11 May 2017
Essex Connecticut USA - When riding the coach just doesn't cut it, climb into the cab and seize the opportunity to maneuver an authentic piece of history.
"It's the most wondrous gift there is. You get a chance to operate these big fire breathing dragons," says Kevin Dodd, President of the Essex Steam Train Valley Railroad Company, of a unique program called "Hand on the Throttle".
"1910, 1920, up through the forties, there were thousands of steam locomotives operating all around the United States. Today, there's less than 200 operating."
And you can drive one, after a lesson at the station.
Participants take to the black behemoth for a "bucket list" experience.
"We have men do it, we have women do it," says Dodd.
"You are going to be handling number 3025, built in 1989 (in China). It has been rebuilt and restored here."
Participants sit in the driver's seat, get a quick review of the controls, such as the throttle, the brake, the reverse lever, and begin to roll down the tracks!
The whistle is vital (and entertaining!) when passing through crossings.
The fireman helps the operator by shoveling coal and keeping an eye on the tracks, as the train thunders forwards toward Deep River at about 15 mph.
The steam train is gearing-up for a summer of fun activities, including the dinner train and Rhythm on the Rails.
"We are a full family venue of entertainment," says Dodd.
At the Deep River station, the bell and brake come into play, as we put the train in reverse.
It stays that way for the trip back to Essex.
It's a little dusty and slightly nerve-racking but operating the massive locomotive is incredibly exhilarating.
A true adventure along the rails.
"Lots of people do it every year," says Dodd.
"It's a great thing!"
Click here for more information about "Hand on the Throttle".
This "bucket list" experience costs US$550.00 and is booked by appointment.
It's opening weekend for the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat.
In honor of Mother's Day, Mom will receive a potted plant at the end of Sunday's standard train rides.
A special dinner train has also been added to the schedule.
20 May 2017
Hesketh Bank Lancashire England United Kingdom - West Lancashire Light Railway presents a Teddy Bears' Outing this weekend.
The West Lancashire Light Railway is a two-foot gauge passenger-carrying railway, which runs for about a quarter of a mile around a fishing lake (originally a quarry) in the village of Hesketh Bank.
The railway is operated entirely by volunteers, and is funded by a combination of membership fees, fare income, and donations.
They offer a family-friendly venue for visitors interested in live steam railways and the preservation of our industrial heritage.
Many of their visitors are locals who come regularly to ride the trains, whilst on special event days people come from near and far to see the latest attractions.
These include visiting engines, freight trains, traction engines, vintage cars, and live steam model railways.
Their latest event is the Teddy Bears' Outing on Sunday, 21 May 2017, which promises if you ride on the train to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise...
There will be two locomotives in steam at the event, ready for inspection by enthusiasts of all ages.
Don't forget to keep a look out for teddy bear trainspotters hidden along the way.
Admission is free and tickets to ride on the train cost, adults £4, children £3 (under three free), senior £3.50, and a family ticket is £12.
Half-price rides are available for all persons accompanied by a bear.
Hot and cold snacks are also available on and off site.
Picnic tables are provided so you can enjoy your sandwiches and biscuits and sit and watch the trains go by, but beware of hungry bears!
Ride tickets are valid all day so you can have as many rides as you like.
This year West Lancashire Light Railway is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.
It is planning two anniversary events in 2017, a "Nearly 50" gala in August and the 50th Anniversary Gala in September.
Each event will have a number of special attractions, including visiting locomotives, to help it celebrate its 50th year in style.
23 May 2017
Roanoke Virginia USA - The Virginia General Assembly named the N&W Class J number 611 the official steam locomotive of Virginia.
The resolution will be presented in the boarding area of the 611 at the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke on Memorial Day at noon between the locomotive's trips to Walton that day.
The morning 611 excursion to Walton is scheduled to depart Roanoke at 08:00 and arrive back at noon.
The afternoon trip leaves at 14:00 and arrives back in Roanoke at 18:00.
The Virginia Museum of Transportation says there will also be a birthday celebration at the museum for the J 611 from 10:30 until 15:00 with free cupcakes for all guests.
21 May 2017
Minehead Somerset England United Kingdom - Trainspotters hoping to catch a glimpse of the world's most famous steam locomotive may have had their fun ruined by a rogue trespasser.
People hoping to see the Flying Scotsman as it travels from Bristol to Minehead on Tuesday, 23 May 2017, have been warned to watch from a safe distance after a "very serious" incident of railway trespass on Friday in Gloucestershire.
The visit of the famous green steam engine has been known about for months and train enthusiasts have been waiting with bated breath to discover exactly when and where the train will pass through Bristol and the surrounding area.
However, after Friday's incident where a fan tried to get too close to the Scotsman by going onto the tracks, organizers have warned that an increased police presence is likely, Somerset Live reported.
They have also said that no details of timetables or vantage points will be released to the public.
Chairman of Steam Dreams, Marcus Robertson, said, "Due to a very serious incident of railway trespass which took place on Friday, 19 May 2017, involving Flying Scotsman in Gloucestershire, we urge those wishing to view it do so from a safe vantage point. It is vital that spectators do not venture onto the railway, particularly when it is on the mainline, as a full timetable of regular services will be running."
Organizers are working closely with the British Transport Police (BTP) to make sure everyone enjoys the famous train's visit safely, Mr. Robertson added.
He said, "On Tuesday, The Cathedrals Express will be visiting Bristol Temple Meads station with the world's most famous engine, Flying Scotsman, for a trip along the Severn Estuary via Newport and Gloucester and then going to west Somerset in the afternoon. In order to avoid overcrowding and incidents of trespass we are not publishing recommended viewing points or the timetable of when the train will be passing through specific locations. We are working very closely with Network Rail and the British Transport Police and it is likely the BTP will be increasing their presence along the routes for our next few trips."
When similar incidents of trespass happened last year police officers were by the tracks, on the train taking photos of offenders, and also overhead in a helicopter, Mr Robertson said.
He added, "A number of arrests were made and those taken to court are liable to a potential prison sentence, a £1,000 fine, and a criminal record. Of course, we want people to enjoy the sight of this magnificent icon of British Engineering which is why it is on tour around the West Country, but it must be done with regard to their safety and the law."
Trainspotters will have two opportunities to see the Flying Scotsman at Bristol Temple Meads on Tuesday, with the engine making a return journey to Minehead with passengers who were lucky enough to get hold of tickets on board.
However, with no timetable published it will take commitment and guess work to make sure you are there at the right time.
Leaving Bristol, the train will pass through Totterdown, Bedminster, Parson Street, and Long Ashton before venturing into Somerset.
The return leg of the journey will be diesel hauled.
The train will pass through Bristol once more on Friday, 26 May 2017, on its way to Bath during a tour of the West of England.
Fans can wait at stations, at a safe distance, to witness it pass through.
About the Flying Scotsman
It holds two world records, one for becoming the first steam locomotive to be officially authenticated at reaching 100 miles per hour on 30 Nov 1934, and one for the longest non-stop run by a steam locomotive when it ran 422 miles on 8 Aug 1989.
The train was originally built in Doncaster for the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER), emerging from the works on 24 Feb 1923 and initially numbered 1472.
It was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley as part of the A1 class, the most powerful locomotives used by the railway.
23 May 2017
Chicago Illinois USA - Last year, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society ran its first excursions in decades out of the Chicago suburbs and into Wisconsin.
This year, the Nickel Plate Road number 765, the society's old steam locomotive, will give a different part of Chicago a look at a classic train.
On 17 and 18 Jun 2017, Father's Day weekend, the train will run four excursions, two on Saturday and two on Sunday, traveling about 45 miles from Joliet to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station, where people will join in a cocktail party with snacks and a band before heading back to Joliet.
Along the way, the train will stop and passengers will be able to get out and watch the train steam by before it stops and picks them up again.
As usual, tickets to the excursions are selling well.
Each of the four trips will carry 700 passengers.
The first trip Saturday is sold out and the second is almost sold out.
The two trips to take place Sunday are about 80 percent sold out, said Kelly Lynch, vice president of the society.
The most expensive ticket, at US$249 each, have also been sold out.
The remaining tickets are US$99 and US$129.
And, as usually happens on the locomotive's outings, people are coming from all over for a chance to travel the way they did in the 1940s.
So far, passengers are coming from Connecticut, California, Texas, New Jersey, and Florida, Lynch said.
About 60 percent of the passengers are from the Midwest, including Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
Passengers are also encouraged to dress in period attire, if you have any clothes dating back the better part of a century.
Back in the 1920s through the 1950s, a train like this with a luxury car was the premier way to travel, Lynch said.
"It's like having a private jet, except it's on wheels, or rails."
The excursions are unusual.
They will be the first steam excursions in Joliet since the 1980s, and it will be the first time a steam engine has pulled into the LaSalle Street Station since 1973.
The 765 is stored in a railroad barn in New Haven, but there is a push to have the locomotive relocated near downtown Fort Wayne.
Lynch said studies have estimated that if the locomotive were centrally located and began excursions here, it could attract 140,000 people per year.
25 May 2017
Buckfastleigh Devon England United Kingdom - Enthusiasts trying to re-create a railway engine designed in Doncaster in the 1940s say they have reached a milestone.
The project to build a new Gresley class P2 steam locomotive, "Prince of Wales", says it has reached an important stage both in construction and fundraising.
Work has started on assembling the crank axle at a rail engineering works in Buckfastleigh, Devon, and an initiative to pay for the wheeling of the engine has reached its initial target of £200,000, pledged almost three months earlier than anticipated.
The 2-8-2 Mikado class P2 locomotives were the most powerful passenger steam locomotives to operate in the UK, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley to haul 600 ton trains on the arduous Edinburgh to Aberdeen route.
Six were built.
The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, builders and operators of famous new 100 mph steam locomotive "Tornado", which was also designed in Doncaster, is building the seventh member of this class over seven years at an estimated cost of £5 million.
The starting of work on the crank axle is a critical milestone for the project being the culmination of a long and expensive process carried out by the railway engineering consultants, Mott MacDonald at Derby, to eliminate a weakness in the original design that resulted in fracturing of the crank axle.
It is anticipated that the assembly of the axle will be completed in early June which will permit final machining prior to fitting of wheels and tyres which will complete the wheelset.
It is hoped to have the engine wheeled before the end of 2017.
Work has already started on the body of the engine.
The team behind the project visited Doncaster last year as part of a roadshow to tell people in the borough about the plans for the engine.
The original versions of the loco were built at the Doncaster Plantworks at Hexthorpe, the same factory which built Flying Scotsman and Mallard, both of which are now at the National Railway Museum in York.
24 May 2017
Modesto California USA - There's the Little Engine that Could, making it over a mountain against all odds, and then there's the very big Santa Fe number 2921.
Since 1960, the roughly 650 ton locomotive with tender has rested in Beard Brook Park, 30 feet below the nearest tracks.
It once was a popular attraction for kids who loved to climb on it and play engineer.
But after a cyclone fence went up around it in the mid-1970s, it sat neglected and deteriorating.
And since the mid-1990s, at least, there's been on-and-off talk of moving the massive steam engine up the hill and out of the park.
One proposal, since the Amtrak station on Held Drive was being built in the late 1990s, has been to move the train there.
That idea looks close to becoming a reality because Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has agreed to undertake the effort, and in the train's spot at Beard Brook, build a dog park.
Safety is the main reason for PG&E's plans, said Nathan Houx, the city's acting manager of the Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhoods Department.
The train sits atop a gas line about five feet below the surface, he said, so moving it will allow PG&E to quickly access underground utilities if the need arises.
"In the process, PG&E is making it a very positive project for the city," Houx said.
A concept plan of 2921's new home at the Amtrak station was shared with the Modesto City Council on Tuesday night.
It includes bench seating in a plaza of brick and concrete, historic railroad monuments, low-water landscaping, and an interpretive pathway.
Council members also viewed a concept plan for the dog park, which dwarfs the Modesto Dog Park at Morris and Enslen Avenues.
The Beard Brook facility will go from the existing north parking lot to the baseball field in the park.
It will be entirely fenced and divided into a smaller area for small dogs and a bigger area for big dogs.
There will be bench seating and water fountains for people and dogs.
The area includes existing rest rooms and a number of large shade trees.
It appears a large playground sand pit will be removed but an abstract climbing sculpture will remain.
In addition to being much larger than the Morris dog park, the Beard Brook one is far from a developed neighborhood so avoids "the challenges of constant noise" to residents, Houx said.
Beard Brook Park, between South Morton Boulevard and Dry Creek just southeast of downtown, long has been populated by the homeless.
Houx told Bee columnist Jeff Jardine in January that the city has been considering ways to generate more recreational activity there and reclaim it as a regional park.
"The goal is to get positive use of the park, that's what we're trying to accomplish," he said Wednesday.
"We need to get people back into using the park for positive reasons, and hopefully this will lead us to be able to continue getting other recreational elements into the park."
First, there's the matter of moving that engine.
Details weren't available from PG&E on Wednesday, but Houx said the utility plans to hire a couple of companies to relocate 2921.
"Basically, what it ends up being is they get it onto a truck and they drive it to the Amtrak station," he said.
A really big truck, with "a whole bunch of wheels," he added.
The locomotive, about 400 tons just on its own, Houx said, and tender would be moved separately and loaded on and off the truck using a crane.
The very slow move across town would take place during the night when traffic is light, Houx said.
PG&E expressed hope of being ready for the move in July, he said, but there's greater confidence that all, the move and the creation of the dog park, will be done by fall.
"PG&E will pay for the relocation expenses in total," according to a news release from the city, "while the city of Modesto will take on the maintenance plan for the locomotive, ensuring it remains in proper condition in its new location as a tribute to our city's rail history."
No money has been budgeted for any restoration and maintenance of the locomotive, Houx said.
He expects the city and PG&E will initially work together to "get it presentable and do some cleanup through the process of moving it."
The goal beyond that is to find a rail preservation group that would be interested in restoring it to some degree.