Cautious Optimism for a Better 2021

Well we made it to a day many might have thought would never come. Today is the last day of 2020, a year that few are going to miss once it passes into history tonight at midnight.

It was a year marked by many firsts as in the first time I have not done (fill in the blank) in (fill in the blank) years.

I have a long list of things I didn’t do this year. I didn’t ride any type of conveyance with steel wheels on steel rails.

I didn’t attend a train show, didn’t visit a railroad museum, and didn’t buy any books, timetables or other railroad artifacts to add to my collection.

And then there is the list of things I only did once. I attended one local railfan club meeting and saw just one live slide show. Both of those occurred back in January.

Of course some folks did ride a train, did visit a railroad museum and did patronize the merchants at one of the few train shows that was held during 2020 despite the pandemic.

Some clubs did meet in person or on zoom. Yet I can’t imagine that it felt the same as it did in the past.

Trains continued to operate even if there were fewer of them and I got out several times to photograph some of them.

I got out enough times to have botched a few potential photo opportunities and to see others fail to materialize because a train didn’t operate where I was when I was there.

Of course I also came back with many good photographs that made the day worthwhile and enjoyable.

But those things happen even during years when there is not a pandemic going on.

One of the advantages of railfanning is that it is something you can do on your own and without needing to be in close proximity to others.

I’ve been engaging in social distanced railfanning for years, decades even.

In that sense, railfanning during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic felt somewhat normal. I say “somewhat” because I still had to take precautions at times that in previous years never would have entered my mind.

Another advantage of living through a pandemic – if you want to call it that – is that it provided opportunities to catch up on things I had been meaning to do but never gotten around to doing.

I finished reading some books that had been only partially read for a couple of years

I processed digital images made years ago that had sat virtually forgotten on my backup hard drives.

I scanned more slides and photo negatives than I would have in a more normal year.

And I discovered to my chagrin that I wasn’t as good of a photographer back in the day as I thought I was at the time.

Yet it was satisfying to see the growth I experienced in my photography skills over the years.

And it was a little surprising to discover that my photo collection is larger than I had thought.

So what will 2021 bring? Initially, I expect more of the same. There may be a promising vaccine available to protect against COVID-19 but the pandemic is far from being tamed.

It is going to take some time and it remains to be seen what lasting effects the pandemic will have in the near, medium and long term.

I expect that sometime this year local railroad clubs will resume meeting, train shows will be held again and I just might be able to see or even present a live slide show.

But we don’t know when these activities will resume on the same scale that they occurred in, say, 2019. Nor can we yet say if they will feel the same as before.

There will be those who will try to carry on as if nothing has happened and nothing has changed while others will approach resuming “normal activity” in a tentative manner.

Whatever the case, the new year holds the possibility of having something to look forward to experiencing. Maybe, just maybe, it will feel like old times even if it isn’t.

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