Posts Tagged ‘Jim Wrinn’

When Jim Wrinn Came to Town

November 30, 2022

Back in April 2011 Jim Wrinn, the editor of Trains magazine, came to Akron to speak to a banquet of the Akron Railroad Club to celebrate the group’s 75th anniversary.

The banquet was held on the night of April 23, but earlier in the day we arranged for Jim to have a cab ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. He also got to operate SD18M No. 321 at Shelly Materials in Kent, courtesy of ARRC member and Shelly worker Bob Rohal.

In the image above, Jim speaks from the engineer’s seat of No. 321, which was known as “Flash” in honor the Kent State University Golden Flashes athletic teams.

Wrinn died last March of cancer and No. 321 is no longer on the property at Shelly’s Kent facility.

Photograph by Craig Sanders

Trains Names Keefe Interim Editor

April 7, 2022

Trains magazine has appointed Kevin P. Keefe as its interim editor.

Keefe, a Michigan native, served as editor-in-chief of the magazine between 1992 and 2000 and for a short time in 2004 before the appointment of the late Jim Wrinn as editor.

After leaving the editor’s chair, Keefe worked as an executive at Kalmbach Media until retiring as vice president-editorial in 2016, one of many positions he held with the company.

Wrinn, who was the second longest serving editor of Trains, died of pancreatic cancer on March 30.

In making the announcement, Kalmbach said Keefe will serve as interim editor until a permanent editor is appointed.

Keefe grew up in Niles, Michigan, and now lives in Milwaukee. Before coming to Trains, he worked as a newspaper reporter including at the Milwaukee Sentinel between 1980 and 1987.

Remembering Jim Wrinn

March 31, 2022

Jim Wrinn in the engineer’s seat of Shelly Materials SD18M No. 421 on April 23, 2011

Jim Wrinn was a giant in the world of railfanning. If you need proof just read the dozens of tributes that have been posted on his Facebook page since his death became known on Wednesday.

Those accounts of the second-longest serving editor-in-chief of Trains magazine are accompanied by photographs of Wrinn in locomotive cabs and watching or photographing trains from numerous locations around the country.

What I will remember first and foremost, though, about Wrinn is not a photograph he took of a steam locomotive or a story he wrote about a railroad or even an experience he shared involving railfanning.

It won’t be the presentation he gave to the Akron Railroad Club n April 23, 2011, at the club’s 755th anniversary banquet or the railfanning I did with him that weekend around Northeast Ohio.

No, what I will remember most was how he “covered” his struggle with pancreatic cancer and exhorted the hundreds who followed him on Facebook to get busy living.

That became a signature line of his although it wasn’t original with him. It came from the movie The Shawshank Redemption.

It also is something I think about often since I first read it in one of Wrinn’s Facebook posts. In short, I found inspiration that someone facing a life-threatening situation was trying to cheer us up.

I am not surprised Wrinn saw his medical condition as another story to be covered. He was a reporter doing what reporters do in the manner that they do it.

His accounts of chemotherapy sessions and other medical procedures were detailed and straight forward.

He mixed in some folksy whit in those reports as when he wrote, “As I said a year ago when we started this journey, I’m like an old hound on the porch back in NC, licking my wounds, but ready to get back out there. So, cross your fingers and toes that it’s something easily solved. Meanwhile, all of y’all have a great day.”

That post dated March 14 was one of his last and addressed how he was feeling a lack of energy.

He vowed to beat cancer but knew it would be a tough fight. Many he met through a cancer support group didn’t live as long after receiving their diagnosis as he did.

Yet his determination made me believe for a time that maybe, just maybe, he would win the fight.

I can’t say that Jim and I were friends although we knew each other, largely by my having written a few articles for Trains.

We were introduced in June 1999 by a mutual friend at the rail festival in Sacramento, California.

We were not railfanning buddies and our interactions were infrequent. Yet he would “like” my posts on Facebook as though we were longtime friends. I have long admired the career he was able to have in journalism.

The last time I remember seeing him was on a late April Sunday afternoon when we dropped him off at the Akron-Canton Airport after a day of railfanning in the Cleveland area with Peter Bowler and Marty Surdyk more than a decade ago.

It might also be the last time I ever spoke with him.

That weekend was a memorable one. I picked him up at CAK on a late Friday afternoon and we had dinner at Bahama Breeze in Beachwood. He had arranged to meet an old friend there after we finished eating.

The next day we had arranged for Jim to have a cab ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. After lunch in the restaurant at the former Erie passenger station in Kent, we visited the Shelly Materials facility in Kent where Jim got to run its SD18M named “Flash.”

That night he addressed the ARRC banquet. On Sunday morning I picked Jim up at his hotel and we began our day of railfanning by riding the Greater Cleveland RTA Green Line to Tower City.

From there Marty showed Jim around Cleveland a bit before we spent the balance of our time in Berea and Olmsted Falls.

The weather that day wasn’t great but Jim still posted on the Trains website a photo he made that day of some former Conrail units leading a train still wearing their CR blue livery.

It was Easter Sunday and he played off that by writing about the Easter bunny bringing him some blue eggs.

A Wrinn tribute written by Kevin P. Keefe, himself a former Trains editor, featured a self-assesment Wrinn wrote in 2009. “I could not write like [David P.] Morgan. I could not be a diesel locomotive expert like Dave Ingles, I could not write as eloquently as Kevin P. Keefe, I could not be an industry insider like Mark Hemphill. But I could bring great enthusiasm to the job, a great love for the subject, and the passion and curiosity of a journalist. The other guys put together fantastic issues of Trains, but nobody ever had a better time in this job than me.”

I can’t and won’t speak to his comparisons of himself and his predecessors, but I can say I thought one of Wrinn’s greatest achievements after taking over Trains was returning the magazine more to its roots of being a railfan publication while continuing to cover the railroad industry as the business it is.

In doing this, Trains under Wrinn took a more middle of the road approach than had his predecessor, which as a reader I felt more comfortable with.

I would look forward to his accounts of his travels to see steam locomotives I’ve never seen in action. Reading Jim’s accounts and seeing his photographs was like being there.

Wrinn’s life ended in much the same place as did Morgan’s, dying of cancer at a far too young age and leaving behind a message for those who would survive him.

Both men in their final writings urged their readers to not become complacent.

Whereas Wrinn told his friends to get busy living, Morgan in his last article written for Trains noted that railroading is always changing and enthusiasts should “look away, look away” become someday what exists now may be gone.

Now Wrinn is gone, too, but what memories we will have of the hours of enjoyment reading his articles and viewing his photographs and even sharing some time with him even if it was minuscule.

Commentary by Craig Sanders

Trains Editor Jim Wrinn Dies at 61

March 31, 2022

Jim Wrinn presents a program on steam locomotives at the 75th Anniversary celebration of the Akron Railroad Club on April 23, 2011. Richard Jacobs photo

Jim Wrinn, who served as editor of Trains magazine for 17 years, died Wednesday of pancreatic cancer. He was 61.

Wrinn, a North Carolina native, had battled the cancer for 14 months and chronicled his fight in regular posts on his Facebook page.

He sought to maintain an upbeat but realistic outlook, vowing to beat cancer while acknowledging that many who had fought the disease with him had not survived.

Those posts described the ordeal of chemotherapy sessions – which he likened to taking rat poison – and exhorted his many hundreds of followers to cherish every day while going about the business of daily living.

In terms of longevity, Wrinn was the second longest-serving editor of Trains, eclipsed only by the late David P. Morgan, who helmed the magazine for 33 years and died of cancer at age 62.

Morgan and Wrinn shared a heritage of having grown up in the South and having a passion for steam locomotives.

Wrinn’s first photograph to be published Trains appeared in the October 1982 issue and featured Graham County Railroad Shay No. 1925.

His first bylined story in Trains appeared in the December 1989 issue, a news story about the effects of Hurricane Hugo on Southeastern railroads.

Tributes to Wrinn posted on the websites of Trains and Railfan & Railroad noted that Wrinn came from a railroading family.

His great-grandfather was a laborer on the Southern and an uncle was a Railway Post Office clerk.

Born March 21, 1961, Wrinn grew up in Franklin, North Carolina, and during his childhood would watch Southern Railway trains while visiting his grandparents in Westminister, South Carolina, on the Washington-Atlanta mainline.

“We would visit my grandmother in Westminster on Sundays,” Wrinn told Railfan & Railroad in 1989. “We’d often take the whole family down to the depot. It was kind of a Southern tradition of welcoming the train as it went through.” 

After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1983, where he majored in journalism and political science, Wrinn worked as a reporter for newspapers in Gastonia and Fayetteville, North Carolina, before landing a job at the Charlotte Observer.

He left the Observer to become editor-in-chief of Trains on Oct. 27, 2004.

Wrinn was involved in various railroad preservation efforts with the Southern Railway Historical Association, and the North Carolina Transportation Museum. 

He also wrote articles for railfan magazines and published a comprehensive chronicle of the Southern Railway, later Norfolk Southern, steam program.

That book, Steam’s Camelot, was issued by TLC Publishing in 2001. He also was the author or co-author of four other railroad history books.

Even after being diagnosed with cancer in 2020, Wrinn continued to oversee Trains and traveled the country to watch and photograph steam locomotives in action.

Railfan and Railroad editor Steve Barry wrote on his magazine’s website after Wrinn’s death that he never considered Wrinn to be a competitor but a friend.

“We go back about 30 years to when he invited me to his beloved Tar Heel State to help with night photo sessions at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer (and to join him in enjoying some fine barbecue and Cheerwine). I’ll miss his dedication to rail preservation and his passion for the hobby and his readers. But most of all, I’ll miss his friendship,” Barry wrote.

In a tribute posted on the Trains website, former Trains editor Kevin P. Keefe said Wrinn aspired during his youth to become editor of Trains, which he began reading at age 6.

Keefe said that during his tenure in the editor’s chair Wrinn sought to serve readers who had like himself grown up reading Trains while also expanding the magazine’s appeal to those more attracted to digital content.

This included the creation of podcasts and videos. Trains’ parent company, Kalmbach Publishing, also began sponsoring railfan-oriented events and publishing special issues devoted to topics of widespread interest.

“Wrinn also showed a flair for the big moment, capitalizing on important news developments and effectively using a variety of media platforms,” Keefe wrote.

Wrinn is survived by his wife, Cate Kratville-Wrinn. Services will be private. Memorial contributions can be made to the North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation at P.O. Box 44, Spencer, N.C. 28159, or via the website at

Tourists Railroads, Museums Face Tough Challenges

May 20, 2020

Passengers board a Cuyahoga Valley Scewnic Railroad train at Indigo Lake after a visit to Hale Farm. Will these passengers return after the COVID-19 pandemic eases? The future of the railroad could depend on it.

Memorial Day is the traditional start of summer and by now the nation’s tourist railroads and museums would be gearing up to open.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that. Many, but not all, tourist railroads remain closed or won’t open for several more weeks or months.

Some operations may never reopen because they won’t survive the monetary losses triggered by the pandemic.

Some tourist railroads might reopen and suffer substantial revenue reductions as large numbers of people stay away.

That could be a severe enough blow to force those railroads to shut down permanently.

Trains magazine recently published two articles on its website weighing the challenges facing tourist railroads and museums, and seeking the views of those in the industry as to how they are facing those challenges.

Those interviewed agreed it’s difficult to predict how tourist railroads and museums will fare given the patchwork nature of government mandated social distancing restrictions and the unknowns about how the pandemic will play out.

Another unknown is how many people will eventually ride the trains and come view the exhibits once operations resume.

“It’s too early to tell how bad it’s going to be,” said Mark Ray president of the Heritage Rail Alliance.

One thing is fairly certain. Imposing social distancing measures aboard trains will result in lost revenue due to unfilled seats.

That is likely to lead to a substantial loss of revenue for such high-profile events as Day Out with Thomas, and The Polar Express.

The business model of those events is pretty straight forward: Fill every seat you can.

For many some tourist railroads, revenue derived from Thomas and Polar Express sustains them throughout the year.

It is why Trains once headlined an article about Thomas as “Thomas the Bank Engine.”

Rail Events Productions sponsors The Polar Express, which operated in 62 locations last year, and is the largest U.S. licensee of rail-based performance attraction.

Executives with Rail Events said the challenge its affiliates face is “achieving [economic] sustainability in light of likely reduced equipment utilization.”

Some tourist railroads plan to add additional cars to their trains so passengers can be more spread out while riding in order to maintain social distancing.

The Heritage Rail Alliance has given its members a four-page set of guidelines for best practices once they reopen.

It includes spacing out passengers aboard trains, frequent cleaning of surfaces touched by the public, and touchless ticketing among other recommendations.

Jim Wrinn, editor in chief of Trains, wrote that every conversation he has had of late with friends in the railway preservation field has raised the question of what the new normal will be once the worst of the pandemic has passed.

Wrinn said another question that often arises in those conversations is how many operations won’t make it.

At this point Wrinn said it’s hard to say which operations will survive and which will not.

The pandemic will hasten the decline of some organizations and just yesterday the Mt. Raineer Railroad and Logging Museum in Washington State said it is shutting down and blamed the pandemic in part.

Wrinn believes the survivors will be those organizations that that have diversified revenue streams, strong management, and active, focused directors.

The survivors will also tend to have small staffs and low overhead.

The casualties will be operations struggling to attract passengers already, have high costs and overhead, have large outstanding loans, and have a board of directors that is disengaged.

Ray said some tourist railroads are not as dependent as they once were on money earned during the summer.

But if there is a second wave of COVID-19 infections this fall as some medical experts are predicting, that could wipe out revenue from fall foliage trips and Christmas themed trains.

That could be a death blow to some operations coming off summer doldrums.

Wrinn wrote that he knows many people in railway preservation business who are tough and tenacious and he is optimistic that they’ll figure out how to stay in business, reopen, and remain relevant to the public.

Trains Leading Fundraising Push for C&O 1309

February 14, 2020

Trains magazine is leading a push to raise money to finish the restoration to operating condition of former Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309.

Work on the locomotive halted last August after the project ran out of money.

Trains editor Jim Wrinn wrote on the magazine’s website that officials estimate the project needs $390,000 to complete the restoration work.

The work is being done on the property of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and is estimated to be 85 percent complete.

Wrinn said a review of the work plan found “no potential for unanticipated additional major expenses at this late date.”

Most of the projected expenses to finish the restoration will go toward labor, machine work, rewheeling, final upfit, testing and breaking in the locomotive.

Once funding is in hand the restoration work can be completed in less than six months, officials say.

Trains said it had already contributed $10,000 in 2015 toward the restoration efforts and its readers have kicked in $50,000.

“We’re asking individuals, organizations, and corporations to donate to help raise $100,000 toward the effort,” Wrinn wrote.

No. 1309 was built in 1949 and retired in 1956. It sat for several years at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore until being acquired by the WMSR in 2014.

It currently resides in the former WM carshop at Ridgeley, West Virginia.

Donations can be sent to Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, 13 Canal Street, Cumberland, MD 21502, or made online at

Kevin Keefe is Retiring. How Can That Be?

March 19, 2016

I never met Kevin P. Keefe except through a couple brief email messages we exchanged more than a decade ago.

Chances are many of you reading this post know little to nothing about him.

Maybe the name sounds vaguely familiar. Wasn’t he once the editor of Trains magazine? Yes, he was, between 1992 and 2000.

He retired on Friday (March 18) as vice-president of editorial for Kalmbach Publishing, which publishes Trains.

On TransportationThere was something about Keefe’s retirement that gave me pause. Isn’t he too young to be retiring? But he turns 65 this year and a lot of folks retire at that age.

I guess I must still be in a state of denial about this retirement age thing. I’m two years younger than Keefe.

There also was the fact that he has been a railroad journalist for nearly as long as I could remember. Retiring? That can’t be. But it is.

Although I doubt that Keefe remembers anything about me, I remember my encounters with him and how I “idolized” him because he was the editor of Trains.

Some guys in the railfan hobby idolize engineers of steam locomotives. I idolize railfan press journalists and book authors.

My first encounter with Keefe occurred in the middle 1990s when I wrote to him to pitch an article idea for Trains. He wrote back to say the magazine wasn’t interested.

I wrote a few more letters pitching articles and most of the time Keefe never responded. If he did, the answer was a brief “not interested.”

That was discouraging although probably to be expected. I was an unknown quantity and I’m sure the editor of Trains receives a lot of story ideas.

I wanted to get published in Trains and nothing I proposed seemed to interest the editor.

I knew what Keefe looked like having seen his mug shot in the magazine every month.

Late one afternoon during the 1995 National Historical Society Convention I was waiting to photograph a runby of Milwaukee Road steam locomotive No. 261 when I noticed that the guy to my left looked familiar.

It was Kevin Keefe, the editor of Trains getting the same photo angle that I got. I was impressed. It is the only time I’ve ever seen him in person.

I finally broke into Trains when I co-authored an article with Bill Stephens about Berea Tower that was published in 1995.

Five years later, I wrote to Keefe about another story idea, proposing doing an overview of the Wheeling & Lake Erie.

Not only did Keefe write back, he said Trains wanted to publish the article.

It was a big deal at the time because it would be my first solo byline in Trains.

Shortly after accepting my article idea about the Wheeling, Keefe moved on to various corporate positions at Kalmbach. I would see his name in the masthead of Trains, but I never envied the positions that he held.

He continued to write for Trains and while conducting research for my book Amtrak in the Heartland, I ran across articles he had written for Passenger Train Journal on Amtrak operations in Michigan.

I also saw his name pop up here and there as the author of a foreword in various books about railroads.

When you see someone’s byline that often you feel like you know that person even if you don’t. Keefe was this distant figure whose name and work I saw a lot, but I knew him about as well as I know LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Keefe will never have quite the stature of the late David P. Morgan, whose tenure as editor of Trains casts a shadow that perhaps no Trains editor will ever escape.

But like Morgan, Keefe had a large hand in directing the content and focus of the magazine that I still look forward to receiving and reading once a month. He played a gate-keeping role in determining what readers read and saw.

The rise of social media and online websites has diminished that gate-keeping role over the past two decades.

Today, even bit players in the railfan journalism world like me can, in theory, reach a national and international audience through such sites as Flickr, and this blog.

But few of those who contribute to those sites will ever have the type of influence and visibility that Keefe had during his 28-year career at Kalmbach, which started as an advertising copy writer.

When someone retires we often think that they are going away, perhaps to never be seen again, because they won’t be coming into the office every day as they have for years.

In a tribute to Keefe posted more than a week ago on the Trains website, the magazine’s current editor, Jim Wrinn, said readers can expect to see more of Keefe’s work in Trains and Classic Trains now that he is retired and has more time to devote to writing.

He has a book about steam railroading coming out this year that is being published by Michigan State University Press.

I expect to open both magazines in the future and find articles written by Keefe that will immediately draw my attention.

It will be as though he never left.

Trains, Cass Offering Photo Freight

March 19, 2016

The Case Scenic Railroad and Trains magazine are teaming up to offer a photo charter on June 3 featuring rebuilt Pacific Coast Shay No. 2.

Cass ScenicTickets are priced at $322.77. They are now on sale and limited to 25 participants. The fare includes a box lunch and drink. The trip will depart at 8 a.m. and return at 4 p.m.

No. 2 was built by Lima in 1928 and is the only locomotive of its type to operate east of the Mississippi River. Restoration work on the locomotive is expected to be completed soon.

It will be pulling log cars and two cabooses. Trains Editor Jim Wrinn will coordinate the event.

Click on this link to purchase tickets or obtain further information.

Ward To Stay as CSX Head for 3 More Years

February 16, 2016

In an interview with the editor of Trains magazine, CSX Chairman and CEO Michael Ward said he expected to remain in his post for three more years.

CSX logo 1The magazine noted that Ward said he was asked to stay on for that length of time by the railroad’s board of directors.

Ward told magazine editor Jim Wrinn that he planned to work until he was 68. Ward took  over as CSX head in 2003.

During the interview Ward talked about falling coal volume, employee layoffs, a strategy to extend the lengths of manifest freight trains and the routes that have closed within the past year.

According to Ward, the original plan was for Oscar Munoz to succeed him, but Munoz decided last year to take the CEO job at United Airlines.

The interview will be published in question and answer format in the May issue of the magazine, which will reach subscribers in early April and be on newsstands later that month.

N.C. Museum Sets 2 N&W 611 Public Events

April 19, 2015

Two public events have been set that will give photographers a look at Norfolk & Western J Class No. 611 at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, N.C., where the locomotive is in the final stages of being restored to operating condition.

The museum on May 23 will host a “611 Send-Off Celebration” complete with a cake and the opportunity to look inside the locomotive cab

The 611 will also be moved on and off the roundhouse turntable with 10 lucky winners being able to purchase 30 minutes of throttle time at a cost of $611 per slot on a first-come, first-served basis.

The throttle times will be sold online at 9 a.m. on April 21. To order, go to

Trains magazine editor Jim Wrinn is coordinating a photo charter featuring the 611 that will be run on May 28. Wrinn is a a 29-year NCTM volunteer and a member of the Fire Up 611! Committee.

The 611 will be posed on the turntable and with other steam and diesel locomotives from the museum’s collection.

It will pull a Tuscan red passenger train with the museum’s heavyweight N&W combine as well as a freight cars, thus replicating the late 1950s local freight service that Class J locomotives saw before their retirement.

The museum’s N&W Tuscan red-painted GP9, No. 620, also will be part of the event.

A night photo session and barbecue luncheon featuring Fire Up 611! Chairman Preston Claytor are also planned.

Tickets are limited and will go on sale at 9 a.m. on April 20. They will cost $250 per person. To order, go to

Tickets may also be ordered by calling 704-636-2889, extension 224.