By Joey Kelley
Sheltering in place? Working from home because of the coronavirus? Not enough railroading in your life?
While most shelter-in-place orders don’t prevent people from going railfanning — so long as you maintain your distance from other people — some are opting to spend more time inside. However, sheltering in place doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your hobby and there a numerous online resources allowing you to railfan from the comfort and safety of your home.
A number of online webcams can bring live mainline action right to your living room. VirtualRailfan is a nearly one-stop shop for all your train watching needs and a free membership gives you access to 12 different cameras across North America. A paid membership grants access to all 79 cameras in four countries. Another group maintains three different webcams at one of the west’s most iconic railroad destinations: California’s Tehachapi Loop.
RailroadRadio.net provides links to free railroad scanner streams from around the U.S. and Canada and some of the streams are available on your smartphone or tablet as well. The website is also a great resource if you happen to be in an area and do not have your own scanner. Each feed includes a description, map, and photos to give you an idea of what rail operations are like in any given area.
Various events are also moving online, including the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s annual conference. Virtual Conversations will feature a combination of pre-recorded shows and live presentations on April 18. Registration is free. Some of the shows are already posted on CRPA’s YouTube page.
Other online events in the coming days include a live chat with Railfan & Railroad Editor Steve Barry on April 24.
Lastly, there are numerous free and paid railroad simulator programs available online, including Open Rails and Train Sim World. The latter not only offers a first-person view of the action from the locomotive, but it also includes a railfan mode where the goal is to take pictures (or screenshots) of the action as it unfolds.
How are you enjoying your hobby during these unprecedented times? Let us know over on Railfan & Railroad’s Facebook page.