Not Feeling It

It’s time for another confession… since I started this blog back in 2005 as Confessions of a Train Geek.

I haven’t been feeling like railfanning for a while.

I’ve had numerous opportunities to go out, and I’ve chosen not to.

It feels… weird.


I went out early on November 7 (2021) to railfan, not because I really felt like it, but because I felt like I “should”. After doing the “regular route” between Winnipeg and Elie via CP, I ended up waiting by a signal on the east end of the Marquette siding.

As I sat there, looking at the green signal facing west, I wondered a lot about why I spend my time trackside. At that moment, it didn’t seem like time well spent.

After well over an hour, a train eventually rolled by.

Freight train on open prairie
CP 8935 East near Marquette

You can see my drone over the train in the shot above – I chose to not “remove” it from the photo. Here’s the video from the drone.

I carried on to Elie, then returned to Winnipeg, seeing no more trains along the way.

On the following weekend (November 13-14) I had ample opportunity to go chase trains, but I just didn’t feel like it. I stayed at home and puttered around the house.

I woke up early on the next Saturday, November 20, and saw a glorious sunrise, with fresh snow on the ground and a bright blue sky. I thought, “this would be a great morning for train photography,” then read a book.


Next morning, November 21, there was another nice sunrise – not quite as golden – and I dragged myself out of the house and headed north to Diamond on the CN Rivers subdivision. I wasn’t “feeling it” but I thought I might “feel it” once I was trackside.

I arrived trackside and there was nothing going on, no signals were lit, so I parked my car and fiddled around on my phone while I waited for something to happen.

After about half an hour, the west-facing signals lit up with a green signal on the north track. I set up east of the diamond and awaited the train. I was rewarded with some nice light on the nose of CN 8823.

Freight train between signal towers
CN 8823 between the signals at Diamond

That turned out to be a decent photo. I like blowing snow with trains.

Here’s the video…

After that, it was back to waiting again. I saw an east facing green signal so I knew a train would be along… eventually…

I went to mile 15, west of the diamond, and waited at a road crossing.

After 45 minutes of waiting, I gave up and started driving toward Winnipeg, only to see a headlight in the distance. I backtracked to mile 15 and set up again to record CN 3188 West.

Freight train in the snow
CN 3188 at mile 15

After a few minutes, the train cleared the crossing and I took a few shots as the head end was rounding the bend a mile or so further west of my position.

Round round we go

That was enough for me, so I packed up and drove home.

Did I have fun?

No, not really. I’m satisfied with my photos, but I didn’t enjoy the railfanning. It felt more like a duty than a pleasure.

I’m going to try not to fret about it too much. I have some other issues going on, personally, and I don’t really need any more stress. I’ll work on stuff that I like – I’ve been working on my model train layout – and I won’t feel obligated to go chase trains.

I have also stopped recording consists in my online sightings database. This is something I have been doing in some form or another since 1999, but I have found it to be a real chore lately, and so I am done with that. When I process images, I name them with the location and date, and I keyword them in Adobe Lightroom, so the sightings database is duplicated effort. No more.

I am going to slow down on posting here, so you may only see one post a week instead of the usual two. I might post two a week if I feel like it but I’m not going to guarantee it.

This is all part of protecting my mental health. I think we should all treat our mental health as seriously as we do our physical health. I will probably write more on this in a few weeks.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your understanding.

25 thoughts on “Not Feeling It”

  1. I have four hobbies and some days I’m not interested in any one of them! When I have to drag myself downstairs to work on my model railroad it feels more like work to me, but I usually try to stick it out for a while and accomplish something because it’s not going to build itself!
    Take care of yourself Steve!

    Reply
    • Hi Sheldon, sometimes we have to “push through” to get to the fun parts of the hobby. It is nice to get that feeling of accomplishment when you finish a kit or a particular subproject of the model train layout.

      Reply
  2. Sometimes a break is a good thing. I’ve had a lot on my plate the last couple of years, so fanning trips have had to fall by the wayside. When I do manage to see a train these days it’s a good thing to enjoy for a few minutes. Take it easy.

    Reply
  3. Hi Steve,
    I can think of four of my blog partners in the last year, and four more in the bottom of my sidebar, who suspended blogging for varying or ongoing lengths of time. In most cases, the petering-out of enthusiasm usually starts before the blogging ends. There’s a lag phase. It’s a sabbatical. Sometimes the blog comes back, sometimes it doesn’t. We seem to feel we ‘have to’. Sometimes the enthusiasm wanes in one area and a blog morphs into another area of interest. In all cases, feeling that we ‘have to’ is probably the most difficult to overcome.

    As in many organizations or entities, there are those seven words, “because we’ve always done it this way”. This can be limiting or even confining, in railfanning, a model layout, or other hobbies.

    During earlier phases of the pandemic, though railfanning was still a ‘safe’ activity one could do, I subscribed to the Railstream camera feed in nearby Belleville. It kept me nice and warm, safe, albeit inside, but still railfanning. I ended the subscription when didn’t care to watch it during the nicer weather when I could be outside. Just an example of alternate ways of railfanning.

    This phenomenon you’ve experienced may engulf me as well at some point.
    As Blue Rodeo put it, just ‘Hasn’t Hit Me Yet’.

    We know you’ll keep us posted, Steve.
    Eric

    Reply
    • “Because we’ve always done it this way” is a real limiting phrase in any organization – from big corporations through non-profits to “companies of one”.

      I might take a sabbatical from railfanning, but I expect I will keep blogging, at a slower pace. I have a lot of things to write about.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the Railstream feed. Watching trains on a screen has never really enticed me. I enjoy some old videos of trains in areas that I know, but watching today’s trains through a screen doesn’t excite me. That’s one of the great things about our hobby – we don’t all have to enjoy it the same way.

      Reply
  4. Hi Steve,

    When it comes to these sort of matters I can only speak of my own experience – and not presume I know about yours – in case there are any aspects of it that might be helpful to you or others.

    Over the years I’ve taken a few blogging breaks. Some long (months), some short (a day or two when I mistakenly started off thinking I needed a long one). I often feel I should give it up entirely, but after a suitable break, I feel the desire to return to blogging. These days I begin a break whenever I feel that I’m just going through the motions of posting, and don’t seem interested in the content. There could come a day when a break becomes permanent retirement, but that day hasn’t arrived yet.

    One thing I did find that helps maintain my interest in posting is to have no posting schedule in mind, and just act on impulse. Marketing principles say one should post on a regular schedule to build a brand and audience. My problem with that is we’re human beings, not brands.

    Like yourself, at one time I had two blogs and posted at both. Marketing suggests blogs should be focused on one thing, so separate blogs for separate things and separate audiences is good in their opinion. As I thought about my situation, I realized I had to retire one blog and keep the other where I’d post about whatever I wanted. I found that alleviated posting stress. Granted, my posts circle around a finite set of somewhat related topics, but the focus isn’t overly narrow for a ‘target market’.

    At times I think that some of the psychological pressures we feel as bloggers stem from a conflict between blog as marketing, which is pervasive in our culture, and blog as vehicle for exploring ideas that are meaningful to us and interacting with other interested people. So, marketing-wise my blog is all wrong, as, I’ll again note, we’re human beings not brands. It doesn’t feel right for me to adopt marketing principles as a way to blog about things that are of interest to me. I should note though that my approach doesn’t build big readership and has its own problems, so marketing does know what its talking about 🙂 It’s just that I can’t adopt its approaches and continue to think of blogging as worthwhile for some purpose other than marketing.

    Well, that’s that for my blathering. My two cents: breaks are great! Your posts are most interesting. I’ve learned a lot about railroading in your part of the country – in mine too! – and look forward to more great stories when you’ve returned.

    Take care and best wishes for the holidays to you and your family,

    Jim.

    Reply
    • Hi Jim, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I think you’ve touched on one very important thing – well, several, but I’ll just talk about one – which is the idea of being a person versus being a brand.

      I’ve had an Internet presence of one kind or another since at least 1999, according to Archive.org and my old Geocities site. In that time I’ve built up the “traingeek” brand intentionally and today if you search for that word, you’re likely to find me.

      This personal branding has been helpful for me in many ways, and I am happy with the “work” I’ve done over the past 2+ decades (yikes) but at times it sure does feel like work. That’s part of the issue I’m running into today.

      I used to post really frequently over at Blogger. I never hit 400 posts/year but in 2008 and 2009 I came really close. Looking back, I think that was really excessive and a lot of those posts lack much content and interest. It was all about “getting content out” and I emphasized quantity over quality.

      I think I’ve fallen back into that trap in the past several months when I decided to post twice a week (Tuesday and Friday mornings). I tried really hard to make them useful and interesting posts, so that meant I had to put a lot of effort into each post and I think I’ve burned out.

      I’m going to slow the pace down, post when I have something to say, and see how it goes.

      Thanks for your kind comments on my site and for taking the time for write such a thoughtful reply. Best of the season for you and yours.

      Reply
  5. I enjoy this blog and videos, and will miss them if their time has come. But i do know from experience that when the interest in something is no longer there, it is time to move on.

    Suggestions of taking a break, or perhaps thinking in terms of going out just monthly, are positive. But if your interest is not ignited, then it is best to stop, and not turn what was once a pleasure into a frustration.

    Reply
  6. Steve,
    I get it. I have this times too. It’s okay to step away and focus on other things. If you force it, it may make the feelings worse. Enjoy life to the fullest… you only get to experience it once.
    Karl

    Reply
    • That’s for sure, Karl. My wife and I just returned from what some would call a “bucket list” trip and it reminds me that we need to go do those things we’ve always wanted to do.

      Reply
  7. Steve,

    The materials you create have always be of the highest artistic and thoughtful kind. That type of consistency is draining: so yes take a break, recharge. It should not be a chore but a pleasure, a chance to contemplate. Thanks also for sharing your concerns with us.

    Reply
    • Hi Mike, thank you for your kind comment. I agree that writing here shouldn’t be a chore and I’ll take a bit of a breather to let it become more fun again.

      Reply
  8. Steve:

    Any hobby is one that we need to enjoy. If you don’t enjoy the experience, it becomes a job. Having a variety of interests allows you to switch between them without feeling that you “must” do something. Take some time off and recharge your internal batteries and your interest. Your photography and stories are terrific. I do enjoy what you post.

    Reply
    • Hi Dave, thanks for writing. I can say that my model train hobby has really felt like a job at times, so I’ve had periods of several months where I’ve done nothing on it and no engine has turned a wheel. I’m not sure why I’ve been OK with that but not with writing here. Something to think about.

      Reply
  9. Hello, Steve;
    I can only echo what quite a few of your followers have written. A hobby, whatever it is, needs to be fun. That’s why we do it. Sitting in the car waiting for a train to pass or waiting outside for the perfect shot is easy to do when it’s fun. Taking a break from a hobby that has become almost, as you say, a job is necessary; in my case the desire returned after a while but it may not. Don’t feel guilty if it doesn’t. I , as well as many others, have enjoyed your blogs and videos and learned a lot at the same time. My only advice is pretty classic – enjoy life, it goes by too quickly. And although I hope to read more from you, thank you for blogs past. Cheers and stay safe !

    Reply
    • Hi Steve, agreed, hobbies are meant to be fun. I’m glad in a way that I’m finally noticing how I feel about it and taking a break. It may be that I will return by approaching the hobby a different way and finding new aspects to enjoy. It may not. We’ll see!

      Reply
  10. Steve,

    I always enjoy reading your blog, so I’ll be sad knowing I won’t see updates for a bit, but also happy to know it’s because you’re doing the right thing for you. I can assure you the happy outweighs the sad.

    I’ve been a volunteer rowing coach for many years. For 10 of those years, it was almost a second full-time job. By the end, I could feel the burn out in every drive to the lake, every pull of the engine cord, and every conversation with athletes. I finally had to back away, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. However, it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. I now only do 2 months a year, and I love it, but during those other 10 months I basically disappear into a black hole (I almost go out of my way to avoid driving past the lake!). But it’s brought balance back to that particular “hobby”.

    Obviously that was my experience, and everyone is different. However, all I can say for sure is that taking time for yourself is always a good investment. We’ll all be here if you start posting again – your writing is so compelling. But if you don’t, we all know it’s because you’re doing the right thing for you.

    Cheers,
    Brian

    Reply
    • Hi Brian, thanks for sharing your experience. I think everyone can burn out – at a job, with a hobby, looking after family – and we all need a break. I’m glad you found a way to take care of yourself and find some balance.

      I appreciate the words of support!

      Reply
  11. Catching up on blogs through the holidays here, and I know this feeling. Getting out has been one of the few things through lockdowns and such that I’ve been able to do more of, but I know the feeling of some days I get set up and loaded up and head out, and don’t actually feel it once I am out there. Thanks to external factors now, I won’t be getting out potentially for a little bit, so the next time I am feeling up for a day out, I think I will really enjoy it.

    Don’t let feeling like you don’t want to get out get you down, I’m sure it will pass in due course and you will hopefully again feel inspired to get out. Even your shots on days where you weren’t feeling it are excellent, which is always a nice outcome I find when that happens to me.

    Stay well! Happy Shooting in 2022 hopefully!

    Stephen

    Reply
    • Hi Stephen, thanks for your comment. I’m reading this as I was all set to go out and railfan the GWWD this morning, but I decided against it. It’s too cold outside, and I still wasn’t “feeling it”. I’m fighting a bit of the “fear of missing out” feeling but I’ll get over it. I think it’s the right decision.

      I love being outside. I spend my days in my basement office, working, and it’s great to be outside and breathe fresh air. I used to get my “outside time” railfanning, and I probably still will, but it’s nice to just go for a walk too.

      It is nice when the photographs turn out well, even when one’s heart isn’t in it.

      Reply
  12. Lately I haven’t felt like railfanning around home much, it’s the “same old trains, same old locations” problem. That being said, I look forward to trips because it brings something new, new trains, locations, and even entirely different flavors of railroading.

    Reply

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