Was I ever wrong about GE Transportation

Posted 5 days ago by Steve Sweeney
Boy, was I wrong about GE Transportation. GE and Wabtec officials announced today that they'll combine their companies but keep divisional headquarters in Chicago and Wilmerding, Pa. And it all makes sense. For years, I harangued GE Transportation media people about driverless trains, automation, and artificial intelligence. Early on, they politely responded with additional information on their latest products. Deep down, I knew services to railroads or locomotive owners would be a bigger...

I went to Carolina: Here's what was on my mind

Posted 5 days ago by Jim Wrinn
I just returned from a few days back home in North Carolina. Even though I have lived in Wisconsin, where Trains is published, for almost 14 years, the Tar Heel State will always be home. It’s the land of great barbecue, pine forests, and a place where, to my southern ear, people don’t have an accent. Let me tell you about my visit. The main purpose of my trip was to attend a joint meeting of the Norfolk & Western Historical Society, the Southern Railway Historical Association, ...

Royal wedding reminds me there is a steam locomotive paradise in England

Posted 13 days ago by Jim Wrinn
This week, the wedding of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markel has the United Kingdom in the celebrity spotlight. Expect to be bombarded with coverage and all sorts of references to England and British culture. It got started over the weekend when CBS’ Sunday Morning show, focused on the UK. It all reminds me what a paradise for steam locomotive lovers this country is. Their trains may look different and wear bright colors that many American fans might find objectionable, but as my frien...

Our Journey to Promontory begins today. We invite you to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad with us

Posted 17 days ago by Jim Wrinn
My friends, it’s time to party like it’s 1869 — a year from now. I’m here to share exciting news about how Trains magazine will celebrate the 150th anniversary of America’s first transcontinental railroad and the return of Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 Big Boy steam locomotive No. 4014. We’re busy preparing special publications, videos, and today we’re launching two new blogs, and announcing a tour you can participate in that captures the “Journey to Pro...

Ross Rowland on gloves, dinner companions, Anderson's Amtrak, C&O 1309, May 10, 2019, Big Boy, and much more

Posted 25 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Ross Rowland has been a major figure in American steam locomotive preservation and operation for more than a half century. He is well known as the central figure of the High Iron Co. trips of the 1960s, the American Freedom Train, Chessie Steam Special, Chesapeake & Ohio No. 614, and numerous other projects. I asked Ross 20 odd questions about his affinity for steam, Richard Anderson’s Amtrak, C&O 1309, the Louisiana & Arkansas 503 in Texas, and more. Here’s what he tol...

Journey to Promontory: Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad

Posted 27 days ago by Jim Wrinn
Journey to Promontory: The 1-year countdown begins We’re only days away from the 149th anniversary of the Golden Spike, the May 10, 1869 event that marked the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. It is a big deal. Among the major events in American history, this is among the most significant in so many ways. Of the images that as a people we know by heart is that of two American-type locomotives nose to nose with an assemblage of celebrants decorating them in the Utah desert...

Beebe & Clegg: Gruber & Co. shed new light on these groundbreaking railroad photographers

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
On the cover of a new book, “Beebe & Clegg Their Enduring Photographic Legacy” is a most un-Beebe-like Beebe image. It’s a westbound Union Pacific train on Sherman Hill from a far distance with profuse smoke against a cloudy sky – definitely not the sunny day, three-quarter angle, in-your-face wedge shot that Beebe and Clegg made famous. The surprise cover of this new book is the first clue that the reader is about to experience a new and different treatment of this f...

Waiting for the adults to take charge

Posted one month ago by Steve Sweeney
Railroad bridges of St. Louis, 2014. Railroads maintain their infrastructure, why aren't the rest of us? Photo by S. Sweeney Mississippi announced recently that it will close 100 bridges to automobile traffic until further notice because of structural deficiencies.  As I began composing this blog post (3:39 p.m. Central Time April 12), the New York Times had yet to post a story on this. CNN was too busy with wall-to-wall coverage of President Donald Trump controversies and so hadn't pos...

Nashville: Hot Spot, Big Steam, and commuter trains

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
I just got back from the American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn. From Sunday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon, my colleagues Mike Yuhas, Jane Brenner, and I were on hand to meet readers, advertisers, and learn more about this important side of the railroad industry. It’s one of the reasons why you saw extra attention to this business in our April issue. The trade show’s two days were packed with seminars, speakers, and networking (more...

Conversations at the short line and regional railroad's annual gathering

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Greetings from Nashville, Tenn., where we are exhibiting and writing about the nation’s more than 500 short line and regional railroads at the annual conference of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association. Here’s a quick postcard of the conversations that we’re hearing often at this gathering of industry professionals. What we’re hearing this year is among the widest ranging and wildest in terms of tone. Some samples: “I’m surprised that Amtr...

One of my hometown railroads

Posted one month ago by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
Joliet Junction Railroad on its first day of operations in 1994. Photo by Joe Petric Having moved around a lot as a kid, I count Joliet, Ill., as one of probably five hometown railroads. I spent my high school and college years in this area. My first apartment was adjacent to a short line called the Joliet Junction Railroad. The 6-mile former Elgin, Joliet & Eastern branch line was out of service and, during my time living there, in disarray.  The EJ&E abandoned the branch after...

Rolling back Amtrak's private car restrictions and special train ban won't be easy: Here's how to do it

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Last week, Amtrak said it would no longer run special trains or charters and would severely restrict running private cars. The railroad said it was about profitability and time keeping and customer service. The change hits the 150 or so private cars (some place the figure closer to 250) that are still fit for the mainline, big steam locomotives that venture out once or twice a year on the main, and a handful of non-profits that utilize charter trains or tack private cars on Amtrak trains as part...

About a new Trains book you'll want before you go to Europe

Posted one month ago by Jim Wrinn
Some 26 years ago, in an act of desperation, a sheltered American who’d never been overseas but was about to take his first European vacation called a well-traveled magazine editor in Vermont for advice: I’d signed up for a group tour of UK and the continent, but I still want to try to strike out on my own to see some of its railroads. I have two free days in England, the possible safest environment for a neophyte. I was nervous. What should I do? Where should I go? Mark Smith, edito...

A progress report on Union Pacific Big Boy 4014

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Deep inside the cavernous backshop at Cheyenne, Wyo., a giant is coming back to life. I saw it with my own eyes on a visit earlier this week. Here's what I saw. Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 is about as disassembled as you can get and still be counted as a locomotive. The wheels are out from underneath it – all 24 of them – and 100-ton freight car trucks support the frame. It currently holds the title of the world’s largest 0-0-0-0. The boiler is as empty as it has been since...

Railroad photography: Budget gear for beginners

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
There are a lot of really expensive camera options available today. Thankfully, you don't need them for good railroad photography – even if you want to see your photos published in Trains Magazine. In fact, a basic $350 setup can have you on the right path to publication. The compromise, and there are always compromises when there's a budget, is that you'll be shopping on the used market. The first step when contemplating any equipment purchase is to examine what, if anything, you have al...

Railroad photography: Shooting for publication

Posted 2 months ago by Brian Schmidt
Spring is right around the corner, and for most of us that means more time trackside with a camera. For better or worse, when you send an email to photoeditor@trainsmag.com, I'll be the first one that sees it. I get a lot of questions about specific images, which we often have no immediate use for. People, it seems, want to see the photos they've already taken in print, but don't want to give any thought to shooting for publication when trackside. That's a shame because a typical issue of Trains...

A look at steam in 2018: What to anticipate, what to appreciate, where to go

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, this is the time of year when I anticipate mainline steam schedules, plan trips to see newly restored and notable locomotives, and find time to make calls and send emails to my steam friends to see who is planning to go where and where we might cross paths, or tracks in our case. We’ll see who is willing to break the bank and stretch vacation time to make one more trip. It’s an optimistic time, when we all look forward to what will excite and i...

All bragging aside, you need to see the new Raleigh, N.C., passenger train station

Posted 2 months ago by Jim Wrinn
We are taught early on in childhood not to brag, especially about ourselves, and particularly not about home towns, or native states. Reckless bragging is disgraceful. A sign of poor manners. But maybe you will indulge me in a bit of gentle bragging on my home state, North Carolina. I was back recently and imposed on the good folks in the capital city of Raleigh for a preview of the new passenger station under construction and set for completion this spring. If you haven’t heard of this...

So, how does PTC drive in the snow?

Posted 3 months ago by Steve Sweeney
  Where I grew up in the snow belt regions Lake Erie shadows, and where eight feet of snow in a year is an average, not a record, when someone bought a car that's new to them, you ask how it drives in the snow. Oh, you let them brag about their purchase first: The gas mileage, sunroof, third row or trunk space, how they got a "brand new" spare tire thrown in, or how much get-up-and-go it has, and how great it sounds with the aftermarket subwoofer the first owner installed. They might even...

The long road to Trains was even longer than I recalled

Posted 3 months ago by David Lassen
So we’re doing some reshuffling of office space here at Kalmbach, which means a lot of people are going through their desks and tossing out stuff that they don’t need to cart down the hall. (Trains ‘ relocation is still in the future, so my office is just as cluttered as ever. The 37 bobbleheads on the window sill are safe for now) One of the people who did make the move this week was former Trains editor J. David Ingles, senior editor at Classic Trains. During his cleaning pr...

Trains photo charter at Cumbres & Toltec: We're going back to 1968. Care to join us?

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
We’re throwing a steam-powered party this August, and you’re invited. We’re sponsoring a photo charter with the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, that 64-miles of serpentine narrow gauge tracks that seem to dart across the state line more than there are peaks in the spectacular San Juan Mountains that is home for this line (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but it sure seems like it at times). We’re there to commemorate the last runs of Rio Grande freights across 10,0...

Late winter when a man starts thinking about steam locomotives

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I usually start thinking about planning travel to enjoy what little steam is left running about this time of year. I blame it on Southern Railway and Jim Bistline, who set the railroad’s steam excursion schedule every winter. It was the most anticipated piece of mail that I can recall as a teenager or a young adult in the late 1970s and early 1980s: You could see what locomotives Southern was running, where, and when, and plan a whole year’s worth of steam railroading fun. There were...

What other unthinkable things await us?

Posted 3 months ago by Steve Sweeney
Ask the editors at Trains. When I read the statement from Amtrak at 12:49 p.m. (Central) in my email inbox, I swore — a lot. One trainset of the one and only high-speed rail service in the Western Hemisphere pulled apart on the Northeast Corridor.  The New York Post reports that Acela Express train 2150 was moving at 125 mph when it separated in Maryland. The news organization shows a photo of what appears to be a loose drawbar on the semi-permanently coupled trainset hanging betwe...

It's the end of Amtrak as we know it

Posted 3 months ago by Brian Schmidt
As we learn more this Sunday morning about the overnight collision between Amtrak's Silver Star and a CSX Transportation freight, I can't help but think that the national passenger carrier is on the cusp of a major change – for better, or worse. With three high-profile incidents in less than 60 days, Amtrak is undoubtedly under scrutiny from regulators, legislators, and host railroads. It's possible (but not likely) that none of those will be found to be Amtrak's fault; it's also possible...

My first railroad photos turn 40 years old

Posted 3 months ago by Jim Wrinn
They were neither well executed nor worth much as great art. Some were poorly composed, and others were over or under exposed. But they were amazing sights to me -- my first action railroad pictures with a good 35mm camera. And they were made 40 years ago this month. The occasion was the first good weather in the winter of 1978 when, as a 16-year-old fan, I was ready to try out the Nikkormat FT-3 that my parents had given me the Christmas before. They’d heard my disappointment in my Kodak...

My top 10 best train watching Hot Spots

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
Our special issue, Hot Spots, is available now, and it has me excited about traveling to great train watching places this year. We broke down our 100-page guide into three categories: Places to watch a lot of trains. Places that are scenic wonders. And places that are icons in our common obsession. Like everyone else, I have my favorites. Here’s my top 10, and be sure to get your own copy of Hot Spots at https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/special-issue/vt-tr05180101-c.   1. The ...

About the most famous passenger car in the U.S.: Ferdinand Magellan

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
What would you say is the most famous passenger car in the United States? The well-traveled PV Caritas? Lucius Beebe’s office car Virginia City. Amtrak office car 10,000? It’s a debatable list, and one that would have to include in its top 10 an office car that I have heard about all my life and visited for the first time recently while on business in Florida: Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s office car Ferdinand Magellan. This classic heavyweight Pullman makes its home at the Gold...

Clinchfield 800's winter vacation to Florida

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
The Appalachian Mountains, where the Clinchfield Railroad operated, was a place of heavily forested mountains, dense hardwood forests, and rushing whitewater streams. The environment last week in which I found the railroad’s most famous diesel locomotive, F7 No. 800, was much different. It was a relatively flat expanse of land with numerous lakes. The exhaust tossled palm tree leaves and tickled the Spanish moss. Yes, this is a fish out of water story, the tale of a locomotive on winter br...

Brightline, Florida East Coast steam -- 100 years of Sunshine State railroading

Posted 4 months ago by Jim Wrinn
I was in Florida last week. No, I was not on vacation, neither at a beach nor Mouse World. In fact, it was rainy the first half of the trip, and down right cold (for Florida) on the second half (38 degrees Sunday morning. The primary railroad topic, as it has been in the Sunshine State for generations, was passenger trains. The newest of these trains, Brightline, was days from the start of revenue service. The oldest have been in museums for decades and date back to the early 20th century. Both ...

The hurt behind the crash of Cascades No. 501

Posted 5 months ago by Jim Wrinn
It has been a rough few days for all of us who love railroading. Everybody is heartbroken about the tragic Amtrak Cascades derailment. Many of us know people who were on the crew or who were among the passengers who were injured. Friends have lost colleagues or pals. It is our worst nightmare come true. Compounding it all is the chatter that goes on in the fog that lingers in the minutes, hours, and days after a catastrophe. One of the safest ways to travel doesn’t seem so safe in the eye...

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