Train Watching Festival - Folkston, Georgia

In Folkston, the train watching community has formed by Marvin “Cookie” Williams. He arrived in Folkston in 1973 and has since then turned it into the Southeastern mecca for train watching (see his story in our video). He turned the rail-watching community in Folkston into a community of friends.

The "watching area" was spread out down the tracks about 500 yards, marked by a smattering of people sitting in lawn chairs and individuals standing by their tripods and video cameras. Rail watchers have designated this section of tracks as the "Folkston Funnel," because almost all the trains that run in and out of Florida have to go through it. On a good day 75 trains pass through and this sleepy town is proud of it. Almost every store on Main Street has a name related to trains, such as "The Whistlin’ Dixie." The city posters hanging from the lamp posts had images of CSX trains, and there was even a brand new train mural on the side of the town’s most prominent building.

The events that sunny morning got off to a pretty slow start.  It was almost an hour after we arrived before we saw the first train come by. I learned that day that train watching is about as slow, and requires as much patience, as fishing. And what happens when a train does come by? Well, some people take pictures or video; others write down the train number; and some just watch it go by.

Despite the family of folks who come to watch trains in Folkston every year, I also noticed a large number of watchers who didn’t really congregate or take part in the official events of the festival. They had pulled their cars up to the tracks, sat on a lawn chairs, and watched trains go by all day. You might say they are soloists. I suppose it’s like fishing -- you can go out with friends, or go by yourself. But whatever way you choose, it’s pretty hard to lie about the size of a train.