This year’s first blog post and train recollections come to us from my buddy, Jason Fields. Thanks very much for sharing with us, Jason!
My first memory ever involving trains was when I was maybe a year old. We had a VHS tape called “Who Left the Juice in the Caboose?” aimed for preschool kids. My family often would tell me that I started watching that at nine months old, and that my first words were Woo-Woo! A lot of folks seem surprised to learn that Thomas the Tank Engine was not necessarily the jump-start into my passion of trains.
My name is Jason Fields, I’m an ammature railroad photographer and videographer from Chattanooga, Tennessee and I run a YouTube channel called “The ‘Nooga Railfan.” The thrill of a chase and the sights and sounds of a roaring locomotive thundering through various landscapes keeps me going back for more.
Mom and Dad did the typical Day Out With Thomas things with me, as any young child would have loved to have done, and rode behind many trains at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, mostly the Missionary Ridge Local behind steam engine #610. I had a few picture books here and there, but I wasn’t as deep into the history of trains at the time.
My mother purchased a book for me when I was around 11 years old, Steam in the Valley: A History of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, written and photographed by John W. Coniglio, as well as tickets for the Summerville Steam Special for October of 2011, which was hauled by the recently-restored Southern Railway 630. That was probably the moment my interest in trains really sparked.
A few years went by, and I attended Railcamp, a week-long summer camp at the TVRM, where teenagers can get their hands dirty and get a feeling of what it’s like working on engines and cars. My first week there, we repainted the cab of NC&StL VO-1000 36 (originally a unit from the US Air Force). I continued to attend Railcamp from 2013 to 2016, and eventually met one of my best friends there. I’d still come and visit now and then, pre-covid, and would often chat with the kids and counselors.
By that time, I’d really gotten pretty interested in doing railroad photography and videography. I didn’t have a whole lot, equipment wise, that was, per-say “good;” a fairly used point-and-shoot and a smartphone, but it did the trick for a few years until I got my first DSLR camera. As better quality equipment came along, so did my photography skills, having been published in two calendars and a magazine since 2016.
My main focus on my photos and videos is vintage railroad operations, concerning steam and old diesel locomotives. Traveling from state-to-state, meeting new people and experiencing new (to me) engines and railroads is a pure joy. I always plan for the year with at least five-to-seven railroads to visit and photograph. Naturally, I didn’t get to go to all of them when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, but I know I definitely wasn’t the only one yearning for more to do.
Railfanning and the history and lore of railroads is a little bit more than a hobby to me, it’s become a part of me. I’ve met so many friends over the years, some of them I’d consider close brothers and sisters, and they are one of the defining reasons for my interest in the hobby. Without them, I would not enjoy this hobby as much as I do. Taking photos of trains by yourself gets boring pretty quickly. I thank them for always being there for me.
May green signals continue to light your way!
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