Who ARE Those Guys Out There?

As you travel around the country on Amtrak, you begin to notice the “train nuts” … the guys standing alongside the tracks as you pass. (And, yes, 99 percent are guys.)

Many have cameras and some carry notebooks for recording locomotive numbers. But all are fascinated by trains and are drawn to various vantage points where they can watch the trains as they thunder by.

One of the best spots is in La Plata, Missouri, at the site of the Silver Rails Resort. It’s an enclosed observation room that’s heated in the winter and offers a picture-window view of almost constant freight traffic and, twice every day, Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

Railroad people have mixed feelings about these folks, often referred to as ‘foamers’ … the idea being that they start to foam at the mouth whenever a train comes into view. Some – a very few – can be real pests when they trespass onto railroad property to get close, sometimes dangerously close, to the passing trains.

But Amtrak, for instance, knows that these are the same people who write passionate letters to the Washington politicians supporting better funding for passenger rail. More and more, foamers are finding themselves truly appreciated.

So – two days after the event itself – a belated Happy National Train Day to all you foamers out there! I’m proud to be one of you.