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12

Positive train control's 'CSI effect'

Posted one year ago by Steve Sweeney
There is still a mark on my forehead where I slapped it after reading the following Wednesday morning: "(Reuters) — Sunday's fatal Pennsylvania Amtrak accident may have exposed possible blind spots in a nationwide collision prevention system that is meant to stop crashes on U.S. railroads. ... A dilemma facing railroads is whether to spend funds expanding [positive train control] systems to service vehicles like the backhoe involved in Sunday's crash, or put money into upgrades of aging r...
3

Big Steam is back road trip 2016

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
 We didn’t suffer through a ferocious winter in Wisconsin this year. That usually builds up a pent up demand to escape to someplace warm. Nevertheless, I am ready for a spring road trip in search of steam (thank you Mike Eagleson of Railroad Magazine for that delightful phrase!), and this year, thanks to many factors, it’s a road trip in search of Big Steam. Best of all, thanks to the magic of modern technology and live streaming gear, we get to take you along with us as we en...
11

Join me for a Day with a Shay

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
I’ve been a visitor to West Virginia’s Cass Scenic Railroad since my parents took me there as a teenager to try and mend a broken heart. I wasn’t down because a girl had dumped me. I was sad because my favorite short line had just closed down before my very eyes. The year was 1975, and the Shay-powered Graham County Railroad had just shut down. We made the trip to Cass a few weeks later where there were steep grades, switchbacks, and lots of Shays running around. It was just ...
9

Colorado! You can never have enough

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
Next year marks the 30th anniversary of my first trip to Colorado, land of snowy peaks, narrow gauge Mikados giving it their all, streamliners in deep canyons, and burly freights grinding out tonnage. On that May 1987 trip, I literally hesitated to get onto the plane going home to Charlotte after a week with friends exploring the Moffat Tunnel route, Joint Line, Georgetown Loop, and Manitou & Pikes Peak cog railway. It was a great introduction, and to this day I’m still enamored with...
11

Crazy diesel guys...

Posted one year ago by Steve Sweeney
I think I've finally figured out the diesel guys. They're crazy.  I found that out this week because we've had two stories recently on Norfolk Southern Dash 8s. One story said they would be scrapped, another said they would be rebuilt.  And I stopped in my tracks. Editing the first story, on scrapping, wasn't much of a problem. I trusted the author to get the model numbers right. The second one, a day later, on rebuilding (to Dash 8.5 standards of all things) threw me for a loop. S...
12

A boxcab and a Yellowstone walk into a bar ...

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
Railroad museums, like all good institutions of preservation, need a signature piece: A T-Rex, a space shuttle, a Model T, world’s largest ball of twine (don’t laugh too hard; it’s in fabulous Cawker City, Kansas), or something. The Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth, Minn., one of my favorite historic railroad places in America (and somewhat overlooked by many enthusiasts), has two such signature pieces: A Milwaukee Road boxcab electric from 1915, No. 10200, and Missabe R...
12

When a flat tire leads you to railroad history (and a cup of coffee) in Minnesota

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
Sometimes dumb luck, or in my case, a flat tire, can steer you to railroad history that is still alive. Case in point: Yesterday my wife, Cate, and I were traveling in our car along the Mississippi River. Near Red Wing, Minn., we both heard a loud pop, which I hoped was backfire from a passing truck. Unfortunately, our Ford Fusion had picked up a nail, and the left rear tire was sagging fast. I decided that changing a tire or waiting on AAA on the side of a busy road in the day of distracted dri...
8

It's spring, sir!

Posted one year ago by Brian Schmidt
I was running some errands on Sunday and came to a startling discovery and my local shopping mall: The massive piles of parking lot snow were gone. That, folks, is a sure sign that spring has arrived in the Midwest. This fact should not have been a surprise to me. Saturday morning, for the first time in 2016, I set off on foot in the pursuit of trains, capturing this photo of a southbound Canadian National freight in my Waukesha neighborhood. No, it's not an overly dramatic photograph, and I ...
9

Kevin P. Keefe, we will miss you at Trains

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
March 18, 2016 marks a big change for our Vice-President of Editorial, Kevin P. Keefe. Kevin will retire after 28 years at Kalmbach Publishing. During that time he worked as an advertising copywriter, associate editor, and served as editor of Trains for eight years, 1992-2000. It is a reluctant farewell for me: You see, Kevin is not only my boss, but he’s also a friend who I can go to and talk about steam power, favorite railroads, and personalities in the railroad business, as well as t...
8

Is it my imagination or is traffic picking up?

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
I read the Association of American Railroads traffic reports just like you do. Coal, oil, and metallic stuff – ie, things that make steel for China, which the Chinese don’t want right now, are all down. This February is off about 10,000 carloads of freight from February 2015. Let’s just say that most trains are about 100 cars long; if so, there were 100 fewer trains this February. It may be even less than that — remember the big push among the Class I railroads is to make...
25

Trump: Hunter 'can't be so soft' [satire]

Posted one year ago by Steve Sweeney
NEW YORK — Donald Trump says Hunter Harrison is too "soft" to takeover another railroad. In a brief interview with Trains News Wire on Wednesday, the billionaire Republican Presidential candidate spared a few moments to offer counsel to the veteran Tennessean railroader turned Canadian Pacific CEO. "I like Hunter. I know Hunter, good man. But, he's using too few small words," Trump says about Harrison. "Take that 'precision scheduled railroading' thing. Means nothing. If he wants pe...
16

Rare endcab switchers are still among us

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
I was train watching Saturday at Wisconsin’s undisputable epicenter of railroad activity, Duplainville, where Canadian Pacific and Canadian National cross on a diamond. The first northbound of my visit was pulling an end-cab, or butthead, in some camps (including the Southern Railway retirees I used to hang out with at Spencer, N.C.) switcher in the engine consist. I was surprised because this was an Illinois Central rebuild of an SW7, and most Class I railroads have downsized their swit...
11

It's springtime for railfans ... in Wisconsin

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
Saturday was a sunny day in Wisconsin. In the almost 12 years that I’ve lived here, this was the mildest winter of all. 95 percent of the snow has melted at my house, and Sunday set a record temperature, 61 degrees. I made no attempt to rise early Saturday, but even taking my time, I was ready to go by 8:30, and decided to do a little train watching before a couple of hours at the office, where I finished writing an 8-page feature story on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic for our 100-pag...
16

10 questions for the manager of this year's Norfolk & Western No. 611 trips

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
Running a steam excursion train on a Class I railroad in 2016 is a demanding job. This year with Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611, the job falls to Adam Auxier, a private car operator. I posed 10 questions to Adam, and here's what he told me. 1. Tell us about your role with the excursion train in 2016? In 2015 Virginia Museum of Transportation brought me onboard to manage mechanical issues and overnight servicing for the excursion train. In 2016 I was upgraded to excursion train manager. I...
13

Atlantic Coast Line 1504: Looking good, but she still needs a roof

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – I was in Jacksonville last week on a three-fold mission: 1. Give an after dinner talk to the Atlantic Coast Line / Seaboard Air Line Historical Society (nobody feel asleep that I could tell, whew!); 2. Interview CSX Chairman and CEO Michael Ward (news flash, if you didn’t read Trains Newswire earlier this week, he’s staying three more years; read the rest of my Q&A with him about coal traffic, PTC, mergers, and more in the May issue); and 3. Get out of ...
32

Playing the heritage unit game

Posted one year ago by Brian Schmidt
The train-watching hobby community has made the sighting of the Norfolk Southern and other heritage units into a game of sorts. Railfans, it seems, are always trying to best each other with who has seen more, or who has seen a particular unit on "home" rails. (Nevermind that none of these units actually turned a wheel for the railroads they are painted for.)  Now I've never really put much effort into tracking them down, but if the opportunity presents itself I will usually make the effort ...
6

10 minutes at Brookfield: Good for the common cold

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
10 minutes in Brookfield: Good for the common cold BROOKFIELD, Wis. – Saturday was a gift in southeastern Wisconsin: A winter thaw, a rare January day in the 40s. I was just back from a quick road trip for work, fighting a head cold, and trying not to think about how much fun my friends in Mississippi or North Carolina were having riding or photographing Iowa Pacific special trains operating that day. I suffered through moving boxes around the house my wife and I bought last fall, did a f...
10

Elmer Lam's wonderful life

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
I write this to you from Virginia, which is very appropriate because the subject of this message is about a true gentleman from Virginia you should know. He passed away Wednesday night. His name was Elmer Lam, and he was the son of the air brake shop head at the Norfolk & Western shops in Roanoke, Va. When he died in Charlotte, N.C., he had done a remarkable thing: He’d saved a railroad museum, one that is close to me, North Carolina Transportation Museum, and one that is well known to...
24

Is the CP+NS combination worth $3.48 a share?

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
There is a lot of talk about operating ratios when it comes to Canadian Pacific’s proposal to acquire Norfolk Southern. CP’s Hunter Harrison, the master of operating ratio at Canadian National and now CP, says he can shave a full nine percentage points off NS’s operating ratio of just over 69 percent. What does that mean in real numbers? Now, I’m no math guy. That’s why I went into journalism. Words are my friends. Numbers, not so much. But I still figured that we ...
6

TRAINS chase guide: Norfolk & Western No. 611 Spencer-Asheville, N.C., April 10, 2016

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
One of the most incredible railroad journeys in the Eastern U.S. is about to see big steam for the first time in 22 years. Norfolk & Western No. 611 will traverse the famous Southern Railway Loops near Old Fort, N.C., on April 10. This offers an incredible opportunity for those who want to experience a true engineering feat from on board, and those who want to photograph this legendary 4-8-4 in a unique and amazingly scenic area.   I grew up not far away from the Loops, and for the la...
74

Three theories about why CP wants NS

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
In the February issue of Trains magazine, which has been in subscriber hands for better than a week now and is available to newsstand buyers now, I wrote an editorial in opposition to Canadian Pacific’s proposed takeover of Norfolk Southern. My reasoning is that there is little business incentive to combining tese two railroads. They do a slim amount of business together and the cultures are dissimilar. I’ll let you read the editorial on page 4 and decide if I got it right or not. &...
2

Swiss model railroads, oil train crashes, and more, all at TRB

Posted one year ago by Steve Sweeney
WASHINGTON, D.C. — There is a story around every corner at the Transportation Research Board conference.  Google is giving a presentation on self-driving cars, the University of Illinois has a seminar on concrete ties, and I just left a presentation given by a European researcher on how to optimize Chinese freight railroad operations based on customers' needs. There’s more than 1,000 separately planned meetings, sessions, or workshops packed in between Saturday and Wednesday fo...
11

Ticket to ride? Taking stock of 2016 excursions with N&W No. 611

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
OK, now we know what NS’s 2016 excursion schedule for Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611 looks like. Thank you to NS for seeing the value in getting steam out on the main line once more. While compact – the window of opportunity is a slim eight weeks from early April to early June – the steam schedule is filled with some great classic steam excursion trips behind the biggest steam locomotive in excursion service in North America. There are some exciting changes this year, ...
13

23 events to look forward to in 2016

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
As the new year begins, there’s lots on the horizon to anticipate. Here’s what catches my eye so far this year. Stick around and read all about it on our News Wire at www.TrainsMag.com and in the pages of our monthly magazine. And don’t forget, we’re doing a weekly video roundup of the week’s news and the news ahead every Friday on our website. January7-9National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association meeting in San Diego.Why it matters: Railroads anno...
14

New Year’s eve on the rails 2015

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
The headlight swings around the curve and catches the distant shape of the yard limit sign in the darkness. Snow swirls around us, and I glance across the cab at my fireman, who is looking ahead and being “ever vigilant” as he is supposed to be. Soot stains his overalls and face, and grease has found its way onto his long-cuff White Mule gloves. Steam pressure is still near the peg and that the water glass is half full. Behind us our train snakes through the darkness, the lights from...
7

Notable railroad books of 2015

Posted one year ago by Brian Schmidt
Despite proclamations from the tech industry, printed books are far from dead. While it may be easier to read the latest novel on an e-reader type device, the printed page is still the preferred media for railroad content. The closing year brought us a number of significant and railroad books, and here are some of my picks for you:First up is Railroaders Without Borders, by H. Roger Grant, chronicling the history of the Railroad Development Corp. (Indiana University) and its worldwide operatio...
12

Remembering my mentor, Dan Ranger

Posted one year ago by Jim Wrinn
All of us have a mentor. This is about a man who influenced my life. He is a man who deserves a lot of credit for developing my love of railroading. Indirectly, he helped to put me on the path to becoming editor of Trains magazine. His name is Dan Ranger, and he passed away Friday at age 77. I met Dan in 1973. I was 12, and Dan, at age 35 was already a seasoned veteran of the Southern Pacific and a bunch of California tourist railroads. He loved steam and had just gone to work as the general ma...
6

Why Federal interest rates matter to railroads (but later next year)

Posted one year ago by Steve Sweeney
Phew. We're all still here, thank goodness. With the hype and speculation leading up to the Federal Reserve's interest rate rise today, I thought the world might come to end, or worse, the stock market might go down. For the record, the Fed raised interest rates from near ZERO to between 0.25 and 0.5 percent, representing the interest other banks pay the Federal bank, not what you pay on a new loan. It is the first rate raise since before the Great Recession. "So what does this mean for railro...
23

Hunter Harrison for President (of Amtrak)

Posted one year ago by Steve Sweeney
So who should replace Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman when he retires next year? The long-time passenger railroad boss told employees in a letter Wednesday that he would step down in September 2016. That begs the question of who should replace Boardman, who’s served longer in the job than anyone except the venerable W. Graham Claytor Jr. Trains editors hashed out names from Donald Trump to Elon Musk, and even Mickey Mouse. We refused to agree on one person, so here are three sort-of serious picks...
3

Say it ain't so, Norfolk (Part II)

Posted one year ago by Brian Schmidt
The followers of Trains Magazine's Facebook page are still speaking out on the proposed Canadian Pacific and Norfolk Southern merger. On Dec. 8, CP all but confirmed it would launch a hostile takeover bid for NS following two rejected offers to its board of directors. Immediately after, Trains' Facebook followers sounded off: Radford Bean: Don't be badmouthing Canadians. It isn't a Canadian at the controls of CP. It's another greedy American tycoon. And did anyone actually understand the first ...