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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked


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Date: 12/02/20 12:48
Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: CNW8531

I'm sure any of us that have railfanned for any length of time has heard it all before.  The dumb questions and deragatory remarks we've had to answer or field from non railfans (the general public in general).  Try and explain to a non railfan why we do what we do is next to impossible.  I used to try and be truthful and honest and tell them I'm here to photograph trains.  My explanation was usually met with a "why," a "how come,"  or just a dumb look accompanied by a shake of the head in total disbelief as to why someone would do such a thing.  I no longer try and be honest anymore because it's just plain hopeless.  Instead, I'll even fabricate a lie if I think it sounds believable and they will accept that and move on.  One case really stands out from a long time ago.  It was October of 1976 and Conrail was just formed months earlier and it was a rainbow of power and colors to be had.  It was a great time to be a trackside photographer because each train was history in the making.  Of course, since I lived in Iowa, I wasn't gonna get any of it by staying home.  If you wanted Conrail, you had to go to a Conrail mainline.  And that meant leaving Iowa.  On one occasion I was over in Hobart, Indiana along the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline.  This was a very busy mainline back then as it had yet to be downgraded to secondary status.  While parked at a crossing waiting on a headlight off in the distance, this guy walks up to me and asked what I'm doing.  No doubt he noticed my Iowa license plates.  I thought here we go again, what do I say.  The guy was nice though so I was kind in return and explained I was about to photograph the train that was seen down the track slowly coming our way.  I instantly got that "deer in the headlights" look.  The guy looked at me, then glanced down at his shoes, then back at me again.  I could tell he was thinking hard, deep in thought, and struggling for what to say.  I was curious as heck to what would follow when he finally found the words.  At last, through the most inquisitive look I've ever seen, he asked "Don't they have trains in Iowa?"



Date: 12/02/20 12:59
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: wp1801

I remember someone asked if rail cars sit too long will the wheels go flat.



Date: 12/02/20 13:17
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: crazy_train_999

"How does the engineer steer the train" is one question I've been asked on more than one occassion, and not just from children.



Date: 12/02/20 15:19
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: santafe199

How come there are so many engines when there is only one engineer?



Date: 12/02/20 16:04
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: cewherry

One evening before I had my drivers license I persuaded my mom to drive to the Santa Fe's Monrovia, CA. depot
where we could watch the eastward Super Chief pass. It really didn't take a lot of persuasion since she was a 
veteran of train watching; having done the same at SP's Alhambra station in the years before her husband had
passed away, but Monrovia was new territory for us.

She knew the drill; park and wait while dad and his two sons would stroll down the platform, checking out the awaiting 
passengers, guessing their destinations and going into the depot to see if any new public timetables had arrived since
our last visit.

This trip to Monrovia would be different in that the depot was closed and the Super Chief didn't stop there anyway.

As we waited in the darkness a police cruiser noticed our presence and pulled up beside us. Rolling down his window
the officer asked what we were doing; 

"We're waiting to watch the Super Chief go by". 
"Go by?"
"Yes, he's due to go by here in about 10 minutes"
"Are you going to get on the train?"
"Oh no, the train doesn't stop here."
"So, you're just going to watch the train go by?"
"Yes."

The officer rolled up his window and stayed parked beside us. His was not a stupid question but I'm sure
that experience was a new one for him.

As promised, the Super Chief rolled by the depot and on into the night. As soon as the train was out of sight
I told mom we better get moving before we wore out our welcome. We eased out of the parking lot and headed 
home, leaving the officer to draw his own conclusions.
 
Charlie


 



Date: 12/02/20 17:15
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: TAW

crazy_train_999 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "How does the engineer steer the train" is one
> question I've been asked on more than one
> occassion, and not just from children.

I worked with a yardmaster who had several higher-than-us-railroad-guys professional class in his acquaint. There was always some reminder that rilroad guys are somewhere below their station. One night at a gathering, someone asked that question, so he came up with a long winded technical story about how there is a big chain that runs the length of the train, connected to a steering mechanism on every car and to a big wheel in the cab. The stories about featherbedding were bogus, he told them; it takes two guys to turn that wheel and that's why they need a fireman. He went on to tell them about the rubber safety straps you can see connecting the cars. They ate it all up in fascination.

TAW



Date: 12/03/20 04:58
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: march_hare

I’ve met several people who, upon seeing a train go around a super elevated curve, concluded that the engineer was carefully controlling the inward lean. 



Date: 12/03/20 06:50
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: retcsxcfm

TAW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> crazy_train_999 Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > "How does the engineer steer the train" is one
> > question I've been asked on more than one
> > occassion, and not just from children.
>
> I worked with a yardmaster who had several
> higher-than-us-railroad-guys professional class in
> his acquaint. There was always some reminder that
> rilroad guys are somewhere below their station.
> One night at a gathering, someone asked that
> question, so he came up with a long winded
> technical story about how there is a big chain
> that runs the length of the train, connected to a
> steering mechanism on every car and to a big wheel
> in the cab. The stories about featherbedding were
> bogus, he told them; it takes two guys to turn
> that wheel and that's why they need a fireman. He
> went on to tell them about the rubber safety
> straps you can see connecting the cars. They ate
> it all up in fascination.
>
> TAW

This is one of the best stories I ever heard.

Uncle Joe
Seffner,Fl.



Date: 12/03/20 09:07
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: LocoPilot750

I was deadheading from Ark City to Emporia on #16. I was talking to a girl in the lounge car, and she asked me what I did. I told her I was a Fireman on freight trains and I was deadheading back home to Emporia. She pondered all that, then asked "Do they have many fires on freight trains" ?



Date: 12/03/20 09:41
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: Notch7

In all seriousness the dumbest question asked over the years goes something like this - "are you aroused by the sight of  special engines?".  Sometimes it was said as heckling (sometimes from other railroaders that don't like railfans) and sometimes it's just a curious question from well meaning people.  The only time I could ever think of smart replies was when a waitress in an all night greasy spoon would ask that at 2 am..  



Date: 12/03/20 19:07
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: 90mac

My coworkers know I'm crazy about trains.
Some think I'm stupid but most ask me what makes one engine different from another.
I give them all the details and they are intrigued.
Later they would tell me about a train they saw.
Working where our back fence looks across the LA River near the former SP LA General Shops there are trains all the time and my coworkers will ask me what kind of horn that was and I'd explain.
They are a good audience generally.

TAH

Posted from Android



Date: 12/04/20 08:33
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: ntharalson

cewherry Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> One evening before I had my drivers license I
> persuaded my mom to drive to the Santa Fe's
> Monrovia, CA. depot
> where we could watch the eastward Super Chief
> pass. It really didn't take a lot of persuasion
> since she was a 
> veteran of train watching; having done the same at
> SP's Alhambra station in the years before her
> husband had
> passed away, but Monrovia was new territory for
> us.
>
> She knew the drill; park and wait while dad and
> his two sons would stroll down the platform,
> checking out the awaiting 
> passengers, guessing their destinations and going
> into the depot to see if any new public timetables
> had arrived since
> our last visit.
>
> This trip to Monrovia would be different in that
> the depot was closed and the Super Chief didn't
> stop there anyway.
>
> As we waited in the darkness a police cruiser
> noticed our presence and pulled up beside us.
> Rolling down his window
> the officer asked what we were doing; 
>
> "We're waiting to watch the Super Chief go by". 
> "Go by?"
> "Yes, he's due to go by here in about 10 minutes"
> "Are you going to get on the train?"
> "Oh no, the train doesn't stop here."
> "So, you're just going to watch the train go by?"
> "Yes."
>
> The officer rolled up his window and stayed parked
> beside us. His was not a stupid question but I'm
> sure
> that experience was a new one for him.
>
> As promised, the Super Chief rolled by the depot
> and on into the night. As soon as the train was
> out of sight
> I told mom we better get moving before we wore out
> our welcome. We eased out of the parking lot and
> headed 
> home, leaving the officer to draw his own
> conclusions.
>  
> Charlie
>
>
>
Good story.  I had a somewhat simlar experience.  About the time I graduated from high school, 1961, I decided to drive down from Lakewood to Berea, OH, one night and watch the 20th Century Limited go through.  I had the TRAINS article on BE Tower and knew the approximate time it was due.  Unfortunately for me, the train never showed.  However, while I was parked on the side street across the tracks from the tower, a police car stopped and the officer ask what I was doing.  I told him and he said, well, okay.  But there's someone running around here with a weapon so watch yourself.  I stayed another half hour after that, then went home.  Even though I didn't see the Century that night, I did see it later, but that's another story.  

Nick Tharalson,
Marion, IA



Date: 12/04/20 12:53
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: retcsxcfm

Notch7 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> In all seriousness the dumbest question asked over
> the years goes something like this - "are you
> aroused by the sight of  special engines?". 

That is where the word "fomers" came from.A name
I hate.I am a train picture taker.

Uncle Joe 



Date: 12/05/20 07:03
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: Dick

Not really a dumb question but what I get asked most when videotaping is "is there a steam train coming".  Then there was the time when I was videotaping at night next to the former KCS station, now the town hall, at Mena, Arkansas, about a month after a class 1/2 tornado had come through the town and killed 5 or six people with considerable damage only about two blocks from where I was.  There were tornado warnings that night and a severe storm did go through early in the morning flooding and knocking out my generator, but that is another story.  Early in the evening a woman stopped by after I had set up my lights and camcorder and asked if I was there to videotape a tornado.  You can't blame this woman for being scared.  I did have the opportunity to talk to several residents who were using the wifi across the street that a store had graciously provided to residents who still didn't have power or wifi in their damaged homes.  One night I will not forget.  And neither will Mena.
Dick Eisfeller
Big "E" Productions
Greenland, NH



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/05/20 08:04 by Dick.



Date: 12/05/20 10:49
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: 57A26

This happened back when the UP ran the 844 over the recently acquired CNW.  I, was out east of Boone waiting for it, as was about another 20 or so in thw immediate vacinity.  While waiting a car with a family, mom-dad and a couple of kids, pulls over where I and my wife are waiting.  Mom rolld down the window and asks me what was going on, why all the people out and about?  When I told her the UP was bringing their steam engine through, mom asked another question.  "Is that something special?"   



Date: 12/06/20 13:59
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: rerun8ed

Keep in mind some people have fun doing this--just to get the reaction you're giving now. Kind of like when I ask if a book of the BIble is in the Old Testament or New?

(I'm a pastor)    :)



Date: 12/07/20 19:05
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: railrob

In the very early days of Conrail, on a dark night around 2 AM, I had got wind of a empty coal train running west on the B&M that was reported to have a fresh paint Conrail loco leading and seeing I had never seen a Conrail painted loco , I headed out radio in hand.. I parked at a crossing at the end of a broad curve. Those days the local tower was active and I could track where the train was. when the train was seconds away but not yet visible the local cop showed up wearing a smokey the bear hat and yes at 2 AM sunglasses. He pulled up on the crossing and stopped to ask what I was doing there. I said I was waiting for a train. He pulled the sunglasses down his nose and said very sarcastically ," when this here  train going to arrive?" As the train rounded the curve and the headlight filled his cruiser with light and the crossing gates started down on his hood, I said like now and pointed at the train. He turned to see the headlight, looked back at me, burned in reverse and then burned rubber forward around the gate.He cleared the crossing by a few seconds.



Date: 12/08/20 11:02
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: aronco

Many years ago (prior to 1968), I worked for SP as a trainman in Los Angeles.  I worked on a passenger special from LA to Santa Barbara, and then the whole crew deadheaded home on the Daylight in the afternoon.  As railroad men are wont to do, the whole crew ended up in the big dome car, telling railroad stories and complaining about politics and the damn company we worked for.  A lady seated across the aisle from us overheard our conversations and interrupted "do you fellows work for the railroad?".
"Yes", the engineer replied, "I'm an engineer"
"You're the engineer?  Why aren't you up front on the locomotive?"
"Oh, it's ok ma'am.  I've got it on automatic!"
I though the lady was going to faint!

TIOGA PASS
 

Norman Orfall
Helendale, CA
TIOGA PASS, a private railcar




Date: 12/08/20 19:51
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: agentatascadero

In this season of seemingly endless shelter in place, I find myself yearning for a trip....especially of the PV variety.  Norm's post reminds me of the long hours of his great stories aboard the 
the Tioga Pass.


AA

Stanford White
Carmel Valley, CA



Date: 12/20/20 17:30
Re: Dumb Questions Railfans Are Sometimes Asked
Author: PossumKing

2000 or so, I was west of Mountainair, NM and a nice lady saw my camera, tripod, etc. She asked if I was "one of those train fans." 
"Yes", I responded loquaciously. 
She bored in for more info. "Sometimes they just stop the train, maybe for an hour. Is that so they can eat lunch?"

Looking back, I could have had some fun by agreeing with her assumption, but I explained (or tried to explain) the single track through Abo Canyon and trains having to wait.  Trains in both directions, ya see....
That seemed to be more than she wanted to know. 



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