Posts Tagged ‘Trains magazine’

Sanders Article Appears in September Issue of Trains

July 25, 2017

An article written by Akron Railroad Club President Craig Sanders will appear in the September 2017 issue of Trains magazine.

The article tells the story of how the late Steve Goodman came to write the song City of New Orleans.

Although Goodman recorded the song in 1971, it didn’t become popular until it was recorded by Arlo Guthrie and released in spring 1972. The song reached the top 20 on the music charts in summer 1972 by which time it had begun receiving widespread play on AM and FM stations nationwide.

Goodman, who died of leukemia in September 1984, often said in interviews that the song describes a trip that he and his wife, Nancy, took aboard Illinois Central’s City of New Orleans in April 1970 from Chicago to Mattoon, Illinois.

However, Goodman began working on the song in 1967 following a trip from Chicago to New Orleans aboard No. 1. It was an experience that he had on the return trip aboard No. 2 that got him interested in writing a song about the train.

At the time, Goodman was a college student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He often rode the train between his home in Chicago and the UI campus.

That 1967 experience led to Goodman crafting with the help of a friend some initial lyrics, including the chorus.

The April 1970 trip, though, provided many of the observations that appears in the first two verses of the song.

Sanders told the story about how Goodman came to write the song and how Guthrie came to record it during a program that he presented at the September 2012 ARRC meeting.

He later took his research and created an article that he sent to Trains with the idea that it would be published in April 2015, the 45th anniversary of Goodman’s trip that inspired him to finish the song.

The magazine, though held the article for nearly two years. In the September 2017 issue it is paired with a piece written by Kevin P. Keefe that examines how America’s roots music grew up along railroads lines, particularly in Mississippi, and an article by Ed Ellis about how former City of New Orleans observation car Mardi Gras has been restored and is now operated by Iowa Pacific Holdings.

Those articles along with Sanders’ story about the writing of City of New Orleans appear under the theme “railroads and music.”

Preserving Heritage Rail Lines May Involve Overcoming ‘More Beneficial Use’ Arguments

April 11, 2017

Scott Fadness is not a popular person these days among railroad advocates in Indiana.

The mayor of Fishers, Indiana, favors ripping out a former Nickel Plate Road branch line that runs through his city to Indianapolis that until 2015 hosted excursions operated by the Indiana Transportation Museum, including its popular Fairtrain to the Indiana State Fair.

In place of the now dormant rail line, which is owned by a public entity, would be a hiking and biking trail.

ITM and other rail supporters have proposed building the trail alongside the rail line.

But Fadness has rejected that due to safety concerns, saying he didn’t think it would be wise for trail users to be within several feet of a locomotive.

It is easy for railroad advocates to dismiss Fadness as ignorant or to proclaim his position as ludicrous as an ITM spokesman did.

Indeed, those accusations probably are true. But overcoming the beliefs of officials such as Mayor Fadness will not be easy.

He may not be a friend of rail preservation, but it could be a mistake to consider him an adversary. He is someone who needs to be won over.

If anything, railroad advocates need to listen carefully to public officials such as Mayor Fadness. You can’t overcome opposition if you don’t understand it.

Rails and trails can and do co-exist. The Rails to Trails Conservancy says there are 1,600 trails in 41 states that are located next to a railroad line.

Yet the Conservancy said there are 10 times more trails that have been built on a former railroad right of way.

As a result more people think trail without rails than they do trail with rails because the former is most likely to be what they have seen and experienced.

One of those trails without rails is a couple miles west of the ex-NKP line on the right of way of the former Monon Railroad line to Indianapolis.

Fadness wants to emulate that trail and has adopted the type of “more beneficial uses of the property” worldview that worries Jim Porterfield, the director of the Center for Railway Tourism at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia.

Porterfield was quoted in the May 2017 issue of Trains magazine as warning that heritage railroads are at risk when a community views them as entertainment rather than historical venues.

Porterfield told Trains that the typical arguments for displacing heritage rail lines include, “year round versus seasonal use, a greater distribution of income to local businesses, more people present, and higher property values along a trail versus a rail line.”

By one estimate, the ex-NKP line in Indianapolis needs $9 million in repairs to bring rail service back. A trail can be built for much less than that.

Mayor Fadness sees the situation as a simple cost-benefit analysis that weights heavily in favor of a trail.

Every rails to trail dispute has its own circumstances. In the case of the ex-NKP rail line, there has been internal turmoil within the past year at ITM that has harmed its credibility.

The location of the line in an affluent area of suburban Indianapolis also works against it. Such areas are a fertile ground for NIMBY opponents who know how to work the political system.

Some at ITM have also spoken about extending the ex-NKP to downtown Indianapolis and offering passenger trains there.

There may be some merit to that vision, but it would cost millions if not billions, to replace track that was removed years ago.

People who do not “love” railroads will laugh off such proposals as unrealistic given the existing available resources.

Mayor Fadness may have his mind made up and time is not working in favor of those who want to keep the ex-NKP branch intact.

If you are going to persuade public officials such as Mayor Fadness, you need to show him that rails and trails can co-exist. And you need to convince him on his terms, not those of a railfan who tends to believe that every foot of rail should be preserved.

The question is whether the railroad advocates have the skills and willingness needed to make the case for rail and trail.

Forcing Film Shooters into the Digital World

March 27, 2017

Organizations have ways of forcing people to do something they might not wish to do otherwise.

It used to be that airlines issued paper tickets to passengers. They still do, but for a fee.

The reason why this changed is obvious. The airlines save money by shifting the cost of paper and printing onto their customers.

In theory customers get the “convenience” of being able to print their tickets at home. That saves them a trip to the airport or a travel agent.

To many people, printing your own tickets is no big deal. The cost of the paper and ink for printing airline tickets – technically called boarding passes – is minuscule.

Most people who travel by air already have computers and printers at home.

Some don’t even print their boarding passes. They show a code on their smart phone sent to them electronically. No paper is involved at any step of the process.

But not everyone who still makes photographic images on film has the equipment needed to digitize their work.

Those photographers might be out of luck if they wish to enter the 2017 Trains magazine photo contest.

Tucked into the rules is this change: “We will no longer be accepting submissions by mail.”

No explanation for that rule change was provided, but it likely wasn’t a financial move.

The photographer paid all costs associated with sending slides or printed images by mail.

More than likely this rule change was for the convenience of the staff. All entries can now be kept in one location and viewed in the same manner.

There is no more having to toggle between digital entries and slides and prints.

It also might save some staff time. Winning entries submitted as slides or prints no longer need to be digitized.

But what is convenient for the magazine staff is not so convenient for certain photographs. If they lack the equipment to digitize the images they wish to submit to the contest, they will have to buy the equipment or pay to have their images digitized.

Perhaps some have a friend who has a scanner who might be willing to do it for a beer.

The rule change also is likely a reflection of the reality that few entries are still being submitted the old fashioned way.

There remains a hard core of photographers who use film to make railroad images.

Some of them have scanning equipment to digitize their images, but most of the film guys I know do not have equipment to scan slides and negatives.

Most of them strike me as unwilling to learn how to do it. I can understand why.

Like cameras, film scanners come in all shapes, sizes and price points.

Some equipment is inexpensive, but the quality of the finished product might not be satisfactory.

B&H Photo offers a guide to scanning equipment at https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/film-scanners

If you know little to nothing about digital images, reading that guide might be bewildering. You soon learn you need to know about things that film photographers do not need to know unless they are in the publication business.

I can’t say what percentage of photographers has equipment capable of scanning film images into a digital format.

Most of the railroad images I’ve see posted online were made with a digital camera.

There are not as many pre-digital images in cyberspace as there could be. Aside from its cost, digitizing equipment takes time to learn to use.

Yet the day is coming when having scanning equipment will be a “must have” if you wish to share your pre-digital photographs with others.

Slide shows remain a staple of local railroad clubs, but some events, e.g., Summerail, no longer allow programs in which images are projected directly from film.

I have a sizable collection of slides and I do not foresee projecting them again with a slide projector.

Local railroad clubs are losing members and the number of opportunities to project slides the old fashioned way is dwindling even as slide film is making a modest comeback.

As I noted in a previous column, slide film has a future, but it is tied into the digital world, particularly if you want to share your images with a circle that extends beyond your closest friends who are willing to get together in a room for a slide showing.

Trains to Sponsor C&O 1309 Charter

March 17, 2017

Trains magazine and the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad will offer a photo charter for Chesapeake & Ohio No. 1309 in late September.

The restored locomotive will pull a freight train with 14 to 18 cars on Sept. 26 to 28, stopping at several locations on the 17-mile railroad.

Among the photo locations will be Helmstetter’s Curve. No. 1309, which was built in 1949, will wear its C&O markings and at times have Western Maryland lettering.

The event will also include a night photo shoot, cab access, and an audio-visual program detailing the restoration of the locomotive.

Tickets are $495 apiece and only 80 will be sold.  Tickets may be purchased at 800-TRAIN-50 or at wmsr.com.

CSX Changing Operating Rules

March 15, 2017

Trains magazine reported this week that the first change at CSX since E. Hunter Harrison took over as CEO has been implemented.

Operating employees will now be able to step on and off moving equipment provided that it is moving 4 p.m., or slower.

A CSX bulletin obtained by the magazine said the change took effect on Tuesday and applies to trained employees who have been qualified by a supervisor regarding the rule change and have demonstrated proficiency in the task.

Employees must run down a list of requirements before getting on or off moving equipment, including scanning the area for obstructing objects, maintaining three points of contact, staying clear of adjacent tracks, and first applying a boot to the bottom step or ladder rung to verify proper footing before continuing.

Additional operating rules changes are expected to be implemented on April 1.

Amtrak CEO Moorman Talks About His Vision For the Future of the U.S. Rail Passenger Carrier

January 30, 2017

Since taking over last fall as the CEO of Amtrak, Charles “Wick” Moorman has given hints here and there about his vision of America’s national intercity rail passenger carrier.

Wick Moorman

Wick Moorman

Columnists and editors of Trains magazine sat down with Moorman in December to discuss that vision.

Columnist Don Phillips was there and wrote about it for the March issue of the magazine that will be in subscriber mailboxes soon.

Phillips recently sent advance copies of his columns to those on an email list that he maintains. Presumably, there will be another report in the March issue written by the magazine’s passenger rail correspondent.

Moorman told the Trains representatives that he sees a future for long-distance passenger trains, but it is less clear if he sees any expansion of them.

He does see potential growth in medium-distance service, which is paid for by the states.

The proposed restoration of service along the Gulf Coast east of New Orleans has been gaining political support and may end up becoming an extension of the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans.

But that hinges upon the federal government making a financial commitment to the service.

Moorman said during the interview that the new Viewliner equipment for eastern long-distance trains that is being built by CAF USA will be finished according to a new production schedule that the company and Amtrak have agreed upon.

Other items of interest include Moorman’s view that something needs to be done about the quality of food service aboard Amtrak trains, and the aging diesel locomotives and passenger cars used by trains outside the Northeast Corridor.

In regards to food service, Moorman said the pressure that has come from Congress in recent years to cut the cost of food service is lessening and what Amtrak needs to do is sell more food.

Another high priority on Moorman’s list is the institution of a training program for on-board employees, including conductors.

But the top priority on Moorman’s list is rebuilding infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor. That includes replacing bridges, tunnels and catenary, as well as building a replacement for New York Penn Station.

The takeaway from the Phillips column: Look for a better on-board experience but with little to no expansion of the existing routes and levels of train frequency.

Ousted Volunteers Behind ITM Recall Drive

August 30, 2016

Trains magazine reported Monday that a group of former volunteers at the Indiana Transportation Museum is behind a online petition drive seeking to remove the current directors of the museum.

The seven former volunteers have said they were dismissed last March after they complained to the Federal Railroad Administration and the Indiana attorney general’s office about alleged operating and financial improprieties at ITM.

Indiana Transportation MuseumJason Hardister, a spokesman for the volunteers, told Trains that he group began the recall drive.

He noted the ITM bylaws provide for the ouster of members of the board by a vote by members in good standing.

“We’re trying to save the place,” Hardister told Trains. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do all along, and we’ve been open and transparent about it. We don’t want to run the museum into the ground.”

The ITM has been unable to operate any excursions this year because the owner of the track that it uses, the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, has not allowed it.

The Port Authority said an inspection found the track was not in good operating condition. The authority has also sought records pertaining to the ITM’s operating crews.

Trains said it was unable to reach ITM Chairman Jeffrey Kehler for comment about the recall effort.

C&O 1309 Restoration Reported as Going Well

June 14, 2016

Although they haven’t said when it will operate, Western Maryland Scenic Railroad officials said that restoration of Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 is progressing well.

Western Maryland ScenicWestern Maryland Scenic Railroad Superintendent John Garner told Trains magazine that significant progress occurred with the purchase of stay bolts – which hold a boiler in place – and other needed supplies.

The WMS has received a $400,000 grant from the state of Maryland to be used in the restoration work and has launched a GoFundMe page seeking approximately $260,000 in additional money to restore the 1309 to operating condition.

This includes paying employees and experts to finish the restoration work.

Maybe It Was All About the Pursuit of Perfection

April 8, 2016

I was killing time at the Lakeland train show a few weeks ago when I picked up an issue of Trains magazine from the 1990s to leaf through.

Catching my attention was a letter to the editor pertaining to an article published in the September 1995 issue about the man who shot perfect photographs.

I dug through the pile of magazines and found the article in question because I was curious who it was and what made his photographs “perfect.”

On Photography Logo-xThe photographer was the late Robert O. Hale and the article author was Richard Steinheimer, who some might say also made “perfect” photographs.

Hale worked in the western United States, particularly California, in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Steinheimer wrote that he first encountered Hale’s work in Trains around 1950.

For those who liked Hale’s work, Steinheimer wrote, he was a “superman of rail photography.”

According to Steinheimer, all of Hale’s images were properly filtered and cropped, and he had an “independent personal style.”

However, the article never explained what constitutes a perfect photograph and how and why Hale’s work fit that description.

Terms such as “perfect” and “perfection” might seem to have a definitive meaning, but wind up being rather nebulous because of the casual and careless manner in which they are used.

What constitutes “perfect” has caused me some anguish over the years, particularly when I was grading essay exams written by college students.

I was loath to award the maximum point value for an essay, usually 50 or 100 points, because the maximum score meant that the answer was “perfect.”

“Perfect” meant nothing more could have been done to improve upon the response.

If more could have been said or it what was said could have been presented in a more skillful manner, then the response was not perfect because it was flawed.

That, though, raised the question of how a mere mortal could determine that a performance was without any flaws.

I eventually came around to thinking that “perfection” when it came to college student essays is context-specific.

My standard became that the student did the best that an undergraduate could reasonably be expected to do given how much time he or she had to answer the question.

That is still a tough standard to judge, but I’ve found it easier to deal with than a rule that to be perfect something has to be without any flaws.

The letter to the editor about the Steinheimer article on Hale’s photographs asserted that the latter’s work was very good and some of it was unique, but it was not perfect.

The letter writer also failed to define what is meant by “perfect,” but after looking at some of the photographs that illustrated Steinheimer’s piece, the letter writer probably had in mind the fact that some of Hale’s images of steam locomotives did not show the entire locomotive.

Whether Hale made perfect photographs or not, his story was interesting and quite reflective of the era in which he worked.

He might make just one or two photographs a day and had a rather laid-back attitude toward his work.

He didn’t spend endless hours waiting for a train. Either the train he wanted to photograph came or it didn’t.

Hale’s day did not begin early. He often would visit with railroad block operators, finding out during those chats what was coming.

Then he would make a plan to photograph trains at a specific location. Hale was not one to engage in “death marches” to reach distant and rugged locales, but he did like to get out into the countryside.

Steinheimer wrote that when Hale had a vision for a particular image, he stayed with it until he had captured just the right train in just the right light with just the right clarity.

It probably was that quality that prompted Steinheimer to conclude that Hale made perfect photographs.

Hale honed his photographic skill during his U.S. Navy service. Steinheimer noted that Hale had worked long and hard to perfect his technique of making images of landing aircraft.

That level of development led Steinheimer to observe that not all great talent appears spontaneously. It must be developed, even by those who possess much natural talent.

I still don’t know what constitutes a perfect photograph or whether Hale made such images. What seems clear, though, from Steinheimer’s article is that Hale practiced the pursuit of perfection.

Hale mastered the little things that work together to make images that evoke an emotional response from a viewer by capturing a strong sense of time and place. Today, we call this “nailing it.”

One of his strengths was his ability to visualize an image and then have the patience to try multiple times if necessary to attain it.

He was a student of the craft. That didn’t make him unique, but it did elevate him to the upper echelon of his peers.

We should all feel that we’ve accomplished a great deal if someone can someday say that about any of us whether we did or did not make perfect photographs.

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, TrainOrders.com 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.