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About This Site

My name is Mary Rae McPherson.

I was first bitten by the railroad bug when I was still in grade school with exposure to the books of Lucius Beebe and Don Ball, Jr.  I grew up in Carbondale, Illinois, along the mainline of the Illinois Central Gulf.  My childhood home also put me with twenty miles of the last steam powered shortline in the U.S., the Crab Orchard & Egyptian Railroad.  I grew up a fan of the steam locomotive, and this led to an interest in railroad history. At the same time, I have been an active railfan photographer since the age of nine.

In addition to being a railfan, I am also a railroader by profession. I hired on with Amtrak in 2000, and am currently a conductor based out of Carbondale on “The City of New Orleans.”

This blog site is a place for my railroad related writings, which include historical articles, photo essays and stories of working for the railroad.

Please feel free to leave your feedback and comments.

Mary Rae McPherson

9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 13, 2010 6:48 pm

    Awesome site, Mary!

    I grew up in the south Chicago suburbs, and our house was situated such that all I had to do was look out the front picture window and I could see the mainline Illinois Central, along with the electric suburban line.

    Needless to say, I grew up a railfan and IC was my main interest. But I didn’t pursue a rail career; I originally wanted to, but my parents wanted better for me. I live in St. Louis now and I’m actually not very interested in the IC anymore, but I do like to keep up on activity on the old Chicago Division. I was especially saddened to see that the four tracks (excluding the commuter line) which comprised the division at that point have been whittled down to, what, only two tracks now?

    Anyway, just wanted to drop a line and tell you how much I enjoy your site! I look forward to your future posts!

  2. March 5, 2010 2:32 pm

    Mary, Thank you for the Blog…it’s quite informative! I am a freelance photojournalist who was referred to your site as a reference for an upcoming project. I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and now live in Central, PA I have for years wanted to travel on the City of New Orleans from Chicago to New Orleans and then return north on the Delta Queen documenting the journey in photos that capture the essence and importance of these ‘icons’ and their people & places. Now that the Delta Queen is no longer an option, I’ve decided to do the trip this Spring from Harrisburg, PA to New Orleans, I just haven’t nailed down dates yet.

    I’d be interested in any information/insights that you might have to share about the train that could help with my project. Perhaps best way would be by e-mail, I am at: website is the same as the e-mail. Thank you in advance for any info! – Jim

  3. gerard goering permalink
    September 26, 2010 6:22 pm

    Great post on the steaming of 401 Thanks – Keep it up.

  4. November 3, 2010 11:40 pm

    You have some really nice content on your site, especially the longer posts.
    Keep up the good work…

  5. David Domkoski permalink
    August 29, 2011 12:58 pm

    I came across your site looking for train videos… I have a specific need for the theatrical production of Ray Branbury’s Something Wicket This Way Comes and I would love to discuss it with you. I can be reached by email which i ‘ve included below. Specifically I am looking for footage an old steam engine passing through a town at night. Ideally lots of light and shadows … any help is appreciated.

  6. Theresa G. Olson permalink
    November 13, 2011 11:11 pm

    Mary Rae-
    This isn’t exactly the format that I wanted to send you a message. I am sending you this message here for now. I will writie you more when I get your email address. I am a frequent train rider. I took several round trips from Chicago to Carbondale about a year ago for an Amtrak Guest Rewards Promotion. You might remember me. You walked me to the Centralia station. The southbound train was running 4 hours late and the northbound was running only 2 hours late. I have taken several long distance trains since last year, however I unfortunately have not had the pleasure of the City of New Orleans route for a year. I have an older cat that needs medical attention. I discovered your site about 8 months ago. It was an unusual way that I came across your site. I will let you know how this happened at a later time. I have had to settle on the shorter Hiawatha route from Milwaukee to Chicago for the majority of my train travel. I will be doing a lot more train travel in the near future. I am looking forward to some of the routes that I have never done before. I hope that all is going well with you. Continue with your train photography and your writing. I hope that you have a wonderful and Happy Holiday Season. Theresa G. Olson

  7. Theresa G. Olson permalink
    January 5, 2012 2:23 pm

    Mary Rae-
    I am hoping to see you on the City of New Orleans sometime soon. I have been making several trips on the Hiawatha since April 2011. I made it to the Amtrak Select Status so I frequently can be found in Chicago’s Metropolitan Lounge. Pls. try and send me an email sometime. I enjoy your site and I frequently check back to see what is new on it.
    Best Wishes for 2012. Theresa G. Olson

  8. Rick Sparks permalink
    February 14, 2016 4:26 pm

    Mary Rae,

    It was interesting reading about the Central City Run.. Wish I could have been on it. you see, back in the 50′ and 60’s and even before, my grandfather, Kenneth Sparks ran the yard/roundhouse there. He used to take my brother and I out to drive steam engines and diesels on our extended visits!

    I even ran across a video of him, showing a run from Central City to Dawson Springs, at a train show in madison, WI some time ago.

    Lots of memories.

    Rick Sparks

  9. Bruce Wallace permalink
    March 14, 2022 6:30 pm

    Mary Rae: I accidentally stumbled across your blog and I found it well written and informative. I too lived in Carbondale from 81-84. On the ICG back then you could see 5 different paint schemes on the engines including the ex GM&O’s. I actually saw a 5 unit consist one night all in different schemes going across Grand Ave. The Frisco 1522 story was well written I was at it’s maiden trip to photograph and follow her out of Chicago to WI.

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