With the dedicated help of many contributors, Frograil has begun to compile a series of "tours" that a vacationing or visiting railfan can take. These are just what the heading implies: You can print out the tour, start at point A, and get all the way to point B, even if you've never visited the area in your life. As you can imagine, putting together even a relatively short segment of such a tour is quite time-consuming, and the pay is lousy. Therefore, the list of completed and in-progress tours is fairly short, but once done, the data is good indefinitely. The list will grow steadily over time.

Stuff You Absolutely Must Know

Rather than give you a huge, legalistic epistle here, just keep in mind the following:

  1. There is no official connection, between either the webmaster or any contributors, to any railroad company, and nothing on any of the Frograil pages is intended, therefore, to be construed as being officially connected to any railroad company.
  2. Private property is just that: PRIVATE. Whether owned by a railroad company or an adjacent landowner, you have no legal right to be on another's property without obtaining prior permission. Trespassing is a serious offense, and the railroad companies are especially (and quite rightly) concerned about corporate liability issues, the safety of their employees, the protection of their assets and cargo, and, yes, your safety.
  3. Know your rights, though, in these days of heightened security and increased tension. You are still able to take photographs from public areas, even if someone says otherwise. A good source of details about your rights can be found on this ACLU site, http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/know-your-rights-photographers. Another good source is Bert P. Krages' The Photographer's Right page, which has a PDF guide to download to carry with you that explains your rights as a photographer. Krages points out that "neither the Patriot Act nor the Homeland Security Act have any provisions that restrict photography."
  4. Any comments in red are considered to be of high importance by the Webmaster. Do not ignore these comments.
  5. Railfanning is fun, but getting bopped over the head with a lead pipe isn't. Pay attention to the authors' treatment of the safety and security issue. If an area is described as being "rough" or some other such adjective, do not go there alone. Indeed, all of us recommend railfanning with at least one male friend. It's just wise.
  6. We've all done it: Tried to drive with one hand, read a map with another, adjust the squelch on the scanner with another and drive safely at the same time. It is humanly impossible to do so. One more excellent reason to have a friend or friends along.
  7. This is not a disclaimer, but is important to all railfans: Be a good citizen-railfan. Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints. Smile and say "hi" to the locals. Always ask yourself if you'd want someone in your backyard or where you work running around taking pictures.

Tour Basics And Protocols

You will be given specific driving instructions, departing from a specific point and arriving at a specific point. In most cases, street names and road numbers are used. We try to avoid things like: "Take a right and then go away's and then take another right." We'll make an effort to tell you: "Take a right on Hightower Street, and go a little more than a mile to another right on Brown Road (VA-325)." We assume the tourist has never been to the area in his life. That is our standard for detailing all driving instructions.

Generally, we'll include info relative to photography. You'll see such comments as: "Because this point is north of the tracks, photography is difficult, and access from the south is not available"

Security and safety, when deemed appropriate, will be mentioned. We don't try to use any specific criteria, but if we feel an area is downright dangerous, we'll tell you, and recommend you avoid it completely. Also, we'll let you know an area is "rough", or that we'd recommend you bring a male friend, etc.

We don't guarantee any traffic activity levels, but we'll try to give you an idea of the volume with an average, such as: "Expect to see 1-2 trains per hour here." All this means is that, arithmetically, you will have between 24 and 36 trains per 24 hours, on an average weekday. In such a place, you can see 4-5 trains in an hour, and then nothing for 3 hours. Sometimes you're hot, sometimes you're not.

Traffic types are usually mentioned: Passenger, both Amtrak and commuter, and freight to be expected are included. This latter might include: "Unit coal trains predominate, with manifest freights a few times a day."

Recommended Packing List

These are just some suggestions. If you're going to be on the road fanning all day or for several days, you'll appreciate these items, and might even want to add to the list. They're presented in no particular order, and the one on the bottom may be just as important as the one on the top.

  • Cell phone
  • Orange baseball cap
  • First aid kit
  • Water
  • Snacks and cold drinks
  • No alcoholic beverages
  • Lawn chairs
  • Binoculars
  • Scanner and frequency list
  • Maps -- DeLorme atlases recommended, where possible
  • Timetable or station list data print-out
  • Self-guiding tour print-out
  • Film, video tape, digital camera disks
  • Cameras and video recorder
  • Batteries for cameras and recorders
  • Stiff pad of paper (so you can make notes and send me your additions and corrections) -- Clipboard is recommended
  • Recorder. One of those miniature voice recorders is a great tool to have along.
  • Pens -- at least 2 distinctly different colors.
  • Weed Whacker, small hand pruning saw, lopping shears
  • GPS device

Tour Sites

Contact Info

I'd love to get your comments and suggestions. Also, if you're interested in contributing to either the Railfan Guide or to a new tour, give me a holler. I'm Bruce Harper, Webmaster for the Railfan Guide and this growing series of self-guided railfan tours. e-mail me here.