Wednesday, January 13, 2016

When Good Locomotives Go Bad: Exploring Tales of Hoodoo Engines

The day after V&T #26 was due to be retired from service, embers escaped from the engine's belly and set its shed on fire. Locals supposed that the 26 had committed suicide rather than be scrapped or abandoned in a park. From 

This blog has gotten quite a decent amount of mileage out of exploring the way that steam locomotives are portrayed as and sometimes even give the impression that they are alive. It might be tempting to think that this comes about because pop culture proliferates with franchises like Thomas the Tank Engine and the Little Engine that Could which have anthropomorphic  locomotives and trains as main characters, but references to steam locomotives seeming to possess a consciousness of their own actually date back almost as far as the railroads themselves.

One thing about the nature of personality and consciousness, though, is that just because someone or something is in possession of them does not guarantee it to be a friend and ally. In fact, one of the best benchmarks in deciding if something is conscious may be that it can choose not to comply with what we would like it to do. The superstitions that steam locomotives may be alive do not neglect this unpleasant aspect of consciousness. In fact, an entire mythology grew up to describe it: The Hoodoo Engine.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

F-O-F has a big announcement--now selling Photo Prints!

Time for some self-promotion. Over the past few years, I've captured up quite a number of good photographs in the process of covering events for this site and for Trains Magazine. Today I've established a web site to sell prints of those photos. Images like this shot of Soo Line 1003 are available in a variety of sizes.Prices range from $30-45 dollars. Not only are these pictures make great decorations for your home or business, purchasing them will help F-O-F cover the many exciting railroad events slated for 2016. Visit our web store at

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Threat of Stillness

One month ago, I found myself on the roof of the tower overlooking Kansas City Southern's Shreveport Terminal, camera in hand, snatching up photographs of the annual Holiday Express' excursion for the Trains Magazine Newswire.  Below me, the staff of volunteers and paid employees were putting the finishing touches on the six display cars, and members of the public were already lining up in the parking lot. The impeccable KCS business train sat a few hundred yards down the line, tucked safely away from curious members of the public.  KCS 1 and 2 rested in the distance at the head end, tinged pinkish by encroaching twilight.

The Shreveport terminal was the KCS's alternate location for the Holiday Express' stop after a fireworks show evicted it from its normal location closer to downtown. Passing freight trains would occasionally set the ground rumbling with a harsh slack contraction and the remote controlled locomotives constantly shuffled around in the background. The terminal staff and train crew bemoaned that the show was apparently competing for the public's attention and had caused the number of attendees to be somewhat lower compared to the previous year, but the lines seemed to consistently stretch through the parking lot and out to the street.