Train in the Distance
A train in the distance appears in Louisville, Ky., in this circa 2002 photo. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)
Fast-Moving Trains
A sign warning of fast-moving trains appears in Kentucky circa 2002 or 2003. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

It began with an interest in taking photos of trains and perhaps publishing them somewhere. Anywhere, really. When that didn’t pan out for any number of reasons, Railfanning.org was born.

The rest, someone somewhere once said, is history.

Fifteen years later, Railfanning.org is still documenting trains. At museums, along the mainline, really anywhere trains can be found.

The site, internet records reveal, was registered on Oct. 7, 2002. At first, Railfanning.org featured a simple design with just a few pages. Then, came history features. The News Wire was born.

In 2003, the site began publishing The Cross-Tie, an e-zine that featured industry news, feature stories and photos. The publication eventually faded, but Railfanning.org did not.

The site has evolved over the past 15 years, but it’s always been about fun. You see, railfanning is an activity anyone can enjoy. There is no right or wrong way to like trains.

You can watch them, model them, ride them or study them in history books. Take photos or videos or don’t. Anyone who says there is a certain way to railfan is just wrong.

Throughout 2017, we’ll be commemorating the first 15 years with special features, including photo galleries of never-before-published images snapped over the past decade-and-a-half (and perhaps even some committed to film before Railfanning.org was born).

So, here’s to the first 15 years of Railfanning.org. And, here’s to the next 15!

— Todd DeFeo

Railfanning.org Editor Todd DeFeo sits in the cab of Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum No. 1829, a GP7, on June 14, 2003. (Railfanning.org Digital Collection)