Robot Railfans

Canadian National 8894 passing hotbox detector outside Winnipeg

Railfans have been around for a long time—perhaps as long as there have been trains. Even before early railfan photographers like Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg, no doubt there were people who observed train movements and took notes.

Today’s railfans are generally a sophisticated lot, tapping online forums and Facebook groups, listening to radio scanners and watching rail cams, exchanging emails and text messages and tracking every “special” locomotive and railcar.

However, they have nothing on the robot railfans, employed by the railways to keep a close eye on their trains. These tireless observers watch the trains, day and night, through sunshine and sleet, looking for trouble and reporting on it. With far fewer people trackside these days to give visual inspections, these devices are the last line of defence against defects and derailments. Read more

Trackside with VIA

The Trackside Photographer is pleased to announce the publication of a new book by contributor Eric Gagnon. Trackside with VIA -  Research and Recollections is Eric's fourth book on VIA Rail.

Eric writes: "Let's face it - there are very few books on VIA Rail out there. I've listed the only ones in existence in my first book, and I've added two published since then in this book. Now there is one more! Trip accounts from throughout VIA's history, and consists from 1981 to 2016 comprise the 'personal' parts of the book. Not knowing my Dad had saved consists that I'd lost track of (no pun intended), I've included them, plus accounts of VIA trips made by my parents, as well as photos of VIA operations taken by my Dad and my brother in the 1980's. All in one convenient package!

"Not only is there research, data and photos of mine, but also of my contributor team: Tim Hayman, Don McQueen, Mark Perry and Mark Sampson brought their expertise in modelling, locomotives and VIA operations in Northern Manitoba and VIA's Canadian, respectively."

Trackside with Via
For more about the book and ordering information, visits Eric's New Via Rail Book blog.

The Pinkerton Landing Bridge

Homestead, PA, December 3, 2016. An eastbound CSX intermodal train rumbles over the Monongahela River on the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie bridge.

On July 6, 1892, the “Battle of Homestead” was fought at this site between the striking steelworkers of the Carnegie Company and the Pinkerton detectives.

The conflict had been brewing for several months. For union members belonging to the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers the working and living conditions were dismal. Twelve hour days, seven days a week with every other Sunday off was the norm. Efforts by the union to negotiate were ignored. Management in the form of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick refused any form of negotiations. Frick developed a hard line, telling Carnegie that he, Frick, would take care of the strike. The workers were locked out; they, in turn, surrounded the plant, refusing entry to anyone. Read more

Editor’s Notebook

Progress, Preservation
and the End of an Era

Vicksburg, Mississippi – December, 2007

Hunter Harrison is in the news again, and this time CSX is in the cross-hairs. Whether you think Harrison’s style of railroading is progress or desecration, one fact remains: more change is coming.

Harrison is one agent of change, but there are many others. The infrastructure changes legislated by Positive Train Control (PTC) will dramatically alter the railroad landscape. Those changes are well underway. The April issue of Railfan & Railroad magazine reports that BNSF has completed PTC installation on more than half of its system. CSX will replace searchlight and color position light signals on much of its system in 2017 and 2018. Other railroads are following suit. Read more

The New River Gorge

Part Two

(Click here to read The New River Gorge – Part One)

Looking track east from the overlook at Hawk’s Nest. Here, main #2 continues along the south side of the river while main #1 crosses the bridge and continues along the north side. The two mains rejoin on the north side at the bridge crossing at Cunard, West Virginia.

In Part One we left off at Cotton Hill, West Virginia. As we move track east we soon come to Hawk’s Nest, only a couple of miles upriver from Cotton Hill. At Hawk’s Nest you step into the rich coal mining history of the Gorge. The 30 track miles from Hawk’s Nest to Quinnimont contain almost the entire history of New River coal. In the peak years early in the last century the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) serviced 75 mines along this stretch of river including the various branch lines that crawled up the several side canyons.

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Preserving the Past

Like so many of us, my interest in railroading led to a parallel interest in photography.  Not only did I have the pleasure of planning the photo, but later the images evoked powerful memories of people, places, and events I had encountered as I learned more about this fascinating industry.

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