There’s a fascinating description of railfandom in the
That aside, it was fun for me to read about another fandom and its specialized jargon. Kevin Standlee, a great train enthusiast, will probably get a kick out of the article, too.
The most die-hard are known as foamers — a term believed to have originated as an insult, used to describe people who get so excited at the sight of a train that they foam at the mouth. Some refuse to use the word “foamer.” (These are sensitive people and not without reason; in
, “trainspotting” is a euphemism for useless activity.) Others have appropriated the word for themselves, an exercise in a kind of geek pride. England
And, if anything, railfans are well ahead of us when it comes to convincing the public to underwrite their fanac:
, a town of 9,000 with a renowned freight crossing, built a park on an elevated piece of land where railfans can watch trains, complete with speakers broadcasting the transmissions of engineers and conductors. This summer, Rochelle, Ill. , opened a $4.5-million, 15-story-high platform where railfans can watch the action at the Bailey Yard, billed as the largest rail yard of its type in the world. North Platte, Neb.
We could buy a lot of bricks for the Tucker Hotel for $4.5 million.
Update 10/1/2008: AP reported today, “A Metrolink engineer sent a cell phone text message 22 seconds before his commuter train crashed head-on into a freight train last month, killing 25 people, federal investigators said Wednesday.” See also CNN. Never mind my fairness defense… Thanks to Leslie Turek for the pointer.