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, watercolorist, 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 has 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.

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.

SD40-2: The Workingman’s Hero

April 16, 2020

SD40-2: The Workingman’s Hero

From its 1973 introduction to the end of its run in 1989, EMD turned out almost 4,000 SD40-2s, one of the largest production runs in North American railway history.

Is it Still a Depot?

March 16, 2020

Is it Still a Depot?

While many small-town preservationists were able to save these heavily symbolic structures, when a depot is removed from the context of the railroad, what precisely has been saved?

United States Railroad Administration: The Forgotten National Railroad

February 15, 2020

United States Railroad Administration: The Forgotten National Railroad

American railways were briefly united under a single national company as the United States Railroad Administration from December 1917 through March 1920.

So, You Think You Want to Start a Railroad?

January 15, 2020

So, You Think You Want to Start a Railroad?

It’s a little-known fact that a bit of knowledge about railways can be dangerous. There’s always the strong possibility that you’ll go from hobbyist to railroad owner in fewer than 10 steps.

The Train that Takes Us Home

November 18, 2019

The Train that Takes Us Home

There has always been a strong link between trains and the holiday season. A train ticket just seems to go along with hot cocoa, holly leaves, and falling snow. But why?

Railroads and The Sea

November 5, 2019

Railroads and The Sea

For a brief moment in time, the Seattle & North Coast tried to keep the former Milwaukee Road Port Angeles Subdivision afloat… In more ways than one.

The Venerable Alco S-Series

October 20, 2019

The Venerable Alco S-Series

The switch engine was ubiquitous, and one of the most popular and important models was the diesel-electric S-series produced by the American Locomotive Company from 1940 to 1960.