he railfan is not an easy man to understand. Railroading for him is simply too big, too private, and too obvious an emotion to be able to explain it. Railroading requires friends, friends who understand its complexities and can explain its virtues, friends who without thought of reward are curious and concerned about this business of flanged wheels on steel rails. Friends who, for lack of a better word, might be called railfans.
David P. Morgan
My brother Jack and I were lucky enough to grow up with a mechanically-minded father who loved all manner of transportation, especially trains and trolleys. Even more, he was happy to share that love with his sons liberally. In different decades, both sons climbed many a stairwell to pose for dad on some idling locomotive or parked rolling stock; we both sat many an hour in the passenger seat of the family sedan as our intrepid father searched for another good spot for runbys. This fascination with machines and movement bequeathed to us by our dad formed in my brother a love of planes and rockets. As for me, it has been railroads for as long as I can remember. Morgan gets it right (above): One struggles to express what it is about locomotives and locations that captures the boyish imagination, but what I am able to name is my deep gratitude for the three decades in which I had the privilege of sharing this flanged-wheel fascination with my father -- the most generous hobbyist I've ever known.
In 2007, I was stunned when my father announced he was turning over to me his entire collection of railroad negatives and prints: a massive assortment of images spanning nearly 50 years and covering all manner of locations. Organizing and scanning this stockpile was like an archeological dig in some lost country. Many pictures I had seen before but had long forgotten; many more I had never laid my eyes on, making me feel I was experiencing firsthand prized spots along long-abandoned lines and numerous lashups long since in the scrap line of their fallen flag. Even dad discovered a few precious images that had flown the coop of his otherwise exacting memory.
It did not take me long to conclude that something like a website would be needed to share many of these photographs with the larger railfan community. Furthermore, with my own interest in railfan photography -- also planted in me by my dad -- over the years I've framed up and focused my own growing collection of railroad photographs, with emphasis on southeastern shortlines and diesel locomotive roster shots. With those impulses at play, HawkinsRails.net was born.
The Internet is a wonderful place for hobbyists to share with great ease photos and information about their favorite subject matters. I've listed some of my favorites sites on our Links page. I started this website to feature our combined collections of railfan images and to honor the relationship I was fortunate to share with my dad right up to the end of his life.
The site is cast in a scrapbook motif because, in his later years, dad enjoyed arranging many of his favorite prints in makeshift looseleaf binders so that he and our friends could more easily enjoy them -- usually during a visit upstairs to run his O scale trains. After all, he insisted, "What good are pictures when they are buried in boxes? It's great fun to look at them again and again." In that spirit of sharing, I hope you will enjoy what you find here in this online scrapbook.
In the fall of 2009, our dad came to the end of a brave struggle with heart disease. Among the many final gifts he gave to me, we enjoyed our remaining railfan conversations immensely. Indeed, there was always another shortline memory or recent equipment exchange to make for great discussion. In the midst of substantial physical setbacks during his last two years, dad found great happiness in seeing so many of his old 120 format negatives rescued from long-forgotten envelopes and brought alive again on the web.
Throughout this site, photographs taken by my father, John C. Hawkins, are tagged jch and images taken by me, Ralph W. Hawkins, are tagged rwh. Over the years, in an effort to round out our image collections of railroads and equipment that have captured our attention, we have acquired a number of reprints and negatives by other photographers. These photographs are marked collection, and information about them is noted when known. While they are not available as copies, they are included on this site for your railfan enjoyment.
For more information about acquiring reprints or digital files of images taken by us, please see my reprints page. Contact me with any other questions or correspondence. I especially enjoy hearing from you about your own Deep South railroad memories, perhaps rekindled while parousing our collection.
Welcome aboard HawkinsRails.net!
High green signals to you and yours.