Sad news for the rail industry and our hobby. Railroading and railfans have lost a friend and ally. Jim Wrinn, long-time editor of Trains Magazine, died March 30, 2022. After a 14-month fight with pancreatic cancer, Jim died at his home with love around him. He was 61.
Jim became editor of Trains Magazine in 2004, but he and the magazine had been inseparable for nearly his entire life. He began reading Trains at the age of six during the tenure of legendary editor David P. Morgan. Jim said Morgan’s writing informed his own, especially the passion for railroading the writing evoked.
Jim Wrinn, Reporter, Writer, Editor
It wouldn’t be long before the Jim/Trains relationship became a two way street. Jim’s first contribution was a news article in 1982. He was just 21. His first byline appeared on a story in 1989, about Hurricane Hugo’s damage to railroads in Jim’s own backyard, the Southeast. There would be many more bylines and several books, including “The Road of Personal Service” about the Aberdeen & Rockfish.
The book Jim is most identified with, “Steam’s Camelot”, is the definitive history of steam after regular service ended on the Southern and Norfolk Southern railroads. He begins the book with the last run of N&W 611 in 1959 and ends it with the rebirth of steam with N&W 611 as the centerpiece, in the 1980’s
While Jim covered all aspects of railroading, steam was a passion. He made sure to cover steam restoration projects and gave every effort the spotlight it needed to attract volunteers and investment. During his time as Editor, Trains gave away tens-of-thousands of dollars to various preservation projects. He personally visited many of these projects and wrote the defining article for the preservation project.
His love for steam and preservation showed as he lead Trains to wall-to-wall coverage of the resurrection of Union Pacific Big Boy 4014, including, on its first run to Ogden, a live tag-team stream on the internet.
Jim was always helpful and available to the railfan Community. After Big Boy 4014’s run in 2019, Pentrex interviewed him for their coverage of the run from Cheyenne to Ogden and back. His insights were an interesting part of their coverage. Jim made sure to continue the coverage when Big Boy 4014 went out again in 2021.
One of the many projects Jim and Trains put a spotlight on was the restoration of Nevada Northern #81. When #81 steamed up in 2021, Jim was on hand to witness the accomplishment.
At Railfan Depot, we know Jim as a railfan advocate and a steam preservation supporter. However, as the editor of Trains Magazine, which advertises itself as, and it truly is, “THE Magazine of Railroading”, Jim knew all the players in the railroad industry. The railroad industry reads Trains, and therefore Jim had influence in the wider railroad world. He was also an advocate for the railroad industry.
Rail Industry Tributes
Former CEO of Amtrak and Norfolk Southern Wick Moorman told Trains Magazine, upon Jim’s death, “When Jim became editor of Trains, we all felt that he would do an excellent job, and, if anything, he exceeded those expectations. His passing is a loss not only to all of us who knew him, but also to everyone who has a passion, either personal or professional or both, for railroads.”
Before joining Trains as Editor, Jim worked for the Charlotte Observer 18 years as a reporter and then an editor. His service to the railroad industry and railfans as Editor of Trains was 17 years. The second longest time at the helm of the magazine, only surpassed by Jim’s writing mentor, David P. Morgan.
Jim often said, being the Editor of Trains Magazine was his dream job. A job he had thought about since his graduation from college with a journalism degree. As remembrances come in from around the world, it’s apparent that Jim Wrinn did himself proud, and all of us benefited, in his dream job.