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.

Back to the Future on a PCC

September 22, 2021

Back to the Future on a PCC

Introduced in 1936, the PCC trolley brought modern steamlined comfort to aging trolley lines seeking relief from Depression-era economics.

Rails to the River

August 17, 2021

Rails to the River

The relationship between railways and rivers is a long one. While rail is, relatively speaking, young and mechanical, and rivers are ancient and natural, it is not an exaggeration to say that without rivers the railways would not exist.

Will Another Merger Fix the Map?

July 22, 2021

Will Another Merger Fix the Map?

For more than 20 years, no U.S. Class I has dared propose a merger with another, paralyzed out of fear of making the wrong choice, of picking the wrong dance partner, then being stuck with the results.

Merger Mania: Predicting the Future

July 17, 2021

Merger Mania: Predicting the Future

Railroad mergers are always a source of railfan speculation. What might we see in the next 50 or so years? I talked with the greatest minds in railroading, and then came up with some predictions of my own.

Amtrak at Milepost 50

May 14, 2021

Amtrak at Milepost 50

Amtrak is far from perfect. Many grumble, rightly, about its food, its timeliness, and uneven service levels across the board. Yet, as we look back on its 50 years, all of us are beginning to understand that it isn’t 1971 anymore, and Amtrak, along with all of us, has a future as well as a past.

The “Friendly” Southern Pacific

April 15, 2021

The “Friendly” Southern Pacific

How can a company as monopolistic, heavy-handed, and miserly as Southern Pacific also be charming and beloved by railfans?

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.