A Maine Central Education

Waterville Yard
Waterville Yard in 1968

Fifty years ago Railroading was far different from today. My introduction to the Maine Central started in 1964 when I went to Colby College in Waterville. Once exposed, I became fascinated by this amazing industry, the people who worked in it, and the coordination and teamwork required to run the railroad.

The Maine Central, Scott Paper, Hathaway Shirts, Keyes Fiber and Colby were among the largest employers, and Waterville was a thriving industrial community.

The Maine Central Railroad was originally known to me only as a name painted on a boxcar. I knew very little about railroading, but I had always enjoyed puzzles, and how this industry worked became a lifelong interest and hobby. Read more

The Drummer

Antlers Hotel ca. 1910 (scanned from old copy of photo, source/photographer unknown)
It’s 1910.

The drummer* stepped off the westbound Austin & Northwestern Railroad train onto the wet wooden platform, a carpetbag in one hand, a leather-sheathed cardboard sample case in the other, wishing he had booked another night in Austin at the Depot Hotel. He was glad it was only sprinkling when he walked the few blocks from his hotel to Austin’s Union Station. With a sigh he set both down, pulled his coat tighter around him in a useless attempt to set off the bone-chilling dampness of the evening. If it weren’t for the rain – a downpour of the kind seemingly known only to Central Texas – and a washed out bridge a few miles up the line, he’d be spending the night in Llano at the Dabbs where he had reserved a room. Picking up his bags he fell in with his fellow passengers, all but a few stranded like himself, toward the large hotel across the tracks. Read more

Trackside Interview: 
Eric Miller

Morning at Thurmond, West Virginia

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Eric Miller about his lifelong interest in railroads and photography. Eric is a well known photographer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including Railfan and Railroad, The Railroad Press, Railroads Illustrated, and Railroad Explorer magazines. His recent story on the Pocohontas subdivision was featured as the cover story in the March, 2017 edition of Railfan and Railroad Magazine. His first book “A Clinchfield Chronicle” was published in June and is available on Amazon.


Edd Fuller, Editor – The Trackside Photographer —Eric, first of all, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Tell us how long you have been a railfan, and how did you get started? What is there about railroads that grabbed and held your attention? Read more

Editor’s Notebook

Engineer – Durbin & Greenbriar Valley RR – July, 2008
What Else?
Like most people with a camera, I am tempted from time to time to take pictures of flowers. There are lots of flowers around, they are all beautiful and it is easy to take a good picture of them. One might say that it is hard to take a bad flower picture. Even technically flawed photos of flowers—out of focus or motion blurred—often work in an abstract sort of way. What I learned though, is that it is very difficult to take a really outstanding photograph of a flower. Trains are like flowers in that respect. It is relatively easy to take a good train picture, much more difficult to take a truly great one.

So the question becomes, "What else?"  Read more

The New River Gorge

Part Four

Read The New River Gorge Part One; Part Two; Part Three

The Sewell Bridge

In Part Three we had just arrived at the Sewell Bridge. Here on the south side of the Sewell Bridge was the location of the western terminus of the Southside Junction. Most of the mining in the Gorge was “drift mining” – coal seams were exposed on the mountain slopes and all that required was building access up to the seam and then mining into it. Since the New River had simply interrupted the various seams, those on the north side were continued on the slopes of the south side. The Southside Junction was built to accommodate mining these other seams. The Southside Junction ran from here up to Dun Glen across from Thurmond, West Virginia.

Read more

They All Fall Down

Lamenting the loss of a classic PRR signal—
The Position Light
Northward home signal, Bell Interlocking, PRR Maryland Division Mainline, New Castle County, Delaware, 2015. Bell, like many PRR installations of Position Light signals in the east, were installed concurrently with the various phases of electrification of the Eastern Region Mainline. This interlocking marks the divergence of the Shellpot Branch where freights enter Edgemoor Yard, on the outskirts of Wilmington, Delaware.

Like many other essential railroad technologies, signaling developed with the need to manage the ever-increasing frequency of trains safely as railways expanded in the 19th century. As companies grew they adopted various solutions, but by the first quarter of the 20th century, standard designs began to evolve, and suppliers became valuable assets to the rail industry. Union Switch & Signal and General Railway Signal became two of the most common names in American signaling. They offered stock solutions that railroads could adopt and apply to their given network, but also catered to larger roads who sought to develop proprietary designs. The more recognizable wayside signaling was of course only a fraction of the full signal system. Behind the scenes, relay cases, code generators, interlocking towers, CTC machines and dispatching offices were all tethered to miles of cable and track circuits. This complex network communicated the vitally needed information to their endpoint – the signals, that familiar line-side icon of railroading as we know it. Read more