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The vastness of western Nebraska

About me

A train buff for a long time

I was born in Switzerland in 1968, and already as a very young child, I came in close contact with trains... My father, shortly after my birth, had started to collect model trains and also took me along to many steam events that took place mostly in Germany to bid farewell to steam engines. I never really got into steam locomotives as everything was already electrified here in Switzerland at that time, nevertheless, my parents layed ground for me to become a railfan. My first layout, with the help of my father, was an HO scale Maerklin layout which was torn down after a couple of years in order to make space for an N scale layout which I started in my early teens. In my late teens, I completely sold my N scale stuff because my interest had changed to other stuff. There were a few years that passed without any interest in trains. When I moved out from my parents home, my dad used my former room for building a small model railroad, basically only a circle around the wall. Seeing the models again and also being able to run them did flame my interest in railroads again. I started to collect models again, but exclusively European, from Switzerland and the surrounding countries. In 1990, I made my first trip to USA together with my girlfriend. It was not a railfanning trip, just a first time USA visit at the age of 22. I had no clue about US trains, my dad kept telling me that there was nothing really going on in the US when it comes to trains. There was no Internet yet in order to find out more, and all I saw was a train sitting in the Bensenville yard in a suburb of Chicago IL, waiting for departure. Apart from taking a picture, nothing else happened railroad wise. On our 2nd trip in 1992, me and my girlfriend went to Las Vegas NV and made a round trip by car, also coming through Flagstaff, AZ. And there it is where it all started... we stopped there for the night and checked out the city, first I wanted to take a quick look at the train station. I didn’t expect much, and was delighted to see 2 idling Geeps at the station. After I took some pictures and sat into the car again, I saw the gates closing and realized a train was coming. In Switzerland, the gates would normally close 5 minutes prior to the arrival of a train, but it was totally different in the US... as soon as the gates were down, the train arrived, and it was fast, and it was loud... and it was exciting! My first thought was “Damn, I missed to take a picture of that train, and it certainly was the only one coming through here for the whole week”. Well, 15 Mins later, I found out that it was completely different than I thought. That was the trigger of my interest in US railroads. I found 2 very well equipped model train stores in Zurich and started to buy American models. Eventually, I sold all of my European collection and went completely American. I bought a lot of videos and railroad maps etc and started to plan our US vacation trips according to railroad hotspots, places like Cajon, Tehachapi, Donner Pass or Horseshoe Curve were visited at the beginning, and more and more trips were added to also see also remote places like PRB, Crawford Hill, Tennessee Pass and many many more. Between 1990 and 2019, almost 30 years of railfanning in the US, I have made 52 trips to the US, that makes 104 times flying trans atlantic. I’ve been writing down the milage after each trip and accumulated 123’676mi or 197’881km respectively. There is only North Dakota and Alabama which are blank spots on my travel map. It was really great to travel this country so many times. Unfortunatly, merger mania has eliminated a lot of interesting railroads over the past 30 years, it has become less colorful and at the same time, the diesels of the 2 remaining manufacturers GE and EMD (meanwhile both merged into other companies as well) almost look similar and are hard to distinguish from each other. That said, railfanning in the US has lost a lot of its diversity and my trips to the States have become less frequent...  but I have certainly not yet been the last time over there, so watch out for more pictures to come.