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Thirty-three years of railroad Christmas cards

It takes dedication and flexibility to amass three decades of photos for the annual Christmas card
By David C. Warner
Published: October 23, 2009
For train-watchers, the holidays have an appeal all their own - in the sending and receiving of Christmas cards with a railroad theme.

Trains Magazine explores this tradition in its December 2009 issue and looks at one train-watcher and railroad employee who has gone to great lengths (coast to coast and across the Atlantic) to create his own railroad Christmas cards for 33 years.

Read the full story in Trains Magazine, and check out this gallery of photos by David C. Warner that have formed the basis for 33 years of Christmas cards.
Chicago Transit Authority
Photo by David C. Warner
1977
Chicago Transit Authority, Dec. 6, 1976. The image for my first Christmas card was taken shortly before I graduated from Northwestern University. A train of then-ubiquitous 6000-series L cars approaches the Racine station on the Howard-Englewood line during a blizzard. After spending four winters in Chicago, the idea of being able to take new "train in the snow" photos and send one out as a card to family and friends each holiday seemed easy to accomplish.
Delaware & Hudson
Photo by David C. Warner
1978
Delaware & Hudson, Dec. 13, 1977. The winter wonderland of upstate New York was my home for much of 1977, during one of the snowiest winters on record. These soon-to-be-scrapped cabooses are spending their final winter at D&H's yard in Whitehall, N.Y.
Canadian Pacific
Photo by David C. Warner
1979
Canadian Pacific, Dec. 28, 1978. A new year, a new location. I was stationed on a Navy submarine assigned to Groton, Conn., in 1978, which afforded opportunities to sample northern New England's railroads. Canadian Pacific's local to St. Johnsbury, Vt., led by RS2 No. 8401, passing a typical New England church provided arguably the most "Christmas" of all the cards I've sent.
Amtrak train 173
Photo by David C. Warner
1980
Amtrak train 173, Feb. 11, 1979. Amtrak's Boston-New Haven Shore Line offered numerous excellent photo locations. Train 173 races west along Niantic Bay in the days before electrification and the Acela Express.
Chicago & North Western commuter train
Photo by David C. Warner
1981
Chicago & North Western commuter train, Feb. 7, 1974. Duty called, and for the first time I was not able to take a winter photo for the following year's card. Instead, I returned to my Chicago years for this image of a C&NW North Line commuter train slowing for a stop in Evanston, Ill.
Boston & Maine
Photo by David C. Warner
1982
Boston & Maine, Dec. 22, 1981. The red signal lights are barely visible through the driving snow as a southbound B&M freight crosses Vermont Route 119 in downtown Brattleboro.
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Photo by David C. Warner
1983
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Feb. 12, 1981. An MBTA commuter train prepares to depart Ayer, Mass., for Boston's North Station. The RDCs have been turned into trailers, but still have operable diesel engines to provide light and heat.
Naples, Italy
Photo by David C. Warner
1984
Italian State Railways, Jan. 22, 1984. For two years in the mid-1980s I was stationed in Naples, Italy. Southern Italy gets a fair amount of snow, as this photo of a class 668 diesel railbus at Roccaraso attests. Tunnels and concrete arch bridges are ubiquitous in the country's mountain branch lines.
German Federal Railway
Photo by David C. Warner
1985
German Federal Railway, March 6, 1984. A regional train passes Winkl, 10 minutes from its final destination, the resort town of Berchtesgaden in extreme southeastern Germany.
Stubaitalbahn
Photo by David C. Warner
1986
Stubaitalbahn, March 4, 1984. A former Hagen, Germany, streetcar glides through the deep snow at Telfes on the Stubaitalbahn, an interurban line serving Innsbruck, Austria. This train has just departed the railway's mountain terminus at Fulpmes, Austria, on its way to downtown Innsbruck. Telfes is the highest elevation on the line.
Providence & Worcester
Photo by David C. Warner
1987
Providence & Worcester, Jan. 21, 1987. This photo is the first in the card series that did not place the train as the focal point. This view, taken at Smith Pond, Conn., just north of the Groton submarine base along the Thames River, was meant to emphasize the boats stored out of the water.
Milan Transport Authority
Photo by David C. Warner
1988
Milan Transport Authority, Dec. 14, 1983. The photo for 1988's card represents the greatest departure from the original "train in the snow" idea. It didn't feature a train, and there wasn't any snow. Milan trams 1988 and 5134 pass under the Christmas lights of Via Tuono in Milan, Italy.
Green Mountain Railroad
Photo by David C. Warner
1989
Green Mountain Railroad, Jan. 29, 1987. Led by RS1 No. 405, Green Mountain's daily freight crosses the Connecticut River at Bellows Falls, Vt.
Milwaukee Road in Rondout, Ill.
Photo by David C. Warner
1990
Milwaukee Road, Dec. 6, 1976. In 1989, I began a 30-month assignment in Monterey, Calif. With limited time to head to the Sierras for trains and snow, I returned to my Chicagoland days for this image of a northbound Milwaukee Road freight crossing the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern at Rondout, Ill.
Southern Pacific
Photo by David C. Warner
1991
Southern Pacific, March 28, 1991. A few days of vacation coincided with a snow storm in the Sierras, and an opportunity to feature a western location on a Christmas card. This view of an eastbound SP freight at Troy, Calif., was the penultimate grab shot during a drive home on I-80. While crossing Donner Pass, I happened to glance up at the railroad clinging to the side of the hills and saw an approaching train, which I framed with the rising moon.
Grand Canyon Railway
Photo by David C. Warner
1992
Grand Canyon Railway, Feb. 16, 1992. Grand Canyon Railway's excursion train, powered by 2-8-0 No. 18, loads passengers at Williams, Ariz., while a display train hides under a blanket of white from an overnight snowfall. This picture was made during my return to Groton, Conn.
Amtrak/Swedish State Railways
Photo by David C. Warner
1993
Amtrak/Swedish State Railways, Jan. 17, 1993. A Swedish X2000 tilt train rolls through Central Falls, R.I., during a demonstration run on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.
Shore Line East
Photo by David C. Warner
1994
Shore Line East, Feb. 11, 1994. The Shore Line East commuter service began on a shoestring budget in 1991 as a traffic mitigation effort during the rebuilding of an I-95 bridge in New Haven, Conn. SLE train 3679, with former PATrain/Addison, Wellsville & Galeton F7 No. 6690, prepares to depart Old Saybrook, Conn., for New Haven.
Central Vermont
Photo by David C. Warner
1995
Central Vermont, Dec. 22, 1981. This was the first of several "fallen flag" Christmas card subjects I sent out in the late 1990s. Central Vermont Railway was sold to RailTex in 1995 and renamed the New England Central. Three GP9s, after completing their work at the Brattleboro, Vt., yard, wait for the Boston & Maine seen on the 1982 card to pass before they head south to Palmer, Mass.
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Photo by David C. Warner
1996
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, March 3, 1996. A long-sought opportunity presented itself in March 1996, when a winter storm provided the right circumstances to capture Boston's streetcars in the snow. Several squalls came through during my visit, including this one while I was photographing Kinki Sharyo-built car 3636 at Washington Square on the (C) Beacon Street line.
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
Photo by David C. Warner
1997
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, April 1, 1997. I retired from the Navy in 1996, and began working for Amtrak in Philadelphia. For several months, I lived next to SEPTA's Norristown High Speed Line, which provided the subject for the 1997 card. Here, an ABB-built N-5 car leans into a curve approaching the Bryn Mawr station. (Compare this photo to the spring-like picture taken four days earlier that appeared on page 53 of the October 2005 issue of TRAINS Magazine.)
Norfolk & Western/Delaware & Hudson
Photo by David C. Warner
1998
Norfolk & Western/Delaware & Hudson, Nov. 13, 1977. A dearth of photographic opportunities required pulling a photo out of the archives for the 1998 card. I chose this image of a switch keeper sweeping out switch points at Mechanicville, N.Y., during a blizzard, while a Delaware & Hudson RS36 and a Norfolk & Western high-hood GP30 keep company.
Conrail
Photo by David C. Warner
1999
Conrail, March 22, 1980. With Conrail swallowed by CSX and Norfolk Southern in June 1999, that year's Christmas card cried out for a "fallen flag" Conrail photo. An eastbound trailer van stirs up a plume of snow at East Brookville, Mass., on the Boston Line.
CSX
Photo by David C. Warner
2000
CSX, April 9, 2000. A year earlier, this would have been a Conrail train, too, and the blue paint on the lead C40-8W of this CSX freight attests to the transition. There are two trains heading into a blizzard in this photo from the east end of Selkirk Yard at Bethlehem, N.Y. The distant train's headlight barely shines through the driving snow.
New Jersey Transit
Photo by David C. Warner
2001
New Jersey Transit, March 6, 2001. A PCC car approaches Davenport Avenue on the Newark City Subway, just six months before the venerable, former Minneapolis streetcars were replaced with modern light rail vehicles. The PCCs lived out their last year with unconventional temporary pantographs because the overhead wire system had already been rebuilt in preparation for the new rolling stock.
VIA Rail Canada
Photo by David C. Warner
2002
VIA Rail Canada, Feb. 25, 2002. A trip on the Canadian has to rank among the top 10 train rides in the world. I captured this view of the rear observation dome Strathcona Park framed by mountains during the train's hour-long servicing stop at Jasper, Alta.
Maryland Transit Administration
Photo by David C. Warner
2003
Maryland Transit Administration, Feb. 8, 2003. Just as I had waited for the right conditions to photograph Boston's streetcars, so, too, had I waited to take pictures in Baltimore. The right conditions presented themselves in February 2003, making possible this photo of a northbound light rail train approaching the Woodberry station, on its way to Hunt Valley. Though busy I-83 is just a few hundred feet to the left of this view, it appears as if the line is far from civilization.
Canadian National
Photo by David C. Warner
2004
Canadian National, Feb. 27, 2002. This photo really was taken far from civilization! A Canadian National double-stack train curves around a frozen lake in the desolate Canadian Shield. The location is Milnet, Ont., and this photo was made from the dome of the Strathcona Park aboard VIA Rail's Canadian.
Port Authority Transit Corp.
Photo by David C. Warner
2005
Port Authority Transit Corp., Jan. 24, 2005. A six-car PATCO train creates a snowstorm of its own as it races through Westmont, N.J., bound for Philadelphia. This photo was taken from an eastbound train while on my way to work at PATCO's Lindenwold, N.J., shops.
Chicago Transit Authority
Photo by David C. Warner
2006
Chicago Transit Authority, Feb. 16, 1973. To commemorate 30 years of Christmas card trains in the snow, I returned to the CTA's L, the subject of my first card. An Evanston Express, made up of soon-to-be-retired 4000-series cars, pauses at Noyes Street on its way to the Loop during a blizzard.
Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley
Photo by David C. Warner
2007
Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley, Dec. 16, 1977. RS2 No. 100 leads a one-car freight south along the Susquehanna River near Milford, N.Y. Good timing allowed me to follow the train along the entire line from Cooperstown to the Delaware & Hudson interchange 16 miles south at Cooperstown Junction.
Former St. Johnsbury & Lamoille County
Photo by David C. Warner
2008
Former St. Johnsbury & Lamoille County, April 10, 2007. This view of the Fisher Bridge in Wolcott, Vt., was the perfect "train in the snow" subject, except that there was no train, no tracks, and the railroad had ceased to exist. The preserved railroad covered bridge, now part of a trail, was built in 1908, which made it a natural for the 2008 card.
Regional Transportation District
Photo by David C. Warner
2009
Regional Transportation District, Nov. 14, 2008. A minor (for Denver) snowfall enabled me to make this photo of two light rail trains passing at the University of Denver station. In the background is clogged I-25, which had been widened as part of the project that brought light rail to within walking distance of my in-law's home.

Read more about railroad Christmas cards in the December 2009 issue of Trains Magazine, on newsstands Nov. 10, 2009.
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