The Xtreme Railfan


Being a railfan comes in many shapes and sizes.  The typical railfan likes to watch trains, take pictures and perhaps model on a layout in their basement.  But other people take the hobby much farther - to the Extreme.  And, that's what this web page is all about... linking you with examples of The Extreme Railfan.

  • Garden Model Railroad fans run through the bushes.  Garden model railroaders actually set up miniature railroads in their gardens at home and run trains between the bushes.  Click here to see an out-of-state example. is looking for examples of working garden railroads in Michigan.  If you know of any sites with web connections, please click "Nominate" on the left and let us know.

  • Operate Your Own Steam Locomotive.  The volunteers of Project 1225, based on Owosso, maintain and operate their own steam locomotive, one of the largest ever built in the United States.  It is sometimes dirty, grimy work, but the rewards are enormous.  To learn more, click on

  • Own your Own Railroad Passenger Car.  Several hundred people in the U.S. own their own private railroad cars, many of which were sold at reasonable prices as Amtrak and VIA Rail replaced equipment in the 1980's and 1990's.  The best local example of this can be found in Saginaw, where the Blue Water Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society has it's shops.  Click here for an introduction to the Blue Water Chapter -

  • Quarter-Gauge Railroads in Your Back "40".  Some people construct 1-2' gauge (between the rails) railroads on their property.  Many of these are quietly operated to avoid zoning restrictions and to keep the neighbors happy.  Perhaps the two best known operations are near Fairview, the AuSable Valley Railroad which is operated by the Shrader family, and the Junction Valley Railroad, near Frankenmuth.  Kevin and Peg Lawrence vote for the Junction Valley line:  "The AuSable has better trestles, but Junction Valley is best for locomotives, rolling stock, and amount of trackage and structures, including a fully functional roundhouse and turntable."  But both routes make for an excellent day trip of fun for the entire family.

  • Riding the rails by Speeder.  About 1,300 people nationwide own former railroad track inspection/maintenance cars which are called "Speeders".  Through their national organization, NARCOA, they sponsor trips on railroads throughout the country, including several each year in Michigan.  More information, click on

  • Work on your own Railroad, Your Own Tracks.  If you join the Southern Michigan Railroad Society, you can work on (and own as a member) your own railroad.  Operating on an old Conrail branch line from Clinton south to Lenawee Junction, the SMRS operates excursions and other events.  Click here to see the SMRS.

  • Watch trains and signals on your home computer.  Digital Railscanning is taking off.  With a bit of tinkering, an 800 Mhz scanner can be modified to output digital signaling from railroad trackside control points to your computer.  Then, through a downloaded conversion program, you can map these signals to a track diagram in your own home.  Click here to read all about it.

If you have examples of Extreme Railfanning (preferably in Michigan, or northern Ohio or Indiana), please let us know by clicking the "Nomination" button at the left.  Please include your e-mail address, a description of the activity, and a web link address where we can find out more.  Please do not nominate activities which are illegal or unsafe as they will not be considered.  A panel of Extreme Railfan Advisors will select from the nominees.