Thursday, September 8, 2011
Rail Fan No More
As I neared retirement one of the things on my To-Do List was to visit several active railroads in the United States and photograph trains. I had loved trains all my life, and since 1984 had actively engaged in in what's call in America as Rail-fanning. My children grew up chasing trains and waiting by the railroad tracks waiting for the right locomotive to come by so I could take its picture. Indeed my youngest child appears in hundreds of train photographs. In fact there are few pictures of him other than with a train. I used to stand by the tracks for hours at a time to get the shots I wanted. I have many albums full of train pictures I have taken, and box after box after box of loose pictures and negatives of trains.
I retired in January 2002. I didn't buy that pickup with a camper to go train chasing and camping out on trips to catch my favorite Santa Fe R.R. trains in classic places through out the West. In fact I have taken only a few train pictures since I retired. Things change it seems.
One of the consequences of 9-11 was that we began to see terrorist everywhere all the time. Every want-to-be little fascist realized their fondest dreams. Everybody was the enemy. So standing alone by a railroad track with a camera became risky business. Not only did every law enforcement officer that came by legitimately check on you, but many illegitimately told you it was not legal to do what you damn well knew was legal. But to argue with a cop is not wise, especially when they have an obvious tumescent ego involved. What was worse was the non-cop-non-railroad worker security people and general screwballs. People who had no business nor authority to even talk to you who were bound and determined to save America from your photography lest you be a terrorist or some fool who might give terrorist your pictures.
So my days of quite and solitude waiting by the railroad tracks on some windswept rock in Western America were no longer fun. In fact they actually seemed dangerous after a while. So I finally stopped photographing trains in the wild and have to content myself with those that are dead and on display or of those running free as I drive down the road with my windows down and camera inside the car secretly catching their image.