Six Decades of TRAINS

Posted by George Hamlin
on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

I’m well-aware that, as of November 2020, TRAINS will be celebrating its eightieth anniversary.  So why the reference to only six decades?

That’s because as of the July 2020 issue, I’ve been reading TRAINS every month for sixty years, continuously.  A birthday gift subscription beginning with the July 1960 issue got things launched, and the process has continued, happily, from my standpoint, ever since then.  In reality, since we were on a lengthy vacation trip, and I wasn’t aware that subscription copies typically arrived then about the 15th of the month preceding the cover date (i.e. June 15th for the July issue), I didn’t see my first copy until our return home in early August, where I found both the July and August 1960 issues in the then-familiar brown paper envelope.

I was thrilled, but it became clear that there was a lot to learn, and there was no “Ask TRAINS” feature available back then.  Additionally, sensory overload came into effect while still trying to digest the first two copies when the September issue arrived about August 15th.

So, what was in the July issue that was waiting my perusal in late summer 1960?  While it’s said that you can’t always judge a book by its cover, for most magazines that have substantial photographic comment, the cover image(s) often offer hints as to what’s inside.  A steam locomotive numbered 208 was featured in Steve Patterson’s “A tale of two 2-8-0’s”, concerning the use of these locomotives on the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Transportation Company, where, according to Steve, “carloadings are good, opportunities are better, and the equipment is the best”.

The major feature article in this issue was William W. (Bill) Kratville’s ten-page treatise (“Knife-noses and portholes”) on the McKeen gasoline motor car.  This was something that I had no knowledge of whatsoever; three years later, in 1963, I’d be enjoying Kratville’s marvelous passenger-train book, Steam, Steel and Limiteds.

Below a picture of “Mr. McKeen’s car”, there was a “teaser”, in the form of a picture of a fan literally surrounded by steam with the cover caption asking “Who is she?”  Turning to page 22, we find “The Diary of Anne Dovel”, which is “Concerning a girl in love with locomotives”.   After not riding a train prior to 1952, she had traveled on more than 70 railroads by the time the article was prepared.  Interestingly, the photography for this article, which included Anne taking a photo of Norfolk & Western 611 on its “last run” on the N&W, was by a fellow surnamed Link who went by his first initial (O.) and middle name (Winston) …

The final articles featured on the cover dealt with “TOFC trains”, under the title “Piggyback Performance”, wherein “TRAINS photographers field-inspect three piggyback operations”. The august trio included Don Wood’s look at the PRR’s train TT1; J. P. (Parker) Lamb Jr., who covered Burlington trains 61 and 14; and Richard Steinheimer’s coverage of “Southern Pacific’s CME”.   My education at the David P. Morgan School of (railroad) photography was well under way when I finished examining their fine black & white work, although it would take a number of years before I could produce results even remotely like those on pages 46-57 of the July issue.

And finally, in the most amazing coincidence, page 10 of the July 1960 issue has one full column devoted to the news that “EBT TO RUN AGAIN!”; that’s EBT as in East Broad Top; apparently what goes around does come (back) around, at least on occasion!

In the intervening sixty years I’ve had the good fortune not only of reading the magazine, but, in more recent years, being able to participate in both the print and digital elements of the publication.  Anne Dovel wouldn’t be quite as unique today as she was in 1960; for that matter, I suspect that she would have enjoyed conversing with, among others, Bill Kratville’s daughter Cate, now Cate Kratville-Wrinn following her marriage to current TRAINS editor Jim Wrinn.  Riding, and photographing what now are generally referred as “intermodal” trains is still in vogue at “The Magazine of Railroading”, evidenced in recent years (2013) by Fred Frailey’s travels on Norfolk Southern’s “Crescent Corridor” train 201.

Thanks David, Dave, Kevin, Mark and Jim, plus all of the TRAINS’ staff over the past 60 years, for the memories, and looking forward to more to come!

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