20. Go trainspotting

Along Georgia’s 5,000 miles of train track

Illustration by Ed Fotheringham

I grew up in Palmetto, a quarter mile from the old Atlanta and West Point Railroad tracks. The soundtrack of my life is the shrill call of the whistle and the low, distant thunder of wheels riding rail. That’s probably true for many Atlantans, if they’d take the time to listen; there are more than 5,000 miles of active track in Georgia, and almost all of it eventually flows into the metro area.

Since I was eleven, I’ve been taking snapshots and videos of trains, each locomotive a different make, model, number, and bright paint scheme. In a sense, I collect them. I get close enough to feel the train’s wake blow against me. The power. I used to stake out stretches of track; now I follow them on a handheld scanner. But there are fertile spots for trainspotting all over. Off I-285, exit 13, on the west side of the city, four Norfolk Southern tracks run side by side carrying freight and passenger trains throughout the day. There’s no parking lot or viewing platform. Technically it’s trespassing—but that’s part of the fun. As told to Tony Rehagen

This article originally appeared in our April 2013 issue.