• How did you become a fan?

  • Tell us where you were and what you saw!
Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

  by John_Perkowski
Well, since Otto's letter got published in Trains, maybe we can ask it of ourselves:

How did you become a railfan?

For me, it was a combination of:
- Watching the Coast Daylight (in technicolor, not simulated stainless steel) cross Gaviota Trestle in the the early 60s.
- Counting cars on the Daylight, the Lark, and assorted freight trains at Refugio Beach through the 60s.
- Chasing the daily turn on the now abandoned Burbank Junction branch (through Canoga Park) as a kid. ... in the 60s.
- Taking the City of Saint Louis to Grandma and Grandpa's and travelling by Pullman, in 1963 and 1967.

I got hooked... :)
  by Ocala Mike
Just about my earliest memories are of trolley cars and subways in Brooklyn. Taking the State of Maine from GCT to Lewiston, ME in the late 40's to see relatives hooked me. Been a railfan for 60 years, I guess.

Ocala Mike

  by umtrr-author
I'll try to be brief:

- Boyhood home was the third floor of an apartment building in Jersey City overlooking the PRR's Harismus Cove line, leading to "audio memories" of GG1s and E44's
- Grandfather worked for the Railway Express
- Great-grandfather worked for the Lackawanna
- One uncle worked for the Long Island
- Another uncle worked for the CNJ and gave me my first ride in the cab of a switcher at Communipaw: I was so young that I only know this from the photograph!
- Father has had model trains longer than he has had kids
- PATH, NYC Subway, Erie-Lackawanna Hoboken Terminal, Pavonia Yards (way before Newport Center!)...
- Numerous train shows and events while growing up...

...in summary, I was "conditioned from birth"!

  by David Benton
good topic John !
For me , i think it was a combination , first of having toy trains from a early age ,and taknig the railcar to my cousins place for school holidays . i also used to run(as in training run , i wasnt that train mad ) ) out to the railway station (probably 2 miles ) every morning , usually in time to see the railcar go through .
heres the link to the station of my birthplace . the railcar was the 88 seater .

  by Alloy
Hi John--
For me, the earliest "hook" was watching the daily mixed freight train on the PRR Morrow to Trinway branch, in Southern Ohio. It went through my little town at 10am five days a week. Then my dad would take me out to see the three trestles on the line that were near town. He wasn't a fan, but he knew that I was.

One of my grandmas lived a block from the B&O's St. Louis main, and we'd visit there on Sundays. I really loved that stretch of track at Leesburg, because I could see the trains coming from some distance away.

The other railroad in the area was the Little Miami Valley (PRR), and it ran parallel to the highway we traveled to go to the nearest big city, Cincinnati. It also ran near the roads we took to get to my other grandma's house.

So it wasn't a surprise that I convinced my mother to buy me an electric train set when I was 6--wind-up trains just weren't good enough. I built up that American Flyer layout for 8 years.

Here in Oakland--Berkeley it's BNSF, and Union Pacific.

  by 3rdrail
I grew up sandwiched between Boston's Arborway with trackless trolleys and trolleys, the Washington Street "El", and the New Haven Railroad's Boston-Providence Main Line. :-D

  by Gilbert B Norman
I honestly "don't know how". I never lived within sight of a railroad as a kid, and no one in my family, save myself, ever worked for a railroad.

In fact my Mother and Father, especially the latter, could be considered 'train haters".

But yet, somehow "during The War", when my family resided in the Pittsburgh area (Sewickley), during "pre-school' I can remember sneaking peaks of PRR double headed trains hauling war materiel.

When it was time to visit family in the New York area, the 1942 Pontiac (just about the last to be built) "jet back" sedan was rolling along the Penna Turnpike, apparently they chose to save ration points for these journeys rather than "brave" a journey on the "Standard Railroad of the World". In short, I have earlier memories of Laurel Hill, Allegheny, Sidling Hill, Ray's Hill, Tuscarora, Kittatinny and Blue Mountain (Turnpike's then-seven tunnels; today four) than I ever do of riding the rails.

My first train ride was not until summer 1946 Grand Central to Westerly with Grandmother, Mother, and Sister. When alighting at Westerly I wanted to go see the steam locomotive, but I was "assertively" grabbed with warnings "don't go near that dirty thing'.

I first took a joyride "on my own' (previous unaccompanied rides were to summer camp - including Canada with steam and trips to and from school) Stamford-Providence during July 1959 or when I turned 18. It was not a present, it was my own summer job money.

So I guess just maybe I became a railfan (and admittedly much more active than I am today) possibly out of an act of "teen age rebellion".

  by David Benton
I noticed John Poshepny's contribution there too . anyone spot other former / current railroad .net contributors?
I also note Otto just scraped into the under30 bracket , i gues next year he joins us in the old man railfan catergory . :wink:

  by FireChaserE3
I remember as a kid, growing up on a small dead end street in Bayonne that ended at the Bayonne rail yard (before they built Hwy 440). I remember when I would get up early in the summer, since all of my friends were still asleep, I would stare out my bedroom window and watch the drill being done. I no longer live in Bayonne, and as a matter of fact, the street no longer exists. But my memories of watching those big blue engines moving through the yard will stay with me forever.

  by David Benton
Wow , i guess with a railroad yard outside your bedroom window , youd either grow up to love trains or hate them !

  by FireChaserE3
i loved them....my parents hated them though cause they would leave the engines idling all night...and that noise echoed through the neighborhood.
  by fauxcelt
I was born and raised in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the south side of Chicago in the 1960's where we were surrounded by trains. Although we did have a car, sometimes we would use the "L" or the electric commuter trains of the Illinois Central to travel to places where parking was either difficult to find or expensive. We also rode on the old orange cars of the Chicago, South Shore, & South Bend at least once when I was a boy. I guess I was "corrupted" from an early age because I cannot remember when I wasn't interested in and fascinated by trains. Although I am now forty-nine going on fifty (chronologically speaking), I am still a railfan.
  by kevin.brackney
I try to avoid the word "fan" when decribing myself. I've taken some pictures; but mainly of railroad operations that I have been involved with. I enjoy and take pride of my work and I am exceedingly fortunate to have a wife that's proud of what I do and takes a genuine interest in it. I consider myself to be a "recreational railroader."

I got my inspiration at an early age. I had grandparents that took me to just about every tourist railroad in Northern California. And my Dad would take my brother and I to Dunsmuir back in the early to mid 70's on weekends to watch trains; but it took me until age 32 to turn this interest into a career. When I retire, I might look for a museum or tourist line to volunteer at.
  by CarterB
My late father was a huge railroad fan and historian, contributing to several books, and had a huge collection of original artifacts. As a youngster, my grandfather, while my father was serving during WWII, would take me to his place of work, the then Commodore Hotel in NYC. We'd ride the Staten Island Ferry, he lived in New Brighton, and then the Third Ave El up to 42nd st. I'd ride in the "railfan seat" up front first car. He'd often take me next door to GCT. Saw the then brand new 1948 Century there, among other trains. I was hooked. After the war we moved to Birmingham AL where there was still the Birmingham Electric, which I rode often, as well as taking the Silver Comet with my grandfather to spend summers in his home town in VA. After the Korean War, my father got a job in Tuscola, IL at a chemical plant, and it was there that I was introduced to the still running Illinois Terminal, under wire. Rode cars and fan trips literally all over the IT before it de-electified, and even a few special excursions after. Still have a pair of IT interurban marker lamps, one of the stained glass arch windows, and a rare original sign for IT sleeper service. Got to ride the C&EI Meadowlark to Chi, and then the one and only RDC (with trailer) that replaced it. Sometimes took the IC to/from Chicago with my parents. Been hooked ever since.
  by NYNE
My father took New Haven commuter trains to and from Boston. We lived in Canton and in the afternoon my mother would take me with her when she went to pick him up from the station. My older brother had staked out cars for his interest and my other brother had airplanes and boats, so I got trains by default. But those trips to Canton Junction in the mid-1960s cinched it for me more than anything else. We would get there a little early and there would be a parade of New Haven commuter trains (mostly), as well as a few freights and some named trains on the way to or from New York.

I loved the New Haven. I loved the idea the trains were going to places like New York City and Washington, D.C. There were always friendly men down at the station to explain things to me -- such as how to read the control panel in the station master's office. (If you leaned up against the wall you could see it through the window.) There were baggage wagons still on the platform that hinted of another age. And of course there were all those orange and black trains with that fancy NH logo.