Passion and Character

Posted by George Hamlin
on Friday, April 1, 2022

By now, I suspect that most, if not all of you, already know this, but for those who don’t, the railroad journalism community has lost one of its finest, as TRAINS editor Jim Wrinn passed away on March 30, 2022.  Jim had been engaged in a struggle with pancreatic cancer for the previous fourteen months, and while he gave it his all, and then some, ultimately the disease prevailed.

Jim had been editor since 2004, and his tenure of 17-plus years as editor was eclipsed only by that of David P. Morgan, who held the job from the early 1950s through the late 1980s, presiding over the steam-to-diesel transition and many years beyond.  Both Jim and Morgan were passionate about what they were doing, as well as eager to convey this to their readership.

Both had strong feelings for steam, even though when Jim was born, that form of locomotion was almost extinct in regular service.  As a result, Jim combined this interest with the preservation portion of the railroad enthusiast spectrum, and spent many years (and I suspect, many happy hours) volunteering at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer.

In more recent times, he was in his element covering the return of the Union Pacific’s “Big Boy” to service, and more recently, the Western Maryland Scenic’s 2-6-6-2 1309, where he was able to participate in its entry into service late last year, as well as a TRAINS-sponsored enthusiasts’ event in February of this year.

I first met Jim in 1986, when both of us were chasing and photographing an excursion traversing the L&N’s famed Hiwassee Loop in southeastern Tennessee, behind the then-Seaboard System’s A-B-B-A set of F units.  He was working for the Charlotte, North Carolina Observer at the time.  Over the years we had a modest amount of interaction on railroad matters; one of my best decisions of how to occupy “free time” was making the decision to spend a day going to Waukesha, Wisconsin to be hosted by Jim at Kalmbach headquarters.

It’s also clear, from the outpouring of comments on social media, that Jim was a person of outstanding character, from a variety of viewpoints, ranging from co-workers and business colleagues to friends and even casual acquaintances.  When you met and interacted with him, it was hard not to notice the positive attitude, genuine enthusiasm and just plain old-fashioned pleasantry that he put into relationships, both business and personal.

I think that Jim’s character can be summed up in a statement that I recall being made about someone that I knew earlier in life, which can be paraphrased as follows: “All those things that they say about someone building character didn’t apply to Jim; he didn’t build character, he gave it away”. 

Enjoy the photo above of Jim in his element during the “Streamliners at Spencer” event in 2014, alongside Wick Moorman, then CEO of the Norfolk Southern, and Bev Fitzpatrick, the Executive Director of the Virginia Transportation Museum at the time, with the N&W 611 in the background.  It’s shame we can’t send Jim down to Spencer to be overhauled, and get him back on the road again.

Photo:  George W. Hamlin

To leave a comment you must be a member of our community.
Login to your account now, or register for an account to start participating.
No one has commented yet.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy