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Ron Flanary Reacts to Clinchfield #800

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Above: The restoration team poses with recently Clinchfield Railroad F3A #800 at the CSX Shops in Huntington, West Virginia. Photos and story provided by Ron Flanary.

As a life-long resident of southwestern Virginia, the annual Santa Train has been a part of my life for nearly 50 years. Through the years, I’ve been honored to ride along as a guest of the railroad, or a media representative on several occasions. My first ride was in 1982, the last year the Santa Train was a Clinchfield Railroad operation. Of all the experiences with the train, nothing eclipsed the 50th Anniversary running, when Union Pacific sent Challenger #3985 all the way from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Kingsport, Tennessee. It was in the works for four years, while many people secretly tried to put the proposal together. When it actually happened, it was an overwhelming experience.

Below: A roster shot of Clinchfield #800 after being revealed by CSX on November 6th, 2017.

With the 75th running of the train coming this year, there was already much speculation on what might be on the head end. I was contacted about a year ago by CSX and Jim Wrinn, editor of Trains Magazine. I was enlisted to find, if possible, an original 1948 EMD paint diagram for the unit. With help from some contacts, that was accomplished. What followed for the next several months were discussions about color specs and so many small details. Calls were made to retired Clinchfield engineers in come cases, leaving them wondering what was up.

My personal role was minor compared to the folks with Southern Appalachian Railway Museum in Oak Ridge, TN, and Charlie Poling of East Tennessee Rail Car Services. They were doing the same type of work on an ex-SCL SD45 to renumber and letter it as Clinchfield #3632. A project of this nature can hit obstacles one would never dream of. Some 30 volunteers, plus many CSX employees at Huntington worked away in a stealth-like manner to ready these locomotives and make certain they could lead the train. And, everyone remained quiet, because there was no reason to raise false expectations with so many issues to overcome.

Right: A smiling Ron Flanary poses with the #800 inside Huntington Shops.

Ultimately, it happened. As stood beside the unit in the Huntington paint shop a few weeks ago and talked to some of the paint shop employees, you could hear the pride in their voices. The charts and photos I had sent were taped to the wall, and notes were written on details I had provided. But, compared the long man hours of work performed by the volunteers at Oak Ridge and CSX workers, my contribution was minor.

I saw these units when they ran like this in everyday service. I stood on the overhead walkway at Kingsport, TN as five F-units rolled beneath me. You could feel the heat from the exhaust and watch the cooling fans as the turned. Now, see the #800 in its original guise. For me, Christmas 2017 has already been a winner. I just can’t wait to see her rolling along the former Clinchfield main again—a great sight for my sore eyes!

Ron Flanary of Big Stone Gap, Virginia has been a fan of the Clinchfield as long as he can remember. A noted railroad photographer, painter, musician, and railroad historian, Flanary grew up watching trains on the famous coal-hauling route.

See our video from 2016’s Santa Train trip over the Clinchfield below.

CSX Goes All Out for the 75th Santa Train

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Above: Clinchfield Railroad F3A #800 at Huntington, WV after being unveiled by CSX Transportation on November 6, 2017. Photos submitted by Mark Ragan.

Beginning in 1942, the Clinchfield Railroad once hosted the annual Santa Train as part of its local passenger train, No. 38. The train was originally conceived by several Kingsport businessmen who wanted to give back to their communities. Over time, the train grew and grew to become a regional spectacle – with children and families looking forward to the yearly visit of Santa Claus along the Clinchfield Railroad’s mainline.

Every year, Saint Nick himself rides the on the rear of the train – tossing out candy and presents to the children below. For many kids, this is the highlight of their entire year. Thanks to the many sponsors of the train, the gifts were provided through monetary donations – giving these families joy and hope. For some families, these are the only presents they receive during the holiday season.

The train is not just exciting, it also makes one appreciate the spirit of giving. Operated the weekend before Thanksgiving, it reminds us of what it truly means to be thankful for what we have been given in this great country. During the journey, the Clinchfield Santa Train rolls travels over bridges, through tunnels, and up the steep grades of mighty mainline.

2017 marks the 75th Anniversary of this November tradition and CSX is celebrating it in a big way. On November 6th, CSX unveiled the Clinchfield #800, an EMD F3A locomotive built in 1948, which will pull the Santa Train consist on Saturday, November the 18th. In partnership with the North Carolina Transportation Museum, CSX returned the locomotive to its proper Clinchfield appearance. In addition to the #800, the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum of Oak Ridge, TN is disguising Seaboard SD45 #2024 as Clinchfield #3632 to run with the F unit on the Santa Train this year.

Below: SARM’s contribution to the 75th Anniversary Santa Train will be “Clinchfield” SD45 #3632, a Seaboard Coastline locomotive disguised for the Clinchfield’s classic black and yellow freight livery.

Last year, we were on location for what was thought to be one of the very last Santa Trains on CSX. Pulled by a CSX SD40-3 and an F40, the train was rumored to be ending after 2017. However, with CSX’s new administration under the Hunter Harrison era, the Santa Train will most-likely be a tradition for many years to come. To see our video from the 74th Anniversary trip, watch below.

Lake State Railway Celebrates 25 Years of Excellence

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AboveLake State Railway’s attitude toward preserving heritage is most evident in Saginaw Yard, with the company still utilizing the Pere Marquette turntable and roundhouse for maintaining locomotives on the property.

This year, one of Michigan’s most important and most-loved shortlines has reached a milestone: 25 years of serving the great lakes region in transportation. That’s right – Lake State Railway turns 25 this year and is celebrating their anniversary in a big way. Rolling out earlier this year was Lake State Railway #4325, an EMD GP40-3 that now sports a commemorative paint scheme for the company’s anniversary.

Lake State Railway was founded in 1992, when the late railroad businessman Jim George purchased the former Detroit & Mackinac lines in northern Michigan. The former D&M was famous for their use of ALCO locomotives. Now a completely EMD railroad, the Lake State has grown from a small shortline to a regional player in the area. In 2005, LSRC acquired rail property from CSX in the Saginaw, Michigan area. These lines were operated under the name Saginaw Bay Southern Railway (SBS) until January 2012, when LSRC merged these two companies together under the name Lake State Railway Company. In April 2012, SBS interchanges and railroad accounting practices were converted to LSRC, completing the consolidation.

BelowLake State Railway #4325, an EMD GP40-3, now sports the company’s 25th Anniversary paint scheme. Photo by Kevin Burkholder.

Grain, fertilizer, coal, chemicals, aggregates, cement, steel, and scrap metal are just a few of the commodities that are transported along the Lake State’s lines. The railroad continues to be consistently profitable and shows a high priority to maintaining and improving the company’s rail infrastructure. Earlier this year, we had the honor of being part of the company’s celebration by producing a 25th Anniversary promotional video for the Lake State. In our video, we showcased an array of the company’s unique infrastructure, including their many bridges, dispatching tower, the roundhouse, and their new road-slugs in service at Bay City, Michigan.

Below Right: Lake State Railway Company was created by the vision of the late Jim George in 1992, when he acquired the railroad lines previously operated by Detroit & Mackinac Railway Company (D&M). His passion for expanding the railroad and providing exceptional freight transportation services is what brought these lines from being nearly abandoned, to being a successful railroad.

In the company’s March of 2017 newsletter, Lake State Railway President and CEO John Rickof states, “I want to talk about the importance of 2017. Lake State Railway Company began operating in 1992 making this our 25th anniversary. We are proud to have thrived for a quarter of a century and are looking at an even brighter future. Expect to hear and see from us throughout this year as we celebrate and grow towards new milestones. LSRC intends and expects to be ever striving to provide safe, reliable Excellence in Transportation!”

The newsletter continues, “In celebration of 25 years of service, LSRC would like to take this opportunity to give a special thank you to all our dedicated and hard-working employees who have helped make Lake State Railway the thriving company it is today. Also, a special thank you to all of our loyal customers who put their trust in us everyday. We are proud to have you all on our team and look forward to many more years together as LSRC continues to grow and prosper. ”

It’s obvious from the outside looking in, this company takes great pride in serving the many Michigan communities its rails run through. We were honored to take part in the company’s 25th Anniversary and we hope you enjoy our video, showcasing just a brief look into the company’s incredible operation. Stay tuned for upcoming project related to the Lake State Railway. You can watch our official promotional video below.

Restoring Kentucky’s Steam Locomotive

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AboveL&N 152 during a nighttime photo charter in the 1980s. Photo courtesy of Ron Flanary.

Designed to pull the L&N Railroad’s most important scheduled passenger trains, #152 was the epitome of high-speed steam. However, in 1912, the locomotive would pull one of the most important passenger trains in US history: Former President Theodore Roosevelt’s Whistlestop Tour between Louisville and Corbin, Kentucky. Though Teddy lost the election of 1912, 152 would be the vehicle he used to spread his progressive values to the deep south, creating a movement that still influences American politics today. Just over a year later, in 1913, the 152 was involved in an accident at Livingston, Kentucky, being turned on her side. The crew perished in the accident, but the 152 was given a second chance, being rebuilt in the railroad’s South Louisville Shops shortly thereafter.

Below Right: L&N 152 at a station stop during her revenue career with the L&N Railroad. Photo courtesy of the L&N Historical Society.


The 152 would continue passenger service on the L&N, serving all over the system until more powerful locomotives were purchased by the railroad in the 1920s. The Pacific Class locomotives were then assigned to the Gulf Coast, a geographically flatter area. In 1934, the K-2a Pacific would again be called to pull another famous passenger train. This time, 152 would be pulling the “Al Capone Special,” conveying the famous gangster and forty three other prisoners in modified passenger cars, retrofitted with steel bars, between Atlanta, Georgia and Mobile, Alabama for further transportation to Alcatraz. Capone, with an extensive criminal history during the prohibition era, was convicted of tax evasion just three years earlier.

The locomotive would spend its time serving the railroad along the Gulf Coast throughout the thirties and forties. By 1953, the locomotive was the last of its kind on the L&N roster. On February 17th, 1953, the 152 was retired, with its fate hanging in uncertainty. During this time it was stored at Mobile, Alabama. In 1954, thanks to efforts of local L&N railfans, the #152 was sent to the Kentucky Railway Museum, then in Louisville, Kentucky. It was one of the museum’s first pieces. For thirty years it remained inoperative until a small group of volunteers assembled for the first restoration.

After thirteen years of work, in 1985, the locomotive was again alive under her own steam power. Thanks to the dedicated steam team of the 1980s, #152 would operate extensively on excursion trips over TTI, CSX, and Norfolk Southern. Later, the engine was used on the museum’s Lebanon Branch out of New Haven, one of the original routes the locomotive was assigned for when delivered to the L&N in 1905. Locomotive #152 has the distinction of being the Official State Locomotive of Kentucky and is also part of the National Register of Historic Places and things. From 1985 to 2011, the locomotive was operated in regular excursion service, but has since been waiting a second restoration at the Kentucky Railway Museum. Watch the official restoration campaign video below.

Help bring 152 back to steam! Consider donating or volunteering at the Kentucky Railway Museum. For more information on this incredible locomotive, visit https://www.kyrail.org/

My YouTube Story: Building a Brand of Railroad Media

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AboveI had the honor of sharing “My YouTube Story” at the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s annual “Conversations” Conference this April. Photo by Otto Vondrak, CRPA.

Since I was about 12 years old, I have been playing with cameras. From my parents Palm-Pre cell phone back in 2010, to my first experiences with TV-broadcast cameras on set during college, I have had a wide variety of experiences. For me, digital media is a passion I gradually learned to love. With my background and passion for railroading came this desire to capture what I was seeing on the mainline and then enjoy it for many decades thereafter. That simple desire led to forming my own production company, which has taken me to heights that I would have never imagined possible.

Below LeftSince its inception in 2011, the Delay In Block YouTube Channel has grown beyond all of my expectations.

In November of 2011, I formed Delay In Block Productions – a digital media company aimed at capturing the essence of railroad. At the time, I was in 9th grade and had no idea how to tell stories. The only thing I knew how to do (at the time) was capture what I saw and then would commence dropping the footage into my cheap, run of the mill video editor. My main focus was to share my hobby with the world and I did so with this amazing medium called YouTube. In fact, what inspired me most was YouTube slogan: “Broadcast Yourself.”

Beginning in 2012, I set out to create the most epic examples of capturing freight railroads in the midwest. My first goal was to have a channel that was interesting and had a general theme. That theme would be professionalism. In my hobby, there is a lot of crap posted to the internet every day – and I wanted to change that. Over that year, I took advantage of several great opportunities that allowed me to gain a large online following. These opportunities included filming the clean up of a large train accident in my hometown. That video received over 100,000 views on YouTube and brought a large following of subscribers to my channel.

By 2013, I had a small fan base. Continuing on with my goals, I was able to further gain in terms of my subscriber base by filming things my audience wanted to see. For instance, I would film special trains that I knew would receive more views than others. While doing so, I enhanced my skills by purchasing new equipment and learning new techniques. With the ability to produce better content, my audience kept growing to the point where I was able to make a substantial income, through advertisement revenue on my YouTube Channel.

In 2014, I met filmmaker Kelly Lynch. Lynch, a lifelong Fort Wayne resident inspired me. Since he was about five years old, he too had a similar interest in trains and his desire to capture what he saw led him to become a filmmaker. He branched out and not only filmed railroads, but dramas, TV commercials, and so on. His company, Lynchpin Creative, is one of Fort Wayne’s most wide known film production companies.

Below RightKelly poses for a portrait with the mighty 765.

His talents inspired and intrigued me, causing me to have a desire for film production and storytelling, rather than just the same old format I had been used to. Because of Kelly, I decided to take the next step and attend film school, where I learned how to better my story telling abilities. I had no idea where this venture would take me, but I knew I wanted to continue learning.

Over the last three to four years, many things have inspired me when it comes to the actual railroad. Whether it be the history, the locomotives, or the people who operate them. Indeed, railroads inspire us, as railfans, for many reasons. For a few, they are the very thing that makes life worth living. Enter Gavin Steel, the only child to be diagnosed with both Cystic Fibrosis and DiGeorge Syndrome. Connected through social media, Gavin’s father, Jason, reached out to me in 2014. In his message, Jason told me that Gavin loves watching my YouTube videos during his lengthy hospital stays and medical treatments. The long, sometimes painful breathing treatments that Gavin uses to clean his lungs can last for over thirty minutes, and my railroad videos help him pass the time. Being inspired by Gavin’s incredible story, an idea was born.

Through my relationship with the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Gavin and Jason were able to ride behind Nickel Plate Road 765 from Buffalo to Corning, New York in the summer of 2015. This was Gavin’s first real train ride – and what better way to experience it than behind a steam locomotive?

After riding behind the 765, our story was told by several local news stations. Through a GoFund Me Campaign and promotional coverage by the news stations, my subscribers learned about Gavin and were inspired to help raised enough money for Gavin and his family to attend Operation North Pole – an event that would change my life forever.

BelowWHEC News of Rochester, New York broadcasted our story on the evening news.

Operation North Pole is a Chicagoland non-profit organization that gives children with life-threatening illnesses a special train ride to a winter wonderland. The event is put on by Metra and Union Pacific, along with hundreds of volunteers, that include local fire and police first responders. Since 2014, I have had the honor of producing the official event videos for the organization. It’s an incredible experience to partake in Operation North Pole and I would encourage anyone interested in helping to volunteer or donate. You won’t regret it.

If there’s anything that this hobby has taught me from my experiences, I have learned that it’s all about the people. From non-profits who volunteer to hours of personal time to operate steam locomotives on the mainline, to the encouraging comments I receive daily from the over 30,000 subscribers I have on the Delay In Block YouTube Channel, it’s the people that make being part of this hobby so great. I am so thankful for the opportunities that YouTube has afforded me.

One of the most exciting things to happen in the last few months for me was being invited to speak as a presenter during the Center for Railroad Photography and Art’s annual “Conversations” Conference this year, which was held at the beautiful campus of Lake Forest College. In my forty-plus minute presentation, which you can watch below, you’ll learn about how I grew Delay In Block to become the brand it is today. From humble beginnings to my large and ever growing subscriber-base, Delay In Block has become a modern day brand, much like Pentrex in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.

Introducing: The CW Rails Series

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AboveA BNSF freight train rolls by the Downers Grove, Illinois Metra Station – as seen from the CW Rails Series first episode on our YouTube Channel.

Below RightPictured is Chris Wehman, my longtime friend and producer of the CW Rails Series.

Since 2013, I have had the pleasure of knowing Chris Wehman. An Ohio native, Wehman has been shooting trains on video for years. He has produced countless railroad videos from locations all over the country. Over the last two months, Wehman and I have been working on a little YouTube Series, narrated and produced by Wehman, showcasing some of his work. The series will be called “CW Rails” and will be marked as so, with the episode number in the title.

You can watch the first episode of the series below:

In the first episode of Chris Wehman’s Rails Series, you’ll spend time on BNSF Railway’s Racetrack in Chicagoland. With Metra commuter trains, manifests, and intermodal freight trains, this nearly hour long video showcases some of BNSF’s best action for train watching in the Chicagoland region. All scenes in this video were filmed in Downers Grove and Hinsdale, Illinois.

Hoosier State to use Amtrak Equipment in March

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Above: Iowa Pacific’s Hoosier State Train offers services and amenities not seen in American passenger railroading since the 1960s. In 2015, we rode along with CEO Ed Ellis for a behind-the-scenes look on Iowa Pacific’s joint operation with Amtrak.

Amtrak announced this morning (January 30, 2017) that The Hoosier State train will no longer use Iowa Pacific equipment in March. The news comes only weeks after the Chicago-based company laid off over thirty employees from the Texas State Railroad. On August 2, 2015, Iowa Pacific assumed the passenger operations of the state-subsidized Hoosier State train in partnership with Amtrak. The company owns nine freight railroads all over the United States, but are also known for operating Polar Express excursions on some of their properties and Pullman Rail Journeys.

Below: Amtrak’s official statement that was released this morning:

The Hoosier State train operates between Chicago and Indianapolis, serving various communities between. With service and amenities not seen in American passenger railroading since the 1960s, Iowa Pacific is stunning passengers from all over the country with their excellent service. To date, the train is equipped with a full-service dining car and a dome car. Breakfast and dinner meals are prepared fresh, every operating day by the two chefs on board the train.

The Hoosier State has been operated in a joint effort between Amtrak and Iowa Pacific. The vision for the train came from CEO of Iowa Pacific Holdings, Ed Ellis, who has a very successful and colorful career in the railroad industry. From his humble beginnings on the Illinois Central Railroad to today, Ed Ellis hopes to grow the services his company offers on other passenger lines a crossed the country. With this decisive blow in Amtrak’s announcement this morning, only time will tell if his dream comes to fruition.

In 2015, we rode along with CEO Ed Ellis for a behind-the-scenes look on Iowa Pacific’s joint operation with Amtrak. You can watch our video tour below.

How Christmas Moves: CSX Santa Train

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AboveSanta and his helpers are ready greet families at Haysi, VA.

On November 19th, 2016, CSX Transportation operated the 74th annual Santa Train on the former Clinchfield Railroad. Led by an SD40-3 locomotive that was wearing Clinchfield heritage decals, the train would stop in every town along the railroad between Shelby, Kentucky and Kingsport, Tennessee.

Beginning in 1942, the Clinchfield Railroad hosted the annual Santa Train as part of its local passenger train, No. 38. The train was originally conceived by several Kingsport businessmen who wanted to give back to their communities. Over time, the train grew and grew to become a regional spectacle – with children and families looking forward to the yearly visit of Santa Claus along the Clinchfield Railroad’s mainline.

Below RightThe entire town of Haysi came out to greet the train. This is a spectacle every year for the families in this small Appalachian community.

Every year, Saint Nick himself rides the on the rear of the train – tossing out candy and presents to the children below. For many kids, this is the highlight of their entire year. Thanks to the many sponsors of the train, the gifts were provided through monetary donations – giving these families joy and hope. For some families, these are the only presents they receive during the holiday season.

The train is not just exciting, it also makes one appreciate the spirit of giving. Operated the weekend before Thanksgiving, it reminds us of what it truly means to be thankful for what we have been given in this great country. Throughout the morning, the Santa Train rolls along at 25MPH over bridges, through tunnels, and up the steep grades of the Clinchfield mainline.

Though it’s cold and wet out this November morning, the excitement of the train’s arrival keeps the small town of St. Paul, Virginia on their toes. As the train slowly comes to a stop, the people greet Santa Clause – creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Below: Hundreds of families gather to witness the arrival of the Santa Train in St. Paul, Virginia.

To end our adventure with the Santa Train, we caught it one last time from above, over the famous Copper Creek Trestle. In our video covering the magnificent event, the train is seen soaring 167ft. above the Norfolk Southern’s mainline located  directly below.

Though the Santa Train’s days might be numbered, with 2017’s train rumored to be the last run – its legacy will forever be remembered. CSX takes pride in the former Clinchfield Railroad and there’s no telling what the future may see brought back. You can watch our coverage of the 2016 Santa Train below.

A Day on the Indiana Northeastern Railroad

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AboveIndiana Northeastern #2185 leads a westbound train by the Coldwater, Michigan depot.

The Indiana Northeastern Railroad is a Class III Shortline headquartered in Hillsdale, Michigan. The railroad operates over three railroad lines. In the south, the Indiana Northeastern operates most of the remaining trackage of the former Wabash 4th District between Montpelier, Ohio and South Milford, Indiana. On the north end of the railroad, the shortline operates over the former Fort Wayne & Jackson Railroad to Bankers, Michigan and the New York Central’s “Old Road” between Hillsdale and Coldwater, Michigan.

Below LeftA view from the cab of the classic, 1962 EMD product: GP30 #2185.

On June 22nd, 2016 and Conductor Jeff James and Engineer Jimmy Van Heerde were preparing for a long day’s work on the shortline. Starting the morning in Ashley, Indiana – Jeff and Jim fired up EMD GP30 #2185 and GP9 #1602 to use as the motive power for a long northbound train to Hillsdale, Michigan. Before going north, the train shoved several miles to the east, where it would then take the northern connection to Hillsdale at Steubenville, Indiana.

Also on duty that morning was a maintenance of way crew. Utilizing GP30 #2230, the MOW Crew will follow closely behind the shoving manifest train to Steubenville. After the manifest takes the connection to Hillsdale, the #2230 and crew would head east, toward Edon, Ohio. We chased the #2185 after catching the MOW train at the Steubenville Connection.

The Indiana Northeastern Railroad began operations in 1992. Evolving from its initial operation as the now defunct Hillsdale County Railroad, after twenty years of steady growth and rehabilitation, the Indiana Northeastern has become a key shortline player in the region.

The railroad features a classic roster of EMD four axels, with two GP30s, a High Nose GP7 and 9, a former Santa Fe GP7U, and an ex-Illinois Central GP10. The railroad also purchased two six axel EMD locomotives in 2016. Both are SD40-2’s, with one having a rebuilt carbody of an SD45 and the other being rebuilt from a standard SD40 carbody.

The #2230 was built in April of 1963 for the Pennsylvania Railroad and still retains its original road number. The locomotive became part of the Penn Central Railroad System in 1968 and later, in 1976, became under Conrail ownership for the next twenty years. The #2185 also has a similar history, being built for the Reading in July of 1962. It also became part of Conrail in 1976, when the Reading dissolved into the newly formed super railroad. In late 1996, both locomotives were sold to Larry’s Truck & Electric for leasing service to shortline railroads. Power hungry in the early 2000s, the Indiana Northeastern acquired the #2230 and the #2185 from Larry’s and began operating the vintage locomotives on their system ever since.

After the long shove to Steubenville, the manifest train headed north on the Fort Wayne & Jackson mainline to Hillsdale. There, the connection is very tight and trains have to take the curve slowly. After the #2185 and the #1602 take the train north, the #2230 and crew headed east on the Wabash to Edon, Ohio.

At Fremont, Indiana – Jeff and Jim switched out a few cars. The Indiana Northeastern services Letica Plastic Fabrications and New Horizons Bakery in Fremont. Engineer Jim stopped the train to pick up Conductor Jeff, who had been following the train closely between Steubenville and Fremont in the company crew vehicle.

The second unit on the train, EMD GP9 #1602, is one of the oldest locomotives on the Indiana Northeastern’s roster. Built in April of 1957 for the Great Northern Railway, the locomotive operated all over the GN system between the Twin Cities and Seattle, Washington. In 1970, the locomotive fell under the ownership of the newly created “super railroad,” The Burlington Northern. Sold off after fifteen years of hauling trains for the BN, the locomotive was purchased by the Hillsdale County Railroad, where it continues to operated today, but under the ownership of the Indiana Northeastern.

After switching out the hoppers and dropping off Conductor Jeff at the crew vehicle, Engineer Jim the #2185 eased the train out of town. The lengthy consist continued on through the communities of Ray, Montgomery, Reading, Bankers, and finally Hillsdale before breaking for lunch and switching over to The Old Road. At the tiny community of Ray, the train will cross the Indiana and Michigan State Line. Montgomery is another rural, farming community in Southern Michigan. The original Lake Shore & Michigan Railroad depot is still located there.

AboveThe train rolls through Montgomery, Michigan while on route to Hillsdale.

The Fort Wayne, Jackson & Saginaw Railroad (later called the Fort Wayne & Jackson) was built between 1868 and 1869 to connect namesake cities with the rest of the growing rail network in south-central Michigan and northeast Indiana. The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern would have a controlling interest in the Fort Wayne & Jackson until the New York Central acquired the Lake Shore in 1914.

The Fort Wayne & Jackson would continue to operate under New York Central ownership and was the industry giant’s only access point into the City of Fort Wayne. Since Fort Wayne was primarily a Pennsylvania and Wabash dominated railroad town, the Fort Wayne & Jackson allowed the Central to access the thriving hub and compete with the two other companies for traffic heading north.

South of Reading, Michigan, the train stopped due to a fallen tree blocking the right of way. Engineer Jim stops to assess the situation and then decides to shove the train back to the nearest grade crossing, picking up Conductor Jeff who was wielding a chain saw. We gave Jeff a ride, leaving the crew van in Reading to take him to the grade crossing Jim had the train stopped at. After chopping the troublesome tree down, the train continues north to Reading, where Conductor Jeff is dropped off at the crew vehicle.

Continuing north, the train wound along the beautiful southern Michigan countryside. The train would go through the Community of Bankers. The curve at Bankers is where the Detroit, Hillsdale & Southwestern Railroad connected with the Fort Wayne & Jackson. The Indiana Northeastern operates over the DH&SW line to Hillsdale, where it then takes “The Old Road” line to Coldwater.

BelowIndiana Northeastern services this large Anderson’s grain elevator at Reading, Michigan.

At Hillsdale, the train arrived at the Indiana Northeastern’s Yard. Hillsdale is the location of the company’s headquarters, with the yard office being the central dispatch facility and crew base. There, the train tied down for a short lunch break before going further to Coldwater.

North of Hillsdale, in the small town of Jonesville, the Indiana Northeastern services Omni Source Metals. The #2185 did the switching. Taking loads and dropping off empties, Indiana Northeastern provides a vital service to industries like Omni Source in south-central Michigan.

After switching at Omni Source, the train continued on “The Old Road” to Coldwater. At Jonesville, the train will turn to the west. Jonesville is also the location where the Litchfield Branch connects to “The Old Road.”

Rolling along, the train slowed outside of Quincy, Michigan. The train will service the Star of the West Elevator before continuing to Coldwater. Star of the West is one of the key customers along “The Old Road” line, being serviced several times a week in the summer.

Right#2185 and #1602 switch out Omni Source in Jonesville, Michigan.

After switching out the elevator, the train rolled through Coldwater at speed, ending a long day’s work for the dedicated crew on the Indiana Northeastern Railroad. Truly, this shortline serves a vital part in keeping the economy moving in a unique region of the midwest. See the full video below.

Go West V: The Durango & Silverton

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AboveThe crew of locomotive #478 dumps the ash from the pans in a reenactment photo shoot in Durango. All photos are © 2016 by Michael Polk.

Durango and Silverton: two names synonymous with the Rockies. Located in southwestern Colorado, an amazing narrow gauge railroad continues to haul passengers between the two namesake towns, passing by some of the most beautiful vistas in the United States.

Formerly built as a mining railroad in the 1880s, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad  sees over 200,000 yearly visitors from all over the world. Today’s trip was no exception: with photographers from Switzerland and the United Kingdom on board. The date is February 14th, 2016 and during our Go West adventure, Delay In Block Productions participated in the railroad’s annual winter photographer’s special.

Today’s train consisted of Durango & Silverton’s #478 and eight coaches, set for a round trip between Durango and Teft Station Spur. On board, nearly one hundred other photographers eagerly waited to point there shutters at one of the most iconic steam trains in the United States. After the first set of runbys, we rode the train over the “high line.” This segment of the railroad is one of the most recognizable stretches of track in the country, with the raging rapids of the Animas River 400ft below.

The Durango & Silverton was constructed to serve the Denver & Rio Grande Western between the two namesake towns in the desolate southwestern portion of Colorado. For the first time, these settlements could easily be reached by the outside world. The rich mining communities blossomed with the arrival of the railroad, which spread commerce and culture to the region. The area continued to be prosperous with the expansion of the railroad for nearly eighty years.

BelowThe winter photographers’ train rolls over the “high line” portion of the railroad.

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The route was originally opened in 1882. The line was an extension of the D&RG 3 ft narrow gauge line from Antonito, Colorado, to Durango. The last train to operate into Durango from the east was on December 6, 1968. The States of New Mexico and Colorado purchased the 64 miles between Antonito and Chama, New Mexico in 1970. That portion is operated today as the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. The trackage between Chama and Durango was removed by 1971.

The line from Durango to Silverton has run continuously since 1881. Although it is now a tourist and heritage line, it is one of the few places in the U.S. which has seen the continuous use of steam locomotives. In March 1981, the Denver & Rio Grande Western sold the line and the D&SNG was formed. Today, this amazing tourist line continues to inspire and captivate the imagination – to a time when life was a little more simple.

As we roll along our scenic railroad journey, the train crosses a span called “High Bridge.” Installed in 1894, the bridge is one of the architectural highlights along the railroad. In November of 2015, the line was out of service for three weeks due to thorough inspection and maintenance.

After a brief fuel stop at Tank Creek, passengers de-boarded at a location called “Tall Timber” for two more photo runbys. At Teft Spur, the train was turned and we were given another chance at another photo runby. We would also capture the train crossing the Animas River Bridge from the hillside. This wrought iron bridge was installed in 1911 and is still standing strong 105 years later.

Shooting the train at the bridge was quite the thrill, but we would stop again for another runby at the Tacoma Power Plant. Here, a small siding allowed for photographers to hop out and frame the train from a distance.

Our final runby location would be on the world famous high line, with #478 giving it all she had on the mountain grade. The rest of our time in Colorado would be spent trackside on Union Pacific’s Moffat Tunnel Subdivision, watching Amtrak’s California Zephyr at various locations along the famous stretch of railroad. We even visited the namesake tunnel that made this railroad so prosperous – the 6.2 mile long Moffat Tunnel. Watch the video about the excursion train below.