Are you a railfan? A one-question test

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Thursday, September 5, 2013

From a friend (a senior VP of a Class I railroad) comes this bit of mind candy:

“Railfans care about the locomotive. Railroaders care about what’s behind it.”

My instinctive reaction is wholly negative. What a put-down! Then I consider that this railroad officer is, in his more buttoned-down way, more a rabid train chaser than even me. And I bow to no one in my rabidity.

So here’s what I think: He is absolutely right. Look at any issue of Trains Magazine. What percentage of photographs show locomotives versus trains (sans locos) or people, they being the folks who make railroads work or not work? The answer is almost 100 percent locomotives in the photos and very very little of the rest of the trains or those people who make those trains run. And I am told (by certain folks within Trains) that its own research backs up the desire to see locomotives in every photograph.

I’m okay with this without liking it. People come at trains from many directions. Relatively few of us are professional railroaders owing our paychecks to what follows the locomotives. And what follows the locomotives suffers by comparison, emitting no exhaust or black smoke as a train accelerates over the prairies. All the rest of the train supplies is the reason for being in business in the first place. And that’s what the truth of what my friend says grates upon me, even if I accept the fact..

Okay, I’ve had my say. What say you? Is this a fair characterization of railfans? — Fred W. Frailey

Tags: railfan
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