On the Road Again…

Well, hello all you Wandering fans. Hope you have had a great summer. Most school age children are back in school here in the Midwest. I previously mentioned in my last post that Mrs. Shuttletrain and I would be heading to the Chicago Southland area during the last weekend in July. Well, we did and boy was it a blast. I took a vacation day from my real-life position at Enterprise Holdings Inc.; you know them as Enerprise Rent A Car, National and Alamo. We headed east on Interstate 70 from St. Louis. to Effingham, Illinois. We then followed Interstate 57 north to the Chicago Southland area. I was expecting heavy rain during the drive. We never did run into any, so we arrived into the Village of Park Forest, Illinois. and visited the new railfan park overlooking the Canadian National Matteson connection. The reason, was because the next day we would be broadcasting the Let’s Talk Train Show from the Grand Opening. We spent just over an a hour at the RailPark, we saw over five trains pass by. 

When we arrived we were met by the Park Forest Parks and Recreation director, who then gave a a brief history and tour of the park. We then said good-bye and headed to our next meeting. It was a dinner meeting at an old Metra Commuter station turned into brew-pub, with the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau director and public relations directors. Mrs. Shuttletrain and I learned a great deal about the Chicago Southland Rail Trail. The Rail Trail includes the Pullman neighborhood, The towns of Homewood, Blue Island, Park Forest and Flossmoor. Then we got taken on a VIP tour of the brewpub by the owner. The Chicago Southland CVB officials then picked our brains about what they needed to do to increase railfans visits to the area. We were glad to offer our expert opinions. We spent the night at he Holiday Inn in Tinley Park. 

The next day started early. the public relations director of Chicago Southland CVB took us on a personal tour of the Rail Trail. I will say that the area has a lot of opportunities for railfans. With the support of the cities along the Trail, Chicago may just take the top spot for railfanning. After our quick tour, of three hours, we headed to the Park Forest RailPark and starting setting up for the LTT show. During the show, they held the grand opening of the RailPark, The Mayor, Park and Recreation Director, Chicago Southland officials and the public affairs director of  the Canadian National Railroad all took part in the show. Afterwards, we packed up and headed north and east to the town of Aurora, Illinois to visit their Roundhouse complex of shops and entertainment. We spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express Sycamore .

The next day, we headed to one of my favorite places the Rochelle Railroad Park. As followers may remember, we did a live show from the park last July. This time we just stopped by for a two hours meet and great and to watch trains. We met a whole bunch of people in those two hours and saw seven trains. We pulled out of Rochelle and traveling west to the small farm town of Milledgeville. to watch the BNSF roll by. That night drove to Morton, Illinois for another Holiday Inn Express awaited. Next day drove back to WashMo. 

The first Saturday in August we headed north to the town of Warrenton, Missouri for the annual Central Missouri Railroad Club’s swap meet. The crowd was really excited to visit with us. It was the first time, I began to feel we, the Let’s Talk Trains program, was gaining more attention. The next weekend, it was back to Centralia, Illinois for the dedication of the old Illinois Central caboose. The Canadian National employees renovated  a donated caboose that was placed next to the historic Illinois Central 2500 Steam Engine.. We caught up with the CN Public Relations Director and one of their Vice Presidents of Operations. The rest of the weekend we attended the Gateway Garden Railroad operating sessions in Nashville, Illinois. 

The highlight of the August, came up the third Saturday of the month. a trip to the Topeka Railroad Festival. KC Nathan, the Midwest LTT host; joined us to bring some of the sights and sounds of the festival to our listeners. They even had a wild west shootout during the show. Sunday we headed to the Mid-America Railroad swap meet. We bought another boxcar for our future G scale layout which by the way, we had our first planning walk through with the city engineer. He told us what we need to to to get the trains rolling.

We were planning on having the next weekend at home, but, an email from a LTT listener said that if we were free that the Amtrak Anniversary Train was going to be in Burlington, Iowa and that we should do another On The Road show from the Amtrak station in Burlington. We left Washmo at 530 in the morning and arrived at 930. It almost was a straight drive north. The Exhibit train was great. Even the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation has loaned items to the train. After the show, we headed over to the old Rock Island freight house now turned restaurant for some great food. The Big Muddy’s served fish, chicken and steaks. Everything I saw and smelled looked wonderful. Darkness fell and we headed back home to Washington 

This weekend, since we are having a guest host the the radio show, Mrs. Shuttletrain and I get a weekend at home to catch up on home work.

In four weeks, off to the town of Steelville, Missouri. Why you ask? Well find out next time.

Where have you been?

Well it has been quite a while since I wrote in Shuttletrain’s Wanderings. Sorry I have not kept up. With all the new stations opening up, the new Request-It’s coming in it has been quite busy in the IMWorld. So here it goes. Way back in January, I filled in for a sick co-host on the Let’s Talk Trains radio show, by broadcasting from a winter meeting of the St. Louis Gateway Garden Railroad Club that my wife and I were attending. I just walked up to the club president and asked him if he and a couple of members could talk during the two hours show. The show turned out to be the most listened to show of the past five years. The later in February we found another hot topic, railroad trespassing. That too was a huge audience. Then in March, I got sick and was in the hospital for diabetes issue. Better now doctors quickly got me back on my feet. In April, Mother-In-Law fell broke hip, then pasted away due compilations. May was a fast month nothing really eventful. But by June, I was ready to hit the road. Traveled to Springfield, Missouri to see grade school friends and of course a railroad museum. Over the July 4th weekend, decided to drive to Georgia and Florida. We left St. Louis and drove to Metropolis, Illinois where we had dinner. Since I left straight from the contact center, I still had my Alamo shirt on. While we were sitting eating a man, his wife, child and dog came up to patio to eat their dinner. The man noticed my shirt and asked me where the nearest Alamo was,, since he did not know of any in the near vicinity.. I told that I worked at corporate contact center in St. Louis. The gentlemen then informed me that he also worked for Corporate at the Clayton Center, but was just getting ready to start working at the Weldon Center. The gentleman asked what department I worked for. I told him Information Management-Stations. He immediately asked my name. I told him, and right away he said his name was Garrett Knowles. The same GarrettKnowles that I was emailing back and forth almost every week for my role in IM Stations. We talked a little while our wives talked among themselves. After finishing dinner we headed our separate ways.

We were about a half-hour out of Nashville, when the skies opened up and rain began to fly right towards the windshield. We managed to get to the hotel for the night with no problems. The next morning, woke up to a wet Nashville, but we could not sightsee as I forgot that we would be crossing the time zone into the eastern daylight time zone. We then drove from Nashville through Chattanooga, TN to the town of Dalton, GA.. Dalton was supposed to be the sight of a meet and greet with rail fans from the area, but, because of the forgotten time change we were an hour late. Thank goodness for Facebook, I updated the Let’s Talk Trains Facebook page with a rain delayed arrival. We arrived in Dalton to a crowd of about 30 people that were there to watch trains and meet me and Mrs. Shuttletrain. After visiting for about two hours, we headed down a rainy Interstate 75, through Atlanta, and then once we got near Macon, we jumped off Interstate 75 onto Interstate16, over to the evening stop of Waycross.

The rain continued as we arrived into Waycross, then stopped. Somebody must have had an inside action, because the entire town was turned out, lining the streets and sidewalks, and any available grass to watch the scheduled fireworks. from the town stadium. We had to be very careful driving around it all, children everywhere. We could not find the hotel, so we stopped at KFC to get dinner and ask directions just as fireworks started to go off. Waycross is a town that has railroad tracks on almost every side of the town,. The hotel was nice and the front desk agent even gave us a deeper discount because she saw my Enterprise key ring. We unpacked to luggage and headed into the room just and time as the sulfur smell was getting stronger.

The next morning packed up and headed down that historic road, US highway 1. Once we got to the US Wildlife Refuge called Okefenokee, we drove through and saw lots of gators cranes and other birds. We then pulled into the town of Folkston, GA which was where going to tape an episode of the Let’s Talk Trains show. We first head to the Okefenokee Diner to have an interesting lunch,. The drove to the Folkston Funnel Rail fan Platform. We talked to some of the rail fans and watched trains go by then headed over to the museum where the show was going to recorded from. We talked with the current and past mayors. the chamber president and three rail fans about the town and their rail platform. It rained off and on and trains kept passing quite often, as Folkston is the single point that all railroad traffic into and out of Florida comes through. We visiting until five in the afternoon. We got back on US 1, headed south into Florida, then hopped on Interstate 10 west to go to Tallahassee, for our dinner. Spending the night in the town of Bonifay, Florida. Bonifay looked to be a small interesting town, but, we could not spend too much time the next morning as we had to be in Fort Walton Beach by noon.

The trip from Bonifay to Fort Walton Beach was met with signs along the way saying water over roadway. It seems that the four days of rain caused the lowing beachfronts to flood and hold water.. Driving into Fort Walton Beach, we had to drive through several inches of water. Thank goodness we had a Jeep with four wheel drive. We checked into the hotel and then got ready for the beach wedding that we were there to attend. It managed to stop raining along enough for the weeding to take place. Then the partying began, which ended early for us, as we have to leave by 645 the next morning to drive back to St. Louis, since both Mrs. Shuttletrain and I had to be a work the next day..

Coming in less than two weeks, we will be off to Park Forest, Illinois for another Let’s Talk Trains show. After that, we drive to Sycamore, IL and Milledgeville, IL to celebrate Mrs. Shuttletrain’s aunts birthday along with my 51st birthday. Morton, Illinois has a great library of railroad artifacts so we will stop there on the way back to St. Louis. In August, two show trips are planned. and one in September. I will fill you in on those next time. Till then keep travelling, and remember Look, Listen, before you cross railroad tracks.

Thanks for wandering.

It’s Been Awhile…

Hey, everyone it already February. It has been a two months since I have chatted with you. I apologize for not posting during the month of January. I hope everyone had a great holiday season. Mrs. Shuttletrain and I got to celebrate with our relatives. Did not travel anywhere, other that right in the metro St. Louis.  I got to spend some time in my role as Railfan Relations Director for the Route 66 Railfan Center and RailPark at the World’s Greatest Hobby show. I got to interact and meet lots of railfans and other people interested in railroading. Then a couple of weeks later, hosted the CEO of the new corporation that took ownership of St. Louis Union Station, Bob O’Loughlin, He was a great guest on my second show of January. It was a delight knowing that a place that is near and dear to me, is getting a third life.

I should mention, that the week before that show, I tried to to do another and had to cut that show short, as I was not feeling very well. I ended up in the hospital for four days. I had bronchitis/diabetes/heart issues. everything got back on track, and doing much better. I am back at work enjoying the job.

Ok, here comes the biggest news….Mrs. Shuttletrain and I are planning on building a garden railroad on the north side and back of our house in Washington, Missouri. We are just in the planning stages, so we have joined the Gateway Garden Railroad Club. We are planning on have the Missouri Pacific and KATY represented.  We visited the Gateway Garden winter meeting and joined up with some great people. I am glad to have their knowledge and experience.  We will show pictures each step of the way.

That’s it for this posting, more soon I promise.



Railroad’s Responsibility vs St. Louis Post Dispatch

A  Couple of weekends ago I was reading the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s online service, StlToday. I saw a little line on the home page that caught me eye. It was called, Death On The Rails. I watched the video clip that was attached and I could not believe my eyes. Having a broadcasting background, I was amazed and stunned at what I saw. The video was promoting a new newspaper series on pedestrian deaths and blaming the railroads for not doing enough to stop the actions of people trespassing on private, railroad property. I even had Mrs. Shuttletrain, watch. I called my Kansas City friend and fellow host of the Let’s Talk Trains. He watched the video and was to surprised to see how slanted the video was. This was even before seeing the articles. During that Saturday’s Let’s Talk Trains show, we spent part of the second hour talking about the series. The first installment, was posted and immediately posters started posting how slanted the article was. Most were from the St. Louis area, I posted the link on the LTT’s facebook page as a point of interest to our listeners. As the following articles came out, more and more poster’s saw what the so-called enterprise reporter were doing. They published pictures of young people, walking along the tracks or just starting to cross the tracks. Poster’s asked whether or not they called police, or staged the pictures, encouraging the trespassing to make there point.

The articles had the follow titles; In Maplewood, ‘How many people does it take to get killed before they take action?’: Hundreds die walking the tracks each year; A mother killed, her son injured, yet the railroad refuses to whistle.; Railroads have fought efforts to identify problem spots for pedestrians; Rail safety group shrinks as danger grows; Towns, train fight over fences — and responsibility for safety; Light rail sees fences differently; Criticism of fencing disappears from railroad regulator’s memo. They even had the editorial board write an editorial after the series was done, praising the reporter for doing such great job of reporting. After the postings complaining of the hatchet job the reporter was making, They starting posting all the awards that the reporter and the photographer had previously received for their stories. They also tried to say that they had “conducted more than 90 interviews for these articles, talking with victims’ families, railroad officials and workers, regulators, public officials and police, and reviewed thousands of pages of court documents, regulatory filings and industry publications.

As a child, growing up right next to the tracks. my birth house was two houses away, I was always made aware by my parents of the dangers of railroads and to have a very healthy fear of being hurt by them. I will admit that I would walk across the tracks from now and then, but, and a its a big but, I never did it with earbuds, or earphones. I never think of walking in the middle of the tracks as children do now. I would always cross straight across. This was in the days when rail traffic was higher than it is now. I did ride bicycles down the right of way as I see kids doing these days. I always made sure that I when I crossed, I had a clear line of sight both ways before I crossed. These were the days before quiet zones, back then you could here the train several grade crossings away blowing the horns. I think that quiet zones are wrong and give the NIMBY’s too much power. After all,   in most cases the railroad was there before the homes or most the current families moved in.  I watched each article comments, very closely. The mother of a Kirkwood student that was wearing earbuds, and walking on the tracks as short  cut as he had many times before, was run over by an AMTRAK train headed to it’s station stop in Kirkwood. Since I have ridden that line many times. I knew the crew that was on-board that day. I know that they had a bad time dealing with the fact that the student was killed. The mother sent my a personal facebook message that my now departed mother, knew and loved the student a lot and that my postings were not honoring my mother or the student. I stepped back a moment and thought about what she said. As a railfan and train show host, I knew that, I was sorry that her son was killed, but to be part of a story that blamed the railroads for contributing to his death, that was just plain wrong. The series had another parent blame the railroads for not putting up fences in areas that had high number of trespassers near Chicago and they even tried to say that an east coast railroad was covering up because a in cab camera was not working. The in cab cameras are not required and are not part of a locomotives operation.

The series did have a comment from the Union Pacific Media Relations Director, but the only line used made him and his railroad look bad. I know the person directly and he would have have lots more to say besides what was printed. Can you say, “taken out of context”. The series then focused on Light Rail operations, basically having their PR person say that they are going to fence the entire line. Of course, the Light Rail is a public funded organization and the use electric wires to power the trains.

The comments kept pouring in, on the website. I decided that I would devote another hour on the topic, I invited a Webster Groves Police Captain, two AMTRAK station managers on the show. The police captain said that have a great working relationship with the two railroads that travel through the town. He was open to the idea of anything that would help keep people off any private property, but that it fences were not always the right solution. Personal responsibility is the number one solution. The AMTRAK station managers pointed out that they have on more than one occasion people taking prom or wedding pictures.  They both agreed that if fences were built people would cut through them or just walk around. The mentioned that building bridges would be just an annoyance and people would not use them. When I brought up the comments made by a former VP of American Association of Railroads that railroads needed to do more. I was told by guest that they did not believe that the man said that and that his words were again taken out of context.

Are railroads to blame? I still say no. I do not think that the Post Dispatch did anyone a favor by running this story except lawyers. I think that the story was driven by the ambulance chasing lawyers. Just saying. Please read the articles and leave your impressions on the newspapers website and here. Please just remember, I do not want anyone to die around railroads, I just want people to be act responsible around them.

Thanks for wandering.




November to Remember

Since 2006, when Mrs. Shuttletrain and I got married. We have always visited Kansas City each year over our anniversary. Kansas City is where  I ask the future Mrs. Shuttletrain to marry me, in front of my best friend and his wife, and hotel resturant full of diners. We have stayed in different hotels, in different parts of the city. One year it was in Westport, one year in Downtown, and this year as once before in the famous Country Club Plaza area. We drove up this year because we were planning to visit a friend’s hometown layout.

We arrived in KC about 10 in the evening, checked into the hotel, dropped out stuff in the room and headed down the hotel bar, We usually to the bar thing three or four times a year, Usually on special occasions. The next morning was the third Saturday of the month, so I asked my friend and fellow host KC Nathan, to help host the Let’s Talk Trains show. I had been trying to have the Kansas City Southern officials and the Kansas City Southern Historical Society on the program, but, they never returned emails or voicemail messages. That’s why as a former broadcaster, I always have a back-up plan. I interviewed KC Nathan as a Kansas City Railfan. It worked great for 95% of show, Mrs. Shuttletrain called me during the last 20 minutes of the show and told me that she was not feeling well, and needed to go to the ER. We drove the four blocks to the hospital. We spent the next six and half hours in the ER. they found she had a very bad case of acid re flux. When back to the hotel and let her fall asleep. The next morning, our actual anniversary date. we got up head off on the annual chores. First stop, we headed to Ward Parkway Mall to visit Train Town KC. This is the club that KC Nathan belongs to. It is located inside an un-used store, provided free of charge by the mall. That’s until someone else comes and pays to use it. The visit awhile and then head for Crown Plaza for the Christmas Card picking, and the tree ornament selection. Then the walk through the stores of Crown Plaza. next, we walk over to Kansas City Union Station. This year, the walk was different. Union Station has been trying to right itself of downward slide. They have allowed non-train related businesses hold court in the complex. The Chamber of Commerce has moved into the east end of the station blocking off the normal entrance from the Link from the hotels and Crown Plaza. Visitors now have to walk past a stark white walls to a elevator, down to a floor into long corridor that they have attempted to fill with pictures of days gone by. The corridor then opens into the Grand Hall a few feet from where you used to come through the Pullman Food Court and then most recently, the Harvey Diner. As we walked to the area of the Grand Hall that used to have a large train display. This year, the only think there was a large Christmas tree.  The restaurant that was in the middle of the Grand Hall has was closed, at least the day we visited. We walked back to the Sprint Hall. The hall was decorated at the Christmas trees and as we walked back, we could see the Jones Store train going around the tree. the Jones Store was a department store that was founded in Kansas City. The chain was taken over by the May Company, then the Macy’s Chain. Slowly, we walked around the tree and found two Christmas Train displays on either side of the KC Model Train Exhibit. One of the unique features was this gingerbread KC Union Station. Image


The Holiday Train Experience was located in the Exhibition room in the far back of the gathering hall. After wandering through it we walked through the AMTRAK area, to see what it looked like. It shows its age. Mrs. Shuttletrain remarks, that the residents used their tax dollars to give the station its rebirth.  The AMTRAK shows wear and tear. You would think that since the KC Chamber has an interest in the station now, they would really keep this up better. We left the station and walked to the newest attraction in the Crown Center. The KC Sealife and Lego experience. You notice they call lots of things experiences? Adults are only allowed in the Lego area with children or during an occasional adult night. As for the Sealife, I would give it a seven out of ten. The larger Sealife’s in the Mall of America is better.

After to walk through, we headed back to the hotel, and cleaned up, and headed to the anniversary dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. The Cheesecake Factory is where I took Mrs. Shuttletrain on our first date. We had a great view of the Plaza and we always seem to imagine what it will be like in a few days after the annual lighting of the Plaza, over a million people come and watch the lighting. We head back to the hotel and relax. Then on Monday, we headed back east to the great city of Washington, MO.

Kansas City has a lot of offer visitors, no matter what the season or the weather. Did I mention that Crown Center has a restaurant that serves the food via a train, its called Fritz’s.

See ya real soon.

A visit to my past…Centralia, Illinois

Centralia was the epicenter of my mother’s parents family.. My grandfather would bring me over to his brother’s farm at least three times a year in addition to the two weeks during the summer. I fell in love with the town, I should also mention that one of my uncles was an engineer on the Illinois Central Gulf, with his home base in Centralia. I go to Centralia, at least twice a year to watch trains. I used to take the train from Warrensburg, Mo to New Orleans, that would be attached from AMTRAK’s River Cities to the City of New Orleans.The River Cities would pull into Centralia about 1230 in the morning. The City would come down alongside and then backed up onto the dome car. Centralia is right in the middle of Illinois east and west. The town has the old Illinois Central, now Canadian National. coming right through downtown, The Burlington Northern Santa Fe also cuts through town, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific also have Centralia on a timetable. I was alerted by a friend that the big old static steam engine, The Illinois Central 2500 would be open as part of the town’s Fall Harvest Festival.. This was the locomotive that I had always stopped by anytime we came to the town when I was a kid. I had not been back to it in a long time, because the highway had gotten moved.

So Mrs. Shuttletrain and I headed eastward, since it was a Saturday that I was just doing the regional roundup, I ask the host for the week, KC Nathan, if I could have a segment. I got to speak to one of the original people that helped bring the 2500 to it’s resting place. I had seen the video of the move, but to actually speak to the person in person, it was a thrill. We did the segment and then looked all over the engine. We headed downtown, where CN had their Community Relations Team selling railroad food, t-shirts. The railroad also had their mini-train, an E unit,, kitchen car, lounge car, theatre car, and a GP-8. Wow what a discovery.
I should mention that the theatre car and kitchen car. were not open to the public., a little disappointment.. The weather could have been much better, it was windy and cold,. leftovers from the eastcoast hurricane . I will remember this day for a long time.
Thanks for wandering this week.

Wanderings from DC to Missouri

Welcome back everyone. When I last left you, It was Monday afternoon, Mrs. Shuttletrain and I were in the great state of Maryland, headed to Washington District Of Columbia. We found the Parkway semi crowded as we approached the DC area at 5:00 in the afternoon. We found the Holiday Inn Express, checked in, unpacked. As I looked out the window for the view, to my amazement, our room overlooks the Northeast Corridor rail line. AMTRAK Northeast Commuter, Acela, and MARC lines ran by the window every five minutes. We walked around the four different sections. The grand hall, the midway (Mall), food court, and the  Amtrak/MARC/VRE gates. We found the National and Alamo Co-Shared counter. No renters, just the agent filing paperwork. We moved on the Metro station, down the stairs, the escalators were all headed up. We walked around the White House and the Executive House. The streets have been blocked off or fenced off more than back in 2002 , when I last visited the nation’s capital, during the national law enforcement ceremony. We saw the protesters camped out in Lafayette Square.  We walked over to the Museum of American History. We had lined up a tour of the railroad collection of the Smithsonian. After the tour, we wandered through the rest of the collection. We then went to the National Aquarium. Folks, we were not impressed. For being located in the basement of the Commerce Department, we were embarrassed that our visitors see this as our National Aquarium. Next up, was the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which my father was a charter member, who was later shot in the line of duty but survived, only to die later of the pancreatic cancer.   Walking around the memorial, we headed to the National Building Museum. Walked around inside, but, did not go to the exhibits. To keep on the National Park theme, we visited Ford’s Theatre Museum, since the actual theatre was closed to an actual rehearsal. We then went across the street and went through the house where Lincoln died. We had never walked so much. We made our way back to Union Station, caught the hotel shuttle back for dinner and to pick up our car to head to the Jefferson, Lincoln, WWII, Vietnam, Korea memorials. I had been taken there at dusk on my trip before, so I thought it was the best time to introduce Mrs. Shuttletrain to them. She commented later, that indeed was the most memorable time to see them. After taking in the moments, we headed back to the hotel for a night’s rest.

Wednesday, the second full day in WDC. After breakfast, we caught the hotel shuttle back down to WUS. This time, we boarded the Metro, to the Smithsonian stop. We visited the Castle, then the Air & Space Museum, which is only part of the museum. The other is at Dulles airport. After the A&S, walked around the Washington Monument, then walked to the capitol, and up the hill. Then found the nearest metro station, to find Dupont Circle, to meet long time friend and former boss. After dinner, headed back to to WUS and out shuttle.I watched the trains pass by my hotel window for about an hour. Then off to bed.

Thursday, I wish I could do over again. Breakfast was good, packed the car and left the hotel, which was in the northeast part of DC, at 9:00 am. Our first destination, Arlington Cemetery, which by the way is the Robert E. Lee plantation. It only took us three hours to find the right road. In the process of being lost, we did find the US Air Force Memorial. Really nicely done. Once we used our eyes, instead of following the GPS directions. We parked our car, and began the walk, no cars allowed unless you’re in a funeral procession.  We visited the Kennedy graves, then walked up the hill to the Lee House. The house is undergoing repairs, due to the earthquake. but the house was almost ready to bring the furniture back into the house. We toured the museum and the gift shop, then continued the walk to the Tomb Of The Unknown, saw the Changing of Guard. We visited the space shuttle memorials. It was getting late in the day, so we found our car and headed towards Manassas, VA which would be our stop for Thursday evening. We arrived and had enough daylight to visit the Manassas National Battlefield. Then checked into the Manassas Holiday Inn, yes, It was the only full service HI we would stay at during our trip. Just as we returned from dinner, the skies opened up with the biggest thunderstorm of the trip.

Friday morning, brought sunshine and cooler temps. We headed northwest towards Harpers Ferry, WV. we made a quick via in Leesburg, VA. The Chamber of Commerce is located in a old mill complex and train depot. Harpers Ferry is a town within a national park. The town is located between two rivers that come together. Railroads and the canals both fought each other in this town. As you probably guessed, the railroads won. The town has several remnants of old bridge supports. The town has two rail lines that converge into one over the river before it heads into the Harper’s Ferry Tunnel. Harper’s Ferry is a stop for AMTRAK’s Capitol Limited. The National Park Service does the history proud. After spending about four hours visiting the town, we started our journey over the West Virginia Mountains. Unlike three years ago, I drove the twists and turns. since Mrs. Shuttletrain almost turned to stone, after driving them.  Reaching Ohio after dark, we made our way to Chillicothe for the night at the Holiday Inn Express.

The sun rose upon the horizon, that was our signal to begin the sightseeing in Chillicothe.  First stop, for Saturday was the National Park Service’s Hopewell Historic Site. The Indian Mounds pre-dated, the Cahokia Mounds near St. Louis. Moving on into Downtown Chillicothe to the Chillicothe Railroad Museum. The museum was started by a man and his wife that thought the railroad history of Chillicothe. The museum is housed in two Baltimore and Ohio cabooses. While small, added to the fact that the city wants to close the museum, this museum has a very good collection of memories. After taking to the volunteer that was manning the store this Saturday, I learned that the museum was indeed a labor of love. We left and continued westward along US 50 to Cincinnati. Hit another National Park Site, this time, the home of President Taft. Taft’s house has been preserved in it’s glory by the NPS.  We made a quick pitstop at the Museum Center in Cinny, then had dinner at a nearby Big Boy. Our bed down stop for the evening, was Vincennes, Indiana at what else a Holiday Inn Express.

The final day of vacation wandering, started off like every morning on this wandering, breakfast then at eight, leave for the first stop. The George Rogers Clark National Monument was our first stop on the banks of the Wabash River. While the visitors center is small, the monument is one large cylinder made of Granite on the outside and Marble on the inside, The interior has several murals, which the Park Service has a wireless audio program that describes the murals. Very informative, and moving. With Indiana behind us, we crossed over into Illinois , and moved on down 5o, we paused in the town of Carlyle. The former B & O railroad station , still stands and is used by the CSX Louisville Division as a crew base, The station looks pretty good. After trying to dream about what it would have been like to see a steam engine just come over the rise and head into St. Louis. After coming back to to the current place of time, we piled back in the 2005 Jeep and wound our way to the Mississippi River and over the bridge we went back into our home state of Missouri. An hour later, we arrived back in the town of Washington. After thirteen days of wandering, it did feel different being back at home base.  But I know the wanderings will continue soon.

Till next time…Please remember,,anytime is train time, and take those earbuds and cellphones off when your’re around railroads. If not for your sake, the other people affected by your bad decision.

Woo Woo

Wandering the Ohio, and Pennsylvania countryside

The month of September means an extended vacation. This year, Mrs. Shuttletrain and I decided to head east.  We left Washington, Missouri and headed east, first on Interstate 44 then onto Interstate 55. We then joined Interstate 70 which we travelled across Illinois. We stopped at Vandalia, the home of the first state Capitol. We ate dinner at our usual Long John Silvers. Then found our way through Indianapolis. The city has expanded the airport with new roads and interstates. The first night was spent at the Holiday Inn Express in Greenfield, IN. The hotel was a rather new. I love staying at Holiday Inn Expresses because they offer free internet but they have a free hot breakfast.

Wednesday morning, we continued east through eastern Indiana and Western Ohio. The first sightseeing stop was the Frank Lloyd Wright house, Wescott House. Mrs. Shuttletrain and I have gotten the opportunity to visit several of the FLW houses. This one is a little smaller but the but yard made up for the small size of the house. For more information visit, http://www.westcotthouse.org. We then headed back to Interstate 70 and found our way to Trinway, Ohio. I heard that there was a gentlemen’s yard that had a big collection of railroad memorabilia. We got several pictures of it. I was impressed. The gentlemen’s had a museum, but, the State of Ohio shut him down, because he did not have a public restroom. Dinner was at the Bob Evan’s in Zanesville. OH. We then headed across the Ohio River and into the Wheeling tunnel. Last time we headed this way the tunnel was closed. This time they only had one lane open so it was bumper to bumper. We then followed the winding Interstate 70 up the hill into Pennsylvania. to the town of Belle Vernon where another Holiday Inn Express waited.

The next morning, Thursday was going to be a big travel day. The desk clerk told us that our first stop was only an hour away. We left the hotel at 8:00 am, We hopped back on Interstate 70, which joins the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Turnpike brought us to the Somerset exit, which is where we exited and found the Flight 93 National Memorial. This memorial commemorates the brave efforts of the passengers about the hijacked Flight 93 on September 11, 2011. While the National Park Service only has phase one of four phases done. It really moved my heart. The  next site we found was the Incline Plane of Johnstown, PA. This Incline Railroad is still operated by the local transit district. They still use it to get vehicles (cars, motorcycles) and pedestrians from the town level up to the top of the mountain, where a restaurant , museum and gift shop are on top of the mountain. We then hurried down the mountain and found the Johnstown Memorial, we drove through the area quickly. We had several other place to go this day, so we had to have forward progress. Cassandra, Pennsylvania was an overlook the had 20 people watching trains. Cresson, PA was not very interesting. The feature was the of this town was the Station Inn. We visited with a few people that were staying there. The Station Inn is for the hard core fan. The rooms are nice, but, they have a two night stay requirement. We move on to the town of Gallitzin, which has the two tunnels. The town has made a very nice railroad park and cutouts on the bridge to make pictures very easy. The museum across the street was supposed to be open until 5pm was closed and not sure why. The next feature was driving under the world famous Horseshoe Curve. We were too late to see the Curve, so we headed to the third Holiday Inn Express of the trip in Altoona. The hotel was hosting the local Chamber of Commerce party, there was no place to park, so we went to dinner, finally after an hour of eating, we found a parking space and headed into the hotel to rest our head. This hotel is one of the oldest we stayed in during our wandering. I had to stop and ask a fellow Enterprise Rent A Car agent where it was.  The long day of sightseeing was over, and that;s how we ended the third day.

The fourth morning brought us partly cloudy skies that soon turned into mostly cloudy. The first stop of the morning was the Pennsylvania Railroaders Museum on the northside of Altoona. This museum is housed in the old Altoona shops. We entered the visitors center and met up with Cyndi Hershey, who just happens to be the Director Of Administration for the museum. She gave us some background on the museum, and then let us explore the exhibits ourselves. The entrance/lobby transports the visitor into the world of the railroader. The exhibits in the museum tell the story of the railroader. A railroader describes both the crew of the railroads and the people that serviced and maintain the railroad. The museum also highlights the inventions that the Altoona Shops created. One of the most interactive features in a Irish bar, in which, with the help of two rear projection screens, has engineers and maintainers relive stories as bar patrons.  The rolling stock visible from the outside yard is not overwhelming . The yard  was being transformed into a concert venue for a big community event the next day. I would say that the Pennsylvania Railroaders Museum is definitely a stop worth coming back to. They focus on the human side of railroading. After leaving the museum. we headed back west to the second part of the Museum, the World Famous Horseshoe Curve. They have a incline that will take you to the top or you can take the stairs like will did. Warning: pace yourself. The top or the ridge as the locals call it, is awe inspiring. The curve literally, puts you in the middle of the bend. The Norfolk and Southern trains come from behind you on either side and then parade right before your eyes. The remains of the old station still stands as does an old diesel engine. Plenty of benches and there is a loudspeaker that broadcast the dispatcher frequency. Downside is there is no ATSC display. Going down, we took the funtacular(Incline) back down and headed to the curve museum. Very nice and simple. We then people watched a few minutes to get reactions of people has they first saw the curve or just heard a train a different way. We then left Altoona behind and headed to the next area on our itinerary, Bellefonte, PA. The town has  their chamber office inside a restored train station. The chamber greeter, was not helpful at all when it came to questions about the depot and the railroad. She kept referring us to the Railroad Historical operation that shares the building but was not open, even though they were supposed to be. We had to be satisfied with just taking pictures of the building and some passenger cars outside. The daylight was heading over the hills. so we continued our wanderings across Interstate 80 and turned northwards on Interstate 81 with Dickson City as our hosts for the evening. We checked into the Holiday Inn Express and had dinner at Red Robin. The town is nestled overlooking Scranton. Very pretty and scenic. The moonlit night was a great thing to behold.

The first Saturday of our wandering was going to be another packed day, but only two places to visit. This day found us at the Steamtown National Historic Site.Steamtown was where I was hosting the Let’s Talk Trains Show from, feature Steamtown and four other National Parks that had a Railroad Focus. We walked the site with the host, NPS historian and archivist, Patrick McKnight. Mr. McKnight really knows his history about the Site and more importantly, the area’s place in railroad history. The site is built around the roundhouse, and yard of the former Delaware and Lackawanna . The National Park Service has done it’s remarkable job keeping the history of America. I was very impressed, about the collection of displays in the roundhouse. The original Steamtown USA was a private collection, that were handed over first to a foundation then the NPS. I found out that the main reason that Steamtown is a National site is that the National Park Service under President Reagan was the head of the California Railroad Museum. Some of the other parks on the show were: Golden Spike National Historic Site, Grand Canyon National Park,  Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Allegheny Portage Railway National Historic Site . It was a great show, the guests were excellent, beyond belief. After the show ended,  we said our goodbyes to our host and the facilities staff, not before posting for pictures with the Mr. McKnight, Mrs. Shuttletrain, and our LTT sign next to the Steamtown sign. With that the show done, headed south along the Northeast Extension to King of Prussia and the KOP Holiday Inn. Checked in and got a treat, My cousin, lives in nearby, Warrington, so he and his friend joined us for dinner, boy the old saying is right, time flys when you are having great time.

Sunday morning started off in Valley Forge National Historical Park, with the early morning joggers The history flows like the rolling hills. The most unexpected feature of the park was that prior to just a few years ago, visitors arrived at the park by the railroad.  The old station still stands as if it was just yesterday, although, the inside has been turned into the starting point for the Washington House tour. The park visit lasted just over three hours and we still wanted to see more, but, the sweet smell of Hershey was calling.  Chocolate World is world’s largest chocolate smell vision. They have theme parked the factory tour right out of the factory into a theme ride that feels like it should be next door at the theme park. Our Holiday Inn Express for the evening just happen to be next to the main NS tracks that lead to Philadelphia. Fast and Furious they came and went. So much for Sunday.

Monday morning starting before the sun. We thought we would catch the sunrise at Gettysburg  National Military Park and start the battlefield tour in the early morning mist.The Gettysburg Foundation created the Palace aka Visitor Center. They rebuilt the cyclorama and added a three screen video retelling of the battle. The cost is a little over the top. They should just stayed with the Cyclorama. The morning came to an end so we headed, east of US Route 30 f0r Strasburg and the oldest railroad in the US. The Strasburg had just finished it’s week visit with Thomas. We backed down the main to an area short of junction work then steamed back to the yard. Afterwards,  headed across the street to the Pennsylvania State Railroad Museum. Once again, we found another piece of railroad heaven. Boy, did they have a lot of rolling stock under one very large. The museum has a great collection of different pieces. The time in the Pennsylvania was coming to an end, We darted off on a diagonal path from Strasburg, through Delaware into Maryland and over the Francis Scott Key, you know why he is famous, bridge into our Nation’s Capital.

Historical Weekend #1

This weekend brought a unique sight to North St. Louis County and St.. Charles County, Missouri. The Norfolk and Southern leased the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s Nickel Plate Railroad 765. This locomotive has been travelling the northern half of the United States, running NS employee specials for it’s 150 anniversary. The weekend of September 8th and 9th, hundreds of NS employees and their families got to take part in a little part of history. The 765 made two trips each day from the Berkeley, Missouri yard, which used to service the FORD plant, which is now closed. The train then went across the Missouri River bridge and as far as St. Peters, Missouri. The train was made up of the NKP 765 it’s tender, NKP crew mechanic car, The Mid-America Railcar the power car and eleven passengers cars. The NS heritage locomotives, the Illinois Terminal and Wabash. The reason those two units were brought along was because the trip from Fort Wayne, ID to Berkeley traveled on both of those old lines. The 765 pulled the train out and the new diesels pulled her back. There where was a long line of railfans watching her pass. Some railfans could be classed as foamers, some reliving the past, and some had never seen a steam engine or for that matter, a train ever.

Sunday, instead of watching the train, I set out for Marthasville, Missouri to follow the KATY railroad that has become a Rails To Trails project. As I have posted before, the city has restored and moved the last station of it’s kind, next to the trailhead of the trail. It’s still in it’s green on green color. The trail still uses several of the bridges that were built for the railroad way back in the 1800’s. We then crossed the Missouri into another historic town called Hermann. The town is now known for it’s wineries. The town no longer has a train station. It has a shed that AMTRAK passengers use to board the train.

This weekend just reminded me, that history is everywhere, you just have to look for it.

Thanks for wandering.

A railfan's view of United States of America, it's people and it's railroads.

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