From Railfan to Conductor
Journalist Warren Schlote considers himself a railfan. Here’s how he parlayed his love of trains and railways into a stint as a real-life conductor.
When I first took an interest in railways, I never expected I would work for one. I became a railfan in 2010 when I was only 14. I came across some YouTube videos by Trainboi21 of freight trains passing the recently-built Lisgar GO Station in my neighbourhood. We started chatting through the comment section. I soon learned that his name was Mike and we started watching trains together.
Mike introduced me to the online communities and I quickly met railfans across the country. Another friend and I started running a Facebook community for train sightings. It now has nearly a thousand members.
Over the years I devoted less time to the hobby. I still kept in touch with a few close friends but did not spend all my free time next to the tracks.
I continued to follow industry news, however, which is how I heard CN was shutting down its Algoma Central passenger service in Sault Ste. Marie. When the train’s new operator was announced, I emailed the company’s president to express my interest. He took a chance and gave me the job of conductor – I was only 18 at the time.
Disputes emerged between the operator and the local government that caused a funding deadlock. The last train ran on July 13, 2015, bringing the train’s 101year history – and my railway career – to an end. I can sympathize with Cando train engineer Steve Bradley’s feelings about his final OBRY run because I have experienced my own.