How Did “I” Get Here?

Engine no. 3025 of the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat Tourist Show shows off its stuff minutes before it heads out on another tourist and railfan ride. The date is July 25, 2012 and the place is Essex, Ct.

Engine no. 3025 of the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat Tourist Show shows off its stuff minutes before it heads out on another tourist and railfan ride. The date is July 25, 2012 and the place is Essex, Ct.

The Inspiration And Motivation Behind Trains 21

There’s never been a time in my life when I didn’t love trains. My earliest recollections were of Conrail in the late 70s at home in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and while spending summers with my Aunt in Pittsburgh. And while those memories are at best tattered and vague, I do remember that bright blue paint.

I guess I’m fortunate in that I’ve always lived within earshot (and most of that time was within eyesight) of a railroad.

I began taking pictures of trains (note that I didn’t say “photography” as I had no idea what the hell I was doing when I started!) in the 90s and shot sporadically over the course of that decade.

In 1999, on the cusp of the 21st century I (or maybe I should say “we” all) got an abrupt wake up call to the radically changing rail infrastructure in America.

From my own perspective I was coming to grips with the loss of two of my favorites (Southern Pacific and Conrail) and the notion that there were now only 5 class 1 railroads in America.

It was then that I came to realize that (even from a railfan’s point of view) tomorrow is promised to no one and what’s here today can easily disappear overnight.

The new millennium rushed in and an era in railroading was gone forever….

What I didn’t realize, however, was that a new era was beginning….

So I began serious railroad photography in late 2003 as I carried out my career as a long haul trucker. At that time I was using a 35mm film SLR and continued like that until late 2006 when I went digital with my SLR and with video for the first time in the form of a Sony DVD camcorder.

While shooting film I was able to document trains all over America and my first video productions were clips of the CSX in Nashville and the BNSF in Memphis during 2006-2007.

Today the Nashville videos are especially near and dear to my heart as the location I used to shoot at is now largely off limits to the general public (pay attention railfans, this is why I say that whether or not you like what you see you should shoot it today because you don’t know if you’ll have it tomorrow!).

After 2007 I shot digital stills off and on until the summer of 2014 when I got a digital hard disc camcorder to supplement my SLRs and went full steam (no pun intended!) into serious railfanning.

The summer of 2014 brought an unexpected move to Scranton, Pa. and in close contact with Steamtown, the Delaware Lackawanna and its vintage ALCO diesels.

Now, you must understand that this was not my first encounter with any of these things. I’d been well acquainted with all since the 90s. But during that time my days were spent traveling across America so even though they were right in my own backyard, my backyard was someplace I never got a chance to know very well.

by 2014 I’d grown a little older and a little wiser and had come to grips with not only all that had been lost over the past 20 or so years but all that was still left to cherish.

So it was there that I decided to finish what I’d started in my documentation of the modern day railroads of America.

With that goal in sight it was only fitting that I start this journey in my hometown of northeast Pennsylvania which is the undisputed cradle of American railroading. And for an area that often goes unknown to the masses, NEPA was once home to the once booming anthracite coal industry and was said to be second only to Chicago in rail lines serving the region.

Most of that’s gone now but even in 2015 after decades of decline and urban decay, as I start this documentary, northeast Pennsylvania still offers one of the most diverse and historic railroading operations on planet earth which includes steam, vintage diesels, Alcos, trolley lines and no less than 5 different railroads to railfan.

The journey starts here and from NEPA I’ll be reaching out across Pa. and the nation and taking you by the hand as we learn how NEPA connects to, affects and is affected by the entire rail network of America.

Because of my days as a trucker and the close proximity it brought me to the railroads and transportation in general, I feel that I have a perspective on both that goes beyond that of the ordinary railfan. For that reason I try to give as much information and exposition as I can in each of my videos though I must admit that in the early days of shooting I didn’t record a lot of the pertinent little details the way that I wish I would have at the time.

Moreover, I don’t claim to be an expert on trains, transportation or whatever and I certainly don’t claim to know-it-all. Each article, photo and video is a learning experience for me added to the ones before it and each day I find out something new that I can share with you and add to the ever changing mosaic which is the always changing American rail network.