The Fun Side Of Gaining Experience.

We are all active railfans and have had unique opportunites to learn first hand how real railroads work. Here are a few photos and videos of some of us enjoying ourselves around the real thing.

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Rick Fortin.


Rick (center) at Roaring Camp and Big Trees RR in Felton, CA the day he participated in their "Engineer For The Day" program. As part of the crew Rick helped fire up the loco and move it out of the engine house. Later he was responsible for several tasks such as filling the water tender at the station stops, setting the retainers before heading down grade, and throwing the switches at the switch-back. He also had the opportunity to sit at the throttle and operate this narrow gauge Shay steam locomotive several times that day. That's engineer Kent Jefferys on the left and Diemer, the fireman, on the right in the photo. Kent is at the throttle in the video below. 

Rick sitting at the controls of Alco RS18u #181 on a real freight train on the Guelph Junction Railway near Toronto, Ontario in the summer of 2003, with engineer Bruce keeping a watchfull eye. The train included another Alco loco, RS23 #506, ten freight cars, and a caboose, called a "cabin" by the crew. Rick, Jim and Seth had joined the crew for a full day of railfanning from the unique perspective of being the "visiting crew" on a real freight train. All three of us had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of operating this life sized freight train for a half hour each. 
The Western Pacific Railroad Musuem in Portola, CA has a Rent-A-Locomotive program. For an hourly fee, almost anyone can rent one of several locomotives the museum has restored to operation. Here is Rick in his bearded and less gray haired younger days operating their Western Pacific F7A #917D.


In 2009, Rick and his lovely and very supportive wife took three weeks off from his model railroad buisiness and traveled to South America. While there they visited the amazing mountain top city of Machu Piccu in Peru. There are no roads there, so a train trip on the luxury Hiram Bingham train, operated at the time by Orient Express, was a natural and very luxurious way to visit this ancient Unesco Heritage site.  


During a trip to Tokyo, Japan in 2006 to discuss the construction of a model railroad for a client there, Rick had the opportunity to ride the Shinkansen bullet train. Operating at speeds of 186 mph, this was an experience not to be forgotten. 
Watch this very quick eleven second video that Rick took of a Bullet Train passing through the Shinagawa station near Tokyo at 160 mph and only 10 feet away. Watch for the camera shake due to the air pressure wave caused by the passing train. 
In February 2015 Rick and his wife Mary spent three weeks visiting several countries in Asia. Since they enjoy riding trains wherever they visit, they traveled across half of Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore on a local passenger train, viewing the lush vegatation and quaint villages and stations along the way.  
A few days later while visiting Bangkok, Thailand, they experienced the famous Maeklong Railway Market, a six block long market situated on top of an active rail line which sees six passenger trains per day. Upon first look, the market looks like any other often seen in various towns and cities in Asia. However, it is actually situated along a railway right of way. Vendors sell all sorts of items, from food to dishware to clothing to household goods. When the train arrives, canopies are folded up, goods are rearranged so the train can pass by, often with only an inch or two to spare. 
After the train passes, the area immdiately becomes a market again, with barely a hint that a train passes through here six times each day. It's business as usual.
Watch the video below for a look at the most fascinating market they have ever seen!
Mary Fortin - Rick's Wife


Not to be left out of the fun, Rick's wife Mary also gets into the act as she operates the Western Pacific Railroad Museum's S1 switcher, Western Pacific #512. Check out that smile on Mary's face!

This is the switcher that Mary is seen running in the above photo. Both Mary and Rick ran this switcher that day, but Mary seemed to be having the best time. 
Mary and RIck enjoy travel by rail whenever possible. Having ridden many types of passenger trains in the US, Canada, Mexico, Great Britian, Scotland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Peru, Egypt, Malaysia and Japan, they have also had the opportunity to ride on the smallest of trains, a track speeder. These are small, four wheeled vehicles originally built as track inspection motor cars. Here is Mary looking down the track towards the speeder ahead of us as we prepare to leave with our convoy of over a dozen speeders.
Jim Dias.


Both Rick and Jim were riding in the cab of #181 on the Guelph Junction Railway and thoroughly enjoying the view out the front windows when we got an unexpected surprise. Suddenly engineer Bruce asked: "Who want's to run the train first?". After a stunned few seconds of disbelief, Jim volunteered to go first. Here he is operating the train with engineer Bruce coaching him on how to work the controls. 


Here is a video of Jim at the controls as our train rocks down the track.

Seth Neumann.


Seth had been in the cabin (caboose) when Jim and Rick had their turns operating the train. We were told not to tell him. On the return trip Seth rode in the cab with Rick while Jim rode in the cabin. Engineer Bruce casually got up and said he needed a break, and looking at Seth said: "Here, you take over". The look of disbelief on Seth's face was priceless. Here is Seth taking his turn at the throttle.