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