Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bob Hastings and his railcar

I often meet some really interesting people in campgrounds.   Bob Hastings easily meets that definition because he is an active railcar buff.
Bob and his Welch Terrier, Wellington, were glad to pose for a photo.  In back of Bob is his auto carrier outfitted with an electric winch and square steel tubes that serve as rails to move his early 1980s railcar in and out of the trailer.  “Orange Crush” is the nickname of Bob’s railcar and was originally built for the Canadian National Railroad.

Bob is an active member of the North American Railcar Owners Association (visit for more information).  NARCOA has about 1000 active members who enjoy taking their railcars out for excursions on railroad lines.  These excursions are usually on the tracks of short line railroads vs. such giant carriers as Union Pacific or CSX.

I asked Bob how he gets his railcar from inside his trailer onto a set of railroad tracks.  He was more than happy to partially demonstrate how this is accomplished.
The easy way is to roll out his railcar so that it sits at a 90 degree angle to the tracks.  Then he deploys this turntable to the ground and simply rotates his 1100-pound railcar until the wheels are above the tracks.  He raises the turntable and the railcar wheels settle onto the rails.
Bob also has the option of manually lifting the railcar and muscling it sideway by using the built in handle bars seen in this photos.  The handle bars slide under the car for storage and can also be pulled out the other side where leverage is better because the Onan 4 cycle 2 cylinder 20 HP gas-fueled engine  is up front.  This little engine can reach speeds of 45 MPH and gets about 30 MPG.  but, Bob who is very safety conscious generally cruises in the 20 to 30 MPH range.

When I asked Bob what was it about owning a railcar that made it so much fun to do, he responded with: “It is the closest thing to being a railroad engineer without owning a locomotive.”
Bob’s seat is at right and the buddy chair is to the left.  Note that Bob has tricked out his cab with a dual cup holder.  He also has a CB radio for communications with excursion participants.
Here is a shot of Bob’s Canadian National railcar being winched out of the trailer.

And here is a rear view of Orange Crush.
Additional details:
Being a railcar owner takes some preparation.  To belong to NAROA you need an association mentor and pass a written and a driving test.  Orange Crush set Bob back about $2800 four years ago.  They are in limited supply so their value increases over time.
Before Bob retired he was a production engineer for GE building jet engines, which explains his affinity for all things mechanical.
Bob lives in Cincinnati, Ohio
His two favorite excursions are on:
the West Virginia Central RR out of Elkins, WV up into the mountains where there are no roads and ends where they meet up with a steam locomotive, the Cass Mountain RR out of Cass, WV (and)
the Finger Lakes RR trip from Geneva, New York to western, NY
Generally about 30 members make up an excursion which has to be carefully arranged with the owner of the host railroad.  All aboard!
Stay tuned.


  1. What a fascinating story. I had no idea that people actually owned railroad cars that could be run on the rails.

  2. Great!! Now there's something else I have to talk the wife into letting me buy. Boy this would be a great way to travel across country.

  3. GRORGE: Not only was this Blog fun to write, it was a great read as well! The RVing world is sooo diverse, you never know just who or what is in the next lane of campsite. One evening while walking Duffy (our mini-Aussie) through a park in central Ohio, I did a double take as we passed a gengleman who looked familiar and there he was. . . Radar O'Reilley. . . Gary Gurghoff! Mash was a favorite TV show of our during the good old days. Ahhh yes. . .
    Anyway, another railroad car fan is Bob Tiffin, of Tiffin Motor Home fame: he too has an old rail checking car based on a comfortable looking 1958 Pontaic station wagon. He is able to drive his around town as a regular car and them approach the rails and lower the track wheels and then off into history. Thanks again, George, for all the beauty you share with us. If only I had the talent. . . as always, oRV

  4. I have a friend who has one of those rail cars. He goes all over for meets. There is no limit on what can become a hobby.

  5. George, you really outdid yourself this time! This has to be one of the most interesting posts I have read in a couple of years. I was completely captivated by this man and his hobby. I guess one never knows what is going to come out the back of a “toy hauler”. Thanks for this remarkable story!


  6. This was fascinating. I know some real railroad engineers but I've never heard of these cars. That is so cool.