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This is Switzerland: Gettin’ Rigi with it

Posted 6 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
After taking a boat from Lucerne, we arrived at Vitznau and enjoyed a tour of the Rigi-Kulm Railway’s shop. It was fun to watch the crew use the turntable to move their equipment around. The shop also stored supplies for the shops and restaurants at the top of the mountain as the trains take everything from beer to teddy bears to the top. They had spools of catenary for a project to replace it in some spots. They had two 1920s steam engines resting in the shop, too, among other piece...
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It's Big Boy time - Again! Join us for the experience right here

Posted 6 months ago by Jim Wrinn
One of the questions I like to ask readers when I visit with them is “what would you like for us at Trains to do next.” The answers vary, of course, depending on interests. Some want a feature story on their favorite locomotive or railroad. Others want to know more about what’s ahead for railroading. But inevitably, just about everyone wants us to take them along on the journeys we make to cover railroading for you. I like that idea.    So, once again, as we did...
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This is Switzerland: Piling on at Pilatus

Posted 6 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
We boarded a boat at Lucerne to Alpnachstad (See). Once there, we rode the Pilatus Cog Railway to Pilatus Kulm. This is the world’s steepest cog railway with an average grade of 38 percent; the highest at 48 percent. The train took us 6,982 feet above sea level. It uses the Locher rack system (engages center rack with cogs on each side instead of on top, providing stability, and no teeth can jump out of rack). The 2.86-mile line takes 30 minutes to climb, but 40 minutes to descend. It ...
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Railway Interchange 2019 outdoor exhibits gallery

Posted 6 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Railway Interchange 2019 had its typical outdoor displays at BNSF Railway's Northtown Yard between Minneapolis and St. Paul. This was my first visit to a Minneapolis-hosted Interchange, which traditionally has alternated between Indianapolis and Minneapolis biennially. In my seven years with Trains Magazine, this was my first Interchange at Minneapolis with the outdoor displays. However, the next two are scheduled for Indianapolis, possibly ending the outdoor displays at Northtown. Regardless...
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At Railway Interchange, motive power comes in many sizes

Posted 6 months ago by Brian Schmidt
There are many things to see at Railway Interchange, held this year at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Both Cummins and Wabtec had prime movers on display – of course a full-size, six-axle locomotive would be too big for the convention center floor. (There's an outdoor exhibition, too, at BNSF Railway's Northtown Yard, but, sadly, no new locomotives appear there, either.) What we did see on the exhibition floor was the classic Trackmobile, and its electric and Italian cousin Zephir. ...
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It's Railway Interchange time

Posted 6 months ago by David Lassen
MINNEAPOLIS — The big show has begun. Railway Interchange 2019, the rail equipment trade show held in conjunction with conventions of an alphabet soup of railway organizations (most prominently AREMA, the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association, and RSI, the Railway Supply Institute) opened Sunday at the Minneapolis Convention Center, featuring exhibits from hundreds of rail-related manufacturers. You can talk to representatives of companies making everything from ...
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This is Switzerland: Jungfrau Railway — it gets snow higher

Posted 6 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
Everyday of the Special Interest Tours “Switzerland by Rail” is filled to the brim with train rides, from cogs to commuters. The rides are smooth and comfortable no matter where you go. The inter connectivity from trains to buses to boats is something for any passenger train enthusiast to take note. This day, perhaps took the cake on the number of trains we rode from 8:44 a.m. to 6:53 p.m.: nine. You’ve heard of tennis elbow, athlete’s foot, and tension headache? I ...
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This is Switzerland: Cuckoo for the Chocolate Train

Posted 6 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
The Chocolate Train, aboard Belle Époque MOB to Montbovon provided comfortable seating, smooth hot chocolate, and flaky and soft chocolate-filled croissants. All of those luxuries are in addition to the mountain views through panoramic windows we’ve now become accustomed to, however, I’m not immune to their beauty and majesty. At Montbovon, the group boarded a bus to Gruyere Gare for a cheese factory tour.Although designed for tourists, the experience was educational and e...
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This is Switzerland: First you whip and then you Rochers-de-Naye

Posted 6 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
After arriving in Montreux, we boarded the Rochers-de-Naye (pronounced ro-SHAY dah NAY) cog train. This train booked to the top where we reached 6,699 feet. That may not seem as impressive as altitudes you’ve experienced in other parts of the world, but this train gained altitude fast. On this trip, we enjoyed tunnels, Lake Geneva, and the lovely alps. I found it interesting that this train made additional stops en route to pick up and drop off passengers and dogs — don’t f...
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This is Switzerland: Matterhorn, I love your face

Posted 6 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
This might be my favorite day yet. We rode the Gornergrat Cog Railway, Europe’s highest open-air cog, up to the summit of Gornegrat at 10, 171 feet … and the view of the Matterhorn was just awesome. Here we were able to see and touch snow on the mountains. No sooner had I commented on how there was no yellow snow up there, and another gentleman heard me and chuckled. Just when you think you’re at the top of a mountain and no one will hear your snark! Not too much later, I ...
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This is Switzerland: Furka Steam and other delights

Posted 6 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
This morning’s journey began at Chur aboard the Glacier Express train, known as the world’s slowest express. It boasts grades of more than 12%, double cogwheels with a rack-and-pinion system that allows the train to tackle these extreme grades. The seats were more than comfortable with a large table to write yesterday’s blog and drink a too-small cup of coffee I bought for 5 francs. But with the smooth ride and beautiful mountains, that was really all the fuel I needed. Our tra...
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This is Switzerland: Bused a move (and a comfy train too) on the Bernina Express

Posted 6 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
Bernina Express is part bus and part panorama coach train on the Rhaetian Railway. We departed by bus from Lugano. My reward was 50 minutes in Tirano, Italy, to indulge in delicious thin crust funghini pizza and water with gas. We beat feet to catch our train at Tirano aboard comfortable coaches with their soft seats in fours, facing a table top with the entire route map on its surface. One of the highlights, since our coach was a few cars from the rear, was that when you went around the swoopin...
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This is Switzerland: Gotthard Panorama Express (yourself)

Posted 6 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
We left Zurich today via a commuter train to Lucerne. At Lucerne, we boarded a steamboat to take us to Fluelen. I’m fast realizing that you can take your dog everywhere in Switzerland. These dogs have ridden more boats and trains than I ever will. However, the canines are nonplussed about the trains, boats, and trams, whereas I am fascinated by all of it. The Gotthard Panorama Express took is from Fluelen to Bellinzona on first-class carriages that were about as posh and plush inside as th...
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Two videos you need to see: Country music and Saluda grade

Posted 6 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I am here to tell you about what we’re doing here on the web, in print, or with experiences. I’m also supposed to be here comment on railroading, and in particular, preservation, as that’s my forte. But today, I’m taking a break. I’m going to suggest two video events that should be on your radar. One is on your TV. The other on your computer.   First, let’s talk about the one on your TV. Set aside Sunday evening when PBS debuts Ken Burns’ long-awa...
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This is Switzerland: Pinch me. I’m in Zurich!

Posted 6 months ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
The toilet bowls are round, the names of everything are incredibly long, and you can get just about anywhere on a train. And these are just my impressions in the first 4 hours, having arrived at 8:30 a.m. and being awake for 24 hours after two plane rides and two airport trains to get to wonderful Zurich. You can imagine why the restroom, or should I say water closet, was so important after landing. I am excited to be co-hosting Trains and Special Interest Tours “Switzerland by Rail Tour&r...
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England calling when No. 611 arrived at Strasburg

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
The arrival of Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 at Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road Wednesday gave me a moment to pause and feel like a bit of British railway preservation philosophy has finally taken hold in the U.S. My friend Mike Long sent me the picture above of the Class J with SRR’s 2-6-0 No. 89 as a pusher just for the fun of it.     Due to changing circumstances at Amtrak and Norfolk Southern, No. 611 no longer has a mainline excursion venue. But inste...
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Norfolk & Western No. 611 in Pennsylvania: The thought makes me smile... and dig out old pictures

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Norfolk & Western No. 611 arrives today at a new venue: Pennsylvania’s hallowed Strasburg Rail Road. This will be a nice change of pace for the Class J, and it will allow it to spend time with another N&W veteran, M Class 4-8-0 No. 475. I expect those two have some tales to tell each other about how life has been for the last 60 years or so.    While having No. 611 on the mainline is preferable, conditions in 2019 beyond the control of just about any railroad CEO (at th...
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Will the horse move? Thoughts on photographing animals with trains

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
There’s a famous W.C. Fields quote about never working with animals and children. I’m not 100 percent sure of the context of that statement: Perhaps that meant he was afraid they would upstage him, or perhaps that meant they were too unpredictable. Maybe both. I tend to think the latter.    We’ve all tried over the years to incorporate various animals into our railroad photography. The famous have done it: One of O. Winston Link’s most famous photos, Maude b...
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Western Maryland 1309 update: Drivers and front engine reunited

Posted 7 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Steam locomotive restorations are agonizingly slow, especially when the subject locomotive has been well used in its working life and exposed to the elements during its preservation life. Such is the case with Western Maryland Scenic’s former Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309. The engine only ran from 1949 to 1956 in coal service near Logan, W.Va., but by that time the Chessie knew it was heading toward dieselization and that steam upkeep could be minimal. Years of storage at Russ...
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On the road with Big Boy No. 4014: Where to park it

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 is on the last lap of its 1,500-mile Midwestern tour. It’s on display all day in North Platte, Neb., before the last two days that will take it to Sidney, Neb., tomorrow and home to Cheyenne, Wyo., on Thursday. Due to North Platte’s importance to the UP system and its role as the world’s largest rail yard, you’d think it would be easy to find a track on which to display the world’s largest operating steam locomotive. But I wouldn&rsquo...
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What shall we worry about in railway preservation now that B&LE 643 is safe?

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
One of the great lingering mysteries in the world of railway preservation has been solved: What will become of Bessemer & Lake Erie 2-10-4 No 643, the powerful (more than 100,000 pounds of tractive effort with the booster cut in) but perpetually stranded (earnest efforts to get the engine to preservation began in the mid-1970s and continued through 1995 when there was a serious attempt to move it to Scranton, Pa., and make it part of the Steamtown collection) Texas type that seemed destine...
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On the road with Big Boy No. 4014: Of people, public relations, and the future

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Big Boy No. 4014 began the last lap on its Midwestern tour Tuesday with a trip from West Chicago, Ill., to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As it has been since leaving Cheyenne on July 8, every move of the locomotive has been followed by thousands. At some display locations, the number of people who came out to see the world’s largest operating steam locomotive has been staggering: 12,000 in Duluth, Minn., 20,000 in West Chicago. And thousands more trackside at rural grade crossings, in small town...
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On the road with Big Boy 4014: Safety is in our hands

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I’ve noticed something about the crowds of people who are coming out to view Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 on its Midwestern tour. They are excited to see the world’s largest operating steam locomotive, which is great. Having this celebrity come to your part of the world is nothing short of a miracle. But as warm is their reception, it’s also disturbing to see their lack of appreciation for trackside safety. As the train approaches, they’re not afraid to stand close to...
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On the road with Big Boy No. 4014: Chicago ahead!

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Watch out Chicago! Big Boy is heading your way!    Yes, Union Pacific No. 4014 is making its way across Wisconsin today, tomorrow, and Thursday. The 4-8-8-4 will cross the Cheddar Curtain into Illinois on Friday on its way to a three-day display in West Chicago at the Larry Provo training center. It’s going to be the King of Steam in America’s Railroad Capital Saturday, Sunday, and Monday!    And it may be the first time a Big Boy has visited Chicago under s...
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On the road with Big Boy No. 4014: Minnesota (?!)

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
There was an air show in Duluth, Minn., last weekend. The U.S. Navy Blue Angels stunt team was the featured attraction. Estimated attendance: 65,000. On the same weekend, there was a special event at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth. Union Pacific’s Big Boy locomotive was the featured attraction at the Festival of Steam.   A Big Boy in Minnesota … in Duluth … on the shore of Lake Superior. It’s about as much of a fish out of water tale as there is. D...
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The day when two icons met in Iowa: Big Boy and the electric

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
There are certain events that bring dissimilar characters together for brief but unforgettable moments. They give us iconic moments. They give us lasting memories. One of those moments for Train World took place Tuesday in Mason City, Iowa, a place known as the hometown of “Music Man” playwright Meredith Willson and for its Frank Lloyd Wright hotel. Shortly before 2 p.m., Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014, traveling on the former Rock Island Spine Line, where no Big Boy has gone befo...
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On the road with Big Boy No. 4014: When numbers just won't do

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Railroads love to quantify everything. The obsession with the operating ratio is a perfect example. Aim for that magic number under 60 and you’ve got real gold. Steam locomotives on Class I railroads and excursions with them are harder to quantify their value to the numbers people. Yes, you can break down the cost per mile, the fuel consumption, factor of adhesion, you name it. But what you cannot quantify is the value of the emotional connection between spectators and locomotive and cre...
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On the road with No. 4014, Grand Island-Omaha

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
OMAHA, Neb. – Big Boy No. 4014 is in residency today at UP’s Homeplate display outside the baseball park where the College World Series is played. Even at this early hour for a weekend, crowds are already making their way into the display for the city’s Railroad Days festival. Late Friday we watched No. 4014 and its canteens, backup diesel and three tool cars arrive, link up with their passenger train, and take a zig-zag route across downtown to reach this location. It was the ...
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The most famous Big Boy photo you'll never see ... and one that you will right now!

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Some days begin well and end rough. Others start out on the wrong foot and end up in a waltz. Today was one of the latter as many of us chased Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 on its eastbound trek across the Midwest. The day started off at one of the most iconic locations on the Omaha-North Platte, Neb., route, the s-curve known as Buttermilk Curve, about 20 miles east of North Platte near the village of Brady. We arrived early and enjoyed a procession of one freight train after another in bot...
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Will Big Boy run Thursday? The rail and rain gods will say soon

Posted 8 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Here’s a quick note from North Platte, Neb., on Wednesday night. Whether Big Boy runs to Grand Island on Thursday, as scheduled, will remain a mystery until tomorrow morning. There’s still flooding at Gibbon, Neb., where the Wood River is overflowing due to locally heavy rains. I stopped by the site Wednesday on the drive in to watch the work. It appears that UP had to remove the pavement leading up to a crossing to let water drain. I saw several trains walk through the site wit...