Railfanning in Sarasota County, FL
A great hobby is wonderful to have for people of all ages. For those of us who have careers and are raising children, it may feel like there is never enough time to pursue interests outside of the home or work. But, it is vital that we all find our niche passions in life for true fulfillment. For seniors, retirement presents opportunities to invest time in activities that were likely previously underserved in their lives.
From tennis to golf, or chess to reading clubs there are a plethora of hobbies to tantalize our down time. When a child shows a keen aptitude or interest in a particular activity or sport, we begin to decipher their strengths and weaknesses, what inspires them or completely exhausts their spirits. It is wonderful to observe the spark of satisfaction they glean from discovering their passions. And it reminds us adults to rekindle fires that have long burned in our souls, returning us to finish unwritten stories, paint half-covered canvases and open the pages of books we’ve longed to read.
If you Google “railfan” you will discover the definition is someone who is an extreme fan of all things train-related. We’re not just talking about your run-of-the-mill enthusiast. A true “railfan” is often a collector of toy trains, loves photographing them, reads and views any materials related to them and otherwise does not let a train come through their town without documenting its arrival and departure. In other words, they live-breathe-sleep trains! Dakota Lovern, an 8th grade student at Woodland Middle School in North Port caught our eye with his vivacious enthusiasm as a railfanner. His exciting YouTube videos which capture his railfanning escapades have garnered the interest of thousands of viewers. We think railfanning is a pretty cool hobby and hope you enjoy learning about it through Dakota’s eyes.
SP: For us newbies, tell us a little about railfanning, and how you first became involved in this hobby.
DL: A Railfan is a person who has a hobby of trains or goes out to watch trains.
Railfanning is the activity of going out to watch trains. When I started railfanning I did not know of any groups, but as I got more involved I joined many Facebook groups with other railfanners. When I was younger, I would build trains and read about them, that’s how I got most of my knowledge but now I mainly go out and film them. My first memory of trains was when we were headed to LEGOLAND and I saw a train of covered hoppers pulled by (3) GP39-2’s. I was intrigued by them and the feeling of them is exciting as well as peaceful.
SP: How often are you pursuing your hobby, is it every weekend, a few times a month? Do you ever see repeat trains or are you always waiting to catch the new arrival?
DL: It’s usually every weekend. Just depends on my family’s schedule. We do whatever we can when we can. Sometimes we will see “repeat” trains but each time we see them they are always different. Depending on what the new train is, we may plan our day around catching that train.
SP: I love the graffiti that is displayed on the rail cars. You must see so much of this, what do you think of this type of “art?”
DL: I find the graffiti art very interesting because within a train that has 80-200 cars you can see all sorts of artistic designs whether they be cuss words or profanity, or those who have poured their heart and art out onto certain rail cars for whatever reason.
SP: Tell us about your YouTube channel, how many subscribers do you have? Do you edit all your own video footage?
DL: My YouTube Channel is about the trains I caught. Whether it be education about them, or just watching them. I have over 2.1K YouTube subscribers on my channel. I shoot and edit all my videos myself. For interested parties that want to follow, like and/or subscribe to My YouTube Channel You can look me up on YouTube under the name: Kotabeaner.
All photos taken and provided by Dakota Lovern.