Departures

Just what does it mean to be a railfan? In Departures, we attempt to answer this question. Geeky but cool, obsessive yet interesting, artistic yet accessible, it’s a broad hobby with something for everyone. But what does it mean to you? We’ll discuss the leading trends in photography and how they shape our approach to the craft. For the historian and the collector, we’ll explore our rich past and look ahead to the future. Join us as we embark upon exciting railway journeys and discover what draws us trackside. Learn about the fascinating people who have enlivened our hobby and make us eager to join them. There’s never been a more exciting time to be a railfan, and we’ll show you why each month!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexander CragheadAlexander B. Craghead, is the author of Departures. He is a writer, photographer, illustrator, and self-described “transportation geek” from Portland, Oregon. His interest in trains was partially inspired by childhood stories about his great-great uncle, who worked for the Portland Traction Company, and his great-great grandfather, who worked for the Southern Pacific.

His writing and photography have appeared in Railfan & Railroad Magazine, Trains Magazine, and the National Railroad Historical Society Bulletin, and in Railroad Heritage published by the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

It Could Have Been Different

March 16, 2021

It Could Have Been Different

Looking at the the Pilbara in Australia, we step through a looking glass and see an alternate reality, almost as if Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range had been built Down Under.

Canada: True North

February 16, 2021

Canada: True North

Canada’s relationship with the railways goes beyond mere admiration. The railway bound together Canada; not only the literal place, but also its sense of national identity.

Remembering Innovation

January 17, 2021

Remembering Innovation

Built by visionaries, railways once revolutionized ground transportation. Stripped of the cash-cow of coal, they are now forced to choose between two futures. One is to continue on the path of contraction, constantly fighting to maintain profits by miserly attention to reducing expenses. The alternative? To return to their roots, and re-embrace innovation.

Ambitions of Seattle

November 17, 2020

Ambitions of Seattle

Though rooted in the past, Seattle’s indelible attitude of innovation keeps it at the forefront of the economy and, in turn, the future of railway development.

The Grand Tradition

October 17, 2020

The Grand Tradition

The railroad transformed our country. How can a technology that fundamentally upended generations of human customs be tradition-bound?

Amtrak’s Next Phase

September 15, 2020

Amtrak’s Next Phase

In early August, Amtrak unveiled its new Phase VI paint scheme, its first new, non-commemorative design in almost 20 years. While most fans seemed to respond positively to the livery, there were a few doubters who questioned different decisions, or who thought they could do better.

Railroading By the Numbers

August 15, 2020

Railroading By the Numbers

One of the most interesting aspects of our hobby is our attention to equipment rosters. These seem, at first glance, to be relatively straightforward things. A roster is, after all, merely a list.

The Evolving Language of Railroading

July 10, 2020

The Evolving Language of Railroading

Railroads have been shaping the landscape for nearly 200 years. In that time, they have also shaped our American language with slang.

The Original Mobile Office: The Caboose

June 15, 2020

The Original Mobile Office: The Caboose

Except for possibly the steam locomotive, is there any more iconic piece of railroad equipment than the caboose?

America’s Vacation Trains

May 5, 2020

America’s Vacation Trains

Whether they are operated by the professional crews of a small freight-hauling railroad or weekend volunteers from a local museum, there are plenty of examples of passenger trains whose only real purpose is the pleasure of sightseeing with no real destination.