My “Railfan Five” Challenge

I haven’t had a ton of time recently to finish writing a few things I’m working on, including posting here.  Add to that the fact that my work table recently suffered a collapse (I’ll write about that another time soon), and I haven’t gotten much done.  I have, however, had time to do some reading.

I read a lot of blogs.  The internet brings on-demand access to new railroading and model railroading ideas in many ways.

I ran across this post today, http://tracksidetreasure.blogspot.ca/2014/10/take-railfan-five-challenge.html, and thought that I would take up the challenge here as it pertains to some of the other things I’m working on to share here and elsewhere.  It’s inspirational, and I hope that those of you who read this are likewise inspired, both to participate and to contribute to rail preservation activities.

Here, then, are my “Railfan Five” photos:

Photographed in person, this GP15 was a great catch on a day full of great railfan experiences.

Photographed in person, this GP15 was a great catch on a day full of great railfan experiences.

First up, one of the photos I took of California Northern GP15-1 #108.  This was taken in 2010 on a day spent driving around Northern California with friends finding interesting railroad scenes.  The locomotive was sitting next to a team loading dock when photographed from nearby.  (Never trespass to photograph.)  The photo pertains to my own railroad journey because of who it was taken with, and the day.  While photographing this locomotive, an abandoned Sierra Railroad GP20, several Union Pacific trains, rice elevators, and many other things that day, it’s because it was spent with friends, enjoying the trains, sharing information, that made it a great day, and part of my story.  For me, railroading is a social experience.  Learning, sharing, teaching.  Even if the particular railroad is not something I personally am modeling, learning about any railroad is interesting to me, and railroading friends are important in that experience because it’s from them that I have learned incredible things.

The El Portal yard on the Yosemite Valley Railroad as modeled by Jack Burgess.

The El Portal yard on the Yosemite Valley Railroad as modeled by Jack Burgess.

Not surprisingly, Jack Burgess and his layout based on the Yosemite Valley Railroad had to be on this list of my Railfan Five.  Jack’s modeling is inspiring.  His layout is breathtaking.  The information he has collected and made available in print and electronic form about the Yosemite Valley Railroad will insure that those interested in the line can learn about this unique railroad.  In addition to all that, my personal inspiration for becoming a prototype modeler, as detailed previously in my first post to this blog, comes from Jack.  For that I am eternally grateful.  That is why this photo, one of the first things you see when you enter Jack’s layout room, is part of my collection here.

Taken on Wes Swift's layout, this passenger train is headed East toward El Portal on the upper deck of the layout.

Taken on Wes Swift’s layout, this passenger train is headed East toward El Portal on the upper deck of the layout.

Another Yosemite Valley fan, modeler, and preservationist, Wes Swift’s layout is my third entry for the Railfan Five today.  Wes rescued Yosemite Valley 330 from where it had been “lost” to and used as a diner, and today has this fantastic car rolling again on the Niles Canyon Railway in California (http://www.ncry.org).  The reason that this layout, and this scene, makes my five photos today is because this was the place where I first acted as dispatcher.  That first experience was a hook that got me working down the path of achieving my National Model Railroad Association Achievement Program, Chief Dispatcher, certificate.  That certificate is the first of the seven certificates I’ll need to eventually become a Master Model Railroader.  I took this photo on a Yosemite Valley Symposium weekend while operating on Wes’s layout.  The other reason this shot and this experience belong here is that it’s someone else modeling the Yosemite Valley.  There’s no rule that says that the “gold standard” layout, in the case of the Yosemite Valley, Jack’s layout, need be the only layout.  I’ll build my version eventually, just like Wes did, and others are.

The engineer is keeping a close eye ahead in the cab of a steam locomotive on the Niles Canyon Railway.

The engineer is keeping a close eye ahead in the cab of a steam locomotive on the Niles Canyon Railway.

It isn’t every day you get a chance to ride in the cab of a steam locomotive.  I have only ever had one cab ride, and took this picture of the engineer on the Niles Canyon Railway as the steamer pulled into the station.  What an experience.  The loud, the heat.  Watching the engineer and fireman on the opposite side of the cab as they, for lack of a better term, “danced” with their locomotive to coax it along.  This absolutely belongs here in this list.  I’ve loved steam locomotives my whole life.  My first HO scale engine was a Santa Fe tank engine.  I dabbled in diesels for a few years, but steam engines are, to my eye, beautiful works of art.  This cab ride took place on another Yosemite Valley Symposium weekend.  That ties this to, what I can see emerging as the thread that inspires my whole railroading, modeling, and preservation interest.  The sharing, and learning, and enjoying the trains with good friends.

Taken outside one of my favorite local restaurants in Fox Lake, IL in the snow, in 2012.

Taken outside one of my favorite local restaurants in Fox Lake, IL in the snow, in 2012.

Riding trains and watching trains and modeling trains occupies a great deal of my mental processing capacity!  Those who know me won’t be shocked by that revelation.  It will come, then, as no surprise that EATING near trains is something that I also enjoy.  This shot of a Metra train in Fox Lake, Illinois, is tied to my life in many ways.  First, my fiancé’ and I rode from here on an adventure into Chicago one weekend, enjoying the train ride together.  Second, I love riding trains, and I’ve ridden commuter rail, as my first train ride with my family as a small child on the San Francisco peninsula, to work when I lived in Washington State, and for enjoyment now.  Third, the Fox Lake Station on the Metra is near one of my favorite restaurants, the Whistle Stop, which is decorated in railroad memorabilia.  This photo belongs here, in my Railfan Five, because of who was with me when I took it, and where it is.  Eating is a social event.  Surrounded by trains, near trains, with someone who also enjoys trains.  This is a part of my life, and appropriate as part of my journey.

It was hard to pick just five photos.  These, however, tell some of my railfan story.

As for a challenge, or donation, I am going to do this a little differently.

I will be making a donation to the preservation of Yosemite Valley Railroad observation car 33o.  This car is near and dear to my heart, and seeing the restoration of the car completed is something I hope to see happen.  Some of the story of 330 can be found here: http://www.yv330.com, along with a spot to donate.

As far as challenging goes, I challenge you, the person reading this.  I’d love to know that you are inspired enough by your railfan experience, modeled or real, to support preservation and to share on your blog, your web page, or your social media… in your layout room, anywhere, the idea of rail preservation and your own story.

-JD

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2 Responses to My “Railfan Five” Challenge

  1. Eric Gagnon says:

    JD, thanks for taking up this challenge. I’m glad to see it has spread to the USA! Excellent and interesting combination of modelling and prototype you have chronicled here – I also am in both worlds and wouldn’t want to choose 1:1 over HO scale!

    My other blog, Fast Food and Trains combines two other worlds, per the title!

  2. Pingback: Influential Five | 78 Miles to Yosemite

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