About Craig Bass

Image: Craig Bass posing on Modoc Northern GE B30-7 number 1011 (yes, I had permission). Photo by Graybeard.

So why am I so "into" trains? I don't really know. Perhaps clues can be gathered from this brief autobiography. I can tell you that I grew up within 50 yards of the Santa Fe's Fallbrook Branch in southern California, and would run to trackside every time the thrice-weekly local came to town, usually behind a pair of blue and yellow GP30's. I spent two weeks of my first grade year skipping school and riding my bike along the tracks from one end of town to the other and would go back home when I'd see the school buses in the afternoons. I got to know every rail joint, spike and tie plate on the line.

Whenever my family would load up the car and go on a vacation, I would always keep my eyes open for a distant headlight if we were near a railroad track. My shout of "Look! A train!" probably bugged everyone in the car.

When I was a young boy, one Christmas my dad gave me an H.O. scale Marx train set. It had a little 0-4-0 switcher with tender, a couple of freight cars, and a caboose with an oval of track. That little train sparked a future interest in model railroading as a hobby.

Two years spent in Jacksonville Florida while my dad was stationed at NAS Jax exposed me to the Seaboard Coast Line, but the Seaboard failed to entice me the way the Santa Fe did. The good ol' Santa Fe was waiting for me when we returned to Fallbrook.

My involvement in the hobby of model railroading was re-ignited while I was in Junior High school with a small double loop layout on a molded styrofoam base, and peaked during my high school years with an 8' x 8' layout in our family room. My dad designed the layout table with removable legs and eye bolts with a pulley system that would allow the layout to be raised up out of the way when not in use. By then I no longer had any of the original Marx set; however, my little railroad was well-stocked with Athearn cars and diesel locomotives, which had all been converted to Kadee couplers. (For some reason, steam engines never appealed to me ... much.)

I fell in love with the Southern Pacific when my family was taking a vacation to Arizona in the early 1970's. It was dusk as we came over a pass eastbound somewhere east of Yuma with a broad view of the desert floor ahead. No less than five brightly flashing white dots spaced off into the distance marked oncoming SP trains. The orange/purple glow of the fading sunset reflected off the highway signs while the darkness in the east was accented by storm clouds. But those flashing points of light - the Gyralights on the noses of so many Southern Pacific trains - were what really captivated my attention in the twilight of that evening.

Years later, I lived near Portland Oregon and spent much of my free time chasing trains. In addition to getting to know the SP, I became acquainted with the Union Pacific, the Portland Terminal Railroad, Burlington Northern and the Portland Traction Company.

By this time my interest in model railroading, coupled with a lack of available modeling space with my growing family, sent me in the direction of building static dioramas. I focused a great deal on detail, wanting my displays to look as realistic as possible down to the smallest nut and bolt. At about the same time, my interest in running model trains around in circles waned. It just isn't realistic, no matter how big the layout in the spare room is. 

So, I ended up selling almost all my railroad equipment and although the bug still nips me occasionally, I have avoided building another model railroad because unless I can have at least ten scale miles of track in a realistically directional run (i.e. broad curves, not looping back on itself, etc.), I know it won't satisfy my desire for realism. (That being said, I really like the new H.O. scale Sargent couplers and Proto:87 modeling standards, and there are some fantastically detailed locomotives and rolling stock out there these days, but alas, they are as far out of my price range at today's prices as good quality stuff was back when I was in high school at yesterday's prices!)

My bio would not be complete if I didn't mention that I began getting interested in web design in the late 1990's and launched my own web design business that grew to include offering hosting as well. Through the magic of html I was able to publish my photographs to the World Wide Web and in my spare time between working for paying clients I have been able to produce this, my own personal website showcasing my railroad photography and artwork.

Some railroad enthusiasts yearn for the days of steam locomotives. Me? I yearn for the days when oscillating headlights would draw one's attention to an oncoming train, the days when I could easily tell the difference between a GE and an EMD at first glance, when Alcos and F units could still be found in mainline service, and when freight cars were not rolling palettes for graffiti artists!

On these pages I share my memories, my writings, my artwork and my photographs of things railroad. If you like what you see, let me know.

Enjoy!

 

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