Why Trains 21?

Looking south to the skyline of Atlanta the golden sunlight of a new day dawning electrifies the rails of CSX's Tilford Yard.

Looking south to the skyline of Atlanta the golden sunlight of a new day dawning electrifies the rails of CSX’s Tilford Yard in February 2005.

Documenting The Importance Of Today’s Railroads

It never fails to amaze me how often you find people who feel the same way you do about something. Take in point these passages from the home page of American-Rails.com.

“Sadly, as the 20th century progressed rail began to lose its luster and in the waning days between the 1950s and 1970s enormous amounts of our rail heritage was either abandoned or ripped up, most notably structures and landmarks such as Pennsylvania Railroad’s iconic Pennsylvania Station in New York City, the Central Railroad of New Jersey’s magnificent Newark Bay Bridge, the Milwaukee Road’s entire Pacific Coast Extension (which, itself, contained several noted engineering feats), a number of Chicago’s great passenger terminals, and the list goes on and on.

Since that time the public has taken a greater interest in preserving our remaining rail history, including important railroad lines (either still standing and/or in place today) and stations/depots. Even the railroads themselves have begun to restore service over some lines that were once abandoned realizing that the period of the 1970s and 1980s went too far in removing trackage.

For myself, I have always held a personal interest in trains as long as I can remember from everything to the miniature models to the real thing. Over that time I have begun to use the Internet more extensively as a resource tool to find answers on railroad-related questions. While there are numerous excellent websites out there for one to locate these answers I was finding it a bit frustrating that there was no one website which did this.

After some time I began to think, why not just create such a website myself? And that, in a nutshell, is the basis behind American-Rails.com, a website dedicated not only to bringing awareness about our country’s railroad history, both past and present, but also as a resource tool describing and educating about the country’s railroads in general. Similarly, it is my hope that American-Rails.com can be a beneficial guide for both those “railfans” out there like myself who may want to know the detailed particulars on a subject (for instance, say, the true history of the downfall and collapse of the fabled Milwaukee Road) as well as someone with a passing interest looking for an answer to a common railroading question.”

Almost word for word the previous paragraphs sum up my own feelings and what this website is all about. With that in perspective it may raise the question as to why I would start another such site. There were two reasons. The first reason is that although these two sites have many of things in common, in many ways they’re also very much different.

Unlike American-Rails which chronicles the history of the railroads, Trains 21 is a documentary of the present day. The purpose of Trains 21 is to illustrate what’s here today as opposed to what was there yesterday.

And while I’ll be giving you tidbits of history and homage to the past when the circumstances are appropriate for it, it’s assumed that you will already have a reasonable knowledge of the subjects being presented or at least have an informational source you can turn to for the historical specifics.

But the most visual difference is that Trains 21 is a media site which delivers its information primarily through images, video and other such forms in addition to the written word.


Norfolk-Virginia (3)

A sign of 21st century railroading can be seen in Norfolk Southern’s corporate headquarters in downtown Norfolk, Va..

In many ways Trains 21 was also an act of selfishness and bias. Take also this passage from the home page of that same website….

“The earliest American railroads in this country date back to the New Jersey Railroad Company of 1815 chartered by Colonel John Stevens. This line was ultimately never constructed and while small gravity and mule-powered roads popped up here and there in the eastern United States it was the coming of the steam locomotive that truly allowed railroads to prosper. In August of 1829 Horatio Allen tested an English-built steamer named the Stourbridge Lion in Pennsylvania and the rest as they say, is history.” American-Rails.com

Northeast Pennsylvania is the cradle and birthplace of American railroading starting with the Delaware & Hudson which, at the time of its inclusion into the Canadian Pacific Railway, was the oldest continuously operated railroad in America.

It’s this rich history that I felt goes largely unknown not only in America, but perhaps even more wrong, right here in northeastern Pennsylvania!

Growing up in NEPA it was only in the last three years that I myself learned of the grand heritage of the place that I call home and even more overwhelming was finding out that I grew up not only in the anthracite capitol of the world but also on the very rights of way that once was home to the Central Railroad Of New Jersey, The Lehigh Valley, The Delaware & Hudson and even the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad.

My overwhelm turned to frustration when I began searching for images and videos on northeastern railroading only to find that railroading in my area (most notably Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Hazleton and Carbondale) was largely and grossly under documented.

Today as I continue my search for media related to railroading in northeast Pa. I decided to take matters into my own hands. While it’s no secret that NEPA has lost most of its luster and allure in addition to most of its rail heritage the story is unfortunately repeated many times over in other cities and towns across America as well.

What remains needs to be documented so that future generations will have a media database available to know what railroading was like in NEPA and across America in the 21st century.

My goal is to not only show the places we all know and love, but to look deeper at the little known places you may have never heard about. As well, the big mega-systems of today aren’t the only stars of the show but also the small, out-of-the-way independent shortlines and Class 2 railroads who rarely get the representation they deserve.

In many ways railroading in America has come full circle as small branchline, switching and Class 3 operations are forming new generations of Class 2s and above.

I started Trains 21 out of fascination and frustration and it’s my hope that this website will bring attention to the nooks and crannies of railroading that all too often go unnoticed and under documented by the masses…. You’ll have to let me know how I’m doing. – AC