What's a Foamer?

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pierrerabbit
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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by pierrerabbit » Sun Oct 12, 2008 4:39 pm

Wow, just saw another example of a foamer. As railfans we all know something about railroading, and if we have a question, we can ask other railfans, and they will willingly give a friendly answer. a nice bunch of slightly nutty guys, but we're at least nice to one another.

Was just visiting the NJ section of this site, and someone had asked a simple question, and in return someone gave a very snotty answer, treating the questioner like he's an idiot.

Thats a foamer. One of us who takes it to the extreme in every way, including knowledge (they think they know it all). They have all the answers, the rest of us are morons. Do us a favor, find a new hobby!

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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by ErieLimited2914 » Wed Oct 22, 2008 1:39 pm

I would describe a foamer as:
1) Guy who's jaw hit the floor as if he saw the Sweedish Bikini Team parachute in.
2) The bad foamers. The ones that do you a favor by being in your shot. There's being on the side of the camera and being seen, but then there's just the down right rude foamers who stand in the gauge, of 15 feet infront of you, just enough to p*ss you off.
3) Who don't have to obey all the rules. Like walking along the tracks and ignoring the giant sign that says "NO TRESPASSING! Violators will be Prosecuted."
4) And also the Human Railroad Disctionay foamers. The ones who could read the dispatcher's brain and tell you what the train orders are and every fact about a locomotive.

I was at Butler, NJ 2 summers ago and the SU-99 stalled in the rain and slick rails. I saw a guy there who fits into all 4 of those categories. My lucky day! This guy went walking along the tracks, and found a Handicapped parking sign. He got the bright idea to stick it in the grass and take pictures of it, in front of the other 10 people that were there checking out the train. After he had his fun and graced us with his presence in the photos, he came walking up the steps to the station reciting what the train order would be if he ran the railroad, what pushers he would dispatch and explained how much better everything would run if he was in charge.
MP the Mechanical E

pierrerabbit
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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by pierrerabbit » Wed Oct 22, 2008 1:59 pm

Nice post, Erie.

This is what we have to look forward to, when BRW 60 is running again. The entire Foamer nation....

Gadfly
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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by Gadfly » Wed Oct 22, 2008 11:49 pm

LOL! I'm afraid we sometimes used even MORE uncomplimentary names for "foamers". Most of them were pretty nice, but a few.......................................... :wink: WOW! The really fanatic ones, well, we tried to keep them from even KNOWING we worked for the railroad(s). We'd tell friends who mentioned that they had an uncle, a cousin, a brother who was a rail nut, "Don't you DARE tell him I work for the RR!"

The foamers, upon seeing your jacket, hat, or watch, would sometimes regale us with non-stop recitations of RR history, why we were doing the job "wrong", and asking us to give them (or sell) your
RR jacket, or hat, or safety award pin. One young fella I ran into just drooled over my NS wristwatch that had the company logo along with the "railroad approved" on the face. Just BEGGING me to set him a price. One time, I went out to hand up a message to the engineer of a steam excursion about to leave my station and was roundly chastised for being in "HIS" shot which was at the bottom of the cab door. (Well, SHEEESH! How ELSE am I to give the crew their stuff?) He got a bit nasty and I got nasty right back, offering to kick a certain part of his anatomy up around his shoulder blades!! :-D Yes, I got in his way, but I am trying to do a JOB here!! OH! This pinply-faced kid got quiet and sort of disappeared------right quick. hauling a rattling plethora of cameras and equipment on his shoulder with him!!!! It is this kind of fan we ridiculed, calling them the "National Railway HYS-TERICAL Society" because they became 'hysterical" at the sight of an old freight drag!!! Rife with striped caps and red bandanas that REAL RR employees wouldn't be caught DEAD wearing, they think this is the way employees dress (or should).

I must emphasize that most fans i encountered were quiet and respectful and didn't push themselves on us. These we didn't mind answering so long as it didn't turn into a marathon session. But it was the FEW really wild-eyed fanatics that left a bad impression. We used to RUN and hide when we saw them coming!!! :-D


Gadfly

(see my story in November TRAINS under "Fab Flops" called "Gravel Gertie" Why am I writing stories? Because they pay MONEY!!! :wink: )

BobLI
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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by BobLI » Fri Oct 24, 2008 9:46 am

Gadfly,

I read your article in the November TRAINS mag. Great article!!
Anything in the works we can get a heads up on?

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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by Gadfly » Fri Oct 24, 2008 10:31 pm

BobLI,

Well, not really! :-D I'm now retired and "out of the loop" and rarely go over to the shops. Gravel Gertie was "born" in the late 70's when I first hired on. It was a frame and two sets of trucks out at the rear of the shop. It was supposed to be an answer to an environmental problem--that of the huge clouds of dust that was raised by conventional Ballast Cleaners. But old Gertie was a lot like the old cartoon "Rube Goldberg" contraptions you sometimes saw on old Warner Bros shorts. It got its name because it went out for test----and back into the shops. Out for test----and back to fix something that broke. It had a water car that was to be used to suck up water out of creeks and rivers, and once, it almost tipped over into a creek because there were no outriggers to steady it! :-D Back to the shop to add some "legs" :P Back and forth, back and forth until they simply got tired of it (after spending a cool million or so on it) AND there began to be whispered words like "not viable" and, more importantly, "MERGER" as Southern and Norfolk & Western were courting each others as partners. Gertie simply disappeared and the next time I saw it, it was sitting all forlorn WAAAAY back at the rear of the old Norfolk & Southern yard (the original NS owned by Southern).

I would hope that this story would serve to show that the railroad is much MORE than just trains and there are other paths to railroad careers besides "choos choos" and being Casey Jones! :-D Often, speaking of "foamers and fans", the aspiring railroad applicant can only think about those trains. Well, there are only so many people that can be hired for that. But there is much more to this industry that this. Fans sometimes are disappointed and wonder WHY they can't get hired! Is it because they are so FOCUSED on just ONE thing?

Gravel Gertie is one part of it. There are shops, gangs, facilities and other support functions that make the railroad go. I got my start at Southern's Charlotte Roadway Shops. From there, I went to the Line of Road as a Clerk, finding that there was a whole world of stuff that I would do and a huge variety of things I got exposed to; stuff I wouldn't have done if I had just "drove a train". For example, if you ever go the Smithsonian and look at the Southern PS-4 that pulled Roosevelt's funeral train, look between the drivers (I forgot which side). You will find a Thermite weld on the frame. I knew the blacksmith/welder that PUT it there at Spencer Shops! His name was Mike! He was still working at the Roadway Shops when I was there, retiring around 1981.

I have so much material I have been working on a book. Dunno if they will publish it, but I would hope so as I have a lot of experiences to tell. It should give a fan or a career hopeful another view of how life on the railroad actually is. Me, I loved it at times, HATED other facets of it at the same time. And, like the story in TRAINS, maybe it will make me a few bucks along the way! :wink: Thanks for reading!

Gadfly

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RussNelson
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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by RussNelson » Sat Oct 25, 2008 10:41 am

Gadfly, there is no longer any "they" to publish books. You can go to lulu.com and get your book published on-demand. They don't charge you *anything* to make your book available to the public. They'll even take and pay out a royalty to you, the amount of which you decide upon. The publishers now only serve to take risks by giving advances on books they believe will sell, which they then promote. So if you're going to write this stuff down anyway, and you know how to do your own promotion (e.g. by publishing articles in Trains, and posting here; so obviously you do), then you don't need a publisher.

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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by Chessie GM50 » Sat Oct 25, 2008 4:03 pm

I know someone who is writing a book on a non-train matter, and HE isn't using a publisher. All a publisher is this day in age is a marketer for a book. There are 100's of places you could go to get something published. Trains and other magazines. If you wanted it on a t-shirt, you have cafepress, if you want it electronicly, you could make a fill-domain website (like me) if you just get the domain, and forget about any "plan," you pay a one-time fee for the domain, and what your disk space/bandwith is, monthly. Unless you're planning on 500+ hits daily, it is useless for a plan. And of course, there is railroad.net...

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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by lbshelby » Sat Oct 25, 2008 5:05 pm

Be careful about your definitions, guys. It's not the same across the country.

Out west foamer just means railfan. It's a slightly more flippant term, but it's not anywhere near the same level of insult you describe. This is even more true with the college and under generation who don't think of it as much of an insult at all. This is why the term "foamtard" has been coined.

I'm not sure where the geographic region split is on the term. It seems to be less of an insult if you're west of the Appalachians than east of them, and another degree less insulting west of the Rockies. Most people who take umbrage to the term out this way aren't from the west originally.
~L. B. Shelby: Forum Moderator: Pacific Northwest Railfan

Gadfly
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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by Gadfly » Sat Oct 25, 2008 9:53 pm

:-D Whatever you call them, I saw some REAL "foamtards": nerds to the 'nth' degree! LIke the guy that used to come out to the passenger station at 3 AM to watch Southern #1 (Southern Crescent) arrive. WE sort of resented him because, I mean, here we are out here to load baggage in the middle of the night and this guy is out here at three in the morning standing almost transfixed and wide-eyed, staring up at the engine. :-D Or the young man who couldn't pass the physical, but he got a job as a sort of a volunteer "janitor" at the local Amtrak flag stop. He then imagined himself a "real" railroad agent and managed to filch a station key and started going into the yard office to talk to the dispatcher on the train order line. WHOA!!!!!! :( I got wind of this (I was working at Charlotte Yard) and slipped over there one night and parked off to the side where he couldn't see me. Sure enough, he opened the station and went inside just after the train departed. 1) He wasn't supposed to have a key, and 2) He could NOT use the train order line because [a} he was NOT an employee and he was not rules qualified. He locked the door, but I used my Extra Board key, slipped in and took a photo of him with the headphones on. Then I told him he best get those 'phones off and NOW before I called the RR detectives. It didn't make him happy, but I meant for him to get OUT of that office. I filed what is called a "time ticket" on him according to TCU rules and we collected PAY for his actions. Uh..........they TOOK his key away from him!!!!! :-D (pout!)

Some of these guys-----Lord, Have Mercy!!!!!!!!!!! :-D :-D

Gadfly

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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by Gadfly » Sun Oct 26, 2008 10:08 pm

RussNelson wrote:Gadfly, there is no longer any "they" to publish books. You can go to lulu.com and get your book published on-demand. They don't charge you *anything* to make your book available to the public. They'll even take and pay out a royalty to you, the amount of which you decide upon. The publishers now only serve to take risks by giving advances on books they believe will sell, which they then promote. So if you're going to write this stuff down anyway, and you know how to do your own promotion (e.g. by publishing articles in Trains, and posting here; so obviously you do), then you don't need a publisher.
Thanks for the nice advice. However, having looked at this "lulu" thing, it appears to be another "self-publishing house where YOU have to do it all yourself. Having had a family member who went this route already, I have chosen not to do anything of the sort. If the materal is worth reading, a conventional publisher will be interested in it! :P If not, It will go to the incinerator. I do, however, believe a publisher will be interested in it----NOT because I think I am a good writer, HEAVENS NO; I'm not! BUT! Because it tells the story of an ordinary fellow who started out on the railroad as a simple laborer in a track materal yard, moved up to a single-point seniority Extra Clerk to going to Southern's McDonough Training Center, then marking up as a Line of Road Clerk. He then worked a whole plethora of jobs as a Clerk ranging from Clerk/Telegrapher (Operator) to Agent at outlying stations (Extra Board), a Porter loading baggage (including dead bodies that came in from Noo Yawk on the Crescent), handling Demurrage charges, Freight Claims, Cashier and Mail Clerk. From there, there was a variety of interesting experiences including the one where a "hobo" got his toes severed and it was discovered the guy was wanted for MURDER :( !! (I had to clean up the blood from the mail room where the hobo went looking for help!

The "foamers" love to read about experiences on the railroad because they themselves are often desperate to be LIVING it. And we had the steam program which engendered both love and HATE on the parts of the employees who had to deal with them. If you ever had to stand on the ballast and hand up orders and bulletins to one of them a mere FOOT or two from you---------------well, it scared the sh&&&
out of me and I wanted to RUN like heck from this thing that was huffing and puffing at me like some dragon!!!! :-D Even the diesels were intimidating. Who of you has done Cab Supply? What is that like? Sure, some of the jobs are boring, some of them are dangerous, some of them were spooky. What is it really like to be down in some dark yard alone with mysterious figures darting about or lurking in box cars, 'Hey buddy, got a light?" from out of nowhere! YIPES!!!! Don't ever DO THAT!!!!! :(
Have YOU ever had a cut of gondolas slip up on you on a moonless night on an adjacent track? Betcha you think you can always HEAR them, right? "Expect movement on ANY track from ANY direction!......."
Suddenly, quietly, effortlessly, as you sense a presence, you look over to see a dark shape approaching silently!!!No sound, no warning. Death's fingers have just missed touching you!!! Next time..........?


How about deadheading on one of the excursions or crossing thru passenger E-8s and in the engine rooms (LOUD!!) at speed. How does it make a crew feel to hit a car or know the helplessness it caused them? *I* know and it isn't fun. There's hundreds of experiences to be had, and I think the publishers that know the railfan community will be willing to publish it without the trappings of the author having to be "peddling" books. One of the things I hope to accomplish with the book is to get fans to see that there is much more to railroading than "choo choos and striped overalls". If one is willing to accept something OTHER than train service in the beginning, many jobs and crafts offer a path to railroad service--many of whom are just as rewarding as the Transportation Dept. In MY case, I hired on with one thing in mind: a job! It was a GREASY, filthy, HARD and NASTY laborer's job. I never knew that it would lead to a huge variety of interesting assignments starting with the shops where "Gravel Gertie" was built to yard offices and even Agent and Mobile Agent.

I am in no hurry, nor am I rushing to get published. Most books I have seen deal directly with trains and engineers. It is almost expected because the public and, of course, the "foamers" assume that the ONLY thing that goes on is trains going up and down the tracks. But there is more to it and I just have a hunch that this is something that people would want to read. If I am wrong, it goes in the trash! :-D

Thanks,

Gadfly

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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by GOLDEN-ARM » Mon Oct 27, 2008 12:57 am

I heard a funny acronym once, for "FOAMER", OR "FOAMITE", but I'm drawing a blank, as to what it was. Anyone remember that one? An old head from Hinkle related it to me, one night on the train heading to Pasco.

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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by RussNelson » Mon Oct 27, 2008 9:52 am

Gadfly wrote:If the materal is worth reading, a conventional publisher will be interested in it! :P If not, It will go to the incinerator.
I may be wrong, but I believe that there is a hole in profitability between that which a publisher will accept, and that which an author will accept. If you're writing something anyway, for the love of it, and you want to share it with people in print form, and it's too specialized to get the market size a publisher needs, then you should go with print-on-demand. Please don't confuse Lulu with the old self-publishing houses. With them, you have to take the risk of publishing by paying up-front for a print run. Lulu does no such thing. They print as needed, so there's no up-front costs. The incremental costs per book are higher, sure. But for a book which an ordinary publishing house won't publish, with a small but tightly knit market, Lulu makes sense.

Imagine trying to interest a publisher in http://russnelson.com/unfinished-railroads.html ? How many people are interested in looking at something that barely existed? Mmmmmmm, not many.

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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by Gadfly » Mon Oct 27, 2008 6:54 pm

RussNelson wrote:
Gadfly wrote:If the materal is worth reading, a conventional publisher will be interested in it! :P If not, It will go to the incinerator.
I may be wrong, but I believe that there is a hole in profitability between that which a publisher will accept, and that which an author will accept. If you're writing something anyway, for the love of it, and you want to share it with people in print form, and it's too specialized to get the market size a publisher needs, then you should go with print-on-demand. Please don't confuse Lulu with the old self-publishing houses. With them, you have to take the risk of publishing by paying up-front for a print run. Lulu does no such thing. They print as needed, so there's no up-front costs. The incremental costs per book are higher, sure. But for a book which an ordinary publishing house won't publish, with a small but tightly knit market, Lulu makes sense.

Imagine trying to interest a publisher in http://russnelson.com/unfinished-railroads.html ? How many people are interested in looking at something that barely existed? Mmmmmmm, not many.
**************************************************************************************************************************

I guess I am missing something..............It STILL looks like something where you have to BUY stuff: editing, formatting services, etc. Then it appears that AFTER you do all that, then there is STILL the problem of marketing the book which still appears to be done by the author himself! :P Admittedly, I am not up on this stuff: I've never done it before. :(

But this I know (I am just that subborn :wink: ). I am not BUYING anything up front; editing, formatting, extraneous services---nut'tin'. What I am counting on is the fact that the bookstores (Books-a-MIllion, etc) have lots of books about railroading. I checked and recorded the names of the publishers. I may be wrong, but there seems to be a market for this stuff---IOW, enough "foamers" wanting to read about the industry from the inside to justify the effort of writing the book. Heck, I even had one of them (a young kid) to "latch" onto me once when I innocently gave him an Amtrak brochure. For weeks, this kid showed up at my station with a million questions. Finally, he went too far by locating my house and showing up after work! :( He thought that this was a GAME that I should be happy to play 24/7. WHOA! "Son, you need to go home and get a LIFE! I AIN'T interested in 'playing choo choo' with you!" :P

These fellows are hard core buffs, and I am betting, with the huge number of experiences I garnered over 30 years from shop work to steam engines, to clerk operator and back to the shops, they will want to read it and the conventional publishers will want to publish it. After all, they are publishing books about trains and books with pictures of trains, etc, why not a book about being on the INSIDE of the operation? So, I am not willing to invest my own money IN it; not ONE penny. I am gambling that it will pay off. If I am wrong (and I have been wrong before, and I am no writer, fer sure), it goes in the shredder. I ain't peddling no books, I ain't marketing no books, I ain't putting 'em on the web. :wink: :-) It either goes into a soft cover or hard cover book or nothing. Don't get me wrong and i mean no offense, I just have this "either-OR" thing or forget it. If I am missing something, well, I've been mistaken before. Perhaps, its just that I haven't grasped the "new" world of publishing. :P

Thanks again and I appreciate all the help!!!!

Gadfly

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Re: What's a Foamer?

Post by GSC » Tue Oct 28, 2008 2:12 pm

Back on topic:

My experiences with foamers has been mostly demands (not requests).
"Sure would be a better shot if you parked it with the rods down." I'm in the station. I stopped where I did so the step boxes line up with the coach steps.
"Not enough smoke! Hook up the fire and run the blower!" People in the station don't care very much for black acrid coal smoke, nor does the boss.
"More smoke! And set off the safeties for me!" In the station? Don't think so.
"I want to get up in the cab!" Sorry, insurance won't allow that.
Spend hundreds, even thousands on video and photographic equipment, chase the train, but NEVER EVER buy a ticket, or even a few souvenirs to support the very thing you are chasing.

Used to be, back in the days of Kodak film, little yellow boxes found on the ground were referred to as "railfan droppings".
Every 20 minute job is just one broken bolt away from being a three day ordeal.

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