Railroads and locations featured in the 2022 edition include:
Winding through the S-curve at Mormon Rocks in Cajon Pass, CA, BNSF Intermodal Stacks train S-ALTLBT1-21 makes its way from Alliance, TX, to Pier T at the Port of Long Beach, CA, on January 25, 2021. The typical quartet of General Electric engines (in this case, ES44DC 7849, Dash 9-44CW 5116, ES44DC 7244 and ES44C4 8114) is fighting gravity as the train descends the 2.2% grade beyond its last formidable obstacle before arriving alongside the Pacific Ocean. Just a few hours earlier, snow was falling in the pass, but by the time this train passed, at 11:36 a.m., most of the snow at lower elevations had retreated to the shadows, even with a 34F (1C) temperature.
One of BNSF Railway’s ten 25th Anniversary engines, number 6179, a GE ES44AC, leads the 14,187-foot double-stack train heading to Long Beach, CA, from Chicago, IL at Placentia, CA, on January 14, 2021. More than 2.5 miles long and weighing 19,358-tons, the train required nine locomotives: four up front (BNSF 6179, 3992, 7643 and 6957), two mid-train (BNSF 7985 and 3884) and two on the rear (BNSF 9359 and 7918), a varied mix of modern, GE look-alikes with one EMD unit to break up the monotony.
Vermont Rail System’s (VRS) Green Mountain Railroad Train 263 is rolling across the Cuttingsville Bridge near its namesake town in the Green Mountains of Vermont in February of 2021. The train is led by GMTX GP38-2 2687, VTR SD70M-2 431, CLP GP38-2 204 and GMTX GP38-2 2663. The VRS operates over 350 miles of track and moves more than 25,000 freight cars annually.
Conway Scenic Railroad’s little engine that could did in January of 2021 for the first annual Conway Scenic Winter Steam Event. Normally reserved for a charter “Steam in the Snow” weekend, Conway Scenic 7470, a 0-6-0 switcher, made a last-minute departure for the company to host its own trip. A winter storm dropped nearly a foot of snow overnight and into the early morning preceding the trip, and as the train climbed the grade at Intervale, NH, on the return, a bit of well-timed afternoon sunshine spotlighted the former Canadian National steamer.
Thick seams of coal extend beneath the remote, rolling high plains of northeastern Wyoming in Powder River Basin. In the late 1970s, Burlington Northern began building a new line from Gillette to Orin to serve more than 15 new coal mines that would help supply the country’s need for low-cost, cleaner-burning low-sulphur coal. Completed on October 6, 1979, the 116-mile Orin Line was the longest stretch of new railroad built in the U.S. since 1931. Union Pacific later bought into the Orin Line through Chicago & North Western, which merged with UP in 1995. In this view, three UP coal trains cross Logan Hill, north of Bill, on June 23, 2018. Despite the decline of coal, traffic on this four-track segment of the Orin Line in Powder River Basin can still be brisk.
Like Powder River Basin, parts of central Oregon are also very remote, but Oregon’s City of Prineville Railway (COPR) is the antithesis of UP and BNSF coal tonnage operating in Wyoming. The 18-mile COPR is the oldest continuously operated municipal shortline railroad in the United States, and is a customer-oriented line that operates as needed, perhaps a couple times a week. On September 28, 2016, a pair of deer are nearly synchronized as they cross in front of the slowly moving COPR train approaching Prineville Junction, OR. Powered by engine 989, a former Milwaukee Road GP9 rebuilt and relabeled a GP20, the train is on its trip west to the BNSF connection at Prineville Junction near Redmond, OR.
Norfolk Southern’s Pocahontas Division (nicknamed the “Pokey”) operating from Bluefield to Williamson, WV, has always been known as a conduit for coal from the area’s mines. But with the dramatic decline of coal usage, the route has also found a new calling. The Heartland Corridor was formed to improve the NS route between the port region around Norfolk and midwestern customers by increasing clearances in tunnels to permit operation of double stack intermodal trains. Construction began in 2007, involving 28 tunnel and 24 other overhead obstacles, and the route opened for double stack service on September 9, 2010.
Taking advantage of the new Heartland Corridor on a nice spring day is a westbound Norfolk Southern intermodal train climbing the grade out of Bluefield, crossing the truss bridge over Elkhorn Creek and U.S. Highway 52 at Maybeury, WV, on May 14, 2014.
550 miles south of West Virginia, springtime comes earlier to Jacksonville, FL. The sky is filled with moisture while thunderstorms rain down over green trees on the afternoon of January 11, 2015, as Florida East Coast train 101 rolls past Sunbeam after departing Bowden Yard in Jacksonville. The intermodal train is bound for Miami with one of FEC’s senior engineers, Dave Shelley, at the throttle of brand-new General Electric ES44C4 engine 810 painted in retro red and yellow Champion colors, a reference to the Florida-to-New York passenger train the began service on the Atlantic Coast Line in 1939.
Florida Central Railroad CF7 locomotive number 50 leads a Florida Northern train of hopper cars south of Ocala, FL, on a beautiful afternoon. Regional Rail LLC owns and operates seven short lines in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, North Carolina, and Florida. The company’s three railroads in the Sunshine State are the Florida Central, Florida Northern, and Florida Midland. Although locomotives on Regional Rail’s northern operations carry blue and yellow paint schemes, the company’s Florida routes continue to display the bright red paint of the Pinsly Railroad Company, which owned the lines until 2019.
Rail Runner is the 97-mile commuter route that operates in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas of New Mexico. The system’s Motive Power MP36PH-3C locomotives and Bombardier bilevel coaches display large stylized roadrunners, the official state bird. Opened in 2006, the line runs on rails that it shares with Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, as well as new tracks that operate in the center median of Interstate 25.
The Fraser River descends into a long and narrow rock gorge and on through the Coast Mountains as it flows from the Interior Plateau of British Columbia to the Fraser Valley in a geological wonder called Fraser Canyon. Canadian Pacific built through the rugged canyon in the 1880s, followed later by Canadian National predecessor Canadian Northern Railway in 1904-05. In 2000, CP and CN began directional running on their routes, with all westbound trains of both railroads using the CN lines and all east bounds using CP lines. Crossing curved Anderson Creek Trestle near Boston Bar, British Columbia, a CN coal train heads west through the Fraser Canyon on September 24, 2012. Three SD70M-2s haul the train; two on the point and one operating as a distributed power unit on the rear of the train.
In recent years, competitor Canadian Pacific has kept older locomotives on its roster by rebuilding groups of them, rather than purchasing any new units, while Canadian National (CN) purchased a large fleet of new Tier 4 (emission compliant) locomotives from General Electric. On the morning of August 7, 2016, (left) CN 3067, a GE ET44AC, leads an eastbound manifest freight through Solomon, Alberta, just east of Jasper National Park. The mountains are cloaked in low clouds, which will burn off in a few hours revealing another sunny, blue sky day in the mountains of Alberta.
USA Rail’s Grenada Railroad, based in its namesake Mississippi city, provides freight services on the former Illinois Central route between Memphis, TN, and the greater Grenada area. On a warm July evening, as chiggers
were itching to bite, Grenada Railway engines 8146 and 3833, a pair of 3,000 h.p. EMD SD40-2s in patriotic raiment, handle a freight bound for the Koppers mill site in Elliott, MS.
The original Rock Island Line was incorporated in 1847. By 1970, its 10,669 miles of track reached from Chicago to the Texas Gulf coast and locales in between. By 1975, the railroad was bankrupt and, apparently, swept into history. It has now been revived by Robert Riley who won the contract to operate the Mississippi Delta Railroad’s 60-mile-long line
between Jonestown and Swan Lake, MS. Repainted in the final colors of the old Rock, a pair of GP38-2s owned by the new Rock Island Railroad are working a cut of cars near the Canadian Northern interchange at Sumner, MS. A series of thunderstorms had just passed as the sun set on another successful day of shortline railroading.
A CSX Transportation local freight arrives in Palmer, MA, where it will deliver cars to local customers and conduct interchange with the New England Central and Massachusetts Central railroads. Most trains operated by today’s large Class I railroads are led by modern six-axle locomotives, so the sight of a quartet of elderly four-axle units handling tonnage on a main line has become increasingly rare. Engine 6227 is an EMD GP-40-2 built in 1979 for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. CSX operates approximately 20,000 route miles of track in 23 states in the eastern third of the U.S., the District of Columbia, and two Canadian provinces.
SMS Rail Lines operates switching services at six locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. The company is best known among rail enthusiasts for its working fleet of diesels built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, PA, which stopped producing locomotives in 1956. SMS 9069 is a 1,000 h.p. Baldwin DS4-4-1000, built in 1949. It wears the paint scheme of its original owner, the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief operated as a daily train for nearly 50 years (although not always with that name; it was originally the Southwest Limited). That record ended when trains 3 and 4, along with most of Amtrak’s other long-distance trains, became tri-weekly. That Congress, with oversight of Amtrak, allowed this to happen will leave small towns with substandard service. Towns such as Flagstaff AZ, Gallup NM, La Junta CO, Hutchinson KS, La Plata MO, Fort Madison IA and Galesburg IL, along with many others lack good commercial aviation service and will need to rely on bus service (an unfortunate option). Perhaps seeing Amtrak 4, the eastbound Chief, arriving in Fullerton, CA, behind P42DCs 148 and 56, as the sun sets is a fitting metaphor to mark the end of quality long-distance rail travel in America.
An Amtrak Cascades trainset is in Portland’s (WA) Union Station between runs, after arriving as train 517 from Vancouver, British Columbia, 187 miles to the north. These articulated trainsets, manufactured by Spanish company Talgo, are designed to passively tilt into curves, allowing the train to move through them at higher speeds than is possible for a conventional train. The tilting technology reduces travel time between Seattle and Portland by 25 minutes.
Canadian Pacific Railway released five specially painted locomotives to
honor the culture and history of the armed forces of both Canada and the
United States in 2019. Remanufactured SD70ACU 7022 is seen along
the shore of Lake Champlain at Port Henry, NY, wearing the grey, red and
black pattern adapted from Canadian and American warships, in honor of their navy fleets. Ironically, Lake Champlain and more specifically the Whitehall, NY, area, then known as Skeenesboro, near where this image was taken, is claimed by the New York legislature as the birthplace of the U.S. Navy.
In what may be the last series of foliage runs for Pan Am Railways’ office car special train, vintage ex-Canadian National FP9Au locomotives, PAR-1 and PAR-2, lead a four-car train across the Hoosic River at Schagticoke, NY. CSX is seeking permission to acquire ownership of Pan Am Railways and its assets including Pan Am Systems, Pan Am Railways, the Boston and Maine Corp., Maine Central Railroad, Northern Railroad, Portland Terminal, Springfield Terminal Railway, Stony Brook Railroad and Vermont & Massachusetts Railway. CSX is also seeking 50 percent ownership of Pan Am Southern (jointly owned with Norfolk Southern).
James J. Hill pushed his Great Northern Railway over Marias Pass in 1891, and soon thereafter promoted the scenic splendors of the region. GN President Louis W. Hill, along with several others, spearheaded an effort to designate the area a national park, which was successfully accomplished in 1910. Today, BNSF operates this vital Great Northern route along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park as part of its northern “transcon” main line. On a wonderful autumn day in the mountains of Montana, a westbound BNSF stack train curves along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River as it exits Tunnel 4 just east of West Glacier, also known as Belton, on October 9, 2018.
The Yellowstone Pipeline connects the refineries at Billings, MT, to Spokane, WA with a 531-mile-long, 10-inch steel pipeline built in 1954. In October 1995, the Salish and Kootenai tribes failed to renew a contract allowing the pipeline to cross tribal lands, so the gap was filled by a “gas local” operated by Montana Rail Link (MRL). The train usually runs twice each day between Missoula and Pipeline (Thompson Falls), MT. On a sunny October 16, 2018, a pair of EMD SD70ACe locomotives power MRL’s gas local eastbound out of Dixon, MT, on the railroad’s scenic Tenth Subdivision.