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Photographing SoMinn: Chasing Trains

May 21, 2019

If you’ve seen one train show, you’ve seen them all.  Right?

Wrong.  If you’re like my husband, trains rev your engine and provide a seemingly endless draw in a wide variety of forms; the mechanics, the history, the engineering, the sound.  And, of course, the nostalgia.  Carl can easily pass an afternoon chasing and watching trains on Highway 61 along the Mississippi River, making his way through such charming towns as Minneiska and Winona.  Circling back and cutting down side streets to catch a thrill is not uncommon.  I’ve even caught him watching the flashing lights of the crossing signals as a train approaches on the internet!

Yep.  He’s a train nerd.

So, on March 21 we gathered our family together and drove about 45 minutes north of Rochester, MN to the little town of Randolph, host to Randolph Railroad Days.  The 15thannual event was held at the local high school and rail yards.

Randolph’s other claim to fame? They are host to an annual FFA tractor parade, which is an unusual and interesting spectacle to the uninitiated. “Only in Minnesota,” a city slicker might reflect.

But backing up the train a bit…..

I was like a walleye out of Mille Lacs Lake as we strolled the seemingly endless array of sometimes expensive train-related merchandise.  Big model engines.  Little model engines.  Big model caboose.  Little model caboose.  There was so much.  And the elaborate train sets….. it was like toy heaven for grown-ups.

Controlling one of those elaborate train sets were three men dressed in identical button-down shirts.  I’d never seen a pattern with so many colorful trains and asked where I might find such a shirt.  The man was proud to tell me his mother had sewn them and the fabric was nowhere to be found.  I wasn’t the only one to enquire about their original shirts, he said. And I believe him.


Photos and text by Elizabeth Nida Obert

Freelance writer and photographer Elizabeth Nida Obert, a former newspaper staff photographer for 18 years, has degrees in both and is passionate about telling stories in words and pictures.  She thrives on travel and adventure and is always looking forward to where the next open road – or door – will lead.  


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