Cross the continent and share the drama of “high iron” on Class I freight lines like Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern, but high-stepping regionals like Dakota, Missouri Valley and Providence & Worcester are featured, too. Rails still move people, as Chicago’s Metra and Amtrak demonstrate, while classic steam is here with Norfolk and Western’s J-Class 4-8-4. Railroading! 2020 includes commentary describing featured railroads, rolling stock, and 24 full-color photographs. All aboard!
Railroads and engines pictured include:
• A pair of Electro-Motive GP38-2’s leads a manifest freight from Canadian Pacific Railway’s westbound line onto track three of the Galt Subdivision at Kipling, Ontario. Canadian Pacific’s 114-mile Galt Subdivision runs between Toronto and London, Ontario and is part of the railroad’s freight corridor connecting Montréal with hubs in Detroit, MI and Chicago, IL.
• A shortline and Class One meet at Owen Sound spur in Streetsville, Ontario to interchange cars. CCGX4015 ducks into the clear after curring off its train on the lead and allowing Candain Pacific Train 14’s trainman to line the switch back. CP 4509 will then couple on. Cando (reporting mark CCGX) provides switching services on this former CP subdivision. 4015 is an Electro-Motive GP9RM, originally owned and then rebuilt by Canadian National Railway. CP 4509 is an EMD GP38-2.
• Metra is a dynamic commuter railroad serving metropolitan Chicago, IL on 11 different lines. In its infancy, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) commuter train fleet operated second-hand equipment, until 1976 when the first order of EMD F40PH locomotives arrived. Still in service today, some of them were rebuilt, like Metra EMD F40PH-3 No. 179, operating on a commuter train over the BNSF line to Aurora on the afternoon of November 8, 2018.
• Chicago’s RTA was formed in 1974 anticipating the failure of private commuter train operations around the city. The commuter rail division of RTA was rebranded Metra in 1985, with some routes owned and operated by the railroad, and others operated under contract with freight railroads using Metra equipment. One of those contract operators is BNSF, formerly Burlington Northern, which runs the former CB&Q line to Aurora. After hauling trainloads of commuters to Chicago Union Station (left), a group of Metra bi-level trains lays over at the railroad’s coach yard along Canal Street (since CB&Q days, nicknamed the Zephyr Pit) on November 9, 2017.
• The Class 1 Norfolk Southern Railway moves freight across more than 21,000 route miles, with service from the East Coast to Kansas City and from Canada to Florida. The railroad’s busy main line between Cleveland, TN and Atlanta, GA passes through Cohutta, GA, pictured here. Train 7620 South is a manifest and will probably be yarded and switched in Atlanta. Cohutta emerged as a stop on the railroad from Cleveland, TN to Dalton, GA and developed as a transportation and commercial center for the surrounding farming areas. According to local lore, the town was originally known as "Shakerag," because potential passengers would wave a rag to stop passing trains.
• The Napa Valley Wine Train operates meal and entertainment excursions over an 18-mile line in the heart of California’s wine region. Gourmet meals and wine-tasting aboard refurbished vintage passenger cars have attracted thousands of visitors since 1989. Railroad enthusiasts are drawn to the railroad’s Montreal Locomotive Works FPA4 diesels, built for Canadian National Railways in 1958-59. The streamlined units had handled high-speed intercity passenger trains throughout Canada for three decades before being replaced by newer locomotives. Wearing Napa Valley’s burgundy and champagne colors, FPA4 No. 72 leads a lunch train southward from St. Helena, CA on a sunny October afternoon.
• Caltrain operates a busy commuter rail route between San Francisco and San Jose, CA, with some trains continuing on to Gilroy, 77 miles from the city. An afternoon rush hour train passes Union Pacific local freight locomotives at South San Francisco. Locomotive No. 910 is one of 20 Electro-Motive F40PH-2 units delivered to Caltrain between 1985 and 1987. Newer locomotives built by MPI fill out the line’s roster. Conversion to electric power on this busy route is planned in coming years.
• A westbound Union Pacific passenger train passes through colorful Red Canyon just after crossing the Colorado River between Dell and Range, CO, on August 3, 2014. This location is on the Dotsero Cutoff from UP’s Glenwood Canyon Subdivision, the former Rio Grande main line. These specially-operated trains are often called “Office Car Specials” and are run by major railroads to engage customers and meet with local leaders along the railroad’s route.
• Following the serpentine banks of the Colorado River on Union Pacific’s scenic Moffat Tunnel Subdivision, a westbound Union Pacific passenger train is approaching Yarmony, CO, on August 3, 2014. The car directly behind the locomotives on this the nine-car Office Car Special is a power car that contains a diesel-electric generator that provides electricity for the entire train. The power car allows UP to pull the train with any locomotive, like these two new high-horsepower freight locomotives from EMD (SD70ACe No. 8795) and GE (ES44AC No. 8151).
• Norfolk & Western Railway, a predecessor of today’s Norfolk Southern freight rail system, was one of the last large American railroads to operate steam locomotives in regular service. N&W’s shops at Roanoke, VA, built most of the company’s modern steam locomotives, and among the last new engines were 14 high-speed J-Class passenger locomotives. With a 4-8-4 wheel arrangement, the Js could reach top speeds of 110 mph. The last surviving J is N&W No. 611, built in 1950 and replaced by diesels just nine years later. The railroad donated the locomotive to what is now the Virginia Transportation Museum in Roanoke. The 611 was called from retirement in 1981. It was rebuilt and pulled excursion trains over much of newly merged Norfolk Southern system from 1982 to 1994. Following another two decades of retirement, donations from around the world helped the museum restore No. 611, and it has made limited excursion appearances on NS main lines in recent years. On a memorable morning in May 2016, the 611 is in home territory as it climbs the famous Blue Ridge Grade on the old N&W main line in Virginia.
• Crossing one of the many “prairie pothole” lakes in the region, Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western’s “wayfreight” crosses the long causeway across Charlie’s Lake (above) north of Garrison, ND on the afternoon of August 30, 2018. Powering the northbound train to the Canadian Pacific interchange point of Max are three locomotives, all Canadian expatriates once on the roster of vast Canadian National. Both Nos. 5408 and 5439 are unique EMD SD50F “cowl” units once only seen on CN and built in 1985. The middle locomotive in the consist, No. 6911, is a former SD40 built in 1969 and later rebuilt into a SD40-3.
• Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western’s regular train on the Missouri River Subdivision (left) is called the “wayfreight,” and it approaches the town of Garrison, ND, on August 30, 2018. DMV&W began operations in 1990 on little more than 500 miles of mostly former Soo Line trackage in North Dakota, with lines currently reaching Westby, MT and Aberdeen, SD. The all-EMD roster includes other unique models—at least today—like SD45s and GP40-2LWs, with most of the locomotives painted in the railroad’s orange and gray paint scheme.
• Feeling like a tourist, Canadian National 4777, a GMD GP38-2W, poses for a photograph amid the lights of downtown Toronto on a fine August evening in 2017. Stopped east of Scott St. ladder on the Toronto Terminals Railway (TTR), the train is enroute to the harbor spur. TTR manages all train movements along the Union Station Rail Corridor. The station is four miles long (6.4 km) and is the largest rail passenger station in Canada.
• This rare move is almost never seen. Canadian National 4760, a GMD GP38-2W, is in mechanical trouble. As a last resort, 4760 has been tied down at the GO Transit station in Stouffville, Ontario for the night. This move is especially unusual because no CN power or trains ever run north of Underwood on the Uxbridge Subdivision. That section of the line serves only GO Transit commuters. Shop forces from the MacMillan Yard were already at work making repairs.
• For two decades, Amtrak’s General Electric P42DC locomotives have been the standard long-distance diesels on “America’s Railroad.” GE built 207 of this “Genesis” model for Amtrak between 1996 and 2001. Number 193 leads the southbound Vermonter at Windsor, CT, on a fall day in 2016 (above). Beginning in 2021, Amtrak expects to receive the first of 75 new Siemens Mobility SC-44 “Charger” diesels, which will replace some of the large P42DC fleet.
• Seventy Siemens “Amtrak Cites Sprinter” ACS-64 electrics handle all of Amtrak’s locomotive-hauled trains on the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington and through the Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, PA. Number 604 is on the head end of a westbound Corridor train stopping for passengers at Old Saybrook, CT on a cold January morning.
• The former Great Northern main line through Montana makes a scenic crossing of the Rocky Mountains at Marias Pass. Today, this crossing is also the southern border of Glacier National Park, and one of the best times to visit is in fall when many of the tourists are gone and the colors of the trees signal a seasonal change. A westbound BNSF grain train has crossed Marias Pass in Montana and now passes through some brilliant autumn colors on the west side of the route as it approaches Nyack on October 10, 2018.
• Amid the colorful splendor of autumn, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe manifest freight pops into sunlight exiting the 6.21-mile Moffat Tunnel at East Portal, CO, on September 29, 2003. The eastbound train is passing milepost 50 on the scenic former Rio Grande route through the Rocky Mountains, now part of Union Pacific’s Moffat Tunnel Subdivision. A quartet of GE C44-9W locomotives led by No. 4536 power the train that will make good use of their dynamic braking traveling down the two-percent grade through the Front Range mountains to Denver.
• Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) is North America’s largest short line and regional railroad owner, and the company’s bright orange diesel locomotives can be seen on G&W properties throughout the United States and Canada. Motive power frequently is moved among G&W railroads depending on operational needs. One of the company’s newest locomotives, Providence & Worcester EMD SD70M-2 No. 4301, works with older power on Connecticut Southern Railroad train CSO-1, running on Amtrak rails at Windsor Locks, CT on an autumn day in 2017.
• CTrail, a service of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, began running passenger trains on 62 miles of Amtrak tracks between New Haven, CT and Springfield, MA, in 2018. Trains of both railroads now serve the route, more than doubling the frequency of service on the line. A southbound CTrail train brakes for a stop at the station at Berlin, CT.
• Amtrak train No. 5, the California Zephyr, climbs through a winter wonderland at Crescent, Colorado, on April 23, 1999. Two GE P42DCs, along with an older EMD F40PH, power the train as it slices silently through the fresh snow, with the passengers warm and snug aboard the Superliner cars in a coach seat, or perhaps a cozy room in a sleeper, enjoying the frosted spectacle on their westward trip to a (hopefully) warmer California.
• Surrounded by frigid temperatures and snow-covered mountains on the southern border of Glacier National Park, Amtrak’s eastbound Empire Builder has just summited Marias Pass and approaches Bison, MT, on a bitterly cold March 3, 1989. Traveling by train in the winter can be a wonderful experience, surely better than a white-knuckle drive on an ice-covered highway or Interstate. Of course, the train could be late, too. Just go with the mindset that you’ll get there when you get there, and the trip becomes a relaxing adventure.
© Tide-mark Press 2019