Friday, April 24, 2015

10 Questions for Michael Parker

Railroad magazine used to have a regular feature highlighting an "Interesting Railfan". I thought I would run a similar series with some railfans who have agreed to participate. I'm asking each railfan 10 questions, some standard and some customized for the particular person. I hope you enjoy it. (See all in the series)

Michael Parker is a trucker who lives in Florida. He's active on Instagram as @michaelparker4506. I noticed his beautiful images and also that he left some great comments on some of my photos. He is very interactive on Instagram.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi! My name is Michael Parker, and I'm an over the road trucker. I grew up near Cleveland, Ohio, but have lived in North Central Florida since age 17, 1999. I'm married to my beautiful wife, Katie, and have 2 stepkids, Bella (7),and Kyler (10). Kyler has recently been bit by the railfanning bug! So I'm quite pleased with that!

2. Why do you like trains?

Well, I'm a transportation enthusiast, in general. I also love commercial aviation, so there's the travel thing. But I attribute the origin to my parents taking me to see the steam powered Ohio Central RR as a 7 - 8 year old. That was an awesome experience, and I'd say my love of trains probably began there.

3. Where’s your favourite place to railfan?

Well, as a truck driver, I'm hone very little, and don't have much time to fan when I am. So while I have a few spots near home I like, Waldo, FL on the CSX main being one, I'm usually fanning a different place all the time. I love the wide open spaces out west, so I'd say the UP Golden State Route between Pratt KS and Tucumcari NM is probably my favorite line. Blue Island IL is also a favorite.

4. If you could railfan anywhere, anytime, where and when would it be?

It'd definitely be the summer of 1979 on the Rock Island. Out in Oklahoma and Kansas.

As far as present day, I'm very fond of short lines, so the Kansas and Oklahoma and Abilene and Smoky Valley are on my short list to get.

5. What’s your favourite railway?

Definitely the Rock Island, if we include fallen flags. Since about age 10, I've been intrigued with the once proud road, and how it went completely out of business. Love the blue paint scheme also. It's been a real treat being able to finally visit so many former Rock locations, because I never grew up or lived near them.

As far as current favorite Railroad, I'm very fond of CN and KCS for class ones, CN probably more so. I get to fan the former IC properties fairly regular, and CN has a great paint job, and motive power. I also like PanAm up in New England. And of course, short lines. But I don't have a particular favorite. When I worked local, it was the Florida Northern, near my home. 

6. Why do you post on Instagram? What about Instagram in particular do you like?

Well, to be honest, I went years without posting my photos anywhere. I didn't feel the need. A friend of mine asked me to get on IG so he could see my photos easier, so I obliged. I started to get a very good reception to my photos, and as I posted more, my followers grew. It's become quite rewarding to share my photos, and find them appreciated. I feel I have something to offer most don't, extreme variety. I'm literally in a different state every day! (Unfortunately I don't get to go to Canada) therefore, my photos reflect all different railroads, and locations.

I've reached nearly 800 followers in less than one year on Instagram, and that means a lot. I pride myself on my rail photography, and it is great to see it being admired so much.

Also, I enjoy seeing others' work as well, and the interactions. I've made a few friends off Instagram, I wouldn't have known otherwise. It's just a really great community. I grew up without a computer, so the online community of railfans on Instagram, and Facebook, is really neat to see. I love the sharing of photos and information.

7. Why should an Instagram user tag their photos? Any recommended tags?

Well, to be honest, when I first started IG, I had no idea about tagging. I'm not an extremely technologically savvy person, so I'd never heard of it. I was asked to tag some of my better photos, by moderators at some of the train related photo hubs on IG, and was immediately chosen as a featured artist. Well, I was tickled pink by the recognition and honor. I realized that these hubs were a great way to spread the word about new photographers on IG, and to showcase well known ones also. Just a real positive thing! By tagging your photos to these hubs, you can get featured, and recognized even more. I highly recommend it.

Some of the accounts I recommend tagging are #daily_crossing (for which I'm a moderator), #trains_worldwide , #trainnerds, #trb_express, #trainchasers, and #eisenbahnfotografie. There are a few others than are good also, but these are my favorites. 

8. What does a moderator do on Instagram?

One of the neat benefits to being a featured artist on Instagram, was that I was asked to become a moderator for #daily_crossing.

While these are not paid positions, it is a job I take seriously! As one of several moderators there, I get to choose a photo and artist to feature on our hub. I usually select between 3-5 per week. We have 7 moderators, and we all have different tastes in photos, so I try to showcase pics that I personally find to be my favorite type of shot, or favorite subject matter. And I try to mix it up, between featuring known artists, and new ones, that might be tagging us for the first time. I also reach out to artists that post a deserving photo, but haven't tagged us, by requesting they do. Then I can feature it, and hopefully they'll continue tagging us in the future! 

9. What projects do you have on the go, or in planning?

I do have a small shed at home that I'm in the process of finishing the interior, so I can eventually display some of my railroadiana. I collect lots of railroad items, timetables in particular, and it'd be nice to have a place to display them. Also, I plan to build a small, wall mounted , model railroad there. I haven't had a layout for years, as I'm usually on the road.

Other plans include catching more mainline steam. Hopefully 611, and the Daylight. 

10. How’s the truck driving life?

It has its pros and cons!! I've been trucking 7 years now, so its become a way of life, but I'm usually gone from home 3-4 weeks at a time, then home for 4-6 days. I'm able to plan to be home for special events, birthday, holiday, so that's a plus though. But the being away from the family so much is very difficult.

The best part of trucking though, aside from monetary benefits, is the ability to railfan the entire country! I have no set route, so I can literally be sent anywhere. Usually I'm in the eastern half of the U.S. though. There's a fair amount of downtime between driving, so I use that to my advantage, finding locations I can park my semi near the tracks, or close enough to walk a mile or 2 to them. For example, the receiver I'm at today is adjacent to the CSX tracks here in Michigan, so I'm able to fan a bit while "working".

Great talking with you, and happy train hunting!

Read the rest of the 10 Questions series

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