Railfan Tip #3: Know your line.

logo_530370_print copyWhenever you go railfanning, it always helps to know at least a little about the line.  Figuring out its name and whether it’s a short-, branch-, or mainline would be a good start.  For instance, the two lines that I visit frequently, UP Jefferson City Sub and BNSF Cuba Sub, are both mainlines (those are the two that I keep filming).  From there, you can try and find out approximately how many trains a day they get.  For instance, the Cuba Sub gets 9-12 trains a day depending on the day, and the Jeff City Sub gets anywhere from 40-60 trains a day.  Next, wouldn’t it be cool if you could find some history on the line, like when it was built and by which railroad?  For example, the Jeff City sub was actually owned by the Pacific Railroad and its construction began before the Civil War, and it was the first railroad west of the Mississippi River.  After that, it belonged to the Missouri Pacific and then the Union Pacific.  The Cuba Sub began as the southwest branch of the Pacific Railroad.  It was bought in the late 1800s by the St. Louis-San Francisco railway, nicknamed the “Frisco”, which was merged into the Burlington Northern about 100 years later, which in turn was merged with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe into the BNSF.  Besides the history of the whole line, there are other little things to find out about the particular section that you live by.  For instance, were there passenger stations in the area?  If so, are they still standing?  If not, could you find the remains of them?  All these questions can lead to a fun weekend afternoon as well as a quick lesson in local history.  Once you know the history of a line, you will be able to appreciate it much, much more when you see a train rolling through.  These are some basic things you can do to find out about your line.  If you really want to get to know it, you might want to search for the timetable of the line, which includes information such as the signaling system used, the number of sidings and there lengths, and speed limits.  I hope that you’ve found this edition of “Railfan Tips” helpful and apply them to your line.  Thanks for reading, and happy rails!

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