Posts Tagged ‘Railfanning’

National Train Day & Rickreall Model Train Show

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Last Saturday was National Train Day, a holiday started in 2008 by Amtrak to celebrate the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. The golden spike was driven home on May 10th 1869 in Promontory, Utah connecting the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. Although the holiday was initiated by Amtrak, all sorts of railroad museums, model railroad clubs, railfans, and model railroad retailers celebrate with events across the country.

Celebration of completion of the transamerican railroad on 1869-05-10 (May 10th 1869) at what is now Golden Spike National Historic Site.  Public Domain: From the NPS website at http://www.nps.gov/gosp/index.htm

Celebration of completion of the transamerican railroad on May 10th 1869 at what is now Golden Spike National Historic Site. Public Domain: From the NPS website at http://www.nps.gov/gosp/index.htm

This year we did our celebrating by being a part of the Rickreall Model Train Swapmeet & Show just west of Salem, Oregon hosted by the Polk Station Rail Model Train Club. This club was founded in 1993 and features an HO scale layout which is permanently housed in a large upstairs room of the historic Rickreall Grange Hall.

Show organizer and club president, Tom Pryor, welcomes everyone in at the front door. Photo by Cat Cook

Show organizer and club president, Tom Pryor, welcomes everyone in at the front door. Photo by Cat Cook

The subject of their layout is the Oregonian Railroad which was a narrow gauge railroad that ran through Polk Station to Dallas, Oregon until Southern Pacific acquired the line in 1890 which removed the narrow gauge and replaced it with standard gauge. The layout is quite large and has great use of light and sound. Below you will find just a couple of shots, one includes the Tim Burr logging truck from Woodland Scenics.

The use of lighting in the Polk Station Rail Model Train Club's layout is fabulous as seen in this part of the neighborhood. Photo by Cat Cook

The use of lighting in the Polk Station Rail Model Train Club's layout is fabulous as seen in this part of the neighborhood. Photo by Cat Cook

Section of the Polk Station Rail Model Train Club layout featuring a Tim Burr Logging truck by Woodland Scenics. Photo by Cat Cook

Section of the Polk Station Rail Model Train Club layout featuring a Tim Burr Logging truck by Woodland Scenics. Photo by Cat Cook

One of the best things about participating in train shows is meeting other vendors with unique items we haven’t seen before. This show gave us a few opportunities to meet such folks. First, we met Dave one of our ‘table neighbors’ upstairs. He does custom modeling and scratch building of HO vehicles and equipment. He displays and sells some of his already completed projects and takes on custom projects for customers looking for items that are not already available in the marketplace. Although he mostly works in HO scale, he is not vehemently opposed to doing projects in O or N scale. “If you can imagine it, I can build it,” he says. Dave can be reached at dgeo59@hotmail.com or 503-442-0140.

A custom detailed Ford F350 contactor's pick up by Dave. Photo by Cat Cook

A custom detailed Ford F350 contactor's pick up by Dave. Photo by Cat Cook

An drill that can be used for oil or water, custom built by Dave. Photo by Cat Cook

A trailer-mounted drill custom built by Dave. Photo by Cat Cook

Another unique vendor we met this show was photographer, Laurie Breier. Laurie’s collection of photography is called Graffiti Artistry and it provides a unique view of railcars acting as the canvas to graffiti’s paint.  Railroad graffiti is its own subculture which Laurie captures as striking images framed and ready to display. The subject inspires conversation about topics such as the history of ‘graffiti’ on trains back to the days of hobo codes, what is art, and how has graffiti affected railroads, railfans, and modeling. Laurie can be reached at wkndrs@cmspan.net.

Laurie Breier displaying some of her work at the Rickreall Model Train Show. Photo by Cat Cook

Laurie Breier displaying some of her work at the Rickreall Model Train Show. Photo by Cat Cook

Laurie sharing one of her photos featuring graffiti and rust taken near the Roseburg, OR rail yard. Photo by Cat Cook

Laurie sharing one of her photos featuring graffiti and rust taken near the Roseburg, OR rail yard. Photo by Cat Cook

If you missed participating in some of the events for this year’s National Train Day here are a couple of the other big rail events coming this summer:

And here are some lists of other rail events for your perusal:

National Train Day Street Faire this Saturday in Ashland, OR

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

The Ashland Historic Railroad Museum is celebrating National Train Day this Saturday the 7th from 12pm – 4pm at their current location 258 A Street in Ashland, Oregon. Aside from live music, railroad presentations by historians and rail organizations, and children’s activities they will be holding a raffle to help raise funds to acquire the original Railroad Depot for museum expansion.

The original Railroad Depot for Ashland at 5th and A Streets. Photo by Cat Cook

The original Railroad Depot for Ashland at 5th and A Streets. Photo by Cat Cook

We are already committed to attend the Rickreall Grange Train Swapmeet & Show May 7th & 8th and can’t attend ourselves but we donated a raffle prize to help the cause: a complete deluxe Thomas & Friends train set plus a Short Line Engineer Kit so the lucky winner can operate their new train in style.

Cat delivering the Thomas Train set to the museum for this weekend's raffle. Photo by Don Cook

Cat delivering the Thomas Train set to the museum for this weekend's raffle. Photo by Don Cook

If you live in the State of Jefferson consider dropping by to have a good ol’ time and support the museum! They are raffling off lots of goodies including a stay at the Ashland Springs Hotel!

Ashland Historical Railroad Museum Director & Curator Victoria Law and her husband getting ready for the event! Photo by: Cat Cook

Ashland Historical Railroad Museum Director & Curator Victoria Law and her husband Chris getting ready for the event! Photo by: Cat Cook

Here’s the flyer for the event!

National Train Day Flyer

National Train Day Flyer

Railfans & Passengers Recruited to Observe & Report

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Do you love trains and enjoy fighting crime in your spare time? Amtrak and The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) have jobs for you complete with official identification cards! BNSF has been doing this since 2006 under the Citizens for Rail Security program but now Amtrak has joined in with their Partners for Amtrak Safety and Security program. Picture, if you will, a neighborhood watch for railroads where railfans and, in Amtrak’s case, rail passengers report suspicious activities.

Once you sign up online you are able to print out your very own membership card. You are also given some direction about what type of activities qualify as suspicious. This includes things like: trespassers, unattended vehicles, suspicious objects/packages, suspicious activities or people all on or near railroad property, crimes in progress like vandalism or theft, threats against the railroad, gates left open or damaged, track obstructions, potential mechanical problems with trains and illegal dumping.

Nothing to see here, move along. Photo by Cat Cook

Nothing to see here, move along. Coast Starlight, November 2009 - Photo by Cat Cook

So, you’ve seen something suspicious! Both Amtrak and BNSF make it pretty clear, just because you have a special badge doesn’t mean they want you to go take care of it. What they want you to do is report it! This is where the card comes in handy, as it has the number they would like you to call to report your particular flavor of suspicious activity. Before you call they want you to note some specifics first, here it is helpful to pretend you are a newspaper reporter and note the 6 W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How.

  • Who is being suspicious? Describe them, their vehicle….
  • What is suspicious? Describe what you saw, what occurred….
  • Where is the suspiciousness? Explain where the issue is, include streets or mile markers….
  • When was it suspicious? Relate when this happened, or when you noticed it….
  • Why/How is it suspicious? How doesn’t start with a ‘w’ but it’s in the list; include any other information that might help the police or railroad personnel.
Watch out! I'm official! My Citizens for Rail Security card.

Watch out! I'm official! My Citizens for Rail Security card.

Now, I know you are really liking this badge situation and feel pretty special. Like you have a special ‘in’ with the railroads but wait! There’s more…. The railroads want to make sure you understand that this isn’t an invitation to trespass. You are supposed to report trespassers, not become one! That would defeat the whole purpose. Don’t trespass even to answer the 6 W’s.  Restricted areas include places like: employee areas, maintenance facilities, unoccupied trains, engines, or maintenance vehicles, office areas, baggage areas, delivery areas, commissaries, right-of-way areas, track areas, and in-service train cars. Then there are the tracks, don’t walk on the tracks! That’s a big no-no. It’s highly illegal and highly dangerous. Only cross tracks at roadway crossings or designated pedestrian areas and when taking photos of trains always do it at least 15 feet from the closest rail.

San Luis Obispo Amtrak Station November 2009 Photo by Cat Cook

Where not to stand when taking a photo. Obviously I hadn't read the rules yet. San Luis Obispo Amtrak Station, November 2009 - Photo by Cat Cook

Of course, we should all be reporting suspicious activity whether we have a special identification card or not.  However, you may want to consider signing up with Amtrak or BNSF since the cards are handy for reminding us of rules around railroads and for providing the phone numbers to contact authorities in case of suspicious activities or safety hazards. Oh, and then there is the cool factor. I printed mine on card stock to give it that extra little ‘something’. Now, I just need a laminator to preserve my fancy ID cards for all time…

Train Video Reviews – Northeast Rails Remembered II (DVD)

Sunday, March 27th, 2011
Northeast Rails Remembered II DVD from Charles Smiley Presents

Northeast Rails Remembered II DVD from Charles Smiley Presents

Northeast Rails Remembered II on DVD (2011) makes its debut March of 2011 highlighting the end of the Delaware and Hudson (D&H) in the early 1990s. It succinctly covers the history of the D&H, and gives interesting tidbits about some of the towns, industry, and history surrounding the rail line and its transition to Canadian Pacific (CP) Rail.

All the power you will see in this video is diesel-electric from GP38s to SD50s & B23-7s to C40-8s all built between 1967 and 1991 including paint from: Canadian Pacific (CP), Chesapeake & Ohio (CO), Conrail (CR), Chessie Seaboard Multiplied Transportation (CSXT), Delaware & Hudson (D&H), Grand Trunk (GT), Maine Central (MEC), Missouri Pacific (MP), Norfolk Southern (NS), New York, Susquehanna & Western (NYSW), Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac (RFP), Santa Fe (SF), Seaboard System (SBD), Seaboard Coast Line (SCL), SOO Lines (SOO), Southern Railway (SOU), as well as some leased power from GATX & PLMX.

Delaware & Hudson power from Northeast Rails Remembered II DVD by Charles Smiley Presents

Delaware & Hudson power from Northeast Rails Remembered II DVD by Charles Smiley Presents

That’s a lot of variety but nothing like the variety of rolling stock witnessed during the 93 minutes of this program. Aside from the road names already mentioned you’ll see the following in varying quantities: Ashley, Drew & Northern (ADN), Bangor & Aroostook (BAR), Bay Line Railroad (BAYL), Boston & Maine (BM), Berlin Mills Railway (BMS), Burlington Northern (BN), Columbus & Greenville (CAGY), Corinth & Counce Railroad Company (CCR), Canadian National (CN), Green Bay & Western (GBW), Greenville & Northern (GRN), Illinois Central Gulf (ICG), Illinois Terminal (ITC), Lamoille Valley (LVRC), Milwaukee Road (MILW), Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern (MNS), Norfolk Western (NW), Oregon, California & Eastern (OCE), Pittsburgh & Shawmut (P&S), Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), Quebec Central (QC), Reading (RDG), Sandersville Railroad (SAN), Southern Pacific (SP), St. Louis Southwestern Railway (SSW), Terminal Railway Alabama State Docks (TASD), and Union Pacific (UP).

But wait! There’s more! In addition to all that you get to see acid trains, coal trains (I was pleased to see a bunch of Shawmut Line hoppers!), iron ore trains and phosphate trains. Also checkout the Rail Analyzer Car and Track Geometry Car courtesy of Conrail, a few passenger cars via Chicago & Northwestern (CNW) and North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDT) and a great look at the James E. Strates Railroad Carnival.

James E. Strates Railroad Carnival from Northeast Rails Remembered II from Charles Smiley Presents

James E. Strates Railroad Carnival from Northeast Rails Remembered II from Charles Smiley Presents

Phew! That’s a lot of variety.  Which in some ways dictates the overall form of the video. Although there is some narration regarding D&H and some of the history and locales, the majority of this film is simply presenting run-by after run-by of colorful trains. Many trains will make an appearance several times throughout the video as it passes through different locations. To some, that might sound dangerously boring but as a chronicle of graffiti-free trains from a time gone by it excels, giving you plenty of opportunities to view the trains from different vantage points. This format also allows you to experience much uninterrupted natural sounds from the trains with almost no competing sounds from the environment. It provides a nice, pure train experience.

Shot by Tom Luckey (Mountain Grades of the B & O, Northeast Rails Remembered) this video was filmed in the late 1980s and early 1990s throughout all the seasons (though winter/fall seems to dominate with most shots containing bare northeastern trees). Aside from some landmarks like the Lehigh River, Hill to Hill Bridge, and Bethlehem Steel Plant the frequency of winter forests are a nice neutral backdrop for all the colorful trains to stand out against.

Northeast Rails Remembered II Map from Charles Smiley Presents

Northeast Rails Remembered II Map from Charles Smiley Presents

Northeast Rails Remembered II is great for people who like diesel locomotives, lots of variety in road names, and appreciate seeing pre-graffiti trains of the northeast, particularly Pennsylvania. The majority of this film simply lets the trains roar by telling their own story however, it’s punctuated by the tried and true Charles Smiley maps and narration giving some reference and structure to what is a high volume, quality, and variety of train footage.

From the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad to Union Pacific in Dunsmuir

Friday, December 31st, 2010
We attended the Great Train Expo in Pomona, December 18th & 19th, despite the torrential downpour that turned Los Angeles into a rather large puddle a week before Christmas. Attendance was likely diminished due to the historic rainfall (this is the third wettest December since they started keeping track in 1877) but it was a successful show despite it, and Don and his son Alan (who helped out in my stead) met some fine Southern Californian train folks.

We spent the holiday down in So Cal where our respective families still reside.  I was given a tour of the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad, my dad’s N-scale layout which is under construction, and took some pictures.  Below you can see the roundhouse and turntable in the foreground of this photo with my dad inspecting some track in the back section.

Dad Working on the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad Photo by: Cat Cook

Bill Haigler Working on the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad - Photo by: Cat Cook

All of these switches work and the lights light up! It’s quite something.
The Control Panel for the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad - Photo by: Cat Cook

The Control Panel for the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad - Photo by: Cat Cook

Here you can see some, just some… of the detailed wiring involved in the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad. You can also see some washers used as counterbalances for the coal mechanisms.
Bill Haigler working on the wiring for the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad - Photo by Cat Cook

Bill Haigler working on the wiring for the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad - Photo by Cat Cook

On the way back home we took a spur of the moment jaunt into Dunsmuir, CA. Just as we pulled into town, so did a Union Pacific train coming from the south.  Don quickly navigated us down to the tracks and I jumped out to wave at the engineer and snapped this photo of the GE ES44AC and accompanying video in the nick of time.
UP 7736 (a GE ES44AC) entering Dunsmuir from the south - Photo by Cat Cook

UP 7736 (a GE ES44AC) entering Dunsmuir from the south - Photo by Cat Cook

And here’s a video of most of the rest of the train as it pulls into the station for a crew change:  Union Pacific pulls into Dunsmuir

I’ve been through Dunsmuir at least 8 times before while traveling on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight but as the schedule always puts the train there in the dark of night I’ve never seen the town properly before. Our plan is to go back and spend a day there since it is only a 2-hour drive from Merlin, OR.

A Semaphore in front of the Dunsmuir Post Office

A Semaphore in front of the Dunsmuir Post Office - Photo by Cat Cook

Happy new year to all and happy railroading!

I Coulda Been A Gongoozler

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Today while watching the Pentrex DVD,  Southern Pacific Film Archives Combo, I found myself recalling childhood memories of waving at these very same trains in Southern California. These were the trains that turned me into a Railfan! This led me to contemplate the beginnings of Railfanning.

Evidence of the first Railfan (or Trainspotter as he would be known in the UK) can be found in the National Railway Museum in York. A 14-year old boy observed and wrote a description of the opening of the Stockton to Darlington Railway and the world’s first steam passenger train in 1825. In a letter home to his sisters, John Backhouse wrote:

It was a very grand sight to see such a mass of people moving on the road from Stockton to Darlington, 600 people were said to be in, on and about the wagons and coaches! And the engine drew not less that 90 tons!!!!!”

He even includes a drawing to help describe this new technological marvel to his readers.

John Backhouse Drawing of the Stockton to Darlington Railway

John Backhouse Drawing of the Stockton to Darlington Railway

Apparently, there have been Railfans since trains emerged onto the transportation landscape and luckily for contemporary Railfans, people have been documenting railroads since the beginning as well.

The first “train” movie was filmed in 1895; almost as soon as cinematic technology was available people were choosing to put trains on film! You can enjoy, Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (The Lumière Brothers, 1895), through the wonder that is YouTube. One of the challenges to Railfans has been the ever-threatening disappearance of the object of their affection, I’m grateful to those who spent their time and money creating video records of locomotives that Railfans of today would not be able to experience any other way. 

In reflecting on the origins of Railfanning, I wonder about other hobbies that share a common link with ours.  You may have heard of Aircraft Spotting…

Famous Russian Aircraft Spotter Sergei Alexandrov at Work (Photo by Villa16)

Famous Russian Aircraft Spotter Sergei Alexandrov at Work (Photo by Villa16)

But have you heard of Bus Spotting?

Bus Spotters in Action! (Photo Credit: Arriva436)

Bus Spotters in Action! (Photo Credit: Arriva436)

Satellite Spotting?

Ed Morana imaged the International Space Station as it crossed in front of the Moon.

Ed Morana imaged the International Space Station as it crossed in front of the Moon.

What about Roadgeeks? (fans of all things road-related) or Gongoozlers? (fans of all things canal-related)…. These are the Railfan’s brethren! Unite ye hobbyists! Embrace your inner geek!