Thursday, September 18, 2014

Come All You Rounders: The Railroad in American Folk Music

I’ll begin this article with a personal anecdote.

A few months ago, I got married. The fiance and I coupled our lives together, swore our fidelity until we both be rendered into biological scrap, and then together highballed down life’s main line. The wedding was modestly attended, but intimate, and contained many elements that reflected our personalities. You really only get two days that are truly about you, after all, and since one of those happens after you die, I say milk the nuptials for all they’re worth.

One of the personal touches that I had in mind, during the wedding planning, was to play a railroad-themed folk song sometime during the ceremony or reception. I put in a good block of time cruising Youtube, Pandora, and my local library’s collection, looking for something that I felt was appropriate, and came up empty again and again. I had anticipated nothing more difficult finding a clean recording and a catchy hook, but instead, began to feel like I was edging towards micro-managing Bridezilla territory.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Eyesore Behind the Engine


Ed. Note: This is the first post at a brand spankin' new unique domain name! This will allow much more opportunities for Friends of the Flange to grow. I hope to start writing travelogues of heritage railroads and other railroad-related destinations, and branch out from exclusively blogs. Unfortunately the transition erased all the previous comments and likes, so please don't be stingy about commenting here and liking the main page!

A big part of the appeal of preserving, chasing, and riding behind the steam locomotives still pulling passenger engines is getting to experience a how railroading was done in the past. Restored station houses, carefully preserved passenger cars, and staff and crew in costumes help bolster the idea that the train is suspended in time. For most riders, this is enough to fire up our imaginations and turn a simple train ride into an experience, but sometimes, concessions to the reality that it is, in hard fact, the twenty-first century must be made.

The most visible deviation from history--at least, the one I’ve heard the most grumbling about--is that it’s fairly common for a diesel engine to be placed somewhere in the consist of a steam excursions, especially on those managed by Class I heritage programs. I’ve heard passengers on train runs ask “Why is that there?” with the kind of intonation in their voice that says I know you are trying to deceive me, seen the same idea articulated much more thoroughly and angrily on message boards, discussion groups. There is such a sentiment that a real steam excursion cannot in any way receive assistance from diesel engines that to some railfans, mixing the two types of motive power is a faux pas of the same explosive magnitude as adding water to acid.