Better With Friends

I have always been a “lone wolf” railfan.

My early railfanning was done while traveling to and from work sites, so by necessity it was done alone as I usually travelled alone. This spilled over to my weekend excursions, where I would venture to see the NB Southern or CN.

That early history has become an instinct. When I decide to go railfanning, I just go. It doesn’t occur to me to invite anyone else along.

Train passing a signal tower

Most of the reason why I don’t railfan much with others these days is because most of my railfanning is spur-of-the-moment. I don’t plan ahead, I just decide to go or not go, often because I wake up early on a weekend.

It might also be selfishness. On bigger railfan trips, like my two day southwestern Manitoba grain elevator marathon, I have it all planned out and I don’t really want to change my plans for someone else.

I used to be part of a local railfan group chat, but as I grew more depressed over the past few years, I stopped railfanning and I dropped out. I don’t blame people for not inviting me out – you can only hear “no thanks” so much before you give up.

That being said, I’ve almost always enjoyed railfanning with other people.

My good friend Caleb and I meet up every few years when he’s in Winnipeg or when I’m in the Maritimes. I enjoyed railfanning with Maryna and Tyler one cold morning last year. A few years ago, a fairly large group of us railfanned western Manitoba (near Rivers) and it was a great time. Someday I’ll blog about that.

I also like just running into railfans while I’m out. My son Nick and I chatted with a few people at Bayview Junction last fall and I occasionally run into other railfans near CN’s Diamond just outside Winnipeg. Sometimes they step out of their vehicles to talk, sometimes they don’t. It’s all good.

I used to travel a lot for work. Since the pandemic I have barely traveled for work at all, and honestly I am OK with that.

When I did travel for work, I’d fit railfanning in the evenings where I could. Sometimes people would see my photos from Kamloops or Toronto or Lethbridge and say, “hey, why didn’t you call me up?”

There are a couple of reasons. First, I often forget where people live, so I don’t associate them with a particular city. Second, I usually can’t plan my railfanning ahead of time and I only have an hour or two of daylight to do it in. I don’t want to make plans with someone and have to break them because I work late or go out to dinner with a client.

I don’t mean to be rude, but maybe I come off that way. One thing I’ve learned in almost 56 years is that you can’t control how others feel about you.

I know several railfans who seem to never railfan alone. Good for them! Witness Ian and Bill, who shared a series of guest posts recently.

Railfanning in pairs or in groups goes back to the very beginnings of recorded railfans. Look at Beebe & Clegg!

One group that comments frequently on my YouTube videos is StormySky Rail Productions, which seems to consist of at least two people, Steve and Dave. I wonder if they railfan together?

My friend Jason Paul Sailer came to Winnipeg with his family recently. We have railfanned together several times, both here in Manitoba and in southern Alberta near where he lives. He asked if we could get together sometime while he was here. Unfortunately I was away in Toronto over the weekend, precluding any long outings, but we met up on a Wednesday evening with two other friends (Brian & Jim) for a bit of train watching.

The photos from this post are all from that rendezvous, at Diamond, just west of Winnipeg, where the two track CN main line meets the CP Glenboro branch line. There was no action on the CP line, and for well over an hour, no action on the CN main line either! This was unusual for the CN Rivers subdivision. More time to talk, I guess!

Anyway, it was great to see Jason again, and to meet up with Jim and Brian. It would have been fun even if no trains came by at all.

Until next time we meet!

9 thoughts on “Better With Friends”

  1. Solo railfanning is not rude Steve. Don’t let that bother you. Railfanning for me is very spontaneous so I usually end up alone; also when outside I often change my plans at the last minute and go somewhere new. This is difficult when you have asked someone to go railfanning at point A and suddenly you want to go to Point B.

    I always enjoy meeting other railfans during the days I am out chasing trains and often spend the day with one or more who have suggested some spots for great shots.

    There is also the question of mealtime; I usually bring snacks so I only stop for a lite meal, others might not agree and some like to go take-out and eat in the car – I don’t.

    So I actually think that for most of the time, railfanning is alone time !


  2. I don’t think it’s rude, almost all my railfanning is solo, but the times the effort is made to go out with friends, or when I cross cross paths like two trains meeting doing our own things make them more special. I am very much an “I just wanna do my own thing and not have others” person too when I go out. A lot of getting up at the crack of dawn and escaping without waking my wife to go chase trains.

    That said…my wife and another friend have put the idea in my mind today I should go to a Winnipeg on a cheap Porter flight for the Argos game at the end of September and see our friend there…at least i know there’s plenty of railfanning one can do there too if I did go out and hang out for the weekend!


  3. Steve, I well remember railfanning solo, notably after I moved to Fredericton in May 1976. I knew of only two railfans in New Brunswick, Ken MacDonald in town, and George Parks whom I’d met at his home in Moncton on my first Maritimes trip in September 1967. Ken later became my barber and we enjoyed a few visits looking at his steam locomotive prints.

    I, too, travelled a lot within New Brunswick for my first five years or so. I was almost always a solo traveller. I’m glad I did as many of the images for my Trackside Maritimes book were taken during breaks from my work. I saw a lot of neat places and missed very few. I travelled so much that I really didn’t look too hard for other railfans. Just as well, as they were few and far between. There were no chat groups or many ways to meet so running solo was the way to go. I never hesitated to shoot or chase when the opportunity arose.

    A big change for me came in the early summer of 1978 (?) when I met David Morris of Fredericton. David had and has an insatiable appetite for CP Rail’s Atlantic Limited. His passion was contagious and I introduced him to train chasing. The connection deepened and we spent a lot of time together chasing passenger trains from Lake Superior to Newfoundland. We’re still good friends 45 years later but we don’t get to travel together much these days.

  4. I have always done it alone except the last few years when with the internet I came to meet more railfans out there. Still like to do it alone sometimes as it is you and your decisions as to where and what you shoot no one to say why, no, or where. It was a fun evening even though 2 or 3 did not show.

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