There’s just something about trains and railroads that can bring out child-like glee in adults. While some indulge that passion in model railroads, many railfans stake out spots to photograph and/or record passing trains. It’s a far more popular hobby than most people would imagine. There are magazines and websites devoted to trainspotting, and some cities even have special trackside parks for railfans to watch the trains. Here are a few great trainspotting images from around the U.S.
The historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad passes through the picturesque Animas Canyon in Colorado. Opened in 1882 to haul gold and silver out of the San Juan Mountains, the 45-mile line is now a tourist railway. It’s considered one of the best scenic rail routes in the United States.
9. Bridge Work
An E train races across the Colorado River Bridge at Topock, Ariz.
8. Garbage Day
The empty Rabanco Garbage Train powers through the curves under Wind Mountain in Washington State. Seattle and nearby areas ship their solid waste more than 300 miles away to a landfill in Northern Oregon. As photographer Patrick Dirden noted, “I make it a rule not to chase the garbage trains too far. Even an empty train can smell like Oscar the Grouch’s home, less the peanut butter and sardine sandwiches!”
7. Riders on the Storm
As storm clouds roll in, a BNSF 1058 passes through Ash Hill in the Mojave Desert in California.
6. Spot On
A trainspotter photographs a Union Pacific intermodal train in California. The train is headed down the grade to the famous Tehachapi Loop (see No. 3).
The railyard behind the Cincinnati Union Terminal is a busy place. Cincinnati is one of the best urban trainspotting sites in the U.S.
A Rio Grande Scenic Railroad train tops Fir Summit in Colorado’s La Veta Pass.
3. In the Loop
The Tehachapi Loop, located just north of the Los Angeles area, may be the most famous railroad feature in the U.S. The three-quarter-mile track actually loops over itself on the way across Tehachapi Pass. The site, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, is a prime gathering spot for railfans. Several dozen trains pass through on the Union Pacific Railroad track each day.
2. A Time For Reflection
The 4449 heads westbound across Horsethief Lake — an impoundment of the Columbia River — in Washington’s Columbia Hills State Park.
1. Horseshoe Curve
Opened in 1854 near Altoona, Pa., the Horseshoe Curve helps trains climb the elevation of the Allegheny Mountains summit. It’s been honored as a National Historic Landmark and is still recognized as a civil engineering wonder. Norfolk Southern Railroad still uses the track, and there’s a trackside park and visitors center. It’s a great area for railfans, as the Railroaders Memorial Museum is in Altoona.
The site trn.trains.com offers a list of great trainspotting sites for railfans.