Thursday, December 1, 2011

Delaware & Hudson RS36's at Scranton

The Alco 251-B's on a trio of Delaware & Hudson RS36's rev on a cold December morning. A cloud of black smoke fills the air. A freight prepares to depart the Electric City, Scranton, enroute to Binghamton. Carloads transferred from Erie Lackawanna head onward to Saratoga and onward to northward interchanges on "The Bridge Line."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Burlington Northern SD40-2 on Marias Pass

This Burlington Northern SD40-2 begins the ascent of Marias Pass at Two Medicine Bridge. A heavy lumber train rolls down the track enroute from Seattle headed to Chicago. The carloads thunder through the mountains and over the Flathead River, echoing through the Rockies. The audible groan of locomotives 6818 and 6820 shoving on the rear sounds in the distance as the train continues on its way.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rutland RS3's With Milk Train at White River Junction, VT

Autumn is in the air. A pair of Rutland RS3's carry today's milk train at White River Junction, Vermont. Destined for the urban centers of Boston and New York City, these Milk cars give us a taste of New England railroading on the Rutland.

Santa Fe F7A&B on Super Chief at Needles, CA

These Santa Fe F7's lead the Super Chief at Needles, California. Their westbound trek has just entered the Golden State after crossing the painted deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. From the vantage of a Superdome, travelers have seen Route 66 and its namesake roadside attractions come and go along the route of the Santa Fe.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"American Rails" Chapter 9 "Missouri Pacific Geeps at the River"

A pair of Missouri Pacific GP7's got a heavy grain train underway at Memphis.  Headed towards the barges, these GP7's struggled towards the river.  Their cargo destined towards New Orleans.
Grain from Oklahoma rolled onward.  Each car rolled onward in cadence, cathud, cathud, as the heavy train made it past the vantage.  The geeps climbing towards the river.

"American Rails" Chapter 8 "Casey's Next Move"

Casey looked at the Gulf Mobile & Ohio timetable.  He had always wanted to go to Memphis.  Blues music and good food lured him there.  He picked up his satchel of brushes and, having made a few sales that week, decided to get going.
Music rang from every street corner.  Men played six-strings with tin-cups.  Casey dropped a penny or two here and there as the blues rang.  At a hardware store, he sold a few wide brushes and found a place for the night.  The Mississippi River drifted down to New Orleans.
The Illinois Central City of New Orleans made its station stop, and he thought of getting back on the train and going all of the way south.  The sleek lines of the passenger trains always inspired him.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

American Rails Chapter 7-Passing a Cotton Belt Freight

The Abraham Lincoln departed.  A Cotton Belt F7 headed south towards Texas with carloads of manufactured goods transferred from the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Its carloads, marked with slogans such as Merchandise Service told of cargo headed from the great lakes region and the steel belt on its way to the rural areas of Texas.  Tractors on flat cars and various appliances made up part of the train's freight.
The Black Widow units headed the hot shot on its way.  Agricultural goods would make their way back up from Texas to the North, such as cotton and grain on this trek from States such as Arkansas, Missouri and Texas.  The train rolled on and was gone, carrying its cargo to its corner of America.

Chapter 6-Casey's Gulf Mobile & Ohio Pass

Painting Johnson's office was a great opportunity for Casey.  He now held a pass for the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad.  At Union Station, Casey picked up a timetable and saw its route, which headed to cities such as Memphis, New Orleans and Montgomery.
Casey pictured his ability to stretch his territory.  He had been to New Orleans twice and had seen the brightly painted buildings.  He knew it would be a great city to be able to visit.
He saw that Gulf Mobile & Ohio's Abraham Lincoln could get him back to Chicago.  Having made a few sales and having received the great asset of the pass he held, Casey smiled as he the conductor called, "All aboard."
The brightly painted red and maroon E7 rolled eastward.  Casey sat in the diner and watched the countryside roll by as he thought about where the next year might take him.

American Rails Chapter 5-Casey's Next Job

Casey knew a hardware store on Ferry Street.  A good man ran it.  He usually bought four or five brushes.  The bell on the door clanged as Casey walked in.
    “Howdy, Hank,” Casey said.
    “Good to see you, Casey,” Hank said.
    “How’s business been?”
    “Can’t complain.  Could use your help.”
    “Sure, in what way?”
    “A man from the railroad came in the other day.  The Gulf Mobile & Ohio across town.  Said they were painting there offices.  Needed a man who could paint it.  I thought of you.  Funny you should show up.”
    “I could use a few extra dollars.”
    “Man by the name of Johnson.  Here is his phone number.”
    “I’ll give him a call.”
    “Said he could pay the person with an annual pass on the railroad.  That might be of use to you.  I know you could use the money.
    “I could, but I could stand to expand my territory a little, too.  See where this Gulf, Mobile & Ohio goes.  That could be great.”
    “You go see him.  Johnson’s his name.”
    “Thanks for the tip, Hank.”
    “As I said, Casey, I thought of you when he came in.”

American Rails Chapter 4- The Smith Family Christmas

The Concourse of Union Station stood towering above our travelers. Jack shook Casey's hand and walked towards the awaiting Yellow cabs. He glanced at the newsstand. The day's headline always helped break the ice with Uncle Jim over egg nog.
Casey headed to the bank of phones and took out his ledger. "Stevens, this is Casey. You got any leads for me while I'm in town. Running a little short in Chicago. Might be here a few days. Be over at Annabelle's boarding house as usual."
The Smith family Christmas tree awaited Jack.  Truly the end of the line from his Wabash Christmas train.  His brother and sister hugged him and asked how the year had been. 
“I can’t complain,” Jack said, “especially since I am here.  Got something for Jerry.”  Jack handed the wrapped Cubs jersey to his sister, Kathryn.  Jerry loved anything from Uncle Jack’s big city of Chicago.

    One time, little Jerry had gotten to ride the Chicago Surface Lines trolley with Jack.  “Tell me where we are going,” Jerry asked.
    “We are going to see a baseball game.” Jack said.  “The Cubs playing the Cardinals.”
    “Wow.”  They ate peanuts and sat in the summer sun.  Ever since, Jerry said, “When are we going to Chicago?” every time he saw Uncle Jack. 
    Jack said, “You can see baseball in St. Louis, too.”
    “I want to ride the trolley,” said Jerry.
    “We’ll ride it again,” said Jack.  “Next time you come and see me.”

Saturday, November 19, 2011

American Rails Chapter 3- Casey's Story

Casey sold brushes.  Mostly in Illinois and Indiana.  He spent much of his time in Chicago, but, when business slowed, he took the train down to St. Louis or Indianapolis.
    You name the brush, he sold it.  Mostly to hardware stores.  He liked most of his customers, but business had slowed at the moment.
    This found Casey on the train to St. Louis.  Several accounts were in good standing.  Casey figured it was a good time to get on the Wabash.
    Sometimes Casey found himself getting off of the train in the smaller towns, but today, his ticket was punched for Union Station.  He had a boarding house he would stay at and then, in the morning, it was time to visit some hardware stores.  Casey knew a few art supply stores, as well, so he brought a few finer brushes to pad his potential commission.
    Casey was not a cut-throat salesman.  It was not about the bottom line for him.  He just liked walking past a building and seeing it shining in a fresh coat of paint.  It made him think that maybe one of his paint brushes had done a good job.  Casey liked things that worked well.  Casey liked to close the deal, but he liked happy customers.
    In his pocket, he carried a Mercury Dime.  The commission from the first sale he had made.  Casey was a sentimental man.  He flipped that dime through his fingers as the train rolled on down the tracks.  He thought of St. Louis, and how it might look nicer if a few buildings were painted brighter.

American Rails Chapter 2- Casey

Jack was fascinated by the people he met on the train. Minutes turned to hours on the train. Towns big and small all had their stories. At this time of year, much of the way glistened under a fresh blanket of snow.
As the Banner Blue rolled onward, Jack gazed at passing freight yards and side tracks, where idle cars awaited there call to the morning local. Jack began a conversation with the man across the isle.
"Headed home for Christmas, you?" Jack said.
"I take the Wabash whenever I can," the man said. "Name's Casey.
"I take these trains all of the time. Chicago down to St. Louis and over to Indianapolis. Mighty good ride, the Wabash; they treat you right. Monon's good too, when I head on down to Indy. You get down that way much?"
"Sometimes," Jack said.
"Good town, Indy. I try to get there whenever I can."
Jack headed to the diner at Decatur. Carloads of grain sat on inbound tracks at the mills. At this key junction, the crew changed. Passenger's debarked, and many began their journey.
"How 'bout them Bears?" said Casey. "I hope they make it all of the way."
Jack had only caught a game or two at Soldier. "Yep," he said. But we've got to look out for the Lions."
"Yeah, them Lions look pretty go...od this year. Detroit is where its at. You seen the new Dodges this year."
"I'm thinking about getting one. After Christmas, of course."
"That's a pretty nice car, that Dodge."
"Yeah, it is."
"My dad had one. Used to drive us up to Terre Haute in it. See his mom. Good car that Dodge."
Highball sounded, and the Banner Blue began its journey once again.

American Rails Chapter 1- Boarding the Banner Blue

Christmas lights shined at Dearborn Street Station, Chicago. Jack Smith prepared for departure on the Banner Blue to St. Louis. Under his arm was tucked a Chicago Cubs Jersey for his nephew. The remnants of Chicago Style Pizza left a pleasant taste. 
Christmas always meant riding the Banner Blue back home to St. Louis. Jack found Chicago exciting. So much to do and see. Catch a Bears game. But Christmas meant a train ride home. This was his favorite time of year. It all started on the Wabash.
Chicago stood as a way of life. The hustle and bustle. Jack rode the L-Train everyday. At Christmas, the sound of bells rang throughout the streets. It rang charity in his heart.
Jack dropped a quarter now and then as he saw the Salvation Army man. His shoes covered with salt, he walked up Dearborn Street. He knew it was time to head to St. Louis. Pies of all kinds waited.
Jack loved to see... the freights come and go as a flash of color out the window of the Banner Blue. They all headed somewhere. At the Holidays, he wondered what cities and towns their cargo was destined for. What they carried and to whom. The train excited him.
Sure he rode trains throughout the year. To places much further than St. Louis. Much, much further. But somehow, the Christmas train home was special. He clutched the ticket in his hand.
 And there stood the Banner Blue in all of its grandeur. The lead E8 prepared for departure. Jack read the word Wabash and thought of home. The sleek lines of the streamlined locomotive stood prepared to take him to see his family.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Delaware & Hudson Snow in the afternoon

A Delaware & Hudson GP39-2 hauls it's timed freight at Scranton. A dusting of snow glistens on the ground from an afternoon snow and makes The Electric City alight. Eighty cars head for Binghamton on this February day in 1978.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lehigh Valley C628 in Sayre PA 1972

It is a cold morning in Sayre, PA.  In the lead is Lehigh Valley C628 #637.  Its train and crew, bound for Buffalo, brave the weather and the Noreaster that has blown through the night.  Unfortunately, this train is headed towards the lakes and the snow, and the trip will only get colder in the cab of this Alco.  There will be frozen switches and air hoses to contend with as the train heads on its way.  This is railroading on the Lehigh Valley in the Great Lakes region in the 1972.

Santa Fe SD40-2's at Kingman, AZ

We stand at Kingman, Arizona.  The grind of four SD40-2's gets a merchandise train headed east towards the desert romanticized in travelogues of the Santa Fe as the West.  Eighty-seven carloads roll past our vantage as the blue and gold locomotives work their way with their train onto the loneliness of the night's desert crossing.  On towards Winslow and New Mexico beyond.

Wabash E8 at Dearborn Street Station, Chicago, 1955

  Chicago. 1955. We stand at Dearborn Street Station at 4:35 in the afternoon. Wabash E8 1011 leads the afternoon Bluebird to St. Louis. The many landmarks of Dearborn Street pull our eye. The row of parked cars leads our eye to the train shed, its corrugated face guarding Dearborn Street's clock tower. Perhaps, however, to all who have stood or viewed this scene, the Lee Overalls man, who stands guard, as yet another train rolls to its destination.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Double-Stacks on Norfolk Southern at Altoona, PA

Double-stacked containers make their way through the Allegheny mountains at Altoona, PA.  These tracks were once part of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Keystone of America.  This vital rail-line connects the Midwestern gateways such as Chicago and Kansas City with the Eastern Seaboard at Newark and Philadelphia. 
The Containers, stacked two-high, are not only an innovation, but a promise for a cleaner tomorrow and a highways that we all can share.  America's railroads keep that promise as they continue to innovate and move the goods we all need.

Bessemer & Lake Erie SD9 hauls coal at North Bessemer, PA

This Bessemer & Lake Erie SD9 moves coal toward North Bessemer, Pennsylvania.  The steel industry and steel making process go hand in hand with the Bessemer & Lake Erie railroad.  As coal comes in and steel goes out, so it rides on the proud orange engines of the B&LE.

Bessemer & Lake Erie magnets and prints available at

Seaboard Air Line GP40 at Miami, FL

This Seaboard Air Line GP40 leads a hot shot intermodal train out of Miami.  The train will eventually make its way to Washington, DC on this crisp winter day.  Carloads will be added and taken set out at Hamlet, NC as this train makes its way north.
Seaboard Air Line magnets and prints available at

Central of Georgia E8 Departs Atlanta With Nancy Hanks II

This Central of Georgia E8 gets underway with the eastbound Nancy Hanks II out of Atlanta.  The units head towards Savannah with summer vacationers headed towards a relaxing vacation on the coast.  The sun shines on the coast as the train arrives, and summer vacation begins.
Central of Georgia magnets and prints available at

Trains and Trucks Working Together: A Better Today and A Better Tomorrow

We can hope for the containerization and piggyback loading of more and more freight.  Through projects such as Norfolk Southern's Heartland and Crescent Corridors, more and more truckload capacity can be handled by train.  This creates jobs for America.
This, however, does not take jobs away from the trucking community.  It is merely preparing for a future that would not be able to handle the amount of traffic and goods what would need to be shipped on our already congested highways.  This type of forward thinking and preparation today leads to a better tomorrow.  There will always be a need for trucks, and there will always be a need for trains.  In symphony they work together, moving our goods.  From loading dock to rail hub, across the rail network to your door.  This is railroading and trucking in concert, and, hopefully, a better commute both today and tomorrow.
Norfolk Southern and NYK magnets available at

Delaware & Hudson GP39-2 at Binghamton

This Delaware & Hudson GP39-2 races toward Binghamton.  In tow is a hotshot piggyback train.  The Delaware & Hudson of late has fallen on hard times, and these GP39-2's are, perhaps, some of the most reliable engines in the fleet.  A meet upcoming pairs a set of southbound Alco's in the new D&H blue, relegated to a drag freight, as there performance, although beloved to the fans, was not quite what D&H had hoped for.  As this piggyback train rolls north, we can hope for Delaware & Hudson's immediate future, a railroad about to change hands several times.
Delaware & Hudson magnets and prints available at

Illinois Terminal GP7 at Springfield, IL

This Illinois Terminal GP7 leads a local at Springfield, IL.  The Illinois Terminal was once an electrified traction company and later became a part of Norfolk & Western.  Today this route is part of Norfolk Southern.
On this cloudless day, this GP7 moves a cut of box cars out of Springfield to online customers that have arrived from Granite City, St. Louis and beyond.
Illinois Terminal magnets and prints available at

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Southern Pacific E9 With Shasta Daylight at Dunsmuir

A Southern Pacific E9 prepares to Depart Dunsmuir, California with the Shasta Daylight.  It is a sunny day in the Cascades as the train prepares to head along the shores of Lake Shasta and southward towards the Sacramento Valley.  This is the heyday of the passenger train.
Southern Pacific magnets and prints available at

Today's Gulf Mobile & Ohio Coach for Ann Rutledge Train

Today I drew a Gulf Mobile & Ohio coach.  It is ready to roll on the Ann Rutledge out of St. Louis Union Station.
Gulf Mobile & Ohio magnets and prints available at

Iowa Interstate GP8 at Council Bluffs, IA

An Iowa Interstate GP8 hauls a string of grain hoppers at Council Bluffs, IA.  The train traces the footsteps of the old Rock Island railroad on today's regional.  This route, once contemplated for purchase by the Union Pacific as a gateway to Chicago from Omaha, is today a thriving regional railroad.
Iowa Interstate magnets and prints available at

Illinois Central Gulf SD40-2 Leads Freight at Kankakee, IL

An Illinois Central Gulf SD40-2 leads a northbound freight at Kankakee, Illinois.  In an impending thunderstorm, the train prepares to set out some cars and then make the rest of its trek northward to Chicago.  Carloads from Memphis will be set out before the train continues, hopefully before the impending rain starts to fall.

Lehigh Valley C628's Climb The Grade in Pennsylvania

A pair of Lehigh Valley C628's hauls a general merchandise train through Western Pennsylvania.  The whine of the large Alco's can be heard from the distance through the cold fall day.  With the chill in the air, the grind of the 40 foot box cars climb the grade.
Lehigh Valley magnets and prints available at 

Trains: The Transportation Solution for Today and Tomorrow

When I see a train, I think of where it is going and where it has been.  I think of the crews that have moved it across America.  I see all of the different cars and the different cargoes that roll across the land, each headed to a different destination.  I think of a train as an eclectic mixture of America, of manufacturing and commerce.
I think of a train as a masterful invention that stands as strong today as when it was introduced.  I think of it as the most efficient and cost effective way to move goods.  Railroads are key to America and the world.  Trains are truly a part of our transportation solution as we roll into the future.
Norfolk Southern magnets and prints available at

Alaska Railroad FP7's and the Denali Trek

Alaska Railroad's beautiful lines graced their FP7's, among its many locomotives.  These dual-duty locomotives pulled the trains on the Denali-trek towards the Northern lights and Mount McKinley from Anchorage to Fairbanks and bank.  These trains, later pulled by GP49's, are now pulled by SD70MAC locomotives, testifying to an increase in horsepower resultant in the popularity of these trains.
Custom Trains FP7 magnets and prints available at

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Double-Stack Car and the Modern Railroad

The double-stack container car is a marvel of the modern railroad.  Entering the railroading scene in the 1980's, these cars made it possible to stack truck-trailers two high, effectively doubling the capacity of piggyback truck trains.
As we enter the modern era of railroading, more and more focus is placed on the flexibility of shipping goods directly in truck trailers and/or trucking containers versus trans-loading freight into box cars at warehouses.
The double-stack car, which enables trucking containers to be stacked two-high, allows up to two-hundred truckloads to be shipped on a train that would, in the past, only be able to haul one hundred standard trucks.  This is but one of many innovations of the modern railroad.

Alcos On The Mountain Side of the New York Central

New York Central was known as the Water Level Route.  From New York City to Buffalo and beyond, the New York Central followed the Hudson River and the shores of the Great Lakes.  This route, slightly longer than rival Pennsylvania Railroad's from New York to Chicago, did not provide the punishing grades over the Alleghenies.
Today's train, however, is bound for the Adirondacks of Northern New York.  The grind of these Alco's will be echoing over the mountain grades, proof that whenever there are railroads, mountains eventually need to be crossed.  Railroading and mountains, it seems, go hand in hand.
New York Central magnets and prints available at:

A Conrail SD40: Hauling Freight on One of America's Cornerstone's of Freight

Conrail was a cornerstone of freight traffic in the Northeast.  Locomotives such as this SD40 hauled merchandise such as manufactured goods from the mills of Pennsylvania to the markets of the Northeast, Midwest and to the gateways of the Southeast and South Central United States.
Conrail hauled agriculture products from across America to from hubs such as Chicago and Decatur to necessary markets in the Northeast.
Coal from the mines of Pennsylvania traveled across the Conrail system to the mills of America and to the ports of the Eastern Seaboard for export.  Much of Conrail is now part of today's Norfolk Southern, with a smaller portion being a part of CSX Transportation.
Conrail magnets and prints available at:

The Reading: A Railroad That Lives in the Hearts of Us All

The Reading Railroad had a rich history of hauling anthracite coal.  From the mines to the mills and growing city centers of a growing Pennsylvania, so grew the Reading Railroad.  Coal from the ground helped to build America in the steel industry and helped fire the factories and houses that so many workers called home.
The Reading also provided the passenger service to the growing getaway of Atlantic City, where families took there weekend vacations not so far from home.  These moments in the summer sun and the familiarity of this railroad earned it a household name as one of the four railroads on the Monopoly board and in the hearts of Americans.
The Reading, truly a railroad that built America, and a railroad that earned a spot in the hearts of us all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

America's Railroads: Always At Work

I was at dinner at the Village Inn in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Union Pacific's mainline rolls right outside the window.  I was tired from having driven three days from West Virginia enroute towards California, and it was relaxing to sit and just have dinner.
A westbound coal train slowly made it way past, AC4400CW's on the point.  I ate my salad, and car after car of Powder River coal thundered past the window, bound towards the Southwest. 
As the last few cars passed my view, the crossing gates began to lower once more.  Containers headed to Chicago and the massive Global 3 intermodal facility from the Port of Seattle rolled past on their transcontinental trek.
It makes one feel small while driving across America to think that freight such as this is constantly on the move.  To think that the railroad never sleeps.  Coal and grain are always bound to ports, coal is bound to utilities, grain to millers, and containers bound across America with all kinds of manufactured good.  The railroad is truly always at work.  Thank you to America's railroaders for making this possible.

The Modern Railroad

Two Evolution-Series locomotives with Chicago-bound shipping containers roll at the Roanoke, Virginia, signal. They pass a green light on a clear the track.
These modern locomotives, dubbed "world's cleanest locomotives" were designed with six years and $200 million of research and development by the modern railroad industry. At up to 4400 horsepower, these locomotives have no compromises at the draw bar while lowering emissions and increasing fuel efficiency.
The locomotives grind past.  Many sea containers cross the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific as a land bridge in order to avoid Panama Canal congestion. Domestic containers belonging to the railroads and trucking companies are quickly pulled off of the train at the destination and are routed for distribution. Modern trains allow truck trailers to be removed from their chassis to become stacked two high, helping satisfy the world's need for fuel-efficient transportation.
The locomotives throttle up. The cars whine with precision over the steel rail. The train has momentum. This is the modern railroad. America is in motion.

Monday, August 15, 2011

West Virginia: Mining and Railroading- The Story Continues

West Virginia, the Mountain State.  In every hollar, you see the hardwoods, along the roads; you see the evidence of coal.  Trains echo through the mountains, loaded with coal.  Mining is strong here.  It is in the hills, it is in the hearts.
            Small towns have popped up here and there.  They have come and gone.  “Have you gone down to Bluefield,” people ask.  “About to go down there myself.”  Bluefield serves as the spoke of the hub for much of this area.  The heart of the mining, as it has for so many years.
            The trains roll, loaded with coal.  It is a tough job, for the miners and the railroad men, but at least the food stays on the table, and another generation grows up here in West Virginia.  Their story passes on to another generation.  Here in the mountains, the story continues, as it has for generations.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A New York Central GP35 at Cleveland

The year is 1965.  A New York Central GP35 works west out of Cleveland.  There is a cathud as the couplers strike.  The air is noticeably cold from the chill of the lake-effect on this winter day.  The New York Central and rival Pennsylvania Railroad handled much of the traffic moving to and from the Northeast.  New York Central, known as "The Scenic Water Level Route" served much of the urban centers that developed along the great lakes, including towns such as Cleveland, Erie and Buffalo.
This train, behind this GP35, is bound for Chicago.  It has 70 cars in tow.  There is a mix of manufactured goods and commodities bound for Chicago itself and westbound cargo that will be interchanged for railroads headed west.  Railroads such as the Rock Island, the Union Pacific and the Santa Fe.  The New York Central and the City of Cleveland reach much of America with its goods by this rail line, as this GP35 gets ready to pull its train on down the track.

North Platte, NE: Key City for America's Freight Needs

North Platte, Nebraska is a key location on the Union Pacific railroad.  I have had the pleasure of visiting it several times while driving across America.
Trains are always rolling in North Platte.  Always heading east and west.  Towards Cheyenne and Denver to the west and Omaha to the east they roll.  All kinds of cargo, all kinds of trains.
Much of the coal rolling from the Powder River Basin of Wyoming heads east, onwards to points across America.  Freight of manufactured goods and commodities such as grain from the great plains roll west. Crews come and go from the yard office as the trains are dispatched.
Locomotives are repaired and overhauled in the massive shops at North Platte.  Engines need to be inspected and returned to service, but safety is key to this task.
North Platte, Nebraska is a key railroad town.  Key to America's freight needs.

Central Vermont at St. Albans, VT

The Central Vermont was a colorful railroad.  I never got the chance to see its locomotives.  Always showing a sign of its Canadian National ownership, the paint schemes reflected a bit of their own independence in the green and yellow years.  At this era, lash-ups often showed multiple painted engines in brightly painted liveries.

Railroading, Indeed, Has a Bright Future

I enjoy thinking of the history of today's railroads as today's trains roll past.  The tracks, many built by railroads so many years ago, are still very much in use, still key corridors for goods throughout America.
            I see finished automobiles, coal, tractors, containers stacked two high with domestic goods and goods traded from overseas, grain, cement, virtually every kind of freight is carried on today’s railroad.  If you do not think that the railroad of today is key to America, you have not taken a closer look recently.
            Goods such as coal, both for export and for America’s power plants, rely on shipment by rail, as it is not practical to haul the tonnages required by America and the world the long distances necessary by truck.  Grain and many other bulk commodities, as well, rely on shipment by rail over long distances.
            America needs trains.  We can be thankful that America’s railroads continue to invest in their infrastructure to meet the needs of our rail system of tomorrow.  Railroading, indeed, has a bright future.

Radford, Virginia: Standing in History

It is not often that you get to stand in the footsteps of history.  I make an effort to do this as much as I can.  When I see the brick walls that say, “Cigars, 5 Cents,” I take an extra effort to stop and think.
            I wonder for a moment as I pause.  For instance, in the town of Radford, Virginia, where the town’s Main Street runs alongside the former Norfolk & Western mainline.  As today’s Norfolk Southern rolls by, I envision the days as they were in a simpler time.
            It is not that hard to do.  The sound of the train horn echoes in my ear, and I think of the train rolling onto Roanoke, and think of how trains built Virginia and America so many years ago.  The coal hoppers roll by, and I think of a railroad that works in the way it was intended to so many years ago.
            The cars roll past, one by one, each pounding the crossing with their payload of coal.  This is America’s railroad system at work, whether in cities large or small, whatever they haul, railroads work for America.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Coal Trains in Roanoke, I love it here

The coal trains roll past the green signal.  Every morning on the way to breakfast, I look towards the tracks and see if a train is coming.  This morning, a loaded coal train from Bluefield with ES44AC's heads towards Lamberts Point with one hundred plus Top Gon hoppers of West Virgnia Coal.  The rails echo as the Honda Civic drives past the heavy train.  Another load of coal, another day of railroading, another day in Roanoke.  I love it here.

Chicago & North Western Early Impression When Traveling through Iowa

The crossing gates went down.  Tim and I had just passed through Boone.  On the horizon, we saw three Chicago & North Western GP38-2's pulling a fifty car train of grain empties towards the elevators of central Iowa.  We pulled up to the gates, I got out my camera and, horn blazing, Chicago & North Western made one of its earliest impressions on me.

Maintenance of Way

The trains do not roll today. However briefly, they do not roll. The railroad is not stopped, not permanently, however, it stands, paused. The trains catch their breath.

The track gang is at work. The sparks fly. No trains run today. The welded rail must be repaired. Down the track, red blocks protect the path of eight diligent workers who work at a fervent pace.

Fervent, yet safe, everything is done safely. On the truck door is a box marked "Trauma Kit." No need to remind one that this is dangerous work. These workers are skilled at what they do. Skilled and cautious, for it is not just their life that they hold but the life of their friends and colleagues, and, in the end, the lives of all who work on the railroad once the track is fixed.

This is maintenance of way. These workers are some of railroading's unsung heroes. Today they work in the mud and wind of a recently passed storm. Yet they stand proud. Out of four trucks they work. Always keeping a safe distance from the shower of the welder's sparks. Always alert. All so the railroad will run safely once again.

Much of America's 140,000 miles of railroad track lays in remote, hard to reach areas, such as mountain passes and deserts.  Frequently track needs to be replaced in tunnels and over bridges.  Especially on single track, it is vital to get trains running after replacing rails or cross ties, as industries at the end of the line are not be able to receive vital supplies that can only be shipped by rail car, such as coal, grain, or steel.

Train stations are also pose a challenge.  By their nature, train stations often pose challenges in accessing equipment and rail lines that need maintenance.  Workers do not want to put passengers in harms way.  Many passenger trains run on high-voltage electric current, which, at times must be disabled in order to work on the track.  The worker always must be mindful of this danger as well as the danger of oncoming trains on parallel tracks.

When we see the delay at the station due to repairs, the need to take a bus detour, sometimes we forget that our safety is in these worker's hands. It is in these repairs that the railroad stays strong, because of those strong workers who repair the right of way.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Seattle and Some of My First Railfanning

Along the Seattle waterfront, Burlington Northern trains ran from Interbay to Balmer Yard.  I sat on concrete pilings on the wharf and watched the SD40-2's run light off of the intermodal trains.  When the sun began to set, the evening would cool, but my enthusiasm to watch trains would heat up, as the double-stack trains began to run from the hub center.  Woodchip trains from British Columbia headed south with the 8100 units bound for Tacoma and the paper mills.  This was some of my first railfanning along the Burlington Northern.

Double-Stacks on the Heartland Corridor in Roanoke, VA

I hear a Rumbling from my vantage while signing prints at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.  A coal train has waited outside the window for about ten minutes.  Now I look up and a trio of Dash-9 locomotives pass.  Double-stacked containers follow the lead.

These containers spell progress.  Tunnels were raised along the route through West Virginia's Appalachians to make a significantly shorter route from Chicago to Norfolk, through towns such as Bellevue, OH; Kenova, WV and Roanoke, VA.  I witness this progress as these containers pass, carrying goods from domestic markets and from abroad.  This is progress on the modern railroad.  This is The Heartland Corridor of Norfolk Southern.