Toby sez you’re dumb as a board. Do you agree?

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Anyone named Toby I immediately like. Toby Kolstad is a columnist for Progressive Railroading magazine, which makes me like him more, because I write a column, too, for another magazine. We columnists should stick together — you know, one for all, all for one.
But really, Toby, what you wrote as a commentary for the money-management firm of Gerson Lehrman Group makes me question my allegiances to Tobys and all for one, etc. It makes me wonder about the investment savvy of Gerson Lehrman Group, too; after all, the commentary you are about to read appeared on its Web site.
If you’re in a hurry, go to and read verbatim what Toby says. But here is a fair synopsis: Toby begins by saying that railroads have had a good run as investments (true). Then he says the government may reregulate (true), customers may rebel at rising rates (true), and government funds for infrastructure improvements may bring more government oversight (true). So far, so good. I don’t agree entirely with all of this, but at least I can follow Toby’s reasoning.
But then comes this blunt paragraph, without any backup justification of any sort. I am quoting it verbatim, bad grammar and all, so that you won’t think I loaded the deck:
“It’s hard to remain both bullish and objective in evaluating the future of the rail industry, that’s why it’s a safe bet that most investors who are bullish are also Rail Fans. Rail Fans are call [sic] “foamers” by today’s trainmen because of their uncontrollable delight in just being around railroad operations. Such enthusiasts generally make poor advisers [sic].”
The amazing thing is that there is nothing that leads up to these profound statements and nothing afterward to justify them. This is the end of his commentary!
I’ll skip over Toby’s grade-school grammar. But to say that anyone who thinks railroads in January 2009 are good investments is a foamer, and then not develop that profound statement in any way whatever, makes me wonder whether Toby is really being serious. Do you really mean that, Toby? Intuitively, you have to classify anyone owning railroad stocks today as bullish on railroads; otherwise, why are they holding the stocks? So are all owners of railroad stocks people who become uncontrollable at the sight of a choo-choo, as Tony contends? Also, foamers do not hold themselves out as investment advisors, as Toby contends. But the investment analysis I see on is 10 times higher in intellectual quality to what Toby is offering.
Toby, say it isn’t so! I emailed Toby at Gerson Lehrman to ask that he expand upon his reasoning. If he ever replies, I will amend this blog. While we wait to hear from Toby, what do you think? Do you foam at the mouth when you think about railroad securities? And if Toby had written this as a sixth grade essay, what mark (A to F) would you give him? — Fred W. Frailey

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