The Beginner’s Guide to Being a Railfan

Last updated on March 3, 2020

Do you get excited at the mere sight of trains and the sound of their whistles? Do you enjoy spending time on the trackside watching these locomotive beauties pass by? Do you spend hours watching videos and poring through train magazines just to get the latest information or to know more about its history?

If you answer yes to these questions, then you’re surely a budding railfan.

All over the US, there are about 25,000 people like you who have a passion for trains. To begin your journey, arm yourself with an arsenal of railfan items such as railroad track charts and maps that will fire up your interest.

Here is a guide on how you can make the most out of this exciting and educational hobby.

Load Up on Educational Resources

To fully appreciate the history and technology of trains, load up on the following educational resources. These can help you identify various tracks and landmarks, which can prepare you for an excursion of a lifetime.

  • Track Charts

You can easily purchase railroad track charts online. These contain all the valuable information you need to know about your beloved railroad. There is a wide array of track charts that represent essential parts of the country and the world. These charts provide a treasure trove of information that will satisfy the enthusiast in you.

You may find data on track configurations, curvature, and grade. You can also trace infrastructures such as bridges, stations, rail yards, and crossovers. You will definitely have an excellent time studying the various train lines, track development, and the history of the tracks.

  • Maps and Atlases

One of the highlights of being a railfan is being able to go on a train excursion. While you’re saving up for it, you may start planning a trip of a lifetime with the use of a map or an atlas. This highly comprehensive resource features station names, mileposts, interlocking stations, and viaducts.

When you finally experience your rail tour, you can use your maps for cross-referencing the sights and markers that you will see.

On the other hand, if you plan to pursue the art of following a train from one spot to another, also know as chasing, you need the help of a good map. The map will show you locations of significant junctions and optimum photography positions.

These valuable reference books will bring your railfan experience to a whole new level. By getting all the information you need, you can share your passion with others and maybe connect with other enthusiasts as well.

Record Your Experience

One of the best ways to record your railfan experience is through taking photographs. You can document your journey and capture the beauty of the train and the breathtaking scenery. It will also be fun to share your photos for other railfans to appreciate.

You may also keep a journal of your trackside experiences and write in detail about all the sights and sounds that you experience. If you’re keen on sharing your railfan journey to the world, you could start a blog so that other fans can revel in your chasing experiences.

Always Keep Safe

The rail industry supports the growing number of railfans and strives to make the experience as safe as possible. So follow the rules and abide by safety precautions. Always take pictures from a prescribed distance and make sure that you are staying in a public location. Make sure that you stand 15 feet away from the electrical wires.

Any rail enthusiast will attest to the joy and sense of accomplishment that this hobby brings. By being armed with the right tools and procedures, you can expect an exciting and beautiful railroad journey.

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