Monday, September 15, 2014

Lettering-Truly an Exciting Part of the Drawing Process

Here I am lettering the Pan Am Maine Central Heritage GP9.  It is very important to stay focused when lettering.
When I begin lettering, I often start with the horizontal stripes that can often run along the top and bottom of locomotives.  It is important to measure these stripes at several places across the locomotive, as you want to keep the stripes straight.  If they begin to angle, not only will your eye catch this in the finished drawing, but also, your lettering may likely begin to slant, as well.
After the stripes are in place, I begin to letter the railroad name that is often centered on the hood of the locomotive.  First I see how many doors the lettering will span.  Next, I measure the length of this span in inches.  I then count how many letters and spaces are in the road name.
It is important to count letters accurately, and to keep a close watch on the words as you letter, as a big challenge to lettering, I find, is that even when measured properly, it is very common to run out of room on your last word.  This can be frustrating, as it is hard to see a beautifully written road name spelled out, only to run out of room for the last letter or two.  Also, when done in pencil, the paper often, at best only allows about one or two erasures before losing its texture.
Lettering is an exciting part of the drawing process.  It is when you get to see a locomotive, freight car or caboose take on the name of its owner.  I recommend practicing lettering as much as you can on scraps of paper and even freight cars and cabooses, testing to see how many times you can write a given road name in a set area, such as two or three inches.  This skill will lead to great results as you draw.  Enjoy drawing trains.

My Finished Drawing of Pan Am Maine Central Heritage GP9

Here is my finished drawing of the Pan Am Maine Central Heritage GP9.  After trimming the gold stripes and logos, it is important to fill the green ink as close to the lines as possible.  Do not be afraid to go back two or three times around logos and numbers and against the stripes to make the edges crisp.  As I mentioned, this eliminates the risk of the paper showing through.
I have also painted the underframe black.  It is very important when painting the locomotive to use two and often three coats of ink.  The first coat merely blocks in the green area.  The second coat begins to smooth out the brush strokes and even out patches that the first coat missed. 
Often, it is good to find a pen that is a close match but perhaps a bit lighter in color to use as a top coat.  This smooths out the paint and gives the scheme a sheen.  Before beginning to paint, test and see on a scrap of paper if the lighter top pen and the darker base coat look good together.  Do not be afraid to test many colors until you find the right match that works for your railroad.  Enjoy drawing trains.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Painting Gold on My Pan Am Maine Central Heritage Locomotive Drawing

Here I am painting the gold on my Pan Am Maine Central Heritage locomotive drawing.  When painting a color such as gold against a dark green back ground, it is important to not be afraid to let the gold go a little beyond the edges of the stripes and logos.
Once the gold is painted, the over spray of gold will be trimmed with a fine-tip dark green pen.  Gold will not be seen underneath the darker green trim.
Painting gold past the edges and then trimming up to it with green will reduce the amount of white paper that shows through the drawing.  This will make your finished locomotive truly stand out.  Enjoy drawing trains.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Riveting-A Key Drawing Skill Built by Freight Cars

Freight cars such as this Rock Island piggyback trailer give you a chance to practice many aspects of your drawing.  As you work on this fairly modern piece of equipment, you may not think that you are building a very essential skill for drawing steam locomotives-making straight, evenly spaced rows of rivets.
Steam locomotives are covered with rivets.  As you begin to invest long periods of time drawing steam locomotives, you will be glad that you spent so many invaluable hours practicing skills such as riveting.  Keeping rivets straight and placing them well truly enhances the look and feel of your steam locomotive drawing.
Many early diesels you draw also have long, straight rows of rivets on their hoods.  Keeping these rows straight will allow observers to focus on your lettering and painting.
Box cars and piggyback trailers truly build key skills.  I always draw them whenever I get the chance.  I find myself drawing a freight car today so I can draw a locomotive tomorrow.  Enjoy drawing trains.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Spotting Detail Differences on Your Favorite Railroads' Paint Schemes

It is always good to look at your favorite railroads' paint schemes through the years and see any detail differences they might have.  This helps you see details on locomotives and spot what era a locomotive is from. 
Grand Trunk Western, for example, switched from black to blue.  The red ends stayed the same, so especially in a black and white photo, at times, it can be hard to spot if certain locomotives are painted in black or blue.
Right before committing to painting, it is always a good idea to check as many references as possible to see if a locomotive is painted a certain way.  As in the drawings above many Grand Trunk Western locomotives were painted in black, blue, and also green.
Your eye will catch details, such as the longer arm on the "G" on the black paint scheme as compared to the blue paint scheme.  Many times, details on locomotives, such as horn and antenna placements give clues to the era or shop a locomotive is from.  This can give clues to variances in paint schemes, especially when looking at black and white photos.
Spotting details on locomotives is key to the challenge of lettering placement.  Notice the placement of the "GT" logo is towards the front and center of most of the locomotives, however, it is towards the rear of the GP9.  This is because the GP9 has grills located in the center of the hood, making center placement a challenge.
The more you spot on locomotives, the better your drawings will become.  With each detail you see, the more fun you will have.  Enjoy drawing trains.

Intermodal Trailer Drawings-A Great Concentraion Builder

Intermodal cars such as this Illinois Central Gulf piggyback trailer are a great place to practice and a great concentration builder.  Most piggyback trailers have colorful logos on a light colored trailer.  This allows you to focus on striping and lettering.
Lettering on a light background is a good place to start when you are practicing lettering.  This style of lettering is a little more forgiving if you make a minor mistake.
In the case of the Illinois Central Gulf piggyback logo and the Illinois Central Gulf lettering, it is important to keep the edges crisp.  When building your concentration, however, it is a relief not to have to paint around these letters and the logo once trimmed.
Your finished trailers will be very impressive.  Intermodal trailers truly are a key part of what moves America's trains.  Many railfans will recognize your piggyback trailers both past and present.  Enjoy drawing trains.   

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Box-The Most Important Part of the Box Car Drawing

Box car drawings have a surprisingly simple beginning.  With a few basic tools, train drawings are fun and easy to practice.
The more you practice drawings such as box cars, the straighter your lines become.  If your initial rectangle is straight, you will find that it truly shows in the end.  Doors, rivets, even lettering are important details, however, if the outside "box" of the box car is not very straight, immediately your eye will see the slant.
Also, throughout the process, as you draw the braces, the door, and line up the lettering, you will find that each of these details becomes skewed if you are lining them up to a top, bottom or side that is not perfectly straight.  So remember, simple as it may seem, the box truly is the most important part of the box car.  Enjoy drawing trains. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Citirail ES44AC-A Great Locomotive to Draw

 Locomotives such as this Citirail ES44AC are always popular.  As you incorporate the color gray, you will see that Citirail has a fairly basic paint scheme.
Your Citirail drawing will be a great conversation starter, as Citirail locomotives are on lease across America.  Whenever a Citirail locomotive is in a consist, it is a great catch.
It is always fun to draw a great historic locomotive, however, there is nothing like a locomotive that you can see rolling by on today's railroads, as well.  Enjoy drawing trains. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It Helps to Have a Wide Variety of Fine Point Pens-Atlantic Coast Line SW9

The Atlantic Coast Line SW9 switcher gives us a great chance to work on striping, fine lettering and to trim.  It is great to have as many fine-point pens in as many colors as you can.
Fine point pens come in more and more colors these days, and a wide variety can be purchased at art supply, craft stores and even office supply stores.  In the case of this Atlantic Coast Line locomotive, it is key to have a purple pen, as when you trim the fine lettering, a pen such as red or blue would stand out.  At times, I have mixed red and blue fine point pens to make purple, however, that is difficult and poses an unnecessary challenge that can be easily avoided.
When trimming around the yellow stripes, it is also important that I have a purple pen, as colors such as red or blue will stand out when I fill these areas with purple ink.  It is important to use a straight-edge whenever possible along stripes, as a this keeps the lines crisp.
Once the purple areas are trimmed, you are ready to paint.  Enjoy drawing trains.

Gray is Always a Great Color to Practice-Atlantic Coast Line SW9

Here I am painting the gray on an Atlantic Coast Line SW9 switcher.  Lighter colors such as gray are especially important to paint evenly.  Lighter colors tend to show brush strokes more readily.
It is important when you begin painting gray, that you set aside enough time that you can fill the whole area and paint at least two or three coats without interruption.  Always be patient with gray, and remember to even out the lighter spots as soon as you paint.  It is much more difficult to touch-up large areas of gray than it is on darker colors once gray has had some time to dry.
Gray is an important color to practice.  Gray and silver are common colors on classic locomotives and on many underframes.  As your confidence with gray improves, you will find yourself able to draw a much wider range of locomotives.  Enjoy drawing trains. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Drawing of A Western Pacific GP20

Above is a my drawing of a Western Pacific GP20 freight locomotive.  Its paint scheme is based on the colors of Western Pacific's popular California Zephyr passenger train.
Western Pacific was known as the Feather River Route, after the scenic Feather River Canyon it followed entering Northern California.  Western Pacific is remembered as a railroad that linked California and the West to the gateway of Salt Lake City.

Box Cars Are Great Starter Drawings

As I trim around the lettering on my Monon box car, you will quickly see why box cars are such a great project for lettering.  In the golden age of trains, box cars were used to advertise the railroads' nicknames or the passenger trains of the day.
From a time managment element, you will quickly see that a box car gives you a long time to work on lettering and painting versus a locomotive.  This gives you valuable practice time, as most of the mistakes and stress you will feel while drawing happen when painting.  Pencil lines can be erased, pen and ink is much more difficult to correct.
So when you see a train, keep an eye out for some of the interesting freight cars.  They truly are the best drawings to get started on.  Enjoy drawing trains.

Drawing Box Cars-A Great Opportunity to Practice Your Skills

Box cars are always a fun project.  They allow you to work on your skills of keeping your lines straight, and, as I mentioned with cabooses, box cars allow you to mainly focus on lettering.  This Monon box car not only has a large "Monon" logo, however, it has the slogan "The Hoosier Line".
Constant practice of lettering builds your confidence.  Your eyes grow sharper and sharper at seeing the spaces between letters and the many shapes, twists and turns on each letter.  Who would have thought that drawing a simple box car would give you this much practice?  Enjoy drawing trains.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Trimming the Color Separations on Keokuk Junction FP9 1752

Here I am trimming the separations on Keokuk Junction FP9 1752.  It is important to trim each color separation with a fine-tip pen before using the brush pen to fill.
F-units such as the Keokuk Junction locomotive often have stripes and many color separations.  Trimming the edges of each separation allows you to fill each area with confidence.
Confidence with the brush tip reduces the amount of brush strokes.  When each separation is clearly marked, it is much easier to paint accurately.  Enjoy drawing trains. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

It Is Always Great To Draw A Caboose

Cabooses make great practice drawings.  They take about half the time of a locomotive and are a great way to work on logos, lettering and keeping your lines straight.
Cabooses and freight cars are often very colorful.  This gives you a chance to work on trimming around color breaks, such as on yellow hand rails and around windows.
Cabooses are rich in history as well.  They are also just as recognizable as engines.  Often at shows, I have had people specifically ask for my drawings of cabooses.
So get yourself a red pen, and draw yourself a caboose or two.  They are truly a great piece of railroad equipment to get in hours of practice.  I find myself drawing many cabooses both for practice and for fun.  Enjoy drawing trains.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Outlining the Lettering on Conrail SD40-2 6373

When outlining the lettering on a locomotive drawing, it is important to be patient.  Lettering around curves, such as on Conrail SD40-2 #6373 does not have a smooth, straight line.  This can be a challenge.
Patience while lettering is key, as you have invested many hours into the pencil lines of your locomotive drawing.  Many observers, however, will look at logos and read slogans on the finished locomotives.  This is why it is important to practice lettering again and again.
I suggest practicing lettering over and over on a spare card.  Lettering must be done with confidence, and if the only chance you get to letter is on your finished locomotive, often you may be frustrated.  You simply will not get the hours of lettering practice you need if you save lettering only for the finished work.  Enjoy drawing trains.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Coloring The Blue On Grand Trunk Western Locomotive 1776

When coloring a large area such as the blue on Grand Trunk Western 1776, it is important to set aside a block of uninterrupted time.  A locomotive such as Grand Trunk Western 1776 has many angles to color around and many nooks and crannies to fill with blue, so it is important that you are able to concentrate.
Concentration is important, as you must keep the blue even and keep brush strokes to a minimum, yet be ever watchful that you do not go over the edges and get blue into areas such as the Grand Trunk Western logo or into the eagle.  Patience and practice are key.
The first coat of blue will be uneven in many places.  A second and often third coat of ink are often essential to even out the blue.
Having fun with your drawing is the most important part.  The more you practice, the more even the blue will get with each next drawing, and the straighter the lines will become.  Enjoy drawing trains.

Coloring a Wheeling and Lake Erie SD40-2

One of the questions I often get is, "I like to draw trains, however, I have not been able to find a way to color them on paper."
I draw my locomotives on hot press illustration board.  Hot press illustration allows several layers of ink to dry well.  Hot press illustration board also allows several chances for erasures should you make a mistake while drawing.
Here we see my Wheeling and Lake Erie SD40-2 drawing as I have colored the orange and have begun to trim the black.  It is important to make tight edges along the lighter colors before filling in darker colors.  With ink, once black is colored over orange, it is permanent.
Even with darker colors such as black, it is important to do at least two coats.  You will find the ink dries evenly, has less brush strokes, and gives the luster of a locomotive.  Enjoy drawing trains.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Composing a Locomotive Drawing

When drawing the basic outline of the shell of a Grand Trunk Western GP38AC, you can see that a locomotive starts out as a frame with a series of boxes on top of it.  At this stage, it is important to compose your locomotive.
Instead of simply drawing the radiator doors and then the engine room doors, it is important to measure the areas where they go.  This further division of the locomotive ensures that you will give each set of doors and the blower duct an accurate amount of room.
Measuring a locomotive's size and shape is the most critical part of the drawing.  Each detail down to the horn and plow can be placed accurately, but the eye catches the size and shape of the locomotive first.
Once each area is measured, divide each section of doors.  Remember, some doors can be wider than others, so consult your reference materials often.
Continue taking a look at several reference photos of locomotives from the railroad you are drawing.  Often, over the years, locomotives of the same railroad begin to have detail differences.
Before placing items such as horns, air conditioners and dynamic brakes, decide if these details are accurate for the railroad you are drawing in a given era.  Often, when it comes time to letter and ink the locomotive, it can be frustrating to find that engines in the paint scheme you have chosen do not match the details you have drawn.
It is always exciting to see a few lines turn into a finished locomotive.  Remember, measurement is key.  Enjoy drawing trains. 

Each Locomotive Drawing And Its Personality

Here I am drawing an Atlantic Coast Line FP7.  When drawing the pencil lines, it is important to keep lines straight and keep angles tight.  Areas such as grills often have lines that are close together.  It is important to keep these lines evenly spaced, as the eye catches variances.
When drawing a locomotive by hand, each locomotive will obtain a bit of your own personality.  This happens as the drawing evolves, a work of lines placed precisely.
Each drawing evolves with a personality of its own.  Often this happens before lettering and ink are applied.  Many locomotives have varying equipment and can be identified with their railroad almost from the beginning.
What you chose to draw is part of the fun.  Each locomotive will take you to a place on the map and often will take you to a place in time.  Enjoy drawing trains.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy-Everywhere West

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy linked the cities, agriculture and mining of the Midwest and Rocky Mountain States.  Its brightly painted locomotives proudly advertised its Zephyr trains which linked cities such as Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, Ft. Worth and San Francisco.  Chicago, Burlington & Quincy played a key connection to railroads such as Great Northern and Northern Pacific, connecting their eastern terminus of St. Paul to Chicago.
This 11"x17" poster is available on eBay at

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hamlet Depot and Museum-Truly A Treasure For Us All

Hamlet Depot and Museums in Hamlet, North Carolina is a beautifully restored depot of the former Seaboard Air Line Railroad located by today's CSX tracks.  Depot museums are a great community builder.
Many comment about how much care the railroads took when building their structures.  The depot was where many people gathered.  The arrival and departure of the train was an event.  Many depot museums, such as Hamlet, are still functioning Amtrak stations.
Today's depot museums reflect this attention.  Many enthusiasts enjoy visiting.  These depots stand as a safe place for railfans to watch passing trains.  Museums such as Hamlet often have historic railroad equipment on display, as well.  This helps visually link us to our railroading heritage.
The depot's helpful staff often know the best places to eat and stay in the community.  Depot museums such as Hamlet Depot and Museums in Hamlet, NC are truly a treasure for us all.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Passenger Train-Best Seat In The Land

Rolling hills catch my eye, the train rolls by.
Towns become cities.  Stop in and say, "Hi"
I see America.  Buildings small and grand
Another town, on down the tracks. Best seat in the land

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Railroad Logo Sketches-Little Sketches, Big Message

I enjoy sketching railroad logos when I go to railroad events.  It is great to see the excitement on a fan's face as the pencil lines develop into the symbol of their favorite railroad.
Many of my fans draw trains, and I love to show them how simple my tools are.  It is very encouraging to explain that how I practice is by drawing everyday.
One of the most fun things I do is trim the last color, give them the logo and say, "Here you go."
As they say, "Wow," I can only hope that railroading is held even more dear.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Chicago South Shore and South Bend-The Little Train That Could

Today's Chicago, South Shore and South Bend carries the nickname "Connecting Industry-Delivering Value"  The South Shore Line connects South Bend, Indiana and the steel mills at Gary with Chicago.
Chicago South Shore and South Bend is firmly rooted in Chicagoland history.  The railroad carried the nickname "The Little Train That Could."  Its strength stood in its commuter business, its online coal customers and steel traffic, and its key connections with America's railroads into Chicago.
Today, the South Shore Line commuter trains are operated by Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District and freight operations are maintained by South Shore Freight, an affiliate of Chicago based Anacostia and Pacific. In 1925, the railroad came under the control of storied Chicago based railroad and utility magnate Samuel Insull, who invested in electrified railroads and helped contribute to America's electrical infrastructure.
Electric locomotives were purchased early on by the South Shore.  The railroad's interurban lines carried the infrastructure.  The railroad's 800 series locomotives manufactured by General Electric were the last electric locomotives to operate in mainline freight service in the United States.

The Flanged Wheel-A Marvel of Engineering

A double-stack intermodal train makes its way through Davis on the Capitol Corridor.  I wave to the engineer as the priority freight continues on its way across America.
Railroads are a key link in the supply chain of the goods we need every day.  Today's train's cargo consists of containers, loaded at the Port of Oakland, bound for Union Pacific's Global 3 Intermodal Facility just outside of Chicago.
Railroading is truly a marvel of engineering that is a product of foresight.  Today's modern train retraces much of the same route built by the original Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860's.  
The flanged wheel carries a train the same way it did nearly 200 years ago.  That is truly an invention that has stood the test of time.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Railfanning Is Educational and Fun

Southern Pacific Heritage Locomotive at Dunsmuir, CA Railroad Days in 2010

Railfanning has emerged as a popular hobby around the world.  It is great to see fans young and old   sharing experiences as trains go by.  Many railfans attend railfests and join historical societies and model railroad clubs, as well.
Railroads often bring special equipment to their rail facilities to celebrate their communities and achievements.  At these events, we are all safely able to enjoy the essence of the railroad and the role it plays in the communities it helped build.  Many of these events give young and old the change to safely get up close to the rail equipment they love and even get behind the controls of a locomotive simulator.  Locomotive simulators teach hands on knowledge, teach rail safety, and spark the imagination of many future engineers.
Many railfans share the Operation Lifesaver and Play It Safe safety awareness programs with their friends.  These programs remind us not to trespass while watching trains and taking photographs.  Operation Lifesaver and Play It Safe maintain highly visible campaigns at the many events we all attend.
Many railroaders of today love to take their time off to enjoy railroading.  This sends a positive message for the industry.
Many railroaders of yesterday love to share their experiences of railroads past and present.  Their words and stories engage us all.
In the enthusiasm of our youth about trains, I see future engineers, IT developers, transit architects and CEOs to name a few.
Railfanning is educational and fun.  I am grateful that railroads bring so many of us together.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bicycles and Amtrak California-Sustainable Transportation That Works

Bicycles and Amtrak California are sustainable transportation that works.  My hometown of Davis, California is a bicycle friendly community, and Amtrak California caters to commuting bicyclists.
Students, super-commuters and tourists find the Davis train station to be an easy bicycle ride from all points across Davis.  Many Amtrak California riders even take their bicycle with them aboard the train.
The Davis train station provides ample space for parking your bicycle, as well.  It's always great to ride your bicycle when you take the train.

The Romance Of The Train

Railroads stand as icons of America.  Amongst the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings pushing skyward in the Art Deco era raced the beautiful 20th Century Limited from Grand Central and Broadway Limited from Penn Station.
As each train rolled, its signature drumhead shone onward down the track.  The train's name became a part of America's culture.  Many live on in our modern trains, songs, stories, memories.
The train's arrival was a event.  The train delivered the day's mail.  Trains brought and still bring loved ones.  Trains carry us on adventures.
Perhaps the romance of the train comes from imagining ourselves upon it.  Someday living the dream of riding that train with the steel rails rolling along beneath us.

Friday, July 4, 2014

America's Bicentennial Locomotives-A Celebration of Patriotism

America prepared for its two-hundredth birthday in 1976.  Its railroads saw this as a great opportunity to celebrate the Bicentennial.
One by one, railroads across our country designed and painted red, white and blue masterpieces.  Each locomotive distinctly characteristic of its home road.  A friendly, patriotic competition had arisen, much like neighbors hanging grander flags from their porches.
Locomotives plied our our rails decked out in Stars and Stripes.  Flags proudly waved and liberty bells shone.  Many locomotives teamed up to pull special trains.  Many visited communities for patriotic events.
Our Bicentennial stood as a great example as America's railroads uniting for a cause.  Perhaps our greatest cause of all, America.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Evolution Series Tier 4 Locomotive-Pinnacle of Locomotive Development

A green light shines down the track.  The engineer throttles up as his Evolution Series Tier 4 Locomotive handles his Chicago bound train.  In his charge, nearly $15 million worth of finished automobiles destined for western markets.
Often we look around ourselves.  Houses built of lumber.  Bridges fabricated of steel.  Automobiles fashioned of steel, glass and composites.  Seldom do we wonder about how these structures and goods get to our communities.
The world relies on a vast network of railroads.  With precision, trains of steel, ocean-going and domestic containers, lumber, grain, coal, oil and automobiles keep our economy moving.
Our railroads carry an enviable record for fuel efficiency.  Freight railroads are perfectly suited for sustainability in moving cargo.  Many commodities rely upon the railroad to economically reach their market.
The Evolution Series Tier 4 Locomotive can handle any train anywhere.  Tier 4 Locomotives cross mountain ranges and vast plains.  They are ideal for handling trains into cities and our vast network of ports.
Locomotive design progresses in an industry that continues to evolve.  The Evolution Series Tier 4 Locomotive stands now as the pinnacle of locomotive development.

Altoona, PA- A Key Railroad Community

A double-stacked intermodal train rolls past on Norfolk Southern's steel highway that rolls through Altoona, Pennsylvania.  At least 70 trains a day pass through Altoona on a given day.  Trains of automobiles, coal, general merchandise, shipping containers, grain, farm tractors and steel all pass our vantage.
As the Pennsylvania Railroad pushed westward, it tackled the obstacle of the Allegheny mountains with its famous Horseshoe Curve just beyond Altoona.  Altoona was a key location for the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The railroad established its Juniata Locomotive Shops in Altoona and Holidaysburg Car Shops in nearby Hollidaysburg.  The Juniata Locomotive Shop built much of Pennsylvania Railroad's steam fleet and GG1 locomotives. Key to the Norfolk Southern system, today's Juniata Shop is responsible for the SD40E and SD60E rebuild programs, regular fleet overhaul and maintenance, and for the painting of locomotives.
Norfolk Southern employs over 1,000 people in Altoona.  Norfolk Southern and its predecessors, Conrail, Penn Central, and the Pennsylvania Railroad support the community they helped build.  Through support of institutions such as Penn State Altoona and The Altoona Public Library, Norfolk Southern continues to ensure a bright future for this key railroad community.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Winter Haven Intermodal Facility-Key to Our Infrastructure

We watch as another CSX Intermodal train rolls by with containers stacked two-high.  This train, bound for Chicago and a points west begins its journey from the new Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center in Winter Haven, Florida.
The Winter Haven Intermodal Facility, owned by CSX affiliate Evansville Western Railway and operated by CSX Intermodal is an investment in modern transportation infrastructure.  With the widening of the Panama Canal and rise of manufacturing, facilities such as Winter Haven prepare us all for the growth in trade we begin to face. 
This facility is an engine that drives our economy.  Facilities such as Winter Haven make retail products more accessible to us all.  As rail transport becomes even more viable, more manufacturers switch to rail. We begin to see a wider variety of products as rail is the economic alternative in shipping.
Facilities such as Winter Haven boost the local economy.  This facility creates jobs.  This fuels a growth in small business.  New distribution companies, restaurants and stores open in the community.
We begin to see less congestion on our highway system.  Facilities such as Winter Haven shift freight transport from truck to train.  Our highways become less congested.  We begin to see less wear and tear on our roads.  Intermodal facilities such as the Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center in Winter Haven, Florida are truly a win/win for us all.     

Monday, June 30, 2014

State Belt Railroad at Pier 43-An Infrastructure Story

Here I stand by the former trackage of the State Belt Railroad of California.  Here, at Pier 43, San Francisco, freight cars were once transferred by barge to and from the Santa Fe, Western Pacific and Northwestern Pacific Railroads.
Through this archway, merchandise from across America headed to ships at waiting piers.  Longshoremen along the railway loaded boxcars bound for America.
Carloads of lumber from California and the Northwest rolled across Pier 43 to build the young city of San Francisco.  Troops headed to and from the Pacific Theater and trainloads of war supplies passed under this arch during World War II.
This small arch is not practical for today's shipping needs.  Larger ships require deeper berths.  Vast intermodal cranes, trains and trucks need wide roads and large tracts of land to spread out.
This archway was a key transportation infrastructure project in its day.  Our infrastructure must continue to move forward.  

Transit Is On The Rise

We may be attached to our cars, but begin to look.  City buses, subways, light rail, and commuter trains thrive around us.  Transit is on the rise.
Many of us grow more and more aware of the environmental impact of our everyday driving.  Many of us simply cannot afford a car or the fuel.  Many of us switch to transit's pleasant alternative to traffic and it's congestion.
City buses, subways,
light rail and commuter trains accomplish the difficult task of delivering us into the heart of a city.  Crossing lanes of traffic at rush hour on city streets can be a daunting task, especially in unfamiliar cities.
In the era of the super-commuter, light rail and commuter trains allow us hands-free time to work on projects.  This time savings is invaluable for us all.
Time is one of our greatest assets.  How much time we once thought we saved by driving is finally coming into question as we watch the highway traffic from inside a passing commuter train.

A Bright Future For Railroad Signals

Steam locomotives moved trains across our vast railroad network protected by interlocking towers at key junctions where two railroads converged.  As the train thundered past, the tower operator hooped up the train orders, giving the crew instructions how to proceed.
Railroading is always on the move.  In Fostoria, Ohio, in 1927, centralized traffic control changed the era of the train order.
Trains needed to move more efficiently.  Rail traffic was on the rise.  More trains were meeting both on the mainline and on remote branches.  Centralized traffic control offered a solution to the obsolescence of the train order in that a dispatcher could control train meets, increase traffic flow and increase safety by being aware of each train's location.
With centralized traffic control and increased volume came the need for additional infrastructure.  More rails became double-tracked and additional miles of siding were added where trains could safely rest.  With this new trackage came increased signaling, with signaling came miles of thick expensive cable to relay signals.
Railroading drives our economy, however, with every ton of freight moved, many of us do not see its intense overhead.  Each mile of track must constantly be maintained.  Its signals must operate safely.  Rail cars must  constantly pass inspections.  Locomotives are constantly improved to increase fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
Whenever a fixed cost can be lowered in railroading, it is key to the system moving more smoothly.  If branch lines and short lines, which may only see two or three trains a day, can be made more profitable, this may even result in rail capitalizing on routes which could not have been possible.
Siemens Sinet, invented by Anton Reichlin,
makes this next step ahead in railroad signaling.  Sinet greatly reduces the infrastructure in railroad signaling by replacing cable-heavy, point-to-point connections with bus or ring structures.  This increase in efficiency will greatly increase the viability across the railroad, will lead to faster return on infrastructure investments and will make more and more rail lines viable.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

I Love Cabooses

The caboose punctuated the train.  Standing vigil, the caboose watched over the train as it rolled safely into the night.
As the train thundered onward, a friendly wave from the conductor meant all was well.  The train and its crew continued onward down the track.
The caboose worked as an office and as a bunkhouse.  Crews cooked meals and warmed themselves by its stove.  The caboose stood as the guardian of the train.
America's communities have embraced the caboose.  Cabooses serve as chambers of commerce and act as libraries.  Many cabooses have found a new life as hotels.  
To many, a caboose is a symbol of America's wanderlust.  The caboose followed its train always on an endless journey, however, always with somewhere to go.  
Perhaps this fuels our love affair with the caboose.  Not just an icon of the railroad, but an icon of America.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bangor & Aroostook and its State of Maine Products Box Cars

Bangor & Aroostook Railroad linked Northern Maine with America.  Proudly painted on its red, white and blue box cars the slogan "State of Maine Products."
As their box cars circulated across America, they acted as rolling billboards for the farmers and craftsmen of Aroostook County and their neighbors.  People from Alabama to California wondered, "Some day I may venture to that proud corner of Maine where those patriotic box cars call home."
As Americans ate their Maine potatoes and sat on their rockers, perhaps they thought a little harder about The Pine Tree State.  All because red, white and blue box cars roamed our nation so proudly.

Barstow, CA-Transportation Oasis

Barstow is a transportation oasis in the High Desert of California.  It is located where today's Transcon intersects with I-40, I-15 and Highway 58.  Barstow sits one day's travel outside of Los Angeles, making it an ideal location for transcontinental shipments to get classified before delivery.
Barstow owes much of its existence to the Santa Fe Railroad.  The city takes its name from William Barstow Strong, president of the Santa Fe Railroad during the town's growth.  Establishment of a Santa Fe Harvey House as the town grew was key to Barstow's development.
As you drive Main Street in today's Barstow, you see the Barstow that many were familiar with so many years ago.  Diners and motels still proudly brandish the Route 66 signs that welcomed so many weary travelers to California.
Alongside Main Street sit the large classification yards of today's BNSF Railway, successor to the Santa Fe.  Carloads of California perishables bound for Eastern markets and merchandise from across America are efficiently placed onto their trains.
As we hear a highball in the distance, we watch, and another train rolls onward, ready to make its trek across America.  Onward from Barstow, transportation continues to roll.       

Symbiosis in Transportation

Symbiosis is key to nature.  A mother nurtures her child and the child grows strong.  Organisms everyday depend upon one another to survive and make a better world for each other.
Ships cross the globe laden with cargo and dock at our ports.  Upon arrival, their intermodal containers are stacked two-high upon rail cars with quick agility.  Rail provides the efficient, sustainable solution for the cross-continental trek the cargo is about to make.
Many of our communities incorporate intermodal facilities where this cargo from across the country or across the globe can be easily unloaded and distributed by trucks.  These economies flourish, as distributors arise and businesses find a promising environment due to their key location.  Symbiosis in transportation truly benefits us all.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Missouri Pacific Freight Crosses Kansas

A Denver bound Missouri Pacific freight powers across the Kansas prairie at Frederick.  A thunderhead forms as the train races into the evening.
Wheat across the prairie begins an uneasy blowing as the storm picks up power.  The train rumbles onward.  Its carloads bound for the Rockies and beyond. Box cars marked Route of the Eagles, Rio Grande, Burlington Northern and Western Pacific hustle past as the way car vanishes into the distance.


The Intermodal Container-Genius In Design

An intermodal container is a solution.  It brings many answers in many ways.
As trains roll across America with containers stacked two-high, the container's design is truly genius.  As the world moves faster, the ease of stacking #intermodal containers upon ships, interchanging at terminals and transferring from train to truck makes the container the perfect solution to the antiquated shipping crate.
Intermodal containers are flexible.  One stacks upon another.  This one carries finished steel, that one may carry child's toys, another may carry coffee.  The simplicity of their design makes them truly an elegant invention, truly a beast of burden, carrying the load of our economy without recognition.
The #intermodal container is perfect for carrying goods from one town to another yet can carry goods across the globe.  As manufacturing is on the rise in more versatile ways, truly the intermodal container stands ready for the task.

Railroading-The Transportation Solution

We live in an age of solutions.  Everyday we look to find answers.  Whether it is in the products we buy or the way we commute to work.
Most of the time, in looking for solutions, we as consumers do not think of the way the products we use everyday are manufactured.  At times we think of their structure.  But often, we do not think of how these products arrived at our store shelves.
As we drive our car, we think of the traffic we are stuck in.  Late for work once again.  We do not have time to think that our car was delivered on a train.
We look around, and we think there must be a solution.  A commuter train races into the city.  It, indeed provides the most visible solution to the congestion in our cities, as less and less traffic flows on the clogged arteries of our interstates and city streets.  But often, we do not see the freight yards full of intermodal containers and the long range solution they provide to both our environment and traffic congestion.
More and more freight on our railroad system brings promise.  Not only for today, but for generations to come.  With manufacturing on the rise, railroading truly is the cost-effective, eco-friendly solution we all seek for the transportation of freight and passengers.

New York Central- The Scenic Water Level Route

New York Central and its competitor the Pennsylvania Railroad dominated railroading throughout the Northeast and North Central United States.  New York Central's elegant, famous 20th Century Limited passenger train raced from Grand Central Station to LaSalle Street Station Chicago on a racetrack that followed both the Hudson River and the Great Lakes.  This advantage it needed over Pennsylvania Railroad's shorter route to Chicago over the Allegheny mountains via the Horseshoe Curve.  Both railroads fought a bitter rivalry until their ultimate merger into Penn Central in 1968.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Day in the Life of Railroads of the Midwest

Railroads of the Midwest link agriculture, mining and manufacturing with flag stops, small communities and urban centers.  Stretched out across the plains, the height of prairie gain elevators mark the importance of a community and its location on the railroad.  The brief silence of the landscape is broken by the arrival of today's local freight.  It brings manufactured goods that farms rely upon.  It exchanges a cut of empty hoppers with loads of grain bound for the city.  Such is a day in the life of the railroads of the Midwest.

America Needs Freight Rail

America's freight railroads link mining, industries, ports, customers and consumers to fuel our economy.  Rail is the eco-freindly, fuel-efficient method to haul the goods we need everyday.  Railroads built our communities and continue to make them strong.  America needs freight rail.

Chicago Burlington and Quincy-Way of the Zephyrs

Chicago Burlington and Quincy connected the agriculture and mining of the Midwest and Rocky Mountain States key with gateway cities throughout its route.  Chicago Burlington and Quincy also provided the eastern leg of the famous California Zephyr Passenger train between Chicago and Denver.  Proudly painted upon the sides of its locomotives the slogans, "Everywhere West" and "Way of the Zephyrs"