From as long as I can remember I have been interested in most modes of transportation. When I was a child I would count all of the 18-wheelers between my home and the eventual destination. The few times I went to the airport I was entranced by the huge airliners. Trains were just as interesting to me trucks, planes & ships but it wasn't until the summer of 1994 that it changed for me.
My Dad wanted to take me out on a camping/fishing trip with just the two of us. We loaded up the Dodge and left the rest of the family behind. After driving for about an hour and half we stopped and pitched the tent at Scofield Reservoir in Utah. Once camp was setup, I tried to do a little fishing but the day was hot for anything to bother being caught. While attempting to fish I could hear a rumbling in the distance. Not long after, a long train of hoppers appeared and slowly rumbled by. While this wasn't the first train I had ever seen, it was one of the first that I had just sat and drank in the whole thing. Something was different now, a switch flipped in my head and I wanted to know more.
James Belmont photo showing a coal train in 1989. Area where I camped was not far from here.
About four hours later I was in the tent working on going to sleep and I could hear a familiar rumble in the distance. I hopped out of my sleeping bag and unzipped the tent to try to see the train go by. Unfortunately it was dark and the tracks were about a 1/4 of a mile away but I could see the headlight illuminating the tracks ahead. Although I couldn't see it, I still looked in the direction of the train and listened to the sounds disturbing the warm summer night.
The next morning another train went by. After breakfast and another failed attempt at fishing, my dad and I decided to drive around and explore the area. We first explored the near by town of Scofield and then moved up to the semi-ghost town, Clear Creek. Fortunately the railroad tracks paralleled the road to Clear Creek and just before arriving to the town we came across the coal train that had passed by this morning. It was moving slowly under a flood loader being loaded with coal. Later in the day we found a different place to camp where the fishing was better but there were no trains to watch.
After getting home I was hooked. I picked up my first issue of Model Railroader (September 1994) and I drank in everything I could. This is a wonderful hobby that has impacted my life in many ways. Without this one camping trip my life would be very different today. I wouldn't be working where I am and most of the friends I have now would only be strangers. I am thankful for what it has brought me and look forward to where it will take me.