Before Matt started working on the railroad, we were interested in trains. We took a trip from Minneapolis to Duluth on the 261, and learned why people wore travel clothes during the era of steam travel. Steam travel is really dirty. Our clothes and hair were full of cinders at the end of the journey, and while we had kind of snerked at the people who came on the train wearing goggles, we agreed that if we were ever to do this again, goggles were the way to go.
I had fond memories of railroads from my childhood (BN and UP), and so did Matt (DM&IR), and seriously, who doesn't like trains to at least some extent? But when we visited the Depot in Duluth, or slowed down to be "caught" by a train at a crossing so we could watch it instead of trying to beat it, we didn't know about the huge subculture of train lovers that's out there.
Matt sees it, now, almost every day: The guys (almost always guys) standing at crossings or along sidings with cameras on tripods, ready to film him as he drives by. There are thousands of videos on YouTube of trains going through crossings, engine switchings, coming down or going up hills, and so on. There are fewer now on the DM&IR lines because the CN engines aren't as pretty (or maintained as well) as the old engines were, but they're still there. They are known as foamers, for foaming-at-the-mouth enthusiasm they have for trains.
We've poked around foamer photography sites and found trains that Matt was working on. It's funny to watch some of the videos, although some of them are quite well done. You can buy videos of trains doing just about anything, and we get vaguely naughty come-ons from the the main seller (which has the kind-of tee-hee name Pentrex) for DVDs such as "Trains At Speed!" On the other hand, Matt says it's kind of odd to work a job that people love to photograph and tape.
Today, I joined the ranks of foamers. I knew Matt was taking a train up soon after I dropped the kids off. I got into position at the crossing and was ready. I made some amateur errors -- you can hear my hazard lights clicking; I started filming way too early (it doesn't get interesting until about a minute into it); and because I didn't get out of the car (I was still in my kid-drop-off pajama pants), the pan across the crossing gets a little awkward. In all, I think it's a pretty good first effort. If you watch carefully, you can see the engineer put his hand out the window and give a tiny wave just as the train is crossing. Yay Matt!