Jim Wrinn led Trains Magazine with passion

WAUKESHA, Wis. — Jim Wrinn, who aspired since his youth to be the editor of Trains magazine and served in the role for more than 17 years, died at home on March 30, 2022, after a valiant 14-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 61.

Wrinn’s longevity in the editor’s role was second only to that of the legendary David P. Morgan, who led the magazine for more than 33 years and died in 1990 at age 62. Morgan’s editorship and writings deeply influenced Wrinn, who began reading Trains in 1967 at age 6.

History left it to Wrinn to preside over a challenging, transitional era for Trains, which Kalmbach Media predecessor Kalmbach Publishing Co. launched in November 1940. As editor in chief, Wrinn was fortunate to serve generations of readers who grew up on the print magazine while at the same time broadening the magazine’s appeal to a new digitally oriented audience.

Source: Jim Wrinn led Trains Magazine with passion – TrainsWrinn at the Trains “81 for 81” event at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in October 2021. Under his editorship, the magazine broadened its scope to include events like photo charters. (Cate Kratville-Wrinn)

I met Jim Wrinn in the early 1990s when he was a reporter for a North Carolina newspaper and a volunteer at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. At the time, my wife and I were volunteers at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Atlanta. We visited each other’s museums, learned a lot from his experience, drank his beer, and stayed in his house whenever we were in Salisbury, NC. His books and articles were an education in themselves. I will miss him, and the railroading world from professionals to railfans will miss his voice and his leadership.


Phoebe Snow Rode the Rails in a White Dress

One of the more inventive advertising campaigns at the beginning of the 1900s was the Phoebe Snow promotion by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad to promote its use of anthracite coal. This is top grade coal and burnt cleaner in steam locomotices than bituminous coal. In the days of steam locomotives, one problem was the cinders that trailed behind the locomotive and flowed in through passenger car windows soiling clothes and sometimes starting fires.

This happened less often with anthracite coal. The railroad, which ran in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania until Conrail absorbed it in 1976, had a nearby source of anthracite coal. This meant that using a campaign character who rode the rails in a white dress was made to order.

Elmo Calkins created the campaign and its fictional character who was portrayed as a socialite who frequently rode between New York and Buffalo in a white dress and a violet corsage became, according to Wikipedia, “one of the most recognized advertising mascots in the United States, and in further campaigns she began to enjoy all the benefits offered by DL&W: gourmet food, courteous attendants, an observation deck, even onboard electric lights”

Says Phoebe Snow
about to go
upon a trip to Buffalo
“My gown stays white
from morn till night
Upon the Road of Anthracite”

Now Phoebe may
by night or day
enjoy her book upon the way
Electric light
dispels the night
Upon the Road of Anthracite

Later the railroad would bestow the name Phoebe Snow on one of its trains, and the singer Phoebe Snow would take her her stage name from the railroad’s advertising character. 

A glance through railroad history books shows that during the days of privately owned (pre-AMTRAK) passenger service, advertising was a competitive art.


In the 1990s, Campbell served as the collections manager, researcher, and grant writer for a railroad museum in Georgia. Unsurprisingngly, his fiction–such as “At Sea” often includes railroads.