Farewell to New Haven Union Station’s Solari Departure Board

Years ago an announcement was made that the Solari split-flap departure board would be disappearing from New Haven Union Station. Despite pleas to Connecticut’s Department of Transportation, the decision was made and would not be changed.

Although it survived longer than we thought it would, the board was unfortunately replaced last week. Here is a short timelapse to remember it by…


For the folks subscribed to the site via email, you must visit the site to view video features.

Read More

Winter at the Strasburg Railroad, Part 2

A few weeks ago I posted some photos of the Strasburg Railroad. While I was there, I also captured a little bit of video too. Since I’ve been fairly busy working on some other projects this week, I figured I’d just share this video in lieu of a proper post this week. Although the snow certainly looks nice on film, I’d much rather the weather quite a bit warmer.

For the folks subscribed to the site via email, you must visit the site to view video features.

One of the reasons I’m dying for warmer weather is because I happened to purchase a DJI Phantom. The first (admittedly horrible) clip above is from the Phantom… actually it is the very first time I ever flew it for capturing video. I’m sure future attempts will be a little bit smoother, after I’ve had some more practice.

Read More

Rare mileage on the Alaska Railroad – The Palmer & Airport Branches

Most of the places we’ve checked out thus far on the Alaska Railroad are part of regular routes that countless passengers have traveled over. Today, however, we’re going to take a look at two of the railroad’s branches – the Palmer branch and the Anchorage Airport branch. Both routes are occasionally used for passenger service, but are not in regular scheduled service. The Alaska Railroad operates a fair train every year for the Alaska State Fair, which travels over the Palmer branch and to South Palmer station. Besides the fair and other special events, it is mostly freight that sees this branch. Beyond the branch’s useable track lies the town of Palmer, for which the branch was named. Palmer’s depot still stands, and is used as a community center. Sitting outside is a restored coal locomotive.

 
  
  
 
 
  
 
  
   

Photos around Anchorage and on the Palmer Branch

The Anchorage Airport branch likely sees more passengers than the Palmer Branch, but it is still not a regularly scheduled route on the railroad. Cruise ship lines with chartered trains are usually the only patrons of the branch, leaving the depot there fairly quiet. If you have money to burn, the depot is available to rent, however.

  

Photos on the Airport Branch. With its high-level platforms, this is the most “Metro-North looking” part of the entire Alaska Railroad.

Thanks to my camera, you can ride both branches from your own home. Starting off at the Anchorage International Airport, we pass the Anchorage depot before heading onto the Palmer Branch, finishing just beyond the South Palmer / fairgrounds station.

For the folks subscribed to the site via email, you must visit the site to view video features.

Our second video for the day shows another hidden part of the Alaska Railroad, one that passengers never see. Reversing out of Anchorage’s depot, we head into Anchorage yard just after sunrise.

Next week we’ll check out yet another part of the railroad never seen by passengers, as we go behind the scenes and take a shop tour.

Read More

More Adventures on the Alaska Railroad, South of Anchorage

In our last two Alaska Railroad videos, we got a chance to tour the two main areas the railroad services south of Anchorage – Whittier and Seward. Both routes share the same trackage just south of Anchorage, which parallels the Seward Highway and travels through the scenic Kenai Peninsula, Chugach National Forest, and Turnagain Arm areas. Before moving on to the area north of Anchorage, I figured that we should finish up with the coastal areas south of the city. We spent a little less than a week in the Anchorage area and experienced quite a variation of weather – from sun and blue skies, pouring rain, and even a little bit of snow – all of which are visible in my collection of photos. Anyway, I’ll let the photos (and more mounted on the locomotive video) speak for themselves!

 
  
   
 
  
  
  
   
 
  
   
  
 
  
   


For the folks subscribed to the site via email, you must visit the site to view video features.

Read More

A visit to Whittier, and a ride through North America’s longest rail/highway tunnel

In 1923 President Warren G. Harding drove a golden spike just north of Nenana, completing the Alaska Railroad’s main line. The line extended 470 miles from Seward to Fairbanks, and is still the major backbone of the Alaska Railroad today. Over the years since there have been various additions and branches added, from the 28 mile Eilson Branch extending from Fairbanks to the Eilson Air Force Base, to the short Anchorage International Airport Branch which connects the railroad to the airport and is used occasionally for cruise ship passengers. Today, however, we turn our focus onto one of the railroad’s most important branches, the Whittier Branch.

Completed in 1943, the Whittier Branch connected the Alaska Railroad’s main line to the ice-free port of Whittier. Though a branch to Whittier had been considered for years prior, the project only came to fruition because of World War II. Whittier was not only a shortcut compared to the railroad’s other ice-free port in Seward, reduced exposure of ships to Japanese submarines, and was harder to bomb by plane because of the frequent bad weather.

 
  
 
  
 
   
  
 
   
 
  
 
  
  
  
 
 
On the route of the Glacier Discovery – visiting Whittier and the flag stop at Spencer Glacier.

The most notable characteristic of the branch are the two tunnels used to pass through the mountains surrounding Whittier. A one mile tunnel was needed to get through Begich Peak, and a 2.5 mile tunnel passed through Maynard Mountain. While the shorter tunnel exists much as it did when it was first constructed, the longer tunnel has had extensive work to allow cars and trucks to pass through.

Construction of the Whittier Tunnel
Col. Benjamin B. Talley, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Alaska (second from right) and Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner Jr., commander of the Alaska Defense Command (third from right), enter the Whittier Tunnel during a holing through ceremony Nov. 20, 1942. Photo from the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Gone are the days where Whittier was just a military port – today it is an attractive ingress to Alaska used by boaters, freight ships and cruise liners. But up until the late 1990s Whittier was not accessible by car. The Alaska Railroad operated a shuttle service where cars could be transported by flatcar to Whittier, but it was not the most ideal option. While constructing a new highway over the mountain, or constructing another tunnel were all considered, the most cost effective solution was to modify the Alaska Railroad’s existing tunnel to allow road vehicles to traverse the mountain into Whittier.

Converting the tunnel to multi use
Converting the tunnel to multi use
Construction work to convert the railroad tunnel into a dual rail/highway tunnel. Photos from Hatch Mott McDonald.

Completed in June of 2000, the modified tunnel is the longest dual purpose rail and highway tunnel in North America. Built to endure the harsh Alaskan climate, the tunnel is able to operate in temperatures down to -40°F, winds of 150 MPH, and the portal buildings are able to withstand avalanches. Trains are still an important part of the traffic using the tunnel, and it employs a computerized traffic control system to regulate both vehicular and rail traffic in both directions. Besides special cruise ship trains, Alaska Railroad passenger service along the branch and through the tunnels is on the Glacier Discovery train. Freight remains an integral part of the railroad’s operations on the branch, and it is from Whittier that the railroad is connected by barge to Seattle and Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

While plenty of people on YouTube have recorded the journey through the tunnel by car, we get to take a unique journey through by train, thanks to my camera mounted on the front of one of the Alaska Railroad’s locomotives. In typical Whittier fashion, it is raining, but you get the general experience of leaving the port of Whittier, waiting for access into the tunnel, and traversing both tunnels on the branch. Enjoy!


For the folks subscribed to the site via email, you must visit the site to view video features.

Read More

Back from Alaska, and the NRHS Convention

If you enjoyed our series on Alaska posted earlier this year, you will undoubtedly love our upcoming series on the Alaska Railroad. I’ve just returned from the absolutely awesome National Railway Historical Society convention, which was held in Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska, and have some great features lined up for the blog… many of which include video. My trusty GoPro camera was mounted on several locomotives throughout the trip, recording well over a hundred gigabytes of footage. So if you happened to miss the convention, or have always wanted to go to Alaska, you can pretend like you were there along with us!

 
  
 
  
 
 
  
 
  
  
 
 
Photos from the railroad route to Seward.

The Coastal Classic is likely one of the Alaska Railroad’s most scenic routes, traveling southward from Anchorage to the port of Seward, and passing glaciers and beautiful vistas. The line follows several horseshoe curves to gain altitude, and passes through several mountains by tunnel. Following the route of the Coastal Classic, our NHRS charter train took a leisurely ride through this gorgeous section of Alaska. Our video starts a little over fifty miles from Seward, and condenses two hours and twenty minutes of the ride into ten minutes. The video concludes over a bit of rare passenger mileage – bypassing Seward’s passenger station and heading into the Seward rail yard and docks.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some more stories, photos and videos from the convention, but for now enjoy a quick jaunt on the picturesque Alaska Railroad…

A special thanks goes out to the Alaska Railroad’s Kenny Smith, who was instrumental in getting my camera mounted on the various locomotives and trains throughout the trip! Thank you so much, Kenny!

Read More

Friday Fun: Video From the Lake Shore Railway Museum

For some quick Friday fun, I have a lovely video taken at the Lake Shore Railway Museum in North East, Pennsylvania from a few weekends ago. Cedar Point was not the only place where I got to mount a GoPro camera on a train… I’m like an addict that can’t stop. I love trains, I love every kind of train, but I can’t put my camera on every train. (Though I may certainly try)

In other news, if you’re on Instagram and you’re not following us, you totally should be. Besides interesting photos of Metro-North trains taken on my day to day commute (and beyond), there are plenty of other railroad-related locales that have shown up in our photo feed. Here are a few from the Lake Shore Railway Museum… besides having some historical locomotives and cars, the railroad line behind the museum is quite active, and you’ll see both CSX and Norfolk Southern passing by all day long.

Lake Shore Railway Museum Lake Shore Railway Museum
Lake Shore Railway Museum Lake Shore Railway Museum

Read More

Sunset on the Orange Line

A while back I started an account on YouTube for the blog. I had high hopes for making various videos, but that sort of took a backseat to photography, and I never really did anything interesting there. When I changed the header out a month or two ago, I dropped the YouTube link, since I figured it was pointless to promote an account I do nothing with (as opposed to twitter, on which I am quite active, and you should totally follow me). Every once and a while, however, I manage to do something interesting that gets posted to YouTube… in this case a video from my recent jaunt out to the midwest. Pretty much the second I arrived in my Chicago hotel room and saw the view, I decided I had to make a video from my window. While previous hotel guests left bad reviews because their rooms were too close to the noisy trains, I considered that a plus. After all, without that great view I wouldn’t have been able to do this:

That is, of course, Chicago’s ‘L’, in a part of the city known as the Loop. The video spans about three hours – from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM on a Friday evening, capturing the trains as day turns into night.

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting photos of my journeys, mostly of the Hiawatha Line in Minneapolis, but a few photos from Chicago as well… because every once and a while I do ride something other than the Harlem Line.

Read More

Heeling Autism Service Dogs at White Plains Station

Us train riders are generally accustomed to seeing various working dogs at the train station in White Plains. The K-9 officers are often there, accompanied by their assortment of German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers. But today, we had two special visitors. I had the pleasure to meet two young women, Danniela and Michelle, along with two young service dogs – Carly and Dina. Representing Heeling Autism, a part of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, they were at the station to get fundraising support. They weren’t looking for money, though – they just need your vote!

You may have seen commercials or advertisements for Pepsi Refresh. It isn’t a new soft drink – but a project to “Refresh America” by “giving away millions in grants to refresh individuals and communities.” Ideas are presented on Pepsi’s website, where people can vote. The top two organizations voted for will get a monetary grant from Pepsi. Heeling Autism is one of many groups in the running for this grant money. They are a Westchester-based organization that places service dogs with children with autism. If you’re curious about them, here is a great video from News-12.

So what can you do to help? Heeling Autism needs your votes, which you can do online here. You can also text 101731 to 73774. You are allowed to vote once per method every day, and voting ends August 31st. You aren’t charged anything by voting, just for the cost of the text message if you don’t have a texting plan.


Look at that adorable puppy face… doesn’t that make you just want to go and vote?

Be sure to vote and help this Westchester organization the funding that it needs!

Read More