How To Track Freight Trains

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Railfanning is fun…. When there’s something to railfan, of course…. I say this with the understanding that I know that I’m not alone when it comes to the frustration of sitting for hours at trackside for rumbling freights that often don’t show up.

It’s funny when you’re a railfan and you’re hoping for something to come along. Every sound begins to remind you of a train…. Especially truck and bus motors! So I wrote this little article to help the novice (or even the experienced) railfan lessen their chances of disappoint at trackside.

The obvious question is how do you know when a train will be coming through your town or area. Based on years of experience, here’s the best answer I can give you….

Most freight trains don’t have a particular schedule that they run on…. There may be certain departure days and sometimes a certain hour they leave from a terminal but as far as when they pass through particular cities, there’s never any way that can be determined. This is because there are too many variables to be factored in along the way.

For example, a “local freight” leaves Monday morning…. At least it’s supposed to. It should, but won’t always, return the next day. Sometimes there’s other trains that have to move first…. Sometimes there’s 7 setouts and sometimes there’s only 3. Sometimes trains have to go into a siding for other trains to pass and sometimes there’s mechanical issues and acts of nature such as heavy rains, washouts, trees, obstructions or something as simple (or not so simple) as a defective marker (EOTD-End of train device).

So you see…. There’s no real way to keep a freight train (or your personal life) on any kind of a schedule…. It’s always a game of “hit and miss.” You just have to take the proper precautions and do the necessary research to make sure that your game is more hit than miss!

How To Track Freight Trains

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Author:Railfan AC

AC is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, a long haul trucker, a transportation enthusiast and a lifelong lover of trains. AC's mission is to travel America documenting American railroading in the 21st century while educating those who want to know about the importance the railroads play in our daily lives including, but not limited to, the movement of goods, services and more.

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