Capitol Lines

Don Phillips is a veteran newspaper reporter and a magazine columnist writing about railroads and transportation policy for more than 40 years. He shares his insight with our readers each month in the pages of Railfan & Railroad.

The World is Full of Heroes and Villians

May 28, 2019

The World is Full of Heroes and Villians

Let me stress quickly that this isn’t a column about aviation, but it is a column about aviation safety as it relates to railroads. There are huge differences in attitudes about safety between the two modes, but there are also some ways in which attitudes are almost exactly the same.

A Wild Ride: From a 1970 Bankruptcy to NS’ Move to Atlanta

May 1, 2019

A Wild Ride: From a 1970 Bankruptcy to NS’ Move to Atlanta

When Southern Railway and Norfolk & Western merged, Norfolk was considered neutral territory for a new headquarters. Now that Norfolk Southern has been a reality for more than 30 years, it’s time to move to Atlanta.

Morgan Was the Greatest Railroad Writer Ever

March 24, 2019

Morgan Was the Greatest Railroad Writer Ever

Morgan wrote with such grace that he created a whole generation of prolific railfan writers. Ask anyone now at his old magazine; they believe it would have gone out of business decades ago without Morgan’s talent.

The Railroad Industry’s Premier Conference

February 13, 2019

The Railroad Industry’s Premier Conference

The annual RailTrends conference in New York City is the top railroad industry get-together of the year, and the 2018 version was excellent.

George H.W. Bush: Railfan?

January 18, 2019

George H.W. Bush: Railfan?

George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the U.S., rode the last 70 miles of the final journey to his grave by train. But was he a railfan?

Highlights of How Lucky I Was

December 20, 2018

Highlights of How Lucky I Was

From time to time, I look back to my younger days and ponder how lucky I was to be born when I was. For one thing, I was just in time for the last of major Class I steam operations in this country…

Saying Farewell to Two Good Friends

November 20, 2018

Saying Farewell to Two Good Friends

Gordon Fuller made an impact on the railroad industry, while John Gruber made important contributions to the world of railroad photography and research.

Anderson’s Amtrak: A Slow-Moving Disaster

October 21, 2018

Anderson’s Amtrak: A Slow-Moving Disaster

Richard Anderson, the current president of Amtrak, is a disaster. He should be removed from his position as rapidly as possible, and then we must be careful to assure that his replacement isn’t as bad as he is.

A Brief History of Railroad Regulation and Deregulation

September 17, 2018

A Brief History of Railroad Regulation and Deregulation

In the course of a little over a hundred years, we’ve gone from the advent of significant regulation and outright government ownership, to a largely deregulated and economically robust railroad system…

Washington a Half-Century Ago

August 22, 2018

Washington a Half-Century Ago

While we await the return of Don Phillips, it occurred to me that it might be useful to take a look back at Washington, D.C., from a railroad (and railfan) perspective, just before the era of Penn Central…