Trains.com
7

As Time Goes By, Again

Posted 8 days ago by George Hamlin
Helper locomotives, often used as pushers, have a long, and ongoing history on the former Pennsylvania Railroad main line west of Altoona, Pennsylvania.  In the early post-World War II era, there was a group of early EMD F3 units that were delivered as class EH-15 specifically for helper service in this territory.  Later, the Pennsy’s Baldwin “Centipede” diesels, which proved to be unsatisfactory in their original role as passenger train power, were operated as he...
4

Blowing in the Wind

Posted 28 days ago by George Hamlin
Most people have a favorite season; mine is Autumn.  In the Shenandoah Valley, where I live now, this is often a beautiful time of year: pleasant temperatures, numerous sunny days, and, of course, fall foliage.  The colorful intensity of the latter can vary significantly from year to year, with some annual iterations achieving only a degree of blandness, but a) any fall foliage is worth considering, in my opinion, and b) it may be several years into the future before optimal condit...
11

This Can't Last Much Longer, Can It?

Posted one month ago by George Hamlin
As of June 13, 1970, this was now Penn Central territory, as can be seen from the black E8 with the PC logo on Empire Service train 75 heading west along the Hudson River (which is just out of the photo to the left) at Manitou, New York.  For many of us that experienced happier times prior to both the institution of Empire Service in December 1967, and the formation of the Penn Central in February 1968, this location will live on in our hearts and minds as New York Central territory; the ...
9

Weatherbeaten Warrior

Posted one month ago by George Hamlin
As I mentioned in my previous TRAINS blog post (September 10), on March 21, 1976, I headed to West Trenton, New Jersey, to intercept and photograph the “Farewell to the Reading” excursion behind a pair of the railroad-made-famous-by-the-game-of-Monopoly’s remaining fleet of EMD FP7 diesel locomotives at West Trenton, New Jersey. Prior to the visit to the Penn Central’s engine facility at Morrisville, Pennsylvania discussed in the previous post, I was at the Reading&r...
11

Ten Days Before Conrail

Posted 2 months ago by George Hamlin
On March 21, 1976, I headed to West Trenton, New Jersey, to intercept and photograph the “Farewell to the Reading” excursion behind a pair of the railroad-made-famous-by-the-game-of-Monopoly’s remaining fleet of EMD FP7 diesel locomotives at West Trenton, New Jersey. Conrail was on the way, of course, and would be arriving, appropriately, some wags contended, on April first.  Railfans in the Northeast were in high gear photographing the equipment and operations of the...
14

Learning Curve

Posted 3 months ago by George Hamlin
My first 35mm camera (as opposed to pure-plastic Brownie “Holiday” and “Starmite” Kodaks), an Argus C-3, arrived in 1964.  While it was a definite improvement over the Brownies, attempting to take multiple/sequence photos of moving trains could be maddening.  To set up the next frame after a shot required pushing a lever to one side, followed by rotation of the film advance wheel.  Nothing happened quickly using this process; if the train being photogra...
7

A Long Time Coming

Posted 4 months ago by George Hamlin
Some of you may have read my article “Commonwealth Commitment“, in the August issue of TRAINS, about Virginia’s increasing support for passenger rail services in recent times.  Due to space limitations, not all of the information that I obtained in the process of researching the background for this was able to be included in the final product.  Since the following puts this in its proper historical context, I’m sharing it here. On January 17, 1970, while I ...
9

Coexistence Between Passenger Rail and Freight: Peaceful, or Otherwise

Posted 4 months ago by George Hamlin
Much of the recent news about transportation has focused on the negative side of the ledger, including service cancellations and disruptions; staffing difficulties; long wait times for travelers, etc.  To be sure, it is likely that at least some of this is due to ramifications of the Covid pandemic;  a “normal” economy, including its transportation component, seems to lie at a yet unknown point in the future. In the midst of this, we have also recently been exposed to th...
18

How the Mighty Have Fallen

Posted 5 months ago by George Hamlin
I suspect that I’m hardly alone in the railfan community in terms of “coming of age” in the hobby during the 1960s, and liking Alco locomotives.  Although General Motors/EMD products were far more prolific on North American railroads (including Alco-licensed MLW (Montreal Locomotive Works)), the Alco/MLW products certainly had outsized personalities in the diesel locomotive world. After all, weren’t the elegant passenger-service PA models dubbed “honorary ...
11

The Present Day "Gateway" to Railfanning?

Posted 5 months ago by George Hamlin
Years ago, railroads had a more universal ‘footprint’ in American life.  Large numbers of people rode them to get from one place to another, both near and far.  They participated in transporting a great deal of what the populace consumed, as well as being an integral part of the transportation used in the production of basic materials.  Central portions of urban areas, particularly in industrial/commercial sections, saw local freights working on a five-day basis, a...
9

Chlorophyll Rampant

Posted 6 months ago by George Hamlin
The greatest component of railroad photography, particularly of the action variety?  Without a doubt, waiting, which can induce anticipation; frustration; discomfort; boredom; enervation; etc.  I’m sure that most readers can name others. On the other hand, it also may offer the opportunity for reflection and camaraderie, since this is often a shared pursuit.  As we’ll see, that can include both those came with you and new acquaintances.  The latter run the ga...
5

Duluth Diagonals

Posted 6 months ago by George Hamlin
Sometimes, pictures almost beg you to take them.  Such was the case here, at an overlook on Duluth, Minnesota’s Skyline Parkway, on September 29, 2016.  This elevated location provided a wonderful venue for looking down on the BNSF’s Rice’s Point yard, as you can see here. Along with friends Brian and Matt, we had driven up here to see the sights along the Duluth waterfront, and hopefully, to be able to work some railroad viewing and/or photography into the pictu...
8

Short-Timer

Posted 7 months ago by George Hamlin
It’s now been fifty-one years since the launch of Amtrak on May 1, 1971, and many of the road’s patrons today have no knowledge of the visceral feelings of loss associated with the many “last runs” of once famous intercity passenger trains that took place on April 30 of that year. In addition to the demise of individual trains, entire routes vanished from the landscape in the process.  Some maintained vestiges of their former glory, while others had descended to...
8

Waiting Games

Posted 7 months ago by George Hamlin
Today, it’s difficult for railfans and railroaders to interact, especially in the realm of operations.  With the exception of passenger trains, there aren’t many places where “civilians” can encounter crew members on a regular basis.  Railroad facilities are almost universally off-limits, and modern locomotives seem to have elevated engineers and conductors literally higher above the people that they are passing by on the ground than was the case previously,...
14

Passion and Character

Posted 8 months ago by George Hamlin
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 tha...
8

Something Old, Something New...

Posted 8 months ago by George Hamlin
Definitely something from both categories in the title in this view of MARC train P930. It is operating on the CSX’s main line from Washington to Cumberland on October 6, 1991, at Weverton, Maryland, in conjunction with the “Brunswick Railroad Days”, an annual two-day weekend festival in the town of Brunswick, just to the east of Weverton. In particular, the passenger cars represent both historic and then relatively-new equipment. The former category is represented by the ...
13

Lots to See, but Not for Long

Posted 9 months ago by George Hamlin
Almost fifty-five years ago, you could see the pride of the New York Central, the Twentieth Century Limited, twice a day at the railroad’s Croton-Harmon station in Westchester County, New York. This location, known previously as simply “Harmon”, was where westbound NYC trains exchanged the electric locomotives that had brought them the 32.7 miles from Grand Central Terminal in New York City for diesels (and previously, steam) that would forward their consists to more distan...
9

Strange Bedfellows

Posted 9 months ago by George Hamlin
By the time of this photo on November 14, 1976, the former Pennsylvania Meadows Yard in Kearney, New Jersey now was also the former Penn Central yard, following the formation of Conrail on April 1 of that year. Some things remained largely the same, however:  this was still a place where you could see, and photograph, both diesel and electric locomotives, at least those designated for freight service.  And because electrics were included, that meant that GG1s were almost certain t...
15

The End is Beginning to be in Sight

Posted 10 months ago by George Hamlin
Bob Johnston’s report today on TRAINS’ Newswire (“First Look: Siemens Venture Coaches debut for Amtrak”, February 2, 2022) about the new equipment’s first use in revenue service, on a “Lincoln Service” Chicago-St. Louis round trip, is a reminder that the new equipment will eventually be supplanting older cars, including the original Budd Amfleet cars, which commenced service in 1975. Coming in 2024 (Newswire, July 7, 2021) will be the first of up to...
10

What's Old is New Again

Posted 10 months ago by George Hamlin
Freight trains with multiple locomotives other than on the head end are hardly new.  Helper engines (with separate crews operating them) pushing on the rear of the train are certainly not a new concept.  Sometimes they were cut into the body of the train, instead; this was sometimes referred to as a “swing” helper, since they both pushed and pulled.  A notable utilization of this concept was on the Southern Pacific’s movement of crude oil unit trains from Bak...
4

Got the Fireman's Attention

Posted 11 months ago by George Hamlin
The beginning of Amtrak in the spring of 1971 was both a new start, as well as the end for many U.S. intercity passenger trains, and for that matter, entire routes.  Chicago-Los Angeles service was retained on the route of the Santa Fe’s Chiefs (super and otherwise, which would become a bone of contention between Amtrak and the Santa Fe in the not distant future), but the Union Pacific’s Cities trains, including the one named for California’s “City of Angels&rdqu...
3

A Southern train plus e-bike adventure (part two)

Posted 11 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
Read part one here. My northbound Crescent departed New Orleans on-time on what started as a warm and muggy Saturday, but quickly turned cool and rainy as a cold front passed through. We were on-time till Picayune, Miss. (the second stop of the trip), after which we began moving slow and took a siding for a southbound freight. This put us 40 minutes down, 10 of which we were able to make up by Meridian thanks to schedule padding. Upon arriving and claiming my e-bike on the platform, I pedaled i...
8

From the Family Photo Archives

Posted 11 months ago by George Hamlin
Recently, my friend David Greenberg sent me the picture above, taken by his Father, Harry, in Milan, Indiana (pronounced “my-lin”, accent on the first syllable, as opposed to “mi-lan”, accent on the second syllable).  This small town is in southeastern Indiana, 41.7 miles west of Cincinnati, on the former Baltimore & Ohio’s line to St. Louis. David’s maternal grandparents lived in Milan. His mother went to the local high school, where her graduat...
3

A Southern train plus e-bike adventure (part one)

Posted 11 months ago by Malcolm Kenton
I just returned home to D.C. from a 4.5-day trip on Amtrak’s Crescent that brought me and my three-month-old Co-Op Cycles CTY e2.1 pedal-assist electric bicycle to New Orleans for 31 hours (it was supposed to be 35) and Meridian, Miss. for 24 hours. The Crescent is my ‘home train’; I use it several times a year to go between D.C. and Greensboro, N.C., where I grew up and where my parents live, and have been riding it since 2004. This was only my fifth time riding it south of Gr...
10

Infrastructure

Posted one year ago by George Hamlin
A century ago, transportation infrastructure in the U.S. was funded and built largely by private enterprises, particularly railroads. Think projects like Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station, both in New York City. Today, and particularly with respect to railroad passenger service, public money is generally employed (although there has been a recent exception in Florida, although it didn’t involve extensive new rights of way, at least in its initial iteration), when it can be obtain...
15

Still Classy, as well as "Swift of Foot"

Posted one year ago by George Hamlin
As I’ve indicated previously, a good bit of what remained of the intercity passenger rail service in the U.S. as of 1970 was in bad shape; see, for example, see my April 15, 2021 post, “Remember the Twilight Limited?” for an example (https://cs.trains.com/trn/b/observation-tower/archive/2021/04/16/remember-the-twilight-limited.aspx). However, not everything had become rotten in the passenger train universe by then; what remained of the Santa Fe’s fleet of Chiefs was ...
5

Before He Had a Musical Named After Him...

Posted one year ago by George Hamlin
Alexander Hamilton, a “Founding Father” of the United States, as well as the nation’s First Treasury Secretary, was honored by the Pennsylvania Railroad, which named one of its postwar streamlined “feature” cars after him. By 1952, the PRR had taken delivery of Budd-built stainless steel passenger cars to equip two sets if trains, the Congressional and the Senator; four consists were built in total, two for each named train. Both of these trains operated in wh...
7

Heritage Trifecta

Posted one year ago by George Hamlin
Special paint schemes on locomotives are generally popular, particularly if they are part of a series. On the occasion of its fortieth anniversary in 2011, Amtrak produced unique liveries on four of its P42 General Electric diesels (as well as a single P40, the 42s’ immediate predecessor in the “Genesis” locomotive line) commemorating what are commonly described as ‘phases’, beginning with the original “Bloody Nose/Pointless Arrow” scheme. Subseque...
7

History: Reflections of the Past, and in the Making in New York City

Posted one year ago by George Hamlin
In the New York City subway system, a good deal of history can be seen in a variety of places.  This example (above), at the Herald Square station in Manhattan is illustrative of some of the City’s rail transportation history, inasmuch as it references three entities that are currently operating, but not under the names shown here. “BMT” is a reference to what was known as the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit Corporation prior to its acquisition by the City in 1940. ...
21

PSR in all its Glory

Posted one year ago by George Hamlin
That’s “Precision Scheduled Railroading”, in the odd case that you’re wondering what the acronym stands for.  So, what do we see in the picture above, of Norfolk Southern train 202 passing by the former N&W depot in Boyce, Virginia (now privately owned) on the NS H-line, on September 3, 2021? The key point, the train’s overall length, is not visible within the relatively constrained view shown here, but some of its contributing implications are.  ...

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