No Time to Waste

Bear Mountain bridge and the Hudson River.

I was lucky to be one of the last hires on the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, starting in June 1968, six short months before the Penn Central takeover of my railroad. What later turned out to be Amtrak was being discussed at the time. Passenger trains were being discontinued, and the ones still operating were losing money. It was obvious that many long distance trains were on the ropes; if a railroad trip across North America was to be taken, there was no time to waste.

Read more

A Tiny Rail Tale

Welcome to Tiny Town, Colorado. This wagon is one of the few things that is full size at the park.

The Colorado mountains are full of small towns that have seen their share of boom times and busts. Many of these towns sprang up due to mining, logging, or other industries, and many have turned into ghost towns. On our trip to Colorado in the summer of 2017, we visited a unique Colorado mountain town that has seen booms and busts, but thankfully, is still thriving today. This town however, is very different than any other town. So, what’s the big deal with this town? The big deal is that it is actually a very Tiny Town!

Read more

The Ticket Agent’s Last Day

The former Santa Fe Depot at Topeka, KS. at 5:00 am. The lights are still on, but no one works here anymore. The last ticket agent at the depot saw his last train depart on May 19, 2018

By 1880, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway had an operating depot in the City of Topeka, Kansas. For roughly the next 120 years, that depot was manned daily by a ticket agent until Amtrak went to a five day work week for the agent. During the days when the Santa Fe operated the depot, trains like the California Limited, Grand Canyon, Antelope, Kansas Cityan, and Scout all made stops at Topeka, along with many nameless trains known only by a number. The number of trains would decrease in the years leading up to the inception of Amtrak. When Amtrak began operating over the Santa Fe, trains like the Super Chief, El Capitan, and Texas Chief all made stops in Topeka during the early years of Amtrak Service.

Read more

Sunday in the Car with George

Earth Day 2018, Pittsburgh and environs
Part Two
Phelan Way

Before leaving Polish Hill, George and I did some exploring above the church, looking down the streets and alleys for vantage points. Phelan Way, which runs behind the church and climbs like crazy at its eastern end, up to Herron Avenue, offered a good example of the neighborhood’s flavor.

George found the narrow passage between two buildings attractive, and he had me walk past it a number of times on the next street down, Brereton, so he could capture me in mid-stride in the gap. The large and indolent husky who lived there watched me over the gate with some interest but expended no energy in saying so. Read more

Sunday in the Car with George

Earth Day  2018, Pittsburgh and environs
Part One

In April 2018, my friend George Hiotis and I made a fourteen-day, 2,300-mile journey from my home in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, to Chicago and back. We had a GREAT time.

Ostensibly, we made the trip for the Center for Railroad Photography & Art conference, but we spent most of a week before and all of a week afterwards on the road. I came back with 4,200 pictures—crazy, right?—and George brought home more than 5,000. We photographed at something like seventy-five locations, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia, from before dawn until long after dark on most days. We stumbled on some astonishing places and buildings in addition to the dozens that George had put on the initial itinerary, developed through scads of research in the months before the trip. We also met some memorable people, a few of whom I photographed. I had set out on this trip determined to overcome my self-consciousness about photographing strangers, and you will see some of the results here. Read more

Last Train to Pikes Peak

Sitting on a siding, we see a train descending the line not far from the peak. We got to wave at the other passengers, as they passed by us on our siding.

Last summer, during our Colorado summer vacation, we made a stop in Manitou Springs to ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad.  This is an amazing trip to the top of Pikes Peak, at an elevation of 14,110 ft.

As our train ascended the mountain, we saw a beautiful high mountain lake that is used as a reservoir for the city of Colorado Springs.

Along the way, the train passes through four different terrains ranging from high plains to alpine tundra. The route is 8.9 miles long, with very steep grades, and takes a little over three hours to reach the top. In addition to the usual two rails, the cog railroad has a rack mounted in the center of the rails. The locomotives use a cog, or gear to power the train along the track. This allows the cog train to traverse grades far steeper than traditional railroads. Read more