The disappearing railfan

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Lexington Group is an annual gathering of men and a few women interested in railroad history. The presentations are always detailed and sometimes downright fascinating, so I enjoy going. But gosh, what a bunch of old dolts we are! I keep expecting the attendants to come in to tuck us in bed for the night.

I also possess some circumstantial evidence that the average subscriber to trains is of grandparent age by now. Ever been to a National Railway Historical Society convention? These aren’t kids you’ll see.

So let’s discuss it. Are we a dying breed? I’m not sure we are, but there are plenty of examples to be had that say we are, and a few of them I noted above. And there are plenty of reasons, too.

What draws people to trains emotionally? I think it’s proximity, being close to them. At least, that’s what got me started. I was a regular visitor to Santa Fe Railway locomotive cabs by age 4 and a veteran rider of the Texas Chief by age 9. By age 12 I was listening to Cotton Belt dispatchers issuing train orders. Today you can be arrested for climbing aboard a locomotive. The depots are all closed, no trespassing signs abound everywhere and what few passenger trains are left all look alike.

What I am trying to say is that while boys and girls continue to be attracted to trains, it’s harder to make that bond than it used to be.

Do you agree? What do you think? Are we fading away, or the other way around? Let me hear from you. — Fred W. Frailey

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