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11 reasons to go to Summerail 2016

Posted 2 days ago by Brian Schmidt
Thinking about going to the 2016 Summerail multimedia show and swap meet in Marion, Ohio, on Aug. 13? Here are a few reasons that you may not have considered... 11. Tickets are still available. If you can still get a ticket, why wouldn’t you go! 10. Three words: Marion Power Shovel. Yes, this city built the equipment that built America – and the huge crawlers that transported the space shuttles around Kennedy Space Center! 9. Northern Ohio is full of train-watching fun that you ...

Colorado Railroads, yes, there is an app for that

Posted 3 days ago by Jim Wrinn
  We were pretty tickled earlier this this spring when we debuted our Colorado Railroads 104-page special magazine and hour-long companion DVD. But we wanted to do more about Colorado for you our customers. So, we took a lot of the info found in both the magazine and the DVD and put them into a new mobile app. If you’re looking for info about where to find railroad activity in Colorado, we’ve packed this app contains more than 260 locations You’ll find info about mainlin...

Twenty-four minutes in Naperville

Posted 5 days ago by David Lassen
I spent most of this weekend in the Chicago area, working on an upcoming Trains project. As part of that, I needed some video footage of an Amtrak train in Naperville, Ill. So, on Saturday, I drove out to Naperville, planning to catch the both westbound California Zephyr (scheduled to arrive in Naperville at 2:35 p.m.) and the its eastbound counterpart (running not quite an hour late and due at 2:50 p.m., according to the "Check Train Status" feature on Amtrak's website). On...

Welcome back Great Smoky Mountains 1702. Remember that time we went west across the mountain?

Posted 7 days ago by Jim Wrinn
World War II Army Consolidations rarely get much love, but one back home in North Carolina is attracting a lot of attention. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad No. 1702 is set to return to service Friday after 12 years of inactivity. An agreement with Swain County to devote a portion of its hotel / motel occupancy tax funded the restoration project, which also includes installation of a turntable in Bryson City, N.C. American Heritage Railways, which also owns the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gaug...

How about a new idea for two Class I routes in North Carolina?

Posted 8 days ago by Jim Wrinn
We’ve been told that both Norfolk Southern and CSX are busy planning their futures by focusing on the heaviest trafficked mainlines and downgrading lightly used coal routes or selling or leasing them to other operators. I am particularly curious about the fate of one of NS’s secondary lines, the S-line from Salisbury, N.C., to Knoxville, Tenn., via Asheville and the famous Loops near Old Fort. The loops, as you’ll recall, consists of a 13-mile section of track that twists and t...

Surprises can still happen, if you let them

Posted 8 days ago by Brian Schmidt
A few weeks ago I was out on the MARC station platform at Perryville, Md., with Trains Magazine contributor George Hamlin. We were relaxing in the shade, waiting for the next scheduled Amtrak train to pass when we heard an unexpected horn at the north end of the Susquehanna River bridge. We jumped up and ran to the edge of the platform – staying behind the yellow line! – and saw a northbound train approaching on the bridge. It was a late-running Carolinian, which we had not thought...

Will Union Pacific No. 844 run next week?

Posted 10 days ago by Jim Wrinn
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Standing on the Business I-25 bridge overlooking the Union Pacific steam shop last Wednesday, I witnessed a beautiful sight below: 4-8-4 No. 844 in steam, glistening in a fresh coat of black paint, her 80-inch drivers seemingly poised to roll. A six-axle diesel coupled up, obviously in a test of some sort. Eventually, the rebuilt Northern uncoupled, whistled off, and eased back into the shop. I would have loved to have seen her up close or on the main line, but it was no...

Meanderings in Cheyenne, Wyo., where Union Pacific hits the Rockies

Posted 12 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I spent a few days in and around Cheyenne, Wyo., last week.  It ranks up there with those railroad cities that you have to see for yourself like Altoona, Pa., and Roanoke, Va. Most of us know these places for their legendary roles in the days of steam and for their continued prominence as busy hubs of American railroading. Cheyenne was home to Big Boys, gas turbines, and DDA40Xs. It’s the place where the UP wisely chose to cross the Rockies at an amazingly low point. But it’s st...

Two-thirds of a reboot

Posted 15 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Found on Union Pacific's Greeley Subdivision near Greeley, Colorado. Is the next station called Delete? Yell when you get it, and have a great day! - Jim ...

Sunday fun day

Posted 17 days ago by Brian Schmidt
I have been busy traveling this spring, so much that I've neglected my railfan responsibilities in my home area. I was able to rectify that to some degree with a long holiday weekend trackside around Chicago, hitting up a number of the popular train-watching locations with my friend Duane. We visited Naperville, West Chicago, Blue Island, Dolton, and other locations throughout the weekend. Sunday, July 3 was particularly fortunate: Soon after arriving in Dolton late morning I photographed t...

Making the most of Colorado

Posted 22 days ago by Brian Schmidt
A year ago I had the privilege of hosting one of three Trains Magazine 75th anniversary tours of Colorado. It was my first visit to each of the attractions on the itinerary, and I came away with a new appreciation for railroading in the Centennial State. In no particular order, here are three favorite destinations from that trip: CUMBRES & TOLTEC SCENIC RAILROAD The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is one of Colorado's classic narrow gauge attractions. The scenery is ever changing, f...

Coming attractions: The second half of 2016

Posted 23 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Last January, I made a calendar as far into 2016 as I could see, consisting of events that had my interest. I figure that it’s time for an update, and maybe even a look into 2017. A lot has happened, and there’s a lot more to go. As always, we’ll be updating these stores on News Wire at and in the pages of our magazine. If you want to catch news live, check out our noon Central Time every Friday video review of the week’s events. July 19-24 National Ra...

I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places: Gum Curve and the Jukes tree

Posted 25 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I had the good fortune recently to be at two sacred places in railway preservation within 10 days time. I was in Cass, W.Va., at the preserved logging railroad, and the following week found me in Chama, N.M., on the remnant of the Rio Grande’s San Juan extension. The juxtaposition of these two visits reminded me that some places on the railroad seem to never change while others may be fleeting.   At Cass Scenic Railroad, I was leading Trains first photo charter when we had the oppor...

A visit to Colorado's Royal Gorge Route

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I was at the Royal Gorge Route railroad earlier this month. This Colorado tourist line, based in the south central Rockies at Canon City, came along after Union Pacific shelved its former Rio Grande main line across Tennessee Pass in 1997. Royal Gorge Route was in the news last month when the conductor on a train backing to the station tragically fell from the rear of her train and was killed. A small memorial of candles and flowers in memory of Leslie Cacy was evident on a sidewalk at the for...

Striking a balance in giving back

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
A steam-powered train rolls through the hills of northern Delaware on the Wilmington & Western on June 19. It is a great volunteer-driven railroad that is in no way affiliated with the unnamed Nonprofit Tourist Railroad in the Midwest mentioned elsewhere in the story. Photo by Brian Schmidt A friend of mine volunteers with a Nonprofit Tourist Railroad in the Midwest. He's there, almost religiously every weekend in the summer, helping to run trains. Recently, however, he confided in me th...

About this longest day of the year ... the best time to follow Southern's Murphy Branch in the 1970s

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Winter in Western North Carolina, where I grew up, isn’t bad. The nights don’t get frightfully cold, and the days are still decently long even in the dead of winter. But as a kid, they seemed unmercifully slow, and the coming of spring and summer were most welcomed. I associated both of those seasons with the smell of the first grass cut on a Saturday, the planting of a garden, the budding of tree leaves high on the mountain tops, and, of course, the return of favorite steam locomoti...

'I have come to ride with you ... one last time': For Dan Ranger

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Steam locomotive authority, author, and railroader Dan Ranger, a friend and mentor to me since 1973, passed away last December. On Monday, his birthday, several of us who knew him well gathered for a celebration-of-life ride on the regular excursion train at the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. We were there as Dan’s wife, Karen, spread his ashes on the trip across Cumbres Pass. After we returned, I wrote this for Dan. ------------------ I have come to ride with you, old friend, one...

Flag Day 2016

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
A westbound Norfolk Southern freight with Union Pacific power approaches Burns Harbor, Ind., in March 2013. Photo by Brian Schmidt It's Flag Day 2016, and I want to ask you a simple question: Should Union Pacific continue to use Old Glory on the side of its locomotive? Why or why not? Budweiser, a Belgian-owned beer brand, is changing its name to "America" for the summer in a thinly veiled attempt to leverage pride in one's country into sales. In contrast, UP is a decidedly American company,...

One frame, three generations

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
Three generations of Irish railway equipment rest at Westport on May 16: A 22000 Class DMU at left, an 071 Class diesel at center, and 2-6-4T No. 4 at right. Photo by Brian Schmidt I learned a lot on the Trains Magazine tour of Ireland, England, and France in May. One of the most important lessons was to keep my eyes open, and take in all that I could around me. This one photo at Westport, County Mayo, Ireland, on May 16 best exemplifies that philosophy with three generations of railroading o...

Shall we shame all trespassers then?

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
Having just re-read the news article on UK railway police publishing aerial images of trespassing railfans, I ran through a series of thoughts, from "serves 'em right" to "there goes Big Brother" to "why are you singling out railfans?" News Wire carried the story on Friday about the images published in the wake of what seems to be massive trespassing on the rights-of-way after a May 14 Flying Scotsman run. But what if Norfolk Southern sent out helicopters along Norfolk & Western 611's route...

The South Shore and Metra look ahead

Posted one month ago by David Lassen
I made a wholly worthwhile trip to Chicago Wednesday, for presentations to the Sandhouse Gang by Don Orseno, Metra’s executive director, and Mike Noland, general manager of Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, operator of the South Shore Line. They were speaking about the future of the South Shore and Metra Electric operations, and the joint appearance made a lot of sense, given the close relationship between the two operations. (The South Shore, of course, runs on Metra the ...

‘Galesburg Zephyr’ Nickel Plate No. 765 train-watching guide

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
Amtrak's westbound 'Carl Sandburg' stops at Mendota, Ill. The railroad makes a broad S-curve through downtown, providing the first morning nose light for photography since Chicago. Photo by Brian Schmidt Galesburg Railroad Days will mark its 39th anniversary this year with a bit of the past: former Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765! The high-speed service Berkshire will pull excursions Saturday and Sunday June 25-26 from Chicago Union Station to Galesburg in conjunction with the event. The tri...

Notes on a connect-the-dots trip back East

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I have always prided myself on being a good traveler. As a child, I pored over maps, directing my parents the proper road to take to reach our annual vacation destination at Daytona Beach. But the trip I finished today tells me that I may have become too good at plotting out a trip that takes me from point A to B, C, D, E, F, and sometimes G and beyond. Anyway, here are highlights from my trip back East as I zip across Ohio at 40,000 feet. First, riding the Washington, D.C., Metro is an easy wa...

'The Varsity' Nickel Plate No. 765 train-watching guide

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
A Wisconsin & Southern freight passes the former Milwaukee Road depot at Walworth, Ill. Mike Gramm photo Steam is coming back to Wisconsin later this month, with former Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 powering an excursion, dubbed "The Varsity," to Janesville on June 12. Now, I'm a transplant to Wisconsin, and haven't spent much time on the Wisconsin & Southern's Illinois extension, because much of the regular traffic runs overnight. So I've enlisted the help of local railfan Mike G...

No. 611 vs. wet rail ... wow!

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
No. 611, you and your crew know how to climb a mountain. I was supposed to ride Norfolk & Western No. 611’s excursion train Sunday. But I didn’t, and I am glad I stayed trackside or I would have missed an incredible show. My long-time steam pal, railroad dispatcher, and all-around great guy Dave Crosby and I chased together Sunday afternoon after my live streaming gear had big problems that morning. Lunch with a group of friends and Dave’s companionship in the afternoon ke...

To vest, or not to vest

Posted one month ago by Brian Schmidt
 You wouldn't think something as fundamental as safety would be so controversial, but here we are. Just about every railfan has an opinion on wearing brightly colored safety vests when trackside. In a recent blog post, contributor Dave Crosby makes an appeal to railfans chasing former Norfolk & Western J Class 4-8-4 No. 611 to leave the vests at home: "Leave the safety vests at home. You’d be surprised how the general public assumes anyone in a yellow vest is employed by the rail...

Thoughts on a bad weekend in railway preservation

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Last weekend was a bad one for preservation railways in the U.S. We lost a 28-year-old conductor at Royal Gorge Route in an incident involving a shove move. And two preservation railways, one in the Northeast, and one in the Southeast, shut down when their landlords booted them. There are lessons in all three of these sad situations.  First, in the loss of a life, our condolences go out to the family of conductor Leslie Cacy, who lost her life, and to the close-knit railroad family at Roya...

Be a sport this summer, buy a ticket and say thanks

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
We’re at the beginning of the tourist railroad season and just about all of the 200 or so locomotives that steam at least once a year for the public will be out and about in the next six months. Big engines are plentiful, too. Milwaukee Road 261 is running over BNSF out of Minneapolis June 4, 611 is under steam on Norfolk Southern in Virginia the first weekend in June, Nickel Plate Road 765 is under steam and pulling excursions on Metra and BNSF in Chicagoland for two weekends. Other e...

Why I fear for the Rio Grande main line through the Rockies

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I stood in the middle of the horseshoe curve at Plainview, Colo., last Wednesday morning to watch a short BNSF trackage rights train descend the hill to Denver via the Big Ten Curve. Not long after, the westbound Amtrak California Zephyr came charging into view, and I chased that train to Tolland, just shy of Moffat Tunnel. Right behind the Zephyr was an empty hopper train rolling at a steady clip. And then silence. No more trains on the Front Range for hours. I took off for lunch at a nearby ...

CREATE's 75th Street project: Lots of benefits, but no funding

Posted 2 months ago by David Lassen
Around here, we pay a lot of attention to CREATE, the program to address railroad bottlenecks in the Chicago area. This is because of the obvious advantages if trains, freight or passenger, are able to move more quickly between Point A and Point B. There are other people in Chicago who think about CREATE in loftier terms — like what it could mean for addressing pollution, or economic development, or even the quality of life. Several of those people gathered last Thursday night for a pa...

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