Monday, June 28, 2010

What is Your Favorite Box Car Slogan of All Time?

What is/are your favorite(s) box car slogans of all time? Route of the Eagles? Mainline of Mid-America? We Can Handle It? Serves the South? You Name It!

What is a Freight Train? A Thread that Binds America

What is a freight train? Is it just a way to get goods from point A to point B? Or is it a thread that joins America. Is it a twine that binds jobs; that ties local economies with state economies with the national economy. Is it fueled by men and women in cities and towns along the way, men and women who work for the railroad, whose children go to schools along the way and weave the fabric of the cloth of America. What is a freight train you might ask? A thread that binds America.

The McDonald's Golden Arch Christening

While eating breakfast at McDonald's in Woodland, CA the other morning, I got to see a once in a lifetime event for a McDonald's fan. The restaurant is undergoing a remodel, and I got to see a truck deliver the golden arches. Wow!

Wheeling & Lake Erie GP35 at Mogadore, Ohio

This Wheeling & Lake Erie Kodachrome GP35 rolls past the Subway at the wye at Mogadore, Ohio. Thanks for the tip on a great photo location, Coach Ross!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thank You, Southern Pacific

Southern Pacific was my first railroad to railfan. I knew their gray diesels before I knew what a tunnel motor was and before I knew that locomotives had 16 or 20 cylinders. I just knew that trains were big and loud and I loved watching them roar through Davis. A railfan was born and lives today thanks to Southern Pacific.

Onward We Roll

Onward we roll, carloads we pull, freight trains of coal, mountain to shoal, onward we roll, freight trains we pull, onward we roll

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kansas City Southern SD70ACe at Kansas City

This Kansas City Southern SD70ACe hauls Powder River Coal southbound through Kansas City Missouri.

Long Freight Train

Long freight train
Loaded with coal
Long freight train
You heave and pull
Long freight train
Whistle and blow
On a distant track
To tomorrow you go

McDonald's on East Main in Woodland

They just reopened the McDonald's on East Main Street in Woodland. Two of the booths have a fantastic view of the Sierra Northern, formerly Yolo Shortline, formerly Sacramento Northern line from Woodland to West Sacramento. Can I have fries with that local freight?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

There Goes a Train

There goes a train
Whistle sounds
There goes a train
My heart pounds
Down the tracks
On the fly
Standing tall
Past my eye
There goes a train
To the town
Tomorrow calls
Rolling down
To the station
Here it cry
There goes a train
On the fly

Friday, June 18, 2010

Union Pacific AC4400CW at Green River

At Green River, Wyoming, a Union Pacific AC4400CW and its grain train pauses for a meet with a double stack train headed east. Union Pacific and traffic continues to roll.

Norfolk Southern SD70M-2 at Altoona; The Railroad Stays Running

A merchandise train clears the signal and rolls past the Railroader's Memorial Museum in Altoona. Behind a pair of SD70M-2's, today's assignment is in the charge of Norfolk Southern's crew. This train and cargo will get where it needs to be, thanks to its crew and the many workers who maintain the right of way, signals, locomotives, yards, and keep the railroad running.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lettering a Pennsylvania Merchandise 40' Box Car

This box car illustrates lettering on a Pennsylvania Railroad Merchandise Service 40' Box Car. 40' Box Cars are by far the best piece of railroad equipment to practice lettering, as you do not have as much time invested in all of the engine room doors/underframe of a locomotive and can focus on logos/words that tend t...o be more prominent. Also, 40' box cars from the 50's and 60's tend to have far greater slogans/emblems to letter.
Begin by measuring down from the top of the car to a point where you the lettering belongs on the prototypical car. Make a point at the front of the lettering and at the end, on the top of the words and the bottom. Measuring in all four places causes your lettering to be straight, which, on the finished car keeps the lettering level with the roof and floor. This is perhaps one of the biggest secrets to drawing, as lettering drawn at sloping angles stands out quite a bit. Also, Lettering that dips above and below the lines you have drawn sticks out just as much. When you write your words, such as "Merchandise Service" try and look at them over and over. Look at all three "e's" in the lettering and see if they all look similar. This makes the lettering appear as if it were done by the railroad paint shop vs. by hand!
Also, look for letters again and again that dip up and down above and below the line and do your best to smooth them out.
Mainly, practice, practice, practice and don't get discouraged.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Alton & Southern MP15 at Granite City, IL

This Alton & Southern MP15 transfers cars at Granite City, IL. The Alton & Southern was jointly owned by the Missouri Pacific and Chicago & North Western, hence the blue cab (Mo-Pac) and yellow hood (C&NW). Alton & Southern's logo is shaped after Chicago & North Western's, however, it incorporates Missouri Pacific's "Buzz-Saw" into the center to show the joint ownership, as well.

Everett Railroad GP16 at Duncansville, PA

This Everett Railroad GP16 moves today's local from Duncansville, PA. Everett Railroad thrives in Southwestern Pennsylvania's mountainous region near Altoona.

Chicago & North Western MP15 at Proviso Yard

This Chicago & North Western MP15 shoves grain hoppers at Proviso. It gets a string of empties ready for a midnight train to haul back to Oelwein, IA on the former Chicago Great Western. This is railroading in the hey day of the Chicago & North Western.

Bicentennial Engines

Celebrating America's 200th birthday, a number of US railroads dressed their locomotives in red, white and blue paint schemes to get in the 1976 spirit. Here are two locomotives painted by the Chicago & North Western and the Erie Lackwanna showing bicentennial colors.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Napa Valley Wine Train Schedule

I recently took a day trip to see the Napa Valley Wine Train. Check-in is 10:30am with a 2:30 return for the lunch train and 5:30 with a 9:30 return for the dinner train. More information about the Napa Valley Wine train can be found at

What is Your Favorite Paint Scheme of All Time?

Is it New York Central Lightning Stripes? Is it Southern Crescent Green? Is it Great Northern Big Sky Blue? Is it Santa Fe Warbonnet? Is it. . . .

Demonstrating How to Paint Black on a Penn Central SD45

Here is a Penn Central SD45 demonstrating how to ink a black engine. Many underframes, steam engines, and quite a few diesels are black. Black is Mars Graphic pen #9. When an engine is black, I suggest going over all of the doors, grills, etc. with your straightedge and a black ballpoint pen. Ever so slightly, this sheen will cause detail to pop out just the right amount on your finished locomotive. When painting black, I use two coats of #9 for the just from the Altoona Works SD40E look, or else I use a base of #9 and a top coat of a dark brownish/gray #890 to give the black engine the look that it has been on the road for a few years.

Boston & Maine Bluebird GP9

This Boston & Maine GP9 handles a northbound fast-freight out of Boston. Adorned in the Bluebird colors of the McGinnis Era, the blue and White GP9's were a sharp contrast to their GP7 predecessors in maroon and gold. The dashing colors and sharp lines of the B&M logo were metaphoric of Patrick McGinnis, Boston & Maine and New Haven's aggressive president in this era.

Western Maryland SD40 at Cumberland

This Western Maryland SD40 is in charge of a coal train rolling into Cumberland. In an era before Circus Colors, before the Chessie Cat, this SD40 gets the job done.

A Letter to CSX about Western Maryland #734 Excursion

I have been to quite a few railroad days across the country, and the
public's anticipation of the arrival of a significant and beautiful
locomotive such as the 734 sparks quite a bit of interest to fans and
the railroad community to economies such as Petersburg, WV and the
...South Branch Railroad. Having the 734 not arrive when tickets have been
sold, food and show vendors have been booked can put a crimp into what
could have been quite a moment for many to remember. Andy Fletcher

Mars Graphic Pens and Painting a GG1 Drawing by Andy Fletcher

Here is a drawing of a Pennsylvania GG1. Micah's question was about color. I draw on Hot Press Illustration Board. The technical lines and lettering are first drawn with an "H" pencil and then I retrace the lettering with a "4H" pencil. The 4H pencil is softer, which darkens the lines around the lettering, giving i...t a crisper edge. I used to use #2 pencils on Crescent Board paper, however, I cannot find that paper anymore. If anyone can-Please HELP Me! LOL :)
Anyway, after the technical drawing is drawn, which I can go into further detail about to those interested, I then trim the lettering and outside of the GG1 with ball point pens-in this case, red to match Pennsy Tuscan.
Now is when The fun starts. I use Mars Graphic Pens made by Staedler which, at the moment, I have to buy from Canada through the mail. They have a brush on one end and a felt tip on one end. They are water based and, this property makes it necessary that I draw on the illustration board.
Now is when I use the felt tip to color around all of the ball point trimming around the lettering and outside of the GG1. This takes both practice and and patience-20 years worth in my case, so please stick with it. Drawing trains is supposed to be fun in the first place.
Once you have all of the felt tipped areas trimmed, you switch to the brush tip. With the brush, you start to paint much like a paint brush. The felt tipping has done pretty much what painter's tape does and it allows you the freedom to use more confidence in your strokes, which, hopefully fills the drawing with wider brush strokes, in the end making less brush strokes and a more solid fill. I always apply at least two coats, using the darkest color on the bottom and trying to find a lighter color to somewhat blend the water based pens-Mars Graphic pens come in 80 colors so there is usually a good pen to match as a top coat.
What is most important when painting is to try and get several good looks at Pennsy GG1's in as many different lightings as possible. This way you can be sure that you have a true feel for what Pennsy Tuscan looks like. Pennsy Tuscan is a mix of Mars Graphic color 260 on the bottom and 23 on the top. Unfortunately, this color does not mix as well on my current Hot Press Board as it did on Crescent Board, so I am always looking for Crescent Hot Press Board when drawing Pennsy-Hint, Hint! :) Andy

Chesapeake & Ohio F7 at St. Albans, WV

Black diamonds roll past the St. Albans, WV depot. Coal is King in the Mountain State. This stately dressed F7 has its cargo in line as Chesapeake & Ohio's revenue rolls towards Chesapeake Bay. Mined from mountain and hollar, coal is in the creases, coal is West Virginia. Coal rolls down the Chesapeake & Ohio's tracks. Coal is king.

The Train Doctor at Bruce's Hobby, Sacramento

Has your SD40-2's flywheel seen its last day? Call the Train Doctor. At Bruce's Hobby in Sacramento, diligently working in his back office, the Train Doctor, in a labor of love, screwdriver in hand, fixes all scales of hoppers that have hauled their last load of coal across layouts for the time being. Pay him a visit if your DDA40X has a truck or two that could use a cleaning. Thanks to my local train doctor and all train doctors that keep America's model railroads in tip-top shape.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wyoming-Union Pacific Country

Wyoming is a big state. Mainly, I crossed Southern Wyoming on I-80. Where you enter at Evanston, Union Pacific tracks are there. Through Green River and Rock Springs, Union Pacific; The Overland Route rolls. Through Rawlins on eastward train after train rolls, coal, double stacks, Union Pacific is there. Counting the mile markers to Laramie and over the Laramie Mountains and into Cheyenne. Again, Union Pacific trains stand in the hole and roll down the tracks. This is Wyoming. This is Union Pacific Country.

Checkers at Cracker Barrel in Springfield, IL

King Me! Anyone want to play jumbo checkers while waiting for chicken fried steak? I have one question- "Who wants to play a game for dessert?"

Gulf Mobile & Ohio GP38AC at Mobile, AL

The day clings to your shirt in Mobile, AL as the local rolls into town. A smartly painted GP38AC dressed in nose stripes rolls with today's cargo. I stand under a tree to shield myself from the sun as I wave at the engineer. Counting the cars, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, the train rolls down the track. Gulf Mobile and Ohio rolls onward.

Railroading is Railroading

Coal runs through the seams, older than the mountains themselves. One wonders, “If Virginia knew about this coal, would it have seceded West Virginia so quickly?” You have to laugh.
Over your shoulder the whine of dynamic brakes and the squeal of beveled wheels, agonizing in pain, a hundred cars of coal run from mountain to the shoal. This is West Virginia. The West Virginia of today, not much has changed.
The hardwoods stand a shoulder taller than when I last ventured here. But that is about it. The names have changed here and there. Norfolk Southern and CSX run the coal today.
The Class A’s and Alleghenies are gone. Even the Century’s and SD40-2’s are gone. SD70M-2’s and SD70MAC's now shoulder the tonnage. Horsepower is horsepower to corporate. Grace is grace to us railfans. The coal needs to get where it is going. When the ink is black, the railroad is running, railroading is railroading.
But railroading is made of people. It is made of journeys. It is made of sweat and toil. Made of 2am shifts. It is not just a way to get coal from point A to point B. Railroading is a way of life. It is grandfathers who broke their backs lifting drivers and grandsons who lift tractions motors in the same way. Railroading is railroading.
As long as goods roll down this track, railroaders will get it there. They will stand strong. At their hands, the trains will run.

GG1 at Penn Station with The Broadway Limited

This GG1 prepares to pull the Broadway limited at Penn Station. My ticket is punched and I sit and relax. "All aboard" called. I think of the crossing of the Horseshoe Curve, the trek past the steel mills past industry past the back bone of America's Keystone. I ready my sleeper and anticipate a ride on the Standard Railroad of the World.

The Serious Ice Cream Eater Attacks a Daddy Dave's at Leatherby's

I guess you might classify me as a serious ice cream eater.
1. Just the sheer size of the Leatherby's Daddy Dave's Banana Split in front of me (I am sharing it BTW).
2. A jacket indicates winter.

Kansas City Southern SD70ACe North of St. Joseph, MO

They call it the sweet spot of the bat. If there is one, I would call it the lettering on a Kansas City Southern SD70ACe. One of today's most inspiring paint schemes on one bulldog of a locomotive. Thanks, KCS for looking to your heritage!

Southern Pacific Cab Forward

Southern Pacific has a proud lineage of steam locomotives. Living at the base of the majestic Donner Pass, I have come to know Southern Pacific's massive Cab Forwards both through history and on a firsthand basis by walking the grounds of the California State Railroad Museum. Southern Pacific sure is a railroad to remember.

Railroad Museums-Living History

Here I am with a good friend, John M. Rose, in front of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. John works at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore.

Two of my greatest loves are history and trains. From the age of six, my dad took my brother and myself to the Sacramento Railroad Museum. That was a very impressionable age. We walked around the displays and my dad read about where the locomotives ran and how they each affected the history of our country.

Many children love trains. We live in the age of Thomas this and Gordon that. 200-ton modern locomotives are a sight, however, being near them is not the safest way to teach your enthusiastic child-rail fan about how the railroad works.

America has hundreds of railroad museums in all shapes and sizes. Chances are you have several in your state.

Railroad museums give us a place to get outside on summer weekends. Young enthusiasts can see and often stand upon and walk through pieces of railroad history. In an era where many of us are becoming rusty about dates such as "1776," what can be better than showing a young enthusiast that trains are not just "Thomas." Witness actual iron horses that have a proud story that both you and your child can share.

Many railroad museums have actual working pieces of equipment. This information is provided by many of the listed museums. The difference between watching a train at a museum and on the mainline is that a museum will be sure to keep you and your children at a safe distance.

To find a railroad museum in your area, visit the following site:

Iowa Interstate ES44AC's at Council Bluffs

Standing at Council Bluffs, a row of GP38-2's awaited service. Beyond, armies of eighteen wheelers ground in and out of IAIS's massive intermodal terminal. And, as I looked, on the ready track, a pair of ES44AC's prepared for their assignment.

My Dream of Becoming a Traveling Salesman

As a child, I dreamed of becoming a traveling salesman. Every April, my mom and dad did their taxes. My grandma took my brother and me down to Marriot's (Great America) for a few days to get out of 1040's way. My brother loved the log ride and the bumper cars; I loved the Ramada Inn where we stayed.

I told my grandma, "I love motels. They are so much more fun than home. I want to be a traveling salesman when I grow up."

"Don't you want to be a doctor or lawyer?"

"No. I like eating breakfast at Denny's. It is fun having the waitress ask me how big I am. I like having the truckers ask me how long it's gonna be until I get big enough to handle a big rig."

"That's not what being a traveling salesman is about," my grandma said. It is about being away from your family and being alone on the road."

"Do I get to stay in motels like this one?" I asked.

"Well, yes, I suppose," she said. "But why would you want to do that."

"I like the way Denny's and motels smell." I said.

"That is an awful thing to say for a boy your age."

"I just like motels," I said. "I just like the way they smell."

"Well, if that makes you happy. Just you don't smoke."

"I promise I won't. I just like Denny's and motels. Maybe I'll become a football player."

"I guess you could do that," she said.

Union Pacific SD60M at Lovelock, Nevada

A Union Pacific SD60M sits in the hole at Lovelock, NV with a merchandise train. I eat an ice cream cone and spot the approaching westbound stack train. A pair of ES44AC's and a lone DPU roll by, kicking up the Nevada desert. It is back onto I-80 for Wendover.

My Friend, Kevin's, Southern Pacific Layout

My friend, Kevin, has an amazing N-scale layout of the Southern Pacific Shasta River Line from the late 80's. It is rich with Tunnel motors and SD45's with a dabbling of ill-fated Red and Yellow repaints in the sea of gray pre-speed lettered Southern Pacific. He and I were pleasantly surprised to find that he had an SD45T-2 #9315 that matched my drawing!
If you come at the right time, you might catch the Squirrel Valley making its daily freight run, as well.