The Winning Formula for Successful Railfanning

I have a formula for any successful railfan trip.

You begin with preparation. Study maps, magazine articles, rail photo sites, and employee timetable, where applicable.

Learn when the trains run. Learn where the good photo spots are. Learn the radio frequencies. Learn the mileposts, so if you hear a detector go off, you know where the train is. Learn, Learn Learn.

This accounts for 50 percent of the formula.

Next you have to get there. All this prep work is no good if you’re sitting at home in your LazyBoy watching reruns of Leave It To Beaver.

Be There, Be There, Be There.

This is 25 percent of the formula.

Then there is the dumb luck factor. You’re in the right place at the right time and something goes by that you weren’t expecting.

You come across a train on an obscure short line or run into a heritage unit that you didn’t know was coming.

The usually nocturnal train or trains are running hours late and your train count soars to a level you weren’t expecting. Luck can work the other way also, that why it’s LUCK.

Better to be Lucky than good sometimes.

Luck accounts for 25 percent of the formula.

Sunday was a good example of the luck factor. Eddie and I were at Berea killing time before heading to Avon Lake for the Lake Erie Crushers baseball game against the Washington (Pennsylvania) Wild Thing.

The Crushers lost 4-2. But while at Berea Norfolk Southern train 11N went west with the Central of Georgia heritage unit on the lead.

It is the last of the 20 original H units that I needed to complete my collection. We had no idea it was coming.

So to recap, 50 percent of successful railfanning comes from preparation; 25 percent of successful railfanning comes from being there; 25 percent of successful railfanning comes from dumb luck.

Article by Marty Surdyk

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