-PBS video of the same name, was parked at the end of the track as far away from th...
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Big Boy 4014, a hydrostatic test, and why UP can beat the usual six month rule

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Earlier this week, Union Pacific announced it has completed a successful hydrostatic test of the boiler on Big Boy No. 4014. That is the kind of news that says, “without doubt, this engine is going to run again, and soon.” Until you get that test completed, there’s still the potential for more boiler work. Once, it’s over, the heart of the engine is beating once more. A hydrostatic test is required by the Federal Railroad Administration in which warm water in the boile...
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Five things you can do right now to see Big Boy No. 4014 in action this May

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Welcome to February, the month Union Pacific says it plans to announce its schedule for Big Boy No. 4014’s inaugural run from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Ogden, Utah, and back in May. Wow. Just typing those words is exciting to this old steam fan (first steam experience at age 5 in 1966 with Graham County Shay No. 1926 and Southern Railway 4501) who’s seen a lot of locomotives in steam (from the Tom Thumb and Best Friend of Charleston replicas to UP Challenger No. 3985 and Norfolk & W...
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It's bitterly cold today, and it was cold on Jan. 10, 1982, too

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Jan. 10, 1982. I was 20 years old, and driving from my hometown to University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to start the second semester of my junior year. It was an almost 6-hour drive, and it was also the coldest day in my life until this week. The high that day in North Carolina was zero, and the condensation on the inside of my Pontiac froze up. The heater couldn’t keep up with the cold. I couldn’t help but think about that day this week with our subzero temperatures and wind ch...
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The race for steam: 4014 and 1309

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Union Pacific astutely dubbed its 150th celebration of the Golden Spike “the race to Promontory” to give credit to both the UP and Central Pacific construction crews that built the first transcontinental railroad and to make it interesting for us to study. This year, in a manner, we have another similar competition: The race for steam. The contestants: UP Big Boy 4-8-8-4 No. 4014 at UP’s steam shop in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Western Maryland Scenic Railroad’s Chesapeake &...
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Insomnia, a Clint Eastwood movie, and the last rolling stock from Promontory

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I am normally a sound sleeper. But recently, after letting our dog out and then getting her back in the house and making my way to bed, I couldn’t’ go back to sleep. Instead of just lying there, I got up and decided to see if there was a movie on. Sure enough, there was a film on that I’d just seen a reference to in a feature story that’s in our March issue (which will be in subscriber hands in the next few days and on sale at bookstores and newsstands Feb. 12). I didn&...
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You'll be glad when you watch the short video The Railroader

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I am about to commit a major blunder when it comes to Internet marketing. A few words from now, I’m going to suggest that you go to another company’s Website to view a video. My bosses would be extremely upset for not sending you to the many outstanding short and free videos we’ve made at www.TrainsMag.com. But just for today, I’m going to suggest you look elsewhere, specifically to National Geographic Short Film Showcase to see The Railroader. Once you’ve seen it...
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What do we do May 10, 2019 if the federal government is still shut down?

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
As the federal government shutdown rolls on, a few people are asking an important question about May 10, 2019: What will the thousands of people who want to celebrate the event do if the National Park Service site at Promontory Summit is still closed that day? What happens if we’re not all gathered around two gleaming 4-4-0 replicas and impersonators of Durant and Stanford? What will happen to the party that was planned for the 150th anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad? Wh...
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Is it too late to make plans to see Big Boy 4014 or the Golden Spike?

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Is it too late to make travel plans to attend the Golden Spike ceremony and see Big Boy No. 4014 in Utah in May? What’s the schedule for No. 4014’s trip from Cheyenne to Ogden? Are the hotels all sold out?   Ah, questions. I hear them all the time, and I know everyone is anticipating both of these big events. A few friends have even gone as far as to book rooms on speculation across Wyoming and in Utah. They may be right on the money or they may be way off. But lacking a f...
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"No, that's impossible" and other myths about railway preservation

Posted 6 months ago by Jim Wrinn
NASHVILLE – Impossible. Never will happen. Can’t be done. American railway preservation has many of those. I hear about them in casual conversation. I read about them online. They are the least hopeful railroads, locomotives, rolling stock, depots, etc., on the earth. Sometimes that assessment is true. Other times, it is for lack of trying. But from time to time someone or some group or organization punches a gaping hole in steely impossible. It makes things happen. It gets the j...
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Sampling Brightline: a trip report

Posted 6 months ago by David Lassen
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — As I begin writing this, I am sitting in an airport terminal notably lacking in sufficient seating for passengers waiting for flights. Before having the good fortune to find this seat — nowhere near my gate, but you can’t have everything — I was herded through slower-than-usual security (truthfully, I don’t really blame the TSA people who aren’t being paid if they’re calling in sick), and had a mediocre, overpriced breakfast. Luck...
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No. 576 and the Shawshank Redemption

Posted 6 months ago by Jim Wrinn
NASHVILLE – There is a scene in my favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, in which escaped prisoner Andy DuFresne (actor Tim Robbins) is smiling broadly as he drives a convertible along gorgeous cliffs overlooking a spectacular seashore. Narrator Morgan Freeman describes the moment like this: “Andy Dufresne, headed for the Pacific.” If you’ve seen the movie, you know what sort of hell DuFresne has endured as a wrongly imprisoned man, and how he outwitted his captors ...
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20 questions for retiring Colorado Railroad Museum Executive Director Don Tallman

Posted 6 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I first met Don Tallman in November 2006 at the annual meeting of what we now know as the Heritage Rail Alliance, the industry trade group for tourist railroads and museums. As is my normal stance at these meetings, I try to meet as many new people as possible, and Don’s was a face that I didn’t recognize when I boarded a bus for a field trip. I sat down next to him, and a conversation quickly began. As it turned out, Don knew little about railroads or railroad history, but he ha...
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Railway preservation’s end of the year dollars and sense

Posted 6 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Between now and next Monday, I want to make modest financial contributions to two railway preservation groups that excite me with the work they’re doing. I suspect many of you are thinking about doing the same thing. I’d rather the money be spent on staybolts, boiler tubes, and paint than go to the taxman, right?  Most of you have heard my sermon on regular giving to railway preservation so if you already know what I’m about to say on that topic, skip to the next paragrap...
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A tribute to a great railroad photographer

Posted 6 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
Associate Editor David Lassen walked into my office in October and said he was talking with Editor Jim Wrinn and suggested we do an all John Gruber gallery. I couldn’t have agreed more. So I held what I had planned for the February 2019 issue and quickly dove into indexes and bound volumes to immerse myself in nearly 60 years of a very prolific photographer. How do you choose only a handful of photos to honor this man who seemed to only know how to capture great imagery? Gruber, founder...
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Waiting in traffic: Good for the economy

Posted 7 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Driving to the office on Wednesday morning I was stopped by a northbound Canadian National train in Waukesha. Traffic was backed up in both directions, and through an intersection, for quite a while as what seemed like an endless stream of empty centerbeam flatcars rolled by. But that's a good sign, you see. Long strings of empty centerbeams moving north to Canada means construction in the U.S. is ongoing and investment is being made. When those empty moves – and the carloads that prece...
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A look ahead at steam in 2019

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
It’s starting to be the time of the year when we reflect on the year past and what went well and what went off the tracks. For the railway preservation community, there were many strides forward. My friend Aaron Isaacs, the editor online magazine for the industry trade group Heritage Rail Alliance, reminds me that more than 60 projects were completed in the tourist railroad and railway museum field. That’s a lot of new metal, new paint, a lot of muscle, and a lot of bucks.  The...
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Why Norfolk Southern is moving its headquarters move to Atlanta

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Back in 2013, I penned a two-page feature for Trains called “How cool is your railroad?” We prepared a chart that analyzed various aspects of the corporate makeup, posture, and outward presentation of the seven big U.S. freight carriers. Among the topics we reviewed was headquarters city. For Norfolk Southern, of its world headquarters I wrote this: “Possibly the deadest downtown of any railroad HQ. If Norfolk wasn’t in the company name and Lambert’s Point wasn&rsqu...
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20 questions for John Garner at Western Maryland Scenic Railroad about the restoration of 2-6-6-2 No. 1309

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Western Maryland Scenic Railroad’s restoration of 2-6-6-2 No. 1309, the last steam locomotive Baldwin produced for domestic service in 1949, has been an on-going struggle for four years since its acquisition from the B&O Railroad Museum. The railroad and the project have faced significant challenges, including landslides, funding, employee theft of unique parts, and others. In the last six months, the project surged ahead with a new burst of funding that produced a steam test of the ...
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Memories from George H.W. Bush's 1992 presidential campaign train

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
The death of President George H.W. Bush and the planned funeral train for him on Thursday brought back memories of a day some 26 years ago, when Bush and railroading were together, and I was a witness to it. Oct. 21, 1992 was not an ordinary day at work for me. I was a newspaper reporter for the Charlotte Observer’s bureau in Concord, N.C. But instead of calling on residents of Cabarrus County, N.C., for their news, I was standing in a bored and restless crowd along a double track main ...
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Golden spike, photos from the transcontinental railroad, create a powerhouse exhibit

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
OMAHA, Neb. – It’s common knowledge that on May 10, 1869, Central Pacific and Union Pacific locomotives and their entourages met at Promontory Summit, Utah, where a ceremonial golden spike was gently tapped into a laurel tie to commemorate the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. The spike would become an iconic emblem marking the completion of this monumental task. It’s also widely known that a photographer assembled those present for an image of the two locomot...