Hotel Coolidge

Hotel Coolidge a Railway Hotel

If your travels ever take you to the Green Mountain state you should visit the Hotel Coolidge built in the 1800’s in downtown White River Junction, Vermont. White River Junction is located near the junction of Interstate 91 and 89 in the central eastern part of the state. These two interstates isn’t how the town got its name, it’s because of its railroad history. In WRJ’s heyday it was the home of 5 different railroads. Today it’s the home of two railroads New England Central Railroad and Vermont Railways. The Coolidge is a classic railway hotel where travelers could stay overnight and be only a short walk to the train station. Stepping inside this hotel I felt transported in time with it classic woodworking and a fireplace in the lobby. I could imagine the lobby busy with people coming and going as trains were pulling into town bringing people from all over New England and points beyond.

Hotel Coolidge

Hotel Coolidge

Hotel Coolidge

Hotel Coolidge

Hotel Coolidge

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in WRJ railfanning but I always stay at the Quechee/Pine Valley KOA just outside of downtown. Now that my daughter is a student at the University of Vermont in Burlington I need a place to spend an overnight during the camping off season. This was the ideal location having the ability to do a little railfanning plus breaking up the drive during quick weekend trips.

Railfanning in White River Junction
During the week is the best time to see some freight action. I’ve seen activity at various parts of the day. I would strongly recommend bringing a scanner with you so you can hear the activity. Amtrak’s Vermonter travels thought twice daily with a northbound and southbound train as well.

Scanner Frequencies
New England Central Railroad 
161.2050 – Road
161.4150 – Yard 1
160.7700 – Yard 3
160.9350 – Yard 4

White River Junction Railfanning

White River Junction Railfanning
White River Junction Railfanning

NYC Skyline

2018 Ride on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor

I remember as a child going on a few summertime vacations with my dad to New York City and Washington D.C. I was so excited about seeing all the sights but I was also excited about how we would be traveling to and from there. When we traveled to Washington or New York City we would take Amtrak. I’ve been on a few trips as an adult on the Northeast Corridor as well. It’s been about 8 years since I’ve rode on an Amtrak train on the Northeast Corridor. I think it’s been too long!Tuesday, January 23, 2018 my dad and I boarded Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train 95 at 6:50 am in downtown Providence. We was able to get seats together on the ocean side of the train giving us a great view as we traveled westerly through Rhode Island and Connecticut. As we made our way to Penn Station I was able to see Hell’s Gate. The ride was smooth and on time.

RIding on the Amtrak NEC

On Wednesday we took our trip back on the 3:30 pm Northeast Regional #176 from NYC Penn Station back to Providence. Since I had my scanner with me I was able to hear what track our train was arriving on before they announced it in the station. My dad and I were lucky again to get two seats next to each other. On the way back we sat on the inland side of the train. I was able to get a few photos of the New York City skyline as we were traveling out the the city. Yet again a relaxing and delay free ride.

Traveling on Amtrak with a Scanner
As I traveled I had out my notepad, pre programmed AnyTone ANILE-8R radio, and Uniden Bearcat BC125AT handheld scanner. Why would I travel with a two radios? Well I’m very thankful I did, since the last time I traveled on the Northeast Corridor there have been some frequency changes. Having the second radio allows me to search for new frequencies while the other radio monitors the known ones. The BC125AT is great for searching out new railroad frequencies with its railroad service search feature. Amtrak has power plugs located below the window so I plugged in rather then draining my scanners batteries. While on board the train I normally use an earpiece so I will not disturb the other passengers.

Who can you hear on the scanner?

  • Road dispatcher
  • Train engineer and conductors
  • Track detectors

Some train crews use the radio more than others. Typically the conductor will use this as a communication tool letting the engineer know it’s clear to depart a station stop. The conductors will use the radios to communicate to one another. Road Dispatcher will communicate with the train about any changes or updates along the route. Track detectors can be heard along part of the Northeast Corridor. These detectors are placed every 30 miles or so. A computer generated voice will come over the radio giving the milepost, current temperature (at most locations), and will report any defects. The detectors can spot dragging equipment, wheel problems, and a few other things.

Northeast Corridor Frequencies
From Boston to Penn Station New York City
160.9200 – Boston, MA to New Haven, CT
160.3550 – New Haven, CT to Stamford, CT
160.5450 – Stamford, CT to New Rochelle, NY
161.0100 – New Rochelle, NY  to Penn Station (New York, NY)

Breaking News | Media Give Railroads Instant Black Eye

Breaking News | Media Give Railroads Instant Black Eye

Over the last few months Amtrak’s been making headlines for all the wrong reasons with the Cascades derailment in Washington State (December 2017), Train vs trash truck in Virginia (January 2018), and now the head on derailment in South Carolina (February 2018). I was able to follow each of these incidents.

There is one common denominator when the media covers stories like this, it’s often an instant black eye for Amtrak or the railroad involved in the incident.

Let me explain:
There was a time when people would tune into the big three networks for the stories of the day. When the “Breaking News” graphic wasn’t constantly stamped to the bottom of our television screens. This is when more time was taken to research and accurately report the stories of the day. With the combination of the internet and smartphones news is now delivered right to the palm of our hands. With “Breaking News” reporting the media tries to be first but not always accurate. In most cases reporters, anchors, and producers try to play experts in something they don’t know anything about. This seems to be the common trend for railroad related incidents.

With this latest incident the media was quick to blame Amtrak. Now that the dust has settled it looks like it was the fault of CSX who is in charge of Columbia Subdivision where the derailment took place. From what it looks like the siding switch was left open leading Amtrak Silver Star train 91 off the main line right into the parked CSX Autorack train. For major routes like this the switches are thrown remotely by a dispatcher of the territory. By the time the crew of train 91 saw what was in front of them it was too late. As for the why this happened that will be investigated.

Most people only see the first report as for the follow up to the investigation it doesn’t often make the lead story.

My thoughts and prayers go out passengers and their families of Amtrak train 91.

Stand Behind the Yellow Line

Railfanning in the Winter

Living in the northeast my whole life the winters can sometimes make it challenging to railfan. I thought it would be cool to come up with some alternatives to braving the cold winter weather. Nothing beats being outdoors seeing the trains pass you only feet away but sometimes it’s just too cold.

Here are a few ideas

VirtualRailfan.com
I’ve become a huge watcher of the 7 sponsored Virtual Railfan YouTube Live streams. One of the most popular feeds is the Horseshoe Curve giving railfans a year around view from atop the summit. The 7 live YouTube feeds are only a small sample, additional live feeds are available with a membership. Currently Virtual Railfan has 25 cameras located in 12 states across the USA. | Read more – VirtualRailfan.com

Broadcastify.com
Most railfans often listen to their scanner when they are trackside. Broadcastify is a host to nearly 6,500 live scanner feeds with about 100 of them railroad feeds. Many of the feeds are located along busy corridors or near major railroad hubs. This is a great way to preview new railfanning spots. | See all the feeds – Broadcastify.com

Riding the local commuter rail lines
During the winter months most of the scenic railroads shut down for the season. Most commuter rail lines are rich with history and sometimes you can even spot some abandoned junctions and railroad related buildings. This is a great opportunity to explore some of these railroad lines.

Railroad Simulator Games
Every railfan dreams of having a cab ride or being able to drive the train. Simulator games have come a long way since the first video games. The graphics are so realistic and some of the games even simulate actual railroad routes of passenger and freight lines. This is railfanning from your most comfortable chair at home. | Read more – Train Simulator Game

Model Railroading
This is one of the most common go to for railfans in the winter months. Constructing a model railroad can be fun and challenging. Before diving into building a layout I would strongly recommend going to a local train show or a model railroad club. If you don’t have the time or the disposable income to build your own you should consider joining a model railroad club. Whether you build your own or join a club this is a great way to stay trackside at a smaller scale in the winter month.

Train Shows
Most train shows are not just for the Model Railroader. This is a great place to pick up books, dvds, and, railroad memorabilia. This is a great way to meet another railfans as well.

YouTube
If you want to get lost railfanning via the internet this is the best place to go. This is a great way to go trackside to places you have never been. One of my favorite YouTubers is Delay In Block Productions. Drayton Blackgrove started his channel back in 2011 and has been going strong ever since. Blackgrove and his team shoot high quality videos with narration. Trust me you could spend hours checking out all of the great railroad related channels on YouTube.

Books, books, and more books.
Winter is also a great time to catch up on some reading. There are so many books written about railroading from its history to its future. One of my favorite books is “Waiting On A Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service” written by James McCommons. McCommons spends a year riding the rails across america on Amtrak recounting interviews of people he meet along the way including historians, railroad executives, railroad lobbyists and so many more. This book totally enlightened me on why it’s so important to invest into passenger rail.

Trains on the big screen
There are many movies out there where the train is the star. Some the the classics that come to mind “Strangers on a Train” (1951), “Silver Streak” (1976), The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” (1974) and “End of the Line” (1987). Here are some recent movies “Unstoppable” (2010), “Murder on the Orient Express” (2017). This is only a handful of movies that come to mind.

I hope this list is helpful while dealing with the winter blues. We would love to hear about your trackside alternatives.

Clinton Railroad Tunnel

Exploring Clinton (MA) Railroad Tunnel

Since I launched the Forgotten Railroads blog series, I’ve been on the lookout for abandoned railroad related places and landmarks. A while back I learned about the abandoned Clinton Massachusetts Railroad Tunnel. Clinton is located in central Massachusetts just south of Worcester. The tunnel is located near the Wachusett Dam.

The 1,100 foot tunnel saw its first train on June 2, 1903 and continued servicing the 105 mile Central Massachusetts Railroad from Boston’s North Station to Northampton, MA for decades. Freight and passenger service started to decline by 1958, and parts of the line in western and central Mass never saw a train again.

The tunnel is very popular with railfans and folks that want to explore abandoned places. When looking from the outside, the tunnel light can be seen from the other end, making it appear to be shorter than it really is. Some sources online say it’s haunted, and I’m not sure if it is but it is so quiet inside the tunnel that you can hear every water drop hitting the ground. Once at the halfway point, it gets very dark and the temperature drops. There are some wet spots inside the tunnel and the east portal was quite wet. When photographing inside the tunnel, I used the external flash on my DSLR camera. The flash light came in handy walking through the tunnel.

I hope to explore more of the 105 miles route of Central Mass Railroad in the new year. Parts of the abandoned railroad line are now a bike trail, and other parts are untouched, with plants growing over them, and some just a narrow path in the woods.

Clinton Railroad Tunnel

Clinton Railroad Tunnel

Clinton Railroad Tunnel

Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Chasing Norfolk Southern 2017

This is my second trip to the Altoona area. So I thought it would be fun if I could get one of the twenty Norfolk Southern Heritage Units. So I downloaded the HeritageUnits.com app. I started to check the app every so often to see if anything would be passing through Keystone Corridor over the weekend. I’ve seen two NS Heritage Units on the Horseshoe Curve webcam but never one in person.

I was able to get my first NS Heritage Unit on Labor Day Monday, September 4th, 2017. I followed the updates on the app as #1069 Virginian Railway was making its way westbound. I thought the most ideal location for this first Heritage unit would be Cassandra Railroad Overlook with its awesome curve approaching the overlook for trains making their way westbound. My dad, my wife Jodie and I made our way to this spot. We spent a few hours there waiting for the Virginian’s arrival. I setup my tripod so I could record it passing with my video camera I also had my DSLR to capture still shots. Truly I was quite happy to get my first Heritage Unit.

Later that day Jodie spotted our second Heritage Unit #8103 Norfolk and Western parked in Cresson in front of the The Station Inn. We were traveling there to change up our railfanning location, and we struck gold. Not bad two Heritage Units in one day!

On Tuesday we thought we would spend the day railfanning in downtown Altoona and we were able to get two more eastbound Heritage Units only a few hours apart #1074 Delaware, Lackawanna & Western and #8025 Monongahela Railways.

Railfanning Cassandra

Railfanning Altoona
Railfanning Altoona

Railfanning Cassandra

Railfanning Cassandra, PA

Cassandra Railroad Overlook
Most of the railfanning parks are in or near a downtowns, this park is at the end of dead end residential street. There is a small parking lot with a footbridge going across the three main line tracks the bridge takes railfans over to a park that has some benches and picnic tables. This location provides awesome photo opportunities getting trains going westbound with a curve leading up to the bridge. As for eastbound track the best vantage point would be on the bridge. I would recommend bring a three step ladder since the bridge sides are pretty high.

Railfanning Cassandra
Railfanning Cassandra
Railfanning Cassandra
Railfanning Cassandra
Railfanning Cassandra
Railfanning Cassandra
Railfanning Cassandra

Railfanning Cresson, PA

Cresson Railroad Observation Platform
This location is near the heart of Cresson. The platform gives you great views of trains going both east and westbound. I would highly recommend another spot across the street from The Station Inn, this location puts you at track level. There is a tunnel that goes under the tracks which gives you access to this location. Totally recommend railfanning from both locations in Cresson.

I had people through social media and in person tell me to check out Vito’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant. I wasn’t able to check this place out this trip. I’m told the food is amazing here.

Railfanning Cresson

Railfanning Cresson

Railfanning Cresson
Railfanning Cresson

Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Gallitzin, PA is located just west of the Horseshoe Curve. There is a railfanning spot located in downtown with a park overlooking the west portals of the Gallitzin & Allegheny Tunnels. Gallitzin Tunnel is also known as the “Summit” Tunnel it is 3,612 feet long, it was built in 1904 and closed in 1995. Allegheny Tunnel is the same length and was built in 1854. The double track Allegheny Tunnel was made larger to service double stack freight cars in the 1990’s once this was done the Gallitzin Tunnel was abandoned. There is a third tunnel located about a half mile from from the park. The New Portage Tunnel was built in 1855 and it is a single track 1,620 feet tunnel. There really isn’t a good railfanning spot for the Portage tunnel.

Gallitzin and Allegheny tunnels east portals can be viewed by going down Birds Eye Road in Tunnelhill. This is a dirt road I would strongly recommend high profile vehicle such as a pickup truck with 4 wheel drive since some parts of this right of way is quite rough and a car could bottom out. Once trackside I would recommend parking and hiking the rest of the way on the public access road. Please use caution and common sense since you will be almost trackside on this public access way. This public access road give people the ability to visit the Bennington Cemetery.
Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Railfanning Altoona

Railfanning Altoona, PA

Most people visiting the Altoona area it is for the the Horseshoe Curve, but there are so many other great location in and around Altoona for railfanning.

In this blog series we will share some of the best railfanning locations in and around Altoona on the Keystone Corridor.

Altoona, Pennsylvania
A great location for watching the mainline and yard moves is on the North 8th Street overpass which over looks Norfolk Southern’s Rose yard. Just two blocks over there is an active Norfolk Southern turnable (221 North 6th Street). There is lots of actively during the daytime. This location is great for some night time shots as well.

Downtown Altoona has a few footbridges going over the the main line near Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum. There is also a paved walkway along the main line as well that is great for railfanning and photography.

Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum highlights the railroad history of this city built around the railroad. The museum has exhibits indoor and outdoor plan on spending a few hours. A combo ticket can be purchase for the museum and the Horseshoe Curve.

Local food Joints

Original Italian Pizza
610 N 2nd St
Altoona, PA 16601

Texas Hot Dogs
101 58th St
Altoona, PA 16602

Sheetz
1915 Pleasant Valley Blvd
Altoona, PA 16602

Railfanning Altoona

Railfanning Altoona

Railfanning Altoona

Railfanning Altoona

Railfanning Altoona