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Railfan Introduction
Trains - Railfan Introduction
Welcome to my trains/railfan pages! Railfans have a wide range of dedication to the hobby. In addition to the educational,  historical, and geographical material here; my photo priority for this site is to give you (1) a large number of railroads, (2) a variety of locomotive models, and (3) spectacular scenery. First, let me discuss the intricacies of being a rail fan:

Novice Railfan
  • likes the variety of locomotive colors
  • enjoys the often spectacular scenery
  • thinks all locomotives look alike

  • comment
    There's nothing wrong about being in this group; we all like the vivid colors and beautiful scenery! If you want to advance your RR knowledge, look up the locomotive make & model info, shown in the "alternate text" for each photo.
    • Firefox: rt click photo, select "View Image Info", see "Associated Text:".
    • Chrome: rt click photo, select "Inspect", see "alt=model" in highlighted area.
    • IE: rt click photo, select "Inspect element", see "alt=model" in highlighted area.
    You'll most likely see GE (General Electric) or EMD  (pre-2005, General Motors Electro-Motive Division; sold in 2005 to Greenbriar Equity Group and Berkshire Partners and renamed  Electro-Motive Diesel, and acquired by Caterpillar's subsidiary Progress Rail Services in 2010) followed by a mumbo-jumbo of letters and numbers. This is the manufacturer and locomotive model number. Note the difference between GE and EMD designs; particularly the radiators at the top rear of the long hood. Although I try to show only one shot of each make and model; you can easily note 4 or 6 axle trucks (wheels) and see subtle differences between headlight location, paint striping, and number locations, in addition to my favorite: grime and rust! Please read on for more advanced topics...

    Intermediate Railfan
  • has some appreciation for locomotive variety
  • familiar with railroads at home locale
  • often stops along right-of-way to watch trains

  • comment
    You're almost hooked! I try to provide you with educational material including a RR's history and it's geographic locale. Perhaps I can make a bit more sense of the model numbers; which many RR's show either on the cab or below the front running boards. Models are builder unique:

  • 4-axle units usually start with a B, 6-axle are C
  • 2 or 4 digit number is horsepower (x100 for 2 digit)
  • dash and a number is the electronics level, "-9" is newest
  • AC indicates AC traction motors (vs. DC)
  • W means wide cab
  • ES is Evolution Series - fuel efficient EPA Tier-3 model
  • ET is the latest Tier-4 compliant model

  • EMD:
  • SD, 6-axle road locomotive; GP, 4-axle; SW, switcher.
  • numbers have no real meaning; higher numbers are usually newer for GP and SD models.
  • dash 2 indicates a later design of that model from EMD
  • dash 3 usually means an update by a rebuilder
  • AC is AC traction motors on SD 70, 80, or 90's; AC alternator vs. DC generator on other models
  • M means either wide cab or modified by a rebuilder

  • (Note: the above lists are not complete)

    Veteran Railfan
    profile (not all items required!)
  • subscribes to TRAINS and/or RAILFAN
  • carries scanner* (or ham radio) and/or camera
  • knows location of all local defect detectors
  • understands track side signals
  • identifies most locomotive models without help
  • has a web site devoted to some RR theme

  • comment
    These are the folks that provide me with much of the RR history and locomotive roster data... Thank you!

    * For scanner equipped railfans traveling in Minnesota, be advised that MN Statute 299C.37 Police Communication states: "...No person other than peace officers within the state, the members of the state patrol, and persons who hold an amateur radio license issued by the Federal Communications Commission, shall equip any motor vehicle with any radio equipment or combination of equipment, capable of receiving any radio signal, message, or information from any police emergency frequency...".

    For those that choose to take up the railfan hobby, remember it's Safety First and respect for railroad property, e.g. heed "No Trespassing" signs. Railroads vary widely in their tolerance of railfans; even at different locations on the same railroad. Asking permission to enter RR property goes a long way towards improving the railroad's image of railfans. And be a gracious guest; thank your host when you leave their property!

    Railroad Signals:
    If you thought locomotive model numbers are confusing; signals are even harder to understand. Please don't be dismayed; read on! I use only the simplest form of signaling to help you navigate the site: the single searchlight automatic block signal.

    Much like highway traffic lights, RR signals are used to prevent collisions and other accidents.  The red and green aspects are just like highway signals, however the yellow aspect is somewhat different with RR's.  Here's how the RR's define them and how I use them to help you navigate.

    Signal: clear  Clear signal
    • RR rule: The route is clear ahead, proceed at authorized speed [limit].
    • Site use: This is a topic that has had no changes for at least 3 months. If you are a regular site follower, there's nothing new here.
    Signal: stop  Stop signal
    • RR rule: Stop and wait until the light changes or the dispatcher tells you to proceed at restricted speed.
    • Site use: This is an all new page or an intermediate page containing links to new pages.
    Signal: restriction  Approach signal
    • RR rule: Proceed at restricted speed; a speed that you can stop in  half the distance you can see (and usually no faster than 15 mph).
    • Site use: Something minor has changed on this page; perhaps one photo was updated.  Look for recent dates or signaling on that page.
    In your travels you will find RR's that don't use any signals, signal masts with 2 and 3 searchlights, and signals that are off. The former RR's control traffic with track warrants, multiple lights have more complex meaning, and the later means no trains are in the area and this RR turns off the light to save power and extend bulb life.

    To minimize screen (and source code) clutter , I normally only use clear signals on the home page. Depending on your browser, users may see a signal favicon on the tabs and address line.
    I'm often asked why I don't provide links to the RR's web sites. First, maintaining links is a nightmare; I have enough trouble keeping up with ever changing RR ownership's! Secondly, most RR web sites are customer business oriented while the best "fan" sites are owned by railfans and/or RR historical organizations. Use your favorite search engine and type in the RR reporting mark and other interest keyword, such as "locomotive roster", to do additional research. Don't be surprised when you get thousands of hits, you are not alone when you are a railfan!

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