heritage railroad


Amtrak Yards & Skyline by Laurence
Via Flickr:
Searching for the Pennsy E-8’s… no where to be found tonight.

Norfolk Southern’s office car train passes the historic passenger depot in Ada, Ohio, during an inspection trip across the Chicago, Ft Wayne & Eastern Railroad.

The depot was built in 1887 by the Pennsylvania Railroad, along its Southwest Division mainline, which used to be one of the busiest lines in the country. This was the Pennsy’s double-track route between Pittsburgh and Chicago, which hosted the elegant “Broadway Limited”, among other named passenger trains. Over the years, the line was diminished to a single-track route due to mergers and nearby parallel routes.

Currently operated by Genessee & Wyoming as their Chicago, Ft Wayne & Eastern Railroad, the route is coming back to life as a bridge line for Norfolk Southern to help alleviate traffic congestion between Chicago and Pittsburgh, essentially offering a third option for rail traffic (along with the former New York Central and Nickel Plate Road mainlines).

During its run on August 5th and 6th, executives from NS and G&W were aboard the train to inspect the capacity improvements of this former Pennsy high-iron, which has once again become an asset to rail traffic across Indiana and Ohio.


On Saturday, August 1st 2015, conductor-cilan and I headed out to the Fillmore and Western Railroad in Fillmore California to chase the weekend excursion train. We had left Los Angeles late around 10:30AM but thanks to my habit of breaking the speed limit (until we got into Fillmore, where we sighted three different speed traps), we got into Fillmore five minutes to noon before the train departed. From there, we chased it along the 14 mile shortline between Fillmore and Santa Paula before heading back to explore the yard and drive back to Los Angeles. All in all, a fairly successful, if a bit hot and sweaty, run!

Queensland, Australia: A Steam Engine Paradise

When it comes to steam locomotives, Queensland, Australia has got to be one of the top places in the entire world.  Ricky, like nearly every child I’ve met, is thrilled and fascinated by trains.  He loves to see them, to ride them, to touch them.  In Queensland, he got the opportunity to not only see the rusting behemoths sitting in the middle of a park, but to see how they were built, how they are maintained today, and we even took a ride into the past.

In North Ispwich, at the Queensland Workshops Rail Museum, we saw not only the greatest railroad museum we ever visited, but one of the best museums of any kind.  The museum is housed in the former boiler-making building of the railroad manufacturing yard.  There are stately, century-old brick buildings.  There are vast areas with glass-covered roofs allowing in the natural light.  Most amazingly, there are the workshops where the Queensland heritage steam trains are maintained. And, best of all, you can see all of this.

The vast grounds of the rail yards employed as many as 3,000 people during the Second World War.  Today, they echo with the footsteps of the 49 employees who remain, dedicated to the preservation and the continued function of the steam engines.  Steam engines, by reason of their construction, were never easy beasts to keep in operation.  They involved high temperatures, enormous pressure and force, all of it contained by metal furnaces which are in constant contact with corrosive water and steam.  Today, when the engines run far from constantly, they afford even more opportunity for rust and corrosion to set in, weakening the boilers, blocking the pipes.

In order to keep the engines in running order, they use the same machines that were used three and four generations ago, hammering out the iron, using the massive presses to force the glowing metal into the required shapes.  There is no one out there manufacturing most of the parts that are needed, they all need to be made right on site.  Once in a while parts can be bought from overseas, but the quality then is often lacking. 

We were given a tour of the workshops and the blacksmith shop by Lisa, a painter at the rail yard.  She introduced us to other people that were working in the shops, and showed us the various tools and processes which were involved in the typical day.  She also introduced us to many trains, in various states of assembly.  It was really interesting and informative.  We rode around the yard on The Transverser, a kind of people-mover for trains, which allowed an engine or a car to be rolled onto a section of rail, and then transferred between one section of the yard and another.  It was a great tour, and great fun.  Ricky even got a piece of coal and a slice of railroad track.

Then we went off into the museum itself.  Amazingly, it was too large for us to see all of it in one visit.  There were exhibits on the entire history of the railroads in Queenland, and there were many interactive areas, including several which involved children’s play areas.  Ricky loved it.  He had to be dragged out when it was time to go.

We took a ride on a steam engine, too.  We went to the Mary Valley Heritage Railway Valley Rattler, and took the half-day journey from Gympie to Amamoor.  We sat in a wonderful restored coach from the 1920s, drawn by an engine from the 1920s which had been built at the North Ipswich rail yards.  The ride was scenic and lovely, and when we arrived we walked around in the country, enjoying ourselves before the pleasant ride back.

We loved the trains, and I would have to say that they have been, along with the wildlife, the highlights of our visit to Australia.


In June 1929, more than 100 African American employees of the Norfolk and Western Railway’s Bluefield, West Virginia, shops gathered for a photograph on steam locomotive 564. At the time, Norfolk and Western was Bluefield’s largest employer, and the majority of the city’s African American railroaders were roundhouse and shop laborers.

African American workers-among them brakemen, firemen, porters, chefs, mechanics, and laborers-made significant contributions to the building, maintenance, and operation of the railroad. Rail gangs used hand tools, such as pick axes and shovels, to repair and replace track. Porters worked at passenger stations, and kitchen staff and waiters prepared and served meals on passenger trains. Railroading provided a significant industrial occupation for African Americans for over a century; by 1910, southern railroads employed nearly 7,000 black brakemen, switchmen, and flagmen.


Today, I went chasing with Taylorfrommarketing and Iron-cilan along the Fillmore and Western. We chased the annual Pumpkin Liner running from Fillmore depot to the pumpkin patch out at the Loose Caboose and back. Was really REALLY hot, but really fun!


First of my ride through videos on the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, showing off the yard and the shay! My next video’ll showcase the northbound run from Lewis Creek to Madeira Station. Enjoy the vid!