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Foamers

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Foamers
Posted by Ulrich on Monday, August 11, 2008 2:53 PM

I've been interested in trains since I was a kid but only recently have I heard the term "foamer" used to describe people "like me". I have since learned that it is not a complimentary term applied by the PROS to descibe people who foam at the mouth when they see a train... Well..that isn't me..maybe that WAS me way back when...when my fresh little seven year old face was pressed up against the fence to see the passing parade of first generation diesel motive power. I really don't dont know if I foamed back then...all I can tell you is that I liked what I saw and wasn't afraid to show it. Fast forward a few years to when I was a teen...now I'm most decidedly NOT a foamer...In fact by that point I had learned to display a cool disinterest in almost everything. Today I'm much the same way..I don't foam for anything or  anyone...and I don't know of any train buffs who do.

 So when has being interested in something become a liability? Lots of people have NO interests. Is that better? Just curious...I personally don't take offence at the term foamer even when applied to me..So what do you guys call people who like gardening, airplanes, ships, sports etc? Some people have more than one interest...that must be REALLY bad huh?

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Posted by Mookie on Monday, August 11, 2008 3:01 PM
My spies tell me that Foamers isn't too bad - you ought to hear what the crews call each other!  Blush [:I]

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Posted by selector on Monday, August 11, 2008 3:05 PM

It is human nature to strengthen the bonds with one's chosen group, and to distance oneself from others who have marked similarities, but who are never-the-less distinct in some way(s).  For example, and I don't defend the practice for a second, it is common in the regular armies to deprecate the reservists, or what you would call the National Guard.  Us vs. them syndrome, where "we" are the "real" whatever, and the rest are wannabes or posers.  Weekend warriors, and other pejorative terms.

I suppose in this instance, though, that a good number of rail fans have made distinct nuisances of themselves over the years.  The details or specifics are not the issue...the issue is that the pros, who get paid for a particular form of work, and who would like to work unfettered or unharassed...and safely...must feel that at times rail fans have gotten in the way.  They may have used questionable judgement and done things that showed a lack of respect for the work that the pros were doing...or so it appeared.  At the same time, jaded individuals who no longer find their work particularly thrilling or appealing will sneer at the enthusiasm of even well-behaved and well-meaning fans.

The term is an attempt at classification.  It tends to be eroded over time, or it morphs/creeps to include other meanings as well as excluding others it originally signified.  I don't know enough about this particular term to say what is what, except that it doesn't sound very friendly or genial.  Perhaps context means a lot with respect to its use.

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Posted by Ulrich on Monday, August 11, 2008 3:31 PM
Good explanation Selector...
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Posted by Ulrich on Monday, August 11, 2008 3:53 PM
But one has to wonder...do sports people..like those highly payed ball players call their fans foamers or something like that? Probably!!
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Posted by n012944 on Monday, August 11, 2008 4:33 PM
 Ulrich wrote:
But one has to wonder...do sports people..like those highly payed ball players call their fans foamers or something like that? Probably!!
Unlike professional ball players, fans of the railroads do not pay the professionals salary

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Posted by JoeKoh on Monday, August 11, 2008 4:37 PM

yeah thats why some teams are offering 5 dollar a seat night to fill the stands.you can call me foamer if you want but railroaders usually call us friends because if we see something going on we can help them out.

stay safe

joe

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Posted by AntonioFP45 on Monday, August 11, 2008 5:06 PM

Correct me if I'm mistaken, I think "foamer" is a more modern, post 1990s term.  I railfanned a good deal back in the late 70s-early 80s.  At worst, we were referred to as "train nuts" or "train freaks".

If I"m not mistaken, the term foamer came about due to those few railfans out there that make it so tough on the rest of us:

I.E:  Walking on to railroad property without asking permission.....Rreacting rudely to railroad personnel when questioned or asked to leave..........Stepping too closely to photograph moving trains......like within 10 feet of the track!

Hence a lot of railroaders viewed these guys as "So obsessive with trains that they foam at the mouth!"  Understandable how some railroaders can feel wary of us on some occasions, especially today with our lawsuit happy society. About 2 or 3 years back, wasn't there a story  about one of our forum members getting into very serious trouble trespassing on railroad property after he falsely identified himself as a railroad or industrial rep? Anyone remember that? 

Personal memory lane:  Back in the 70s, here in the Tampa Bay area most camera-toting railfans were generally courteous and "quietly" welcomed at most rail yards or facilities (even though No Trespassing signs were slowly going up).  It was a simple matter of letting the personnel know your intentions and asking them if it was "o.k" for you to be there.  Answers I usually received  were along the lines of "Sure buddy, just watch yourself. Hey, what brand of camera is that?"  Railfans with good attitudes and manners were often treated well.  

 

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Posted by Ulrich on Monday, August 11, 2008 5:15 PM
I find that too..in "real life" all I ever see is friendly railroaders. But here in chat forums I sense some hostility...maybe I'm just an internet dick...I dunno.. But all in good fun...I never heard the term foamer used until about a year ago.
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Posted by Ted Marshall on Monday, August 11, 2008 5:21 PM
Foaming at the mouth and proud of it since 1967. Tongue [:P]
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Posted by BigJim on Monday, August 11, 2008 8:52 PM
Foamer seems to me to be a term only used to describe railfans online. None of the people I work with refer to a railfan as a foamer and they have probably never heard of the term. Usually they will just call them a "rail nut".

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Posted by wgnrr on Monday, August 11, 2008 9:03 PM

We have to ask...what am I?

Foamer - Thinks they know everything, shows off, all of the above (i.e. Brings their biggest SLR and lens to the Rochelle Railroad Park, and seldomly uses it ((or doesn't know how to use it...LOL)))

Railfan - Respected person who loves trains, takes pics, models in a scale (or 3D on a computer) respects the law and the railroad, but sometimes crosses the line (still shows off now and then)

Railroader - Former of all of the above, finally saw common sense and reality that life does not consist of fun and pleasure, understands that railroading takes a lot of work. Eventually hires on with a railroad. Still models and "railfans" now and then, but has a hard shell that needs to be cracked hard to see that come out)

I, myself, I consider to be inbetween a railroader and a railfan. I work for a railroad, model, but still like to activly do railfan activities.

Phil

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Posted by trainboyH16-44 on Monday, August 11, 2008 9:30 PM

I call myself a foamer, but nobody else does. Something tells me that I foam at the mouth a little less every time I see the kind of consist that currently inhabits my signature.

Also, I would take my biggest camera to Rochelle, just not the biggest lens - Unless Rochelle has more interesting birds than I'm aware of?

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Posted by jeffhergert on Monday, August 11, 2008 10:13 PM

wgnrr, I like your definitions.

I hear FRN (F------ Rail Nut) more often than Foamer.  I myself don't care for the foamer lable for the average railfan.  I generally use, and will admit to being, an FRN.  

I guess this is because a read once, I don't remember for sure where but I think it was in Trains, what some of the origins of Foamer were.  One origin given was about a fan acting in an extreme manner and an employee described the fan as being:

Far Out And Mental.  Foams, then foams at the mouth, then foamer.

Because of this I reserve foamer for those few "special" railfans who make it bad for everyone else.  To me everyone else is a FRN. 

I tell some, that I might be a F--Rail Nut, but that's better than being just plain nuts.Big Smile [:D]

Jeff

PS Larry, I don't mind when we work together and you use the term, "foamer special."  I know you mean it in a good way, and that's fine with me.     

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Posted by Goober on Monday, August 11, 2008 10:33 PM

A certain art director at Kalmbach Publishing called me a "train wienie" and I couldn't have been more proud.  Laugh [(-D] Blush [:I]

Jared 

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Posted by Erie Lackawanna on Monday, August 11, 2008 11:06 PM
 AntonioFP45 wrote:

Correct me if I'm mistaken, I think "foamer" is a more modern, post 1990s term.  I railfanned a good deal back in the late 70s-early 80s.  At worst, we were referred to as "train nuts" or "train freaks".

If I"m not mistaken, the term foamer came about due to those few railfans out there that make it so tough on the rest of us:

I.E:  Walking on to railroad property without asking permission.....Rreacting rudely to railroad personnel when questioned or asked to leave..........Stepping too closely to photograph moving trains......like within 10 feet of the track!

Hence a lot of railroaders viewed these guys as "So obsessive with trains that they foam at the mouth!"  Understandable how some railroaders can feel wary of us on some occasions, especially today with our lawsuit happy society. About 2 or 3 years back, wasn't there a story  about one of our forum members getting into very serious trouble trespassing on railroad property after he falsely identified himself as a railroad or industrial rep? Anyone remember that? 

Personal memory lane:  Back in the 70s, here in the Tampa Bay area most camera-toting railfans were generally courteous and "quietly" welcomed at most rail yards or facilities (even though No Trespassing signs were slowly going up).  It was a simple matter of letting the personnel know your intentions and asking them if it was "o.k" for you to be there.  Answers I usually received  were along the lines of "Sure buddy, just watch yourself. Hey, what brand of camera is that?"  Railfans with good attitudes and manners were often treated well.  

 

 

I've been railfanning since the 1970s... first time I heard the term was in the mid 1990s.  Now, I know it dates back to the 1980s, but I swear, I never heard it once, until an article in a local paper about a special train and "The Foamers" on board getting excited about an end cab switcher.

Now, I hear it all the time.

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Posted by eolafan on Monday, August 11, 2008 11:17 PM

 n012944 wrote:
 Ulrich wrote:
But one has to wonder...do sports people..like those highly payed ball players call their fans foamers or something like that? Probably!!
Unlike professional ball players, fans of the railroads do not pay the professionals salary

To the contrary, we ALL pay for the salaries and other earnings of professional railroaders by purchasing products that are transported via rail to their destinations...and that includes both "foamers" and others as well.  By the way and for the record, I don't give a flip what anybody calls me, foamer, FRN or anything else...I love trains and railroads, period, and am proud to say so.

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Posted by TimChgo9 on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 11:57 AM

My hobbies, beyond taking train pictures, are WWII history, military history in general, weather, and music.  I have met people in all of those hobbies that I would classify as a "Foamer". 

They are generally: someone who thinks they know it all, is not afraid to tell everyone. When they attend an event, they wear the shirts, hats, buttons, badges, or other accoutrements that identify one with that hobby. If they are taking photos of the event, they invariably bring the most expensive camera they have, with the biggest lens.. One more thing: They tend to be rude, antisocial, and short-tempered.

Quick story: Last fall, the NWS office in Romeoville was giving a tour of the weather office.  I went with my kids, and it was a great event, full of information, and well done.  In my group, there was one "gentleman" who was going on about how much he knew about the weather. He was so bad, that during the tour of the inside of the weather office, he was openly contradicting the meteorologist who was giving the tour.  After the 3rd or 4th time, the meteorologist basically told the individual to shut up. (In a nice, diplomatic way)  Well, that didn't deter this guy, and he was whispering to his companions "That guy doesn't know anything, I could forecast the weather better than him".....  Oh yeah, the guy conducting the tour had been with the NWS for 15 years...

 

That, ladies and gentelmen, is what defines a foamer. 

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Posted by n012944 on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 1:03 PM
 eolafan wrote:

 n012944 wrote:
 Ulrich wrote:
But one has to wonder...do sports people..like those highly payed ball players call their fans foamers or something like that? Probably!!
Unlike professional ball players, fans of the railroads do not pay the professionals salary

To the contrary, we ALL pay for the salaries and other earnings of professional railroaders by purchasing products that are transported via rail to their destinations...and that includes both "foamers" and others as well.  By the way and for the record, I don't give a flip what anybody calls me, foamer, FRN or anything else...I love trains and railroads, period, and am proud to say so.

Well maybe I was not clear on what I was trying to say, or your just splitting hairs.   Without fans professional sports goes away, without railfans, railroads still makes money............

An "expensive model collector"

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Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 2:30 PM
As I pointed out on another foamer thread - there are those in the fire community who fit the same description.  They're generally called buffs, but they can be just as crazy.  And some of them happen to be firefighters as well.

LarryWhistling
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Posted by CShaveRR on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 4:53 PM

 tree68 wrote:
As I pointed out on another foamer thread - there are those in the fire community who fit the same description.  They're generally called buffs, but they can be just as crazy.  And some of them happen to be firefighters as well.

Yeah, Larry, but in the fire business can the foam be put to good use?

Carl

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Posted by trainboyH16-44 on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 6:15 PM
True story, one time I was down by the CP line here and a trackside fire occurred, but was put out by another foamer and myself.

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 6:45 PM

 tree68 wrote:
As I pointed out on another foamer thread - there are those in the fire community who fit the same description.  They're generally called buffs, but they can be just as crazy.  And some of them happen to be firefighters as well.

I've heard the term for at least 20 years. One theory is the "foam at the mouth" one; another is that it comes from a fire extinguisher called I think "foamite" and apparently commonly called a "foamer"...or something like that, never quite understood the connection.

In the UK a common railfan (excuse me, "railway enthusiast") term was/is "anorak" from a common (and not very becomming) raincoat that railspotters supposedly wore while waiting for trains in the rain.

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Posted by eolafan on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 7:18 PM
 n012944 wrote:
 eolafan wrote:

 n012944 wrote:
 Ulrich wrote:
But one has to wonder...do sports people..like those highly payed ball players call their fans foamers or something like that? Probably!!
Unlike professional ball players, fans of the railroads do not pay the professionals salary

To the contrary, we ALL pay for the salaries and other earnings of professional railroaders by purchasing products that are transported via rail to their destinations...and that includes both "foamers" and others as well.  By the way and for the record, I don't give a flip what anybody calls me, foamer, FRN or anything else...I love trains and railroads, period, and am proud to say so.

Well maybe I was not clear on what I was trying to say, or your just splitting hairs.   Without fans professional sports goes away, without railfans, railroads still makes money............

OK, true enough...your point is now well taken.

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Posted by Ulrich on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 7:55 PM
Okay  lets beat this thing to death..railroads need customers...so are customers who like trains foamers?
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Posted by eolafan on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 11:49 PM
Very possibly, but not necessarily.
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Posted by trainfan1221 on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 12:23 PM
I like being called a railfan, or a train buff, even a fanatic (hey, if the shoe fits..), but I would find the term Foamer to be a bit degrading.  However I have always been of the opinion let them say what they want, I'm willing to take one on the chin for my hobby.
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 3:43 PM

Hated to listen to Eleanor Roosevelt, her voice grated upon my nerves, but she wrote a good column.  Her quote, 'You can be insulted only with your permission.' is very good advice, and remembering it has kept me from flairing up at some perceived (by me) insulting retort.

So you can call me a foamer, shortie, a honky, a wimp, four eyes, etc. No problem. 

Art 

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Posted by vsmith on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 3:53 PM

On the plus side...if you have to ask, there's a good chance your not one.Wink [;)]

...all things in Moderation ya know Whistling [:-^]

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Posted by Beach Bill on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 7:50 PM

So when has being interested in something become a liability?

It becomes a liability when the activities associated with "interest" become perceived as a liability to others, especially when the activity is performed in public.  I recall a elderly member of the old model railroad club where I learned things as a "junior member".  I went to his apartment one time and it was almost impossible to walk through any of the rooms due to the piles of "train stuff".  It was beyond eccentric, yet since it was in his own private space it didn't attract much attention from anyone.  Railroad photography is done in public and so is inherantly subject to more attention and protential criticism from anyone without the same level of interest.  The extremes of "foaming" have been witnessed by most - and the worst I have seen was the fellow who constructed a "sling" to suspend himself from highway overpasses to hang below the bridge and film the oncoming J611.   Such activities that are beyond the pale in terms of safety and rationality and word of such things among railway employees and law enforcement have had some effect in "crimping" things for those who try to obey the rules and get good photos while staying out of everyone's way. 

I haven't been too concerned with what labels folks apply to me for many years.  I do mentally "step back" once in awhile and assess my photo location in terms of how non-hobbiests would view it, but more importantly in terms of whether or not it constitutes trespassing or presence in an area and at a time where it could understandably be seen as a threat.  If someone wants to think my hobbies are strange, that is fine.  If folks don't want to see my collection of railroad lanterns, they shouldn't come into my garage. 

Worrying about little verbal labels is the province of those in Junior High School.

Bill 

With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost. William Lloyd Garrison

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