Cambrian Dispatcher


1. Of Railfans and Railwaymen
2. A Machynlleth Sunday
3. Cuppa with John Gwynne
4. A Railwayman's Railwayman


One: Of Railfans and Railwaymen


Most railway enthusiasts know a secret: there is little love lost between them and the men and women who run trains.  There is no trainspotter who hasn't been frowned down by an engineer, viewed askance by a maintenance foreman, or escorted away from the property by a railway policeman.  The fan usually protests with all the fervor of a scorned lover ("But you don't understand... I like trains!") but in truth we bring it on ourselves.  Railroaders are professional working men and women who operate dangerous heavy equipment for a living.  They do so out of doors, exposed to the weather in all seasons and climates.  Human lives and millions in property depend on their safe performance of their duties.  Railfans by contrast are-- too often-- camera-toting louts.  We intrude into the railroaders' workspace, wearing unsafe clothing and casually violating safety rules in a way that would get them suspended or fined.  We insist on sharing with them our expert opinions about their employer, equipment and job skills.  Put yourself in the railwayman's shoes: shadowed while you work by a boorish interloper who gets in your way, photographs you without asking your permission, and then offers improving suggestions about how you might do your job better.  In the United States, professional railroaders call such fans "foamers"-- as in a dangerous mad dog foaming at the mouth. 


And yet from time to time railroader and railfan find common ground-- for some railwaymen are foamers too, and know a kindred spirit when they see one.  And if the fan is respectful and well-behaved, and the railwayman is feeling generous, it can blossom into an experience the fan remembers for a lifetime. Though this essay is mostly about narrow-gauge railways and steam trains, I want to take a moment to tell you about meeting such a professional railroader.  The railway was Wales' historic Cambrian Lines, and the railwayman was Railtrack's John Gwynne.



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All materials, images, text and presentation copyright 1998 Erik Gray Ledbetter.  See Terms of Use.