First off I’m not your typical railfan. Like the screen name implies I prefer the real thing, not scale models. Part of my interest came from always liking large machinery, be it bulldozers, tractors or graders. My train exposure came as vacations to Michigan’s upper peninsula or ‘UP’ in local-speak. Mostly Iron ore (Taconite) trains banging along (flat wheels) and banging doors (Alco’s overheating). After moving to New Jersey in the early 1960’s I was then in much closer proximity to Central New Jersey Railroad and Lehigh Valley Railroad. I regularly use the CNJ’s cheap fares to enlarge my bicycle range and got even to Dunellen and Piscataway at times. After High School I moved to the Chicago area for a few years and got to know The Milwaukee Road, Chicago & Northwestern as a fan and a commuter. I also got short sightings of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (Burlington Northern) and the other 17 railroads that called Chicago a terminal. After that I came back to northern NJ in the mid of 1970’s and got to see Erie-Lackawanna both as a fan and as a commuter.
After having a few bad experiences with amateur theatre groups I hesitated getting involved with any fallen flag or historical groups. Several railfans I encountered trackside actually scared and/or repulsed me in their extremely coarse and/or anti-social behaviour. A few when conversation was attempted muttered something incomprehensible and then drifted off, or, in one case ran off! So I observed my railfan interest alone and mostly in silence. I moved to Orange County NY in the mid 1980’s and discovered the internet. No, not my idea but others built it and I came. With it I encountered others interested in trains as well.
Then in 2002 I became involved with the Volunteer Railroaders Association aka the VRA. My involvement with them started out as being part of a few volunteer help crews on various brush cutting projects (Oldenwelder, BR&W). there was no pressure to join the VRA group and they were happy to have another set of hands helping. Over time I met them at various events and projects and became acquainted with more of the membership. Sane and very normal guys close to my age and older. Much different than my past railfaning experiences!
In 2004 came an event where I could really help – the existing VRA website ( http://community.nj.com/cc/railroaders ) was lost due to their web host ( nj.com ) exiting the shared hosting market. It took a few weeks but I resurrected 95% of the site from searching the WayBack Machine internet archives. At first it was placed on http://www.geocities.com/volunteerrailroaders/ After a domain and server was lined up we launched the new site http://www.vratrips.org/ on Saturday April 10, 2004.
In the fall of 2008 I did some intense research in web marketing to enhance the web presence the VRA had. I created a VRA blog and a website for the Hawthorne New Jersey NYS&W Railroad Station. I also created a Wiki page for the Hawthorne NYSW station and the VRA – http://volunteer-railroaders-association.pbworks.com/w/page/9589792/FrontPage
In 2009 I was asked to create a Santa Claus Train Ride page and a Easter Bunny Train Ride page. The Easter Bunny Train Ride page became a domain (thanks Charles!) and was later made into a Easter Bunny Train Ride website separate from vratrips.org. This allow it to remain up all year round. In early 2010 I did the same for the Santa rides and created the Santa Train Rides in NJ website.
After spending a lot of time in early 2010 trying to find sources of links to the Santa Train Ride site I created one Santa Train Rides in the USA – a free listing site. Those that existed were either partially created (regional in nature) and then abandoned or were a paid listing site created to sell $-$$ links.
In September 2010 I was asked to take over the page Santa Train Rides in New Jersey used by several URHS of NJ members as their primary entry point (‘santatrain.net’ on posters & banners) for their Santa Train Ride in NJ ticket sales.
My day job is being an email server administrator and a sometimes PC-help desk person. Not as fun as trains, eh?