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Posted by Justin Franz
on Monday, January 29, 2018

Railfans take aim at Southern Pacific 4449 in Bend, Ore. Photo by Justin Franz
This weekend, thousands of railroad enthusiasts descended on the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass. for the Amherst Railway Society’s 50th annual Railroad Hobby Show. The event is hailed as one of the largest railroadiana shows in the country and usually attracts more than 25,000 people.

The pilgrimage to Springfield was always one of my favorite weekends of the year when I was a kid and in the Franz household it arrived with the same excitement as Christmas. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to Springfield in a number of years since I moved to the Pacific Northwest (my Dad always asks when I’m going to skip Thanksgiving and Christmas and come home for the “holiday” at the end of January), but from what I heard this year’s event was just like every other; a great opportunity to catch up with friends, both old and new.

On Saturday night, while my Dad and thousands of others looked over their bounty from the day at Springfield, I was partaking in another time-honored tradition in our hobby: the slide show. For several hours, a small group of friends looked at old photos and caught up, talking about past adventures and the latest happenings. The night reminded me of something Scott Lothes, executive director of the Center for Railroad Photography and Art (host of the annual Conversations in Lake Forest, Ill.), told me recently for a story in Trains Magazine about Winterail, which celebrates its 40th year in March. “Long before social media was a term in our lexicon,” Scott said, “Winterail served as a way for railfans to connect with one another.”

The same could be said for Springfield, a Saturday night slide show, or even just a few people gathered down by the tracks; this hobby creates special bonds and lifelong friendships. And while the advent of social media has only increased our interconnectivity, it’s hard to replace an actual gathering.

As you plan the year ahead, be sure to add a few events like the ones above to connect with old friends in our community.

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