By Ron Murdock
It seems to be something that gets into a person’s bloodstream at a young age. But once diesel smoke gets into a person’s body, it’s basically impossible to shake it off.
I wonder how many rail buffs can pinpoint exactly when they became one. With me it was seeing my first train at the Willingdon Junction in Burnaby B.C. Others may have had family working for a rail company or were raised near an active rail line or train yard.
Watching trains go by from the comforts of home or a good viewing spot is next to high heaven for rail fans. Even watching trains being broken down then reassembled onto a different one is an interesting way of passing time. Operating a model train set is enough to stir up the urge along with being behind the controls of a train simulator.
Yet how many of us can explain what trains does to us. Some may not know right away when they’ve become a rail fan. The first memory I have is hearing a nearby passing train blowing its horn while heading eastwards at night. This was where my maternal grandmother lived in Burnaby.
Becoming a rail buff could very well be heredity, particularly from father to son. This was a factor in my life as my dad and uncle enjoyed watching trains. It may be a good way to get the males out of the house when the women want to clean the house or get time to themselves. Tell the rail fan to “go watch some trains” and presto they are gone.
There must be something about an approaching train that stirs things up for a rail buff. Train headlamps look like a very bright triangle from a distance. Behind the lead engines means that any kind of load is being hauled and every train is different on what is being transported.
Myself, I like the general or mixed freights due to the variety of railcars involved. I saw a lot of these kinds of freights at my grandmother’s house as she lived a good stone’s throw from the Canadian National and at the time Great Northern line.
Waving a train crews has been part of the rail scene for years. Between Vernon and Kelowna there was an old timer that waved to trains crews from his kitchen table. Just north of Kelowna, two women waved from their office window. People in the Nelson area came out with signs at Christmas time wishing Canadian Pacific crews happy holidays.