Railfan 101

The purpose of this page is to help people that are new to this great hobby get some answers to their questions. The internet is a fantastic place to get information but you have to know the right places to look. Hopefully, this page will help people to find the correct information in a timely manner.

This page cannot give all the answers but I hope that it can answer many of the more commonly asked questions that appear on internet lists from time to time.

Where should I go to see trains?

Where to go is usually a place that has a lot of rail traffic and this can be any place along a major rail line that railfans are chatting about on any number of railroad lists on the internet. More on this later.

How do I get there?

The answer to this question is maps! A happy railfan is a person that gets to where they want to go and see trains. The way to do this is to have maps for the area that you are railfaning. I have done well using DeLorme map products and I think that they are a great way to check out potential photo spots from downtown side streets to back country roads in the middle of nowhere! Delorme has a Gazetteer map book for every state, that are great to take with you trackside.

A couple of good DeLorme programs are Street Atlas USA and Topo USA.

There are also great mapping resources on the web that are free.

Here are some great links.

DeLorme                   http://www.delorme.com/

Mapquest                  http://mapquest.com/

Googlemaps             http://maps.google.com/

USGS Topo Maps    http://topomaps.usgs.gov/

Arrow Maps              http://arrowmap.com/

SPV Rail Maps          http://www.steam-powered-video.co.uk/atlases.shtml

What is all this track and mile post stuff?

Here is where the steel wheel meets the rail so to speak.

There are a few places that have all the things that you need to know about mile posts, interlockings, yards etc. You can find employee railroad timetables at some train shows but these only show one railroad. For more bang for your buck, I suggest that you check out these websites.

Oxford Junction Press


Northern New England Railfan Site


Where is a good place to stay?

If you are planning a railfan excursion and want to stay away from home and you would like to see trains, then check out Chris Hash’s website.

Trackside Motels                 http://www.goeaston.net/~cahash/

Scanner Radios

Having a scanner radio is like having an inside link that can tell you of rail movements, location of trains and other important stuff.

Listing railroad frequencies is beyond the scope of this article but there are many frequency lists out on the web for you to find.

You do not have to spend a lot on a scanner radio but if you want to see trains then having one is a good idea. I do suggest that you buy a “tuned” antenna for the frequencies that you will be listening to. ( 160-161 MHz.)

Here are some good links for radios and antennas.

Uniden                                   http://uniden.com/

Radio Shack                          http://radioshack.com/

Grove Enterprises              http://www.grove-ent.com/

Smiley Antenna                    http://smileyantenna.com/

What to Bring

When you go trackside you will need the basics. Water, food (munchies), sturdy shoes (boots), camera with enough film. If you shoot slides then make sure that you bring slide film along. Finding slide film outside of the city can be tough.

When you go railfaning, make a list of what you forgot and then bring it with you the next time.

So, where are all the trains?

Railfaning in New England is a catch as catch can sort of thing.

Some places are better than others. With a scanner it can take some of the guess work out of things.

Here are just a few places that are good spots.

Boston Ma. South Station

Boston Ma. North Station

Palmer Ma. Old train station

Florida Ma. Hoosac Tunnel east portal

Readville Ma. train station

Worcester Ma. Old Amtrak station

Ayer Ma. Train station

Shelburne Falls Ma. Trolley Museum

Springfield Ma. Amtrak Station

Danville Jct. Auburn Me.

Bellows Falls Vt. Train station

There are many more places and this is just a start. So let me know what you would like add.

Additions to this list are welcome. Please email with a corrections etc.


Jerry Kelley          Email Me!