How to explain this hobby to non-railfans?

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How to explain this hobby to non-railfans?
Posted by steve-in-kville on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 2:22 PM

Had an interesting conversation with a co-worker today. We were talking about new hobbies and I mentioned how my children and I enjoy train watching.

Her reply:

"Watch them do what? Do they race?"

I tried to explain but she didn't get it!

 

 

Regards - Steve

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Posted by Semper Vaporo on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 2:43 PM

We admire the power of the head-end to move that much tonnage at such speed.  And the skill it takes to keep it under control. Bow

Not to mention the noise it can make doing it! Cool

Semper Vaporo

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Posted by CShaveRR on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 2:52 PM

That's it...under the cover of relative inconspicuity, trains are still doing the work of hundreds of trucks in moving freight from Point A to Point B.  They're big, and noisy.  And the more you see of them, the more you want to find out about them.  If you're lucky, you can ride them and learn even more.

If your "muggle" has no curiosity, nobody will be able to convince her that this hobby has merit.  But if she has the willingness to dig deeper, the operations and history become more and more fascinating.

Carl

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 3:05 PM

Adding to the above two, you can say "It's the best show in town, and it's FREE!"

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 3:07 PM

It happens with many hobbies.  Some are blessed with a bit of magic that holds people in awe, others are not.

It's funny that some people will look down their noses at one hobby while taking part in another the folks may find just as odd.

I think Carl summed it up well, though - big machines doing things.

LarryWhistling
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Posted by steve-in-kville on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 3:28 PM
Ham radio is the same way. Why use morse code to talk to others if you can text? Its the hunt of the game!

Regards - Steve

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 4:16 PM

steve-in-kville
Ham radio is the same way. Why use morse code to talk to others if you can text? Its the hunt of the game!

Indeed, although the images broadcast from the space station are usually good for an ooh and an ahh...

And we do sell ourselves as the solution when the Internet and cell phones die...

LarryWhistling
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Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

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Posted by PNWRMNM on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 4:22 PM

The best answer I ever heard to this question was asked of a guy who rode a Harley. It went about like this: 'If I have to explain, you won't understand.'

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Posted by JOHN PRIVARA on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 4:36 PM

I'd say...

Yet another (mostly male) OCD. At least "hobbies", unlike most male OCD's, aren't too destructive or annoying to others.

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Posted by rdamon on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 4:40 PM

I describe it as my version of fishing where you don't need a pole or bait, but you sit around for a long peorid of time with good days and bad days.

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Posted by Semper Vaporo on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 5:12 PM

I have posted this a few times before:

Train watching is obviously a very good sport... you don't need scantily clad young women jumping up and down on the sidelines to keep the spectators' attention toward the field of play.

 

But I can't help thinking of cheers they might chant:

 

2, 4,

6, 8;

Trains will roll,

They won't be late!

YEA! Team!

 

One toot, stop.

Two toots, go.

Three toots, backup.

Couple those cars and

roll, roll, roll.

HIGHBALL!

 

 

Semper Vaporo

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Posted by JPS1 on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 5:41 PM

PNWRMNM
 The best answer I ever heard to this question was asked of a guy who rode a Harley. It went about like this: 'If I have to explain, you won't understand.' 

You got it.  I never attempted to explain it to my wife; she just assumed I was nuts and put up with it.  

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Posted by Juniata Man on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 7:37 PM

rdamon

I describe it as my version of fishing where you don't need a pole or bait, but you sit around for a long peorid of time with good days and bad days.

 

I‘ve used a similar hunting or fishing analogy to explain why I enjoy chasing trains.  I like being outside, enjoying the day and trains are really the excuse for heading out.  

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Posted by NKP guy on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 8:16 PM

Juniata Man
I describe it as my version of fishing

   I notice how often fishing is mentioned as a hobby in the obituaries of deceased men.  You'd think every stream and lake is crowded with men holding fishing poles.  Why is this such a popular (?) sport?  (To get away from wives & kids?)

   Railfans are, I think, born and not made.  Most little boys like trains (likely for the same reasons autistic kids are often extra-enthusiastic about them).  Most of us as kids probably had some kind of train set (in my case Lionel) or lived nearby to a railroad (in my case next door).   

   I've never heard of a guy somewhere in his 20's or 30's who is just becoming a railfan without any previous affection for trains. 

   Why do you think there aren't more African American railfans?  Why does this hobby consist of mostly white males?

   Will Millenials have anywhere the same interest in trains that we did at various ages? 

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, August 15, 2019 7:09 AM

My younger adult stepson didn't really get into the hobby until he was in his 30's.  He said to me that I was his influence in that matter, after seeing how enthusiastic I was about almost every facet of railroading, foreign and domestic.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by Leo_Ames on Thursday, August 15, 2019 7:19 AM

I've given up trying to explain it. Too many intangibles are at play. Would be like trying to explain why a particularly color is your favorite. It just is and the reasons why can hardly be quantified.

Especially since for so many of us, this enthusiasm can be traced back to such a young age that it's something that to most of us, was always part of us. So you can't even point to a particular event in your life that set up your interest in this great industry. 

Getting someone trackside such as to see the 4014 might be the only way to at least partially explain the allure by letting them see and hear such an impressive sight. But to actually explain it in words why this mixture of sights, sounds, and smells tickle our fancy, it's just not possible. 

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Posted by cx500 on Thursday, August 15, 2019 11:18 AM

Any hobby looks somewhat odd from the outside, but for the more common ones that oddity gets ignored.  Please explain why some folks ruin a perfectly good walk by chasing a little white ball through 18 holes, at not insignificant expense.  Or why knowing the stats for every member of the local sports team has any real value.  Once you start in a hobby, the more you discover and the more interesting it becomes.  The enthusiasm grows ever greater, albeit often developing more focus on particular aspects.

Because being a railfan is definitely not one of the mainstream hobbies, it takes a certain level of independence to resist the social pressure from one's peers to take up a more "normal" activity.  Having a more knowledgeable mentor to provide the necessary support helps here, so don't ignore those youngsters starting out.

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Posted by rdamon on Thursday, August 15, 2019 1:20 PM

It is amazing what we have found to fill the time since we don't have to kill our own food or fight off invaders anymore. ;)

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Posted by Ulrich on Thursday, August 15, 2019 4:50 PM

I keep it simple.. I tell 'em I enjoy watching trains just as some people like motorcycles, speedboats, antique furniture, pro sports.. Who knows why one thing captures our imagination while other things leave us cold.. just be thankful that you have something that makes your heart race..

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, August 16, 2019 7:01 AM

rdamon

It is amazing what we have found to fill the time since we don't have to kill our own food or fight off invaders anymore. ;)

 
Have you been reading Ted Kaczynski's manifesto??  He believed that life lost its meaning when our individual survival was assured.
The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by Ulrich on Friday, August 16, 2019 7:33 AM

[quote user="CSSHEGEWI

 

 
rdamon

It is amazing what we have found to fill the time since we don't have to kill our own food or fight off invaders anymore. ;)

 

 

 
Have you been reading Ted Kaczynski's manifesto??  He believed that life lost its meaning when our individual survival was assured.
 

[/quote]

Not for the people he killed. He may have changed his views somewhat over the years as he continues to serve his eight consecutive life sentences. 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, August 17, 2019 9:56 AM

Per NKP's question of "Why do you think there aren't more African American railfans?"

Reminds me of when I was a Marine Lieutenant 40+ years ago.  I was sitting with a group of other officers "hoisting a few" when the question came up, "Why aren't there more African American Marine officers?"  (Actually, the term used was "black" back then, 'A-A' wasn't in use at the time.)  Certainly they weren't being kept out, and they were as much a recruiting target as anyone else.

So, we puzzled and we pondered, and we pondered and we puzzled, and you know what answer we came up with?

"Maybe they've got more sense!"  Laugh

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Posted by steve-in-kville on Saturday, August 17, 2019 10:32 AM
The world of cycling is the same way. I don't know if there are any professional black cyclist or not right now. I didn't watch the Tour all that closely this year. Ham radio is the same way. Very few women, very few non-whites.

Regards - Steve

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